Blog Tour | Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy, #1) by Emily A. Duncan

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ARC given to me by my kind friend – Lilly at Lair of Books!

“If you fall to him the war will be lost. You have to live, Nadya.”

I’m going to be really honest with you all; I feel like Wicked Saints is the book of my heart. From the lyrical writing, to the cold atmosphere, to the beautiful themes, to the characters that I’d already be willing to give my life for; this book just felt like it was written for me. This debut fantasy, all about blood magic and a cleric who can speak to all the gods (be still, my wishful D&D heart), blew me and my expectations out of the water.

The author very much pulls from Russian and Polish inspiration and we get to see two countries, the Russian inspired Kalyazin, and the Polish inspired Tranavia. There is also the desert lands of Akola, which we meet a few characters from, but I think the land will be explored much more in later books! But we quickly see how differently the first two places view religion, and how both nations are willing to do whatever it takes in the name of their beliefs. These two countries are warring, and the author never shies away from that, but they are also beautifully woven together to create such an immersive and captivating world and setting.

“Cannons only meant one thing: blood magic. And blood magic meant Tranavians.”

But this tale starts out with a girl who has lived and hidden within the protection of a monastery’s walls her entire life. She has a power unlike any other, and it is her people’s hope to not only restore the faith of the gods, but bring them back into power. Yet, there are people who are willing to do anything to make sure the gods and their religion(s) stay silenced forever. And one night, the girl’s monastery is brutally attacked, and she and her friend barely escape with their lives, while everyone else stayed back to ensure they could run away. Yet, the war commander prince notices that this girl is not among the dead. The girl, desperate to live and to not have the gods be silenced, is willing to do anything it takes to live. Even if that means getting help from a powerful rebel mage, who is harboring many secrets of his own.

“The girl, the monster, and the prince…”

Nadya – The cleric who can speak to all of the gods.
Malachiasz – A blood mage, who believes he is a monster.
SerefinBisexual icon. Also, a blood mage prince of one of the most powerful realms in this world, but the king is trying to ensure that no one can contest his power, while also wanting to use his son as a martial pawn. He also has a visual impairment and is unable to see out of one of his eyes.

(Breathtaking art by Therese at warickaart!)

And all three of these characters? As morally grey as they come. And they all equally stole my heart. Okay, maybe I have a little bit of a soft spot for Serefin, but I can’t help it, okay? But there is more disability and sexual representation with some of the side characters, and many characters of color. I am truly in love with all the side characters, and I can’t wait to see them develop even more, but Ostyia was easily my favorite and the author confirmed she is a tiny murder lesbian, and I’ve never read anything so perfect in all my life.

Okay, I’m going to spend a little more time talking about Nadya because I truly was obsessed with how the author crafted religion and the saints in this book. First off, I’m Catholic, so you know that I fuck hard with saints, anyways. But, on the opposite end of the spectrum, I have played probably over a hundred D&D campaigns in my life, and I swear to all the gods that I have probably rolled a cleric at least 50 of those campaigns. Seriously, teenage Melanie (and her Pathfinder loving friends) was obsessed with Sarenrae. But reading a book about a cleric who could speak to ALL the gods, and harness their powers if they allowed it? I am quaking. Also, the banter between Nadya and all the different gods, all of whom have very different personalities, was probably my favorite element of the entire book.

Again, this is a very dark book and I implore you to read my trigger and content warnings listed down below if you are on the fence if you are in the right headspace or not. But one of the major magic systems in this book is blood magic, where people will use their own blood (most of the time, freshly cut) and merge it with pages of a spell book to be able to wield their prepared spells and harness their magic. I loved this. I loved this so much. It is something that I feel you see so much in D&D and videogames, but never in literature and I really think it was expertly done and completely made the book for me.

I feel like I should talk about the romance, since I see many early reviewers not loving it as much as I seemed to. I always thought Nadya was the star of this book, regardless of who she was developing feelings for. I mean, you all know I always fall in love with the one the main character doesn’t pick, so there is that, but I still loved the romance in this book. Also, I kind of hinted a bit about this in the character breakdowns, but when Serefin was following the king’s wishes to find a marriage? I was invested, friends. Too invested, probably. But during all the situations, the angst almost killed me, in the best way possible, and I can’t wait to see where the author takes everything in book two. It was the perfect slow burn feeling, while giving us so many breadcrumbs that all tasted delicious.

