3.5 star, YA

ARC Review: The Iron Raven by Julie Kagawa

Series: The Iron Fey Evenfall #1

You may have heard of me…

Robin Goodfellow. Puck. Prankster, joker, raven, fool… King Oberon’s right-hand jester from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The legends are many, but the truth will now be known as never before, as Puck finally tells his own story and faces a threat to the lands of Faery and the human world unlike any before.

With the Iron Queen Meghan Chase and her prince consort, Puck’s longtime rival Ash, and allies old and new by his side, Puck begins a fantastical and dangerous adventure not to be missed or forgotten.



***The Iron Raven comes out February 9, 2021***

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review.

All you old-timer fans out there, are you excited for the next instalment of the Iron Fey series? Because I sure am!

I was such a fan of Julie’s earliest series when it first came out, and while I was always solidly a Team Ash (sorry, not sorry), I loved Puck for the friend and caring guy he was. So here is his story and I’m super glad we get to see the world through his unique eyes.

The Iron Raven picks up some time after the events of the original Iron Fey series AND the Call of the Forgotten series, so you will definitely get spoilers from both. And while there are references to things that occurred in those series (and really big, mighty ones they were!), I don’t believe it’s absolutely necessary to have read all of them to get a good sense of this world from here.

Puck, also known as Robin Goodfellow, is still the trickster you know and heard of – made known by a certain human playwright, hmm? But he may not be exactly the lovable character you remember in the Iron Fey series. Something is going around, and the nastier, crueler side of Robin Goodfellow may be just simmering under the surface as he navigates with old allies and new friends alike in another mission to save the world from ending.

Also, why do the faeries seem to have endless ways to end the world?

Our new love interest Nyx is a girl I can stand behind. While she may not be Meghan Chase, the Iron Queen, she’s strong, capable, fierce and protective of those she cares for. Definitely someone who can go head-to-head with a faerie as old and worldly as Puck, even when he’s not on his absolute best behaviour (though I suppose, when is he really?).

With the same style of storytelling Julie is known for in her previous two trilogies, you can expect action (lots of athletic battling going on here), cute romantic moments (aww!) and an ending that will leave you thirsting for more.

While I enjoyed all of these things, plus the added feels from people and places I remember in her old series (the nostalgia is REAL), I did feel the story could’ve progressed faster at times, particularly the beginning. Once things started really going and I was really invested in the issue at hand, things just seem to get “resolved”, like we’re closing that particular story element and I found myself at the end of the book. With an ending that screamed for another page to exist after it!

But that is the only complaint I have because I thoroughly enjoyed being inside Robin Goodfellow’s head for once. Instead of being the comic relief kinda guy, we get to see what makes him tick, the old things he hadn’t let go of in his many years of existence, and the struggles he hides deep down by putting on a show with his witty tricks and banter.

If you love Puck, this is definitely a book for you. Because his inner monologue was the star of the show for me, and I love him all the more for it.

Overall Recommendation:

The Iron Raven is a great story for those just being introduced to the Nevernever and to those of us who really hit the nostalgia going down these familiar roads. A character not unfamiliar to most of us, this is Robin Goodfellow’s story and the kind of trouble he gets into with old friends (ahh, Meghan and Ash!) and new ones alike. With a budding new romance on the horizon for him and yet another end of the world prophecy he needs to deal with, Puck finds himself facing not only the external issues coming at him but some inner demons of his own he has not really purged in his years of existence. Fun, action-packed scenes and a crew of characters to root for, The Iron Raven feels like slipping on old slippers that we missed and loved.

4 star

Review: A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

Series: The Scholomance #1

Lesson One of the Scholomance: Learning has never been this deadly.

A Deadly Education is set at Scholomance, a school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death (for real) — until one girl, El, begins to unlock its many secrets.

There are no teachers, no holidays, and no friendships, save strategic ones. Survival is more important than any letter grade, for the school won’t allow its students to leave until they graduate… or die! The rules are deceptively simple: Don’t walk the halls alone. And beware of the monsters who lurk everywhere.

