Review: Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

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wickedsaintsWicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

My Rating: 3.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Something Dark and Holy #1

Date Published: April 2nd, 2019

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Pages: 400 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

Wicked Saints was one of my most anticipated novels of the year, though I was a combination of excited and wary to read it. This seemed like one of those plots that I would really get into or just not enjoy at all. And while I didn’t absolutely love it, it still ended up falling into that first category and I had a pretty good time with it. From the vivid characterization to the unique and intriguing magic systems, I was sucked into this novel very quickly. A dark tale full of diverse characters and a vividly depicted setting, this proved to be an interesting read.

The countries of Kalyazin and Tranavia have been locked in a war that has spanned nearly a century and there still seems to be no end in sight. Nadya, an orphan who has lived within a monastery all her life, is not only there for training but also for her own protection. She is the first Kalyazin in many years to possess magic—a magic that allows her to communicate with the gods and goddesses and receive powers from them. If she were to fall into the hands of the Tranavians it would mean the downfall of Kalyazin. As she runs from the Tranavians, desperate to survive and determined to keep the religion of Kalyazin alive, she must draw on her great bravery to try and end the war while accepting the help of some people she is hesitant to trust.

The narrative starts off extremely fast-paced—perhaps a bit too fast-paced. We are thrown into the action immediately and while I do like books that really get into things quickly, I felt that it would have been nice to have a just little bit more exposition in the first few pages. There is not a whole lot that lets us know who the characters are, their relationships, nor what their situation is. Also, we know very little about the initial setting before we are thrown out of it. This made it a little hard to form my first connections with the characters and I felt that the scene that ensues definitely needed that.

That being said, when Duncan begins to reveal more information and backstory throughout the following chapters, she does a good job of working it into the narrative. I found things to be a bit confusing for a little too long at the beginning, but I felt that everything was cleared up at some point. There are no major info dumps or any slowing of the pace as she reveals these facts, which is a trap that is quite easy to fall into.

Each piece of description about the characters and the magic system fits into the moment—they are relevant to what is taking place in the main narrative and are seamlessly sewn throughout the plot. Formatting the story this way also allows Duncan to show rather than tell while building the world. She does a great job of giving the reader knowledge of an aspect such as the characters’ personalities through showing their exchanges with each other and how they interact with the environment.

Speaking of the characters, they were a very strong element of this novel. She does a good job of not only creating three-dimensional characters but also depicting how they change and evolve over the course of the narrative. The good guys were easy to love and the villains were fun to hate. I particularly liked the portrayal of the gods and goddesses and how Nadya interacts with them. I also really liked Serefin and how Duncan built his character (at this point, I’m fairly sure I just have a thing for bad boys). I found him to be a particularly interesting and complex character who captured my attention right from the start. My only complaint character-wise was the romance. To be fair, I am extremely hard to please when it comes to romance in novels and this was one I was just not sold on.

Duncan builds the world in which this story unfolds very well. Her descriptions are very vivid and detailed—they truly pull the reader in. She has a wonderful talent for writing. Her words flowed beautifully and easily carried me all the way through to the final page. Very lyrical and captivating, her words were so enjoyable to read. I absolutely loved the Russian and Polish influences in all aspects of this book. Duncan clearly put a huge amount of time and effort into incorporating these cultures into the creation of everything from the setting to the magic systems.

The magic was one of my absolute favorite parts of the plot. Nadya’s magic as a cleric particularly caught my attention. As I said early, I found it to be extremely unique as it was completely based around the gods and goddesses of the world in this novel. I loved learning about each of the gods and goddess and what sort of powers they each bestowed on Nadya. I did feel that she fell a bit into the “special-snowflake” category, but that did not bother me as much as it can in some stories. And though she was not as strong a lead as I hoped she would be, I still liked hearing her story. Overall, I quite enjoyed this novel. I am definitely interested enough to continue on with this series as the next installments come out.

3.5 TARDISes

Author Bio:

Emily A. DuncanEMILY A. DUNCAN works as a youth services librarian. She received a Master’s degree in library science from Kent State University, which mostly taught her how to find obscure Slavic folklore texts through interlibrary loan systems. When not reading or writing, she enjoys playing copious amounts of video games and dungeons and dragons. Wicked Saints is her first book. She lives in Ohio.