Overall, this book just had too many things in my personal wheelhouse for me not to completely fall in love with it. I mean, I originally heard this pitched as “a gothic Joan of Arc” and I knew from that moment my life was going to be changed. I think Emily A. Duncan has really crafted such a unique story, and such a beautiful debut and start of a series. I can’t wait to see what comes next, especially because the end of this book truly slayed me and every emotion I have ever had.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and Trigger Warnings for self-harm (both as a magic system, and talk of self-harm in the past), torture, parental abuse, abandonment, abduction, a lot of alcohol consumption (maybe addiction), gore, violence, and war themes.

Buddy read with Jocelyn at Yogi with a Book! ❤


 

Blog Tour Author Guest Post | Dig by A.S. King

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Hey, friends! I know most of you know that I’m a HUGE A.S. King fan! So when Penguin asked if I would want to ask her a question to feature on my blog…. well, I first fangirled for ten minutes, and then I replied back saying yes! And the question that I asked was who is A.S. King’s favorite character in Dig and why! 


This is a hard question to answer when a book has nine main characters and another handful of secondary ones. And because I tend to live in the gray spaces of life, the idea of “favorites” is hard for me. I’m going to answer this from the hip and see what I come up with.

I do love Malcolm. Poor kid. He’s going through a lot and I love his outlook on life, poverty, history, and the future.

I adore CanIHelpYou? because she is both so honest and so not-honest at the same time. She’s being made to live in a house she will never fit into, with a mother who is so abhorrent to her that she will do anything to get out of there, even if it’s not all that legal.

The Shoveler—he’s dear to me because he’s the one who started this whole thing. He was the first teen character to come to me and although he was stubborn and took a while to trust me, he eventually did tell me what was going on. I like how his brain works, even though it may not be the healthiest thing. I’m glad he’s aware of it. His inner-dialogue is authentic.

Oh, Loretta. I never saw her coming. I had no idea what she was about for years as I wrote, but she always had something new to show me. I feel for her. I know she lives in a sort of alternate world and I know why. And that’s sad. But she’s also so darn happy when she’s with her fleas and on stage. I just want to hug her for a year. She’s so precious to me.

But oh, The Freak. She strung me along for years. Didn’t tell me her secrets until page 350. And I love her. I love what she represents and how intensely she loves and how frank and foul-mouthed and smart she is. I can tell you that for me, she was my favorite to write, usually, and I was always excited when she showed up. Even if it made no sense to me at the time.
I should add that I do love Marla and Gottfried for what they reveal about the family as the book goes on. They are not my favorites as people, but since I wrote them very-very first, they are good vehicles for the story and I think they do their job well.

Wow. This sounds like I am reviewing cars or something.

So, it looks like The Freak wins. But only for today. Favorites are fleeting and there are too many to choose from here. But for me, The Freak is the bearer of the right news—all the right news—and she turned out to be the catalyst for so many other parts of the book. When you write the way I do, by the seat of my pants, you need at least one character to lead you. I didn’t know it would be The Freak. I couldn’t figure her out for so long. But once she told me everything, I couldn’t have asked for a better guide.

Thanks for having me on the blog and for asking me this question and making me think about this. I appreciate it! –Amy

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I am so excited to review Dig for you all! I know that it’s probably going to make my best of the year list! Also, it is officially out today! So, I hope you all are able to pick up a copy from a bookstore or the library! Happy reading, friends!

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Blog Tour Review | The Shadowglass (The Bone Witch #3) by Rin Chupeco

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ARC provided by Sourcebooks in exchange for an honest review.

1.) The Bone Witch ★★★★
2.) The Heart Forger ★★★★★

“There are worse things than black heartsglass, Tea. Silver is just as capable of hate.”

Most of you know this The Bone Witch trilogy is a series I hold very close to my heart, but I truly have been looking at this word document for the last twenty minutes completely unable to start this review. I’m not ready to say goodbye, and I’m equal parts in denial that it’s over, but in awe of how perfect Rin Chupeco closed this series out. I am so thankful for these books, and I will truly carry them with me forever.

