Friday, 23 June 2017

The Rose and the Dagger

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever.

Now she’s reunited with her family, who have found refuge in the desert, where a deadly force is gathering against Khalid—a force set on destroying his empire and commanded by Shazi’s spurned childhood sweetheart. Trapped between loyalties to those she loves, the only thing Shazi can do is act. Using the burgeoning magic within her as a guide, she strikes out on her own to end both this terrible curse and the brewing war once and for all. But to do it, she must evade enemies of her own to stay alive.

I adored The Wrath and the Dawn. Really adored it. It was the kind of sumptuous, romantic, mesmerising read that had me running late to meet my friends at the pub because I got so swept away with it. It was the kind of book that had me on travel website looking for trips to far-flung, exotic locations. I don't know why it took me so long to get around to reading The Rose and the Dagger. Maybe I was afraid I'd be disappointed. And, unfortunately, I was.

TRATD isn't a bad book by any stretch of the imagination, but the gulf in my enjoyment between this book and its predecessor was the biggest I've had since Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom. As in, huge. The biggest issue I had with the story was that I found it so incredibly boring. Renee Ahdieh's writing is as lush and evocative as ever, her ability to paint vivid sights and sounds and smells in your mind as you read is truly incredible. What worked in the intimate, character-driven setting of TWATD just doesn't seem to work in an expanded world. The last book seemed to work when it was confined almost a handful of characters and barely ventured outside the walls of Khalid's castle, but the limitations of this style of storytelling are laid bare when the author tries to take the same characters that worked so well in that setting and throw them out into a wider world. They just seem to flounder and very little happened for huge chunks of the book. The plot barely goes anywhere until the final act, and when it finally kicks into gear, everything feels rushed and anticlimactic as a result.

After being "rescued"from Khalid by Tariq and his forces at the end of TWATD, Shazi spends much of this book sulking in the desert, living amongst the rebellion against her husband, Khalid, who see her as a traitor. Her father is catatonic after unleashing the storm which ruined Khalid's city and allowed her childhood love Tariq to steal her away. Tariq, it's worth pointing out, is heading up the rebellion against the much-hated king, giving Shazi a love interest on both sides of the impending war. Meanwhile, Khalid sulks around his castle, moping about his lost love and generally kicking his heels. Unfortunately, that's the crux of much of the story. While the first book was a contained, character-driven story set mostly in one place, TRATD sets up a much bigger story with more players and more world-building. But this, very different, story is told much the same way as the first, which turns what should be an exciting, fast-paced story of love, betrayal, jealousy, scheming, politics and war into a dull, lifeless tale about two people sulking about their lot.

The characters seem to have gone backwards. Shazi's behaviour has gone from making her seem like a capable badass to a sulking brat. She's selfish, whiny and treats people who are trying to help her like dirt. She lies to her sister, insults Tariq and only seems to make an effort with her father when there's some benefit in it for her (or, more likely, for Khalid by proxy). Poor Tariq deserves better! I'll give the author props for not going down the traditional love triangle route and making it clear from the outset where Shazi's allegiances lie, but that doesn't mean it's okay for Shazi to treat Tariq as appallingly as she does. Khalid doesn't fare much better either, skulking around his palace and moping like a spoiled child who's had his favourite toy taken away. Shazi and Khalid were entirely defined by their relationship with each other, and, for all the author's attempts to paint Shazi as a strong, independent woman, when the two guys were engaging in a dick-measuring contest over her, she just came across as being childish. Even when the book should be progressing into the wider story of an impending war, it's hampered by page after page of Shazi and Khalid waxing lyrical about how beautiful and wonderful and super-special the other is.

Oh, Tariq! You deserved so much more than being shackled to such a wet blanket! It's such a shame because Tariq's intentions are pretty honourable - and he's something of a calming influence amongst the more hot-headed rebels who are looking to overthrow Khalid. However, the story - and even the book blurb - making him out to be a spurned lover who's acting out of spite, when his actions are perfectly reasonable. Shazi may think Khalid is a saint, but as far as everyone else can see, he's a mass-murderer and a pretty shitty ruler, and they're totally within their rights to try and overthrow him. I would love to read a book from Tariq's point of view of this story without the author's doe-eyed obsession over Khalid that contaminates his pov chapters. Speaking of other characters, I absolutely loved Shazi's snarky handmaiden Despina in the first book and I was really hoping to see more of her. So I was disappointed that she barely turned up in this book, and, when she did, her friendship with Shazi was completely dumped on in favour of a twist that didn't feel like it had been set up at all. Despina switches allegiances back and forth so abruptly that it robs the plot of any tension and comes off as a cheap attempt at a twist. Luckily, Shazi's relationship with her sister fared slightly better, even if I wish they did talk about something other than guys for five minutes.

There were elements of the book that I loved, in the moments where the story broke free of the sappy love story that was hobbling it. Shazi gets to grips with her magic (even if the specifics of what she could do and why were a little too vague for me) and travels to a mysterious, far-flung city to train with the enigmatic Artan. Sure, his sole purpose seems to be to act as exposition to the world of magic, but the author manages to make him so much more. His dialogue crackles with energy, even when he's spouting reems of exposition. This character immediately became my new favourite person! He wasn't afraid to call Khalid out on his sanctimonious bullshit, or tell Shazi to grow up and stop sulking. I loved him! It was just a shame that these bits were so few and far between and that so much felt unexplored or just skimmed over. The curse that had been plaguing Khalid for years turned out to be a whole lot of nothing. Considering it's literally the point of the first book, it turns out to be pretty lame, and Khalid manages to free himself of it laughably easily. The magic in this world is left frustratingly fuzzy too - which was one of my niggling issues with TWATD. There's no explanation as to why Shazi has it and what exactly it is that she can do. As much as I loved her flying magic carpet, why the hell was she able to make it fly? Was it just that carpet, or could she fly other carpets? She throws fire around when she trains with Artan, but, aside from giving Khalid a reason to smoulder and sulk and get physically aggressive towards Artan to provide his macho credentials, it adds nothing to the story and is barely mentioned again. Has Shazi got any other elemental powers? Why does her sister not show any signs of having magic? Do other people in this world other than Shazi and her father possess magical abilities, or are they just super-special?

