Book Review: The Wolf and the Water – Josie Jaffrey

Book Review: The Wolf and the Water – Josie Jaffrey


Series:
Deluge #1
Release Date: October 6th 2020
Publisher: Silver Sun Books
Pages: 268
Find it on: Goodreads. Amazon.
Source: The author kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 3.75/5 stars

Synopsis

Some secrets are worth killing for.

The ancient city of Kepos sits in an isolated valley, cut off from the outside world by a towering wall. Behind it, the souls of the dead clamour for release. Or so the priesthood says.

Kala has never had any reason to doubt their word – until her father dies in suspicious circumstances that implicate the city’s high priest. She’s determined to investigate, but she has a more immediate problem: the laws of the city require her mother to remarry straight away.

Kala’s new stepfather is a monster, but his son Leon is something altogether more dangerous: kind.

With her family fractured and the investigation putting her life in danger, the last thing Kala needs is romance. She would rather ignore Leon entirely, however difficult he makes it. But when she learns the truth of what really clamours behind the wall at the end of the valley, she faces a choice: share what she knows and jeopardise her escape, or abandon him to his fate along with the rest of the city.

If she doesn’t move fast, then no one will make it out of the valley alive.

Review

The Wolf and the Water is the first in an all new series from Josie Jaffrey, set in the ancient city of Kepos. The story follows Kala, a young girl who loses her father in mysterious circumstances. Her mother is remarried to a cruel man looking to gain more power in his position as head of the household. As Kala attempts to investigate the death of her father she uncovers a secret long hidden in the city of Kepos and must do everything she can to keep herself and her loved ones alive.

I’ve previously read Josie Jaffrey’s Sovereign series so when I heard she had a new release coming out I was really intrigued. The Wolf and the Water is a fascinating tale and one I absolutely raced through. The story if full to the brim with mythology and the world building is well executed in the story. I was completely hooked on the story and the world that Jaffrey created. The story is a fast paced one and ends on a bit of a cliffhanger making me desperate to find out what’s in store in book two.

The thing that intrigued me most about The Wolf and the Water is the complex characters and their relationships in this story. I really liked our main protagonist Kala – she’s strong willed and determined to survive even if she is cast out from her family. I really liked seeing her relationship develop with Leon, and I really liked Lissa too. Nikos is a brilliant villain and is well depicted as the power hungry stepfather.

The story is full of mystery and it kept me hooked right till the very last page. If you’re looking for a fresh new fantasy with a unique setting and complex characters, this is definitely one to add to your wishlist.

Book Review: Skyward Inn – Aliya Whiteley

Book Review: Skyward Inn – Aliya Whiteley


Release Date: March 16th 2021
Publisher: Solaris
Pages: 336
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4.25/5 stars

Synopsis

This is a place where we can be alone, together.

Skyward Inn, on the moorlands of the Western Protectorate, is removed from modern technology and politics. Theirs is a quiet life – The Protectorate has stood apart from the coalition of world powers that has formed. Instead the inhabitants choose to live simply, many of them farming by day and drinking the local brew at night.

The co-owners of the inn are Jem and Isley. Jem, a veteran of the coalitions’ war on the perfect, peaceful planet of Qita, has a smile for everyone in the bar. Her partner Isley does his cooking in the kitchen and his brewing in the cellar. He’s Qitan, but it’s all right – the locals treat him like one of their own. They think they understand him, but it’s only Jem who knows his homeland well enough to recreate it in the stories she tells him at dawn.

Skyward Inn is Jamaica Inn by way of Ursula Le Guin, bringing the influences, too, of Angela Carter, Michel Faber and Jeff Vandermeer to create a fantastic story of love, belonging, and togetherness. Asking questions of ideas of the individual and the collective, of ownership and historical possession, and of the experience of being human, it is at once timeless and thoroughly of its time.