The Shadow Glass is the concluding book in an ownvoices Asian inspired fantasy series, that stars a bone witch named Tea who has the power to resurrect and control things, which she finds out in The Bone Witch when she accidentally resurrects her brother at his funeral. From there, Tea and her newly risen brother, Fox, go on a journey for Tea to learn about her asha powers, but they quickly feel and realize the expectations that all eight kingdoms are going to put on her.

In this world, all the people wear heartsglass around their necks. Your heartsglass will change colors depending on what you’re feeling but will overall stay mostly the same color. Yet, silver means you draw runes and they are so very important and are so very sought after. Other ashas control elements; fire, earth, water, and wind. But Tea is a dark asha who can control death. Bone witches are not very respected in this world, even though their powers hold the most important job in this world; defeating Daeva, which are different demons who dwell in this world, who are resurrected every so often.

“The darkness was inside me, I think, long before I raised my brother from the dead. My silver heartsglass merely gave it a mouth, made the darkness realize that it too can hunger…”

This story is told in my favorite format ever, which is half of it being told in present day from a bard, where you see the ramifications of everything that has happened in the past, where Tea appears to be the villain, but the other half is the past, from Tea’s perspective, where we get to slowly see the events unfold to bring us up to date with current day. Two timelines brilliantly woven together to give us the most epic finale of all time and truly is a masterpiece.

I feel like I can’t say that much more of a synopsis, because this is the last book in a trilogy, but watching Tea grow, from this girl who was so unsure of her future and her new powers, to this woman who learned to love not only others, but also herself and this power that felt so uncontrollable, and it was an honor to read, truly. And seeing this new journey that Tea has to take for herself in The Shadow Glass was completely enthralling and such a treat to read.

“I knew that shadowglass spell; I had committed it to memory nearly two years ago, and it was now a mantra, buried so deep within my psyche that nothing could pull it loose. I had pored over those words for so long that sometimes they came easier to me than my own name.”

But I couldn’t write up this review and not talk about the romance and how it completely still leaves me weak in the knees. I would completely lay my life on the line for Tea and Kalen and they are honestly everything. Also, I am just such a sucker for the protector/bodyguard/personal-warrior element in romances, and I seriously will never stop swooning over them. Truly the stuff dream OTPs are made of.

I do want to take a minute and talk about the sexual and gender representation in this book! There is a side f/f romance, which you don’t get to see that much of in this installment, but I still love them with the sum of my being! But what I really want to talk about is Likh and her transition. In all three books, we see Likh discovering how fluid gender can be, yet also testing out the waters of new things because of the gender roles, and power imbalances, people place on so many things in the societies all these characters explore, but in this book she decides her pronouns and after that everyone instantly respects her pronouns and her transition and it’s truly beyond words beautiful.

Okay, so I feel like I should write up a little personal paragraph, even though I don’t want to take away anything from this masterpiece of a trilogy. Rin Chupeco pulls from many Asian inspirations, but as a biracial Filipino it just means the world to me to see a Filipino author not only writing books that are completely in my wheelhouse, but to really have it reflect so much of my culture. Then, I also get to see an Asian girl and her Asian brother be best friends and willing to sacrifice anything for one another, and if you’ve followed my reviews for a while, you will know my brother is my best friend in the entire world, and I would sacrifice anything for him, and I’m just weak and soft and it really means so much to me. But lastly, we really get to see Tea living during the good mental health days and living during some really terrible mental health days. Mental health and Tea’s guilt, grief, and trauma is never shied away from in this story, and to even see this in an Asian inspired fantasy story is enough for me to build a shrine to Rin right this instant.

“I will save the kingdoms, and I will save you in the process, and maybe I will save the bits and pieces of myself that need rescuing too.”

And I don’t have an eloquent way to say it, this ending broke me. I read the last twenty-percent of this book with tears streaming down my face. So much perfection. Overall, this really is the book of my heart, and Tea is the character of my soul, and Rin Chupeco truly wrote a love letter for every girl out there who wants to change the broken world that people think is the default. If you haven’t started this series yet, please give it a try. I truly love it with my whole heart and soul, and I truly think it is so very worth your time.