Social Links:

Website: https://eaduncan.com/
Twitter: @glitzandshadows
Instagram: @glitzandshadows
Tumblr: http://glitzandshadows.tumblr.com/

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Review: Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

theassassinsapprenticeAssassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: The Farseer Trilogy #1

Date Published: April 1st, 1995

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Pages: 392 pages

Source: Purchased

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: In a faraway land where members of the royal family are named for the virtues they embody, one young boy will become a walking enigma.

Born on the wrong side of the sheets, Fitz, son of Chivalry Farseer, is a royal bastard, cast out into the world, friendless and lonely. Only his magical link with animals – the old art known as the Wit – gives him solace and companionship. But the Wit, if used too often, is a perilous magic, and one abhorred by the nobility.

So when Fitz is finally adopted into the royal household, he must give up his old ways and embrace a new life of weaponry, scribing, courtly manners; and how to kill a man secretly, as he trains to become a royal assassin.

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This is a spoiler-free review.

I went into this novel with what seemed like absurdly high expectations and it managed to not only meet but exceed all of those expectations. Having heard so many wonderful things about Robin Hobb’s novels, I was certain I would enjoy it, but I never expected to fall so in love with this absolutely beautiful piece of literature. Assassin’s Apprentice captivated me from page one. Literally. One day, I picked it up just to try out a few pages and there was no stopping me after that. I devoured every aspect of this narrative, was enchanted by the magic, enthralled by the political intrigue, and surprised by all the twists and turns. This world and its characters completely ensnared me and I never wanted to leave.

In this novel, we follow Fitz, son of Chivalry Farseer, and a royal bastard. As a young boy, he is abandoned and sent to live in the royal household where he is written off, shunned by most he comes across. He begins his time here living with the stable master, Burrich, and finding what little companionship he has with the animals he works and lives with. When a magical art, called the Wit, makes itself evident within him, he finds peace, and even love, with the intense link this power allows him to have with his animal friends. Despite the danger of it and the nobility’s distaste for such powers, it is his lifeline in a world that wishes he never existed.

From the day he gets dropped off at the Farseer door, we are witness to many years of Fitz’s struggle to fit in, grow up, and to simply just survive as a reluctantly tolerated member of this royal family. When he one day garners the attention of the king, he is thrust into a life of lessons that befit a child of the Farseer name—and there is something more. Under cover of night, Fitz is being trained to become a powerful, royal assassin. And with strange goings-on at court and the growing underpinnings of corruption among royals, Fitz may just have his work cut out for him.

Robin Hobb’s writing is some of the most beautiful writing I have ever read. She completely captures the high fantasy style of the ‘80s and ‘90s, which I have always thought had such a unique and particularly enchanting quality to it. This is the sort of writing that truly made me into the fantasy lover that I am today, and there was this very poignantly nostalgic feel that wrapped around me until the final page. To say she has a talent for crafting an emotionally vivid and intriguingly complex narrative is an understatement. The way she has woven each and every element seamlessly together to create a multi-layered and unforgettable tale is remarkable.

Now, when I say this novel is complex, I definitely do not mean that it is challenging to follow or understand. Personally, I was blown away by how easily I fell into the many branches of this storyline. There is so much intricate detailed poured into every moment—into every event and setting and relationship. Years go by and new knowledge, twists, and turns fill each page and never once does it become muddled or overwhelming. Hobb writes in such a way that effortlessly carries you over every single page, not allowing you to get lost along the way. So many stories and so many characters and so many twists, yet not one bit of it is left unresolved.

And as if I haven’t been gushing enough already, there is still the topic of the characters. These marvelous, three-dimensional characters that are the driving force of this novel. Fitz is an incredibly strong lead character, someone who is easy to connect and sympathize with. His story is equal parts heart-wrenching and heart-pounding, and it is impossible not to cheer for him all the way. He faces such massive obstacles and stands up to them, persevering in the most unlikely circumstances. Fitz is not one of those flawless heroes—every aspect of his life, every success and failure, is chronicled in these pages. His growth throughout the narrative as he fights to give himself a life is awe-inspiring.

Every single character Robin Hobb creates in this story is multi-dimensional and fully fleshed out. They are all made into a significant element of the overall narrative, contributing in some way, however small, to the unfolding of the plot. I thought Hobb did a brilliant job building each and every one of her characters with care and precision.