Review

Skyward Inn is the strange and beautiful story of Jem and Isley – the co-owners of an inn in the moorlands of the Western Protectorate. Their life is a quiet one, away from the modern advancements in technology and politics. We are similarly introduced to Fosse – Jem’s son who lives with his Uncle. All three characters are trying to find acceptance in this world and survive a world of aliens and travel between planets.

Skyward Inn is quite a quiet story. It has some absolutely stunning prose and it pulls you in with its beautiful words and the intricate world building. It’s not an overly big book and I found myself becoming completely lost in the story – I pretty much read the book in one sitting on a Sunday afternoon.

Whiteley has created some incredibly fascinating characters all of whom are searching for something. The story focuses on acceptance, community and the idea of belonging. It’s a cleverly executed tale and one that has definitely made me keen to read more from Aliya Whiteley. The relationships in this story were really interesting – particularly the strained relationship between Jem and her son Fosse.

Skyward Inn is a moving and thought provoking tale, completely unlike anything I’ve read before. It’s a clever story and one I can’t recommend highly enough.

Book Review: Star Daughter – Shveta Thakrar

Book Review: Star Daughter – Shveta Thakrar


Release Date:
August 11th 2020
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 435
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 3.75/5 stars

Synopsis

If the night sky holds many secrets, it holds Sheetal Mistry’s secret the closest. A secret that explains why her hair is the silver of starlight, or why some nights the stars call Sheetal by name.

Stars like her mother, who returned to her place in the constellation Pushya years ago. Since that day, Sheetal has been forced to hide.

But as her seventeenth birthday draws near, the pull from the sky is growing stronger. So strong that Sheetal loses control, and a flare of starfire burns her human father—an injury only a full star’s blood can heal.

Sheetal has no choice but to answer the starsong and ascend to the sky. But her celestial family has summoned her for a reason: to act as their human champion in a competition to decide the next ruling house of heavens.

Desperate to save her father, Sheetal agrees. But nothing could have prepared Sheetal to face the stars’ dark history—or the forces that are working to shut the gate between the realms for good.

Review

Star Daughter is a beautifully written story inspired by Hindu mythology that follows Sheetal a young girl who is part star. When she is summoned to the celestial court Sheetal is forced to participate in a competition that decides who will be the next ruler of the heavens. With no choice but to agree, Sheetal participates in the competition, but as she learns more about the history of the celestial court she soon sees that all is not what it seems.

This was such a gorgeous, lyrical tale and honestly I didn’t want it to end. I really loved the writing style in this one and I actually had hoped there would be a sequel because the world Thakrar has created was absolutely fascinating. I loved learning about the celestial court and the families that ruled the heavens. Seeing Sheetal come into her star powers was all a really interesting part of the story.

A competition is one of my favourite YA tropes and it is executed incredibly well in this story. I loved seeing the different performances and competitors. I really liked the characters and in particular the strong focus on family and friendship. There is a romance element to the story, but I found myself less interested in this and more about Sheetal overcoming her feelings of guilt, making it through the competition and saving her father.

The story is really quick paced and it’s a really enjoyable read. It also has one of the most stunning covers I’ve ever seen. If you’re a fan of YA fantasy that’s full to the brim with mythology and really lovely writing, this one will be a must read.

Book Review: A Court of Lions – Somaiya Daud

Book Review: A Court of Lions – Somaiya Daud


Series:
Mirage #2 (See my review of book one here!)
Release Date: August 6th 2020
Publisher: Hodder Books
Pages: 336
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I bought a copy of this from Book Depository.
Rating: 3.75/5 stars

Synopsis

Two identical girls, one a princess, the other a rebel. Who will rule the empire?

After being swept up into the brutal Vathek court, Amani, the ordinary girl forced to serve as the half-Vathek princess’s body double, has been forced into complete isolation. The cruel but complex princess, Maram, with whom Amani had cultivated a tenuous friendship, discovered Amani’s connection to the rebellion and has forced her into silence, and if Amani crosses Maram once more, her identity – and her betrayal – will be revealed to everyone in the court.

