I received this from Edelweiss and HarperTeen in exchange for an honest review!
CW: sexism, forced marriage, human experimentation, cutting (for blood magic), execution, starvation/not eating, and burning at the stake
I was completely blown away by this debut! When I went into this, I was pretty sure that it would be a good book but damn! Apparently, this year is all about debut authors shocking me by how amazing their stories are. This is on the upper-edge of YA — I’d say 16-18 — and I was so here for it. Alternately, I was laughing and on the edge of my seat. Sometimes at the same time, honestly.
This book follows Louise (Lou) le Blanc and Captain Reid Diggory. Lou is a witch from a very important lineage who is trying to escape from her life with her best friend, Coco, who is a blood witch. Reid is a Chasseur, or a part of the Church. And he kind of burns witches at the stake from time to time. And works for people who do a bit of human experimentation. You know how it is. Common stuff, every day stuff, right?
It’s set in a fictionalized France and I loved it. It was so much fun to read it while keeping in mind all that I know about France. This France hates witches. Hates them so much and will do anything to get rid of them. It’s rather sexist, admittedly, going with the belief that a woman becomes her husband’s property.
But the world was so rich and developed. I could really get a feel for it and place it in my head. Sometimes the world is the hardest thing for me to get down because they can blend together. This one stood out, which I really loved. I could keep it straight in my mind despite all of the moving parts — Lou’s old life and those connected with it, the people she’s with now, the Church, etc.
And that plot? So damn fast-paced. It was a whirlwind to read and I kept wondering exactly where it was going towards, even though I had an idea of where it might end up. It kept me wondering because it was so broad. There were little things here and there that would catch my attention as a reader, then the story would come back to the story/ending that we were being worked to.
The biggest win for me with this book was the trope that it had running through its veins. Enemies, although Reid doesn’t know who/what Lou is. They just don’t like each other. Lou is very boisterous and opinionated and loves a song about Big Tiddy Liddy. (Not joking there.) Reid is reserved, quiet, pious. He takes his church vows very seriously. Doesn’t curse and finds her horrifying, although he doesn’t agree with some of the church’s mandates.
Even better, it’s a forced marriage. They are forced to get married and, from there, start realizing they like each other more than they should since, you know, they should hate each other. I felt my aura enrich and grow, and my grey hairs slowly turn back to brown by reading this trope.
It’s so hard to get right, too. Because if you go too fast, it’s not believable that they really hated each other at all or there was any bit of force at all to get them married. Go too slow and it wears at my patience. Mahurin was like Goldilocks. She got it just right for me and what I didn’t even know that I wanted.
Really, what else do I have to say to convince you to give this witchy, twisty book a try? I preordered it when I was around 30% in because I knew that I had to get my hands on a finished copy because this was just so much fun to read. Definitely a favorite of this year!
Have you read this one? Is it now on your TBR?
What’s your favorite book that has a forced marriage in it?
Okay, all. Here it goes. I requested this book because I was honestly excited about it after finishing up Godsgrave. That one was a solid revenge story — better than Nevernight was hands down — and I was excited for the trajectory that Darkdawn would have. I was very pumped and even took a shot in the dark with requesting it from Edelweiss. For once, they approved me!
And then I went to pick it up. Months have passed since I finished the second book. It had started to slightly sour in my mind. I realized just how little I remembered of that book. I will be honest. I was actually nearly done with it when my sister passed, so, well, I didn’t entirely absorb the ending of it or a lot of what I read when she was sick.
However, thanks to this book, I firmly believe that Jay Kristoff is a one-trick pony. I am pretty sure that I’ll never pick up another of his books. I started to believe this after reading his Illuminae series, which I probably will go and rerate to two stars each. They all followed the same plot pattern. Have some banter, some action, lots of boring stuff, and then repeat. And, not only that but the characters were all carbon copies of each other and I couldn’t tell them apart.
Cut to me reading (or DNFing) Lifel1k3. Same kind of thing. Banter, action, nothing really going on.
