Posted in ARC, Book Reviews, Fantasy, General Books, Humor, Kid Fiction, Middle Grade, Science Fiction

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (The Wingfeather Saga #1) by Andrew Petersen – #eARC #BookReview

Goodreads: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (The Wingfeather Saga #1)
Publish date: 10 March 2020
Publisher: WaterBrook & Multnomah
Genre: Middle Grade, Children’s Book, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Panda Rating:

Janner Igiby, his brother, Tink, and their disabled sister, Leeli, are gifted children as all children are, loved well by a noble mother and ex-pirate grandfather. But they will need all their gifts and all that they love to survive the evil pursuit of the venomous Fangs of Dang, who have crossed the dark sea to rule the land with malice. The Igibys hold the secret to the lost legend and jewels of good King Wingfeather of the Shining Isle of Anniera.

Full of characters rich in heart, smarts, and courage, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is a tale children of all ages will cherish, families can read aloud, and readers’ groups are sure to enjoy discussing for its many layers of meaning. Extra features include new interior illustrations from Joe Sutphin, funny footnotes, a map of the fantastical world, inventive appendices, and fanciful line art in the tradition of the original Frank L. Baum Wizard of Oz storybooks.

It’s been a very long time since I read any middle grade books but I’ve recently added a few to my shelves that have been well praised by many book lovers, and when I saw the cover for this book I immediately wanted to read it because it’s simply a really attractive cover (yes, I’m judging a book by it’s cover so hard now). Plus, the blurb sounded good and I enjoyed the excerpt I read of it!

That said, while I was generally entertained by the book, I also found myself unexpectedly bored for certain periods of time (off-pacing), and I think that the story was going on for a lot longer than it should’ve. I was also unsure about the use of the footnotes. While some of the footnotes were interesting, I found that even if I didn’t read them, I wasn’t missing out on anything other than a humorous story or anecdote. I’m also wondering if footnotes are something young readers (especially middle graders) would appreciate? I don’t recall ever reading a book with footnotes in it when I was younger unless it was non-fiction or a textbook, and as an adult reader, I’m still not always a fan of footnotes; unless they really added key/important elements to the world building and the story itself.

I think one of the things I struggled with was not being able to form a connection with the story overall and in particular with the characters. I liked the Igiby family well enough–Janner, Tink and Leeli were interesting characters–but I just didn’t feel as invested in their journey as I hoped to be. Perhaps my favorite characters in the story were Peet and Nugget (the doggo, reasons for which go without saying. He’s a loyal companion to the Igiby children, particularly for Leeli)!

Peet was a courageous side-character who suffered from (what I can tell) possible mental health issues and a disability. He was pitied in town and was treated pretty awfully by the Igiby heads of house (Podo and Nia) for a reason that only becomes apparent at the end, but to me never justified the unfair treatment of his character. While I started off liking Podo’s character, his awful treatment of Peet was so distasteful and made me like him a lot less (it says a lot about a person’s character IRL just as much as in a book)! The Fangs of Dang were obviously awful characters we were meant to hate and the author did a great job of stoking those feelings against these characters. I thought the disability rep with Leeli’s and Podo’s characters was really great. Leeli was such a strong female character that had a fierce independent streak. I loved that her disability didn’t stop her from having adventures and getting up to mischief with her brothers; her disability was normalized (as in, it didn’t hamper her in any way) and it was nice to see that being shown in books to such a young audience.

As this was an e-ARC, most of the illustrations and maps were not yet included, so that was also a little bit disappointing because the illustrations that were already included in the story were pretty amazing! I can only imagine how much fun these illustrations will be to look at once it’s done (and in color too)! Overall, while I was really pulled in by the premise of this story, I found it a bit difficult to get into and that’s what made me remove stars. I wish that the pacing was more consistent but it was still an enjoyable enough read. I think many young middle grade readers would enjoy it too!

Thanks to NetGalley and the author for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. This new hard cover edition is out March 2020.
Have you read The Wingfeather Saga books? Let’s
chat in the comments!