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Content and trigger warnings for violence, death, loss of a loved one, grief depiction, brief mention of past parental abuse, and war themes.

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

(Thank you so much FFBC, for letting me be a part of this tour!)

 

Blog Tour Review | The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves, #1) by Roshani Chokshi

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ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

“Sometimes the only way to take down what had destroyed you was to disguise yourself as part of it.”

Most of you know that Roshani Chokshi is one of my favorite authors. I loved both The Star-Touched Queen & A Crown of Wishes with my whole heart and soul! So, I knew when she was writing a brand-new series, about a found family completing heists and solving puzzles, that I wouldn’t be able to resist once I got my hands on an ARC. And friends, this was such a treat to read.

This is a historical fantasy set in alternate 1889 Paris, France, and in this alternate world, children will manifest magical powers by the age of thirteen. And there are two different kinds of magic; the magic of mind and the magic of matter. There is also a very powerful secret society, that goes by the name of the Order of Babel, and it used to be made up of four houses, but two houses took over ten years ago. And by doing so, they made a very big mistake claiming the heir of one of those fallen houses as dead.

“Turning into ghosts is not what the dead deserve.”

Séverin – Biracial (Algerian & French). For sure the leader of the group, who wants nothing more than to keep his crew safe and out of harm’s way. But he is on a mission to reclaim his true inheritance that was stolen from him with lies ten years ago, because he gets an offer than he couldn’t possibly refuse.

Laila – Indian (ownvoices), dancer, who is dealing with a lot of grief and a lot of anxiety over her past. She has the magical (matter) forging ability to touch any object and read it to know everything about it. And she desperately needs Séverin’s plan to work.

Tristan – White, and Séverin considers him his little brother, because they moved around a lot together in foster care. Also, Tristan loves his pet tarantula, Goliath, more than anything, but he’s still my favorite little gardener/botanist.

Zofia – On the Autism spectrum, Jewish, Polish, has anxiety, and a lot of her actions (in my opinion, as someone who has OCD) feels like she may also fall on the OCD spectrum. She finds comfort in numbers, needs to have things in their rightful place, and is willing to do any and everything for her little sister that she was forced to leave behind. Zofia also has magical forging abilities of the mind.

Hypnos – Black, queer (probably pan, maybe bi, and maybe even non-binary), heir of a French aristocrat but know he is also a descendant of slavery. His story line is a little rough at first, but you soon realize that he considers Séverin a brother to him, and honestly? Hypnos ended up being my second favorite character. Also, he made me giggle so much that my tummy hurt.

Enrique – Biracial (Filipino (ownvoices) & Spanish), queer (he is either bisexual or pansexual, but I’m not sure my heart can take reading about a half Filipino, pan character because it is all I’ve ever wanted in literature!) But, this character meant a lot to me. I am not sure I’ve ever read specifically about a biracial Filipino dealing with cultural erasure on both sides of their heritage before. I mean, this book is literally people trying to erase cultures from history, and Enrique is literally a historian, but seeing people make comments about his looks and biraciality just really hit home for me on a really personal level. I completely realize that there comes an immense privilege with being white passing but reading this book and feeling how real and hurtful it is when people disregard you and erase you because you don’t fit in their stereotypical mold of what a half Asian person should look like, but they also never let you forget that you’re not fully white. Yet, also not feeling like you truly fit in because of your lighter or more westernized features, even if they comment about it in a way that they believe is positive and a compliment. And Enrique also has to deal with people thinking that Asian people are interchangeable and thinking that their cruel and ignorant words are acceptable to say. I loved all the characters in this book, but Enrique just felt like the character I’ve been searching for for a very long while and he just really encompassed so many things that I hold inside myself every day. His character just meant a lot to me, and I will cherish him forever and always in my heart.

(Breathtaking art(s) by Nicole Deal!)

