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ARC Review: Nightbirds by Kate J. Armstrong

Publication Date: February 28, 2023


In a dazzling new fantasy world full of whispered secrets and political intrigue, the magic of women is outlawed but four girls with unusual powers have the ability to change it all.

The Nightbirds are Simta’s best kept secret. Teenage girls from the Great Houses with magic coursing through their veins, the Nightbirds have the unique ability to gift their magic to others with a kiss. Magic—especially the magic of women—is outlawed and the city’s religious sects would see them burned if discovered. But protected by the Great Houses, the Nightbirds are safe well-guarded treasures.

As this Season’s Nightbirds, Matilde, Aesa, and Sayer spend their nights bestowing their unique brands of magic to well-paying clients. Once their Season is through, they’re each meant to marry a Great House lord and become mothers to the next generation of Nightbirds before their powers fade away. But Matilde, Aesa, and Sayer have other plans. They know their lives as Nightbirds aren’t just temporary, but a complete lie and yearn for something more.

When they discover that there are other girls like them and that their magic is more than they were ever told, they see the carefully crafted Nightbird system for what it is: a way to keep them in their place, first as daughters and then as wives. Now they must make a choice—to stay in their gilded cage or to remake the city that put them there in the first place.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was a lot twistier and heavier than I was expecting. It’s full of secrets and lies and betrayals and political machinations, and centers on four incredibly strong young women. I found myself just along for the ride as I was breathlessly hurtled through the twists and turns of the plot, never knowing who to trust or where danger might spring from next.

The magic is darker than I expected but also quite beautiful. There are moments of light throughout the novel but it is a heavy read and a very dense one. The writing is gorgeous and I highlighted several passages that I found beautifully written and very profound.

Sometimes you find a story that is a cracking good story but also gets at an underlying truth. This is one of those stories.

Also the sheer feminist rage I felt whilst reading this was something else. These four women are incredibly strong and resilient and so, so angry at being torn down and persecuted and caged by the men in their lives.

The book leaves off on not-quite-a-cliffhanger, but certainly nothing is settled. The four women are finding themselves and their inner strength but there is still a long way to go before they, and the other magical girls of Simta, can be safe.

I absolutely cannot wait for the next book.

*Thanks to Bookishfirst and Penguin Teen for providing an early copy for review.

Favorite Quotes

Matilde slips on her Goldfinch mask. It’s like a second skin: her truest face and best lie.

Nightbirds by Kate J. Armstrong

Sit tight, be quiet, stay secret: It’s all they seem to hear lately. Fold your wings and close your pretty eyes.

Nightbirds by Kate J. Armstrong

Fenlin tips back her mask, revealing a sharp jaw, a green eyepatch, and a devastating mouth. A kissable one, if you like a dash of lethal with your trysts.

Nightbirds by Kate J. Armstrong

It isn’t posed as a question, but an answer, writing over any she might give. He sounds like Enis when he said they were meant for each other, like the man in Leta’s ballroom when he commanded her to dance. All different men, but their words served the same purpose. To tell her who she is, what she is for. To drown her voice.

Nightbirds by Kate J. Armstrong

Her grandda always said she had a sheldar singing through her. Just listen for her tune and have the courage to answer. Perhaps courage is a thing you choose, like friendship. It’s choosing to have faith in the voice within.

Nightbirds by Kate J. Armstrong

Blog Tour and Arc Review: The Severed Thread by Leslie Vedder

Welcome to my stop on the Severed Thread book tour with Colored Pages Blog Tours. (This blog tour is also posted on my Tumblr book, art, & fandom blog Whimsical Dragonette.)

Book Info:

TITLE: The Severed Thread
AUTHOR: Leslie Vedder
February 7, 2023
GENRES: YA Fantasy
PAGES: 416


Fi has awakened the sleeping prince, but the battle for Andar is far from over. The Spindle Witch, the Witch Hunters, and Fi’s own Butterfly Curse all stand between them and happily ever after.

Shane has her partner’s back. But she’s in for the fight of her life against Red, the right hand of the Spindle Witch who she’s also, foolishly, hellbent on saving.

Briar Rose would do anything to restore his kingdom. But there’s a darkness creeping inside him—a sinister bond to the Spindle Witch he can’t escape.

All hopes of restoring Andar rest on deciphering a mysterious book code, finding the hidden city of the last Witches, and uncovering a secret lost for centuries—one that just might hold the key to the Spindle Witch’s defeat. If they can all survive that long…

Set in a world of twisted fairytales, The Severed Thread combines lost ruins, ride-or-die friendships, and heart-pounding romance.

Author Bio:

Leslie Vedder is a YA author who loves girl heroes and adventurers. She grew up on fantasy books, anime, fanfiction, and the Lord of the Rings movies, and met her true love in high school choir. She graduated from San Francisco State University with a BA in creative writing, and currently lives in Colorado with her wife and two spoiled house cats.

Author Links:

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was such an incredibly good follow-up to the Bone Spindle. I loved it!

I love love love these characters and this world. They’re all so multi-faceted and intriguing. I can’t wait for the next book. I especially love how unpredictable I find it. I’ve read so many YA fantasy novels over the years and this one never quite reveals what I expect it to with each turn of the page. As is the way of second books in trilogies, the entire story feels like a relentless headlong rush, and at the same time a carefully balanced push-and-pull of wins and losses. Not a stalemate, exactly, but never with a clear winner either.

