Shades of Magic, Vol. 1: The Steel Prince (#1 – #4) by V.E. Schwab & Andrea Olimpieri

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“Here, our story begins…”

I read the entire A Darker Shade of Magic trilogy, and I ended up giving them all three stars. I am absolutely obsessed with Victoria’s mind and worlds, and her characters are truly some of the best I’ve read, but the plot and events always held me back from completely loving them. But when I found out we were going to get to learn more about Rhy’s father (adoptive father of Kell) and the events that lead him to being King, I knew I couldn’t resist. But here I am, still surprised that I ended up giving the prequel graphic novel series start three stars.

Maxim Maresh is only a prince in this brand-new graphic novel series, but he is the sole heir and the king in waiting in Red London. Yet, he wants to be so much more than that, and he wants to prove that he will be capable and earn his rightful place as king one day. Maxim and his family are also people of color, with obvious dark brown skin, but it is never stated what ethnicity in this made up alternate historical London. And he has earned himself the title of The Steel Prince because of his magical affinity with steel.

But in this bind-up, Maxim gets involved with pirates, and magical tournaments, and figuring out who he wants to be. Yet, this first volume barely mentions the parallel Londons, which (to me) is the coolest part of this world, completely. And then with this elaborate magic system finally being visualized, it just felt clunky, and like it missed the mark completely on something that could have been groundbreaking.

“You fight like a royal. Like the weapons are made of wood. Like no one means to hurt you. But this is not London, your highness.”

But my biggest problem with this graphic novel was honestly the art. Trust me, it kills me to say this, but I just never grew to like the style of this book. And especially with something as cool as the world of ADSOM, I feel like an artist really could have turned this into one of the most aesthetically pleasing series of all time, especially with red, grey, black, and white having such a pivotal role in this world. But I don’t have an art degree, so don’t listen to me. I’m just stating what I would have liked more for this story! The artist is still very talented. And if this is your favorite art style of all time? You are valid.

I still really enjoyed this bind-up and I can’t wait to see where the story goes next. I hope we get to see more cameos of characters we love, too! And if you are already a fan of VE Schwab and this breathtaking world, I bet you will absolutely love this addition! Content and trigger warnings violence, blood, and torture.

Okay, so like with every graphic novel that I review, I always do a breakdown on what happens briefly in each individual issue. So, the next portion of this review will have SPOILERS! Obviously, I won’t give away anything too pivotal, but I will talk about some of the themes that each issue had inside.

ISSUE ONE:
We get to meet Maxim, the prince and sole heir to the throne. We also get to meet the king, and his dad, Nokil. And we also get our first glimpse at Maxim wanting to be more than the prince in waiting, and he wants to prove himself and his fighting abilities.

ISSUE TWO:
We are introduced to Arisa, the pirate queen, and we get to learn about a tournament where the winner will fight her to prove themselves worthy. Also, we get to see the Black Torch, and you know my pub loving heart was so dang happy.

ISSUE THREE:
Isra, the pirate queen’s niece, and Maxim are both battling in the tournament where we see so many different magic abilities, and we learn there are no rules and anything goes.

ISSUE FOUR:
Things do not go Maxim’s way, but he is rescued. Then, after, he receives a letter from his father, asking him to come. But he declines because he still has so much more to learn.

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Song of the Dead (Reign of the Fallen #2) by Sarah Glenn Marsh

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ARC provided by Penguin in exchange for an honest review.

1.) Reign of the Fallen ★★★★

“I’m Odessa of Grenwyr, and the dead answer to me.”

If you’re looking for a f/f relationship to swoon over, with ownvoices bisexuality representation, and story that focuses on found family and unconditional love within healthy friendships, in a book that also has the cutest little dragon companion and filled with undead and necromancers, then please look no further than Song of the Dead

Seriously, friends, I loved this with my entire heart and soul. This is the concluding novel in this duology, the first book being Reign of the Fallen, but I am still not ready to say goodbye. Sarah has crafted something so beautiful, so powerful, and so important, that I truly hope we get to see more of these characters in the future. Especially since most of them have already stolen pieces of my heart.