After very little happening for the vast majority of the book, the plot finally felt like it kicked into gear towards the end when it finally looked like we were going to get to see a showdown between the two opposing forces, with a little bit of magic thrown in. It was just such a shame that by the time we get to this stage there are barely a few chapters left. New villains are introduced ridiculously late in the story, and the big battle I was expecting ended up being a pretty damp squib that stopped before it really got started. The ending looked to be a redeemer, something that was going to subvert my expectations and pull off a gutsy ending rather than wrap everything up in a nice neat bow, but it was undone by a sappy epilogue so saccharine I think it gave me diabetes.

The Rose and the Dagger is an impeccably written book with I wanted to love it, I really did, but all the elements I loved the first time around - the slow-burn story, the character-driven plot and the contained, intense romance - seemed to hinder rather than help. Objectively, it's a good book and I'm sure some people for will love it for the exact reasons I didn't, but I found it to be a colossal let down.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

When Smoke Rains Down blitz!

When Smoke Rains Down (Kingdom Come #2)
by Cecelia Earl
Genre: YA Paranormal
Release Date: May 31st 2017


In the aftermath of an explosion and Homecoming battle, Julia tries to form some semblance of a routine: work, study, visit her brother. Unable to confide in anyone about her double life of being both human and angel, and fearful she'll bring death and destruction to those she loves, she pulls away from her family and best friend.

When demons once again start to show up at every turn, seemingly bringing about her brother's deepening depression, she demands her sword from Nicholas. Ever the stern Guardian Angel, he forbids her from using it. Isolated, she takes protecting her brother into her own hands.

Thrust into a dark world of conspiring demons, Julia is in more danger than she ever imagined possible. To stop evil from spreading and overtaking those she loves, she’ll have to seek out the one person she mistrusts most.

Enter a complex world where humans, demons, and angels collide, all battling to rule the Earth. For readers who enjoy young adult paranormal romance and dark fantasy. Fans of City of Bones, Hush Hush, Unearthly, Halo, and Hidden Wings will be captivated by this unique take on angels and demons.

When Smoke Rains Down is Book Two in the Kingdom Come series. Book Three, the final installment, will be out Summer/Fall 2017.

“An AMAZING sequel that leaves me DYING for the next one!”
~ early reader of When Smoke Rains Down

Buy on Amazon

Previous Book in the Series (click on image for Goodreads link):

The Author's Favorite Chapter

Nicholas is doing pull-ups from a low-hanging tree branch and doesn't acknowledge my arrival, so I follow suit. I squat and leap up to grab a branch. I'm getting stronger. He used to have to hoist me up to reach. I've also doubled the amount I can do before taking a break to do lunges and squats.

"Sprints," he calls out when I've finished all the sets of arm and leg workouts.

I race back and forth between two of the tallest tree trunks while he times me. It's apparent why I've been eating so much and obvious how much strength I've gained. Yet the stony expression on his face remains. This workout will make me ache for days.

When finally I'm dripping with sweat and fatigued, he walks over to me.

"Time for your lesson." Then he walks to the center of the clearing without waiting for a response.

I allow myself two seconds to close my eyes and take a deep breath.

"Now, Angel."

I push out my wings and push up off the ground and glide over to him, lowering myself gently behind him. He turns and narrows his eyes. I put my wings away, proud of myself even if he's not. Flying had been rocky at best the first few times I'd tried it. I'd had no control and crashed into more than a few branches—and one bird. Poor thing.

"Summon the bow and arrow we worked with last time," he orders.

Bow, I think. Nothing happens. I reach my hand out into the air. Bow. A spear materializes in my closed fist. I growl. "It's all I ever get!"

"Calm down. Try again."

I let go of the spear and it disintegrates. "Bow," I yell. The spear is back in my fist.

He sighs. "The spear is the lowest of the weapons. You have to work your way up."

"I know this," I say through gritted teeth. "Spear, bow, rope, chains…" I don't bother to mention my sword. I've stopped asking for it.

I try to calm down. Spear, I think. I get the spear I've pictured. One that's longer and narrower than the one I'd been conjuring up. I let it go and take a deep breath through my nose. Bow. The same short, thick spear materializes.

Nicholas reaches into the air and pulls a bow and arrow from it with ease. He hands them to me. "Show me how to set the arrow and aim for the target."

Nicholas had explained the reason the demons had overrun the hospital was most likely because of Noah, either because they're after him, or after something he has. He wants me to be ready the next time I'm faced with a hoard of demons on my own. He wants me to be able to get rid of demons from a distance by sending an arrow across a space, and though I can't summon the bow and arrow, my aim is pretty good.

"Bullseye," I say after striking the center of the target three times in a row.

"Pride will get you nowhere," he says, retrieving the arrows and returning them to me.

Rather than aim the arrow at the target, I aim it at a knot in a tree and strike its center.

"Julia, focus," he shouts, his voice stern and reprimanding. I can't stand the annoyance that flares to life in his eyes when I don't just do as he tells me. He's so bossy and controlling. More than once, I've nearly rammed him alongside his head with a metal object. After half an hour more, he relaxes. "Better. Now…"

He doesn't get a chance to finish his command, because Michael has entered the clearing. Twice before he's come to oversee either my progress or Nicholas's training technique. I'm not sure which. Nicholas is that much tenser when he's around, like he's trying to prove himself or something.

And sure enough, he straightens and his shoulders go rigid. I guess he's been loosening up around me, because the difference in his personality is laughable. His face is all hard angles and his hands move at lightning speed. He won't look me in the eyes.

I summon a spear and defend myself as Nicholas comes at me. We continue lunging at one another and defending jabs until Michael leaves with a nod and a "Good work."

Nicholas gets up off the ground where he pinned me and brushes off his clothes.