My absolute favorite part, hands down, is when they form a small band of adventurers and treasure-hunters. First it was Fi and Shane, then they picked up Red and Briar, and now they’ve reeled in Perrin as well. And there is such warmth and camaraderie between them — and they all seem a lot happier out in the elements, fighting for their lives and searching for treasure and hatching plans. I never trusted the golden city of Everlynd, and I find I like the story much better once they leave it behind.

I’m not sure what I think of the Paper Witch either. He has his own secrets, and he holds them closer than the others do. He’s more enigmatic and I’m never sure what he’ll do. The others’ motivations are easier to read.

I love how we get a glimpse into the founding of Andar, with the history of Aurora and the Butterfly Witch and the Spindle Witch! I hope we get to discover a lot more about this later because I find it fascinating.

The ending came out of nowhere and wasn’t anything like what I predicted and at the same time I can’t imagine it going any other way. It, like the rest of the storytelling, feels right and perfectly placed and thought-out.

I care about these characters so much: Fi and Shane and Briar and Red. Perrin, too, though I don’t know him that well yet. I’m not sure I trust him yet – his motivations have been too unclear to me, but I like him quite a lot. I like all of them and I feel almost like a part of their group. Which is probably why the plot was able to take me so off-guard – I’m in the thick of it with the rest of them.

This (and the Bone Spindle) are definitely going on my favorite books of the year list.

*Thanks to Colored Pages Blog Tours, Penguin Teen, and NetGalley for providing an early copy for review.

Favorite Quotes:

Fi looked disappointed. But Shane wasn’t surprised. The kind of person who crawled around in the bowels of Witch mines prying out rubies with ominous names was just asking to go missing.

The Severed Thread by Leslie Vedder

Ivan must have mounted up after she lost track of him, fast enough on horseback to get out of the way of the mudslide. Or he’s come back from the dead to get revenge, Shane thought. She wouldn’t put it past him.

The Severed Thread by Leslie Vedder

“Just cut it all off,” Shane insisted. She was looking a little ragged around the edges and a dark bruise stood out on her cheekbone, but she was in high spirits.

“With what, your ax?” Fi asked, arching an eyebrow. “Because I can guarantee that haircut would strike fear into the hearts of your enemeis—and your friends.”

The Severed Thread by Leslie Vedder

“No,” Perrin said with a smile. “The magic is locked tightly inside it. It’s perfectly safe. Well, mostly safe.” He gave it a mistrustful look. “Probably safe. You know, on second thought, I’m just going to put this away.”

The Severed Thread by Leslie Vedder

“I didn’t even know you could burn soup,” he admitted.

“Typical prince. You can burn anything—I would know,” Shane assured him. “But most of it’s edible anyway.”

The Severed Thread by Leslie Vedder

Her fingers fumbled for something to hold on to—and then her hand found Briar’s, squeezing it tight, and something swept through him, such a big warm feeling it had to be magic.

The Severed Thread by Leslie Vedder

Tour Schedule:

February 1st

Fall Between the Pages – Book Review

Allmyfriendsareinbooks – Book Review

February 2nd

@the_princess_library – Book Review

February 3rd

More Books Please – Book Review

February 4th

Brittyoreads – Book Review

February 5th

Whimsical Dragonette – Review & Favorite Quotes

February 6th

Conn_reada – Book Review

Leandra the TBR Zero – Book Review & Recommendation

February 7th

Pisces: The Book Lover – Book Review

February 8th

Ofbooksandromance – Book Review

February 9th

Readwithatlas  – Book Review

February 10th

Utopia.state.of.mind – Book Review

The._bookarazzi – Book Review

February 11th

My World of Wonders – Book Review & Favorite Quotes

@poatic.library – Book Review & Reel

February 12th

@Margiebythebookcase  – Book Review

February 13th

_holmescollections – Book Review

February 14th

@theenchantedshelf – Book Review

Blog Tour and Arc Review: The Buried and the Bound by Rochelle Hassan

Welcome to my stop on the Buried and the Bound book tour with Colored Pages Blog Tours. (This blog tour is also posted on my Tumblr book, art, & fandom blog Whimsical Dragonette.)

Book Info:

TITLE: The Buried and the Bound
AUTHOR: Rochelle Hassan
Roaring Book Press
January 24, 2023
GENRES: YA Fantasy
PAGES: 384


As the only hedgewitch in Blackthorn, Massachusetts—an uncommonly magical place—Aziza El-Amin has bargained with wood nymphs, rescued palm-sized fairies from house cats, banished flesh-eating shadows from the local park. But when a dark entity awakens in the forest outside of town, eroding the invisible boundary between the human world and fairyland, run-of-the-mill fae mischief turns into outright aggression, and the danger—to herself and others—becomes too great for her to handle alone.

Leo Merritt is no stranger to magical catastrophes. On his sixteenth birthday, a dormant curse kicked in and ripped away all his memories of his true love. A miserable year has passed since then. He’s road-tripped up and down the East Coast looking for a way to get his memories back and hit one dead end after another. He doesn’t even know his true love’s name, but he feels the absence in his life, and it’s haunting.

Desperate for answers, he makes a pact with Aziza: he’ll provide much-needed backup on her nightly patrols, and in exchange, she’ll help him break the curse.