And then I went for this series.
While I was reading this, I couldn’t help but notice how the book felt like the last two books. There was bantering, graphic fight scenes with lots of blood and murder, then there were graphic sex scenes (more on that later), and, finally, dull shit to move the plot along. Then another burst of action!
It was fun for the first couple of books, but now I’m tired of it. I want something new. I don’t want to reread the first two books in this “new” book. And this book dragged so much. I could literally predict the way the story was going to go, as I said in a status update on Goodreads. There was fighting/action, some kind of sex scene, and dull stuff. Rinse and repeat.
It doesn’t help that in the middle of that pattern the plot disappeared. I literally got to 50%, paused, and realized that I had no fucking clue what was going on and why they were doing any of this. I got so bored and the book meandered around so much that I entirely lost what was going on. And I was so bored that I didn’t even care that I wasn’t going to find out if my theory was correct about how Mia would die.
That’s not good.
Now, I’m jumping back to the sex scenes. I expressed my discomfort with them in my review of Godsgrave. I just find it incredibly uncomfortable that a 40+ man is writing voyeuristic F/F sex scenes. I already talked about that and it didn’t change from book two to book three.
The sex scenes also are just… there. They don’t contribute to the story. They don’t enhance the relationship the characters have with each other. They’re just there. They were entirely pointless and just took up space where, you know, the plot could have happened. I have no problem with sex scenes, but God I cringed every time I realized they were going to happen because I was so done with reading Ash and Mia getting it on.
In short, I do not recommend this series. I cannot recommend anything by Kristoff. He’s not my author and he’s joining my list of authors I probably won’t read ever again just because I know I’ll be disappointed.
What’s a series that disappointed you?
Are there authors you won’t reach for?
Thank you Netgalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review!
CW: drug use, drug dealing, car accident, kidnapping, mental illness, hoarding, and death
I’m a big fan of Bryn Greenwood. Her first book, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, blew me away. It was a fantastic book and I’ve been waiting not-so-patiently for her next book. When I saw it on Netgalley, I clicked that button so fast. And now I’ve read it!
As usual, Greenwood looks at the uglier side of Kansas. Drugs, hoarding, white supremacy, jail. She takes characters who maybe aren’t ones you would root for, but you find yourself drawn into their stories in a way that you can’t deny is compelling. She’s really just fantastic and I cannot emphasize enough how quickly you should pick her up. If you were turned off by the idea of her first novel, this one is far less polarizing.
The story follows Zhorza, or Zee, after another bad thing has happened in her life. Her father was in jail growing up, her mother’s a hoarder, her relationship with her sister is iffy, she has been hit by a car, and she deals drugs on the side to make ends meet. Her sister, LaReigne, has been kidnapped after convicts escape from the jail she volunteers at. This leaves her young son, Marcus, in Zee’s hands while they wait to find out what’s going on.
Then, there’s Gentry. Gentry is schizophrenic and autistic. He believes he’s a knight s and has multiple voices that talk to him, including a witch and a black (i.e. evil/bad) knight. Two years ago, he met Zee when she was on her way to physical therapy after her car accident. And, he was told that he’s to be her knight and champion for the rest of his days. All very chivalric (and I loved the research that Greenwood put into that to make it believable) and great.
I loved how this book shows mental illness — especially schizophrenia since people with it are so often characterized as a danger to themselves and others — and how it can be managed without medication. Those medications, whether they’re typical or atypical antipsychotics, have a lot of harsh side effects. Yes, some people need them. But that shouldn’t be the first option unless the person is in a full-blown psychotic episode and needs to be brought back to figure out how to manage it best. And I just loved how Gentry was Gentry and, really, everyone learned to accept him for who he was despite his oddities.
I do wish that the story had a more specific plot. The story finally made sense at the end, especially when I reflected on the title. But, other than that, it felt more meandering. It was a lot like Greenwood’s first novel. There’s no huge plot — and I think I’m used to distinctive plots because of reading lots of fantasy; those usually have a definite goal — and it’s told through multiple perspectives. Zee, Gentry, Marcus, some detectives, some people they meet along the way of the story.
