Book Review: Jade Legacy

Jade City introduced us to a story of two Jade Bone Clans in Kekon at war with each other. Jade War brought us a new angle, with growing foreign influencing and a whole lot of sneaky plays to solidify the clans’ positions. Jade Legacy expands on this again, building the world larger and larger but in the end, reminding us that everything comes down to two clans on a small island and the legacy they will leave. It’s a recipe that has created one of my favourite book series of all time.

Star rating: 5 stars

At the end of Jade War, the world’s reaction to jade varies across countries. No Peak and The Mountain would rather foreign allies than join together, but the foreigners have other ideas. I mean, what’s a clan against a nation, right? Times are changing. Set in a period after the invention of cars but before widespread mobile phones and internet, Jade Legacy takes us through the years where technology is advancing and the clans are adapting. This is a book of the old guard and the new guard, Hilo leading as Pillar, Shae as Weatherman, but with the baby Kaul’s growing up, No Peak is in for some big surprises. And the biggest surprise? The whole series covers a 30 year period. Insane.

It’s hard to write a review of a book that blew my mind without spoiling but I’m going to try. Let me tell you, Fonda Lee is a complete mastermind. Every character has some significance and you never know when they’re going to pop up and surprise you. Everything is deliberate. The clans have grown arsenals where they can pull social, political and economic levers – it’s no longer just duels and jade. It all has consequences- they’re connecting with nations, with criminals, with business people (usually corrupt, lol). There are military contractors, terrorist organisations and all the decisions each character makes. It ties together beautifully even with such a huge scope.

It’s got all the detail of a respected political thriller combined with characters you can’t help but feel for. Hilo, who has to learn his children may not be the same as he is. Wen, recovering from severe injury. Shae, masterminding all of No Peak’s overseas interests. Anden, back in the clan but being his own person. Every central character has a journey even if they move in and out of the plot over the years the book takes place. I honestly can’t explain how Fonda pulled this off in a way that could appeal to such a wide range of audiences. Not many series execute a balance of love, heartbreak, brutality and really subtle real-world like plot points that all have a purpose.

It’s always scary reading the final book of a trilogy, but let me tell you, I was sobbing for the last 100 pages of both sadness and happiness. Nothing else I have read has matched Jade Legacy. Some of my highlights were Ayt and Shae’s strange fate-like connection, the Kaul children’s journeys and how unexpected they were to their parents, the surprise character appearances, and the parallels to reality. And you’re all wondering what I thought of the ending, right? Perfection. Couldn’t have called it, couldn’t have imagined anything that fit better.

Book Review: XOXO

This is the first time I’ve read a K-Pop romance and I absolutely loved it? XOXO by Axie Oh is an adorable YA romance with music and dance at the centre – right up my street. I was mostly drawn to the beautiful cover art, which is also printed on the naked hardcover; amazing. But the characters and plot drew me in and had my heart from start to finish. It was cool to be drawn into the world of young K-Pop stars and getting the perspective on it from a Korean American girl in Seoul for the first time.

Star rating: 5 stars

Jenny Go is a young cellist with big music conservatory ambitions. When her grandmother falls ill, Jenny and her Mom move to Seoul for a few months to look after her before and after surgery, with Jenny enrolling in a Seoul performing arts academy, which is also home to the next generation of K-Pop idols. And the twist? Jenny met one of them back in L.A. before she knew she was moving to Seoul, and it’s risky for his career for them to be seen together in a romantic way.

I really enjoyed this book! I liked all of the characters, loved how Jenny really came out of her shell after making new friends at her new school, including her roommate Sori. Jenny and Sori’s friendship is one of my favourite elements of the book, so adorable. The romance is cute, as Jenny and Jaewoo get to know each other better and learn that they can’t stay away from each other despite the risks to Jaewoo and his band XOXO. I really liked how the band members got a long so well despite being put together, they really had each other’s backs and each one had a role to play in the group.

The book focuses on Jenny learning to have more fun and life experiences which her Uncle reckons will give her music a spark. I liked that she made friends even though she was in a new country, and loved with her whole heart. It was good to see her meet her grandmother, and develop her relationship with her mother after gaining some new perspectives.

Overall XOXO is a great, light read that ties together really well. I loved every bit of it, and appreciated the lack of drama. You don’t even have to know anything about K-Pop to enjoy this book – just immerse yourself in the amazing setting and food descriptions and have fun on the journey.