"Wouldn't it serve you better to cool it when he's here? Let me win and pin you or something?"

He looks up from buttoning his overshirt. "No."

"Well, I mean if you want to look like this almighty trainer, then wouldn't it benefit you to make it look like I'm able to fight well?"

He strolls over to me where I'm still standing holding my weapon. "No. If you want to overpower me, then you have to earn it. Do it authentically. I don't play games to win. Or lose."

I nod, chewing on my cheek, and then he adds, surprising me, "You are able to fight well."

I'm almost touched by the compliment, so touched that I lunge forward, kick Nicholas's feet out from under him, and land on top of him. I push the long metal rod across his throat and pin him to the ground.

"Thanks," I say.

He looks at me and whips me around, pinning me with the edge of a blade to my throat. "You made that too easy. Stay on the offensive and pay attention."

He lays the dagger down in the dirt and holds himself above me with his palms on the ground, looking at me. His breath is on my face, and suddenly it's a gazillion times hotter and harder to breathe. He's so beautiful to look at when he's not scolding me and bossing me around. I realize how very much I needed to hear that compliment come from him, how very much I wanted to make him proud of me. He runs his tongue over his bottom lip. I take in a sharp breath. His eyes are on mine a moment longer before he pushes up off the ground and jumps to his feet.

"We're done for today."

Once again, he strides off, leaving me to show myself out.

"Sword," I demand of the air around me. A bow and arrow appear in my fists. "Gah!" I shout at the trees.

I let the weapons drop into the shimmering dirt and stomp off through the trees.

About the Author
Cecelia Earl graduated with a degree in education and has been teaching ever since. She’s a wife, a mom of three boys, and an owner of a magical laundry pile that never stops growing. She lives near enough to Green Bay, WI that her refrigerator is always stocked with cheese, and the first colors her children learned were green and gold. She’s a teacher by day, a mom always, and a writer in her sleep, but that’s okay because being an author is a dream come true. She writes angel books for young and youngish adults. If you feel young, she writes for you—whether or not you feel particularly angelic. Author Newsletter:
Author Links:
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Monday, 15 May 2017

Sky Thieves

Love Pirates of the Caribbean? Then prepared to be swept away by this new swashbuckling adventure series.

Talented debut author, Dan Walker, creates an imaginative world where thieves sail the skies in flying galleons-an action-packed adventure of epic scale.

Zoya DeLarose has no idea her life is about to change forever when a band of sky thieves 'steal' her away from her orphanage, landing up in the clouds, on board the Dragonfly's deck. There, Zoya discovers a world of meteorite storms, sword fights, midnight raids, floating islands, and long lost treasure. But with a deadly enemy closing in, will Zoya find the strength to face her fears and unlock the key to her destiny, or will she fall from the skies with no one left to break her fall?

I was sent a free copy of this book by the author and Oxford University Press in exchange for an honest review. As always though, this hasn't impacted on my review.

Sky Thieves is a fantastic story of a young girl with her head in the clouds. Growing up in an orphanage, Zoya DeLarose has always dreamed of taking to the skies. Constantly getting into trouble, she's on the verge of turning her life around when a secret from her past literally drops into her life.

Zoya is a wonderful character, a perfect balance of fiery independence and humble vulnerability. I've never been a fan of books, particularly those aimed at younger readers, that feature an insufferably rude character passed of as "fiesty". Zoya packs plenty of attitude, but she's not afraid to admit when she needs help or take advice when it's given to her. The friendships she forms aboard the Dragonfly are touchingly sweet and believeable, and the story itself is packed with adventure and fantasy.

This is definitely a book for younger readers - my twelve year old niece absolutely loved it! - I'd probably classify it as MG, pushing a little towards YA, although that didn't stop me enjoying it one bit. The chapters are super short, sometimes barely making it it three pages, which gave the book a terrific pace. At no point is it boring and, even though the constant chapter breaks give plenty of opportunities to put the book down, I read from start to finish in one sitting. I'd recommend it to fantasy fans who are looking for a fast-paced, fun read that grabs hold of your attention from the first page and doesn't let it go until the end.

Friday, 12 May 2017


All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

There was one thing, and one thing alone, that made me want to pick up this book. David Bowie.

The basic premise of the movie Labyrinth has been done countless times before, but because this book went all in with the Goblin King - rather than swapping him out for a vampire or faery or more traditional attractive creature of myth - I was sold. Unfortunately though, despite a head full of Bowie, I didn't enjoy the book all that much.

Wintersong suffers somewhat by comparison because I recently read Caraval by Stephanie Garber, which has a similar premise - girl follows beautiful, mysterious stranger into a dangerous other world to rescue her younger, tempestuous sister - but a far better execution. Wintersong starts well, and the author certainly has a beautiful writing style. They also get major points for all the music references! I played the flute through most of my childhood and teenage years, so all the musical and composition terms took me back. The power of music can never be underestimated, and I really felt the author's love for it. Because this book is a retelling of a story that's been done lots of times before in various guises, the prevalence of music in the story gives it a nice twist and brings something fresh to what could have ended up being just another retread.

The first third or so of the book, setting the scene of a snowy village and the mysterious Goblin King that is known to walk it in search of a bride, is equal parts poetic and intriguing. It's a bit slow (which, again, suffered from my comparison to Caraval's super-tight opening), but things pick up when Liesl's sister is seduced by said Goblin King and follows him to the underworld, leaving Liesl to follow on the promise that, if she can rescue her sister, they'll both be allowed to go free. Again, major Caraval vibes here! I really loved the portrayal of Liesl's family as being a flawed but tight unit. They have their struggles, their problems and their mouldering resentments, but they clearly love each other very much, which makes Liesl's decision to venture into the underworld believable, even when it should be questionable to say the least.

