Tag Archive | strong protagonist

Review: The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid

Series: The Diabolic #1

the-diabolic-sj-kincaidA Diabolic is ruthless. A Diabolic is powerful. A Diabolic has a single task: Kill in order to protect the person you’ve been created for. Nothing else.

For Nemesis, that person is Sidonia, heir to the galactic Senate. The two grew up side by side, and there’s no one Nemesis wouldn’t kill to keep her safe. But when the power-mad Emperor summons Sidonia to the Imperial Court as a hostage, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia.

She must become her.

Now one of the galaxy’s most dangerous weapons is masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced Senators’ children, and Nemesis must find within herself the one thing she’s been told she doesn’t have—humanity. With the Empire beginning to fracture and rebellion looming, that could be the one thing that saves her and the Empire itself.


 

3.5 Drink Me Potions


Wildly imaginative and set in a futuristic universe that feels familiar yet still so foreign, The Diabolic would’ve made a bigger impression on me if the first 50% hadn’t dragged in its information dump.

Setting the tone

I was at first very intrigued by how S.J. Kincaid crafted this futuristic world where humanoids were almost human (yet so much cooler and better in some ways!) and this complex religion was revered in honour of the great Cosmos who created this universe. From holographic communications to weird, traditional dances and etiquette, imaginative would definitely be the word to describe the beauty of the world building here.

The protagonist, Nemesis, was also very unique. As a Diabolic, she was one of those humanoids, but crafted for a specific, single-minded purpose: to protect the one she was chemically bonded to when young.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about her in the beginning. You can’t help but feel empathetic at first when you see how she was reared before meeting her master. It wasn’t pleasant, and definitely not humane. But I suppose since she wasn’t thought of as “human”, they don’t require all those excessive human luxuries, now do they?

But she wasn’t always the easiest person to love either. She was crafted to protect her master, Sidonia Impyrean, so that meant she had to be strong and ruthless to do whatever it took to ensure Sidonia’s safety and happiness.

And those Diabolics took their masters’ safety VERY seriously. Even the slightest offense or action or reckless behaviour could have Nemesis honestly considering whether to just kill this person or not. Her less-than-human thought process wasn’t always so easy to connect with her.

While this initially had me excited about the book, the novelty eventually wore off as the story slowly dragged. Things from the synopsis we knew was going to happen took forever to get there, and once Nemesis was hiding out at the Emperor’s place pretending to be Sidonia, it still took AGES to get the ball going. Like, what was the main arc of this book? Where was the excitement going to start happening? I don’t want to just read about Nemesis’ struggles in fitting in and just more fun facts about what these royals and spoiled teens do (although some of the activities they do seem rather fun–ahem, interesting chemical enhancement tech anyone?).

It wasn’t until like at the 50% mark that it truly started picking up my interest. And I’m surprised I made it there as there were times where I contemplated just not continuing.

What was with that sloooowww burn romance that popped up?

I always had a feeling that the infamous, mad (as in crazy) nephew to the Emperor who was next in line for the throne would be the potential love interest for Nemesis. He had more sides to him than you would think, although our first introduction to him in the book may not have immediately suggested that. But there would always be inklings of suspicion as why else would the author introduce us to him then?

Tyrus’ eventual relationship with Nemesis, especially after finding out who she was, was beautiful. I have no words. It had my heart pounding cheering them on even when they weren’t sure if they could truly trust the other. They were both so used to having to rely on themselves, but for different reasons. They were lonely and vulnerable people, yet they couldn’t show that to the outside world. They had to be emotionless. But with each other? They could afford to just BE. How beautiful is that?

I loved that it was realistic and it wasn’t instant. It took time for the both of them to get to the point where a healthy relationship would even be possible. And in the midst of this budding romance, the action wasn’t forgotten. HERE’S where the main arc of this story started popping up. Time to overthrow the evil emperor!

So for the next 50% of The Diabolic, my heart was racing and I was on the edge of my seat to hurriedly finish this darn book already! If only this thought had hit me like, 25% earlier! Could’ve saved me some time and stress over not loving a book.

If anything could save this book, I do think Tyrus’s relationship with Nemesis would. It definitely boosted my rating by A LOT.

