The Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Summary:

In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it’s Lei they’re after–the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king’s consort. But Lei isn’t content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable–she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

TW: violence and sexual abuse.

The Review:

This is a book that I heard so many good things about. Just to let you know that there is a really graphic rape scene in the book for trigger warning.

It is set in world in which some women are seen as concubines to the demon king, and eight girls are chosen to do so. Lei, a member of the paper caste is one of the eight chosen. She is also dealing with some trauma at the start of the book. For one being in a the paper caste which is one of the lowest caste also when she was young her mother was taken by royal guards.

Once the demon king takes the young girls they are sent to live in the palace for a year and having a “sort of” life of luxury, and their role is the serve the demon king and do anything he asks them. A lot of the young girls was very well developed. My favorites were Wren and Zelle.

A lot of the first half of the book is introducing Lei, to the world of the palace, and also meeting the other girls who serve the demon king as well as learning a lot of the rules of the courts.

What I loved about the story is that very rich world building. It is an own voices Asian inspired fantasy, which gave a good amount of back story without feeling like info dumping. The caste system I thought added a lot more weight into the world especially when seeing a lot of the higher castes mainly the Steele caste who are half human and half demon  and the Moon caste which is entirely of demons.

The romance was another highlight of the book. While it does deal with a forbidden f/f romance I like the fact that there are stakes involved with the romance and how Lei begins to bond with her and fall in love. Knowing that there are future books I want to see how the romance flourishes. It shows that a romance can be so well developed and you want to root for the happy couple.

One of the main themes of the book, is the theme of trauma and how it affects people. Especially with the issue of sexual assault and male “ownership” of a woman’s body. It also draws on themes of trauma and PTSD, and trying to survive in a dark and messed up world, and having someone you love helping you against the world.

In the end, Girls of Paper and Fire, was a fantastic debut fantasy novel. It introduces you to lust fantasy world, with great characters and a loving romance. It should be a start to a great series.

Grade: 5/5

 

 

The Wicked King by: Holly Black

Summary: 

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

The Review:

Oh, it is so good to be back in this world, created by Holly Black. The Wicked King is the second book in the Folks of the Air series, and it dives even more deeper in the tretrachious world of the Faeries.

The Wicked King picks up a little bit after The Cruel Prince with Jude dealing with the High King of Faerie, Carden, who I can say kinda hates and kinda loves. Oak, her younger brother sent away to be protected, and her sister Taryn, set to be married to Locke, and Balekin locked away.

From the first chapter, you get a great sense of Jude’s character. She sees the world of Faerie, as if it is a game to her, with her trying to take power from Carden, as he is the new High King. The political intrigue is what really makes the book stand out from other fantasy novels. It almost feels as it is a chess game that Jude is trying to win.

The chess game now comes with a new pieces of the chess board in the form of Orlagh, the Queen of the Undersea, and Nicasia, her daugher. I loved the introduction of the Undersea, it added so many layers to this already amazing story, with Nicasia, set to be engaged to Carden and Jude finding a somewhat challenger to her quest for power. It really shows how great of a world builder Holly Black is, and adding more layers to this already expansive world.

A big theme of the book is power and what many would go through to achieve power. With Jude she was taught from Madoc, her semi-adopted father, to learn about how to attain power and also how to keep power, which what she is trying to do throughout. Even though Madoc, isn’t really in Jude’s life,  based on the events of that took place during  The Cruel Prince, you could still sense his presence.

In regards to Jude and Carden. I think that is the textbook definition of enemies to lovers done extremely perfectly. Their dialogue throughout the book is amazing. Even though they hate each other, and I mean really hate each other, you could tell that in the back of their mind, they want each other so badly. Even some of Jude’s inner dialogue about that is funny.

With the cliffhanger. My god, why is wait for the next book so long? I need to know what happens next.

In the end, The Wicked King, was a fantastic read that added so much layers to this already great universe. With even more political intrigue, I could not put this book down. Also filled with rich and lustful characters that I cannot wait to see how the story continues.

Grade: 5/5

 

WWW Wednesday 10/24/2018

Welcome to WWW Wednesday which is currently being hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words. It’s really just a place to do little update on what all you’ve been reading lately. Anyone is welcome to join, just leave a link to your post in the comments and be sure to give the appropriate credit to Sam

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

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Last year I read, All Rights Reserved and I really enjoyed reading it. It was about a world in which every word is copyrighted, so speaking will cost you. A young girl named Speth, decided not to speak and sparked a revolution. So far the sequel expands heavily on its world and its premise and I am enjoying it.

