Category Archives: Book Reviews

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland #1)

Finished on 10th April, 2017 (Re-Read)

Author: Catherynne M. Valente

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5 Stars

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Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

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Anyone who knows me well will likely be aware that Fairyland is my favourite series of all time; period. Which is saying something because I’ve read and loved a heck of a lot of books. Those who know me well will also likely have had me shove this book in their face – multiple times.

Fairyland is the childhood series I wish I had. I pitch it as Fairy Realm (by Emily Rodda) cross Narnia – the issue is, not many people have read the Fairy Realm series.

The story is universal; it is something that most people can enjoy, even if they don’t usually read middle grade.

Fairyland features fantastic friendships, complex characters, a morally ambiguous villain (who owns a very fine hat), adventure, adroableness, a Wyverary – that is, a wyvern (essentially a dragon) cross Library – and many other whimsical, magical, amazing things and people. (Look out for the key and the green smoking jacket; though inanimate, they are characters in their own right).

The story is so imaginative and vibrant, the writing is beautiful (not at all juvenile) and the characters are well-developed and loveable. The author takes a lot of stereotypes and spins them on their head. There is also a lot of book lover appreciation.

Even though it’s the first of a five book series, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making has a complete arc in itself and could be read as a standalone (but please don’t as the rest of the series is just as wonderful, if not more).

If you like audio books or are thinking of getting into audio books, I 100% recommend Fairyland as I actually prefer the audio format. Not only are the audios themselves amazing but the style of the books are such that there is a narrator telling you the story, which makes for a perfect audiobook. Additionally, the author narrates 3/5 of the series, which is amazing.

Overall, Fairyland is a fun read, though it does get slightly dark. For me, it was even more fantastic the second time round.

If you need further persuasion, it is blurbed by both Neil Gaiman and Holly Black.

 

Let’s Discuss!

Have you read any of the Fairyland series?

Are you planning to? Have I convinced you?

If so, please let me know! Thoughts, feelings, rants, raves…

I would love to discuss with you 😉

The Well of Ascension (Mistborn #2)

Just a side not before we get into the review: I am aware that I haven’t posted any of my thoughts on Mistborn, but this review has been sitting on the backburner for months and I figured I might as well post it. Just know that I really enjoyed Mistborn and would recommend it.

Also, I will be referring to the first book in this series as Mistborn rather than The Final Empire as that is the title on my copy but they are the same book.

This review may contain mild spoilers for book one.

Finished 10th May, 2016 

Author: Brandon Sanderson

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4 Stars

The second instalment in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy, The Well of Ascension, is a young adult high fantasy with a strong political line, a fascinating magic system and brilliant characters. Following on from Mistborn, Kelsier’s crew are forced to deal with the aftermath of a millennial long empire as well as the intricacies and hardships that come with taking over a kingdom and caring for it – all while being threatened by several other outside forces. I found the characters and the magic system to be what really carried the story for me, as well as some really interesting plot revelations.

As much as I enjoyed this book, for whatever reason The Well of Ascension took me forever to read. As in, I have been “reading” this book since January – January! There are several possible reasons as to why I fell into this minor book slump, one of them being that I had hit a part in the book where I was frustrated with some of the characters and therefore wasn’t that motivated to pick it up and read it. Additionally, I do the majority of my reading in small bits and pieces at school whenever I can fit it in – which usually works really well but being a high fantasy and knowing my particular reading traits, I don’t believe that was the best was to go about this particular novel. To put it into perspective, I read Akarnae and Raelia by Lynette Noni (which are approximately 450 pages each) in less than four days during the period I was “reading” The Well of Ascension.

I do want to reiterate that, in spite of my slight reading slump, I did really enjoy this book. It seems to be that whenever anything is said about Brandon Sanderson the most prominent thing that is mentioned is his writing style. Both Mistborn and The Well of Ascension are testament to that. Brandon Sanderson is brilliant at putting in twists that seem completely out of the blue but, once revealed, the foreshadowing becomes obvious.

Another feature that I really like about The Well of Ascension is that we get to read from the perspectives of pretty much all of our core cast in addition to that of our antagonists and several random perspectives to give insight from outsiders. This change of pace is great for both the slower, more political scenes and the battle-heavy ones. These fluid shifts in points of view are one such example of Sanderson’s great style at work.

I’m not entirely sure what I think of Elend in this instalment. I mean, I still really like him and enjoy his character but he undergoes some changes which I personally feel take away from his character. Also, there is an implication that comes about near the conclusion of this novel that makes me slightly suspicious of him – but I’m not sure if it’s just an evolution of his character or something more sinister at work. There were moments in this book where I loved him intensely and others where I felt somewhat detached. Suffice to say, I have mixed feelings but am interested to see where his character is headed.

