King of Scars (Nikolai Duology #1) by Leigh Bardugo

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“Most of us can hide our greatest hurts and longings. It’s how we survive each day. We pretend the pain isn’t there, that we are made of scars instead of wounds.”

Oh friends, it has been a long while since I read the concluding events in Ruin and Rising! Honestly? I probably really would have benefited from doing a reread. Yet, I will be the first to admit that I was complete Darkling trash back in the day, and I have grown a lot as a person and realized that he is someone that shouldn’t be romanticized, but I was so damn hyped for this story and to see how the people of Ravka are doing after that final battle and living under a brand new king. And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I was truly let down.

Also, I want to emphasize that a three star rating isn’t a bad rating! I still enjoyed this and I loved seeing some of the character that I love with my whole heart and soul, and also falling in love with a new character, too! But this was just so ungodly slow for the first half, which is something I’ve never felt while reading anything by Leigh before. I know that we had a lot of be caught up on, but I just couldn’t immerse myself into the world or story until after the halfway point.

I really recommend that you don’t read King of Scars (or this review, honestly) if you have not read all the other books in the Grishaverse! But as a quick recap before I get into my thoughts and feelings: People are still fearful of Grisha and are capturing and killing them regularly. Grisha are also still becoming addicted to jurda parem, and many different variations of it, which enhances their powers but at a cost.

“The books do not tell the whole story”

And this story is told in many points of views, but there are pretty much only three locations that this story takes place, until they will (hopefully) all weave back together! Zoya and Nikolai are off with a new character trying to discover what lives inside Nikolai. Meanwhile, back at the palace, family friends are teaching a young boy how to impersonate Nikolai himself, so no one will know that he is away! And then we have Nina off on a completely new mission, where she finds out so much about herself and what is happening to Grishas in areas that are still living in fear of them.

But this is a story about grief and loss and how living with those two things can impact your life beyond words. This is a story about being the person everyone wants you to be, while ultimately choosing the person you truly are. This is a story about feeling like your life is predicted for you, but realizing that you are capable of doing any and everything you want.

“Call me Grisha. Call me zowa. Call me death, if you like.”

Zoya Nazyalensky – One of the strongest Grishas ever (Squaller, of the Etherealki Order) and is an incredible fighter and leader. She was also the Darkling’s favorite, but is now my favorite.

Genya Safin – My second favorite character! Genya, as the Darkling’s gift, used to be the servant to the Queen, and was treated so very terribly. She is much happier now, but still is living with the torture that the Darkling inflicted upon her.

David Kostyk – A very skilled Fabrikator who helped make things to hold amplifiers.

Tolya Yul-Bataar & Tamar Kir-Bataar – Twin Grishas who own my heart.

Isaak – The common boy solider who is impersonating Nikolai while he is away! (I fell so in love with this new character so easily, truly!)

Nina Zenik – Heartrender (of the Corporalki order) who used to be a part of the Dregs in Six of Crows! Now on a top secret mission, that is about to be jeopardized because of new information! Also, she is on a mission for herself to finally lay someone to rest at home.

Hanne – Fjerdan who Nina meets and instantly feels connected with. Hanne is just trying to live in a world where every opportunity has been taken from her because she is a daughter and not a son.

Leoni & Adrik – both are Grishas who are accompanying Nina on her new mission!

Yuri – A monk who is with Nikolai and Zoya, who is also one of the leaders of Cult of the Starless, who worship the Darkling.

Nikolai Lantsov – The current King of Ravka, who is expected to marry and produce an heir because so many foes are looking to overtake him. But he is dealing with the torture that the Darkling has left in his body.

“A handsome monster husband who put a crown on her head? It’s a perfect fairy tale to sell to some starry-eyed girl. She can lock you in at night and kiss you sweetly in the morning, and Ravka will be secure.”

Nikolai’s monster is something that no one really knows how to control, but he is constantly being drawn to The Shadow Fold, which was the breeding ground of unspeakable shadow horrors and where the Darkling harnessed so very much of his immense power. We are also introduced to three new characters that I’m not going to really talk about because of spoilers, but they were amazing. I loved learning more about amplifiers, since there are so few people who have had them in this world and seeing the power that they bring is pretty intense and such a cool development in this story. Again, without saying too much, I loved all the scenes involving The Fold.

“We are all connected, King Nikolai. The Grisha, the Fold, the power inside you. The Fold is a wound that may never heal. But perhaps it was not meant to.”

But chapter twenty-five is the best chapter in this entire book, and that’s because Zoya is the best character in this book. Like, I get that it is called King of Scars, but this book was way more about Zoya and her beautiful story and everything that she has overcome than Nikolai’s. Especially since this book also spends half of the time focusing on Nina and what she is up to on her mission, I just feel like this is not Nikolai’s book; it was half Zoya’s and half Nina’s. Which is fine, I’m not saying I disliked that, I just feel like it was a weird flex because going in you expect it to be all things Nikolai and it really couldn’t be further from the truth. Plus, it really doesn’t feel like his character progressed all that much either, where Zoya and Nina both had tremendously big events happen that will alter their future and the very future of Ravka.