In this second installment, the kingdom of Karthia is in a very different place than we originally saw it in Reign of the Fallen. Without going into spoilers, there may be new royalty, there may be new laws, and there may be new dangers that are now completely risking everything these characters have done to keep their kingdom safe.

Our main character, Odessa, is traveling the uncharted waters, discovering places she never knew, while also discovering herself and relearning what is important to her. Odessa is also trying to chart her heart and her relationship with Meredy, when they are both grieving the same person, but very differently.

This series very much touches on grief and trauma and learning to live with those two things. And how those two things may never ever go away, and that’s okay, but how you need to learn how to live with them, and how to live with a loss that may feel like it is currently impossible to live without. This is truly such a beautiful depiction, and it really meant a lot to me.

“I could never outrun myself. Without the pin, without even my name, I’d still be a fighter. I’d still be a commander of the dead. I’d still be a girl too in love with life to commit to death, even when it’s calling to me more strongly than ever before.”

Besides the mental health representation, there are many different sexual representations (including the word aromantic on page!), there are also characters of color, and disability representation (main side character who uses a cane) that I think is very well done, but I do not have any physical disabilities, so my voice doesn’t really matter on the subject! But I also feel like this book talks heavily about how important it is to not be closed off from other cultures and how detrimental the reality of that really can be. (You know, coming from a citizen whose president believes a wall will solve all their problems.)

This entire story just has so much good in it! And it is so fast paced and completely enthralling. I could read a million more books about these characters, set all over this world that Sarah has created. Hell, I could read a million more set in the Deadlands alone. I feel like this story just has so many elements and I had such a smile on my face while consuming this entire book.

Overall, this duology just means so much to me and I would literally die for the happiness of the sapphic ship in this! But from the amazing characters, to the important themes, to the beautiful prose; Sarah and these books are just a gift to the world. I truly hope you all pick up Reign of the Fallen for yourselves, and I hope you fall just as hard as I did.

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

Content and trigger warnings for addiction, talk of loss of a loved one, mention of a plague, and heavy grief depiction.

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!)

 

Dead Witch Walking (The Hollows, #1) by Kim Harrison

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“Making a spell is easy. It’s trusting you did it right that’s hard.”

*McCree from Overwatch voice* Dead Witch Walking is just a product of its time and it just reads like an early 2000s PNR/UF story. I guarantee if I read this back when I was in love with the Fever series, the Kate Daniels series, and the Riley Jenson Guardian series, then I would have enjoyed this way more than I did. Sadly, we are in 2019, and the true fact is that this didn’t age well, in my opinion. But I still had a lot of fun reading this one!

This is a story about a witch named Rachel who works as a bounty hunter for a pretty slimy boss. But while on a mission, she and a coworker find a Leprechaun who grants them three wishes, and one of Rachel’s wishes is to quit her job, but the coworker, Ivy, leaves with her and this bit of the bargain really upsets her boss. Like, upsets her boss so much that she now has a hit mark on her.

Ivy, Rachel, and Jinx (Rachel’s Pixie sidekick) all flee to an abandoned church, where Rachel and Ivy soon find out that Rachel’s blood is causing quite the reaction with vampires. And we get to see all the spells that Rachel is able to brew up, and she brews up some really cool things so that she can protect herself and try to uncover why her ex-boss wants to seek vengeance on her so badly.

My biggest complaint is how Ivy was handled in this book. Like, I don’t want to get that deep into this, but Ivy is a Asian vampire who isn’t doing things that most vampires in this world do. But she is really enthralled by Rachel’s blood and, in turn, Rachel kind of finds it a bit hard to resist Ivy, too, at least at the start. Like, if Rachel and Ivy would have gotten together, I obviously would have been ecstatic, and I actually thought the story was going in that direction, but the narrative quickly shifted to be all about how Rachel would get Ivy to not be attracted to her, while she admired every guy that enters the story. And the scenes were getting more and more uncomfortable with Ivy from Rachel’s perspective, and I just really started hated it so very much. This is without a doubt the reason it was hard for me to ever enjoy this book, honestly. Also, who the fuck would not want to be with Ivy? Like, how unbelievable.