Surprises and what not

I didn’t think this book had it to surprise me in any way. The romance was predictable (albeit written in a very delicious manner), and the main arc wasn’t a huge surprise either once the heat started packing to get it done.

However, a couple of things did manage to raise my eyebrows in a huh, I didn’t see that coming moment.

One would be Sidonia Impyrean. I didn’t dislike her, but I didn’t love her either. She didn’t seem to have too much of a backbone, unlike Nemesis. Clearly I could tell that she cared for Nemesis just as much, viewing her as if she was part of her family although a made “creature” such as Nemesis wasn’t really considered anything to love, let alone respect. She surprised in ways that I can’t really say without giving away spoilers. But I will admit that in hindsight, she wasn’t as one-dimensional as I initially pegged her.

The other would be the absolute cleverness in which the plot weaved itself towards the end. You have certain expectations of what’s gonna happen, but the HOW is still up in the air. Well, Kincaid really had a lot of fun with this how. And I will say that Tyrus is one mad genius! Wish I had a guy like him who thought 10 steps ahead as my friend.

But the most surprising was how much I ended up liking Nemesis. She wasn’t the cold-hearted creature I thought she was. Just because others thought she couldn’t feel (and in turn made her believe it too) didn’t mean that she was emotionless. She may have been created, but she still felt. As she navigated learning what it meant to live for herself for once, I think it explored many central themes, but especially towards a path of self-enlightening.

If these things couldn’t get your heart racing and excited nearer to the end, then maybe it’s just that sci-fi isn’t for you. Otherwise, hold onto your seats. You can get through the first half for a story that does deliver in the end! (Though I’m not sure how it’ll continue with book 2 and 3 when it ended at such a nice place here….but I’m not complaining!).

Overall Recommendation:
The Diabolic was smart and imaginative as it created a futuristic universe that was both familiar yet still so different. I enjoyed learning more about how the system ran here, who was in charge and the unique humanoids that were created for certain purposes. Enter our protagonist, Nemesis. She wasn’t easy to love at first, but she grows on you as you follow her adventures. You’ll cry (or its likeness as she can’t technically cry) with her, rage with her and fall in love with her. Kincaid’s story started off on the wrong foot, but I would think sci-fi fans would enjoy this addition to the genre.

Review: The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman

Series: Lady Helen #2

the-dark-days-pact-alison-goodmanJune 1812.

Just weeks after her catastrophic coming-out ball, Lady Helen Wrexhall—now disowned by her uncle—is a full member of the demon-hunting Dark Days Club.

Her mentor, Lord Carlston, has arranged for Helen to spend the summer season in Brighton so that he can train her new Reclaimer powers.

However, the long-term effects of Carlston’s Reclaimer work have taken hold, and his sanity is beginning to slip.

At the same time, Carlston’s Dark Days Club colleague and nemesis will stop at nothing to bring Helen over to his side—and the Duke of Selburn is determined to marry her.

The stakes are even higher for Helen as she struggles to become the warrior that everyone expects her to be.


 

4.5 Drink Me Potions


Mysterious, alluring, and filled with Gothic adventure in Alison Goodman’s latest Regency era novel, The Dark Days Pact was one of those books that actually lived up to the hype I built for it. Which is no small feat ’cause I’ve been waiting a year for this sequel to come out.

Oh, what an adventure

This beautiful sequel picked up quite soon where we left our protagonists previously in The Dark Days Club. Lady Helen’s got to train hard to become the Reclaimer she’s meant to be, a super-honed weapon against the Deceivers (aka monsters/demons of this world) that walk among them. The book may have felt a little slow in the beginning because it mainly focuses on her training (and lack of progress), but I swear, this only helped set the mood more for me.

The action really does pick up soon after when bureaucrat Mr. Pike sets upon our lovely band of heroes working with Lady Helen and gives her (and Mr. Hammond) a secret mission to embark on: to locate and negotiate for a mysterious journal that seems to have all the juiciest secrets about everyone, Deceiver and Reclaimer included.