Okay, but now I’m going to say the thing that’s probably going to make you all dislike this review, but I don’t really ship Nikolai and Zoya together. Like, I think the story would have been way more powerful if they were just friends. But this weird romance is laced throughout the story, even though there is no confirmation or reward or actual romance, it just felt weird to read. Especially with that annoying ending. I don’t know, I just really don’t ship them together, yet, but I probably will eventually. And I totally would have shipped them if we would have gotten more of them actually starting a romance instead of us just being like, “okay, yeah, this is totally the direction that Leigh is leading us!” Plus, that ending? I really don’t want another unnecessary love triangle.

And I want this review to be spoiler free, so I’m not going to go into details, but you’re either going to love or hate the ending. And, friends, I for sure hated it. One of my favorite things in literature is when a spin-off series comes out, and the overarching threat is the ramifications of the what happened to that book’s conclusion and/or villain. Having a cult that views the Darkling as a saint and worships him? That was the setup of my dreams, friends. And the ending just felt like such a cop-out and made me so angry and it really left such a disappointing taste in my mouth.

“All fuels burn differently. Some faster, some hotter. Hate is one kind of fuel. But hate that began as devotion? That makes for another kind of flame.”

Overall, I just didn’t love this the way that I truly anticipated that I would! Maybe I hyped it too much? Maybe I shouldn’t have reread The Wicked King right before starting this? Maybe I’m just being salty over the Darkling? I don’t know, friends, but this let me down. I am highly anticipating what will come with the next book, and I hope to have a much higher rating and happier review! Also, Ninth House is going to be everything and I still cannot wait for that 2019 release!

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Content and trigger warnings for drug addiction, loss of a loved one, grief depiction, captivity, slavery, implied past sexual assault (numerous times & numerous characters), torture, bullying, fatphobic comments (always in a negative light), mention of past death of a baby, attempted pedophilia, suicide, and war themes.

1.) Shadow and Bone ★★★★★
2.) Siege and Storm ★★★
3.) Ruin and Rising ★★

1.) Six of Crows ★★★★
2.) Crooked Kingdom ★★★★★

*.) The Language of Thorns ★★★★★

The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees

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

“Let’s start with the Witch in the Woods.”

This is going to be such a hard book for me to review. Mostly because this debut novel has some of the most beautiful writing I’ve ever read. I was so positive that I was going to five star this leading up to the half way point, but I feel like things just started to fall apart and the story got harder and harder to follow. So, even though I’m not giving this the highest of star ratings, I still am really impressed by the author’s craft and I can’t wait to see what they do next because their prose was seriously nothing short of magical.

The Waking Forest is a story that is telling two very different tales with alternating chapters. One is a girl in our world, living in a beach house with her family, and she has suffered from nightmare like dreams her entire life. The second is a witch in the magical woods, who grants children wishes with her heart, and she is being told a story by a very different kind of fox. These tales simultaneously go on and weave together that is actually really beautiful.

“What if I told you that there’s a boy in the attic? And he seems to know me even though I don’t know him? And I don’t know where he came from or how he got there?”

Rhea – The sleepwalker, who keeps experiencing these nightmares, and is finding herself more and more close to understanding who the boy of shadows in the attic is, who only she can see.

The Forest Witch – The granter of wishes to different children who visit her each night, but her newest visitor is a fox that is unlike the rest who live in her forest.

“…after my encounter with the Darkness, that if we have secrets, they aren’t juicy at all. I think, more likely, our secrets are bloody.”

Sadly, it is when the tales come together that the story started falling apart for me. I feel like the author has so many amazing concepts, and she was weaving them separately almost perfectly. It is when they came together that I started to get so confused and so uninvested. Like, I take really extensive notes while reading and this story was so damn hard to keep straight. And I felt like my beautiful lucid dream while reading the first half, turned quickly into my own personal nightmare.

But another thing I did really like about this story is that it mentions, on page, many times about living with anxiety and how much it will and can impact your life. A couple of the characters bring it up many times, and really show how you can live a normal and happy life with your anxiety, even if at times it feels like it is something that is constantly holding you back. And as someone who lives with anxiety, it was just something that I really appreciated.

Overall, I really loved the first half of this book, and I am still completely and utterly blown away by the beautiful prose. And I know I’ve talked about the writing in this review a lot, but the atmosphere is actually perfect, too. The descriptions in this book were always equal parts frightening and beautiful and I had goosebumps while reading many passages. And you all know I have a very special place in my heart for stories about entering people’s dreams. And even though I lost interest with the last half of this book, I am still so impressed with the writing quality, and the way that Alyssa Wees wove her words together, that I can’t wait to see what they do 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 a tiny bit of physical abuse, torture (branding), captivity, slavery, loss of a loved one, scenes with spiders, and blood depiction.