When the creature in the woods sets its sights on them, their survival depends on the aid of a mysterious young necromancer they’re not certain they can trust. But they’ll have to work together to eradicate the new threat and take back their hometown… even if it forces them to uncover deeply buried secrets and make devastating sacrifices.

Author Bio:

Rochelle Hassan grew up reading about dragons, quests, and unlikely heroes; now she writes about them, too. She is the author of the middle-grade novel The Prince of Nowhere and young adult fantasy novel, The Buried and the Bound. She lives in New York

Author Links:

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was phenomenal! It was just the right amount of dark for me – full of creeping dread and a constant level of darkness that you don’t usually find in fantasy books. Like a Sabriel level of darkness. There were plot twists upon plot twists, and always revealed at the exact right time to make an impact and change the direction of the plot. And while the groundwork was carefully laid, several of them took me by surprise.

I never felt like the plot was forced into the ‘standard’ YA formula. I was dreading a typical love triangle and am so relieved that this is not that at all. In fact I love this, the bonds between each of the characters, the secrets and the trust. I have become used to checking the percentage on my kindle as a way to gauge what will happen next – but that didn’t work here. The story shifted and changed and breathlessly barreled towards the end without ever letting up or falling into the standard back and forth I am used to. I loved it and I couldn’t tear myself away.

I LOVED the characters. Aziza is practical and competent and I loved seeing her grow as a hedgewitch. Leo was warm and caring and it hurt to see the effects of the curse on him. Tristan was desperate and in a lot of pain and I really felt for him. I loved how their lives slowly twined together as the story progressed, and how three seeming strangers became inseperable and bound together. I can’t wait to see where the next installment takes them.

I love how the story explored the boundaries and margins of things. The way Leo fought constantly against the edges of his curse. The practicalities and difficulties of Tristan being homeless. The way Aziza spent her time protecting the boundary between Blackthorn and Elfhame. The way the hag pushed up against both of those and was neither. The boundaries between love and friendship and trust and curses and lies.

The darkness was all-encompassing and weighed on everything, but there was just enough light to counter it that it never felt too oppressive or too much.

The writing was gorgeous. It was absolutely perfect for the story, and there were phrases that really stood out to me and stuck with me because of how beautiful they were. Darkly beautiful, but beautiful all the same.

I am SO glad it’s going to have a sequel(s) because I don’t want to leave this world or these characters and there is so much more to be discovered.

I would recommend this to people who enjoyed Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom books (Sabriel), Libba Bray’s Great and Terrible Beauty trilogy, Holly Black’s Cruel Prince trilogy and Darkest Part of the Forest, Margaret Rogerson’s Vespertine, Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner series, and maybe also Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series. Stories of magic and darkness and terrifying, creeping evil and traditional fae and characters who are determined and hold just enough light to counter the darkness of their worlds.

*Thanks to NetGalley, Macmillan Children’s and Colored Pages Blog Tours for providing an early copy for review.

Favorite Quotes:

Even on four legs, it was taller than either of them and broader than the two of them combined: a wolf blacker than black, as dark as the space between the end of a dream and the moment of waking.

The Buried and the Bound by Rochelle Hassan

Her roots weren’t there; they were here in Blackthorn, not only because she’d been born here, not only because her parents had chosen it, but because it had chosen her.

And Aziza chose it back. That was how you made a place your home: You put work into it. You carved out a role for yourself. You made yourself belong even if you weren’t sure you did.

The Buried and the Bound by Rochelle Hassan

If they could’ve cut him up into pieces and kept only the parts they found acceptable, they would’ve done it in a heartbeat.
No, they hadn’t loved him. They hadn’t even liked him.

The Buried and the Bound by Rochelle Hassan

Leo’s car was a bucket of rust held together with duct tape and hope. It whined, it groaned, it sputtered threateningly anytime Leo turned left — but as Leo put what must have been all his weight on the pedal and the car lurched into motion, it was a chariot of the fucking gods.

The Buried and the Bound by Rochelle Hassan

She sounded calm, and she felt it, too, the cool practicality that came of being in a situation that was so completely fucked that your mind tricked itself into not being afraid — like cold that was so cold it burned. Fear that ran so deep it became bravery.

The Buried and the Bound by Rochelle Hassan

Overhead, the forest canopy dropped off suddenly, and the night sky gaped down like an audience, silent and breathless.

The Buried and the Bound by Rochelle Hassan

He knew better than most people that Blackthorn was ugly and dangerous sometimes, and its magic was ugly and dangerous sometimes, but the ugly parts of Blackthorn had a right to exist too.

The Buried and the Bound by Rochelle Hassan

Dawn broke sluggishly, with a first sliver of sun like the horizon cracking open an orange eye.

The Buried and the Bound by Rochelle Hassan

Blog Tour and Arc Review: Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim

Welcome to my stop on the Spice Road book tour with TBR and Beyond Tours. (This blog tour is also posted on my Tumblr book, art, & fandom blog Whimsical Dragonette.)

