The Tea Dragon Festival (Tea Dragon #2) by Katie O’Neill

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ARC acquired at Book Expo in exchange for an honest review.

“Just because something comes easily to you, does not mean it has no value. You find it effortless because you love it, and that is why it is your gift.”

Most of you know, that I fell head over heels in love with The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill last year, so when I got my hands on an ARC of this, I knew I had no option but to read it and fall in love with it immediately. And, dear reader, that is exactly what happened. This story, this art, and these messages are gifts from above, I swear to you all, and I recommend this companion novel to you all with my whole heart and soul.

At the very start of this graphic novel, we see some familiar faces prepping for the tea dragon festival. But this story stars Rinn who, while collecting things, meets a dragon named Aedhan, and invites them to the festival! Meanwhile, Erik and Hesekiel are back and are bounty hunters who are searching for something ancient that can put people to sleep for decades.

This is an incredibly diverse work of art. Rinn in nonbinary/genderfluid, Erik and Hesekiel are in a m/m relationship, there is Sign Language being used and being taught to the entire village, and the cast is full of people of color with visible brown skin. The actual blessings.

Seeing Aedhan teach Rinn about how dragons can shift between genders was something more beautiful that words to me. Also, seeing Aedhan help Rinn see that they are worthy and have so much value, and that they should never feel lesser for getting enjoyment and pride from gathering and forging… I’m still so soft. And this story really puts an emphasis on how you can cook with love, and how preparing and sharing food can be something so intimate and so filled with unconditional love and joy.

Overall, I really just think that this is a masterpiece. The art is truly on another level as well, and it fills my heart and soul with so much happiness. I also just really appreciate the reminder that you are always needed, and you are always worthy of value and love.

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

 

Gideon the Ninth (The Ninth House #1) by Tamsyn Muir

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ARC provided by Tor in exchange for an honest review.

“The more you struggle against the Ninth, Nav, the deeper it takes you; the louder you curse it, the louder they’ll have you scream.”

Hi, my name is Melanie, and this was a really hard review to write for many reasons. First, I think I have hyped this book for all of 2019, and I have been very vocal about it being my favorite book of the year, and the best debut I’ve ever had the privilege of reading. Next, how do you write a review on the book of your heart? The book that feels like it was crafted for you? The book that has lit up the darkest places of your soul? It’s hard, friends. Truly. Lastly, I know nothing I say here will do this book justice. But I suppose I should give it a try regardless, aye?

Gideon the Ninth is a book about a swordfighter named Gideon who is my favorite literary character of all time. Gideon is so witty, so funny, so charming, and such a thorn in Harrowhark’s side. Harrowhark is a necromancer, while also being the main ruler of the Ninth’s planet. Both of these characters are harboring a few secrets of their own, but they are both so unsure of their pasts and their futures for so very many reasons.

That is, until one day the Emperor has invited all eight necromancer heirs, from all eight loyal Houses, to compete in unknown trails to possibly ascend into something that will make them immortal, but the costs of losing can very well be their lives. No necromancer can compete without a skilled cavalier by their side, and Harrowhark has no choice but to get Gideon to help her and save the future of the Ninth House.

“You are the honoured heirs and guardians of the eight Houses. Great duties await you. If you do not find yourself a galaxy, it is not so bad to find yourself a star, nor to have the Emperor know that the both of you attempted this great ordeal.”

But once Gideon and Harrowhark arrive on the Emperor’s planet, they soon realize that the tasks are going to be much more mysterious and much more difficult than anyone could have predicted. Especially when cavaliers and necromancers from the other houses start getting murdered. Gideon is not only tasked to help Harrowhark, she also has to ensure that she keeps breathing herself, while also trying to figure out who is doing the unspeakable things to other competitors.

Tamsyn then leads us on this beautiful adventure, where twist after twist occurs so seamlessly that you can’t help but feel completely enthralled. The writing is so beautiful, so intelligent, and so very impressive. And the way the entire story is told is so very transportive! I mean, this book has one of the scariest settings I’ve read all year, but I felt like I was right there battling for my life, with a goofy smile on my face. And the atmosphere and constant chill while reading? It’s unparalleled and truly an experience like no other.