But boy was it beautiful. It was just a great read and I could sink into it. The characters were as fantastic as I expected and Greenwood’s writing was just as amazing. I’m pretty sure that this book is going to be liked and I can’t wait to put it in a spot on my shelves!
Have you read anything by Greenwood yet?
Is this one on your TBR?
This is an ARC, but I received it from Sam (not the publisher)!
CW: violent scenes, corrupt government, gore, chronic pain, and loss of family
This is a lush, imaginative, Welsh-inspired fantasy and I was so here for it.
Aderyn, or Ryn, is the daughter of a gravedigger. After her parents die, she becomes the sole provider for herself and her two siblings, Gareth and Ceri, at their village Colbren that’s at the border of a forest.
But this isn’t any town. Those who aren’t buried properly come back to life. They’re called bone houses. And it’s part of Ryn’s job to make sure that they don’t harm Colbren. That’s all at stake when the lord of the town starts trying to kick Ryn and her family out for not paying their rent.
Ellis is a mapmaker with no family and chronic pain. He comes to Colbren to make an accurate map of the area, but finds more than he bargains for when he runs into Ryn and ends up being sucked in to a centuries old legend.
God, this book was amazing.
I’ve always thought that Wales is the perfect place to set stories. And Lloyd-Jones really captures the scenery, language (and she does use the language in it), and made me feel like I was in the mystic Welsh past. I felt completely transported into this legend. I’m a huge history nerd, especially with medieval British history, and the worldbuilding was breathtaking.
And, I mean it. This world is amazing. The lore behind this is so developed. As the story kept going, the world kept going. I loved how gradually it unfolded. One of my biggest pet peeves with fantasy is when the whole world is info-dumped on me. Lots of terms all at once and some overexplaining (or lack of explaining). The Bone Houses didn’t suffer from that problem at all. Time was taken throughout the whole book to let you explore the expanding world, which was such a joy because it’s a hard thing to balance.
In addition to the lush world, I loved the characters. Ryn and Ellis were such great characters to follow. I found them incredibly fleshed out. Ryn with her grief and trying to provide for her family in the absence of her family. Ellis by dealing with the feeling of loss he has of being a boy with no family and how he handles having chronic pain from an old injury.
The side characters were also great. I loved reading about Ceri and Gareth (and Goat — an actual goat, who was the true hero of all this). The villagers in Colbren were also such fun to read. It really felt like I was in a small, medieval town where people were close out of necessity to survive and because they liked each other.
While I enjoyed all of these aspects, I also felt like the story stalled out periodically. Things just stopped and I was reading for a while, not really seeing anything new, then all of a sudden the story picked back up. It was still interesting and I finished the book, but the pacing could use some work.
Overall, this was a fantastic stand-alone YA fantasy. I can’t wait to read it again when it’s finished!
What setting do you wish was used more?
Have you read this? Are you going to?
I received an ARC from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review!
CW: inter-partner violence, chronic illness, racism, death, pedophilia, mention of human trafficking, adultery, bigamy, blackmailing, childbirth, and graphic violence/descriptions of gore
Like with The One, this is fit for a Black Mirror episode. It was unputdownable (it’s now a word). I didn’t want to stop reading it because I was so, so intrigued by it.
The story is set in a future Britain. After Brexit. After everything else. Britain has passed laws to help integrate driverless cars into their world. Of course, they have to do inquests for deaths caused by these cars. That’s where Libby comes in. Libby is very against driverless cars, yet she’s chosen to be a part of the jury to decide whether the car or person harmed by the car is at fault for the crash. Most of these cases come out in favor of the car making the right choice.
However, everything goes wrong.
Eight people get into their driverless cars to get on with their day. Six of them are Shabana, Claire, Sam and Heid, Jude, and Sofia. Shabana is fleeing her abusive husband. Claire is pregnant. Sam and Heidi are a married couple, each going on with their day. Jude is down and out. And Sofia is an aging actress.