Amani is desperate to continue helping the rebellion, to fight for her people’s freedom. But she must make a devastating decision: will she step aside, and watch her people suffer, or continue to aid them, and put herself and her family in mortal danger? And whatever she chooses, can she bear to remain separated, forever, from Maram’s fiancé, Idris?

Review

Court of Lions is the second book in the Mirage duology. The story picks up straight after the events of book one and we’re still following Amani as she is forced into life as Maram’s body double. Amani has a difficult decision to make as tensions continue to rise and the spark of rebellion is ignited. Is she willing to sacrifice everything to save her people and can she help Maram to become the Queen her country so desperately needs?

Mirage was one of my favourite reads of 2019. I flew through it in a single day and I absolutely fell in love with the characters. Court of Lions was one of my most anticipated releases of 2020 and while I did really enjoy it, it didn’t quite hit the mark for me. It’s a really solid book but I just didn’t connect with the story in the same way I did Mirage. In this second book it focuses much more on court politics, of Amani gathering followers and helping Maram to stand up for herself. Until the last few chapters the stakes didn’t feel as high – when the rebellion actually kicked off I couldn’t put the book down, but I struggled a little in the middle.

One of the stand out things about Mirage are the brilliant characters and the complex female relationships. I loved seeing Amani and Maram continue to grow and work together for the good of the country. I also really liked the romance that developed Maram and Aghraas. Court of Lions offered a satisfying conclusion to a really fascinating story and I’m keen to read more from Somaiya Daud in the future.

Book Review: The Canary Keeper – Clare Carson

Book Review: The Canary Keeper – Clare Carson


Release Date:
February 6th 2020
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Pages: 384
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy to review
Rating: 3/5 stars

Synopsis

“In the grey mist of the early morning a body is dumped on the shore of the Thames by a boatman in a metal canoe. The city is soon alive with talk of the savage Esquimaux stalking Victorian London and an eye witness who claims the killer had an accomplice: a tall woman dressed in widow’s weeds, with the telltale look of the degenerate Irish.

Branna ‘Birdie’ Quinn had no good reason to be by the river that morning, but she did not kill the man. She’d seen him first the day before, desperate to give her a message she refused to hear. And now the Filth will see her hang for his murder, just like her father.

To save her life, Birdie must trace the dead man’s footsteps. Back onto the ship that carried him to his death, back to cold isles of Orkney that sheltered him, and up to the far north, a harsh and lawless land which holds more answers than she looks to find…

Review

The Canary Keeper is the dark and compelling story of set in Victorian London. When a body is discovered on the banks of the the Thames an eye witness claims that the killer’s accomplice is a young Irish woman living London. Her father was hanged for murder and soon she becomes caught up in the murder, with the police accusing her of being the killer’s accomplice. In order to clear her name Birdie has to flee for her life and to trace the footsteps of the man she is accused of killing. Her search takes her to the remote town of Orkney where she begins to find that there is more to this murder than she could possibly have realised.

The Canary Keeper was a really interesting story, with plenty of twists I didn’t guess. It kept me guessing right till the very end – I didn’t figure out who was behind the mysteries until they were revealed. Carson creates a really strong sense of atmosphere and I really loved the two contrasting settings – the murky, dark banks of the Thames and the wild harsh landscape of Orkney.

While I enjoyed the mystery I did find the book quite slow paced and particularly around the middle I found the story dragging a little. I wanted to know who was behind the mystery and unravelled a bit slowly for my liking. Despite this I still found the book a really fascinating one and really liked the strong female characters that Carson brought to life in this story.

The Canary Keeper is an atmospheric and enjoyable read, particularly for a dark winter evening. If you’re a fan of historical mystery/thrillers this would definitely be one to pick up.

Book Review: Kingdom of the Wicked – Kerri Maniscalco

Book Review: Kingdom of the Wicked – Kerri Maniscalco


Series:
Kingdom of the Wicked #1
Release Date: October 27th 2020
Publisher: Hodder Books
Pages: 448
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Synopsis

Two sisters.