“Maybe it’s that I find the idea comforting . . . that thousands of years after you’re gone . . . is when you really live. That your echo is louder than your voice.”

I love this book for many reasons, but I also love it because it’s over the top, and has so many one-liners, and it’s painfully romantic, and the girl gets the girl at the end. And it’s what’s I’ve been waiting my whole reading life for. This is a better, and way more unique, and 100% more impressive version of what straight, white dudes have been publishing in SFF forever. I keep seeing people say that they feel this book is too confusing, the characters too over the top, and the world too complex, but I just don’t feel that way at all. This is the story my sapphic loving heart has been searching for in epic fantasy my whole life. Gideon the Ninth is my queer, literary loving heart’s anthem, and I plan to play it on repeat forever.

This book has the best enemies to lovers romance I’ve ever read in all of my years. Yeah, you read that right. In my whole freaking life, this is my favorite. I’m talking OTP for the rest of my days. I didn’t exist before this ship sailed in this first book. And this book also has such a central theme of trust, and what it means to put your trust in another. Also, what it means to be trustful, and the privilege of having someone put their trust in you, unconditionally. And this book also has an amazing discussion on power dynamics and imbalances, and how important it is to be aware of these things while putting your trust in yourself and in someone else, simultaneously.

“You are my only friend. I am undone without you.”

Overall, this really just felt like the book I’ve been waiting my own personal eternity for. This felt like the book of my dreams and my hopes. All I want is ownvoices queer books, with f/f relationships, with cutthroat girls putting themselves first, but allowing themselves to be vulnerable enough to maybe let someone else get to see a softer side of them. Almost like I’ve been reviewing books for five years now, preparing myself to read and review Gideon the Ninth, even though I know no word combination or sentence structure I could ever come up with could do it justice for this story. Basically, I know this book isn’t going to be for everyone, but if you feel like you have similar reading taste to me, then I implore you to give this one a try. I mean, if the tagline “Lesbian Necromancers in Space” isn’t going to sell you, hopefully my emotional, bleeding heart self can. This book means everything to me, and I hope you enjoy if you pick it up.

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

Content and Trigger Warnings: graphic violence, gore, murder, mass murder, human sacrifice, many conversations about suicide, death, death of children, talk of depression, grief depiction, trauma depiction, loss of a loved one, lots of blood depiction, self-harm to get blood, and mentions of cancer.

Also, I was so blessed, and I was able to meet Tamsyn at BookExpo and she is honestly the sweetest necromancer in the world, and she truly made my entire convention! 🖤⚔️

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker & Wendy Xu

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ARC acquired at Book Expo in exchange for an honest review.

“The next full moon snuck up on me…”

Oh friends, this was truly the graphic novel I’ve been waiting forever for. From witchy magic, to unconditional family and found family love, to being the person you want to be on your own time, to the cutest F/NB relationship ever, I am so in love with Mooncakes!

One night, in a sleepy and paranormal New England town, a witch follows a white wolf into the woods. She doesn’t know what to expect, but it most certainly isn’t a horse demon fighting with her childhood crush! With the help of one another (and some cute grandmas) they unfold a story about a cult and people wanting to harness werewolf magic for their own.

And the two main characters of this graphic novel are everything! One, being Nova, who is Chinese-American, and still coping with the loss of her parents, while living with her two grandmothers (be still, my heart). All of these women are witches and collect rare spell books! And Tam, who is also Chinese-American, and a nonbinary werewolf who grew up with Nova, but recently left their family who wasn’t very kind to them.

And if I haven’t already sold you with the plot and the five star rating, this is also just a story about two young adults learning who they want to be, both separately and together. Nova and Tam are both dealing with hurt from their parents, and even though it is a different kind of hurt, they are there for one another, and unconditionally support one another. It’s beautiful, and powerful, and I had the biggest smile on my face while reading from the first to last page.