Book Review: The Maidens

The Maidens is a murder mystery / thriller set at Cambridge University, with the clues and plot rich in Greek mythology. I listened to this book via audiobook and it definitely raised the hairs on my arms, that’s for sure. There’s something even more eerie about listening to a book rife with psychological thrill than reading the words. The Maidens is a book centring on the psychology of its characters, particularly women who grow up with narcissistic men and psychopaths.

Star rating: 4 stars

Mariana Andros is a group therapist widow who lost her husband in a tragic accident. A year or so later and she’s still struggling with the grief. Her life is quiet with few friends, but one of her patients Henry is becoming particularly attached. When her niece, a teenager she is a guardian for, calls from Cambridge university suspecting that her best friend has been murdered, Mariana drops everything to support her, but the case is too tempting and Mariana gets drawn into a web of clues rooted in Greek mythology, involving a group of girls called The Maidens and the professor who brought them together, Edward Fosca.

I enjoyed the atmosphere of this book the most, it really did its best to create a tense, eerie version of Cambridge University where none of the characters could be trusted. Edward Fosca is Mariana’s prime suspect in the murder investigation, and with good reason. It was interesting to see the psychological changes in Mariana as the investigation progresses – we see the investigation from her point of view only which makes it difficult to read between the lines. I liked the side some of the side characters. Niece Zoe is intriguing, having lost her parents as a youngster followed by the death of her Uncle Sebastian. Physicist Fred who takes a romantic interest in Mariana also made me curious. Other side characters such as The Maidens and Edward Fosca almost try to make you dislike them.

Thrillers are hard to review with spoiling the mysteries, so I’m going to keep this review short. If you like books that have a lot of subtle psychological detail then I would recommend this one to you. The ending was both surprising and not surprising, but it didn’t take away from its impact. Overall, an interesting book that works well in audio format.

ARC Review: The Gilded Cage

After I finished The Prison healer I was beyond excited to get to reading its sequel, The Gilded Cage. In general it did not disappoint, even if it took a different turn to what I was expecting. I enjoyed the complex politics and character dynamics, the continuation of Kiva’s journey and getting to know new characters in both the royals and Kiva’s family of rebels. This middle book focuses on Kiva’s torn loyalties which made for some really interesting storylines.

Star rating: 4 stars

We are re-united with Kiva after the big bombshells dropped at the end of The Prison Healer. She is really Kiva Correntine, has healing magic and has been given a way into the royal family that the rebels could only have dreamed of. But Kiva’s loyalties are torn between her family and the royals who have taken her under their wing. Jaren, the Prince and heir to the throne, trusts her with the biggest family secrets and Kiva has to decide what she will or won’t do with this acquired information. Re-united with her siblings, they have ten years of catching up to do and not everything is as it seems anymore.

I honestly expected this story to take a completely different turn after the reveals in book one! Kiva came off as such an unreliable narrator but it seems she was more reliable than I thought. I loved watching Tipp and she integrate with the royals who take them in without a second thought. Kiva and Jaren’s relationship intensifies, and the family are not concerned with it at all. Kiva’s magic also keeps rearing its head, tired of being shoved down in the deepest parts of her. But if she reveals her magic, the royals will imprison or either kill her, as she is their enemy. I liked the expansion of the magic, both in terms of the royal elemental powers and Kiva’s healing ones. I still think there is room for it to grow!

It was good to be introduced to Kiva’s siblings, who have changed since she last saw them ten years ago. Her brother is kind and a little disenchanted with being a rebel, where as her sister is a little harder around the edges having been put in charge after the death of their mother. Kiva also meets her grandmother, and eccentric old woman with plenty of secrets herself. I loved this character! She is the best Correntine. Getting to know the royal family more was also great, and I was particularly drawn to Queen Ariana who is battling a drug addiction. We know from Jaren that the drugs make her cruel but it was so heart-breaking to see all the sides to her.

The ending was reminiscent of The Prison Healer with more bombshells and reveals. Makes me excited to see what will happen! Overall this wasn’t a bad follow up to The Prison Healer. It has the same life or death moments that keep you on the edge of your seat, but it didn’t quite grip me in the same way. I am sure the ending will be completely explosive!

Book Review: The Poppy War

This is the third time I’ve read The Poppy War and it gets better and better every time. And more devastating. It is rare to find a book that manages to pull off such vivid military depiction alongside characters that make you feel all kinds of emotions. What starts as a young girl pulling herself out of a miserable life ends with explosive power and all kinds of questions around ethics and morality. War changes people, and we see it happen at its most horrifying through the eyes of Fang Runin.