Vin is an absolutely fantastic character. She is totally kick-ass and her fighting skills are off the charts (I mean, talk about epic) but she is also a flawed, relatable character. She is honestly one of my favourite characters – period – and that includes those outside Sanderson’s universe. I love how she deals with the conflicts thrown her way and how facing them forces her to evaluate herself and, in turn, grow from those experiences. Vin’s character develops significantly within this instalment but the changes are even more prominent when we consider what she was like when we are first introduced to her in Mistborn. 

Occasionally I tend to find that female protagonists – and sometimes just female characters in general – tend to be somewhat awkward and unrelatable when written by male authors, but I did not find that to be the case with Vin (or any of Sanderson’s other cast) in the least.

The other crew members (read: Breeze, Sazed, Dockson, Spook, Clubs, Ham, OreSeur,etc.) are further developed in The Well of Ascension which is a fun time. I really enjoyed getting to acquaint myself with their distinct personalities and quirks, and they really came into their own in my mind. Sazed, Ham and OreSeur are my particular favourites, with Sazed and OreSeur’s complexities and Ham’s general persona. Both Sazed and OreSeur have some great revelations and are really interesting to hear from. Also, Sazed has an adorable relationship with a new character, who I didn’t initially like but ended up really growing on me (and shall remain unnamed due to possible spoilers). I feel that they have a great connection and their dynamic is fantastic. Sazed’s character arc is a particularly interesting one and I feel like he’s the one that experiences the most development within this instalment.

Aside from Vin, Zane is probably my favourite character in this story. Not only is he complex, experienced and fascinating, but he creates some brilliant tension and conflict within the story and poses an interesting dilemma for Vin. I love their dynamic and find his backstory to be very well-thought out and gripping. We are constantly learning new things about him, yet he remains such a mystery to us. Zane is just such a fun character to read and is a real wild card to add to the mix. The chapters that featured him were probably some of my favourite to read.

If I hadn’t dragged out my consumption of this story and had instead read it at my usual pace, I feel that I would have rated The Well of Ascension 5 Stars. As it stands, even though I really enjoyed it, I feel a slight sense of apathy towards it – induced by my reading experience and not the actual content, I’m sure.

I am going to take a temporary break from this series and pick it back up at a later date when I’m more in the mood to read it and am in the position to read it all at once – or at least in several large chunks. I’m interested to see what that will do to my overall reading and whether I’ll be able to get to all of the shiny new books I’m super excited for or if this reading slump will persevere.

 

Let’s Discuss!

Have you read the Mistborn series? If so, what are your thoughts?

Have you read the third book? How does it compare to the rest of the trilogy?

Have you read any of Brandon Sanderson’s other works? Which ones would you recommend me reading next?

Have you ever written a review for the second book in the series and not for the first? (This also happened to me with the 5th Harry Potter book)

Please leave a comment as I love talking to you guys 🙂

Infinity (The Infinity Division #1)

Read on 9th November, 2016

Author: Jus Accardo

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4.5 Stars

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Nobody said being the daughter of an army general was easy. But when her dad sends a teenage subordinate to babysit her while he’s away… That’s taking it a step too far.

Cade, as beautiful as he is deadly, watches Kori with more than just interest. He looks at her like he knows her very soul. And when he saves her from a seemingly random attack, well, that’s when things get weird.

Turns out, Kori’s dad isn’t just an army general—he’s the head of a secret government project that has invented a way to travel between parallel dimensions. Dimensions where there are infinite Koris, infinite Cades…and apparently, on every other Earth, they’re madly in love.

Falling for a soldier is the last thing on Kori’s mind. Especially when she finds herself in a deadly crossfire, and someone from another Earth is hell-bent on revenge…

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Note: I was sent a copy of this book by Entangled Teen in exchange for an honest review.

Infinity was an unexpectedly fantastic read. It had the potential to be extremely tropey and filled with instalove but (thankfully) was anything but that.

Very much a character-driven novel, Infinity was a thought-provoking read (even though I finished it months ago, I still sometimes think about it) complete with a compelling plot.

The characters in Infinity were realistic and flawed.

Kori is posed as a mature, rational person who is able to reasonably deal with issues and communicate well – which are not skills often represented in YA. Her emotions are vivid but she is able to think things through. Having lost her mother to cancer, she has experienced grief, which gives her a unique perspective and understanding when dealing with the other core characters.