Overall, this really was the queer, magical story that I’ve always wanted. I loved the rep, I loved the story, I loved the illustrations, I love the banter, and I truly love both of these main characters so very much. I can’t wait to see what Wendy and Suzanne do next! Also, I’m totally buying mooncakes on the way home tomorrow, because your girl has such a craving.

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Content and Trigger Warnings: talk of abusive parental figures, captivity, and loss of loved ones in the past.

I read this for SummerAThon! ❤

[BONUS:] I got to meet both creators at Book Expo and they were so kind! Even though I was probably a little awkward and called Wendy birb royalty.

A Lesson in Thorns (Thornchapel, #1) by Sierra Simone

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“Thornchapel knows my name and the crooked corners of my heart, and it wants me to make promises that I’m going to keep.”

Okay, I’m just going to be real with you all, if you love The Secret History, If We Were Villains, and/or Strange Grace, but wish they were all more sexually explicit? Then this is the book for you. This book is a love letter to polyamory, without ever using the word. This is f/f, m/m, m/f, and a whole lot of sexual group scenes. The atmosphere of all three of those books are the same, and a work of magic that most writers cannot craft, but Sierra Simone delivers and gave me a story that I’ve been waiting for what feels like my whole life for.

This is ownvoices for the queer representation and the narcolepsy representation. I only recall the word bisexual used once by one character (Beckett), but besides that bisexual or pansexual is never used on page (even though, if pansexual is used on page in book two, you will hear me screaming all the way from Vegas, this I swear), but all six characters express sexual attraction to multiple genders, and the author is bisexual. I have seen reviews that state all six characters are bi, but I just believe in my heart that there is no way that all six MGA (multiple gender attraction) characters are bisexual, I’m sorry. And if so, that’s not too inclusive and my pan-self wouldn’t want to read it, to be real honest with you all.

A Lesson in Thorns is a story that follows six characters who stayed at a remote manor, that is falling down, but is filled with secrets, called Thornchapel when they were young. The prologue of this book (which I really recommend you read on Amazon) shows them in the run-down chapel on the estate, where they are performing a fake marriage. And unexpectedly, the bride ends up marrying two grooms. Yet, the actual story starts out many years later, where all six of them are adults, but they all have returned to Thornchapel for one reason or another.

“I want him to be mine. Or I want to deny him the right to ever call me his. I want to heal him and I want to hurt him. All because of one broken kiss.”

Auden – The heir. Pan or bi, and owner of Thornchapel.

Prosperpina/Poe – The dreamer. Pan or bi, narcoleptic, total submissive, and just took a job at Thornchapel in the library, but she is secretly trying to figure out what happened to her mother after a mysterious note is sent to her.

Becket – The priest. Bisexual, and living his life for God.

Rebecca – The genius. Pan or bi, Black, and the Dom of my dreams.

Delphine – The socialite. Pan or bi, plus-sized, Instagram famous, and engaged to Auden.

St. Sebastian – The saint. Pan or bi, biracial (white and Mexican), and feels like he ruins all the lives that he touches.

“he wanted to shelter them from the rain and force them to kneel in the mud too, and he didn’t know what it meant or why it was happening”

And when these six characters get together, and get to re-know each other, secrets unfold and lives change. Even though Poe is the main character, each of these individuals feels completely fleshed out, and each are on their own personal journeys toward happiness, even if the road is very bumpy to get there.

But this is ultimately a book about finding yourself and your acceptance and happiness, even if it feels like your life has already been decided for you, regardless of your wishes and wants. It also showcases the importance of friendships and romantic relationships, and how sometimes those lines can blur, and sometimes they don’t, but sometimes they become something more. Also, I am just really into polyamorous stories right now, and I think that this one is really beautifully done, especially with the chilling atmosphere that leaves so much mystery in the air. This story is truly has so many compelling elements, it was just impossible to put down.

I also want to briefly mention that I really love and value the discussion this book has about the concept of virginity, and what a stupid pedestal so many people place it on. Also, how virginity (and losing it) can mean so much more than a penis going inside a vagina. I really loved how this book handled that, and I love how it completely shattered the stereotype of what it means to lose your virginity. Be still, my queer heart.