The Hacker takes over their cars, which have already been set to explode at some point. He breaks into the jury room, putting the people in it as jury for whether these people will survive the day. Because they — and the rest of the world — have to choose which one of the eight will live while the other seven will crash into each other. If anyone tries to stop the cars or gets in the way at all, the car will explode, killing the person inside and injuring other people.
It’s fucking madness.
I read this book so quickly. The thrills kept coming. It’s split into two parts. I loved Parts 1 and 2. God, they moved fast and the hits didn’t stop coming. I tried to cover everything in my content warnings, but I have a feeling that I missed something because of just how quickly the story went. I feel like some of the hits were lackluster just because there were harder hitting things. I know that the Hacker chose these people for his specific purpose, but it still was a lot and it kept veering towards too much.
I wish I could talk more about the plot, honestly. But you have to take my word for it that it moves at an insane rate for about 80% of the book. It was nonstop and I couldn’t put it down for the first two parts.
The next two? Eh.
While the first two parts were imaginative and insane, the ending was weak. I think it honestly could have ended at the second part and it would have left me wanting more rather than it dragging on for 20%. There were multiple “twists” that didn’t work. I just kept wanting it to end because it had gone too far. The story kept going even though it had stopped being interesting.
And that made it all fall flat. I sincerely think it could have ended around 80%. Sure, I might be writing about how the ending left me wanting more, but when I got more I wasn’t happy about it.
Still, a fantastic book. Just with a lackluster ending.
What was the last thriller that you loved?
Have you read this? Are you planning to?
I received an ARC from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review!
CW: homophobia, transphobia, outing, deadnaming, gender dysphoria, unsupportive family, graphic sex scene, and possible alcohol abuse
THERE WILL BE SPOILERS AS I DISCUSS PROBLEMATIC PLOT POINTS.
First and foremost, I want to make some statements about this review upfront. A lot of you know me, but this review will be posted on Goodreads and Twitter and, obviously, this blog. I’m also going to bump it up in my story on Instagram.
I don’t know where it’s going to go and who will see it. So, I want to put right up front a few things about me and this review.
This is my opinion alone from an ownvoices standpoint, informed by my own experiences. I do not have any interest in speaking for the whole trans community and I will not be. I can only speak of my experience and thoughts around this book. Life would be boring if all transpeople thought the same and this is one opinion of a highly nuanced situation.
If you were offended/found this book problematic, I’m not trying to diminish your personal experience, just talk about my own.
I also have an issue with the marketing done around this book. I don’t like that it was marketed as F/F then, surprise!, the MC’s trans. It’s horribly problematic and needs to be fixed more. I’m glad that Mackenzi has been working on changing that.
This review is about the content of the book. I want to talk about the actual content and my perception of it.
I welcome comments and ideas that differ from my own! However, I will not allow for cruelty. If anyone starts being rude, I’ll delete your comments. I don’t want to have to monitor that, but I will if I have to.
I’m not on Twitter. We might have a shared Twitter, but Chantel is the one who runs it. I rarely pop on over there. So, when the drama came around about this book, I had already requested this, super excited for Mackenzi’s new F/F book set in Holland which I’ll be shortening to TMB so I don’t have to type the title over and over again. Then, I started seeing Mackenzi on Instagram correcting the marketing and Chantel began filling me in about the stuff on Twitter.
I wasn’t going to read this book until December or January. I like reading my ARCs about a month before they come out because then it’s fresh in my mind. But with this? I felt like it was something I needed to read right away because I didn’t think that Mackenzi Lee meant any harm.
Thanks to her stories (and other authors, such as Adrienne Young) on Instagram that authors rarely, if ever, have control over their marketing and cover designs and descriptions. And, I also know that Mackenzi is a huge supporter of the LGBTQIA+ community and has captured our historical experiences in her past books.