Advertisements
Posted in Book Reviews, Fantasy, General Books, Science Fiction

Vicious (Villains #1) by V.E. Schwab – #BookReview

Goodreads: Vicious (Villains #1)
Genre: Adult Fiction, Science Fiction, SFF
Reviewed: January 2019
Panda Rating:

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates–brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.
Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find–aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge–but who will be left alive at the end?
In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn’t automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question.

“The paper called Eli a hero.
The word made Victor laugh. Not just because it was absurd, but because it posed a question. If Eli really was a hero, and Victor meant to stop him, did that make him a villain?”

This is a story about superheroes and supervillains and ExtraOrdinary people. It’s about right vs wrong, morality, jealousy, revenge and friendship. It explores a complex relationship between two college best friends turned archenemies, and the reasons and consequences of their fall out. Schwab does a magnificent job writing the fantastical into the ordinary, that although you know the concept is a little outlandish, you wonder if maybe it’s really possible. With an immersive style of writing that encourages you to devour as much as quickly as possible, it isn’t surprising that I was hooked right from the start!

Victor and Eli were college roommates and best friends until their senior year of college when everything came crashing down. After a shared interest in adrenaline, near death experiences and an exploration of seemingly extraordinary abilities moves from theoretical to experimental, things go horribly wrong incredibly fast and these two become each other’s worst enemy. When Victor gets thrown in jail because of Eli, he swears that he will get his vengeance and so the battle between our two villains begins.

“But these words that people threw around— humans, monsters, heroes, villains—to Victor it was all just a matter of semantics. Someone could call themselves a hero and still walk around killing dozens. Someone else could be labeled a villain for trying to stop them. Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.”

What can I say about this book? I loved pretty much everything about it. The characters, the storyline, all of it! It pulls you in and makes you think about perceptions – for example, what makes someone a hero or a villain? In the movies it’s usually pretty cut and dry, but even villains have a reason why they end up being so evil, right? You could see from the start that Victor and Eli have such a complex friendship. It’s one filled with admiration but also jealousy, envy, and greed. Make no mistake—both Eli and Victor are “bad nuts” in the traditional sense of the word and as Schwab writes it, they have something dark lurking beneath their skin—but in this story, it works. It’s funny how I didn’t think I’d ever have a favorite supervillain but if there were teams, I think I’d definitely be team Victor. His rag-tag crew of misfits grew on me—especially Mitch and his story and of course, sweet little Sydney and Dol!

I loved that all the characters in this book had complex backgrounds to their stories and that we got to learn about them all as we moved back-and-forth from past to present. Schwab did a great job with that as well, with smooth transitions and always spot on with the answers to your burning questions from the previous scene(s).

Have you read Vicious? Are you a fan of Schwab?
Let me know in the comments and let’s chat!

Posted in Book Reviews, Fantasy, General Books, Young Adult

Godsgrave (The Nevernight Chronicle #2) by Jay Kristoff – #BookReview

Goodreads: Godsgrave (The Nevernight Chronicle #2)
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Panda Rating:

Conquer your fear, conquer the world.
Mia Corvere, destroyer of empires, has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church ministry do not believe she has earned it. Her position is precarious, and she’s still no closer to exacting revenge for the brutal death of her family. But after a deadly confrontation with an old enemy, Mia begins to suspect the motives of the Red Church itself.
When it is announced that Consul Scaeva and Cardinal Duomo will be making a rare public appearance at the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia defies the Church and sells herself into slavery for a chance to fulfill the promise she made on the day she lost everything. Upon the sands of the arena, Mia finds new allies, bitter rivals, and more questions about her strange affinity for the shadows. But as conspiracies unfold, secrets are revealed and the body count rises within the collegium walls, Mia will be forced to choose between her loyalties and her revenge.

CW: Gore, Murder, Abuse (Physical)

When I started Godsgrave two days ago, the first thing I told myself was: DO NOT GET ATTACHED. I mean, this was my mantra and I was ready. Kristoff could bring all the emotional fckery to the table and hit me with it because I WAS NOT GOING TO GET ATTACHED. He can absolutely take his torture elsewhere! I see you, Kristoff. I know better after Nevernight!