Overall, I just love Sierra Simone and I have enjoyed everything I’ve read from her, but A Lesson in Thorns is for sure my favorite. This is such an inclusive novel, from race, sexuality, and social and economic standings. This book also talks about reclaiming your body after someone takes a piece of it, while also discussing that there are so many ways to heal from loss and hurt. And I just think it is so wonderfully done, on top of being one of the sexiest things I’ve read all year. Like, I will never be the same after that spin the bottle scene, holy shit. But I absolutely cannot wait to read Feast of Sparks this summer.

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Content and trigger warnings talk of rape and assault in the past, abandonment, and loss of a loved one.

I read this for #smutathon, which is being hosted by Lainey and Riley! ❤

Buddy read with Riley, Jane, & Paloma! ❤

[EDIT:] Yes, I did drop my rating to four stars. I emailed the author and she was very kind and very respectful, but she did confirm that all six of these characters are for sure bi “but not deeply tied to their labels” for this entire series. I’m going to be probably a little too real with you, but this has been a really rough Pride for me in the book world. In my real life, I am so lucky to be accepted and supported as a pansexual and panromantic woman, but the book world constantly makes me feel like I’m a lesser version of bi and I can’t take it any longer. The fact that I am forced to try so very hard to see myself in literature, to force myself in cutouts that apparently weren’t made for me, and just knowing that authors could so easily give me a breadcrumb of representation without having to do any work what so ever, yet here I am crying over a romance book that refuses to acknowledge my queer existence once again. I’m just tired friends, and I’m fed up, and I can’t believe that I’ve still only read the word pansexual on page in about ten books for my entire life, when I read and review 100+ books a year. I’m sick of being erased, I’m sick of being not enough, and I can’t wait for the day when pan kids don’t have to figure out what pansexual and panromantic mean in their 20’s, because the book world proves over and over that we aren’t worth the representation and that bisexual and biromantic should always be the default for multiple gender attraction characters.

Holy Sister (Book of the Ancestor #3) by Mark Lawrence

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ARC given to me by my amazingly kind friend – Alexa at Alexa Loves Books!

“When they put us in that cage we never really came out of it again.”

Good Lord, Mark Lawrence has truly created a once in a lifetime series that I will cherish forever. Holy Sister is the third and final book in a series that will go down in history as one of the brightest shining lights in SFF history.

I very much implore you to read Bound after Grey Sister, but before Holy Sister because it really works as a much-needed bridge short story. This book is told in two timeless; one, after the events of Grey Sister, and then three years later. But the interchanging of these two timelines, both in Nona’s perspective, was truly the perfect way to craft this tale.

This series is all about a girl named Nona who we get to see grow up, but we meet her during her childhood when she hasn’t had the easiest of lives, and is currently in the gallows for attempted murder, but is saved and taken to a convent of nuns who all are able to harness magical abilities, and we quickly learn that Nona has some magical abilities herself. Yet now, in this last book, this convent, Sweet Mercy, and all the characters we have grown to love, have threats surrounding them and all their lives are on the line.

My favorite part of this book? I have truly fallen in love with these magical assassin nuns and I’m honestly prepared to die for any and all of them. Truly, the found family in this book is just unparalleled by anything else. From the bonds of sisters, to the bonds of lovers, to the bonds of just women loving and accepting each other, regardless of the paths you have walked or are currently walking in life. All the side characters are some of the greatest of all time, but Apple and Kettle will never leave me or my heart. And Glass will forever and always be my queen.

But Mark Lawrence truly gave me everything I wanted when he crafted Nona, and in this book especially when he made Nona attracted to multiple genders, most likely bisexual. But Nona is a pan goddess in my eyes, and no one can change my mind on this. Also, she will go down as one of my favorite characters of all-time. She’s come far, from learning that the word brave does mean to be strong, but it also means to be vulnerable and willing to let people in. Seeing her grow, with this group of girls, but also by herself, while being shaped by this cruel and unforgiving world, filled with even more cruel and unforgiving circumstances; it’s so beautiful I don’t even have words for it.