Chade and the Fool were two of my absolute favorites. From the second they enter, they are both depicted with a vivid and striking characterization that makes them unforgettable. Another favorite of mine was Verity Farseer. He is truly a gentleman—a compassionate, intelligent, and hard-working man who stands up for what he believes in and puts the welfare of his people above anything else. And, just on a side note, he may also be one of my new book boyfriends.

As I am sure you have already guessed, I adored this novel with all my heart, and it has turned me into a complete Robin Hobb addict. This was such a satisfying read and is one that will continue to stick with me throughout my entire life, both as a reader and as a writer. It is this type of work that inspires me so greatly when it comes to my own personal writing, as fantasy is my genre of choice.

It is rare to find a book that impacts me quite as much as this one did—one that rekindles that initial feeling I had as I discovered my love of reading—and which reminds me why I am so passionate about literature. The next book, Royal Assassin, is sitting in front of me as we speak, and I am so eager to throw myself back into this world. If you have not tried out Robin Hobb’s novels, I highly recommend giving this one a go.

5.0 TARDISes

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Review: The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras

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thehuntforthemadwolfsdaughterThe Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras

My Rating: 4.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Mad Wolf’s Daughter #2

Date Published: March 5th, 2019

Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books

Pages: 288 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: In this Scottish medieval adventure, after attempting a daring rescue of her war-band family, Drest learns that Lord Faintree’s traitorous uncle has claimed the castle for his own and convinced the knights that the lord has been slain . . . by her hand. Now with a hefty price on her head, Drest must find a way to escape treacherous knights, all the while proving to her father, the “Mad Wolf of the North,” and her irrepressible band of brothers that she is destined for more than a life of running and hiding. Even if that takes redefining what it means to be a warrior.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review, but does contain some spoilers for the previous novel, The Mad Wolf’s Daughter.

I read and absolutely adored the first novel in this series, The Mad Wolf’s Daughter but, at the time, I believed it would be a standalone. So a few months ago, when I discovered there would be a sequel, I was ecstatic. And this novel absolutely did not disappoint. It is impossible to not be pulled into this story and become wrapped up in the lives of these vivid characters. The plot is exciting and action-packed, filled with heart-pounding moments and intriguing twists that add further depth into this world Magras has created. It takes readers on an incredibly fun journey with a remarkably brave young girl and a tale of love and friendship at its center.

This novel picks up exactly where the last one left off, as Drest, her family, and her newfound friends are on the run from the traitorous Lord Oswyn and his knights. With her brothers free from Faintree Castle’s prison and Emerick rescued from his uncle, the group finds themselves facing a dangerous and powerful enemy. Their situation is made even worse as Drest finds out Sir Oswyn has put a large price on her head, which means finding trustworthy allies is all the more difficult. As they fight to take back the castle and restore the rightful ruler, Drest is determined to prove to her family that they deserve more than a life of running and fighting and, in the process, learn what it truly means to be a warrior.

This story is equally as captivating as its predecessor. As in the previous novel, Magras’ writing is absolutely beautiful. Between the strength of her narrative and the vibrancy of her world and characters, she creates a truly immersive experience. She clearly depicts the Scottish headland and gives the reader a good idea of the type of environment and terrain the characters are dealing with. The language and slang used further adds to the realism and allows the reader to easily imagine both the time period the story takes place in and the voices of each individual character.

Her writing style has this sort of classic fantasy novel feel to it, which personally transports me back to my childhood as I grew up devouring everything in this genre. It is a story that is very warm and inviting. Magras weaves the setting, the characters’ lives, and the political intrigue of the plot together in a way that enraptures the reader. The themes of love, strength, and courage—of loyalty to those you love the most—are depicted extremely well. Becoming wrapped up in this story is such an enjoyable experience, one that I never want to end.

Drest is a strong female lead—truly living up to her role as a warrior and a legend. I absolutely loved getting the chance to see more of her story and how she has and continues to grow and change. She is tough, feisty, and not about to be underestimated. Yet she is also not unrealistically powerful or without faults. There are times when she learns she still needs the help of her friends and family and that they are all at their best when they work together.

I really enjoyed getting to see more of Drest’s relationships with the other characters, particularly between her and her family. Her father and brothers are a huge part of the first novel, but their actual physical presence in the narrative is very short. In this one, we are given an even clearer view of their individual personalities and how they all interact with each other. And of course, it was wonderful to see more of Emerick and Tig. I absolutely adore the friendship between the three of them and how they support each other every step of the way. They are definitely one of my favorite character trios ever.