Along for the ride is Lady Helen’s strange powers. She’s supposed to be an extra special Reclaimer, what with being a direct inheritor even though these powers don’t transmit genetically, but everyone’s always telling her that she’s nowhere near ready that she’s really starting to believe it too (I will get back on this point later). But you’d be glad to know that what transpires throughout the story isn’t some cliched moment where our girl suddenly comes into her own and becomes the strongest, fastest and least expendable person ever (okay, she’s still pretty important either way). As she fights to get her hands on this journal first before the Deceivers and others with less-than-noble motives, she starts to realize her powers are definitely MORE than what others have ever seen. And oh boy does that leave you with a surge of excitement in your mouth! It sure dose for me.

I personally didn’t think this book was very slow. It transitioned well between plot points with the overarching storyline centred around finding this journal. Oh, and of course, worrying about Lord Carlston’s descent into madness.

All the cool people, both historical or fictional, featured here

I loved Lady Helen. I probably mentioned that in my first review of The Dark Days Club. In 1812, a woman’s role was stuck to the household and doing mundane things such as walking around the park while daintily holding onto a friend’s hands. They were seen as weak and in need of protecting.

Helen beats all these stereotypes, while still working within the mold of 19th century Regency time in London. She had to dress like a man sometimes to go investigating (’cause of course poor little women couldn’t go off ANYWHERE on their own, even during broad daylight) and go around chasing bad guys (another taboo!) in public. Alison Goodman made her into someone to admire by her sacrificial actions. Lady Helen wasn’t some woman’s rights figure (a century too early) and she wasn’t hell bent on being different from other ladies. She still loved long hair and the occasional simplistic duties of a woman, so it wasn’t easy for her to give up some of these things. I loved Lady Helen because she knew she had a new duty to serve now and it was worth the sacrifice.

Alongside her is the amazing Lord Carlston. Okay, maybe not everyone loves him as much as I do, but I ship these two so hard. So beware that my excitement level for this book probably also comes from his presence here.

Lord William Carlston. Ah. Such a noble sounding name. Anyway, he wasn’t the stoic hero that was portrayed in book 1. At the climax events of the last novel, some bad things went down and he had absorbed too much Deceiver energy without letting it out. Such energy can lead to madness for Reclaimers if there’s enough collected within them. Throughout, he’s another major plot arc as the whole household has been left worrying about the state of his mind. There’s always this little piece of excitement about whether he’s truly sane at the moment or he’s just more lucid than at other times when the madness shows.

But as sweet as ever, you shippers of Lord Carlston will be glad to know that there are BEAUTIFUL moments with him and Lady Helen. Like, heartbreakingly touching because we know that he’s “technically still married” (recall that his wife disappeared many years ago and people called MURDER but without a body, there has to be some time in between to wait out before officially calling her dead). Even with potential madness looming on him (or maybe because of it), we see him let out his emotions a bit more and Lady Helen’s attraction to him makes it all the sweeter. I just can’t. I need the two of them together. Like now.

The rest of Carlston and Helen’s aides and friends are familiar people you may recall. Both their Terrenes (aka strong sidekicks in my mind) feature largely here, but the brother/sister pair of Mr. Hammond and Lady Margaret were my favourite. Particularly Mr. Hammond who was developed greatly in this story, probably because of the secretive mission he embarked on with Lady Helen, I love that Goodman gives time for secondary characters as well so that the world feels more real and fleshed out instead of solely focusing on Helen and Lord Carlston. The almost 500 page length is used up very well in my opinion on plot pacing and character development for everyone. Even the newest characters, like little Sprat who works for the bawdy house, comes to your affection eventually.

I will also advise that you read the Author’s Note at the end explaining her inclusions of very real characters living in 1812 in London or Brighton (which this novel features greatly in). From a famous dipper who, as the name would describe, dipped people into the sea waters around Brighton for health purposes, to a famous couple who met a grisly end, I truly admire Goodman’s research into these people and places to create a fantasy world that really “could have been”. Like, if I lived in 1812, I could totally imagine going to Brighton and finding myself a spectacular lady who was like no other in her day.