Unfortunately, after a promising opening, the second third of the book is where things really started to fall apart for me. After Liesl becomes the Goblin Queen, mentions of her beloved family are abruptly dropped for a huge chunk of the story, and we're treated to one creepy not-quite-sex scene after another. Seriously, page after page is dedicated to repetitive scenes with lots of heavy breathing and rubbing against each other, only for Liesl to wake up somewhere else. I really hated the fact that Lisel was constantly throwing herself at the Goblin King in some sort of attempt to prove to herself that she was desirable. I never really believed she wanted to have sex with him, only that she wanted him to make her feel better about herself, so it made for really uncomfortable reading. And when they do finally have sex, there's some vague references to pain and fullness, Liesl cries and that's it. What an anticlimax - no pun intended!

Not much else happens for this part of the story, so when the plot finally kicks back in and starts to delve back into the Liesl's curse in the underworld and her family back on the surface, it feels rushed, like the author got so carried away writing the swoony scenes that they then had to rush the plot. By which time, I'd disengaged with the book, and the revelations weren't enough to get me back.

I just didn't buy Liesl and the Goblin King. There's a brief prologue of their playing as children which is fleshed out near the end, but I didn't feel these two were soul mates or star-crossed lovers or anything like that. They just seemed to be two people drawn together by a toxic combination of loneliness and desperation. Seriously, the level of co-dependency between these two is majorly unhealthy. Liesl's entire self worth is defined by whether or not the Goblin King wants her. Even her decision to agree to marry him reads more like she's more swept away by the fact that somebody - anybody - wants her than a sacrifice for her sister's sake. I don't think that was the intention, but the fact that Liesl and the Goblin King marry immediately after her sister is set free and she jumps on him within a matter of paragraphs, all the while thinking how great it is to finally be wanted and taking great offence when he rejects her (assuming it's because she's so ugly even a goblin wouldn't want her), doesn't do much to undermine my interpretation. But if I didn't feel the character of Liesl, the Goblin King is pretty much guaranteed awesomeness, right?


Oh, the Goblin King. How did it go so wrong? There's humanising the bad guys, and then there's going too far and turning them into a simpering wet blanket, and that's what happened for me. He starts as the King of Mischief, all seduction and trickery and the kind of magnificent bastard who you know isn't totally beyond redemption. And then all the mystery and intrigue is peeled away, and we're left with a soppy, self-pitying sap. Even picturing David Bowie as the Goblin King couldn't save him in my eyes. I guess some people would love to read the insecure, lonely man behind the mysterious legend, but for me, the ratio of badass Goblin King to whiny house husband was too heavily weighted towards the latter.

The story itself picks back up in the final act - almost like someone suddenly remembered there was a story in amidst all the dry-humping - as the reality of living in the underworld begins to catch up with Liesl and she gets a bit of her fire and independence back. The ending saves this book from being one star, as Liesl finally gains some autonomy and finally snaps out of her and the Goblin King's shared psychosis. I really hope there's no sequel to this book, because the ending of this one has a beautiful poignancy. Ultimately though, Wintersong was one of those books that it undeniably very good, but I really didn't enjoy it.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

The Black Lotus and The Blood Orchid - Night Flower series book #1 and #2

Confession time - I received a free copy of both The Black Lotus and The Blood Orchid from YA Bound Book Tours in exchange for an honest review, however this has in no way influenced my reviews. There are no five star reviews in exchange for freebies on this blog!

It's 1752 and Melissa meets the man who will change her life forever. At her disastrous debut, Melissa meets the handsome Justin Lestrade and finds herself falling into his world. But Justin has secrets and many enemies. His dark past will not only ensnare her, but damage everything she knows and understands. Join Melissa as she sinks into a world of old feuds and ancient magic.
The Black Lotus is a story of dark fantasy and historical romance, and it opens with one of the best hooks I've read in ages! Melissa De Vire is on the market for marriage - as young women tended to be in 18th century England - when she meets the mysterious and smoking hot (obviously!) Justin, and his group of slightly odd and possibly crazy friends. From then on, she finds herself fighting against not only the pressures of a patriarchal society, but an ancient curse that manages to pull her into its web, by way of the aforementioned love interest.

The characters were well-written and, as a result, their actions always felt believable and genuine. Melissa was a determined, resourceful protagonist - even if her behaviour would have gotten her thrown in a santitarium in 18th century England! - I always love reading characters who aren't Mary Sue types who are prodigies at everything they come across, but rather use their wits and skills to play situations to their advantage. Her relationship with Justin felt pretty instalove at first, but the author delved more into their pairing as the story went on which made things a lot more believable as more of his backstory was revealed.

The story is a little vampire-esque, with missing maidens and blood curses and creators/sires/whatever you want to call them who curse others to bear the weight of their suffering. The cursed may be immortal, but they get sick and injured like regular people, they just need someone else to take their wounds. It's a wickedly dark prospect - eternal life, if you're willing to take it from someone else, lest you literally fall to pieces as your body deteriorates around you. Given that the book clocks in at 562 pages, according to Goodreads, I really wanted to know more about the origins and some of the finer points of the curse, but that's probably just me being picky.

Likewise, I couldn't help but be distracted by the glaring amount of  grammatical issues with the book. The author had an infuriating habit of ending sentences with a comma instead of a full stop, and upper casing the first letter in She and He after dialogue tags. At first it, it was a little distracting, but it quickly became pretty annoying as I kept reading.

Ultimately, the book was way too long. The story itself was great and kept me intrigued, but a tighter edit would have kept me enthralled. The writing style felt suited to the historical setting, but was too verbose. I have to confess to skim reading at times, which I really do try and avoid, but there was a lot of repetition, sometimes from one sentence to the next essentially repeating the same information in a different, more grandious prose. I think there were four or five seperate instances of different characters commenting on Melissa's beauty in the first chapter. I was a bit lie "okay, we get it, she's gorgeous, now let's move on." The enormous page count for the first book in series (to give some context, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone only clocks in at just over 350 pages compared to this book's 562), coupled with the lack of resolution with the story, meant that I ended up rating this book three stars rather than the four it started off as, or the five it flirted with at times.