The only, very minor, problem I had with the plotline was the repetitiveness of some of the scenes. There were many instances of Drest arguing her point of not needing to be taken care of—that women can be strong enough to defend themselves, not always requiring protection. This is one of the key aspects of the plot and something that Drest’s father and brothers, as well as other male characters, come to learn through her actions, and it was a huge part of the first novel as well. She consistently shows that she is completely capable of fighting alongside them.

However, it felt like there were a few too many scenes where they stood around debating this instead of escaping their pursuers or working to fight back. All-in-all, it was not a huge issue and did not stray from the main message of the novel in any way. It was very realistic to see the difficulty the male characters had understanding the strength of a woman, particularly in a time where women are seen as maidens who need to be rescued. There were just times where I felt everyone became a bit too hung up on it when there was really no reason for it in those situations.

This series is definitely one that readers of any age will love. It is a wholesome, well-crafted story depicting the bravery and strength one can find within themselves in the toughest circumstances. Drest is a fantastic and inspiring heroine that not only fights for those she loves but also her ideas and confidence in her own abilities. I am unsure whether there are going to be any further novels in this series but, if there are, that would be absolutely wonderful. I would love to spend more time in this world with these beautiful characters. If you have not checked out these novels yet, I would highly recommend giving them a read.

4.5 TARDISes

Author Bio:

15572575Diane Magras is author of The New York Times Editors’ Choice, The Mad Wolf’s Daughter, as well as its companion novel, The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter. She’s addicted to tea, castles, legends, and most things medieval. She lives in Maine with her husband and son and thinks often of Scotland, where her books are set.

Blog Tour Schedule

Week One: The Mad Wolf’s Daughter

February 25 – Teachers Who Read – Interactive Classroom Activity

February 26 – Little Reader – Moodboard

February 27 – RhythmicBooktrovert – Listicle: Top Five Favorite

February 28 – The Quirky Book Nerd – Listicle: Top Favorite Quotes

March 1 – Some the Wiser – Character Recommendations

Week Two: The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter

March 4 – Teachers Who Read – Review

March 5 – Little Reader – Review + Creative Instagram Picture

March 6 – RhythmicBooktrovert – Review

March 7 – The Quirky Booknerd – Review

March 8 – Some the Wiser – Review + Favorite Quotes

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Review: Song of the Dead by Sarah Glenn Marsh

song of the dead coverSong of the Dead by Sarah Glenn Marsh

My Rating: 4.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Reign of the Fallen #2

Date Published: January 22nd, 2019

Publisher: Razorbill

Pages: 416 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: The Dead must stay buried.

Karthia is nothing like it used to be. The kingdom’s borders are open for the first time in nearly three hundred years, and raising the dead has been outlawed. Odessa is determined to explore the world beyond Karthia’s waters, hoping to heal a heart broken in more ways than she can count. But with Meredy joining the ocean voyage, vanquishing her sorrow will be a difficult task.

Despite the daily reminder of the history they share, Odessa and Meredy are fascinated when their journey takes them to a land where the Dead rule the night and dragons roam the streets. Odessa can’t help being mesmerized by the new magic–and by the girl at her side. But just as she and Meredy are beginning to explore the new world, a terrifying development in Karthia summons them home at once.

Growing political unrest on top of threats from foreign invaders means Odessa and Meredy are thrust back into the lives they tried to leave behind while specters from their past haunt their tenuous relationship. Gathering a force big enough to ward off enemies seems impossible, until one of Queen Valoria’s mages creates a weapon that could make them invincible. As danger continues to mount inside the palace, Odessa fears that without the Dead, even the greatest invention won’t be enough to save their fates.

In this enthralling, heartrending sequel to Reign of the Fallen, Odessa faces the fight of her life as the boundaries between the Dead and the living are challenged in a way more gruesome than ever before.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review, however, it may contain spoilers for the previous novel, Reign of the Fallen.

Song of the Dead was one of my most anticipated books of the year and it definitely did not disappoint. I read the first novel in this series at the beginning of last year and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I adored it—though fantasy is by far my favorite genre, certain aspects of the story are a bit out of my usual comfort zone. However, I was hooked right from the start and fell in love with every aspect. It proved to be incredibly refreshing in a genre that can sometimes get to be a bit repetitive, and it truly distinguished itself from the rest. These books are such addicting reads.