Book Info:

TITLE: Spice Road (The Spice Road Trilogy #1)
AUTHOR: Maiya Ibrahim
Hodder & Stoughton
January 24, 2023
GENRES: YA Fantasy
Content Warning: politics, colonialism


The first book in an epic fantasy series for fans of Sabaa Tahir, Hafsah Faizal and Elizabeth Lim, set in an Arabian-inspired land. Raised to protect her nation from the monsters lurking in the sands, seventeen-year-old Imani must fight to find her brother whose betrayal is now their greatest threat.

In the hidden desert city of Qalia, secret spice magic awakens affinities in those who drink the misra tea. With an affinity for iron, seventeen-year-old Imani wields a dagger like no other warrior, garnering her the reputation as the next greatest Shield for battling the dangerous djinn, ghouls, and other monsters that lurk in the sands beyond city limits.

Her reputation has been overshadowed, however, by her brother who tarnished the family name after he was discovered stealing their nation’s coveted spice – a tell-tale sign of magical obsession. He disappeared soon after, believed to have died beyond the Forbidden Wastes, and leaving Imani reeling with both betrayal and grief.

But when Imani uncovers evidence her brother may be alive and spreading their nation’s magic beyond the desert, she strikes a deal with the Council to find him and bring him back to Qalia before he can reveal the city’s location. Accompanied by Qayn, a roguish but handsome djinni, and Taha, a powerful beastseer whose magical talents are matched only by his arrogance, they set out on their mission.

Imani will soon discover there are many secrets that lie beyond the Forbidden Wastes – and in her own heart – but will she find her brother before his betrayals endanger the fate of all of Qalia?

In this epic and action-packed fantasy, one young heroine navigates the treacherous road between protecting the ones you love and staying loyal to the place you call home.

Author Bio:

Maiya Ibrahim is the debut author of SPICE ROAD, publishing January 24, 2023 from Delacorte Press and Hodder & Stoughton. She graduated with a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Technology Sydney. When she isn’t writing, reading, or spending time with her family, she enjoys video games, gardening, and expanding her collection of rare trading cards. She lives in Sydney, Australia.

She is represented by Peter Knapp of Park & Fine Literary and Media, Claire Wilson of RCW Literary, and Mary Pender-Coplan of United Talent Agency.

Author Links:

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This book started slowly and I wasn’t convinced by Imani at first because she was naiive and self-important,and frankly a bit annoying, but wow did she grow emotionally over the course of the story. Also what started out looking like a typical love triangle turned into… something else. I’m honestly not sure what it is yet and I have no idea where it will end up, with all the twists and turns it went through in this book. The plot was also very twisty. I saw some of the twists coming, but a bunch of them surprised me. There’s also a bunch of things only beginning to be hinted at that have me very excited for the next installment.

Each of the characters is slowly revealed to have hidden depths and motivations and desires as the story progresses and it makes it very hard to know who to trust and who to let yourself get attached to. I honestly still don’t know. As this is book 1 of a trilogy, it will probably be a while before I find out. But that’s ok — I’m here for the journey.

The setting is very intriguing, with Imani’s kingdom hidden from the outside world for centuries — and the outside world hidden from it. The magic is also very cool. I like that it’s tea-based and has to be replenished daily. All the hints about the desert “monsters” also add up to what will hopefully be a very promising twist later on.

I love the emphasis on family bonds and also the emphasis on how important it is to help those in need even if they aren’t of your family or clan or even kingdom.

The plot barrels along once it gets started — I was completely hooked by about 20-25% — and is constantly throwing new things at you and pulling the sand from beneath your feet. I approve. It was a lot of fun, I was very engrossed, and I know this trilogy is going to be a favorite.

*Thanks to NetGalley, Random House Children’s: Delacorte Press, and TBR and Beyond Tours for proividing an early copy for review.

Favorite Quotes:

We will fight, but first we will have tea.

Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim

It avalanches upon me, this abhorrent realization that I must venture into cursed lands with someone who plainly dislikes me, and I must rely on him for survival. What a laughable concept. I’d fare better relying on an empty pistachio shell.

Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim

Night arrives like a thief, with a slow creep, stealing the day piece by piece.

Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim

I am unsure how to feel, but I feel it all at once.

Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim

I am searching for our differences yet finding only similarities in the ways we look, speak, dress, live.

Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim

I have finally learned something substantial about who Taha is — the maxim he lives by: find a way or make one.

Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim

– But that is the problem. It is not enough to mean well, not anymore — I must also do well.

Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim

“Then why do you not want to win anymore? If you forfeit now, you will assuredly lose. But if you press on while you can, you may find yourself a victor. The future is not final until we reach it.”


“There is one lesson that comes above the rest, Imani, and it is this: if you decide to play, play until the end.”

Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim

The right decision. This entire journey from Qalia to here has been a cascade of decisions, one knocking into another, nudging me along a path, the end of which I cannot know. Who is to say what is right if wrong has not yet had its day?

Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim

“What can I tell you, Slayer? Not all who are bad are bad the whole way through.”

Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim

ARC Review: Unseelie by Ivelisse Housman

Publication Date: January 3, 2o23


Twin sisters, both on the run, but different as day and night. One, a professional rogue, searches for a fabled treasure; the other, a changeling, searches for the truth behind her origins, trying to find a place to fit in with the realm of fae who made her and the humans who shun her. 

Iselia “Seelie” Graygrove looks just like her twin, Isolde… but as an autistic changeling trying to navigate her unpredictable magic, Seelie finds it more difficult to fit in with the humans around her. When Seelie and Isolde are caught up in a heist gone wrong and make some unexpected allies, they find themselves unraveling a larger mystery that has its roots in the history of humans and fae alike.