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This is a graphic novel that I always wanted to read. I am a fan of Brian K. Vaughan’s writing mainly Saga, and this is a post apocalyptic world in which all men are dead and there is only one.

What did you recently finish?

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After years of putting it off, I finally tasted the Mark Lawrence Kool-Aid, and loved it. I really enjoyed reading this book. It had everything I need in a dark high fantasy, with murder and stabby, stab. Sort of like if nuns were also killer assassins. I can’t to see where this story ends up. Thank you Meltotheany

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This is the second book I read by Holly Black. While I did enjoy the book, I did feel that the characters didn’t stick with me like they did in The Cruel Prince.

What do you think you’ll read next?

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The YA crossover event of the century. Ever since this book was announced, it was on my TBR. I recently saw them at Boston Book Festival, and they are awesome people. Now I just want to know if it’s a Silvera ending or an Albertali ending.

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This is another YA contemporary dealing with police brutality, but also issues involving mental health. I also meet the author at Boston Book Festival, and hearing him talk about the book, made me want to go and pick it up.

That is my WWW Wednesday. What books are you currently reading? What have you recently finished and what will you be reading next? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Summary:

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep

The Review:

This was another book that was on my TBR for a long time, along with the author, and it is a lovely book that was such a fun read.

The writing was magnificent, it felt as if every word as magical and poetry. The writing style with is lyrical prose just made the story just as strong as it already was.

The world building was outstanding, and it takes you on a journey through the world and through the dreams of Lazlo, who is an orphan and a librarian who is always fascinated by the history of the world especially trying to find the lost city of Weep, which is always have been told to be legend. It really does a good job at tying in the lore within the world.

Sarai, is the blue skinned girl who communicates with Lazlo through his dreams and they both form a connection with one another. She is trying to get out of the influence of who her mother was and a world who basically wants her dead. She is very wide eyed and outgoing. As a godspawn she is made of light and darkness and is always at a constant struggle with what to do and it makes her a fantastic character.

The Sarai and Lazlo connection is one of the highlights of the book for me. They form such a good relationship with one another and its a love story that you want to root for. While it does sort of come across as insta-love especially when they first meet each other through Lazlo’s dream, it really helps that both of their characters are well developed.

In the end, Strange the Dreamer was a great first book that introduces you to a great world. Laini Taylor’s lyrical prose made this book truly amazing, and I cannot wait to read Muse of Nightmares.

Grade: 5/5

To Kill a Kingdom by: Alexandra Christo

Summary:

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

The Review:

This was very much a Little Mermaid retelling, with Sirens instead of mermaids, which I liked a lot. It does follow a bit of the same beats as the Disney movie.

It is told through two POVs, Lira and Elian. Lira is a Siren who is tasked in stealing princes’ hearts, literally from their chests. It was a lot brutal than I imagined it would be. She is also the daughter of the Sea Queen, who is ruthless and very cruel towards Lira. She is the one who tasks Lira into stealing Prince’s hearts. The Sea Queen would punish her daughter by turning her into a human, but she still has to steal a princes’ heart.

Lira deals with a lot in terms of her mother. The Sea Queen would constantly abuse her growing up and would manipulate her to do her bidding. With her constantly saying that she wasn’t good enough.

Elian is a prince from a nearby kingdom, who would rather be a pirate than a prince. He spends most of his time hunting down Sirens and killing them to rid them of their evil. I liked a lot of his story arc wanting to branch away from his prince duties in order to hang with his crew of the Saad. 

With the two POVS I got a sense of seeing sort of both sides of the conflict. With Elian, a Siren killed one of his friends and he has been basically on the hunt for them. With Lira it is what she was taught by her evil mother, The Sea Queen. I also liked that Elian spent most of the book not knowing Lira’s true identity.

The book was also paced well. It didn’t slow done one bit and even some of the more quiet moments, which lead to a lot of great character development.

The romance between Elian and Lira was also good. While it did have some cliche moments, and had some parallels with the Little Mermaid, I did spend most of my time rooting them on as a couple.

I also really liked the supporting characters, mainly the crew of the Saad. They each had their own distinct personalities and was pretty fleshed out as I wanted them to be, and they did leave me with the feeling of wanting them more.