“The fight matters. But in the end it is never truly won or lost, and victory lies in discovering that we are bigger than it is.”

Watching Nona become the woman she is, and watching her walk this path, all the paths, I don’t even have words for it. I think this entire series is going to stand the test of time and go down as one of the best fantasies ever written. The story is just perfection, the characters are my favorite, the writing is so smart and so beautiful, the themes are life changing, and the entire story is completely unforgettable. If you haven’t picked up Red Sister yet, I’m begging you to give it a try. This trilogy is truly a masterpiece.

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

Content and trigger warnings loss of a loved one, queer characters do die (most characters in this are/seem queer, so I don’t think it’s a bury your gays trope, but use caution still), violence, gore, torture, human trafficking, kidnapping, and war themes.

The Red Scrolls of Magic (The Eldest Curses #1) by Cassandra Clare & Wesley Chu

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ARC given to me by my amazingly kind friend – Heather at Bookables!

“It’s a classic love story. I hit on him at a party, he asked me out, then we fought an epic magical battle between good and evil side by side, and now we need a vacation.”

The Red Scrolls of Magic is the story that Magnus and Alec always deserved. My two precious boys, both trying to live in a world that wants them to be something they’re not, but together they are able to find happiness; it’s too pure. There is a reason why they are so many people’s favorite OTP and ship of all time, and I think this brand-new installment is going to make so many people happy.

And this brand-new spin-off takes place during City of Fallen Angels, when most of the Shadowhunter universe believes The Mortal War to be over. I do recommend that you read at the very least Lady Midnight before picking this one up, because there are so many layers and elements that you just will not appreciate without knowing certain twists that are revealed in The Dark Artifices.

Magnus and Alec are off trying to be romantic in Paris together, finally going on their very first vacation together, but a good friend soon informs them that they could potentially be in grave danger. A cult, The Crimson Hand, and their sacred book (yeah, you guessed it), The Red Scrolls of Magic, and the sacrifices they are making in the name of the cult leader. But the thing is, many people, including the Spiral Council, think that Magnus not only started this cult back in the day, but also that he is still leading it. Magnus also is discovering that someone or something has possibly tampered with his memories, yet he feels like there might be some truth in him starting the cult many moons ago.

“Seek the children of demons. Love them as you love your lord. Do not let the children be alone.”

We get to see so much of Magnus’ past in this book, and so much of it is heartbreaking. I mean, if you have followed my reviews while I read everything by Cassandra Clare in 2018, you will know that Magnus has always been a favorite character of mine. But all the flashbacks in this book, in juxtaposition to the man we all know and love, it pulled at my heartstrings constantly while reading. Magnus Bane is a literary gift and I will thank all the higher powers for him and for Cassie Clare for creating him every single day.

And this story is broken up in three parts that I will summarize in three sentences:

Part I – City of Love (Paris)
– Romantic vacation quickly turns into a mission from Hell (factually).

Part II – City of Masks (Venice)
– Best party ever, and holy moly cameos from above (literally).

Part III – City of War (Rome)
– All the action, I’m living my best gay life, and the cliffhanger of all cliffhanger endings (truly).

“When was it decided that a warlock child is worth less than the children of the Angel?”

Like all the books in the Shadowhunter universe, bigotry and prejudices are at the forefront. How everyone looks at the Shadowhunters, who share blood with angels, is completely different than the Downworlders, especially Warlocks who share blood with Demons. And hatred will always breed the cruelest acts. The Shadowhunters and the Clave can be pretty closed minded over anyone who is deemed different, so Alec being gay AND dating a warlock is something that has shaken up many Shadowhunters.

But Alec, unconditionally loving himself and Magnus, has started something beautiful, and because of it, many other Shadowhunters are learning to love and accept themselves. Aline and Helen are major side character in this book, and we even get to see them meet for the very first time. Friends, I don’t even have words. Not only are Aline and Helen my favorite queer ship in the Shadowhunter world, they are probably my favorite sapphic ship of all-time. Seeing the Asian girl get the Fae girl of her dreams? It just does something to me every single time. Also, speaking of Shadowhunter cameos, Lily Chen is also in the story, and she is the Asian pansexual love of my life, so I was truly living my best life with the entire cast of characters in this book.