Kori was also intelligent. Even though she was constantly placed in bad situations with her life on the line and her entire understanding of her parents was turned upside down, she never whined about it. Instead, she was practical in getting information and formulating a plan.

Cade was interesting. Guilt-ridden and tragic, I really felt for him and appreciated his depth of emotions. His character development was very well done.

I really appreciate the emphasis placed on perspective in this novel. As new information came to life, characters were seen differently, yet the core of them stayed the same.

Noah was a great example of this. At first, he was distanced and antagonistic but then as Kori, and therefore the audience, were explained the reasons as to why he was like this, an understanding formed and he became one of my favourite characters. He was very much a tragic cinnamon roll.

Infinity focuses on the complexity of humanity and the morally grey area; when is it okay to kill someone? Is the death penalty ever okay? If someone close to you has broken the law or is planning to, where do your loyalties lie? What is the right thing to do?

How do you know it’s love if you’ve only ever experienced it once? What can you really know about a person when you only glimpse them? How do you know happiness is real? How do you separate your feelings for someone if they look exactly the same as the last person you loved?

The romance in this book was fantastic – instead of instalove, it focused on potential rather than destiny, while also recognising unhealthy relationships and not labelling them as love.

Unexpectedly, family plays a significant role in Infinity. Although Kori’s mother is dead and her father absent for large portions of the novel, the impact and values they left behind was recognised and realised through the characters’ actions.

As mentioned, the plot itself was great. It was engaging yet realistic, gradually widening the parameters of the world as Kori got to know more, rather than engaging in the well known practice of info-dumping.

In a world of parallel dimensions, how do you define yourself? What makes one Kori different from another? Does fate play a part? What does it mean to interact with people who knew another version of yourself? 

Recommended for fans of Claudia Grey’s Firebird trilogy, character-driven narratives and general parallel dimension plots.

Let’s Discuss!

Have you read Infinity? 

If so, what were your thoughts?

If not, does it sound like something that would interest you? (Please say yes, I really need someone to fangirl discuss with!)

Have you read any other books featuring parallel dimensions? If so, please recommend – it’s a favourite trope of mine but I’ve only read a few.

Caraval (Caraval #1)

Read on 20th February, 2017

Author: Stephanie Garber

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3.75 Stars

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Welcome to Caraval, where nothing is quite what it seems.

Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.

Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.

When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.

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Having heard really mixed reviews (mostly of the “meh” connotation) I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this one.

The writing was great, the world was interesting and overall it was fairly entertaining. I read it in one sitting.

That said, I did have some issues.

I really wasn’t a fan of the characters.

Scarlet grew on me and I actually ended up liking her, Julian was kind of “meh” but I liked him well enough and the little we knew about Legend interested me.

As for everyone else… not really a fan. I understand that dislike for the Governor and the Count is expected but I really disliked Tella; I found her to be selfish and not at all a good sister. I felt that, even though she was the younger sibling, she patronised Scarlet and looked down upon her because she was cautious. I took issue with a lot of her actions and something about her just rubbed me the wrong way.

The plot was interesting and had several unexpected twists. That said, I felt like it romanticised death and suicide, using it as a plot device, which is not cool. There were several instances where it felt unnecessary and I just feel like it wasn’t dealt with well or in a sensitive way at all.

Here’s a link to a good thread on the topic: https://twitter.com/piratesnpixdust/s… However, she does go into spoilers.

Trigger warnings for suicide and parental abuse.

While it was an okay read and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to anyone, I am intrigued enough to continue with the series.

Let’s Discuss!

Have you read Caraval? If so, what were your thoughts? There seems to be a lot of mixed opinions around this one.

I read Caraval for The Ya Room‘s February book of the month. Are any other fellow Melbournians coming to the discussion next week?

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter #5)

Read from 3-14th January, 2017

Author: J. K. Rowling

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5 Stars

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Harry Potter is due to start his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His best friends Ron and Hermione have been very secretive all summer and he is desperate to get back to school and find out what has been going on. However, what Harry discovers is far more devastating than he could ever have expected…

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I’ve been rereading the Harry Potter books for some time now, but this is the first instalment where my thoughts are extensive enough to warrant a review. That said, please forgive the fact that there are no prior reviews on these books and that I am instead jumping in at number five.

Many people say that this instalment is their least favourite of the series, but I didn’t find that at all – perhaps because I listened to the audiobook rather than reading a physical copy. At any rate, I loved this book.

Professor McGonagall and Ginny Weasley completely stole the show with their vibrant personalities and high levels of sass. Luna, Hermione, Neville, the twins and Tonks were also fantastic.