O, gentlefriends the lies we tell ourselves, neh?

it me

If I wasn’t 100% convinced after Nevernight that Kristoff takes absolute pleasure in making his readers writhe in agony as he slays off one character after another, it’s safe to say that I don’t need convincing now because I have zero doubts about it. Kristoff is eerily like George R.R. Martin. If you like a character in this book, chances are they’re going to get fcked over at some point, and hard! And yet, I still can’t get enough of this series (and what does that say about me exactly?). When I wrote this review my thoughts and emotions were still all over the place, so fair warning, this review might be as much a hot hot mess.

Audiobook

I followed along to the audiobook again because it played such a big part in my enjoyment of the story of Nevernight. The audio started off a bit shaky and I felt it wasn’t as strong as Nevernight, but I still enjoyed the narrator, Holter Graham, and thought he did a great job with voicing the cast. I did notice there were a lot of errors in wording and sometimes voicing but it wasn’t a very big deal. I’d give this performance 4★s!

The Writing

Kristoff’s writing has really grown on me a lot since Nevernight. I enjoy the OTT metaphors and similes, as well as the dry and often crass humor that’s interjected and brings much needed levity to such a dark story. I found that I still loved the footnotes because you learn so much about the republic through them, and I find that the text is often hilarious. If there’s one thing I’m dying to know is who the narrator is! Does anyone have any guesses?

“If Vengeance has a mother, her name is Patience.”

The Plot

Godsgrave moved at a fast pace that didn’t let up until the end. The world building continued to be fantastic, and I especially enjoyed the horrific and jaw dropping arenas where the gladiatii battled. These arenas were mind-blowing and like an insanely “pimped up” and magical Gladiator. Unsurprisingly, there’s even more blood and gore as Mia joins a collegium of gladiatii as part of her plan to avenge her familia. There are also a few well-written sexy scenes! The plot gets more complex as conspiracies and ugly truths come to light. There are plenty of twists, revelations, lies and heartbreak, but also some great, heartwarming friendships too. There’s a romance storyline that I didn’t love but I’m sure many will enjoy–I just don’t trust the character at all! Some of the revelations I saw coming but the very last one had me shook. I was definitely over here screaming like a banshee as I read it! I’m STILL shaking and hella curious to see how these elements will come together in Darkdawn. There’s so much anticipation!

The Characters

There’s a completely new cast that appear in Godsgrave. Few characters from the first book reappear, but they don’t play big roles in the story, except for one/two.

Mia Corvere continues to be an incredibly complex character. She has become an even more proficient killer and although her lack of fear has made her a bit colder, she still retains her conscience; I love those two sides to her character. Towards the end of the book, I ended up shouting at and hating her for what she was doing, but I should’ve known better. Tricksy little Kristoff! We get to see a bit more of Mercurio in Godsgrave, and I really love his paternal relationship with Mia. I love a gruff character with heart!

“When you take a person out of the world, you don’t just take them, do you? You take everything they were, too.”

We’re introduced to many characters in Godsgrave, especially when Mia joins the collegium. We have Leona, the Domina of the collegium. Arkades, a former gladiatii and now Executus of the collegium. Maggot, the young girl who was the collegium’s healer, absolutely stole my heart with her sweetness and curiosity! Then there are the other gladiatii and although most of them remain minor characters, I couldn’t help loving what I learned of Sidonius, Bryn and Byern, Bladesinger, and Wavebreaker! I thought for sure there would be one asshole that makes life at the collegium unbearable for Mia, but for the most part they treated each other like family. I loved the camaraderie between them, and the banter like that between siblings. I wanted to spend more time with them and learn more of their interesting backstories. This is obviously where I also got attached to characters that I should not have done and the big event at the end seriously broke my heart. I was railing so hard at both Kristoff and Mia!

AND THEN OF COURSE

There’s the big twist and reveal of characters and their relationships in the last few pages of the book! WHAAAT?! Kristoff is so cruel to end this on such a note, but I’m so glad that I decided to start this series when Darkdawn came out because now I don’t have to wait years to know what happens. I’m honestly a little scared but also very excited to see how this story wraps up. There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s going to be terrifying, horrifying and heartbreaking. Will I be ready for the feels?!