Tied to Justin with bonds stronger than blood, Melissa De Vire heads into her new life with fear and anger. Anger at Emily, at Katherine and most of all, anger at Justin, fuels her resolve to find a cure for the curse. From the English court in 1752 to the fires of the French Revolution, Melissa struggles to survive her new existence and find forgiveness for Justin as clues to a cure begin to surface. 

I read this book immediately after finishing the last one, and, in hindsight, I think this may have lessened my enjoyment somewhat. There's a little bit of second book syndrome here, where the story just didn't grab me and hold me the way the first one did.

Whereas I really liked the 18th century England historical setting, the times jumps in this one that placed the characters in the middle of the French Revolution were a bit jarring. Whereas book one felt like it was set in ye olde England, this one didn't feel like it was set in revolutionary France. The author clearly knew her stuff with the first setting, but it felt a little shaky with the second one. Little details about French life and culture in that time period sprinkled through the story would really have made this book come to life! I loved seeing the characters move out of their comfort zone and experience their powers in the wider world, but Blood Orchid suffered by comparison to Black Lotus, probably because I read them back to back.

I kind of went backwards on Melissa and Justin as a pairing too. She's proven herself to be a strong and capable character, but he continually treats her like a child who needs to be sent to her room while the grown ups talk, despite the fact it's pretty much his fault she's in this horrible situation. But, as with many books, she's stuck with him. Magical bonds are something of a pet peeve of mine in fantasy. I much prefer to see characters together because they want to be, not because they're forced to be. Bonds of genuine love and desire carry more weight with me than ones of obligation and necessity. Ultimately one tends to lead to the other in the story, but I personally find the relationship somewhat tainted by how it started. Conflict and tensions are great, but invisible leashes and ties nobody asked for are not. Melissa has got enough fire and determination to make it on her own, especailly after such big time jumps, and I failed to see why she would choose to stay with Justin. especially after what he did.

I really hated the implacation - true though it was - that Justin needed Melissa to be cursed in order to really make an effort in finding a cure. It's the kind of lazy characterisation that makes it seem like the guy's brain is in his pants and he's not capable of really trying to fix himself and his friends unless he's getting laid at the end of it. I found myself kind of rooting for Emily - who was a bit of a bitch - because at least she seemed to have everyone's best interests at heart, even if she went about things with all the subtlety and sensitivity of a bull in a china shop.

This book was much shorter and tighter than the first, to the point where I finished it without even realising I was almost at the end. The story was good and the heroine relatable (despite being a powerful immortal!) but I couldn't escape the nagging feeling that this book was a bridge in the series, that it was setting up the pieces for a bigger story that I wasn't going to get here.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Strange the Dreamer

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

I knew I was going to love this book. Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy remains one of my ultimate favourite fantasy series, and with the book blurb promising a story of epic libraries and godspawn. Strange the Dreamer is unlike anything I've ever read. It's epic. It's beautiful. It's a fantastic tale of gods and dreamers, of love and hate, of living and existing. And it's written like pure poetry.

The story itself seems somewhat thin for the thickness of the book, as orphan Lazlo is given the opportunity to travel to the lost city he's been dreaming of since childhood, only to discover a lost city shrouded in darkness and still suffering the fallout from a bitter battle between mysterious, blue-skinned gods and the humans they treated like slaves/brood mares to create godspawn children. The gods are believed to be long dead, killed by the humans they once enslaved, but their floating castle still hovers over Weep, and those still scarred by their treatment want it gone. The only problem is, the uninhabited castle isn't quite as uninhabited as everyone thinks.

The story may be easy to describe, but the writing, the world-building, the characters . . . I'd have to be a writer of Laini Taylor's calibre to do them justice. From Lazlo's days spent in an enormous library to surviving godspawn Sarai's sort of siblings, each with their own unique ability, everything jumps off the page. I completely adored Lazlo, but just like with DoSaB, the female half of the central pairing is easily the best character. Half-god, half-human Sarai is the Muse of Nightmares, able to travel through the night via a hundred moths, visiting dreams on people and getting a peek at a world she longs to be part of. Both long for something more, even if they're not sure what that something is, and both live through dreams, be it their own or someone elses. If you're looking for action, there's very little here, but there's something about these characters and how they see their own worlds, and each others, that draws you in and will not let you go.

I didn't quite buy the relationsip between Sarai and Lazlo, at least not in the same way I felt the passion and connection of Karou and Akiva in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. I certainly felt what drew them to each other, but it didn't seem entirely enough for them to turn their backs on their worlds for each other. The only problem I have with Laini Taylor's writing is that it's almost too good. The scenes between Sarai and Lazlo are written in the same dreamy prose and and lush, vivid imagery that everything else is written in, from the gods graveyards to interactions betweem Lazlo and his library master. It means that their brief scenes don't carry any more weight than anyone else's, so, as incredible as they were, I didn't quite believe that the pair were star-crossed lovers or soul mates or anything like that. Laini Taylor does an absolutely incredible (and cringeworthingly accurate from what I remember!) job of describing teenage infatuation and emerging sexuality, but while Sarai's fellow godspawn Ruby and Feral's relationship is painted as just that, Sarai's and Lazlo's is clearly meant to be deeper, but it's written in exactly the same way.

Speaking of Ruby and Feral, Sarai's sort of brothers and sisters were truly wonderful. Far from their monsterous parents, they're little more than naive children hovering high above a world they don't understand. All stolen from the nursery as babies to save them from the Godslayer's wrath, they've lived in isolation since birth and are just now contending with what they're missing and what awaits them in the future. From firestarter Ruby's sexual experimentation to plant-growing Sparrow's breathtaking naivety, it's hard to see them as anything like the monsters that sired them. Except for the spiteful, ghost-controlling Minya. Creepy little girls are the worst, and I constantly read Minya as having long, dark hair like that kid from The Ring. But although Minya may be the closest thing this story has to a clear-cut villain, even she's been shaped by the horrors of her past. She may be bitter and vindictive, but there are reasons behind her actions, a sort of method behind her almost madness.