And this ragtag group of misfits come together and create something so beautiful that I hardly have words to describe it. This book heavily talks about colonization. And even though the heart of this novel is about a found family who unconditionally loves one another, the soul of this novel is about cultural erasure and how important it is to keep the traditions and history from your culture, no matter who tries to make you believe that theirs is superior. And this book really puts an emphasis of the terrible acts people will commit while saying that it’s for or because of a higher power.

“But the greatest thief of all was the Order of Babel, for they stole more than just objects . . . they stole histories”

But all these characters feel like a tier above the rest of what YA has to offer. They feel so real, their pain feels so raw, and you just want to protect them all at all costs. Roshani really is a master word weaver and I can’t help falling in love with every story she puts into the world. She is also the master of romance, and I was swooning extra hard for two people in this. (Also, the set up to book two will probably be the death of me!) As for the other romantic relationship, Roshani is either going to completely slay me with the love triangle or give me everything I’ve ever wanted with a polyamorous relationship. Lord, hear my prayers.

Also, because I don’t think I mentioned this above, a good portion of this book is set at a hotel called L’Eden where the crew lives and develops new advancements to help them with their missions. I know I’ve already gushed pretty hard over this book, but I love books that are set in hotels and inns so much, and it was just such an unexpected treat. Then again, Roshani always writes the best settings and my heart fell completely in love with a poisonous greenhouse in this story, too.

Overall, I just really loved this one. I am sure many people will compare The gilded Wolves to a mix of Six of Crows & The Da Vinci Code upon release, and I think that’s valid, bu I think it has its own unique spin, too. The cast is diverse and lovable, the writing is lush and beautiful, the themes are important and heartfelt, and the story is captivating and unputdownable. If you like a story with secrets and mystery, filled artifacts and puzzle solving, with a little romance and funny banter, then I completely recommend picking up The Gilded Wolves upon release.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for colonialism, cultural erasure, and racism (always challenged and in a negative light), blood depiction, mention of past suicide, loss of a loved one, bullying in the past, abandonment, anxiety attacks, mention of a stillbirth, and depictions of grief.

Buddy read with Kristi, Mel, Amy, Caidyn, Lily, & Alex! ❤

A Duke by Default (Reluctant Royals, #2) by Alyssa Cole

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ARC provided to me by the publicist in exchange for an honest review.

#1.) A Princess in Theory ★★★★

“We have a fantastic romance section,” she said. “Do you need recommendations? How do you like your dukes? Grumpy? Tortured? Alpha, beta, or alpha in the streets, beta in the sheets?” “Actually, I meant nonfiction”

Friends, this was nothing short of pure joy to read. Please, if you’re looking for a heartwarming, funny, and expertly crafted romance, please look no further. A Duke by Default follows the main character in A Princess in Theory, Ledi’s, best friend Portia! But this time, Portia is on a journey to change her life and be a different person, and what better way than with a change of scenery and career? And maybe she will cross paths with someone who is much more than meets the eye himself.

Portia Hobbs – Black American woman, who is ready to risk it all, move across the world, and try her luck at being an apprentice for a swordsmith in Scotland, because she is in her late twenties and still hasn’t found the career that is right for her.

“Everyone acts like you’re just supposed to find what you love right away, and if you don’t, just do something you don’t love. And if you do neither of those things you’re being selfish.”

Tavish McKenzie – Biracial (Chilean and Scottish) man, who was left Bodotria Armory and is currently running it with his brother and sister-in-law, even though its becoming harder and harder for him to turn a profit, but hopefully a new apprentice can turn things around.

“Pull out your sword,” she commanded and Tav was certain it was the sexiest thing a woman had ever uttered to him.”

And spoiler, she does. Portia and Tavish’s chemistry is out of this world. These two characters feel so real, and seeing them start out a little rocky, but slowly become friends, and maybe something more, was so beautiful.

But the entire cast of side characters are honestly magnificent as well. Like, I truly am going to say a prayer every single night that Alyssa Cole never stops writing, and that she never stops blessing us with more characters from this world. Seriously, I love them all with my entire being.

Reggie – Portia’s twin sister, famous blogger, brain virus survivor, uses a wheelchair, and is my hero. Seriously, I’m ready for her book with her and her mystery man immediately. Please.