Have you read Godsgrave? What’d you think of it? Also, have you read Darkdawn? Are my feelings going to be absolutely destroyed?!
Let me know in the comments and let’s chat!

Posted in Book Reviews, Fantasy, General Books, Magical Realism, Young Adult

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan – #BookReview

Goodreads: The Astonishing Color of After
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Magical Realism, Fantasy
Panda Rating:

Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird. Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life. Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

“Depression, I opened my mouth to say, but the word refused to take shape. Why was it so hard to talk about this? Why did my mother’s condition feel like this big secret?”

The Astonishing Color of After is a heart-wrenching story of a teenager trying to come to terms with her mother’s suicide and simultaneously exploring a side of her heritage that she never knew before. This isn’t a fast-paced or action-packed read. While filled with beautiful and poetic prose and rich emotions that are captured through the full spectrum of colors, the pace is rather slow. It’s the kind of story that requires savoring because there’s a lot going on. If I think about the range of emotions that I encountered, off the top of my head, I’d say: grief, anger, sadness, desperation, longing, love, regret, and happiness. And it’s not just tiny bursts of these emotions either, but waves of them pulling you in and up and down… Like I said, there’s a lot going on in this story.

We follow Leigh Sanders. Teenager. Chinese-Irish-American. Gifted young artist. Also, someone who experiences the world in color. Literally. They call it Synesthesia. As a result, this book is so rich with it – swirls and whirls of color to describe emotions, events, characters. Then when she loses her mother, Leigh is mired in such deep grief that she sees things in black and white, when one night her mother comes to her as a bright-red beautiful bird. Desperate to understand why her mother was so unhappy, Leigh embarks on a journey which takes her to Taiwan, where she meets her Chinese grandparents for the first time.

I never was big on magical realism but I thought how Pan incorporates elements of it into her story was very fitting. I feel like magical realism plays a big role in a lot of Asian cultures; we have a lot of stories with ghosts, spirits and unlikely magical events that happen in many Asian cultures. I feel that the magical events in this story further highlighted just how affected Leigh was by her mother’s suicide. AsLeigh recalls more memories and events become increasingly bizarre, her desperation to understand the why and how becomes more palpable.

Here is my mother, with wings instead of hands, and feathers instead of hair. Here is my mother, the reddest of brilliant reds, the color of my love and my fear, all of my fiercest feelings trailing after her in the sky like the tail of a comet.

I have to be honest–there were moments when this book became too overwhelming for me. Not only because there’s so much going on in the story, but at the heart of it is a profound exploration of depression. I never really understood it when people said they read something and felt triggered, but I finally understood when I read this book. Pan does such a raw portrayal of depression; it’s just very honest and upfront. There’s no ‘explanation’ to depression; it wears many faces and seemingly comes and goes as it pleases. As someone who suffers from depression, reading about how Dory’s life was basically eclipsed by it, was quite terrifying in how relatable it was. So, I definitely had to take breaks between reading and I pushed myself to finish this, but this story was so worth it.

“Once upon a time we were the standard colors of a rainbow, cheery and certain of ourselves. At some point, we all began to stumble into the in-betweens, the murky colors made dark and complicated by resentment and quiet anger.”

This story takes us on a journey of discovery through dealing with depression, grief, love, family and friendship. I was feeling all the feels and crying buckets by the end of this book. Because of its subject matter, this book is undoubtedly one my reads that hit home the hardest. It’s not an easy topic to discuss and it’s definitely not an easy topic to read, but Pan does a truly incredible job of it.

Pan also does an amazing job in capturing the tumultuous thoughts, emotions, hopes and fears of a teenager who goes through an achingly big loss. In her search for answers, Leigh’s character also experienced a rich self-discovery of her Chinese roots and a deep understanding of family and friendship. We are with Leigh as she processes her grief, her confusion, her anger and frustration, and we are also with her as she finally gets her closure and finds peace with the loss of her mother. This is a highly recommended read.

Have you read The Astonishing Color of After? What’d you think of it? Let me know in the comments and let’s chat!