One brutal murder.

A quest for vengeance that will unleash Hell itself…

And an intoxicating romance.

Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin…desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister’s killer and to seek vengeance at any cost-even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, one of the Wicked-princes of Hell she has been warned against in tales since she was a child. Wrath claims to be on Emilia’s side, tasked by his master with solving the series of women’s murders on the island. But when it comes to the Wicked, nothing is as it seems…

Review

Kingdom of the Wicked is the first in an all new series from Kerri Maniscalco. This is my first time reading a book by this author – I’ve long been intrigued by her Stalking Jack the Ripper series but I’ve never gotten around to reading it. When I heard she was releasing a new book featuring princes from Hell and a quest for vengeance, I was immediately sold. This is a dark and compelling tale – it’s beautifully told and definitely one of my favourite reads of 2020.

The story follows twin sisters Emilia and Vittoria. The sisters come from a long line of witches who live secretly among humans. When Vittoria is brutally murdered Emilia swears she will find out who the killer was and have her vengeance. She will stop at nothing to find out who is behind it – even using the dark magic her Nonna has forbidden her to use.

I absolutely loved this book. I loved the vivid Italian setting, the fascinating magic system and the idea of the seven princes of hell. Emilia’s family run a restaurant and there’s quite a lot of descriptions of food that sounded so incredible it made me want to get on a plane to Italy right now. The story is really fast paced and there’s plenty of action as Emilia tries to solve the murderers, out-manoeuvre the princes of hell and battle some demons in between.

The characters are also incredibly well depicted in this story. Emilia is a clever and headstrong protagonist. She does what she has to do to protect her family and find out the truth of Vittoria’s murder. I also thought Wrath was a brilliant character – he’s so sarcastic and aloof, I absolutely loved seeing the banter and relationship evolve between the two.

Kingdom of the Wicked was a book I didn’t want to end and as soon as I turned that last page I was desperate for more. If you’ve been curious about this one I’d definitely recommend picking it up and I will be eagerly awaiting the second instalment in the series.

Blog Tour: The Game Weavers – Rebecca Zahabi

Blog Tour: The Game Weavers – Rebecca Zahabi


Release Date:
October 25th 2020
Publisher: ZunTold Publishing
Pages: 336
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis

Seo is Twine’s youth champion.

We are in a darker Britain and the national sport is not football but Twine, a game where weavers craft creatures from their fingertips to wage battle against others in vast arenas, watched by thousands.

But we are living in intolerant times and Seo harbours a secret. When he is outed as gay by the media, Seo cannot use his magic to save him.

With the help of his brother Minjun and Jack, the man he can’t quite decide if he loves or not, Seo has to fight to get his life back on track whilst facing the biggest match of his career.

A fantastical yet hauntingly contemporary debut novel from Rebecca Zahabi.

Review

The Game Weavers is the absolutely fascinating debut novel from Rebecca Zahabi. The story follows Seo, a young man who is a champion at Britain’s national sport Twine – a game in which the player must create creatures that battle each other in huge arenas. Despite the futuristic game society has become even more intolerant and when the media outs Seo as gay, he has to fight to get his life back on track as well as continue to compete in the legendary game.

Zahabi has created a really fresh and unique premise, and I found this story to be incredibly gripping. I absolutely loved the idea of Twine, a fighting game similar to the idea of Pokemon in which creatures must battle each other. The story was well paced and I enjoyed learning about the game and the world that Zahabi has brought to life. I really enjoyed her writing style and it was so easy to sink into this brilliant debut novel.

The Game Weavers features a diverse cast of characters and I really liked Seo as a main protagonist. I was really rooting for him and it was interesting seeing him attempt to get his life back to normal, figure out his feeling for Jack as well as play in the game. All the characters were well created and I also really liked the sibling relationship between Seo and Minjun.