 Both sisters soon discover that the secrets of the faeries may be more valuable than any pile of gold and jewels. But can Seelie harness her magic in time to protect her sister, and herself?

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I loved this! The writing is gorgeous, the characters are compelling and intriguing and felt very real, and the plot kept me guessing while still feeling familiar. My absolute favorite thing about it though is that Seelie is an autistic main character who is very believably autistic. She is also very, very relatable (to me, anyway) and I really felt and understood her decisions and choices. Sometimes they annoyed me a little, but I always understood them.

Raze is a character I couldn’t quite pin down, and that’s a good thing. He’s so layered and has so many deflecting shields that he doesn’t really let people in. Seelie is probably the closest he’s let anyone get, just by virtue of adventuring together and being in constant peril.

I loved Isolde. It would be fascinating to see things from her perspective, but I’m glad we’re given Seelie’s. I especially loved the love they feel and the way they are bonded together as sisters against everything. I hope we get a lot more of Isolde in the next book.

Olani is also a fascinating character, and one I want to spend more time with in the next book. She has layers too, and I like her outlook and her combination of healer’s patience and adventurer’s spirit.

Gossamer is fascinating in more of a horrified fascination sort of way, but I really appreciate the way his nature contrasting with Seelie’s brings her more into herself. I am very intrigued by his story and what we will discover in the next book.

I cannot stress enough how much I love that the entire premise of this book is that changeling myths are an early description of autism. Seelie is a changeling, and very obviously autistic, and a wonderful main character. And the revelation about Seelie and Isolde at the end! I was not expecting it and that made it even more impactful and thought-provoking.

I loved the faerie realms and the magic and the adventure and basically all of it. This is exactly the sort of book that I love, complete with reluctant banding together of adventurers for the quest (one of my favorite tropes).

There are a lot of questions left unanswered at the end, but enough of a temporary resolution that I don’t feel like it’s a cliffhanger exactly. I definitely want to know more, and I can’t wait for the next book.

*Thanks to Inkyard Press and Bookishfirst for providing an early copy for review.

Favorite Quotes

Night doesn’t fall in the Unseelie Realm. Here, night staggers drunkenly, clawing at the blue sky with its dark fingers. Desperate and Hungry.

Night doesn’t fall in the Unseelie Realm. Here, night staggers drunkenly, clawing at the blue sky with its dark fingers. Desperate and Hungry.

Unseelie by Ivelisse Housman

This is a first for me, but some of the quotes that spoke to me the most were actually in the Author’s Note rather than the text itself. I decided to include them here because they give important context to the story and to Seelie herself.

How do you write about autism without using the word autism?

Author’s Note of Unseelie by Ivelisse Housman

This book was inspired by the theory that changeling mythology is an early description of autistic children…

Author’s Note of Unseelie by Ivelisse Housman

I wanted to write a story about someone like me, a story where the autistic character is the center of her own narrative.

Author’s Note of Unseelie by Ivelisse Housman

And if you see yourself in these pages, I want to tell you what I wish someone had told me.
You are exactly the way you were meant to be, and you are the hero of your own story.

Author’s Note of Unseelie by Ivelisse Housman

ARC Review: A Consuming Fire by Laura E. Weymouth

Publication Date: November 22, 2022


Uprooted meets The Grace Year in this dark young adult fantasy of love and vengeance following a girl who vows to kill a god after her sister is unjustly slain by his hand.

Weatherell girls aren’t supposed to die.

Once every eighteen years, the isolated forest village of Weatherell is asked to send one girl to the god of the mountain to give a sacrifice before returning home. Twins Anya and Ilva Astraea are raised with this destiny in mind, and when their time comes, spirited Ilva volunteers to go. Her devoted sister Anya is left at home to pray for Ilva’s safe return. But Anya’s prayers are denied.

With her sister dead, Anya volunteers to make a journey of her own to visit the god of the mountain. But unlike her sister, sacrifice is the furthest thing from Anya’s mind. Anya has no intention of giving anything more to the god, or of letting any other girl do so ever again. Anya Astraea has not set out to placate a god. She’s set out to kill one.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Laura Weymouth has a way with words, with turns of phrase that are simple and cutting and achingly true. Her books break me every time, and this one was no exception. I saved several quotes and I know I will revisit them. With only a few words she can conjure that aching, burning, wistful feeling better (and more consistently) than just about anyone else.

I also love the repetition of certain words and phrases throughout the book. Wetherell girl. Sacrifice. Don’t go. Don’t let anyone else go. Vengeance. Burning. Their repetition serves to heighten them and gives the story a rhythmic, chanting feel. Like a prayer. Or a vow. It gives them power.

I LOVE Anya Astraea. She has such a fire burning within her, setting her up as the perfect false sacrifice to bring down a god. The characters she meets throughout the story are wonderful (and sometimes terrible). Her choices and the path she walks and everything about her burn so brightly it hurts to look at her.

The title of the book would seem to come from the unjust god at the heart of her world, and in fact those exact words are used to refer to him at one point. But it’s not the god but Anya who burns with passion and conviction. I would say that the consuming fire is Anya’s deep-seated belief that her world is wrong and terrible and could be better – and that it is her duty to make it so.