Buddy read with Julie from Pages and Pens! ❤

 

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! ❤

Queen of Air and Darkness (The Dark Artifices, #3) by Cassandra Clare

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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

“There was blood on the Council dais, blood on the steps, blood on the walls and the floor and the shattered remnants of the Mortal Sword.”

Friends, it has been a ride. I have spent the last six months reading everything that Cassie Clare has created for the Shadowhunter world, and it was all leading up to this moment – the release of Queen of Air and Darkness. And friends, it was so worth it. Not only was reading all of these books and stories, and falling in love with so many of these characters and worlds, a highlight in my reading year, it was just a highlight in my 2018. And I just want to thank each and every single one of you that came along with me on this journey.

“Blood always matters, to the wrong sort of people”

And this book picks up immediately after the events in LoS. Fascists are trying to control the Clave and dictate how Downworlders should be treated. In Faerie, the Seelie and the Unseelie court are trying to hurt each other, while the Unseelie King has something that the Seelie Queen doesn’t want to live without. Warlocks are hurting, so many of our main cast of characters are missing, and so many people are grieving the loss of loved ones.

“Sympathy is common. Knowing the exact shape of the hole someone’s loss leaves in your heart is rare.”

Queen of Air and Darkness is truly a love letter to grief. The first section of this review is going to be spoiler free, so I’m going to try to be really vague. Ty is choosing to ignore his grief, Alec is throwing himself into work and wanting a better world because of his grief, Julian thinks revenge is the only way to work through his grief, Emma has finally made headway with her past grief, to only be forced to experience more all over again. We see parents grieving the loss of their children, children grieving the loss of their parents, and everyone grieving the loss of loved ones because of wars they didn’t ask to be a part of. But that’s what happens when you love people, and you let them in, because nothing is permanent, and grief is inevitable. There is no wrong way to grieve, but you do get to choose the actions you perform in the name of that grief. And we get to see people make a lot of hateful choices, and take a lot of hateful actions, because of their grief; Cohorts and fae queens and kings alike.

And this third and final installment in The Dark Artifices series does get rather dark, so please use caution. Content and trigger warnings for hate speech (always challenged and always negative), threatening to out someone, talk of wanting to sexually assault someone, self-harm, death, loss of a loved one, murder, torture, captivity, blood depictions, strong depictions of grief, trauma, and depression, talk of suicide, a lot of violence, and war themes.

As always, Cassie is so very inclusionary and gives us so much rep that is very respectively done. From so much sexuality and gender representation, to racial diversity, to giving us a main character on the autism spectrum, to body diversity, to really respecting mental health in this book. I’m not saying that Cassie Clare is the pinnacle of what representation in books should be, but I’ll be dammed if she isn’t trying, and if she isn’t doing a better job than any other cis white woman writing YA currently.

Overall, it is also actually wild how talented Cassandra Clare is, because the cast of her books are so large and expansive, but I’d die for almost every single one of them. I had so much fun reading this last installment, even if it wasn’t my favorite. But I will talk more about that below! I will say that I need The Red Scrolls of Magic, The Last Hours, & The Wicked Powers right this very second. Like, the wait is probably going to kill me. But I’m going to die with the biggest smile on my face.

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 the main characters in this book. Spoilers ahead!

(Art by Alice Duke!)

Emma Carstairs – You all, I can’t even talk about Emma properly. She is my favorite Shadowhunter of them all. I love her, I love her bravery, I love her empathy, and I love how she loves. I’ll be honest, the worst part about turning the last page of this book is knowing that I’ll never be able to read another new book where she is the main character.

Julian Blackthorn – First off, Madalyn pointing out that Julian is probably demisexual added ten years to my life and I needed you all to know this. Next, Julian Blackthorn is my everything and I hate that I’m so weak for this soft boy, but it is the damn truth.

Also, because I’m a perv and this needs to be said, Julian and Emma reciting the parabatai vow while fucking? My kink. My fucking kink. Damn. The gifts CC gives us.

Church – The real MVP of this book.

Helen Blackthorn-Penhallow – Helen and Aline are going to be the best moms ever, and I am so happy that Cassie finally let us see this power couple! And I can’t wait to actually see them fall in love during TRSoM, but I know it is going to be my favorite thing in this entire series!

Aline Blackthorn-Penhallow – Okay, Helen and Aline are my TRUE OTP! And Aline literally give me life, while standing up for Helen, during this entire 900+ page story. And I’m here for any story that is a bout an Asian girl getting into a sapphic relationship with a fae girl. I mean, it is kind of my life goal.

Mark Blackthorn – You all, we did it, and CC answered our prayers! And she gave us the polyamorous relationship of my dreams! I will say that I don’t entirely love that they only have their cabin to share their love, but I hope that a lot happens in future books to make this trio able to truly spend all of their lives with one another. But that scene on the boulder between the three of them? 11/10, I will be rereading once a week for the rest of my life.