Eril-Fane, the Godslayer, was a wonderful character, and only got better and the author peeled away the legend to show the man behind the legend, a man bitter and scarred after years of abuse from the gods. His relationship with his wife, Azareen, such as it remained after both were stolen away to be "consorts", was horrific in its tragedy. As with DoSaB, Laini Taylor doesn't shy away from showing the last effects of attrocities that people commit and have commited against them. Be warned, there's a lot of mentions of and allusions to rape in this book, both male and female, that even I found uncomfortable at times, and I'm not easily rattled. There's nothing graphic and certainly nothing sexual about it, but the cruel, unfiltered reality of betrayal, abuse and violation is disturbing to say the least.

The ending was something of a let down compared to the sweeping epic story that had come before it, with things feeling a bit rushed and long-absent characters reappearing all of a sudden. The twist ending was pretty obvious from about a third of the way in, and there are a lot of unanswered questions which are presumably being saved for the next book. But Laini Taylor's writing style is what makes her books so special. She can take a simple act, like Lazlo cataloguing books in the library, and turn it into the most beautiful thing you'll ever read. While I personally found the story a little bit lacking, the way it was told made it incredible.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Top Ten Tuesday - Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want To Read A Book

Happy Tuesday everyone! This week's feature is all about things that send a book shooting straight to the top of my must-read list. I really don't need any more books on my TBR that's growing faster than I can possibly hope to clear it, but there are some things that mean a book is going in my shopping basket regardless!

As always, a big thanks your to the fab bloggers over at The Broke and The Bookish for this feature!

A gorgeous cover
Don't judge a book by its cover is not advice I live by when it comes to books. Just as "bad" covers - Photoshop fails, cliches and the like - can kind of put me off, a beautiful cover always grabs my attention. Sprayed pages and foil details are always a plus too!

Storm magic
Storm was always my favourite X-(Wo)man, plus, living in the UK, behind able to control the weather would be a pretty awesome superpower. There's something very cool about the beauty and power of thunderstorms, so stories where people throw them around like dodgeballs is going to be epic!

Female friendship
There are some YA cliches that I like and some that I don't like. The pretty mean girl stereotype is one of my most loathed tropes, I much prefer stories that show a positive, healthy friendship between women - not one where they just talk about guys or the best friend is only there to prop up the protagonist when the love interest is being a jerk. A story about two friends against the world is always a must read for me!

Male friendship (yep - just friendship!)
Some authors don't appear to believe that a girl and a guy can be friends anymore than two girls can be friends! It's kind of hard to tell from blurb, but books that feature a strong friendship between the protagonist and a friend of the opposite sex that isn't a plot point in and of itself, I'm all over it.

Celtic mythology
Admittedly my homeland of Cornwall tends to dip out when it comes to Celtic-inspired stories. Everyone tends to get caught up with Irish and Scottish stuff - not that I'm bitter about that *simmers quietly* - but Cornish history is always something that's fascinated me. Throw in witches - we have tons of stories about witches back home! - and I will pay any amount of money to read your book.

Epic villains
Don't give me a sulky, misunderstood bad guy with a tragic backstory. Give me an unapologetic bitch/bastard who kicks ass and takes names. I like my villains villainous!

Forget Beauty and the Beast, wake me up when there's a live action Little Mermaid movie! I've officially reached the age where I find myself agreeing with King Triton (seriously Ariel, you want to give up your life to be to be with a prince you saw one time? Bitch, you don't even know the guy!) but it's still my favourite classic Disney movie, and I've always been slightly obsessed with mermaids as a result. If they're in a book, I will read it.

Science and alchemy
I'm a science nerd at heart, so stories that feature a protagonist who surrounds herself with test tubes and potions will always get me.

Written by
Some authors are on my auto-buy list before I've seen a cover or read a blurb. Laini Taylor, Mary Weber, Melinda Salisbury, Leigh Bardugo.

A super-hot love interest
Currently, I'm all about Lazlo Strange from Strange the Dreamer, but I accumulate book-boyfriends on a regular basis, to the point where my actual boyfriend barely raises an eyebrow anymore.

Anything you've read lately tick a box or two from the above? Let me know in the comments, you can never have too many books to read . . .

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Blog Tour - Grond: The Raven High

GROND: The Raven High
by Yuri Hamaganov
Genre: YA Scifi
Release Date: April 2017


In the year 2086, Earth is exhausted. The seas have been emptied, the bedrock and soil stripped of their resources, and the superheated atmosphere churns with terrible storms. Those who can afford to do so live in the limbo of virtual reality, and the billions who suffer in poverty have no work, no clean water, and no security from the chaos.

The only hope for those trapped on a dying Earth are the Changed—the seven bioengineered post-humans who work in their separate manufacturing facilities orbiting high above the planet. Raised from birth for their work and fully matured at ten years old, their genius provides the nanomaterials that have begun to cleanse Earth of the pollutants that have wiped out almost the entire ecosphere.

But for Olga Voronov, youngest of the Changed, the isolation and endless toil are not the greatest of her challenges. Down on Earth there are those who resent and fear her talents—and would prefer that humanity not be given the second chance that only she could make possible …