This book is also surprisingly enough a stand alone, which is really rare in YA, and I kinda want to see where the characters would go after.

In the end, I really enjoyed To Kill a Kingdom. It had some great characters and a nice twist on the Little Mermaid with some issues about abuse and manipulation.

Grade: 4.5/5

Hunted by: Megan Spooner

Summary:

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them. 

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance. 

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

The Review:

This was another book I had on my TBR for quite a long time, mainly ever since I saw the cover at a bookstore and also the fact that it is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, which if it is a fairy tale retelling it will be on my TBR.

As a retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast, it did follow a few of the same beats of the original story. Yeva, is the Belle stand in, and instead of being a bookworm, she likes to hunt. She also like Belle, always rejects the social norms such as marrying a wealthy gentleman. She also has sisters who I felt were a bit thinly developed and weren’t as fleshed out like I wanted them to be.

The story begins to pick up once her father goes missing, and Yeva, is going to try to find him in the forest, and that is where she meets the Beast. I like how in the book, at the beginning of each chapter, features a lot of the Beasts inner thoughts, and it made him more of a character in the book.

The relationship between Beast and Yeva was a bit different from the original. This time he is training to hunt , and as the story goes on, you find out the Beast is cursed, but the curse is very different and with the added twist to the curse adds a lot to the story.

One of my main problems is how this story, really feels like Stockholm Syndrome. While yes, the original did have aspects of Stockholm syndrome, Hunted had a lot of elements of that. and I really didn’t care about their relationship, and it reminded me of the worst parts of Tamlim, from ACOTAR, and I would have preferred if Yeva, was just alone at the end of the book.

In the end, Hunted was a good read. I didn’t love as much as I thought it was. While it does follow a lot of aspects of the original, but the added twists makes the story stronger. Making Yeva a hunter made her a better character, but I did feel like the aspects of Yeva and the Beasts relationship was on of the weaker aspects.

Grade: 3.6/5

Children of Blood and Bone by: Tomi Adeyemi

Summary:

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy. 

The Review:

This was another of one of my anticipated reads for 2018, ever since this book was announced. You don”t really see a lot of fantasy novels set in Africa, unless you read N.K. Jemison and Nnedi Okorafor. I also believe that the hype is definitely well deserved for this book.

The books setting is mainly in West Africa in a Orisha. A place in which magic was been suppressed and the maji, has been killed by a ruthless king. Zeile, is a young maji, whose mother was killed in the raids of the king, and her death was to serve as a reminder for the maji.

The world building was extremely well done. You get a sense of the world it is set, and the history within that world. Different clans has their own maji title and deity, for example the Iku clan are reapers who deal with souls and worship the Oya. Also tied within the world building is a sense of history, learning that long ago the maji were seen as corrupt so there was a reason why the king decided to eliminate the maji. With its world building it didn’t feel like info dumping like most books does and it brought up a lot through conversations that the characters had with one another.

The book also has 3 POVs, Zeile, who is the main character, whose mother was a powerful maji. Amari, the daughter of the king who flees from her ruthless father after he does something that traumatizes her. Inan who is the prince and next in line to become king who is tasked to bring back Amari.

Inan is one my favorite of the POVs. His POV chapters deals a lot with his inner struggle of basically if he should do what he is tasked to do, especially when dealing with his father.

The story mainly deals with Zeile and Amari trying to bring back magic to Orishi by bringing an ancient scroll to the temple, and would deal with teh world around them. While it does seem like a cliche, the world is so magnificent and throughout their journey you get a good scope of the world and its magic system, along with its politics. A lot of the book could serve as a racial allegory dealing with oppression, especially dealing with a light skinned vs. dark skinned context.

There is also a romance in the book. Mainly between Zeile and Inan, and Amari and Tzain. I did like that it wasn’t the forefront of the book, and both romances I felt was actually developed. With Zeile and Inan, you constantly see Inan dealing with his inner turmoil. It did lead to a few funny moments with both of them wondering if they should actually kiss each other. It was a nice twist on the enemy to lovers trope.

In the end, this book definitely lives up to the hype. It was a great book that had an amazing story especially with a YA fantasy set in West Africa. It features a good magic system and excellent world building. The characters are extremely well developed and I cannot wait to see how this series continues, because it was that good.

Grade: 5/5