“He’d always assumed that storybook moments like these were meant for Jace, Isabelle, anyone but him. Yet here he was.”

But, to me, this book was all about forgiveness and how sometimes forgiving someone is the most powerful move you can possibly make. We are all more than the mistakes of our parents and people that did horrible things who happen to share our blood. Everyone wants to be loved, and everyone is deserving of love, and sometimes that comes in the form of forgiveness And sometimes, beyond anything else, we need to forgive ourselves for past mistakes that we’ve made. Who you are in this moment means way more than who you were growing up, or even who you were last year. Sometimes people really do deserve second chances, and I hope you give yourself all the chances in the world to become the person you want to be.

Overall, I loved this with my whole heart. These characters, all the queerness, the themes, the story, the mysteries, the twists; it was all amazing, especially knowing everything we know from all the other books that have taken place after the events in this one. And if you love the Warlocks in this world, then this is truly going to be the book for you! This was just a wonderful addition to the Shadowhunter world, and I think so many people are going to love it. Also, with all the Shadow Market activity and cameos, I really can’t wait to read the last two short stories in Ghosts of the Shadow Market this June!

Please use caution reading the rest of this review if you have not read this book and all the series leading up to this book! And as always, I’m going to do a little mini character breakdown on my thoughts and feelings on all of the main characters in this book. Spoilers ahead!

“If only the world were a fairy tale, Nephilim.”

(Art by Cassandra Jean!)

Magnus Bane – Bi, Indonesian, High Warlock of Brooklyn. Magnus is truly going through some shit in this book, and my heart breaks for him. On top of everything, he is so scared to tell Alec who his real father is, and… my heart.

Alec Lightwood – Gay, Shadowhunter, willing to protect Magnus at all costs. Me and Alec honestly have a rocky Shadowhunter history together, but I truly have grown to love him so much, and I love his love for Magnus. Alec is unsure of so many things, but he is never unsure about his love for Magnus.

Aline Penhallow – Lesbian, Asian, Shadowhunter, love of my life.

Helen Blackthorn – Bi, Shadowhunter, half Fae, second love of my life.

Leon Verlac – Bi, Shadowhunter, annoying as fuck. And people are really going to dislike him because of the “I’m bi, so I want to sleep with everyone” stereotype.

“She has seen so many tragedies, and they both knew the worst tragedies were born of love.”

Tessa Gray – Seeing her and Magnus talk about their love for Shadowhunters? Fuck me up, fam. Few things are better in the Shadowhunter universe than Magnus and Tessa’s friendship.

Peng Fang – We meet this vampire and blood seller in the Paris Shadow Market and I seriously just want to know everything about it, because there is no way he isn’t going come more into play.

Izzy and Jace’s Phone Call – I had to list them with this character breakdown, because this phone call, and Simon trying to ask them for sex advice, was one of my favorite things in this book. The grapefruit suggestion almost took me out, honestly.

Johnny Rook – Be still, my heart. Johnny is normally at the LA Shadow Market, but he is at the Paris one and helps Magnus out a little bit. Also, I remember something that Johnny has in a TDA book and I can’t wait to see how he got his hands on this relic.

Shinyun Jung – Korean, has a history with the cult, and is traveling alongside Magnus and Alec.

Prince Adaon – The smile I had on my face when I saw this sweetheart at the party. Ah, I can’t wait for him to be king already and to let my poor baby Kieran live his best life. Ah, my sweet Unseelie Princes, I can’t.

Malcom Fade – My jaw dropped, friends. Dropped. The High Warlock of LA is for sure in this book and throws the best party I’ve ever read about. And we know all the shit he was up to in Lady Midnight, so I was honestly quaking.

Catarina Loss – Probably my favorite warlock (besides Magnus, obv) and I always smile over her, Magnus, and Ragnor Fell’s friendship. Give me a cameo from her in every Shadowhunter book, please.