Posted in Book Reviews, Fantasy, General Books, Young Adult

Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle #1) by Jay Kristoff – #BookReview

Goodreads: Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle #1)
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Panda Rating:

Destined to destroy empires, Mia Covere is only ten years old when she is given her first lesson in death. Six years later, the child raised in shadows takes her first steps towards keeping the promise she made on the day that she lost everything. But the chance to strike against such powerful enemies will be fleeting, so if she is to have her revenge, Mia must become a weapon without equal. She must prove herself against the deadliest of friends and enemies, and survive the tutelage of murderers, liars and demons at the heart of a murder cult. The Red Church is no Hogwarts, but Mia is no ordinary student. The shadows love her. And they drink her fear.

CW: Gore, Murder, Abuse

HOLY MOTHER. THIS BOOK! I don’t even know what to do with myself right now? My feelings are so… betrayed? Confused? What? I don’t know. I’m just feeling all of it and I’m going to try writing a coherent review but sorry in advance if it’s all just a load of blabber! I read Nevernight on my Kindle while following along with the audiobook. It made my experience 100% better and I’d highly recommend it.

it me

Audiobook

My first impression was that I didn’t think I’d like this narrator, especially when he voiced Mia. I always find it awkward when males do female voices and vice versa? However, that changed very quickly the more he played out the roles. I LOVED IT! I thought this narrator was a wonderful voice actor and his impressions/accents really stole the show for me. There were times I found myself a little annoyed with his reading because he pauses as he enunciates every two or three words (I really don’t know how to explain it), but after a while I didn’t notice it as much. At the times I read without the audio, I actually found myself reading the way he would lol as I’ll no doubt mention a few more times in this review, the audiobook was what initially really pulled me through this book. There’s a lot to take in but somehow the audio helped me bridge the missing pieces that allowed me to get sucked into the story. I’d give this performance 5★s!

The Writing

This is where I took some points off because I have to be honest, I was reading back and forth at the start, trying to make sense of what was happening, making sure that I wasn’t missing anything and that what was happening really didn’t make sense. I was frustrated to say the least and if it wasn’t for the audio I might have given this is up and claimed it wasn’t for me. The writing is surprisingly dense. It’s riddled with metaphors, similes, it’s a little (okay, it’s a lottle) dramatic and sometimes OTT. Fair warning friends, there are also TONS of footnotes (and not the short kind). I found them pretty annoying at the start but as the story progressed, I found I really enjoyed the mini-(hi)stories that came with each footnote. That said, I loved how (Kristoff’s) humor was so effortlessly weaved into the story. I think he might be an ‘acquired’ taste as not everyone will be into his quirky(?) and bold writing style, but I came to love it.

The Plot

The plot was incredibly fast paced and I felt like it didn’t let up until the end. As already mentioned, there was a lot of a whole new world to take in at the start. But wow, the world building of the Itreyan republic is incredible. The histories of the various regions, the politics, the religions, the societal structures, the legends and myths… I know a lot of other books have these but I feel like I haven’t read any lately that’s on the same level as this. I loved all of it! Not a spoiler, but this book starts with sex and murder and it’s a pretty good indication of what’s to come. There’s a lot of blood and gore, not surprising considering it’s a story about a school of assassins, and while I’m usually not that great with the stuff, I didn’t find it overwhelming. There’s also sex of the smut variety, which was really surprising! Although I had heard talk over on Twitter and Instagram about it. It wasn’t distasteful though and the chemistry between the characters made it fire! But again, a warning for those who don’t like these elements in a story. The ending is something that I’m still processing. You best believe I was screaming incredulously at the book and there may have even been a few tears (I’m emo, don’t hate). I’m still shook. I can’t believe it. I honestly don’t know where to hate or love Kristoff for what he did. Just… WHY?!?!

it me

The Characters

MY NUMERO UNO MISTAKE WAS GETTING ATTACHED TO CHARACTERS. I’m getting the feeling Kristoff is a lot more like Martin than I could’ve ever suspected. I think I’ve also figured out who was responsible for all the painful deaths in the Illuminae Files series because the character deaths in this book gave me the same sort of heart hurt! URGHGRGRR… I want to say NEVER AGAIN but… yeah, I know myself better than that!