My favorite part of this book was how an angel virus made this world almost apocalyptic, where humans are for sure not in control, and all the paranormal entities are not in hiding because they were immune to it and now are for sure the major population. I just thought that was such a cool spin, and really added to this world and made it something special.

Overall, I really did think this was a fun read, just a product of its time with some of the offensive lingo and the strange queerbaiting. But I would totally continue on because I am really curious to see where this story goes next. Also, I loved the setting of the abandoned church so much. Oh, and if it wasn’t obvious, I sort of completely fell in love with Ivy!

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Content and trigger warnings for many conversations that treated food very weirdly and triggering, murder, death, animal abuse, animal fighting rings, and assault.

Buddy read with Julie from Pages and Pens! ❤

 

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, Publication Order #1) by C.S. Lewis

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“Lucy looks into a wardrobe”

I was feeling rather nostalgic this holiday season for some reason, and I thought what better way to pay homage to my childhood than by rereading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for the first time in a very long time! And, friends, I fell so in love. I actually think I’m going to make it a holiday tradition to read this book every single December for the rest of my life.

And it was so funny, because I was very apprehensive going in, because when I was little, I think the religious themes went over my head, but I didn’t know how overbearing they would be reading this story for the first time as an adult. But it honestly wasn’t too much. I mean, some of the characters in Narnia refer to the kids as “Son of Adam” and “Daughter of Eve” and like I get the parallels with Aslan and Jesus now! But I still think it was very thoughtfully done and didn’t pull me out of the story or anything like that.

But if you are unfamiliar with this beloved children’s tale, this is a story about four children who have been recently adopted by an old professor who lives in a massive house. And one rainy day, while the kids are bored, they decide to explore the house that is now their new home. And the youngest of the children find a portal to a magical land, ruled by the White Witch, who is causing an endless winter.

Lucy – The Best Character.
Edmund – What A Little Shit.
Peter – Good Guy.
Susan – Group Mom.
Aslan – Simba Who?
Tumnus – Second Fave, Even Though He Almost Kidnapped My First Fave.

But there was so much that I forgot about this story: Mr. Beaver poppin’ open a cold one at dinner, Tumnus almost kidnapping Lucy, Everything the professor says to the kids and how he helps them, Edmund being the such a little shit that even my patience was getting tested, Turkish Delights, Father Christmas, and him giving the kids weapons as gifts!

Overall, this was just the perfect winter wonderland to me. From closet, to lamppost, to dam, to forest, to castle, I never wanted to leave this adventure. I am not sure if it is a lot of nostalgia talking, but this was maybe the best thing I read all holiday season. It was exactly what I wanted, and I was truly enthralled from the first to last page. I never wanted to leave this endless Winter.

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Buddy read with Julie from Pages and Pens! ❤

 

The Hod King (The Books of Babel, #3) by Josiah Bancroft

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ARC provided by Orbit in exchange for an honest review.

1.) Senlin Ascends ★★★★★
2.) Arm of the Sphinx ★★★★

“The world is full of wolves and lambs, but precious few shepherds.”

I can’t believe that Josiah Bancroft did it again, but he truly did it again. This is such a wonderful installment in a world that I never want to leave. This entire series is such a unique treat that is truly unlike any other fantasy out there. Every paragraph is so smart, every chapter so perfectly crafted, and each book makes me more and more invested. I am at such a loss for words because of this book’s pure magnificence, but I’m going to try to write this review anyway.

The basic, starting premise of this tale is that a man named Senlin, who is from a small fishing village, recently has gotten married to a woman named Marya. And on their honeymoon, he takes her to this mysterious tower that he is obsessed with, and each level inside this tower is completely unique and an entire world all on its own. Senlin comes equipped with a guidebook and feels confident that he and his new bride will be able to have a safe visit, that is, until his new bride goes missing before they even are able to set foot inside the mysterious tower together. And not to get too spoilery, but we are three books in, and he still hasn’t retrieved Marya, but we have gotten to travel alongside him discovering the individual beauty and horror of each unique level.