This sequel continued to be more of the same and Marsh constantly impressed me with her talent and creativity. It is a journey both physically and emotionally and it carried the reader right along with it. The themes of strength and courage, sadness and resilience, and the tremendous power of love run through this narrative once again. From the beautifully detailed world to the extremely lovable and diverse cast of characters, it is a tale that is equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming and is sure to stick with you well after turning the final page.

Returning to this world was such a joy and getting to see these characters and their relationships continue to evolve from the last novel was great. So much more dimension is added to an already multifaceted plot. We reconnect with the familiar, but the plot is entirely new and absorbing. Every moment is full of a certain magic with darker and more sinister undercurrents woven throughout. Marsh’s interpretation of necromancy is unique in many ways, which only adds to the intrigue of the narrative. And of course, the animal companions—by far one of the best parts of the story!

Again, the characters ended up being my favorite part of the novel. Marsh approaches diversity in the best way. There is a great deal of representation—particularly LGBT representation—and it makes this novel a fantastic addition to the ever-expanding collection of literature involving these important topics. These elements are not dwelled on or magnified in a way that draws a huge amount of attention. The characters just are who they are, no matter their gender, race, or sexuality. And, as they should be, their differences are completely natural and accepted, both by each other and the reader.

Odessa is an even stronger heroine than in the previous installment and her growth as a character is huge. We see her confronting the painful events in her life, learning and maturing. Her strengths, as well as her flaws, are clearly depicted, which in turn causes her to become an even more multi-dimensional character who is easy to understand and connect with. In fact, this is true of every character. Marsh devotes plenty of time and effort to fleshing them out, making them and their stories incredibly compelling. The romance between Odessa and Meredy begins to really play out and I felt it was executed well—I enjoyed it, and that’s not something I say very often! I thought I would never love anyone quite as much as Evander, who will always be one of my biggest book crushes, but I ended up liking where things went.

Overall, I absolutely love Marsh’s writing and she has quickly become one of my favorite authors. She is always so descriptive and vivid, pulling you into the unique world she has created and building it up around you. Her storytelling style is action-packed and fast-paced but never lacking in detail. She is also an absolute master at creating realistic and relatable characters. I will genuinely read anything and everything she writes. Part of me hates to see this series end, but it concluded in an extremely satisfying way. Once again, my reading coincided with some experiences of great loss in my personal life and again it turned out to be very cathartic, the themes of hurting and healing being especially relatable. This story and these characters will stay with me for a very long time.

4.5 TARDISes

Author Bio:

sarahglennmarshSarah Glenn Marsh has been an avid fantasy reader from the day her dad handed her a copy of The Hobbit and promised it would change her life; she’s been making up words and worlds ever since. When she’s not writing, Sarah enjoys painting, ghost hunting, traveling, and all things nerdy.

She lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband and their menagerie: four rescued greyhounds, a bird, and many fish. She is the author of Fear the Drowning Deep and Reign of the Fallen.

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Review: In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

inanabsentdreamIn an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Wayward Children #4

Date Published: January 8th, 2019

Publisher: Tor

Pages: 208 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: This is the story of a very serious young girl who would rather study and dream than become a respectable housewife and live up to the expectations of the world around her. As well she should.

When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she’s found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the goblin market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well. 

For anyone . . .

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

Just when I think this series cannot possibly get any better, Seanan McGuire does it again. In an Absent Dream is most definitely my favorite installment in the series thus far. Like the other novels in this series, it has taken me months to write a review for it as it is so difficult to find the rights words to do justice to this beautiful piece of literature. This is once again a modern fairytale—a fractured fairytale—that transports the reader into a vividly depicted and enrapturing world. The very exquisite yet bittersweet plot line is filled with a perfect blend of relatable reality and the peculiar, dark, and bizarre elements that make up this unique and captivating series.

This novel is quite reminiscent of the second novel, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, in that it is a prequel following one of the main characters of the series through their door. We follow Katherine Lundy—later a therapist at Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children—beginning when, as a young child, she finds her door. Lundy finds difficulty fitting in and lacks friends in the real world. With books as her only company, she enjoys becoming lost in her imagination, though this comes with the disappointment of knowing any life she could have would never match up. Then, her door appears and she is swept up into the world of the Goblin Market.

The Goblin Market has only three rules: ask for nothing, names have power, and always give fair value. It is a world that revolves around fairness and respect for others. One must always provide fair value for all goods and services or face punishment until all debts are repaid. Here, Lundy discovers herself, what she wants out of life, and a place where she truly fits, something with which she struggles in the real world. However, things are not as straightforward as they seem and she is faced with making a seemingly impossible choice that approaches faster each day.