Cheryl – Chinese, owns a freakin’ Doctor Who themed Chinese restaurant named Doctor Hu’s (honestly, goals), and is Tavish’s sister-in-law.

Jamie – Jamaican, Tavish’s brother, and Cheryl’s partner! Also, the most lovable character in this book, seriously. I want him and Cheryl’s background story so badly!

“ . . . it’s just how your brain is wired. And maybe there’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with you.”

Throughout Portia’s trip she slowly is coming to terms with her having ADHD. ADHD is something that is very personal to me, and the spectrum is actually very large; from hyperactivity (me) to inattention, and everything else in-between. I struggled with putting all my time and energy into something to just stop caring about it shortly after, running in unhealthy and huge amounts, fidgeting constantly, and just feeling restless in general for most of my life, until I realized that maybe my actions weren’t as “normal” as I was lead to believe. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, along with most mental illness, is still hella stigmatized, but seeing Portia slowing coming to the realization that nothing is wrong her, that she was just a little different, that she’s the furthest thing from a failure, and her realizing her self-worth was an honor to read and brought me to tears so many times. Also, this is the third book in a row I’ve read with a main character living their best lives with ADHD, and damn, what a blessing.

“Something in her loosened with relief as the possible diagnosis repeated itself in a loop in her brain. ADHD! ADHD! ADHD! She had a word to use for her behavioral patterns. There were other people who felt the same way she did, maybe.”

We also get to see Portia dealing with the abusive things her parents say, while completely ignoring how their passive-aggressive jabs could hurt their daughter. From comparing her to her sister, to saying horrible things about how they wish the outcome of her sister’s medical emergency should have happened to her, to them just not caring about how Portia wishes to live her life and find something that makes her happy. And not to get too personal, but again, super relatable to me and my life.

“Just because your parents don’t appreciate what you do doesn’t mean it holds less value.”

This book also shines a heavy and bright spotlight on the refugee crisis going on today in Europe. America isn’t the only place that treats immigrants unfairly, and this book really shows how strongly fear tactics can work. People do horrible things in the name of a “border” and this book shows how children will mimic the terrible things their parents say. Oh, and how white people will say terrible things and make terrible jokes to people who they think are white, too. “It’s just a joke, brah!” No, you’re just racist.

Tavish and his loved ones always channel everything back positively and give back to the community and the kids who feel lost and helpless. This book also weighs in on Gentrification and how people will come in and buy a ton of low-income business and residences and then make them a profit while completely forcing the residence to seek other places to live their lives. Seriously, these books pack such a powerful punch.

“Here’s the thing with teasing. It might seem like torture now, sitting there wanting what you can’t have, but when you finally get it? It’ll be the best you’ve ever had.”

But even though this book has important issues, the romance is steamy perfection. Like, the sexual tension in this book starts right out of the gate, and it has the most rewarding payoff. And, I mean, this is a damn story about a girl falling in love with a damn swordsmith! Not only have I never read anything like that before, I’m not sure if I’ve even heard of a sexier premise. Also, this book has Portia and Tavish going to a renfest! Like, one of the saddest parts of me moving across the country is not being able to go to Michigan’s Renaissance Festival! I was living for every scene in this book, seriously.

Plus, this book is downright funny. I never laugh out loud from books, ever. This book and A Princess in Theory left my sides hurting. The banter in this book is perfection. And just in general, Portia and her friends are goals. Complete and utter goals. From unconditional love, to the best and most realistic banter.

Portia: 😘

Ledi: Same thing I do every night: studying viruses and trying to stop them from taking over the world.

Nya: Playing a dating sim to make up for the real date I had earlier. Rognath the Vampire Lord is much better at courtship than Luke, who started the night by calling me Sexual Chocolate and went downhill from there.”

Overall, I loved this story so much. The writing is superb, the characters are to die for, and the messages mean more to me than I have words for. I completely recommend this series with my entire heart and soul. And I am so hyped to read all about Johan and my favorite texter in A Prince on Paper! And thank you so much, Alyssa Cole, for this story that I will keep close to my heart forever.