Umbridge has always been a fantastic love-to-hate villain and she certainly did not disappoint. There was also an interesting detail about her that I had forgotten until rereading which I quite liked. She was completely horrible and cruel, and it was a delight seeing her in disarray when the Weasley twins were up to mischief.

Harry really frustrated me, but I actually think that this was a good thing. Harry’s temper was quick and destructive (his friends were even scared of him at times), he didn’t appreciate the people around him, he was selfish, and he was rash. However, some of those qualities (such as the temper) I believe may have been (at least to some degree) appropriated from Voldemort. It also made him flawed and somewhat more relatable. It will be interesting to see his character development through the next few novels – you can already start to see it at the end of Order of the Pheonix in his interaction with Luna.

I really didn’t like Cho but I understand that she was needed to help Harry grow as a character. Personally, I found her to be selfish, extremely shallow and rather superficial.

Dumbledore was interesting. For the majority of the novel, I, like Harry, was frustrated at and disappointed in Dumbledore, who had been like a father figure to Harry in his time at Hogwarts to date. It had been such a long time since I’d read “Order of the Phoenix” that I’d entirely forgotten his motivations – but Rowling did a fantastic job at portraying them in the reveal at the end, painting Dumbledore as flawed, vulnerable and… old. That conversation was perhaps one of my favourite scenes in the novel.

Overall, it was a fantastic read with brilliant characters, mixing entertaining times with frustrating ones.

If you are struggling to get through, I do thoroughly recommend listening to the audiobook as I feel it would help out significantly. However, that is coming from someone who loves audiobooks and what works for me may not work for you.

Let’s Discuss!

Have you read Harry Potter? Are you one of the few who haven’t?

What’s your favourite instalment? Least favourite?

Favourite character?

Any unpopular opinions?

Come chat with me! I love to discussions.

Omari and the People

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Author: Stephen Whitfield

Narrator: Curt Simmons

3.5 Stars

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Goodreads

Audible | Book Depository

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In a squalid ancient city on the edge of a desert (based in part on the African Sahara’s Empty Quarter) a weary, thrill-seeking thief named Omari sets his home afire to start anew and to cover his many crimes. When the entire city is unintentionally destroyed by the flames, the cornered thief tells the displaced people a lie about a better place which only he can lead them to, across the desert. With the help of an aged, mysterious woman who knows a better place actually does exist, they set out. The desperate people must come together to fight their way through bandits, storms, epidemics, and more. As a result of Omari’s involvement with Saba, a fiercely independent woman who is out to break him in the pay of a merchant whom he has offended, his ability  to lead – his very life – is jeopardized.

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Note: I received this book from Jess at Audiobook Promotions in exchange for an honest review as a part of this tour. The tour is being sponsored by Stephen Whitfield and Curt Simmons. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

Although not a story I would usually reach for, Omari and the People was a solid read.

First of all, the narration in this book was fantastic. Curt’s slight accent kept me captivated and coming back for more. With a relatively slow plot and overall story arc, that was important for me. It also serves to further highlight that this was not, indeed, a european setting. I’m not great with accents, but I believe his was possibly arabic.

Omari and the People is largely character driven, rather than plot heavy. The characters, while slightly hard to keep track of due to similar sounding names on audio, were interesting and developed throughout the story. Umal, an older lady, was my favourite character as she was the most intriguing – shrouded in mystery, constantly surprising everyone, incredibly wise, and perhaps even possessing paranormal abilities, Umal was always one to look forward to. Sofia, mother of two young sons, and Umbaric, former captain of the city guard, were also quite interesting.

On a quick side note, shout out to Dab of Darkness for including character names in her review, for otherwise I would have no idea what any of them were (save Omari and perhaps Saba).

The setting, according to Stephen, is loosely based off Africa, but to me – perhaps because of the accent Curt assumes – it appears to be more Middle Eastern, the characters Arabic. However, due to the nature of the descriptions, the desert could really be anywhere. The whole “exodus across the desert” is reminiscent of the story of Moses, but there are no real religious mentions – with the exception of a few characters having possibly supernatural gifts. So, again, the story is one that encourages readers to build the overall world and time for themselves.

A character-driven exodus of a people lead by hope and just looking to survive, this story does have some elements of romance but it is more a side element than anything. I recommend giving Omari and the People a read (or listen, as I would suggest) if you’re looking for something slightly different but enjoyable none the less.

 

 

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2)

Note: Though I have done my best to keep it spoiler-free, this review may contain mild spoilers for A Court of Thorns and Roses (Book 1; sometimes referred to as ACOTAR). See my ACOTAR review here.