The world McGuire creates in this novel is easily one of her best. The world she constructs is so rich in detail and she builds it up around the reader. It is as if we could actually step through that door and wander through the Goblin Market. The characters were wonderful—well-constructed and multidimensional—and so easy to fall in love with. Despite the fantastical elements of the plot, McGuire always manages to build characters that are extremely easy to relate to. Lundy is portrayed so well and getting to know her over the course of the book is a unique and enjoyable experience. And Lundy’s relationships with Moon and the Archivist are so beautiful.

As always, the writing is magnificent. I feel that McGuire’s narrative voice and writing style hit the mark particularly well for the type of story she is telling here. It is warm and inviting with a poignant undercurrent of sadness, longing, and even a bit of danger and foreboding. Her words not only convey the tone of the novel, but they also weave an intricate tale that feels seasoned as if it has been passed down through generations. Every emotion is so tangible and it is incredibly easy to connect with the characters—their triumphs, their struggles, everything roots the reader in their lives.

The narrative jumps around quite a bit, with gaps in time that we do not get to see as readers and I was unsure at first how I felt about this. There are intriguing adventures that are only vaguely referenced and part of me longed to experience them. However, this style grew on me quite a lot and I learned to appreciate how this type of progression contributed to the overall message of the story. In this way, the relentless march of time becomes one of the primary themes and it is an absolutely crucial element of the plot.

Refraining from portraying certain major events in Lundy’s life at the Goblin Market further highlights the struggle she goes through and the huge choice that looms over her. She essentially leads a double life, in conflict over her loyalties to her newfound friends and her family—the comforts of home and the excitement and possibility that lies before her behind her door. Getting to see her connection to both environments and the stark contrast between them highlights her inner turmoil.

I am sure it is quite clear by now that I absolutely adored this novel. I still feel that there is so much more to say, but that I have done my best to put my thoughts into words that capture the beauty of this work. McGuire knows all the right ways to anchor her readers in her unique worlds and tell a story that inspires, enchants, and pulls at one’s heartstrings. Each one is even more impactful than the previous. Every novel McGuire writes is truly a piece of art, and this fourth installment once again proves to be an absolute masterpiece. I never want this series to end.

5.0 TARDISes

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Review: Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire

beneaththesugarskyBeneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Wayward Children #3

Date Published: January 9th, 2018

Publisher: Tor

Pages: 174 pages

Source: Purchased

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Beneath the Sugar Sky returns to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. At this magical boarding school, children who have experienced fantasy adventures are reintroduced to the “real” world.

Sumi died years before her prophesied daughter Rini could be born. Rini was born anyway, and now she’s trying to bring her mother back from a world without magic.

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This is a spoiler-free review, but may contain some spoilers for Every Heart a Doorway.

Beneath the Sugar Sky is yet another novel that is pure magic and further cements this series into my all-time favorites list. McGuire presents readers with an exquisitely crafted tale that dabbles in friendship, darkness, and nonsense and takes us on a captivating and powerful journey. Though the worlds are as fantastical as always, the multi-dimensional characters and relatable themes make this story incredibly easy to become absorbed in. McGuire expertly creates something that readers can easily relate to and builds up the world around them so that one is fully immersed in the enchantment of this fractured fairytale.

While this novel does return to the setting of the first, the story is structured in a much different way. We are taken from Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children and travel through a variety of portal worlds that we have only heard of thus far. It is an adventure unlike any other with a beautiful and diverse cast of characters—both old and new. It is a wholly unique tale that combines fantasy with reality and celebrates our differences and the qualities that make us human. And, above all, it is about love, belonging, and the camaraderie that can form between an unlikely group of young heroes.

In this novel, we follow four kids from the School for Wayward Children—Cora, Nadya, Christopher, and Kade—and their unexpected guest, Rini. Every single character in this novel is absolutely brilliant and the friendship that binds them together, even more so. They fully accept each other for who they are and treat each other with equal amounts of respect. McGuire’s characters are always so lovable and I adore every second I get to spend with them. Time and time again, she is able to create fully fleshed out characters very quickly and fluidly, as these stories are quite short.