The world she lives in is a terrible and unjust one, and her sacrifices and convictions help bring about a crossroads with the hope of a better world beyond it.

I loved the story of Matthias and the other travelers. They were so good, and when it was revealed where they had come from, who they were, and what they were trying to do, it was so satisfying.

I loved Tieran so much. He deserves so much more than he thinks – and I know Anya will do her best to make sure he gets it. Their romance was perfectly paced for me and just present enough to make itself known but not enough to get in the way of the story. They were also perfect together, and watching them grow closer and learn to trust one another was so satisfying.

I gasped at a few of the reveals – I did not see them coming – and they only made the story more impactful for me.

I actually put off reading this one for an embarrassingly long time. Once I finally buckled down and began it, however, I was sucked in and devoured it – finishing almost the entire story in one sitting.

My one criticism is that the very painfully obvious reference to Christianity – Ilva’s pendant – is jarring and feels out of place within the story. Without it, this reads as an alternate fantasy world. With it, and with the references to the Romans who had previously settled there, it reads as a weird, twisted, alternate history / fantasy. It lessens the impact of the story for me. That could be a purely personal preference thing, though. Even the barest hint of Christianity in a story is enough to sour it for me somewhat. But it isn’t necessary and doesn’t add anything to the story. It feels like an author-self-insert.

Weird Christianity insert aside, this was a gorgeous book and I definitely recommend it if you enjoy Laura Weymouth’s other books. I also think you’d enjoy it if you like Margaret Rogerson or Maggie Stiefvater or Laini Taylor.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Margaret K. McElderry Books for providing an early copy for review.

Favorite Quotes:

“You think you been treated poorly,” he said. “And maybe you have, a bit. But it can always get worse.”

A Consuming Fire by Laura E. Weymouth

“Sometimes, Weatherell girl” — Tieran’s voice was low and unexpectedly earnest, his words spoken so close that Anya could feel as well as hear them, warm against her skin where the knife had been cold — “life’s easier if no one knows who you really are.”

A Consuming Fire by Laura E. Weymouth

“You both like to keep your truths close and your ways out wide open, don’t you?”

A Consuming Fire by Laura E. Weymouth

However powerful her wish for vengeance, she’d been brought up in peace and bred for one thing — sacrifice. She was made to shatter and made to suffer, and it was foolishness to grasp for anything else.

A Consuming Fire by Laura E. Weymouth

“Trying not to be a monster doesn’t mean I been good. Don’t know if I ever can be.”

A Consuming Fire by Laura E. Weymouth

Inside Anya Astraea, the flame that had plagued her all her life grew into a towering inferno. It sent rage scorching through every inch of her, and perhaps the god of the mountain and Tieran the thief burned visibly, but Anya was no less a living fire because her fury burned unseen.

A Consuming Fire by Laura E. Weymouth

*Note: This last one is a bit longer than I usually quote, but it’s my favorite passage in the book, I think. It’s gorgeous and really shows off Laura Weymoth’s skill and genius as a writer. I’ve come back to it several times times since finishing the book because it captures that wistful, happy/sad, joyful/painful emotion I love that is so hard to find.

When you come back down,” Tieran said stubbornly.

Anya reached up and cupped the side of his sharp, clever face with one hand, running her thumb from the corner of his mouth to the line of his jaw.

“I choose what happens to me,” she whispered.

“You do.” Tieran answered, his voice a raw and wanting thing.

And Anya chose. She rose up and kissed Tieran the thief the way a dying girl kisses a boy — with hunger and regret and desperation. She kissed him like a sacrifice, holding nothing of herself back, her hands on his shoulders and on the stubble of his shorn hair. And Tieran, despite his sharpness and his lies and his leaving, kissed her like a worshipper, as if he would lay all of himself out at her request, and count it glory just to be looked upon by his god. They came together and did not part for a long while, and when at last they did, it was Tieran who moved back first. His hands were trembling, shifting from shape to shape, and Anya took them in her own and pressed them to her lips.

“I want to be a knife,” she told him.

“You are,” Tieran swore.

“Make me believe it.”

“Anya Astraea, you could cut me open with a look.”

“With a touch?”

Anya glanced up at her thief. She put a fingertip to his chin and ran it down his neck, his chest, the travel-lean stretch of his abdomen, and before she could go further, Tieran let out a sound that set every part of her alight. He took her by the wrist and pulled her closer and they were kissing again, a wildfire between them, but the burn of it did not feel like blasphemy or vengeance or anger. It felt, to Anya, like shackles cast off. Like the first bright day of a journey that could lead only to joy.

So Anya knew as she kissed Tieran that her heart was a worse liar than the rest of her, and selfish as well. There could be no joyous ending for them, and if she were righteous and fair, she’d pull back now, for the journey she’d set herself up on would only lead to devastation. But Anya could not bear to think of that or to pull away. Instead, she carried on, tangling herself and the thief together, and it was a mystery to her how she could all at once feel so tainted by guilt and radiant with glory.

A Consuming Fire by Laura E. Weymouth

Audiobook ARC Review: Saint by Adrienne Young

Publication Date: November 29, 2022


New York Times bestselling author Adrienne Young returns to the world of The Narrows with Saint, a captivating prequel to Fable and Namesake.

As a boy, Elias learned the hard way what happens when you don’t heed the old tales.