“All this time we were waiting for you. We loved each other, and it was a great thing, but with you, it is even greater.”

Cristina Rosales – I just love Cristina. I love her friendship with Emma, but I loved her deciding, at her own pace, what she wanted in her life. And she’s so damn strong, while being so damn giving, and she honestly deserves the entire world. Also, no offense, but Cassie Clare also gave her the worst Shadowhunter weapons, imo.

Kieran – I mean, you all know I’m trash for dark (ever changing) haired fae princes who end up being king. But like, I’d love Kieran even if he was none of those things. He is honestly probably my third favorite character in all of the Shadowhunter world. And when all the fae people were remembering all the kind things he did for them, and when the little girl gave him the white flower? Friends, I’m weak, and soft, and crying, and in love with Kieran so very much.

Adaon – Wow, the resident sleeper and true hero of this story.

Kit Rook / Christopher Herondale – Alright, Kit is going to have the coolest power(s) in the Shadowhunter world. But I truly loved how this book officially proved that Kit is going to have an actual claim to rule all of Faerie, and I’m here for it.

Tiberius Blackthorn – Oh Ty, my sweet Ty. You know this necromancy and dark magic are going to follow him all the way through TWP! You all also know that I’m a sucker for siblings who are best friends, and Thule Livvy’s letter actually gutted me.

“I love you. I love you. I love you.”

Livvy Blackthorn – I don’t really understand how ghost Livvy works, or how the connection with Ty works, but it equally breaks and warms my heart. But I do really wish she would have just been able to rest in peace.

Octavian Blackthorn – I feel like Poor Tavvy is the character that is looked over, but it is because he is still so little. But I cried really hard when he told Julian that he just wanted to go home at the end. Julian really raised all these kids to be brave, to be strong, and to love always.

Dru Blackthorn – Dru truly has grown up and came into her own during these three books. I love her, and I loved seeing her journey. And I especially loved seeing Ty spend more time with her. I can’t wait to see her grow and shine even more in TWP where she will be a main character.

Ash – Did Cassie really have to give him Rhysand wings? Truly? Honestly? Lord, why? But… I’m here for it, and I also ship him and Drusilla so damn hard already. When he picked up that picture that Julian drew and learned her name? I screamed. I can’t wait for that to make another appearance.

Magnus Bane – You all know Magnus is my favorite. Every book I fall more and more in love with him. And seeing him as a dad? It is truly the best. Also, Magnus having a heart to heart with Ty about gutted me, because it was so damn beautiful.

Alec Lightwood – I honestly feel like Alec was a real shining star in this book. And he is going to completely change the world with unconditional love. And seeing him become Consul of the Clave? I don’t even have words. Alec started out as a character that was hard for me to like, now he’s a character that’s hard for me not to love.

“No shining new world could be built on blood and bones.”

Zara Dearborn – Worst part of this book? That Zara didn’t die. And now she has her own little private city to breed her hate. I am so not looking forward to what is going to come of her and her hateful gang being left alone. Real talk, I would have been like, “We will leave all you Cohorts alone, as long as you give us her!” *winky face* I’m a petty and bitter bitch.

Horace Dearborn – Thank you, next.

The Kelpie (that Julian saved) – I always love the magical creatures of stories, that come and help and save that day. But this was too damn much for me. TOO DAMN MUCH.

Manuel Casales – This guy is so chaotic evil. And I’m so bitter that he didn’t die while Emma and Julian were on their wild rampage.

Diego Rosales – I also really couldn’t ever truly like Diego. Yeah, he did Kieran a solid, and I respect it, but I still never really liked him. He is one of the few side characters I’m okay saying goodbye to.

Jaime Rosales – I feel like CC is just going to give Dru all the options between Ash, Cameron, and Jaime, but Jaime is the one that skeezes me out for some reason. I just, don’t want it to happen. Nice dagger gift and all, boy no.

Diana Wrayburn – I will say that I was a little uncomfortable with how Julian and Emma found out about Diana being trans, but I am honestly just so happy that she is living her best life now, while being able to be open. And the talk she has with Julian and Emma, when she is like, “No, I’ve always been a woman.” Praise/bless. Give me an entire Diana series, please, Cassie Clare.

Gwyn – Wow, the best character in the entire Shadowhunter universe. The blessings.

Catarina Loss – Catarina is the best side character, and she does so much good, and she is so pure, and I wept extra hard when she stood by Magnus at his wedding. Like, these warlocks put me in my feels every single time.

Ragnor Fell / Shade – And this warlock just makes me laugh so damn hard. And I cheered out loud when the reveal actually came to fruition! I can’t wait to see even more of him with Ty in Scholomance.

Annabel Blackthorn – What a missed opportunity in this book to not give Annabel a better story. I’ll talk more about this below, but Annabel deserved better, especially with how breathtaking this cover it.