That non-existent love triangle though

Speaking of characters, I left one person out. The Duke of Selburn. I don’t consider the Duke of Selburn (whose first name is Gerard…like, I could’ve gone through this whole series without having to find out his name was Gerard) any contender for Lady Helen’s heart. It may just be a HUGE bias, but let me explain that.

Here’s a man who’s very highly ranked (both Lady Helen’s family and Lord Carlston were earls) and likes to get his way. Okay, so the Duke isn’t a jerk who’s power hungry or abuses that power for his own selfish purposes. He’s not THAT bad. But in a world such as the Dark Days Club, he wouldn’t fit if he can’t take orders and abide by them for the safety of all involved. The Reclaimers have the say (except bureaucrats like Pike I suppose) as they’re the ones with the powers that can fulfill their plans so rank in society doesn’t REALLY matter. You can be a butcher’s son for all they care! So how would he ever be a good match for Lady Helen?

Then there’s that SUFFOCATING way that he likes to do EVERYTHING for Helen. He just wants to “protect” her from things, whether he understands who she really is or not, and ends up screwing plans up so badly because of it. He keeps spying on her because he hates Carlston and just wants to get her “away from that monster who allegedly killed his wife”. I honestly don’t like him, no matter how “noble” his motives are. I don’t understand why he keeps pursuing her even after she rejects him time and time again (bless you, Helen). Maybe it’s pride, maybe it’s his way of making sure no one else falls to their doom with Carlston (backstory here from book 1), but either way, please step aside Selburn or else I’m gonna throw a brick at you in the next book.

Honestly, no love triangle here. Not really. I don’t believe Helen’s heart was ever tempted by him. Maybe a little flattered by his attentions, but her heart’s for Carlston. As it should be.

So no middle book syndrome?

Whew, that was a long rant/review. It’s not very often I rate a sequel higher than the first one, but they’re both so good. With the background setting already laid out so nicely from book 1 (hopefully you remember some of it before embarking on book 2), it gives this book time to explore the plot as it ramps up for the conclusion. Plenty of intrigue still happens here with a touch more romance than before. Honestly, it seems Alison Goodman can do no wrong in this series. So more Lady Helen, please!

Overall Recommendation:
The Dark Days Pact lives up to all expectations with an action-filled plot at the centre and well-developed characters leading the way. With beautiful descriptions of the historical setting in 1812 and good pacing throughout the book, this would surely keep you flipping through the pages as fast as you can. You won’t feel the length of this book as you live through the craziness that is Lady Helen’s life as she fights for her incoming powers and follows through with her sacrificial duties for God and country. Oh, and pinches of romance throughout will have you grasping for the next book ASAP.

Review: A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

Series: Charlotte Holmes #1

a-study-in-charlotte-brittany-cavallaroThe last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.

From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.


3 Drink Me Potions


I’ve been an avid fan of Sherlock Holmes since I was a child, having read all the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. So for a Sherlock retelling in the YA genre, it was definitely peaking my interest.

But, there were ups and downs in my opinion.

Ups:

1. Charlotte Holmes is kickass
I didn’t know what to make of a female Holmes at first. Yeah, I’m sure it’ll be great and it’s not the first Sherlock retelling that’s flipped genders (there’s that TV show Elementary going on). So I knew I’d be okay with this element.
What excited me was that she was reminiscent of the Sherlock we know. Drug addiction, blunt attitude, awkward interpersonal relationships, and brilliant as heck.
But, I also enjoy a little something that the author puts in on their own. What’s the point of a retelling if it’s EXACTLY the same as the original? You might as well re-read it. I liked that Charlotte had her vulnerabilities, in part because she’s female, and knew how to play to her strengths (a damsel in distress work like a charm in certain situations). So it was more fun to get to reacquaint myself with someone who is familiar but at the same time, still new in some way.

2. Jamie Watson’s voice
No, I don’t mean his literal voice (I did not read an audiobook so I’m not sure how that would be like).
Writing from the perspective of Watson admiring Holmes’ work (just like the original), it could’ve been a little dry but I rather liked his tone and the way he saw the world he was in. Seeing this story in Holmes’ POV would’ve been a ton different and I’d much rather see it from Watson’s eyes. This might just be a personal opinion though.