Mackenzi also used trans sensitivity readers. Including Meredith Russo. And, personally, I’m with Meredith Russo. So, spoiler for my own views. As a transman, I didn’t find this triggering or problematic. I felt like it captured the historical reality of being trans in the 17th century. And it was wonderful.
I’m a huge history nerd, I always take historical fiction with the historical context. Such as, there were certain historical realities and laws that criminalized sexuality and gender expression. Those were present in this book and I appreciated her capturing that honest reality. Also, queer characters didn’t have the language that we have today to explain their gender and sexuality. And I loved that, again, in this book Mackenzi honored that and wasn’t anachronistic.
The book was unapologetically trans without ever using that word.
Now, I’ll get more to that in a second because I did see someone’s comment on Goodreads — if you see this review and it was you, please tell me and I will link people there! — that said this book is more adultthan YA with the current content. And, I agree there. It’s definitely more adult than YA. It reminded me of Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg (ownvoices historical transman book). TMB has very adult themes to it, even though the characters were teens.
A little bit more about using the word trans in this book. Transsexual was a word that was first used in the 1920s and transgender was first created in the 1960s. Definitely not a 17th-century word. And this book is about discovery. It’s about our transman MC discovering who he is and coming into that identity.
When I was reading it, I was struck by how represented, how seen I was, by this book. It’s so hard to find book about transmen that accurately captures what it feels like to discover your identity. There was one quote that stood out to me. Remember, ARC quotes are liable to change, especially since this book has been pulled from being published for the near future.
A manacle I had not known was around my neck until it was removed, and suddenly, I could breathe, I could breathe, I could breathe at last.
That’s a quote from the MC after he got his hair cut off. I distinctly remember the day that I cut my hair from being super long to very short. And that captures how I felt when I did it and looked in the mirror, seeing a bit more of myself each day.
Then, there was the description of gender dysphoria that made me stop because it so captured the feeling. One second, so, so masculine and knowing that you’re a man and fully inhabiting that role, only to then be slammed back into the depressive and anxiety-ridden reality of your body not matching how you pictured it in your mind. It cut me right to my heart because, God, Mackenzi got it 100% right.
There are a few main characters in this. The MC, who I am going to refer to as Pim in here. Pim’s birth name, and what he’s referred to for a good portion of the book, is Lena. I know there’s a huge discussion of deadnaming around this book, but he doesn’t choose Pim as his name (while pretending to be a man whose name is Pim) until 41% and it isn’t until the second to last chapter that he really chooses it as his own. It reminds me of George by Alex Gino. She chooses the name Melissa but is called George throughout the book and most reviews call her George as well.
I’ve already mentioned that I loved Pim. I loved his journey to self-discovery. I loved how accurate he felt. I just loved it. As I said, it’s so hard to find a story where a transman is the main focus. And it was so refreshing to read something that made me feel represented.
Then, there’s Elsje, Pim’s love interest. I did like her. She was fun and quirky and so queer. However, I felt like she could have been fleshed out a bit more as a side character. There was not much more to her besides how she loves tulips and is totally interested in Pim and helps affirm his gender.
Bas is Pim’s older brother. I… I didn’t like him. He’s drunk most of the time and is very unaccepting of Pim’s identity. I’m very tired of the trope of an unaccepting sibling. I want more accepting sibling rep. I’m going to come back to this a little later.
Then, there’s Jan. Jan has a very minor role for most of the book. I think that’s a damn shame. He’s very accepting of Pim and Pim’s gender. He encourages him to live as a man. I wanted more of him. Bas was very unaccepting, Elsje middling with acceptance, and Jan was super supportive. I liked that there was a spectrum of support, but there needed to be more of Jan.
The plot itself is pretty straightforward. Pim and Bas are orphans, taken in by a tulip seller who suddenly dies and leaves them with a lot of debt. They find out that he might have had a Semper Augustus (a very expensive and rare tulip) and go to claim it. However, the man who had it is in jail away from Holland. Pim decides to take on his identity and sell it, then they get out of there.