Star rating: 5 stars

Fang Runin, known commonly as Rin, is about to be married to a man old enough to be her father when she desperately tries to get out by testing into the most prestigious military academy in the whole of Nikan. She works harder than most people could even imagine, brute forcing her way to a top score only to turn up at Sinegard academy and realise her journey is only just beginning. Rin is not safe yet. She has to navigate the judgement and hatred of the elite, the majority of whom resent her presence. Bullied by students and teachers alike, Rin pushes herself to success through sheer determination, but with war on the horizon, the pettiness at the academy is nothing compared to the horrors that are to come.

This is definitely still a book of two halves for me. The first focusses on Rin’s development and her time at the academy. Her competitiveness and sheer force of will get her through and eventually her unique perspective catches the eyes of the academy Masters, not least Master Jiang, an eccentric who never showed up to teach class. Through Jiang’s instruction, Rin not only becomes physically stronger but learns there is much more to the world around her than she could have imagined. She is the only student to understand this, and has nobody but Jiang to explore it with. Rin’s time at the academy explores class issues and colourism, with Rin often isolated from the other students. Her one friend, Kitay, is a light in her life but her friendship with him does everything to highlight their differences and inequalities.

The second half of the book brings in the real world military events into Rin’s life. Forced to become a soldier too soon, her classmates are now not rivals but a team, even Nezha, the leader of her previous tormentors. Allocated to their new roles, the Sinegard students are separated, and Rin’s character progression really begins to take off. It is an electric conclusion to a first book, with more horrors than I’ve ever read about before. It’s even more sickening when you realise so much of that horror is routed in history that happened for real. It is rare that I’ve been so invested in a protagonist’s journey and Rin’s is one that can only end in heartbreak.

Overall, The Poppy War is a book that will always stand out as one of the best I’ve read. It is not happy. It does not have a romantic ending. There is only devastation in its path. But you will come out of it having had so many questions and so many observations, and possibly many, many tears.

Have you read The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang? This time I’ve been reading it alongside my sister and her friend, but I skipped ahead because I couldn’t put it down.

Book Review: The Prison Healer

The Prison Healer is an addictive YA fantasy novel with a fast-paced, twisty plot and a lot of great characters. It has elemental magic, healing magic and a rebel movement at the centre. Though nothing mind-blowingly unique, the execution of everything that happens in this book is impressive, it’s definitely the first YA fantasy in a while to hold my attention from start to finish. That said, there are a fair few adult themes and moments in the book that felt like they didn’t belong in a book primarily aimed at teenagers due to their sheer brutality. I would recommend only for older teenagers.

Star rating: 5 stars

Kiva Meridan has spent the last ten years in the prison built for the worst of criminals, Zalindov. Taken there with her father when she was just a young child, after his death she stepped into his shoes as The Prison Healer. When the Rebel Queen is captured and taken to the prison, Kiva is messaged by her family that she must keep the Rebel Queen alive no matter the cost – and to do that she takes the role as the Rebel Queen’s champion in The Four Trials, a test against the elements that nobody has ever lived through. Amongst the backdrop of a prison rebellion about to spill over, Kiva must navigate relationships with new inmates and maybe make friends for the first time in her prison life.

This book…I can’t even begin to describe it. So much happens it’s quite unbelievable that it fit in 400 pages. Kiva heals new mysterious inmates, she is trying to keep the Rebel Queen alive, she is working out how to survive the elemental trials, she is capturing the attention of royalty, she is trying to work out what is making lots of the inmates sick, she is practically raising a small child called Tipp who helps her in the infirmary. There is a lot going on in Kiva’s life, meaning there is never a dull moment in this book from start to finish.

There is a small cast of side characters that have strong roles to play in this book and I loved them all. Each of them was tantalisingly secretive, and we saw them only through Kiva’s eyes meaning the mystery of their origins was always there. This combined with the thrill of wondering how Kiva would get through The Trials really got me engaged with the plot. Some of the twists were actually wild, I can’t wait to re-read at some point and work out what I missed leading up to them.

Prison life in Zalindov is brutal and unpredictable. It was heart-warming to see Kiva begin to make connections with other people for the first time in ten years, though it was through necessity that this is the case. Tipp, the boy Kiva is protecting, is also really adorable and I loved how much she cared for him, even if it gave me lots of anxiety. I was also really curious about the origins of the Rebel Queen.

Overall, I loved The Prison Healer. I am still spiralling from all the reveals that happened in the last quarter. I have an ARC for The Gilded Cage and you bet I’m going to be picking that right up as soon as I post this review. What a first book – I’m so excited to see where Lynette Noni takes this series. There is so much room to expand the world and the magic and I am so here for it!