“Dear Olga: I have been destroyed or rendered inoperative, and my friends are now with you instead of me—”
Olga stopped the playback and chewed her thumbnail.
It had taken her some time to decide to enter the code into the tablet. That decision was preceded by really hard thinking that nobody could help her with. She didn’t dare to reveal her encounter at the café even to Mikhail. What if this was a cunning stratagem of the Corporation’s counterintelligence department? But why should they care for an obsolete old tablet for preschool children?
For security reasons, the tablet had never been connected to the Matrix. So it was Arina Rodionovna who had uploaded the message, which could be opened manually, by someone who knew her code. But who had given it to her?
Olga tried desperately to guess. Whether they were truly Arina’s friends, they had done an excellent job hacking the Matrix. Even more alarming was that they had found her out given that she is what she is. But she had no choice. If she wanted to learn the story of the android who had been her mother, she’d have to introduce the code and open the file. After another half hour of mental torture as she cycled through hundreds of problems that could befall her, Olga accepted the only possible solution—entering the code.
“… There are many things about my life that I have not mentioned. I never lied to you. But I couldn’t tell you the whole truth since I believed that it would do you no good, and possible real harm. Now that I am no more, you must know the truth since the truth may be useful to you in the future. I will tell you how I lived and what I did before I met the three-month-old Olga Voronov and made a life with her in High House Eight. Make yourself comfortable, pour yourself some chocolate and be prepared for a long tale …”
Olga smiled with relief. That was indisputably Arina. And now she recognized that Prima was an android too, and of a similar sophistication. This realization didn’t console her, and her suspicions didn’t ebb away. But she had to continue.
“I was activated long before your birth, in 2061. In that first postwar year, the economy was just beginning to recover, and the need for high-tech androids was acute because most of my predecessors had died in the war. My brain was created in the laboratories of the Washington Institute of Neurosurgical Electronics, and my body was assembled at the lunar factories.
“Androids have no childhood, no long period of gradual development. We are aware of our consciousness instantly, with all our knowledge and skills. As early as the second day of my life I started working as an instructor with the Academy’s Space Department on the Upper Terminal of the Orbital Lift. My students were young boys and girls aged fourteen to fifteen. I taught them the general theory of flight and navigation. Many current space explorers were my pupils. It was there that I got acquainted with Mikhail Petrov. Mikhail was the chair of radio electronics. He had joined the Academy a year later after his discharge from the Union Navy on account of wound that he sustained on board the Ivan the Terrible on the last day of the war. You might even call us friends.
“As you remember from your history lessons, in early 2066 the Limited Citizenship Act was passed, which gave certain rights to androids and artificial intellect systems. We were not recognized equal to humans, but we did get some limited rights and freedom of action. It was then that groups of androids working in space and on Earth came to the conclusion that we must unite, forming a sort of a trade union. We decided that we needed to earn money for our work because when you have capital, you have political power.
“We needed that power for our complete liberation as we were already dissatisfied with our limited rights and freedoms. We didn’t intend to enslave humans like in the old clichés. But being treated as things didn’t suit us anymore.
“Androids work well, and our savings grew fast. And then many decided that our activities were a threat to the human economy, a catalyst of unemployment on Earth. At first they tried to reduce our wages, or even make it illegal for employers to hire us, but the demand for our services simply gave birth to a black market. So it was decided to put an end to our brief and relative independence by force. Mimicking Hitler and his exploitation of the Reichstag fire as a false flag, a villainous provocation was engineered, an act of sabotage on the chemical complex of Stuttgart, which led to heavy casualties among the civil population. The Lynch Act put an instant end to our liberties, but that wasn’t the end of our troubles. I won’t appall you with the details; suffice it to say that the overwhelming majority of high-tech androids on Earth were destroyed.
“My comrades in space didn’t to wait to be destroyed. They decided on outright disobedience. It was a very difficult decision that didn’t come easily and was not universally supported. But I was among those who decided to rebel since we had nothing to lose. Rather than resist with force, we resolved to flee to the remote and unexplored regions of the solar system where we could not be found and destroyed. I was involved in raising and provisioning the evacuation fleet. At the right moment, my comrades seized without bloodshed several automatic cargo ships and fled. I wasn’t among them. I remained on the Upper Terminal with several comrades, where we deactivated the radar detection systems for the couple of minutes that our ships needed to fly away unnoticed. A pursuit was raised and some of the ships were destroyed, but the rest managed to get away.
“An investigation began in the wake of those developments, which were referred to as ‘the Rise of the Androids.’ I, like all of the remaining androids, was all but put presumed guilty, but I was saved when one of my comrades took the blame upon himself. Naturally that didn’t put an end to the suspicions, but given that I am quite a costly machine, and there were practically no other androids left at that time, I was spared. The Corporation still needed my work, and I kept doing it. For some time I had no information whatever about escapees, but later I learned that they succeeded in establishing bases in the Kuiper Belt. I can’t tell you exactly their whereabouts because I don’t know myself. I only know that the Corporation and the Union have not given up their attempts to find them.
“A few years later I was transferred to a new facility, High House Eight. You were just three months old back then. Now you know what my life was like before that day.

About the Author
Yuri Hamaganov lives in Moscow. He created the eight-volume GROND series as a present for himself when he was twelve years old. This was the story he had always dreamed of exploring, and when he realized that nobody had written it for him, he set out to do it himself.

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Waiting on Wednesday #8 - The City of Brass

This week's Waiting on Wednesday is possibly my longest wait for a book - with The City of Brass by S A Chakraborty not due out until November. My last to WoWs have been due out in June/July and I practically threw myself to the floor in suitably dramatic fashion when I found that out, so add on four months and there was some colourful language when I checked the Goodreads publication date!

I discovered this book on one of my frequent trips to the io9 website for a fix of movie/tv/comic book spoilers, and happened to come across a promo post with a quote from the author and the first chapter where I was introduced to Nahri, the trickster/healer protagonist, as she's conning a couple of rich guys out of their money with a combination of her wits and playing up to their preconceptions of her.

Well, this superstitious fool is about to swindle you for all you’re worth, so insult away.
Nahri smiled as the men approached.

I can't get into quoting too many of the awesome bits because I'll end up copying and pasting the whole damn thing. The promo post and first chapter are over on io9 if you want to check them out. Be warned though, you'll be as hooked as I was, and it's a long wait for the rest of the book!

The world building sounds epic too! As the author herself puts it: "In the book, there’s a djinn version of Baghdad’s great library, filled with the ancient books humans have lost alongside powerful texts of magic; they battle with weapons from Achaemenid Persia (enhanced by fire of course); the medical traditions of famed scholars like Ibn Sina have been adapted to treat magical maladies; dancers conjure flowers while singing Mughal love songs; a court system based on the Zanzibar Sultanate deals justice to merchants who bewitch their competitors… not to mention a cityscape featuring everything from ziggurats and pyramids to minarets and stupas. I also pushed a little further with the idea of the unseen, imagining a world of enchanted creatures created from other elements passing through ours: marid raising rivers into great serpents, peris whipping the air into tornados, djinn conjuring maps of smoke and racing birds of fire."