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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Trigger and content warnings for hurtful parents and their hurtful comments (who think they aren’t being hurtful), people being ignorant and gross to immigrants (always in a negative light and challenged completely), talk of past racist racial profiling from the police, a quick scene with assault, and for a human drugging another human.

Ash Princess (Ash Princess Trilogy #1) by Laura Sebastian

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ARC provided by Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.

“My name is Theodosia Eirene Houzzara, Queen of Astrea, and I will endure this.”

Friends, I couldn’t put this down. This was such an addicting and captivating read. This was the first book of 2018 that I read in one day, which is saying something because this book is almost 450 pages. I was just so invested with the romance, the rebellion, and the betrayals, that I couldn’t stop turning the pages.

Ash Princess is Laura Sebastian’s debut novel, which is a story about a girl named Theodosia (yeah, I’m going to be singing Hamilton all day after writing this review), whose ruling mother was murdered, and their land taken over by another kingdom when she was only six-years-old. the Kaiser allowed her to live, but only so that she could live among them, while they take everything she has ever known away. She is used as a reminder for her people that the Kaiser has enslaved, and when they do anything to rise up, Theodosia takes the punishment. Her back is incredible scarred from the whippings she has had to endure, but the Kaiser also inflicts so much mental and emotional abuse alongside the physical.

“The last person who called me by my true name was my mother, with her dying breath.”

The Kaiser conquered Theodosia’s land because there are caves that run beneath four major temples that her people worship (air, fire, water, earth). And gems come from those caves to give people magic, but they also give people with an affinity for the element(s) a lot of magic. The caves have so much magic inside them, that when Theodosia’s mother would rule, people would go down and stay in the caves, most dying, but some emerging and proving that they are worth the element the god and goddesses gave to them. Now that the Kaiser rules, he forces the slaves down there to mine, but most lose their minds after being around the power(s) for too long, and eventually lose their lives.

Theodosia’s only friend is a girl named Cress, whose father is the one who swiped the blade across her mother’s throat. Inside, Theodosia feels a constant battle about what she can do while feeling so absolutely helpless. Yet, Cress also lost her mother when she was very young, so an unconventional friendship grew from two girls both mourning the mothers they never got to know. I loved seeing their friendship develop and become what it was by the end of the book. But Theodosia is constantly reminded of all the things she lost alongside her mother, but she is forced to do the only thing she can: survive. That is, until one day a boy from her past comes and offers her a way out, and a way to maybe right a few wrongs that have happened to her people.

“A life where a crown—gold or ash—doesn’t weigh heavy on my head.”

As I said above, this is a dark story about a girl who is forced to live among the people who ruined her life and killed her mother. Trigger/Content Warnings for racism, enslaving humans, abuse, torture, graphic beating, humiliation, captivation, gore, murder, death, loss of a loved one, bullying, talk of rape in the past, talk of animal murder in the past, sexual assault (unwanted touching), and rebellion/war themes.

The other thing I’d like to talk about is that the Kaiser and his people are white with light features, where Theodosia and her people have darker features and are said to have a “tawny” skin color. On top of the fact that this is a story about how one empire colonizes another, and puts the remaining population in chains and are force them to work (and die) in the mines harvesting gems.

“Maybe his interest in me isn’t just about saving the damsel. Part of him also wants to be saved. If he’s stained by his father’s sins, then maybe I’m the only person who can absolve them.”

My favorite thing about this book was easily the romance. Now, a lot of books have kind of vague, blurry, love triangles, but Ash Princess just has a blatant one, and I loved it. Theodosia is torn between her childhood friend and first love, Blaise, and a boy whose father has taken everything from her, Søren. It is legitimately friends to lovers and enemies to lovers and my shipper heart was so full of happiness. I personally like the enemies to lovers side of the triangle more, and I was falling off my bed, swooning so damn hard, during the last tunnel scene. Like, that is my romance kink, 100%, and if you’ve read this book you’ll know what scene I’m talking about. The romance in this is perfect, and I will read Lady Smoke at midnight upon release to see how these romances progress, because your girl is invested.

“You could ask me for the ocean itself and I would find a way to give it to you.”