The first 60% of the book was very positive and moved at a good clip. It was a fast-paced fun ride. Around 66% — I identified it in my status updates — the tone changed and it became bleak. Throughout the book, it was mentioned that people could get hung for being gay. But, around 66% there’s a graphic hanging. Then there’s Pim being outed later, around 80%. There’s also been some discussion about the ending and how unhappy it is. Tbh, I found it pretty happy? Pim didn’t get the girl, but, he was living his authentic life so how is that unhappy?
Now, I mentioned I love historical accuracy. I hate books that feel anachronistic. However, in this case, I think things could be edited out. I do not think that there needed to be a graphic hanging. That could be removed completely from the story without impacting things. It’s a scene that pushes the story from YA to adult for me. I wished that it hadn’t included that. Sure, it’s historically accurate, but it doesn’t add to the story.
I also mentioned that I wish Bas would be changed. Either made more supportive, given a smaller role, or bring more of Jan into the story to further offset Bas’s lack of support. That’s one thing that I wanted to be changed desperately when I was reading it. Because each time Bas came in, I knew that he’d be saying something that was rude and/or triggering. It didn’t add to the story and it felt gratuitous.
So, what are my overall thoughts on the book?
I felt myself represented from when I was a teen trying to figure out who I was and figuring out slowly.
There are definitely things that could be changed and removed, but it was so good.
I would 100% recommend this to people as an authentic trans read.
Whenever Mackenzi is ready to put it out for publication, I’ll be preordering it so I can have it on my shelves right next to the Montague Siblings.
What are your thoughts on the drama?
Are you planning on reading it?
I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!
CW: sex work, stalking, self-harm, alcohol abuse, and cheating
Ever since I read Her Pretty Face last year, I knew that this was an author to look out for. She completely captivated me with her story. And, honestly, this one was no different!
Natalie, or Nat, is a young woman at a NYC art school. She waits tables and lives in a flat with two other people who don’t like her very much. Of course, she also once had a stalker who still worries her. She can barely afford her share of the rent. After meeting a fellow student who, somehow, has money, she learns about being a sugar baby. Time in exchange for money. A lot of money, at that. And, Nat decides to dip into that sugar bowl.
Gabe is a high powered attorney. He’s (unhappily) married and has a kid he doesn’t understand. The marriage he’s in has turned into one of companionship, lacking the passion it once had. This isn’t his first time having a sugar baby. But, he chooses Natalie.
I know I’ve said it before on here, but I have a huge interest in sex work. Not like that. I mean, I find the work absolutely fascinating. What drives people to do it. The work behind the scenes. I’ve always found it absolutely fascinating. For a long time, I had a personal Twitter. I’ve deactivated it now, but I used to follow camgirls to see if I could catch that glimpse. I used to follow sex workers on Tumblr before the changes happened to the website to kind of keep up on what was going on.
And, I love that this book came from that place of interest. In her author’s note, she says that she was interested and actually talked to sugar babies to find out why they chose that profession. I love that! I love that she actually went into the community to research! I think, for me, that’s why it felt so realistic. The story showed the good and the bad. The nice holidays, the jewelry, the housing. And the creepy men who go there because they can scare and hurt a woman. I could go on my whole diatribe against the criminalization of sex work for people who genuinely want to work there, but I won’t get on that soapbox.
Still, I didn’t like some of the tropes presented in this.
Sex and sex work shaming did play a role in this. I know that it’s a huge reality for sex workers, but I would have liked to not see every single non-sex worker character shitting on Natalie for her financial choice.
It also goes with the whole unstable sex worker line. Natalie is very unstable, I won’t lie there. She goes into being a sugar baby (which is, in a way, sex work) not realizing and accepting that’s what it was. She doesn’t seem to understand that being a sugar baby isn’t like being a girlfriend. It’s a job, one you have to work at. It’s not real. It’s a fantasy. She also has PTSD from her stalker.