The (old) Unseelie King – I don’t know if I just forgot, or if I never picked up on it, but this dude had a half skeletal, half handsome face? That’s actually badass.

The Seelie Queen – This bitch. She legit just shows up in every book, in every timeline, just to rain on everyone’s parade.

Tessa & Jem – I screamed all over again after they announced they were pregnant. And now that they are going to raise a Herondale, Kit, so he can be safe? Ah, I just love this little family so much.

Izzy & Simon – I really wish they played bigger roles in this story, and that we would have received two weddings in this 900+ page tome!

Clary Fairchild – I won’t lie, I was really disappointed when we found out what Clary’s vision really was. God, I mean, I knew Cassie wouldn’t actually kill her, but I wanted to so much more, and it was a really anticlimactic reasoning.

Jace Herondale“I would die for Jace to shoot finger guns at me”Lea, 2018. Real talk, Jace had me actually laughing out loud during this entire book and I loved and hated every single second of it. Especially his banter with Kit, I mean, Christopher. And when Jace voted in Alec for Consul of the Clave? The tears just won’t stop, friends.

Evil Jace Herondale – Lord, why do you want us to suffer?

“There is nothing simple about vengeance, and nothing pure”

Okay, so one element or “trope” that I hate when books do is that alternate and/or parallel universe storyline. And I never, in a million years, would have guessed that Cassie Clare would pull this in QoAaD, but here we are. I’ll be honest, I kind of loved the concept of a Mad Max world where Sebastian Morgenstern not only won the Dark War, but now rules, but the entirety of Part Two was a little too much for me. Especially because they didn’t even bring back Thule Livvy and Thule Raphael. And in return, it almost felt like tragedy porn seeing them live again. And now we have an evil Jace in our world and on the loose to… kill Clary? Love Clary? To do something with Clary? Yikes.

But the true reason I am giving this book four stars, and the reason I probably think it is the weakest book in The Dark Artifices is because of Annabel. What a missed opportunity to have an amazing villain character. Instead, she dies at 60%, only for us to be rickrolled with a demon pretending to be her. She died so easily, too, and it felt so bad. I mean, she is on the cover of this book! And the title is completely her! Why would she barely show up in the 900+ pages, have the lamest death, and have no character development when she could have been such an amazing and intricate character.

“Please don’t leave me in this world without you.”

And then let’s not forget about Julian and Emma turning into giant, angel versions of King Kong, picking up and yeeting the bad guys. Even though, Zara conveniently didn’t get yeeted. Like, for a second I actually thought Emma was going to die, and then, in turn, Julian would have died, too. But when Emma said, “Let us burn.” I thought they would just die and become angels together, and my emo and sappy ass would have loved that. But instead, the whole wild giant thing happened, and then words of their loved ones “healed” them. Which was eyeroll worthy, but also sweet. Yet, when the heavenly fire didn’t damage ANYTHING except their parabatai bond? You all, I can’t. It just feels so unsatisfying. And Emma and Julian really are my favorite couple in all things Shadowhunter, but even I can’t just accept that and pretend it was realistic. I honestly think CC just wrote herself into a hole, and putting a bright and shiny bow on it was the only option, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

I will also say that the ending was completely and utterly fanservice, but it was fanservice that I ate up with a spoon and asked for more. Magnus and Alec’s wedding was everything, and Alec’s proposal made me actually ugly cry. Just seeing everything that these two have been through, all the lives they’ve impacted, all the family they have made, they were just so damn deserving of this happiness. And then the short story after the epilogue? With Jace and Clary in that greenhouse? God, that greenhouse. It really feels so full circle, doesn’t it? All of these original characters have brought me so much happiness in 2018, and seeing them get moments of pure happiness at the end of this book was honestly everything.

“As long as you exist and I exist, I will love you.”

Overall, I’d give my life for Emma Carstairs and any of the Blackthorns and I will never forget this reading experience. Picking up City of Bones this year was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. And now I finally get to wait and suffer for the next thing Cassie Clare publishes with the rest of you! And special thank you to Lea, Sol, Madalyn, Jane, & Amber for allowing me to cry and scream and gush with you! You all made the experience even more special and I love you all! ❤

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The Queen’s Resistance (The Queen’s Rising, #2) by Rebecca Ross

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

1.) The Queen’s Rising ★★★★

“Crowning Isolde Kavanagh as the rightful queen was not the end of our rising. It was merely the beginning.”

The Queen’s Resistance is book two in Rebecca Ross’s debut series, which I think is so underhyped and so underappreciated! Seriously, friends, stop sleeping on this series. Because this is exactly the kind of YA fantasy that I’m always on the hunt for; amazing friendships, swoon-worthy romances, medieval setting, unique magic systems, and women coming into their power and embracing what has been taken from them by men who fear that power.