Yet, this book is set entirely in Pelphia. And this book is all about the Hods that are forced to live as servants for the rest of the tower. Even though each level of this tower is completely different and unique, the Hods are always present, traveling through the inhumane passages, that are completely unforgiving, but they are forced to walk though nonetheless. But the true mystery of the tower, that this book focuses on, is who is The Hod King and what they and their followers are up to.

“It’s possible, I think, to be so many things at once, that you’re practically nothing at all. If you crush a mountain and spread it across a continent, it doesn’t make little mountains; it just vanishes into dust.”

And this book did surprise me with switching perspectives a few times, but this book starts out with Senlin being sent on a very important mission by the Sphinx, which also happens to be in the same Ringdom that he believes Marya is currently living in. Senlin is truly at a crossroads in this book, and he needs to make a choice to listen to his heart and do what he feels is right, or to listen to his mind and trust in the friends he has made during his time in the tower.

This third installment shines a spotlight on abuse, abusers, and the cycle of abuse those abusers will use to keep their victims stuck in the cycle. This book shows that abusers can be charming, they can be charismatic, they can be leaders and pillars in their community, and abusers can fool you and others into thinking that they are not abusers. But none of these things will ever negate the fact that an abuser is an abuser, and this is a constant theme in The Hod King that I really appreciated. And I truly think that it was so well done, and it really meant a lot to me.

“If someone has absolute control over you, it’s easy to believe they have absolute power over everything and everyone. They can’t be defied or challenged or disobeyed, and every opportunity for escape just feels like a cruel test.”

I also think this book discusses how the tower is very much like our own world, where men view women as resources and investments. Whether that means getting and keeping a woman’s name in the spotlight, to ensuring one will carry your child, to just forcing women in molds that cater to men’s wants and desires. I think Josiah mirrors a lot of relevant themes in our world, but this theme was expertly done and really stood out to me. Especially with how we live in a world that is always expecting and asking more and more of women.

I want this review to be spoiler free, and I don’t want to make this review about the author whatsoever, but I just also wanted to add a little caveat that I think that Josiah becoming a father recently may have subconsciously (or consciously) worked its way into his writing. And, friends, I’m soft, and weak, and I truly think that this element is why The Hod King ended up being my favorite of the series so far. I am not a parent yet, but I think most people can understand that being a parent raises the stakes higher for every aspect of your life. We get to see this very much so in this book, and I completely adored it. I also loved the constant discussion on what it means to raise a child, and what makes a caregiver a parent. Found family is always at the heart of these novels, but it shined so beautifully though in this third installment.

I also loved the theme on how societies do not want to take care or even acknowledge impoverished and underprivileged areas. The rich would rather ignore and exploit the poor than to make a conscious effort to help improve their living conditions that would in turn improve the entire society. In 2014, city officials switched Flint’s water supply to cut costs and poisoned an entire city. When I read Senlin Ascends two years ago, Flint was still without clean water. And in 2019, Flint is still without clean water, when powerful men in this world could easily fix an entire city’s plumbing without even noticing they donated the money. I don’t want to get too preachy, but Josiah is a really smart and really talented author, and the messages he wove throughout this book were not missed on me. And this entire story really shows that empathy could improve every world.

What else can I even say? Edith has my heart, Violet is such a badass, I want Iren and Ann to be my moms, because I would already die for that sapphic f/f side relationship, glimpses of Bryon, Goll, and Tarrou made my entire 2019 and we are only in the first month, and getting to learn a little bit about Marya felt like Christmas after being on this journey alongside Senlin for so long.

“I will find her. I will offer my help if she needs it, my heart if she wants it, my head, even if she would see it on a stake!”