Still, I didn’t like that it showed bad endings for both of the sex worker characters in this. I feel like balancing it out with something more positive would have been better for me. But, that’s me.
I still loved this book. It was a page turner and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s one that I’ll want to own once it’s out and I was thrilled by it! The book felt so authentic and I loved the twists and turns it took, along with the characters revealing themselves who they really were. I couldn’t believe the ending and it was just so good!
CW: death of a parent, death of a sibling, grief drugging, some gore, general horror themes
I will be 100% honest with you. I didn’t expect to love this book.
Seriously. I requested it because the cover caught my eye and the synopsis sounded pretty good. That’s what happened. It’s a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, which isn’t the most horrifying fairytale out there.
But Craig took that starting point and elevated it to something that blew me away.
One thing I noticed when I started this book, there was no character list and no reviews pointed out all the characters. I actually had to start it over, get a piece of paper out, and draw myself out a genogram to see what the hell was going on and who all these people were.
Annaleigh is our main character. She’s the sixth daughter out of twelve. And bad things are happening at her home. Her mother died after giving birth to her last daughter, Verity (who is also one of the Graces, but give me a moment to get there). Her father remarried, Morella, who has now announced that she’s pregnant.
But it doesn’t stop there. The book opens with the funeral of one of Annaleigh’s older sisters, Eulalie. This isn’t her first sister who died either. So far, her older sisters Ava, Octavia, and Elizabeth have also died, along with Eulalie and their mother. The siblings that are left are: Camille (older than Annaleigh); Annaleigh; the triplets Rosalie, Lenore, and Ligeoa; and the Graces (called that because they’re close in age and don’t really remember their mother) Honor, Mercy, and Verity.
See why I needed a family tree and I had to start it over? There are tons of names and connections and I really had to concentrate.
A major theme of this book is grief. Having just lost my sister about two months ago when I dove into this book, it was palpable. I could understand and distinctly feel the sorrow that Annaleigh experienced. Her grief was on a different level with her mother and four sisters dying in mysterious ways, plus starting to believe that someone is out there killing them.
In this world, her father is a duke and rules this certain island. The island is a bit different. The oldest child, no matter what gender they are, inherits the dukedom. The island is a major setting for this story because it all revolves around the sea and their religion heavily comes from that, too.
I loved the setting. I loved the world. It was so much fun to immerse myself into it and watch as the story slowly expanded it. The plot itself wasn’t too predictable, which was shocking. As I said, Craig took a very plain story and elevated it. She brought in mystery and horror and some romance and religion and ugh. It was so good.
As I said, there is romance. I was kinda meh about it — I didn’t think it was needed, but at least I liked Cassius, the love interest. For a bit, I thought it would be a love triangle between Cassius, the mysterious arrival, and Fisher, a childhood friend. I’m glad that it didn’t develop into that. I would have been very disappointed.
More about the plot, though. It starts off dark and it progressively gets darker. Hell, I thought it was getting Grimm Brothers dark and maybe even darker than that. The ending had my eyes wide and I could picture it in my head. It was very gruesome. Sure, the ending is happy, but God did it get really dark right before that.
All in all, this book was amazing. I didn’t know what to expect from it and I set my bar very low for that reason, but it took me by surprise. Erin Craig is an author I’m going to keep my eye on. I can see her taking YA by storm.
Have you read this?
Is it on your TBR?
What’s your favorite retelling?
Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for giving me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!
CW: sexual assault, toxic work environments, and corporate greed
This book was crazy! I mean, I was on the edge of my seat trying to find out what happened right away, then it kept developing.
Vincent, Sam, Jules, and Sylvie got an email from HR about a dumb teambuilding exercise that they had to do. Escape from a locked elevator and that’s it. They think that even if they fail, they’ll get let out in an hour and that’ll be that. Except that the clues to let them out are oddly specific. And about Sara Hall, a dead girl.
Sara Hall studied business and thought she would be set for life. Her father is ill all the time and her mother struggles with bills. Sara figured that she would get a business job and, well, help them out. Along with get herself out of debt and pay off her student loans.