So, you’re probably asking, “Melanie, why did you give it four stars if you enjoyed it this much and won’t stop gushing over it?” And that’s because, I’ll be honest, this story doesn’t bring anything new to the YA Fantasy world. If you read a lot of other reviews on Goodreads, you’re going to notice the same line of “this is nothing new” and it is true. A lot of reviewers are also comparing this to Red Queen and An Ember in the Ashes, but I haven’t read either of those! Basically, this isn’t groundbreaking or even unique, but it’s super well written and crafted and it truly made for an un-put-downable read for me.

Overall, I truly loved and devoured this. This was easily the most addicting thing I’ve read in 2018 thus far, and I completely recommend it with my whole heart. Again, it might not be the most original thing, but that doesn’t make it not worthwhile. I loved the characters, the twists, the plot, the friendship, the perfect romances, the atmosphere, the writing, I loved it all. This will probably be one of my favorite YA Fantasies of 2018, and I hope you all give it a try upon release!

“We are not defined by the things we do in order to survive.”


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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

 

When Sinners Kneel (Blackest Gold World, #1) by R. Scarlett

ARC provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2FijQQE
Amazon CA: http://amzn.to/2FfKm0P
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2oTp6Df
Amazon AU: http://amzn.to/2oTv2fy

“I wanted to be safe.
I wanted to be strong.
I wanted to be loved.”

R. Scarlett has the best covers in PNR, the best titles in PNR, and with this book she proves she also has the best demons in PNR. I love this world, these characters, and each of their stories. Finally reading about Beau Knight , and seeing what went on behind the scenes during To Crown A Beast, was nothing short of amazing. This was a phenomenal standalone.

But it is important to take note that this book, even though it is on its own, will spoil the ending of Molly and Tensley’s story in The Blackest Gold series. And I completely recommended all four books, because the ending is so rewarding. Seriously, this is one of my favorite PNR series, and easily my favorite PNR that surrounds demons

In this world, demons are looked down upon for having feelings. And it’s especially hard for Beau Knight, since he had to learn this lesson the hard way, even having it ingrained in him from birth. Tensley and Beau are brothers who have grown up only knowing the harsh world of the Scorpios, who rule the demons in Manhattan and a lot of the rest of New York, but Beau lost it all when he lost his heart many years ago. Because of this, Beau has never been willing to let anyone get close to him again.

The ultimate sin in this world is to fall in love, and it’s even worse to fall in love with a human, who is considered lesser, and it’s absolutely unheard of to have a child out of wedlock. But there are also higher-ranking demons and lesser-ranking demons, too. And Alexandra, is a very low ranking souleater, who Tensley saved when she was eleven-years-old. And even though she is now eighteen, she has had a harder life than most. She is living on the streets, suffering from PTSD from the events that took place in a The Blackest Gold series, looking for her friend that went missing, and the only way she can think to cope with it all is to learn to fight and to learn to defend herself.

And what better place than the underground fighting ring. You know, the one that Beau is known for being the king of. But they both soon realize that there is a huge mystery surrounding The Pit and the person who runs in. Seriously, I loved the mystery and twists in this book. And seeing parallel events from the end of the original series made for such an amazing reading experience.

“The Pit was my hell, my heaven, my saving grace, and it was where I became addicted to her…”

Also, I don’t want to give too much away, but another aspect that I really loved that we never get to see any rep for is that Lex is living on the streets. She is a homeless, young girl, with no family. This is heavily talked about and shown unapologetically, and I just really appreciated it and it took the story to another level for me. Especially since the only other homeless character I even can think of is from a Rick Riordan book.

This is such an amazing standalone set in a The Blackest Gold world. Plus, it has everything; romance, steamy sex, mystery, political intrigue, demon hierarchies, thrilling suspense, amazing grey and flawed characters. There is a lot to love from this world and from this author. If you guys love the paranormal romance genre, you have to give these a try, especially this book. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

Trigger/Content Warnings: physical abuse, drug and other substance abuse, kidnapping, being captured, torture, attempted rape, death, loss of a loved one, loss of a child.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Blackest Gold Series:
1.) Vein Of Love ★★
2.) Body of The Crime ★★★
3.) A Vow of Thorns ★★★★★
4.) To Crown A Beast ★★★★