Book Review: Children of Fallen Gods

I was wary of Children of Fallen Gods after absolutely loving Daughter of No Worlds – partly because I was hoping the enjoyment would still be there after the master/apprentice story was no longer that dynamic between Tisaanah and Max. But I shouldn’t have been worried because this sequel was every bit as gripping, brought in some new elements and gave characters some more back story. I can’t wait for the final book, which should be out later this year thankfully!

Star rating: 5 stars

This book picks up right where we left off at the end of Daughter of No Worlds. On their way back from Threll, Max and Tisaanah discover that they have been betrayed by the Arch Covenant and find he has taken the role of King of Ara. Now they must fight his war as Tisaanah agreed in her blood pact. Still occupied by the strange magical weapon that is Reshaye, Tisaanah must navigate the balance between using its power and not letting it take over completely, and Max must investigate the new power he has discovered with himself, and manage a new leadership position he unwillingly took on.

So much happens in this book – I mean it is 666 pages long and really fast paced. We are introduced to a new protagonist, Aefe, a disgraced daughter of Fey King with the ability to take magic from others. Humans attack their world and the Fey groups must unite to try and figure out what happens, so the King sends Aefe as his representative where she must manage the conflicting desires of herself and her father. I loved that this point of view gave us insight into the Fey that had only briefly been mentioned before. Aefe is a huge part of the story and I was genuinely surprised where her arc took her.

I enjoyed Tisaanah and Max just as much as in the first book. There journey together happens to be even more emotional than in the first book which is actually incredible. I love that they still have their inside jokes. It was hard to read about them being apart at first but I enjoyed their true to character letters to each other, and that they re-united reasonably quickly. It gave Max a few bonding moments with Moth, the young apprentice who joined the military whilst his master was away.

We also get a lot more of Nura’s background in this book, which didn’t really make me warm to her any more but it did make me appreciate where she was coming from. I honestly think Nura is such a great character because I can’t work out where her story is going to go! I hope she gets a strong arc in the final book.

Overall, this was a great middle book. There is an enormous amount to wrap up in the final book so I’m very excited to get my hands on it. Carissa Broadbent has set up what could be a stunning finale with all of these characters, all I hope for is lots of romance, lots of action and some cool magic!

Book Review: Daughter of No Worlds

Kindle unlimited really brought the goods with this book. I think it might be my new bookish obsession. I adore the master / apprentice trope generally (when done well) and this one played into it so good I can’t even begin to describe how much I loved every moment. With it’s addictive writing, somewhat wholesome romance and most amazing, stubborn protagonists, Daughter of No Worlds exceeded all expectations I had for it and then some. I immediately downloaded the next book.

Star rating: 5 stars

Tisaanah was made a slave when she was a small child, becoming the favourite of a man who abuses her. She dances and creates illusions with her magic for money, and on the day she finally raises enough money to buy her way out, she barely escapes with her life. Her destination is The Orders, a place where she can take on an apprenticeship to join their ranks. One of their members has fed her hope and stories for a number of years and she can’t wait to enact revenge on those who have wronged her and other slaves. When she arrives in Aran, she heads straight to the Order of Midnight in hope that she can join their ranks, but apprenticeships were allocate six months ago and she has nowhere to go. Allocated to Max, a reclusive man who has removed himself from the Orders, Tisaanah must use all her brute force to get him to teach her ready for the evaluation she must pass to progress.

What can I even say about this book? It is ridiculously addictive, I flew through all 500+ pages in no time at all. Tisaanah is captivating – I was enamoured with her desire to brute force her way through everything with sheer determination. It’s a phrase I use to describe my approach to maths problems so it was welcome! This woman has had so many traumatic experiences and she still hopes to do good in the world. Tisaanah is a character you can’t help but root for and be drawn to.

Max, who gets his own point of view in the second half of the book, is also a really fascinating character. He also has a traumatic past that he can see repeating itself when the Orders acknowledge Tisaanah’s strength. Honestly I couldn’t love and want to protect this character more, once he gives Tisaanah the training she deserves the two are an unstoppable combination of characters that honestly gave me so much joy in the mist of all the horrors they experience. The romance is slow burn but it is fantastic, I was hanging on to every slightly romantic moment with everything I had.

I was also really enraptured by the plot, so much happens and the book never falls flat at any moment. From Tisaanah’s training montage to putting her new skills to use, I enjoyed the simplicity of her transformation. There’s also some interesting politics going down in the Orders which I’m looking forward to exploring more in the second book. Honestly, there are a whole cast of side characters that I’m excited to learn where they end up!