Mia had a horrifying past that made my heart ache for all that she’d been through. Her character was incredibly complex! I didn’t think I’d grow to love her so much but I did and I rooted so hard for her! She’s smart and cunning, fierce and a killer intent on avenging her familia, but she’s also got heart. While some may find her weak for it, I thought it was a strength that set her apart. Her character development was well done and I can’t wait to see how else she grows in the coming books, especially with what happened at the end of this one. DAMN YOU, KRISTOFF!!!

Tric. Oh, Don Tric. Be still my heart! I don’t even have the words for how much I loved Tric’s character. Like Mia and many others in the school, he had such a painful and heartbreaking past that led him to being an assassin. He may be a side character next to Mia, but he was so well developed that it didn’t feel like it. His banter with Mia had me giggling so many times, and their chemistry was OOF! I just wanted to fling myself onto him and never let go! He was such a great character, I’m crying.

Mister Kindly – the not-cat that was ever present in Mia’s shadow. His reactions often had me barking with laughter (I just can’t get enough of the humor in this book)! He’s the ultimate companion and pet. I loved his steadfast support for Mia, even if it was for his own gain too!

I guess you can say the rest of the characters were minor-ish but they still played considerable roles in the story. Ashlynn, one of Mia’s closest friends in the school had a great attitude, made me lol plenty and I loved her devil may care attitude. Lotti was another one of Mia’s friends and she grew on me quickly! I loved her deadpan reactions and her smarts! Jessamine was enemy #1 and has a similar history to Mia, but she blamed Mia for what she went through. She was a great villain that I continued to strongly dislike until the end. There were lots of other side characters that also really grew on me, like Naev, Hush and I’d even go so far as to say Adonai and Marielle. Unsurprisingly, everyone was tricksy AF and just when you think they’ve got a heart… Well, you can cancel that thought!

Aaaand breathe.

My thoughts are still reeling over that ending. I still can’t believe it! So much… SO MUCH THAT I CAN’T GIVE AWAY! If it isn’t obvious already, I loved Nevernight and as much as my chest actually aches with all the hurtful things, I think I might’ve found myself a new favorite series! I’m so glad that I’ve finally read a book by Kristoff (solo), especially since it’s given me insight into which parts he may have contributed to the Illuminae series, another favorite of mine. I can’t wait to continue this series!

Have you read Nevernight? What’d you think of it? Was your reaction as crazy as mine? LOL let me know in the comments and let’s chat!

Posted in Book Reviews, Fantasy, General Books, Young Adult

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black – #BookReview

Goodreads: The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1)
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Panda Rating:

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever. And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.
Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King. To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences. As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

I read this book for the first time last year and I remember reaching the end and thinking HOLY HELL WTF JUST HAPPENED. Then I realized I had to wait a year to get The Wicked King. Fast forward to now, over a year later, I’ve got TWK in my hands but I haven’t read it yet because I wanted to do a re-read of The Cruel Prince first. In all honesty, I didn’t remember much about the characters or what happened in the story since a year passed. Having finished my second read, my rating is around 3.5-4 stars.

TCP was a fast, engaging read and I found myself flipping through the chapters in record time. I loved the faerie world depicted by Black. It’s full of dark, twisted and evil creatures and it’s almost completely unforgiving, especially if you’re a human. There are so many magical and astonishing creatures that my mind was scrambling to imagine, and THE FOOD! The way that Black describes the food in faerie was mouth-watering. I don’t know how any human could resist it because I would’ve been all over that faster than you can say stop! I really enjoyed the world building, and the thought of a magical world of faerie existing just beyond our sky’s edge and just out of our reach, is always an exciting thought for the kid and fantasy lover in me.