Yet, she’s not getting hired. And the longer she goes without being hired, the less marketable she’ll be and the less likely she’ll actually get hired. After a failed interview, she meets a man in an elevator who says he’ll get her a job. And he does. Then things go wrong.
What stands out most about this book is the combination of a toxic work environment and corporate greed. It was so painful to read it. It killed me reading it because it’s totally not what I want in a job, even if I would make hella money. Drugs, makeup, injections, sex, exercise. It’s insanity and anyone who goes into it is someone I’d like to steer clear of. It deludes people with privilege.
The book was very twisty and I didn’t see things coming, although it became more apparent as the time went on. And when it came to the final bit, I knew what to expect and it was just… chilling. All of it was so coldblooded. I loved the journey to get to the actual reveals and the real story. Everything else was just setting the stage, even though I was constantly interested by the chapters switching from Sara’s perspective in the past to the people in the elevator.
Definitely a thriller author that I’ll come back to again!
I received this ARC from Netgalley for an honest review!
CW: sexism, slavery, and attempted rape
I’m so conflicted about this book.
On one hand, I really liked this and thought it was a solid book with an interesting plot and fun characters. On the other hand, I thought it lacked pacing and the story got very lost.
To make this a bit more clear, I’m splitting this book in half and I’m going to review each half of the book. There was such a stark difference between the first half and the second half that it really needs to be done that way.
The first half, I would give 4 stars. Maia had three older brothers. Two died and the other just came back from war very injured. Her father is a tailor but is really struggling to make ends meet and she has to step in. So, when someone from the palace comes, demanding that her father come to compete in a tailoring competition, Maia decides to pretend to be her older brother who is back from war and go in his place.
I really loved the family dynamics. I found them so interesting and I genuinely would have liked a little bit more of Maia with her family.
Once she got to the palace, I really loved the challenges that Maia had to go through with the competition and the conversation about gender restrictions that happened periodically with another character.
That character is Edan. He’s the emperor’s enchanter. No one really likes him, but he takes a real interest in Maia. Now, I liked him. I thought he was cool and the banter he and Maia had was so nice. I really loved their friendship. I need more friendships in books rather than straight to romance.
The only thing I didn’t love was the pacing. It was very slow. Granted, it worked. The slower pace gave time to set up the relationships that would go into the second half of the book and the challenges really shone. Still, I would have like a bit of a quicker pace.
Then, we got to the second half. I’m giving that 2 stars. My entire mood throughout the second half of the book is encapsulated by this gif.
It was just such a pain to get through and I wound up skimming.
Instead of Maia staying at the palace, she goes on some journey/quest/adventure. With Edan. I didn’t mind that change of events — although I found the palace intrigues more interesting in hindsight — but it was a surprise.
What came as no surprise to me was that the friendship Edan and Maia had turned into a romance. I have no interest in it. There were so many cheesy quotes, though. So many cringe-y YA romance quotes. Like this gem: (And remember that quotes are liable to change in the final, published copy!)
I knew that we were like two pieces of cloth, sewn together for life. Our stitches couldn’t be undone.
I wouldn’t let them.
Not only that, but the romance took place of the quest. It would have been hella cool, but the pacing was so off. The romance was slow and there was a lot of time focused on the romance that the actual quest/journey got forgotten. Each little challenge was quickly written to get back to the romance.
Now, I’m very sure that I’ll be the one with the unpopular opinion about the romance. I just had no interest in it and didn’t think that the story needed it. As I said, I want more books with friendships in them rather than it always having to be a relationship.
All of that being said, I don’t think this book needs to be a series. If the story was tweaked just a little bit, it would have been a great stand-alone book and I might have some nicer things to say about it. Yes, I enjoyed it, but there was such a stark difference between the halves of the book that it left a bad taste in my mouth. Will I continue with the series? I don’t know. What I do know is that I didn’t like where the story went.
Have you read this? What did you think?
What books have had unnecessary romances in them for you?