El is uniquely prepared for the school’s dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out millions. It would be easy enough for El to defeat the monsters that prowl the school. The problem? Her powerful dark magic might also kill all the other students.


Rating: 4/5 Drink Me Potions

A unique spin on a magical school, this isn’t your typical Harry Potter stuff – though I will admit that was an alluring point that drew me to this book to begin with.

If you don’t mind the information overload and trying to situate yourself in this magical school that wants to kill you, literally at every turn, I would think you’d start falling in love with the book. Not the place because the Scholomance only wants to kill you. Even the showers and your own furniture hidden with magical beings called maleficaria who want to suck you dry of your magic.

We follow the inner thoughts and monologue of protagonist Galadriel (hip hip hurray for Lord of the Rings references) – if you can picture that lady in the film this is probably a good representation of the uneasiness others seem to feel around our girl – who everyone thinks is going to turn evil one day, if she isn’t already. It’s not her fault she has an affinity for destruction and deadly spells, is it? 

I normally hate stories with giant monologues, little conversations between characters, and generally just looking at the world through one person’s eyes. BUT, this isn’t the case here. Naomi Novik does an amazing job of making El so real to me with such a compelling voice that I couldn’t help but be sympathetic to her plight. Rude? I would totally be there with you, girl, since everyone avoids you like the plague. And that is totally a bad thing in a school where you need at least someone else to even go brush your teeth with if you don’t wanna be killed by some monster. Resisting the urge to show off your killing prowess to those who bully and demean you? Yeah, such restraint!

For you romance lovers out there, this is a fantasy story that has minimal reference to a huge romantic arc, at least in this first book. While there is a love interest (can I even call him that?), Orion never explicitly mentions anything and El is hilariously against the notion of being labelled as a couple the whole time he started hanging around her. However, I could totally see this developing into something more eventually. The progression of being virtual strangers to learning to see one another not for what they tried to present to others but for who they really were inside was endearing and worth so much more than instant attraction alone.

Speaking of relationships, the character development El begrudgingly goes through really tied it all together. She’s the voice we hear and the eyes we see through so seeing how she learns to form some friendships with other students was both entertaining and added value to the overall action plot taking place.

Which brings me back to the fact that this school LITERALLY tries to kill you at every page.

With our protagonist finishing off her junior year, seniors literally have to fight through hell to graduate and escape this school. The slug of information this book provided may have set my rating a little lower but I am confident sets the foundation for what I know will be an explosive sequel as El and friends head into their final year at the Scholomance.


As a final note, I will address a little on the controversies around this book. I will not address all of it, but as I am also a Chinese reader, I wanted to speak up that at least from the standpoint of Asian names and racism, I never once found any of it alarming or insensitive. I have many friends who go by different names or may have a first name that sounds like it could be a last name (or is actually a last name of other people I’ve known). There are also a ridiculous amount of ways to spelling the same Chinese character into English, and I rather enjoyed the diversity in ethnicities in the characters, especially seeing some representation of someone who would look like me. I’m aware people want to point out insensitivities and I appreciate that, but this isn’t one of those cases and you don’t have to defend us on this point in this particular situation.


Overall Recommendation:

A Deadly Education provides another unique voice to our horde of heroines that is sure to last in your memory. Galadriel “El” is standoffish and frankly downright rude to other people, but that’s just part of her charm, right? Or perhaps, her strong will and determination to remain good although her magical affinity is to destruction and death. Paired off with golden boy hero Orion Lake, these two will find themselves in some trouble as the school and its monstrous residents (and I don’t mean the students) tries their skill and will to survive until graduation. When the school literally can kill you at every turn, maybe having dark magic is a good thing? A decent pace and solid foundation in world building, this book prepares you for the craziness that is only ahead in its sequel!

4.5 star, YA

Review: Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Series: Descendant of the Crane #1

descendant of the crane -joan heTyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own.

Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, dreaming of an unremarkable life. But when her beloved father is found dead, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of a surprisingly unstable kingdom. What’s more, Hesina believes that her father was murdered—and that the killer is someone close to her.