Overall, I don’t think I’d fare as well at Tom has in this magical tower that has somehow taken root in my heart, but I’d love to be able to go nonetheless. I truly think that Josiah Bancroft’s storytelling is on a completely different plane of existence than any other SFF writer currently. I truly know that is a very bold sentence to write as a reviewer, but I truly mean it with my entire heart. These characters who I think are some of the best ever crafted, these themes that meant the world to me, these perfectly constructed sentences with a lyrical prose that leaves me highlighting quote after quote, these different adventures that are all completely enthralling, this hidden world that is unlike anything in literature, I am just left in complete and utter awe, friends. Just, please pick up Senlin Ascends if you haven’t already, and come gush with me forever about how astounding this series really is. This final book is truly going to slay me.

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

Content and trigger warnings for slavery, abuse, torture, talk of human trafficking, murder, death, loss of a loved one, violence, captivity, abduction, and war themes.

 

The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy #3) by Katherine Arden

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ARC given to me by my amazingly kind friend, who I don’t deserve – Lilly at Lair of Books!

1.) The Bear and the Nightingale ★★★★★
2.) The Girl in the Tower ★★★★★

“I have plucked snowdrops at Midwinter, died at my own choosing, and wept for a nightingale. Now I am beyond prophecy.”

This is a hard review for me to write, because I think my heart doesn’t want to admit that this series is finally over. But it is, and this concluding book was everything I wanted. I cried, I felt gutted, I got my heart broken, but somehow Katherine Arden healed the pieces back together.

Where do I even begin to tell you what this story is about without spoiling anything with a review about the final book. This is a book about the bonds of family, blood and found, and doing whatever it takes to protect the ones you love. This is a book about religion and the beautiful and terrible things people are willing to do in the name of it. This is a book about all the different pieces that make a person, and how it is okay to love them all even if others won’t. But this is ultimately a book about a girl becoming the hero of her own story every single time, no matter who or what tries to block her path.

“There are no monsters in the world, and no saints. Only infinite shades woven into the same tapestry, light and dark.”

But I suppose The Bear and the Nightingale is a Russian inspired fantasy that stars a family living on the edge of the unforgiving Russian wilderness. And our main character grew up on fairy tales, but always hungered for more. And she soon realizes that maybe there was some truth in those tales, and she encounters a frost-demon named Morozko who makes magic a reality before her very eyes.

This story picks up right after the events of The Girl in the Tower in Moscow, and Konstantin Nikonvich’s vengeance knows no bounds. And a bear demon named Medved is happy to aid with the chaos in any way they possibly can. We also get to see Marya, Olga, Sasha, and Dmitrii on very different journeys through this pain and heartbreak. But we also get to see Vasya learn new things about herself and her ancestors, while even venturing into a new land unlike any other. And I truly think this concluding novel was damn close to perfection.

“You denied both the winter-king and his brother, didn’t you? You made yourself a third power in their war.”

Following Vasya, seeing her go to battle for Russia, go to battle for her family, go to battle for herself, has been a journey like none other that I’ve ever experienced while reading. Katherine Arden pulls from a lot of historical events and themes, but I’m convinced that this equal parts harrowing and heartening fairytale that she crafted is the real timeline that happened. I’ll be completely honest, this is a hard review to write, and not because it’s the last book in a series, but because I am in awe of what a damn masterpiece this entire story is. It doesn’t even feel real that I have this story in my hands, that I get to read it, I get to love it, I get to experience this beautiful tale that feels so whimsical but so real. The actual blessings.

“Magic is forgetting the world was ever other than as you willed it.”

Overall, this is just one of my favorite trilogies of all time, and I think it always will be. This story just truly has every element that I’m in love with in literature; lyrical writing, winter setting, fae folks of all varieties, strong sibling bonds, heart wrenching romance, and girls becoming the hero of their story. Katherine Arden and this trilogy is a gift from a higher power and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

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

Content and trigger warnings for talk of death during childbirth, graphic animal death, graphic torture, graphic violence, sexual assault (unwanted touching), threat of rape, death, murder, blood depictions, slavery, captivity, and war themes.

Buddy read with Sissi, Lily, Hanaa, & Lilly! ❤