Read on 1st June, 2016

Author: Sarah J. Maas

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5 Stars

Quite possibly the best of Sarah’s novels so far (equal to if not slightly exceeding Queen of Shadows),  A Court of Mist and Fury (sometimes referred to as ACOMAF) is an absolutely fantastic, page-turning read with intriguing, complex characters and brilliant writing.

Note: I would like to mention that this book isn’t necessarily for a younger audience as it contains a substantial amount of sex scenes. They’re not that explicit, but enough that it’s quite obvious as to what’s going on.

If you’re comfortable with that and this book sounds interesting to you (read: fae, magic, fight scenes, hot guys and major character development), I sincerely suggest that you check it out. If not, that’s fine too.

A Court of Mist and Fury is a very character-driven narrative. Yes, there is an interesting plot and the novel is jam-packed with journeys, adventures and all that awesome stuff, but at the end of the day I feel like it is about personal growth, friendships and the impact of people on our lives as we ourselves grow and change.

A Court of Mist and Fury is a celebration of life, a recognition of the heavy toll sacrifice often leaves on our hearts and minds (subtly discussing post-traumatic stress disorders and depression), and also plays with the idea of  what it means to have true freedom.

It is a commentary on love and relationships (both platonic and romantic) – highlighting unhealthy relationships by juxtaposing them with ones based on mutual trust and respect, while realistically displaying how one can be trapped and not even realise that they are in an unhealthy relationship due to not knowing anything else. Emotional manipulation, control issues and possibly even domestic violence are all issues which are hinted at. Corruption, dreams, prejudice and mistreatment are all prominent themes in the novel.

Feyre undergoes massive character development throughout this story. She grows into herself as she is forced to adapt to new situations and her priorities change. Feyre forms unlikely friendships as we are introduced to a whole new cast of rich, vibrant, haunted characters and it is with their help that she is able to begin healing from the traumatic experiences she’s been through. Feyre’s journey from an empty husk who can barely function to acceptance, confidence and assurance within herself and those around her is a very well-crafted and believable depiction.

Although we barely get a glimpse into Rhysand’s character in A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Court of Mist and Fury features him heavily – and I enjoyed every second of it. A lot of his background is revealed, allowing readers to see past his masks and understand his actions and motivations. Be warned: your heart will bleed (and swoon). Rhys is a great big ball of contradictions, raw vulnerabilities and darkness. To say the least, he quickly became my favourite character. Also, while I love Tamilin and Feyre’s relationship in the first book and appreciate how he helped shape her character, I now wholeheartedly ship her with Rhys (a seemingly common theme within Sarah’s books). Quite a few key scenes in A Court of Thorns and Roses are shed new light as we get to see his perspective on them.

Feyre and Rhysand’s relationship – their is full of banter, tension, friendship, respect and trust. They heal each other. Their “note passing” was adorable, made me grin every time.

Without saying too much in fear of spoilers, Rhysand’s Inner Circle – Mor, Cassian, Azriel and Amren – are all absolutely fantastic, amazing, wonderful, complicated characters which I love with a passion. Their friendship and loyalty to each other is amazing, and they are each such unique and distinct characters. I love how Sarah has reflected their unity and cohesion, their interactions and comradely – it is apparent how much they care for each other. I especially love Mor and Azriel’s relationship and would love to see them come together – they would make an adorable couple.

Honourable mentions to Nesta, Elain and Lucien, whom I love dearly.

At around 630 pages and approximately a third larger than the first book, A Court of Mist and Fury is a decently long book – though I would gladly soak up another 600 pages (I’m at the point where I would greedily read anything Sarah puts out) – but it doesn’t drag at all. Character development aside, so much happens in this book – adventures, world building, tension, fight scenes, dancing… Every moment I was entranced; I had no wish to put it down (which resulted in essentially no homework completed, lack of sleep and a highly unproductive school day, despite the fact that I had no less than four tests coming up within the next week).

If you want to get into Sarah’s writing, but Throne of Glass seems too daunting (those books are massive) and you don’t mind a bit of mature content then I would definitely suggest starting with these books.

Essentially, this book is absolutely fantastic and if you’re even slightly inclined to pick it up, please do. A Court of Mist and Fury is quite possibly the best book I’ve read so far this year and I highly recommend it.

Let’s Discuss!

Please come chat with me if you’ve read this as I have a ton of spoiler-y thoughts to discuss and would love to hear your thoughts. What was your favourite part? Who do you ship? Have you read any of Sarah’s Throne of Glass books? Thoughts?