3. The mystery
Once you get through almost 50% of the book, the mystery really starts to pick up. Who’s going around hurting students at their boarding school? Why are there links to Sherlock Holmes stories? Who’s out to get Holmes and Watson?
I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect. After all, what’s a Sherlock retelling if there’s no solid mystery at the heart of it for Holmes to deduce? I thought the story wasn’t completely predictable, although once the party involved was identified, it wasn’t as much fun just waiting for the info dump from Holmes to explain her deductions (not all of us are THAT smart, Holmes).

These helped me progress through the novel, but the following kept me away from finishing this novel for over a year.

Downs:

1. The pacing
OH my goodness. It was sooo slow at first. I stopped at 36% for over a year until I felt like finally continuing. A murder does happen fairly early on (ish), but their guesses were going around in circles and it just didn’t seem like the pair of young sleuths were progressing much at all. There was too much info on what they were doing in their daily lives at the boarding school that I just couldn’t seem to care about as much. I came here for a mystery, not for “how teens live in a boarding school” contemporary!
It did pick up after 50% but the pieces of the mystery fell too slowly. There was too much focus on Watson and Holmes, too.

2. Their relationship
Don’t get me wrong. I like Holmes and Watson. They’re an inseparable team. Watson balances out the neurotic behaviours of our favourite genius, while Holmes gets Watson out of ridiculously dangerous scrapes. You can’t have one without the other.
But….I just didn’t love them together. Yes, I knew that making one of them a girl may lead to a more romantic relationship possible, especially cuz it’s YA and what is a YA book without ROMANCE?
I just didn’t care about them dating. I’m not even excited for the potential of it. Maybe it’s cuz I’m rather traditional about it but their relationship always wrung true as platonic. Friendships are important too and it just saddens me a little that this has to change as well. It’s not like it’s impossible for a guy and girl to be good friends, but thus is the world of YA I suppose.

Well, A Study in Charlotte was sweet overall, and it made me nostalgic for certain Sherlock stories. I liked it enough, but there were certain hurdles that made it hard to continue for me personally.

Overall Recommendation:
For a Sherlock Holmes retelling, it had its good moments and bad. A Study in Charlotte, paying homage to a few elements from familiar Sherlock adventures, tried its best with the mystery but took its time upping the suspense factor. Throwing in the extra bit of unnecessary romance and I had to take a year-long break to finish. Altogether, it’s not a hard book to swallow, but it may not be for every Holmes’ fan.

Review: The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson

Series: The Remnant Chronicles #2

the-heart-of-betrayal-mary-e-pearsonHeld captive in the barbarian kingdom of Venda, Lia and Rafe have little chance of escape. Desperate to save Lia’s life, her erstwhile assassin, Kaden, has told the Vendan Komizar that she has the gift, and the Komizar’s interest in Lia is greater than anyone could have foreseen.

Meanwhile, nothing is straightforward: There’s Rafe, who lied to Lia but has sacrificed his freedom to protect her; Kaden, who meant to assassinate her but has now saved her life; and the Vendans, whom Lia always believed to be savages.

Now that she lives among them, however, she realizes that may be far from the truth. Wrestling with her upbringing, her gift, and her sense of self, Lia must make powerful choices that will affect her country… and her own destiny.


 

3.5 Drink Me Potions


Rating: 3.5 stars

The Heart of Betrayal picks up directly where its predecessor left off, with our brave protagonist stuck in Venda, a kingdom rumoured for its barbaric ways and people.

I thought this book continued strong with Lia as our main character. She demonstrated great restraint in her plans and beautifully crafted lies that would hopefully lead to her eventual escape. She grew to love some of the Vendans, seeing beyond the stereotype she was always taught back in her own kingdom. Lia became the hope for these people that not even the evil ruler, the Komizar, could instill in them.

I was, however, less impressed by the world building. I was a little excited (and intimidated) to see what the notorious kingdom of Venda would be like now that all our main characters are up and personal in this land. It was a little bit of a letdown, to be honest.