Raphael Santiago – Ace/Asexual, Mexican, vampire. Friends, I can’t cry anymore, okay? I always love seeing Raphael and Magnus and their friendship, but seeing Raphael and Alec bond and become friends, in the Raphael way, it truly broke me. And I just keep thinking about their son, and… I honestly am crying more? Wow.

Lily Chen – My pansexual and Asian goddess. I would die for this woman and I want nothing more than for he to have her own full-length series. Also, seeing Helen and her kiss? Can officially confirm: Helen loves Asian women and I am truly living on cloud nine forever.

Hypatia Vex – Warlock, runs the London Shadow Market. Seriously, this book is a warlock wet dream.

Barnabas Hale – Warlock, LA Shadow Market runner, and always a treat to read about.

Asmodeus – I’ve been screaming since City of Heavenly Fire to learn more about Magnus’ dad, and this book truly delivered. Yet, we have so much more to learn, and I think the next book is going to be everything.

“If I’m a hero of war, so is he.”

It is truly just a wild ride to see baby Magnus and baby Alec at the start of their new relationship, figuring out what they both want, what works, and what doesn’t, to seeing them married, seeing them as fathers, seeing them get the life they deserve, even if the world around them is still in chaos. To just know Alec becomes Consul of the Clave and is going to change the world for all Downworlder children. Friends, I am weeping at the honor of getting to see Magnus and Alec’s lives together. What a blessing, truly. Also, because I know people are going to be using the search engine on my blog to find this information: yes, Alec and Magnus do have sex for the first time in this book, but yes, Cassie keeps it totally YA and fades to black it before it becomes not PG13. (Also, friendly reminder: cis women, don’t fetishize m/m sex, thanks!)

And I know I make a lot of jokes about Aline and Helen, but they truly make me happier than any other couple in all of these books. I had no idea that they were even going to be in this story, let alone letting us see them meet for the first time, and seeing Aline being the disaster gay she really is trying to ask Helen out. And with everything I said about Magnus and Alec and seeing them start out but knowing where their path leads in the future together, seeing Aline and Helen, and knowing all that they were forced to endure because of bigotry, it just takes everything to a whole other level.

Overall, I just loved this completely. I laughed out loud, I cried over so many cameos, I smiled from pure happiness at my OTPs starting out their relationships, and I always wanted more of everything. I can’t wait to get my hands on The Lost Book of the White, because I have a feeling that it’s going to be even better than this amazing series starter! Especially with that cliffhanger ending! Lord, hear my prayers.

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

Content and trigger warnings for violence, talk of past loss of a loved one, abandonment, talk of suicide in the past, past parental abuse (physical), torture, cult rituals, and war themes.

1.) City of Bones ★★★
2.) City of Ashes ★★
3.) City of Glass ★★★
1.) Clockwork Angel ★★★
4.) City of Fallen Angels
2.) Clockwork Prince ★★★★
5.) City of Lost Souls ★★★★
3.) Clockwork Princess ★★★★★
6.) City of Heavenly Fire ★★★★★
*.) The Bane Chronicles ★★★
*.) Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy ★★★
1.) Lady Midnight ★★★★★
2.) Lord of Shadows ★★★★
*.) Ghosts of the Shadow Market 8/10
3.) Queen of Air and Darkness ★★★★

 

The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

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

“Four Paths had its charms, if you could ignore the fact that it was also a monster prison she apparently had some ancestral obligation to deal with.”

This is a really hard review for me to write, because this book had some of my favorite things of all time; lyrical and beautiful writing that I could nonstop highlight, an atmosphere setting that gives me goosebumps even just thinking about, a mystery all surrounding what hides in the dark depths of the forest, and a very diverse cast of characters. Like, damn. But if this isn’t the first review of The Devouring Gray you’ve read, yes, all the Riverdale and Stranger Things comparisons are all valid. I kind of think The Raven Cycle one is a bit of stretch, but I can kind of see it. But this debut novel really impressed me, and I can’t wait to see what the author does next.