The Queen’s Rising focused on our main character, Brienna, at a school that helps young girls hone sought after specializations. And after graduating in one of these sought-after trades (art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge) you will work under a patron doing a vast array of different things with your skill set. But Brienna was sent to this boarding school so that she could go into hiding, because the blood that runs through her veins has made her quite the threat to the throne, and the world.

I honestly feel like I can’t say too much about The Queen’s Resistance, because it picks up very soon after the end events of The Queen’s Rising, and a lot of things went down. But I will say that Brienna is still very sought-after, but now she has a very strong found family that helps protect her, regardless of what her last name is. And even though the revolution is over, the rebuilding has just begun, and Brienna, and her family want to build something worthy of a legacy.

“If you were a storm, I would lie down and rest in your rain. If you were a river, I would drink from your currents. If you were a poem, I would never cease to read you.”

Cartier also gets his own point of view in this book, and his journey is also not an easy one because of his bloodline. But regardless of the bad things that have happened in his past, he always shows empathy and consideration in every situation. Seeing him and Brienna grow, and grow together, is so beautiful, and their strength and compassion really knows no bounds.

Found family is for sure the shining light of this beautiful tale, but this is also a book about becoming the person you want to be, regardless of the evil acts people have committed with the same last name as you. And this is a story about rising up, and being what you dream of being, not who people expect you to be on account of a last name that you never asked to have.

“Is it only blood that makes a House? Or is it beliefs? What holds people together more? The red in their veins or the fire in their hearts?”

Overall, I can’t wait to see what comes next in this world. I just fell so in love with these characters, and I want to protect them at all costs. Rebecca Ross’s writing is so lyrical and beautiful, and I really have become so attached to this entire world she has created. Again, this series is so underhyped, and this author has really blown me and my expectations away with this debut series.

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

Content and trigger warnings for graphic torture, murder, death, loss of a loved one, abuse, child abuse, domestic violence, talk of past rape, sex trafficking, captivity, and slavery.

Buddy read with Lea at drumsofautumn! ❤

 

A Curse So Dark and Lonely (ACSDAL #1) by Brigid Kemmerer

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ARC provided by Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review.

“I am always surprised to discover that when the world seems darkest, there exists the greatest opportunity for light.”

A Curse So Dark and Lonely is a reimagining of Beauty and the Beast with a much darker theme. In this version, the Prince is forced to repeat the quest to find love over and over each season, while causing more and more bloodshed each time. But after three-hundred seasons, this season will officially be the very last one.

Harper – The Belle. Eighteen-years-old and from DC, before she is captured. But back home, she has a hard home life, living with her mother who has cancer and they can’t afford medical treatment, and a brother who is forced to pick up his father’s mantle to work for crime lords because he left his family in so much debt. Harper also has Cerebral Palsy, which I understand has very many different types on a spectrum, but she is high functioning. (Also, if you are an ownvoices reviewer, I would love to link your review and boost your voice on your feelings about the representation!) And besides Harper’s Cerebral Palsy representation, which is also at the heart of this book, her brother, Jake, is also queer and has the sweetest boyfriend, Noah, who is black.

Rhen – The Beast. But the dark themes I brought up above is that each season when a girl doesn’t fall in love with him, he turns into a different beast and kills whatever is in his way. And then a new season begins, and the curse starts all over again.

Grey – Rhen’s guard commander, and the only living person left at the castle with him. Not only is he a loyal friend to him, but he captures the girls and brings them back for him.

Lilith – The enchantress who has cast this spell on Rhen and his kingdom. I’ll be honest, this character very much reminded me of Ianthe from A Court of Thorns and Roses.

Freya – The shining star of the book, if I’m being honest. She has a child of her own but is also taking care of three of her sister’s children. I don’t know why I loved her so much, but she really was my favorite in the entire story. Give her a spin-off, please.

And these characters come together to set the stage and remake the story of Beauty and the Beast unlike any other. We get to see Harper decide if she wants to save a kingdom or her family and we get to see Rhen decide if he is worth saving. And even if this book was a little hard for me to get into at the start, I ended up really getting interested by the end.

There is a good discussion in this book about feeling responsible for things that you have no control over. Whether that be mistakes that your loved ones are making, deteriorating health of loved ones, or even just people doing bad things to you and the people you care about. Some things are really out of our control, and I liked the dissection of this in this book, because I think it is easy to feel responsible for things that sometimes really aren’t our faults.

“We are not always presented with the choices we want, but choices exist nonetheless.”

Overall, I didn’t love this or even enjoy it as much as I thought I would, but it did have a lot of things that I adore. Harper and Rhen do travel around his kingdom a lot, and I love me a good traveling story. Also, they frequent inns and taverns a lot, which is another thing that is so very much in my reading wheelhouse. But even though I completely understand that this is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, I just couldn’t get over the abduction plotline and even begin to really root for the romance in this book. I will say though that I was really surprised this wasn’t a standalone, even though it totally can be read that way, but maybe I will love the next installment more!