The Song of Venda – in short cut-down passages – was seen as glimpses between certain chapters back in The Kiss of Deception. Its mysterious story and how it related to Lia and company in the present day was intriguing, but seeing how some of this unravelled and became more clear didn’t excite me. It was one of the only things that made this world that they lived in different from any other vague fantasy world in the YA genre, although the plot trope of a mostly-devastated kingdom from a time of old when the gods walked the earth has also been seen several times in the last few years (one example would be Rae Carson’s The Girl of Fire and Thorns).

Everything in this book had a familiar feeling to it, like you’ve seen it before. Nothing stood out too greatly, and that’s why I can’t rate this any higher.

However, I did enjoy the romance a bit more and the plot moved faster as Lia and Rafe hatched an escape plan together. The romance can’t really be called a love triangle as it seems Lia explicitly declares she has feelings for Rafe (in the romantic sense) while only “caring” for Kaden. I felt sorry for him a little as we got to learn more about his backstory, this being his home land and all.

The suspense was heavier too as the Komizar played a dangerous game with Lia in a subtle fight for the stronger will and more clever wit. I enjoyed it, while also being immensely relieved that this wasn’t one of those stories where the girl gets taken advantage of (and has to deal with it) because she’s powerless from different things held over her head.

While The Heart of Betrayal wasn’t the best fantasy story I’ve read in the last while, it still has its merits and altogether, I still enjoyed it.

Overall Recommendation:
With an even feistier and stronger Lia than before, The Heart of Betrayal continues her adventures. While a fairly fast read and less emphasis on the darn love triangle (SO grateful), the world building left me less than impressed as we dive more into the stories of Venda and our favourite assassin, Kaden. It balanced out the bits of sweet romance with Rafe and the suspense as they fought for their escape against the tyranny of the Komizar, but there just wasn’t enough here to make me remember this world as altogether special from other fantasy worlds. Overall, a good sequel but may not be the best.

Review: The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

Series: The Remnant Chronicles #1

the-kiss-of-deception-mary-e-pearsonA princess must find her place in a reborn world.

She flees on her wedding day.

She steals ancient documents from the Chancellor’s secret collection.

She is pursued by bounty hunters sent by her own father.

She is Princess Lia, seventeen, First Daughter of the House of Morrighan.

The Kingdom of Morrighan is steeped in tradition and the stories of a bygone world, but some traditions Lia can’t abide. Like having to marry someone she’s never met to secure a political alliance.

Fed up and ready for a new life, Lia flees to a distant village on the morning of her wedding. She settles in among the common folk, intrigued when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deceptions swirl and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—secrets that may unravel her world—even as she feels herself falling in love.


 

3.5 Drink Me Potions


It took me a while to finish The Kiss of Deception. I’m not wholly sure why, but I had to pause for a time and set it aside before I could come back to it.

It may have something to do with the fact that this book is surrounded at its centre on a freaking love triangle .

But I did enjoy many aspects of the novel.

For one, Lia is a superb protagonist. She’s no spoiled little princess, the type of girl that assassin Kaden would easily hate. No, she’s willing to get down and do some work in the new place she settled in after fleeing her home. She’s willing to do what she must to spare another’s innocence. She’s willing to lie to protect those whom she loves.

I admire her ability to adapt to harsh conditions and to never back down against those who wish to crush her spirit. She had the patience to time her responses, even when it’s hard to bite back insults that would feel momentarily good. I totally understand and I am with her in those POVs. I wish I had a Lia in my life like that.

But, there are those parts that weren’t so great. Those parts split between Kaden and Rafe. I will get back to this.

I liked the world building. For most of this book, we get to explore the great kingdom of Morrighan, plus a few uncharted areas between kingdoms as Lia travelled. The backstory to how the world was devastated once and the Remnant that survived were charged to remember is still a little unclear to me and I’m not sure if it’s just me but I hope it’ll clear up with more things that Lia learns in the next book.

And lastly, there was plenty of excitement and things going on with Lia and crew that helped me through 3/4 of the book quite quickly. The pacing got a little slow around the 75% mark and I think this was one factor that made it hard for me to finish it completely.

But mostly, it was the love triangle. I always seem to side with one guy and it’s annoying when the girl just can’t seem to figure out who she likes more. Like, come on. Toying with two different guys isn’t fun. I can’t stand it.