The story focuses on homophobia and as such there are some trigger warnings for this. I thought the subject was well handled and the idea of being true to yourself really shined through in the story. The Game Weavers is a well crafted novel with a unique and engaging premise. This is a very impressive debut and I’m excited to see what Rebecca Zahabi writes next.

Blog Tour: Poisoned – Jennifer Donnelly

Blog Tour: Poisoned – Jennifer Donnelly


Release Date:
October 20th 2020
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Pages: 320
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 3.75/5

Synopsis

From Jennifer Donnelly, author of the acclaimed New York Times bestseller Stepsister, comes a fairytale retelling that’ll forever change the way you think about strength, power, and the real meaning of “happily ever after.”
Once upon a time, a girl named Sophie rode into the forest with the queen’s huntsman. Her lips were the color of ripe cherries, her skin as soft as new-fallen snow, her hair as dark as midnight. When they stopped to rest, the huntsman pulled out his knife . . . and took Sophie’s heart.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Sophie had heard the rumors, the whispers. They said she was too kind and foolish to rule — a waste of a princess. A disaster of a future queen. And Sophie believed them. She believed everything she’d heard about herself, the poisonous words people use to keep girls like Sophie from becoming too powerful, too strong . . .

With the help of seven mysterious strangers, Sophie manages to survive. But when she realizes that the jealous queen might not be to blame, Sophie must find the courage to face an even more terrifying enemy, proving that even the darkest magic can’t extinguish the fire burning inside every girl, and that kindness is the ultimate form of strength.

Review

Poisoned is the new release from acclaimed author Jennifer Donnelly, author of Stepsister. Having read and really enjoyed Stepsister last year, I was really intrigued how Donnelly was going to take the tale of Snow White and turn it on its head. The story follows Sophie, a princess who ventures into the forest with the huntsman. While there he removes Sophie’s heart. The kingdom had been awash that she was never fit to rule, that she was too soft and sweet to be a good Queen and so she isn’t surprised by the assassination attempt. Sophie manages to survive and with the help of seven strangers, must face a horrifying enemy and prove that kindness can be just as strong as hate.

Much like Stepsister, Poisoned is a dark and gripping feminist retelling of a story we all know and love. I really enjoyed the way that Donnelly adapted the story and brought something new to the tale. This is such a fun feminist retelling and I ended up racing through it. The chapters are pretty short so I often found myself saying ‘oh just one more’ and then still being there ten chapters later.

The world building is well done in this story, and I loved the feminist perspective in this book. The story is obviously a bit darker and bloodier than the Disney version but it’s still full of whimsy like a traditional fairy tale. Donnelly has a really beautiful writing style and I loved the vivid descriptions of the forest and the creatures that dwell there. The one thing I struggled with was that I felt the pacing was a bit off – some parts were really fast paced and others were much slower and this threw me out of the story a little.

The thing that made this story for me was the characters. Donnelly has created some really fascinating characters and we are treated to multiple POVs in this story. All the characters felt well fleshed out and I really liked Sophie as a main character. Poisoned is a dark and compelling tale and if you’re looking for a fresh take on a beloved fairytale, this will absolutely be up your street.

Blog Tour: Ashes of the Sun – Django Wexler

Blog Tour: Ashes of the Sun – Django Wexler


Series:
Burningblade & Silvereye #1
Release Date: October 1st 2020
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Pages: 464
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis

Long ago, a magical war destroyed an empire, and a new one was built in its ashes. But still the old grudges simmer, and two siblings will fight on opposite sides to save their world in the start of Django Wexler’s new epic fantasy trilogy.

Gyre hasn’t seen his beloved sister since their parents sold her to the mysterious Twilight Order. Now, twelve years after her disappearance, Gyre’s sole focus is revenge, and he’s willing to risk anything and anyone to claim enough power to destroy the Order.

Chasing rumors of a fabled city protecting a powerful artifact, Gyre comes face-to-face with his lost sister. But she isn’t who she once was. Trained to be a warrior, Maya wields magic for the Twilight Order’s cause. Standing on opposite sides of a looming civil war, the two siblings will learn that not even the ties of blood will keep them from splitting the world in two.