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

Content and trigger warnings for abduction, captivity, talk of cancer, loss of a loved one, murder, death, torture, abuse, a pedophile comment, attempted sexual assault, sexual assault (by Lilith), thoughts of suicide, and a lot of ableist speech (always in a negative light from the villain).

Buddy read with Julie, Amy, Chelsea, Jules, Jen, & Chelsea! ❤

Ghosts of the Shadow Market (Stories 1 – 8) by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees, Maureen Johnson, Robin Wasserman, & Kelly Link

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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 ★★★★

Hey, friends! Okay, so I am just too hyped to keep talking about all things that involve the Shadowhunter world, with Queen of Air and Darkness coming out in TEN DAYS! Holy moly, the blessings! I honestly haven’t been so excited for a new release in years. You all also know that I have been reading everything in this world for the last six months, so I know this book is going to literally be the cherry on an already delicious cupcake! (And your girl is hungry!)

I do want to say that Ghosts of the Shadow Market is scheduled to come out in June of 2019, and will include ten stories in total, but only eight have been released singly so far! Therefore, I am not going to give this collection a total star rating, I’m just going to let you know my individual star rating for each story separately, then come release I will do more in-depth and full review, that will also include the two stories that haven’t been released yet! But I hope this post gets you all hyped, because I can’t wait to read the final Dark Artifices book with the entire community in just a few more days!


Son of the Dawn – ★★★★

“Every world contains other worlds within it.”

It is official, The New York City Shadow Market is the coolest one we’ve seen so far? Abandoned theater? Ahhh, the aesthetics. But this story takes place in 2000, and I will be honest with you all, I sure in the hell wasn’t expecting a story about how Jace came to join the Lightwood family. Damn, my emotions are all over the place, because seeing Raphael alone makes me weep. Also, I think it was really smart for Cassie Clare to show us a “good” side of Robert Lightwood, especially after finishing Lord of Shadows. Also, all that talk of parabatai bonds? Lord, help us all. But I think my sappy self cried hardest over two initials. Okay, I know this brief review is all over the place, but this was such an unexpected treat and I was smiling while reading this entire story. From Izzy watching Alec discover who he is, to me crying even more over Max, to Jace being Jace even at a young age, to Lily Chen actually making me laugh out loud, to me screaming at seeing Raphael confirming that he is ace, I love all of this. And even just seeing Raphael come to Brother Zachariah for help and to go on what ends up being such a meaningful adventure, that really impacts all their lives eventually, it was just amazing. I really loved this short story and I think it was such an amazing glimpse at the past, that really makes you appreciate the future so much more.


Cast Long Shadows – ★★

“Old sins cast long shadows.”

Okay, I’m still hyped for The Last Hours though, but I think it is mostly for James Herondale, even though Matthew Fairchild is such a little sweetheart. I loved seeing him interact with Brother Zachariah, and loving him just because so many of his loved ones love him. I love that feeling, and I think that’s something in life that I experience a lot that books rarely depict. But in this short story takes place in London 1901, and we get to see Matthew dealing with something that’s really bothering him, while willing to do anything to find out the truth. Oh, and Alastair Carstairs is such a little jerk, but I know Cassie is going to give him a homelife (and a father, I think) that is going to make us feel a lot of empathy toward him. But why the hell is Sophie (my queen, still) and Gideon’s kid friends with him? Yet, I love seeing Henry’s disability rep, I love seeing Charlotte say fuck your misogyny to the Clave, and I just love seeing all these glimpses at old friendships that we already love, but also all the new glimpses at what is to come. And seeing Jem, Will, and Tessa living their lives after Clockwork Princess will never not equal parts break my heart and heal my soul. And yeah, I’m still crying over that staff. Lord, help me.


Every Exquisite Thing – ★★★★

“Foolish people say so many things. But we know who we are…”

Anna Lightwood deserves the entire galaxy and all the stars within it, please spread the word. Like, the child of Cecily and Gabriel is a true blessing to the Shadowhunter universe. And the end of this made me happier than any other Shadowhunter short story I’ve ever read. In short, this story is love letter to nonbinary people, and we get to follow Anna embracing being a genderfluid lesbian. Even though everyone knows that queer people existed all throughout history, this story highlights how it was harder to come out back in the 1900s. But seeing Anna live their best life was everything and it warmed my heart so very much. And, again, Cassie Clare is just being more and more inclusive and she impresses me so very much. And there is f/f romance in this story, too! But the heart of this story is identity and being the person you are on the inside on the outside, too. Okay, I’m done gushing; this story we also get to see Anna and Matthew explore the London nightlife and meet a woman named Leopolda in a club and bring to ask a few questions. And soon, them and Brother Zachariah are trying to figure out what she’s up to. And I think that we are soon going to get a lot more background story on Tessa, and I cannot wait for The Last Hours, friends. It is going to be so amazing, and now Anna is going to make me even more excited!


Learn about Loss – ★★★★

“I want you to give them both a span of time. Both of them in a time and place where they can be young and happy and together.”