All of the novels in this series feature a huge amount of diversity and this one, in particular, demonstrates this extremely well. McGuire takes things such as sexuality, race, disabilities, gender identity, and size and folds them into the story. She does not highlight these qualities in a way where they clearly stand out compared to the rest of the plot. Instead, she treats them as pure, natural facts about her characters—it is just a part of who they are and that is all that matters. She does not make a big deal out of it, instead, showing how important it is to see people for who they are. We are all exactly who we were meant to be and nothing that makes us who we are is abnormal or should be a cause for discrimination. We are all equal. That is how she treats her characters and this is one of the many reasons why I love this series.

Through all the magic and nonsense and impossibilities, the humanity radiates from behind it all. It ties us so closely to the characters—the struggles and environments—despite the fantastical nature of the storyline. Adding in issues that run rampant in our society and take a toll on people—particularly younger people—allows readers to relate to each character and the obstacles they face. This also provides insight into the many problems that plague us and how everyone’s story is different. Every moment, this novel reminds us how important it is to be open-minded and, above all, that even though life carries each and everyone one of us through a unique journey, we all share one similarity that links us. We are still human.

The worlds that McGuire creates are utterly enchanting and easy to become a part of. They are so vividly described and I could always form a clear picture in my mind. For the first time, we are taken into multiple worlds, which was absolutely fascinating. In such a short period of time, she meticulously constructs them and seamlessly fits them into the adventure of the characters. These glimpses have left me dying to see more of each character’s individual world and hear their full backstories.

As always, McGuire’s writing is skillful and beautiful. The emotions that she evokes throughout the novel are palpable and her worlds are painstakingly created to the point of absolute solidity. She has the perfect voice for telling these types of narratives that are styled very much like modern fairytales. This voice of hers breathes life into every page, every element of the narrative itself.

The novel is imaginative—sugary sweet as the cover of the book with an undercurrent of sadness and longing. She fills it with adventure and magic while also weaving in the struggles people face in reality. Insecurities, fears, desire for acceptance—these and many more topics can be seen as the base for this story. This is what makes her stories feel so real—like we as readers could simply step through a door and instantly find ourselves exploring these breathtakingly beautiful worlds. They are each built up around us in such a detailed, multi-dimensional way that it is almost impossible for them and the characters to not take up residence in one’s mind. McGuire truly is an artist. If you have not begun this series yet, I highly urge you to give it a try.

5.0 TARDISes

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Mini Review: Helium by Rudy Francisco

heliumHelium by Rudy Francisco

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: November 28th, 2017

Publisher: Button Poetry

Pages: 98 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Helium is the debut poetry collection by internet phenom Rudy Francisco, whose work has defined poetry for a generation of new readers. Rudy’s poems and quotes have been viewed and shared millions of times as he has traveled the country and the world performing for sell-out crowds. Helium is filled with work that is simultaneously personal and political, blending love poems, self-reflection, and biting cultural critique on class, race and gender into an unforgettable whole. Ultimately, Rudy’s work rises above the chaos to offer a fresh and positive perspective of shared humanity and beauty.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

I absolutely loved this collection of poetry. Short but sweet, Francisco’s words are beautiful and evoke a myriad of emotions. His writing flows beautifully and depicts each poem’s deepest meanings in vivid detail. It is impossible not to become wrapped up by each phrase and carried through each and every page. He uses his great talent for words—for memorably phrasing his thoughts—to raise awareness about elements of conflict and trouble we currently deal with in society. It is wonderful to see writers attacking these issues and trying to reach a wider audience in such a creative way.

This is one of those collections that truly stands out to me because, while it fits very well with the work we see in the poetry genre these days, it has a little something extra to it. It does focus on common topics such as love and heartbreak, but it defines itself as even more unique and different than that. Francisco does not shy away from discussing social issues and these are the poems where we as readers will feel the most. His words are raw and fearless, upfront and honest, meaningful and utterly powerful. They spoke to me greatly, as I am sure they will to many other readers.

Every poem contains a strong and important message that truly packs a punch and is sure to stick with the reader long after completing the collection. Francisco speaks on topical and significant subjects, such as racism, sexism, and mental health—subjects for which constant discussion is crucial. He brings attention to these things through lyrical and absorbing prose that activates the mind and envelopes the soul. I found these poems to be incredibly impactful, thought-provoking, and a fantastic use of this literary platform. I very highly recommend giving this collection a read and I am personally beyond eager to read more of Francisco’s work in the future.

5.0 TARDISes

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