But The Devouring Gray follows four teens in upstate New York, all living in a little secluded town called Four Paths. And in this mysterious forest town, four families are held to a higher standard, because their descendants were the reason the town is protected from the Beast who hunts them. And all the descendants are able to harness the powers that should be passed down through their bloodline, but only if they survive a ritual pertaining to their ancestor. But now the town is under attack, and all hope is with four teens who are the descendants that are needed for survival, yet they might not be ready to provide protection for themselves, or anyone else, just yet.

“in eighteen forty-seven, a group of settlers seeking a new life in upstate New York decided to end their pilgrimage here. On this day, we celebrate the leaders of that group—Thomas Carlisle, Lydia Saunders, Richard Sullivan, and Hetty Hawthorne.”

Harper Carlisle – Missing one arm from the elbow down after her ritual to harness her powers went wrong, and holding a grudge over someone who used to be her best friend but wanted nothing to do with her after her accident. Also, her father is a predominant figure in the safety of the town. Also, also, a warrior babe who can wield many weapons.

Violet Saunders – Bisexual, just moving to Four Paths after the death of her sister and trying to learn to live with an astronomical amount of grief, while also learning that she has a hidden bloodline she never knew about. Also, piano playing goddess.

Isaac Sullivan – Bisexual, living on his own after the rest of his family died in an accident. He is also Justin’s best friend, a broody reader babe, and he has the best and most scary power of them all. Also, he was easily my favorite character.

Justin Hawthorne – The popular boy, who has the most powerful family in town, even though he feels like he must always do what his mother (also the sheriff of the town) wants, even though he is keeping a very big secret from her. Side note, I would die for his sister, May, my tarot card reading baby.

“Powers or not, he was still a Hawthorne. He would find a way to keep Four Paths safe.”

Yet, even though these are the four main characters, we have so many side characters, too! And this, in addition to the fact that the story jumps points of view a lot, I just feel like I never truly cared about any of the characters, even though I didn’t have a problem with any of them. I mean, it really is a strange feeling, because I can mentally break down that these are the four main characters, but while reading the chapter switching just makes me feel like I’m reading ASOIAF or something else that feels like we are given so many different points of view. I feel like this was the biggest factor that kept me from loving this book; I never truly got to know any of these characters because of the way the story jumps around.

Also, if I’m being honest the Beast and the Gray felt too much like Stranger Things to me, but also with not enough explanation. I obviously am here for a good mystery, but I think seeing more of this parallel world, the mysterious creature and its powers, would have really benefited the story by filling in some much-needed gaps and made the situation feel scarier and more high-risk. Like, I was honestly convinced that some type of humans or other beings were going to reside in this world! Or we were going to fully understand the powers and what this thing was capable and not capable of! I don’t know, the concept is just so amazing, but I felt really let down by the biggest risk factor of the story.

But I still loved watching all these teens learn how to find their powers and learn how to use their powers. I loved seeing them grow, both apart and together. I loved seeing all the different friendship roots; both brand new and old ones healing. I loved seeing how these four handled grief and trauma all very differently but still all very validly. And I loved to see all of these teens realize they are worth a hell of a lot more than the past mistakes of the ancestors they are forced to live up to.

“Something inside Violet had cracked the day Rosie died. There was an abscess in her chest, a gaping hole in the back of her skull. A place for evil things to slip right in.”

Overall, I really loved the ownvoices queer rep, and the atmosphere and setting were truly nothing short of amazing. I do want to mention that the main relationships in this are not f/f, but there are lots of hints at side f/f relationships! Also, even though I could never truly connect with the story, I still think there is so much good here. And I think many readers will still really enjoy this one upon release. But that epilogue ending made me audibly gasp that made my cat give me angry eyes for waking her! Is this the start of a series? Because I am totally down with reading whatever Christine Lynn Herman comes up with next, but especially with this setting as a backdrop.

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

Content and trigger warnings for loss of a loved one, a lot of talk of death, murder, grief and trauma depictions, violence, abandonment, talk of rituals and self-sacrifice, and assault.