Current mood: Forever weeping over the masterpiece that is the end of this short story. You all, Will and Jem will always be best friend goals, and honestly are the definition of platonic unconditional pure love. (I mean, I won’t go into my polyamorous wants because Cassie Clare didn’t bless us!) But friends, this story just has a lot in it that I really appreciated. And I loved this dark carnival Shadow Market. This story is set in 1936 Tennessee, during the end of the Great Depression, and not only do we follow Brother Zachariah, but also the soon-to-be Iron Sister, Emilia, who easily stole my heart. And Sister Emilia’s promise? Goosebumps. Perfection. Also, I think these stories are really going to make an impact for QoAaD.


A Deeper Love – ★★★

“…those two twin souls, the only souls she had ever loved.”

Friends, I was not expecting a WWII story set in London that starred Tessa Gray and Catarina Loss working as nurses. But oh my gosh, it was so beautifully and hauntingly unexpected. And there is still a Shadow Market that they bargain at, but even the paranormal war is impacted (both positively and negatively) by war. And Brother Zachariah just happens to be at the Shadow Market, where bombs are dropping from the sky, while he gets into his own altercation with a fae who thinks he is meddling in affairs that do not involve him. And I believe the point of this story was that we get to see that weapon poison that Julian and Emma deal with in Lady Midnight. I also cried for probably a third of this just because Brother Zachariah and Tessa both dealing with loss, while healing and living with love, just guts me every time. It’s so pure, and so hopefully, and just gives me all the feelings under the sun. The power of love is something so strong, and this story just left me in awe, honestly.


The Wicked Ones – ★★★

“They’d both given a piece of their hearts to a Herondale. And they both loved someone they could not have.”

Oh, boy. So, this story is set in 1989 Paris, where we meet a young girl named Céline and get to see the uprising of Valentine. Céline has constantly run away from her abusive home, and the parents that torture her and call it love. And when she was eight years old, she ran away and felt safe and at home for the very first time – at the Paris Shadow Market. But in this story we see her almost ten years later, and she is desperately trying to feel welcome with Valentine and his elite crew. And she is also realizing she is completely and utterly in love with Stephen Herondale. But while this is going on, Brother Zachariah is in search of a lost necklace and a lost child. This story really dives deep into how manipulative people can gaslight to get what they want, and will always try to isolate people and convince them that what they are doing is in their best interest. It is always really interesting to see the rise and fall of Valentine Morgenstern, but this story just made me feel really sad for Amatis and for another child who has yet to be born.


The Land I Lost – ★★★★★

“Your voice is the music I love best in all the world.”

First and foremost, it is very obvious that Lily Chen is not straight, but Cassie Clare confirmed on Tumblr that she is pan! The blessings. The actual blessings. Also, hello, my new favorite character. Lily is half Japanese and half Chinese, and was made a vampire under the saddest of circumstances. And her love for Raphael Santiago warms my black heart like nothing else in the entire Shadowhunter world. And even though I could go on forever about my love for her, this story is more about her and Alec going to the Buenos Aires Institute together because Jem and Tessa are in need of help, and someone requested Alec personally. This story is actually pretty dark, so content and trigger warnings for abandonment, captivity, sex trafficking, sex slavery, and war themes. Nothing is graphic, but it is very much talked about, so please use caution. But Alec soon finds out that the Buenos Aires Institute is being heavily influenced by Horace Dearborn, and they are allowing children whose parents were killed in the Dark War to be orphans living on the street, just because they are Downworlders. Alec then comes across a Shadowhunter child who they are also unwilling to help, and the other Downworlders are too scared to bring in, therefore he must take action. You all, this novella was heartbreaking and heartwarming. Seeing Magnus and Alec be such good fathers to Max, and then adopting their second child, Rafe, it is something I don’t even have words for. And they are allowing their children to be whatever they want to be, Warlock or Shadowhunter, and will never stop giving them unconditional love. Even just seeing glimpses of Jace and Izzy being an uncle and an aunt had me smiling so big! It is a joy to read, pure joy. But we learn so much during this longer addition to the anthology, too. All the information we got of/from Mother Hawthorn? Damn.


Through Blood, Through Fire – ★★★★

“But we bear so much that seems unthinkable. The only truly unbearable burden is living without love.”

Okay, I won’t lie, even though I have loved watching Brother Zachariah go on this quest of finding the lost Herondale, I feel like it is my least favorite aspect of this anthology. And even though this short story gave us major insight on Rosemary and Jack, it wasn’t a big surprise after reading The Wicked Ones. But then, once the story catches up to the events at the end of Lady Midnight, and Tessa drops the REAL information of this story. You all, my jaw dropped. And my eyes? The tears won’t stop coming after that last paragraph. Wow, the blessings. The happiness. The everything. Queen of Air and Darkness can’t come soon enough.



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Buddy read with Lea at drumsofautumn! ❤