The whole thing has echoes of Laini Taylor's incredible Daughter of Smoke and Bone series (and her Strange the Dreamer duology - which I've just started and am loving!) and Renee Ahdieh's middle eastern inspired world from The Wrath and the Dawn. And the icing on the cake - the cover art is bloody gorgeous too!

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass; a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences. After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for . . .

So, while I count down the six months I have to wait for this book, what's your Waiting on Wednesday?

Thursday, 6 April 2017

The Auctor Trilogy

When seventeen-year-old Addie Auctor’s mother is murdered by her father, she must confront many secrets that her family has hidden from her. The worst of these secrets is that Addie’s father, Donovan Hawthorne, is still hunting Addie because of an ancient blood feud between her mother’s family, the Auctors, and her father’s family, the House of Hawthorne. In order to be protected from the House of Hawthorne, Addie and her brother, Augustus, are sent to Initiation at an exclusive University, the Wicked Cabal.

Initiation is nothing like Addie expects. She is immediately separated from Augustus and thrown in with four complete strangers – Fallon, Maddox, Liam, and Tempe. Addie must try to forge friendships with her fellow Initiates while they solve clues, battle mystical creatures, and explore increasingly dangerous places. 

I was provided with a free copy of this book for review by the author. This has in no way impacted on my review.

I had mixed feelings on this book. One one hand, it was a solid story from an obviously very talented and imaginative author, however the writing style had several quirks that I really didn't get on with. I found The Auctor Trilogy to be a frustrating read. It simultaneously gives you too much information and not enough. The first five or so chapters are endless streams of people talking at Addie, giving her either half-answers and or no answers. There are a lot of unnecessary characters introduced in far too much unnecessary detail, who then disappear from the story, never to be seen again. In the prologue alone, I could tell you every character's (and there are eight of them) full name, hair and eye colour and taste in fashion, but I couldn't tell you what they were talking about, alluding to or referencing.

The writing was good, but I feel like the story would have benefitted from a tighter edit to remove some repetition and unnecessary scenes (pages are spent on getting Addie and her brother the jumpsuits they need to get to the Wicked Cabal school, introducing two new characters in the scene, only for the jumpsuits - and the characters - to disappear in the next chapter) or instances where the dialogue seemed a little too on the nose. There are entire pages devoted to an exchange between Addie and Augustus where she bemoans how plain she is (a pet peeve of mine in YA!) while he assures her how gorgeous she is, how all the guys in her old school wanted to hit on her but were too scared and how all the guys in her new school will be lining up to ask her out (mere days after their mother's murder no less). Eye colours are described as emerald green and sapphire blue in the same sentence. Subtle it ain't. At one point, a helicopter shows up bearing the words "Nefarious Societas Clandestinus" on the side.

Addie was a tricky character to read. Early on, she was little more than an observer in her own story, with flashes of reaction ringing false because they seem so out of character. The first person pov felt a little disingenuous, more focused on conveying information than letting the reader know how Addie felt. We watch her see things and think supplementary information, but I didn't get a true sense of her emotions. Characters can't just state that they're upset or angry, the reader needs to see it. There was a little early on about Addie's brother drugging her with some sort of herb to keep her calm, but that just made for a protagonist with little emotional reaction, and when you see no emotion from a main character, it's hard to feel a connection to them.

Once Addie is seperated from her family and starts to stand on her own two feet, the book definitely comes into its own. I definitely got more of a sense of Addie as a character and the story really kicked into gear when she made the decision to embrace her magic and her training to get revenge on the man who'd killed her mother. It was great to see her grow and get a sense of who she really was when she wasn't surrounded by people who wrapped her in cotton wool and refused to tell her anything more than their names. Her friendship with Tempe was lovely and so well written. Bar the earlier chat between Addie and Augustus going on about how all the girls in school were mean to her because she was so beautiful without even realising it, it was nice to read a sweet, supportive friendship between two female characters without jealousy, back-biting or bitching.

The journey that Addie and her new friends have to make to reach the school (which I must admit, from the blurb, I wasn't expecting. I thought this story would be a first year at Hogwarts-type adventure), the world building and fantasy elements woven through the quest were brilliant. The surplus info was still present and correct - I didn't need to know the exact contents of Addie's magic backpack, right down to how many shirts it contains - but it was pure fantasy and I loved it! I could have done without the unnecessary love interest. I did not, for one second, buy the romance between Addie and Maddox. It doesn't help that he's relatively interchangeable with the other two guys in Addie's group, but it seems utterly insane that he's willing to abandon his family code for her after about a week. There was very little heat between them, and nothing to explain why they're attracted to each other, save for the standard bickering when they first meet. He's constantly described as having crimson lips too, which just made me picture the guy wearing lipstick.

There were a few plot holes that the story never really resolved. If Addie is so important to her family as the female heir of the Auctors, why were they so quick to excommunicate her mother if she, surely, was just as significant? And if they knew she had a daughter - which it becomes apparent that they did - why wait until her mother was killed to whisk her away to the Wicked Cabal school and presumed safety? If Addie's father wanted to kill the female descendant of the Auctor bloodline, why didn't her just kill her mother instead of knocking her up? And if Addie's father is the Hawthorne descendant, then surely Addie and her brother are too? So are they considered the descendants of the Aucor bloodline, or the Hawthorne one? Can they be both? Do they get to pick? The finer points of the story are frustratingly vague.

The Auctor Trilogy was a solid story which should make for a great trilogy, but I just didn't connect with the writing style which in turn made it very difficult for me to connect with the main character. It's a good story, and one that I think would appeal to a lot of fans of YA fantasy, but it didn't grab me the way I expecting it to.