Hesina’s court is packed full of dissemblers and deceivers eager to use the king’s death for political gain, each as plausibly guilty as the next. Her advisers would like her to blame the neighboring kingdom of Kendi’a, whose ruler has been mustering for war. Determined to find her father’s actual killer, Hesina does something desperate: she enlists the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by
death, since magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of Yan at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?


4.5 Drink Me Potions


**Descendant of the Crane comes out April 2, 2019**

Thank you Netgalley and Indigo Books & Music for this copy in exchange for an honest review

What is truth? Scholars seek it. Poets write it. Good kings pay gold to hear it. But in trying times, truth is the first thing we betray.

Richly atmospheric, inspired by her Asian roots and heritage, Descendant of the Crane delivers a whomping story that cuts deep to my heart for Joan He’s debut novel.

In the aftermath where ancient kings oppressed the poor and used people with special powers, soothsayers, to help them stay in control, the new era has gone to war against anyone with this magic tied to their blood. Soothsayers are now the hunted.

But that’s not where our protagonist starts her story. Hesina is investigating the murder of her father, the king. And committing treason by seeking the visions and powers of a soothsayer.

From there, she opens up a can of worms that may have been best left closed.

What this story does best comes down to a few elements. I mean, if you look at the higher view of this book, there’s nothing extra special about the premise or the world. But it all works out ’cause of these few things.

1. Familial ties and complicated relationships

Hesina’s adopted siblings, twins Lilian and Caiyan, were polar opposites but were genuine and real. Found on the streets and somehow chosen to be taken into the royal family by the king’s benevolence, Lilian was spirited and loyal to the bone while Caiyan was solid, steadfast and the rock Hesina could turn to in any time of need.

On the other hand, her blood brother Sanjing was distant and their relationship was rife with tension from their past that’s not immediately understood.

While their interactions and characters were very well built, they’re also dynamic people! They don’t stay that way in the story. Gasp. I know. That’s so different for a YA fantasy isn’t it? And that’s even more interesting to see unfold.

2. Unexpected (or were they?) twists and additional layers to the world building

The central mystery is the murder of the king. And it’s not a simple whodunnit kind of thing as I had initially thought. There’s more to it that also relates to the world Joan’s crafted. As page kept on flipping, the more I was drawn into the people – with all their individual flaws and courage – and the history that made them into who they were.

The era of chaos from the ancients and the soothsayers.

I loved how they integrated beautifully and the layers that came from simply wanting to learn the truth of what happened to her father. He was king to the people, but he was the man who played with her, loved her and taught her his truths. Their relationship was beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. Even I wanted to know what befell him for her sake. That’s how much I fell into this world.

3. Beautiful prose and depthless creativity

Knowledge is truth, her father had said, yet all knowledge had done was unveil a world of lies.

Quotes from the leaders of the new era in their most scripted text, The Tenets, started every chapter. While the overall story flowed and had a certain grace to it, these individual quotes and words of wisdom were just beautiful and kind of hilarious. Each quoted individual had their own voice, and it felt three dimensional. The leader known as One was wise and solemn while Two sounded kind of snarky and more to the point without wanting to sound pretentious.

And as I mentioned. The world building. The soothsayers and the warring kingdoms were not necessarily original but it worked so well with everything else that was crafted here. I have so much respect for Joan for all that she’s built and I can’t wait for more. For a girl my age, I feel like I could do so much better with my life lol.

Anyway, I will conclude by saying that this debut will knock your socks off. I love the Asian heritage throughout and the relationships were central (including the mysterious Akira I haven’t mentioned much but you’ll just have to see how he fits into the story!) to the overall story that made it stick out above others in the genre. This is the debut you should read this year!

Overall Recommendation:

Descendant of the Crane astounded me with its beautiful rendition of an Asian inspired kingdom, real dynamic relationships between the characters and a mysterious murder at the heart of the story. Each element was more than first meets the eye. Written with elegant prose and the perfect flow between the major arcs, this debut novel is an achievement that I’ll be sure to continue to recommend. Joan He is someone to look out for!