Review

Ashes of the Sun is the first in an all new epic fantasy series from Django Wexler. This is my first time reading a book by this author and I had so much fun! The story follows Gyre, who hasn’t seen his sister since his parents sold her off to the Twilight Order. Hellbent on seeking revenge for his sister, Gyre goes in search of an artifact that will give him enough power to destroy the Order, but in doing so finds his long lost sister. She is much changed, a hardened warrior for the Order. As civil war looms, the two find themselves on opposite sides of what is sure to be a devastating fight.

Ashes of the Sun is a really gripping read and a fantastic opening book to the series. The world building is superb and I was fascinating by this world that is still attempting to rebuild after a magic war. I really enjoyed Wexler’s writing style and it was easy to become completely absorbed in the story. The story was well paced, giving the reader time to understand the world without being info-dumpy. There was plenty of action to keep the reader hooked and I found it particularly hard to put the book down during the fighting scenes.

Wexler has created some truly brilliant characters in this book. We are treated to the POVs of Maya and Gyre and I really liked both characters. I loved seeing the relationship dynamics change as the story progressed. Gyre in particular I found fascinating, he’s so determined to get revenge he will stop at nothing. While it is quite a serious story there are plenty light-hearten moments in the story too, particularly in the witty banter between the characters.

All in all Wexler has created a really fascinating and compelling story and I can’t wait to find out what happens in the next instalment. If you’re looking for an excellently plotted epic fantasy to keep you hooked over the winter months this should absolutely be your next read.

Blog Tour: The Nesting – C J Cooke

Blog Tour: The Nesting – C J Cooke


Release Date:
October 15th 2020
Publisher: HarperFiction
Pages: 416
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Synopsis

The woods are creeping in on a nanny and two young girls in this chilling modern Gothic thriller.

Architect Tom Faraday is determined to finish the high-concept, environmentally friendly home he’s building in Norway – in the same place where he lost his wife, Aurelia, to suicide. It was their dream house, and he wants to honor her with it.

Lexi Ellis takes a job as his nanny and immediately falls in love with his two young daughters, especially Gaia. But something feels off in the isolated house nestled in the forest along the fjord. Lexi sees mysterious muddy footprints inside the home. Aurelia’s diary appears in Lexi’s room one day. And Gaia keeps telling her about seeing the terrifying Sad Lady…

Soon Lexi suspects that Aurelia didn’t kill herself and that they are all in danger from something far more sinister lurking around them.

Review

The Nesting is the beautifully haunting story of Lexi Ellis, a young woman who takes the job of nanny for two young girls at a remote home in Norway. Their architect father has just finished building the house to in the same place his wife Aurelia committed suicide. As Lexi grows closer with the young children she starts to see and hear strange things in the isolated home. When she discovers Aureila’s diary she soon begins to suspect that perhaps the cause of death was not suicide and that other things are lurking in the house.

This one originally caught my eye because I was captivated by that absolutely stunning cover. I love thrillers with a supernatural touch so I already thought I was going to love this one. Cooke’s writing style in this is brilliant, she creates that slow creeping sense of dread and this book definitely sent a shiver up my spine in more than one occasion. I loved the remote setting for the story and it really came to life in Cooke’s words.

The Nesting is full to the brim with atmosphere and I found it so hard to put this one down. I ended up reading the last hundred and fifty pages in a single sitting because I just had to know how it was going to end. The story is reminiscent of Ruth Ware’s The Turn of the Key but I found The Nesting to be a more addictive read. I really liked the characters in this story, they felt relatable and well developed. I really liked Lexi as a main character and I really enjoyed the way that Cooke weaved the stories of Lexi and Aurelia together.

This eerie, haunting tale is absolutely perfect reading for Autumn, it’s the kind of book you can’t tear your eyes away from. I loved every second of this book and can’t wait to read more from C. J. Cooke.