Nine years after his lack of superstition got his father killed, he’s grown into a young man of piety, with a deep reverence for the hallowed sea and her fickle favor. As stories of the fisherman’s son who has managed to escape the most deadly of storms spreads from port to port, his devotion to the myths and creeds has given him the reputation of the luckiest bastard to sail the Narrows.

Now, he’s mere days away from getting everything his father ever dreamed for him: a ship of his own, a crew, and a license that names him as one of the first Narrows-born traders. But when a young dredger from the Unnamed Sea with more than one secret crosses his path, Elias’ faith will be tested like never before. The greater the pull he feels toward her, the farther he drifts from the things he’s spent the last three years working for.

He is dangerously close to repeating his mistakes and he’s seen first hand how vicious the jealous sea can be. If he’s going to survive her retribution, he will have to decide which he wants more, the love of the girl who could change their shifting world, or the sacred beliefs that earned him the name that he’s known for―Saint.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I really enjoyed this. Adrienne Young’s writing always seems simple on the surface but then immediately draws me in and I remain hooked throughout the story.

I loved Fable and Namesake, so I was excited to read Saint. I wasn’t sure about it at first, because he and Isolde are hard characters to get to know. They keep everything so close to the chest and are very wary about trusting anyone. As the story progressed, however, they began to let down their guard little by little and I cared about them a lot before I even realized it.

The romance was the sort where they’re instantly attracted to one another but fight it, which isn’t my favorite trope but I think in this case it worked well. For Saint his attraction to Isolde is almost like his mystical rituals about the sea. For Isolde it’s like the Midnight. Like it’s bigger than the two of them and they can’t understand it or change it but just ride it out.

The story moved along at a good clip and there was plenty of action to keep me riveted. I loved that it was set either out on the sea or at various ports. Those are my favorite sort of books.

The side characters were great as well. They all felt real, as did the setting, like I could walk into those ports and those people would be there, exactly as described.

The story also managed to feel very new and yet end in a place that perfectly set up Fable and Namesake. It left a good span of years between the end and the start of Fable, but it arranged the playing pieces in such a way that I could see how they were lining up and how they would fall.

I will definitely be seeking out more of Adrienne Young’s books when they are published.

The audiobook narrators were excellent as well. I enjoyed their voices and the character voices they chose. It definitely helped bring the story to life.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for providing an early copy for review.

Audio ARC Review: Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove by Rati Mehrotra

Publication Date: October 18, 2022


To learn what she can become, she must first discover who she is.

Katyani’s role in the kingdom of Chandela has always been clear: becoming an advisor and protector of the crown prince, Ayan, when he ascends to the throne. Bound to the Queen of Chandela through a forbidden soul bond that saved her when she was a child, Katyani has grown up in the royal family and become the best guardswoman the Garuda has ever seen. But when a series of assassination attempts threatens the royals, Katyani is shipped off to the gurukul of the famous Acharya Mahavir as an escort to Ayan and his cousin, Bhairav, to protect them as they hone the skills needed to be the next leaders of the kingdom. Nothing could annoy Katyani more than being stuck in a monastic school in the middle of a forest, except her run-ins with Daksh, the Acharya’s son, who can’t stop going on about the rules and whose gaze makes her feel like he can see into her soul.

But when Katyani and the princes are hurriedly summoned back to Chandela before their training is complete, tragedy strikes and Katyani is torn from the only life she has ever known. Alone and betrayed in a land infested by monsters, Katyani must find answers from her past to save all she loves and forge her own destiny. Bonds can be broken, but debts must be repaid.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I loved this book so much! It’s so nice to get a good standalone adventure that wraps up in a satisfactory way but doesn’t suffer from feeling too abrupt. I thought it was the perfect length and the pacing was excellent throughout. I connected very quickly with the characters and was consistently surprised by the plot twists.

One of my favorite things is reading fantasy books set in places other than “Medieval Europe” and learning about the customs, mythical creatures, food, clothing, etc and there is plenty of all of that in this book where the setting is an alternate medieval India.

The writing was beautiful and kept me fully engaged while I read and listened. There were many passages I took note of for their beauty.

I loved learning about all of the different monsters. I had limited knowledge of most of them and so I appreciated the descriptions of their physical forms and actions. It never felt info-dump-y though and was always relevant to the plot.

I especially loved how there were many descriptions of monsters and their monstrous ways and it managed to be bloody and occasionally horrific without being horror. I was never really scared by the monsters – only intrigued. Especially since there is an emphasis on the monsters’ humanity even though they are not human. They’re very different, but in many ways they aren’t. In fact I would say that the most monstrous characters were humans.

I loved the slow-burn romance – there was just enough of it to make me root for them while not overpowering the rest of the story – the magic, the monsters, the politics, and Katyani’s journey to knowing and finding herself were the main focus.

Katyani goes through many trials throughout the story as she learns who she is, who she was, and who she can become. Her journey of self-discovery is compelling and pulls the reader breathlessly along for the ride.

The audiobook narrator did an excellent job bringing the story and characters to life. She obviously knew how to pronounce all of the unfamiliar terms that I would have stumbled over, and that made it a richer experience.

Even though this is a standalone and does wrap up satisfactorily, it leaves room for future books exploring Katyani and Daksh’s adventures. I hope the author does write such sequels, and will read them as soon as I can get my hands on them.