Overall, this is an excellent fantasy romance that makes for an enjoyable read even though it touches on some really dark experiences of the characters. I think I’m going to read the second book immediately afterwards because I am that ensnared in this story.

Have you read Daughter of No Worlds? If you like fantasy romance and don’t want something too complicated then I recommend you pick this one up.

Book Review: Six Crimson Cranes

I was so intrigued to see how Elizabeth Lim’s next book would be for me (I liked Spin the Dawn but it fell a bit flat after the halfway point for me). Six Crimson Cranes started slowly and I was a little unsure of whether I would like it, but I was definitely judging too soon because the last third was absolutely stunning (just as stunning as the gorgeous cover). I really enjoy being surprised like this, so thanks Elizabeth Lim for ending on such a high note.

Star rating: 4 stars

Shiroi is the youngest child of the King of Kiata, and his only daughter. She’s the most troublesome despite having six older brothers, always adventurous and lamenting her brothers growing up and approaching marriage. Shiori herself is betrothed to a minor lord, something she resents greatly, and escaping her betrothal ceremony leads to her revealing her magic to her step-mother Raikama, who has dark sorcery herself. Not wanting to be discovered, Raikama curses Shiori and her brothers – Shiori’s face is half covered by a bowl and her brothers are transformed into cranes. From then on, every word Shiori speaks will kill one of her brothers.

So I really enjoyed Shiori’s youthful energy – she’s a fun and food loving Princess who actually acts her age. Her journey was also quite grand, riches to rags which led to her growing a lot as a person. I did find the first part of the story went a little fast for me and there were missed opportunities to show Shiori’s growth in person, but know that this was done in order to progress the story quickly. The other characters were also great, in particular Lord Takkan, Shiori’s betrothed. The two learn to like each other despite Shiroi’s resentment of their betrothal, even though Takkan doesn’t know who she is.

As this is a retelling I know that it can’t really be solved, but Shiori’s six brothers don’t really have enough depth to be completely distinguishable. I liked that Elizabeth gave a few of them a little more page time so we got to know them and their relationship with Shiori better. I think my absolute favourite character in this story though is Raikama, and I’m not going to tell you all why. I also really loved the introduction of dragons, but think these will feature a lot more in the next book (I was waiting for them to have a bigger role and looks like I’ll have to wait longer!)

As I said at the beginning, the final third really saved it for me as it brought back in the magic, the challenges and the setting up of the next book. It’s super chaotic but I loved it so much. Hopefully Elizabeth Lim can build on that momentum, and explore these dragons she has created even more in the next book! (Also it’s kinda love triangle like between Takkan and Seryu…I wonder where this will take us!). Have you read Six Crimson Cranes yet? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: The Blacksmith Queen

Hello I have a new comfort read this book was absolutely adorable and I stan Keeley Smythe and all her weird animal friends. The Blacksmith Queen is a fantasy novel that manages to be completely brutal but have an overall heart-warming tone that just made me happy with it’s pure protagonist, her bonkers family and the friends she makes along the way. Yes, I am gushing and I am not sorry.

Star rating: 5 stars

Keeley Smythe lives with her large family of blacksmiths and farmers, going about their daily lives doing what they love (and what they were born to do). When the Old King dies, his sons are pulled into a battle to claim what each believes to be theirs. War would be great for Keeley’s blacksmith business, but when a prophecy reveals that her sister Beatrix is supposed to be the net Queen, Keeley and her family’s lives are changed forever.

What can I say about Keeley Smythe? She’s really tall, really strong, amazing at her craft and has one of the most gentle hearts I’ve ever read about. I love her. She carries this story for me with her soft spot for all animals (even the demonic ones), her ability to believe the best in everyone and her kindness. She continuously surprises all of the people around her, including the warrior centaurs that come to her family’s aid. In their mix is Caid, an antisocial, gruff warrior who can’t help but like Keeley and find her fascinating.

The family dynamics are quite frankly crazy. There is a lot of sibling bickering – Keeley and her sister Gemma do not get on at all, and Beatrix just ignores them all. I loved Keeley’s parents a lot, they constantly made me laugh. Keeley’s cousin Keran also provides a lot of comic relief which the story sometimes needs as it does get bloody at times. I also liked the interactions with the other characters from the centaurs to the dwarves, and even the lone dragon. The relationships Keeley forms so naturally with others really drew me in to this story.

Overall, a great book that made me smile so much. I was in much need of a happy book, not that I was expecting this one to make me feel so much! Really happy I gave it a chance and I will definitely be picking up the sequel!