The story was told through Jude’s perspective and I can’t quite make up my mind on how I feel about her. I don’t like her much but I also don’t hate her? She’s selfish and destructive, often makes really questionable decisions, but at the same time… I can’t fault her for being the way she is for having grown up in a world like faerie. She’s consumed by fear 100% of the time, but she turns that fear into something more and it’s really admirable because she’s doing what she needs to survive. She’s gone through some hella traumatic shit, including having to live with her parent’s murderer, and she grows to love him despite what he’s done and despite his violent and calculating nature. If all of that doesn’t mess a person up, I don’t know what will. I grew to like her more in the second-half of the book though. Her ruthlessness and her very twisted relationship with Cardan was a delight to watch play out. Cardan started out as the typical bully and asshole of a prince, who was especially cruel (hence, Cruel Prince) to everyone who displeased him. But as we learn more about his character, we see there’s a lot more than meets the eye, and I did feel for his character (although that doesn’t justify his cruel bullying actions).

The majority of the characters in TCP were (very) morally grey and I think that’s what made the book all the more exciting. Faerie land is nothing like a fairy tale. Everyone is cunning, looking out for themselves, weaving magic with words to avoid telling the truth without outright lying. I was surprised by how political the story was. There’s a lot of royal faerie family drama, including a slew of deaths that reminds me very much of the infamous Red Wedding scene from GoT. It kept me on my toes though! The moral greyness of the characters only proved itself as the second-half of the book progressed and that sneaky ending was just perfection! Oh, I remember how shook I was when reading it the first time. SO SNEAKY!

I enjoyed TCP but it wasn’t my favorite fantasy or the best I’ve ever read. I’m glad that I read it the first time without the hype because if this was my first read of it, I would’ve been pretty disappointed considering how big of a deal it is. That said, I’m really looking forward to finally starting The Wicked King and to see what happens next in this cutthroat fairy world.

Have you read The Cruel Prince? What’d you think of it? Live up to the hype or nah? Leave me a comment below and let’s chat!

Posted in ARC, Book Reviews, Fantasy, General Books, Graphic Novel, LGBTQ+, Middle Grade

Sparrowhawk #1 by Delilah S. Dawson – #ARC #GraphicNovel #Review

Goodreads: Sparrowhawk #1
Publish date: 20 August 2019
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Genre: Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Comic
Rating:

Teen Victorian fairy fight club! As the illegitimate daughter of a Naval Captain, Artemesia has never fit in with her father’s family, nor the high class world to which they belong. However, when she is targeted by the Faerie Queen and pulled into another realm, she has no choice but to try and save the world that has always hated her. Writer Delilah S. Dawson (Hellboy: An Assortment of Horror, Star Wars: Forces of Destiny) and artist Matias Basla (The Claw and Fang) present a beautiful, gripping tale perfect for fans of Labyrinth and Princeless. 

Sparrowhawk is a fast paced, well drawn comic. The artwork is full of bold colors although the style itself is not one that I’m usually drawn to or prefer. That said, I thought it suited the strangeness of this story. I liked the artwork on the chapter/title pages more than I did the artwork throughout the comic, but I loved the contrast of the colorful against the brutal, gruesome and dark faerie world story. The plot itself reminded me of elements of Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland, which the author also mentioned as her inspiration in the afterword.

I found the story interesting. Artemesia is the daughter of a colonizer and a slave woman who grew up in a family that was cruel and didn’t want her. After being forced into a situation she doesn’t want to be in, Art finds herself being pulled into the faerie realm, having been replaced by the Faerie Queen in her world. In faerie, Art meets a demonic bunny (reminiscent of the cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland) who makes a pact to help her get back home, in exchange for one of Art’s memories. Art must go through faerie slaying monstrosities in order to get back home, and along the way she encounters both the good and evil creatures of faerie, including the gentle faerie prince, whom she falls in love with. How far will she go to get back home?

Art was a strong willed character who was fiercely determined to go home. Her transformation from a thoughtful human, to a monster who enjoys killing as much as any unseelie, was disturbing. It begs the question: how far would you go to do what you think is right, even if it turns you into someone who you don’t like. The side characters were all very interesting as well and although he was an evil, twisted thing I really enjoyed the demonic bunny’s character.

I liked the sinister vibes of the ending and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next and how Art will deal with the repercussions of her actions.

Thanks to NetGalley and BOOM! Studios for providing the e-ARC for an honest review.
Have you read Sparrowhawk? Loved it? Hated it? Meh about it? Come let me know in the comments and let’s chat!