*Thanks to NetGalley, Wednesday Books, and Macmillan Audio for providing an e-arc and audio arc for review.

ARC Review: The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones (e-ARC and audiobook ARC)

Publication Date: August 16, 2022


Once upon a time, the kingdoms of Wales were rife with magic and conflict, and eighteen-year-old Mererid “Mer” is well-acquainted with both. She is the last living water diviner and has spent years running from the prince who bound her into his service. Under the prince’s orders, she located the wells of his enemies, and he poisoned them without her knowledge, causing hundreds of deaths. After discovering what he had done, Mer went to great lengths to disappear from his reach. Then Mer’s old handler returns with a proposition: use her powers to bring down the very prince that abused them both.

The best way to do that is to destroy the magical well that keeps the prince’s lands safe. With a motley crew of allies, including a fae-cursed young man, the lady of thieves, and a corgi that may or may not be a spy, Mer may finally be able to steal precious freedom and peace for herself. After all, a person with a knife is one thing… but a person with a cause can topple kingdoms.

The Drowned Woods—set in the same world as The Bone Houses but with a whole new, unforgettable cast of characters—is part heist novel, part dark fairy tale.

My Review:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

I wanted to love this one. In fact, I expected to love it like I loved the Bone Houses. But I just…. didn’t.

It *should* be everything I like. Set in the same world as Bone Houses, a heist with magic, characters with mysterious pasts… But it just felt flat.

I tried reading the book and listening to the audiobook and neither one could keep my interest. In fact, it sent me into a bit of a slump where I just couldn’t bring myself to pick up any book because I dreaded returning to this one. It just felt like a slog?

I’m finally calling it and DNFing at 60% of the way through. I mean, if you’re 60% into a standalone heist novel and you’re still slooooowly introducing characters / gathering the crew and none of them have been fleshed out enough to have personalities (and you can barely remember their names and certainly not what they look like) and you have almost no idea about the bigger picture or more than the sketchiest details about the characters’ pasts or the heist itself then that’s a problem.

The one thing I did like was the relationship between Mer and her former mentor. There is obviously fondness there on both sides, mixed with quite a bit of mistrust on Mer’s and a tendency for her mentor to go into teacher mode and/or fail to disclose critical pieces of his plot so that Mer has to follow him with a dose of blind faith.

In the end, too much is kept a mystery both from the characters themselves and from the reader. Mysterious pasts and gifts and magic and plans can intrigue the reader. But if so much is kept in the dark that all you can do is stumble around hoping to figure out what the heck is going on, it does not make for a pleasant reading experience.

The audiobook narrator, Moira Quirk, is one of my favorites. She has a great range of character voices and a good grasp of the pronounciation of the various Welsh names. However, even her excellent narration can’t make up for the foggy vagueness that encompasses this novel.

*Thanks to NetGalley, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, and Hachette Audio for providing an e-arc and audio arc for review.

Favorite Quotes:

The third time a customer grabbed her, Mer considered drowning him.

The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones

“Cities like these, with all the people and the iron — both in their blood and all around them —it pushes back the old ways. Makes me wonder how things will fare in the future.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean,” Fane said, “that humanity has a tendency to push into every corner of a place. And with their iron and their armies, it may be only a matter of time until someone like Garanhir turns his attention on Annwvyn.”

The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Blog Tour: The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Welcome to my stop on The Drowned Woods book tour with TBR and Beyond Tours. (This blog tour is also posted on my Tumblr book, art, & fandom blog Whimsical Dragonette.)

Book Info:

TITLE: The Drowned Woods
AUTHOR: Emily Lloyd-Jones
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
August 16, 2022
GENRES: Young Adult Fantasy


A magical, ethereal fantasy from IndieBound bestselling author Emily Lloyd-Jones.

Once upon a time, the kingdoms of Wales were rife with magic and conflict, and eighteen-year-old Mererid “Mer” is well-acquainted with both. She is the last living water diviner and has spent years running from the prince who bound her into his service. Under the prince’s orders, she located the wells of his enemies, and he poisoned them without her knowledge, causing hundreds of deaths. After discovering what he had done, Mer went to great lengths to disappear from his reach. Then Mer’s old handler returns with a proposition: use her powers to bring down the very prince that abused them both.

The best way to do that is to destroy the magical well that keeps the prince’s lands safe. With a motley crew of allies, including a fae-cursed young man, the lady of thieves, and a corgi that may or may not be a spy, Mer may finally be able to steal precious freedom and peace for herself. After all, a person with a knife is one thing…but a person with a cause can topple kingdoms.

The Drowned Woods—set in the same world as The Bone Houses but with a whole new, unforgettable cast of characters—is part heist novel, part dark fairy tale.

Author Bio:

Emily Lloyd-Jones grew up on a vineyard in rural Oregon, where she played in evergreen forests and learned to fear sheep. She has a BA in English from Western Oregon University and a MA in publishing from Rosemont College. She currently resides in Northern California, where she enjoys wandering in redwood forests. Her young adult novels include IllusiveDeceptiveThe Hearts We SoldThe Bone Houses, and the forthcoming The Drowned Woods. Her debut middle grade, Unseen Magic, will release in 2022.

Author Links:

Emily Lloyd-Jones