Here, Lia isn’t so bad. Necessarily. It seems she prefers one guy more over the other (and come on, one’s an assassin – albeit a cool factor, but he wants to kill her, kinda – so why not choose the prince, hmm?) but sometimes these things throw me off when the author suddenly does a 180 and chooses the other guy. I’d hate to see Pearson do that to me, but I suppose I shall see.

It took me some time to get over how little time there was with Rafe, and that’s why I stopped. But here I am, all finished. Overall, it’s still a good story. The romance was just a little rushed and there’s the thing with a triangle, but hey, it works for some people.

Overall Recommendation:
The Kiss of Deception was a fun book to start off a new series, albeit a little confusing with the world building. With a strong protagonist such as Lia who represents women who are cunning and flexible without having to be a skilled warrior, who could ask for a better story? Only having to hurtle through the obstacle of a love triangle taking up a large picture of the novel, this book probably would fare well with most people if you enjoy love triangles on top of your fantasy cravings.

Review: The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee

the-secret-of-a-heart-note-stacey-leeAn evocative novel about a teen aroma expert who uses her extrasensitive sense of smell to mix perfumes that help others fall in love while protecting her own heart at all costs

Sometimes love is right under your nose. As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, sixteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of weeding, mixing love elixirs, and matchmaking—all while remaining incurably alone. For Mim, the rules are clear: falling in love would render her nose useless, taking away her one great talent. Still, Mimosa doesn’t want to spend her life elbow-deep in soil and begonias. She dreams of a normal high school experience with friends, sports practices, debate club, and even a boyfriend. But when she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman and has to rely on the lovesick woman’s son, the school soccer star, to help fix the situation, Mim quickly begins to realize that falling in love isn’t always a choice you can make.

At once hopeful, funny, and romantic, Stacey Lee’s The Secret of a Heart Note is a richly evocative coming-of-age story that gives a fresh perspective on falling in love and finding one’s place in the world.


4 Drink Me Potions


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

**The Secret of a Heart Note comes out December 27, 2016**

If you want a story filled with a diverse cast of characters and a little bit of magic thrown into your every day lives, then The Secret of a Heart Note is the book for you.

Mimosa, or Mim as she liked to be called, was a very intriguing protagonist. She was different (obviously, what with her special nose that could scent practically as well as a bloodhound), but she still held those same desires of any teenage girl her age. I liked that she was relatable yet still so interesting to read about due to her unique abilities that run through her family.

The world building, including the history of aromateurs and their ways, was fascinating and I very thoroughly enjoyed the quotes from aromateurs past at the beginning of each chapter. Even though she lived in California, a very familiar location that should not come as a surprise to anyone for the setting of a contemporary novel, the whole world felt so different when described through Mim’s eyes (or should I say, through her nose?). Stacey Lee really went into detail about the different scents for different emotions, and the ingredients that go into the makings of their love potions. The in-depth details of how their concoctions even work, and the rigorous rules they must follow in their line of duty to their special olfactory abilities was fascinating. I was thoroughly pleased to gain such insight into how it looked like being in Mim’s life.

Because, after all, it wasn’t all so easy being her. ‘Cause apparently, an ancestor cursed them from falling in love at the risk of losing their noses.

Beyond the world building that was superb, I really enjoyed the diverse ethnicities and cultures that were represented in the characters. Mim’s best friend was Samoan, one of their main clients was African American, and a star soccer player was Asian. It was great. I have never seen such representation in the YA genre before in one book. I normally don’t mind so much, but being Asian myself, I’m very proud of Stacey Lee trying to be so inclusive in her writings. I look forward to reading some of her other works because they seem to follow this same pattern. If you like seeing diversity in your books, I’d definitely think this story (and author) is for you!

The only problem I had with the story was, oddly enough, the romance. I did not enjoy it as much as I had hoped. Frankly, I didn’t care much for the love interest, to the point that I’ve even forgotten his name. Sure, I felt bad for Mim when there were misunderstandings because high schoolers of course would not understand what it means to empathize with those who are different. When their relationship got rocky (’cause of course it would), I just felt really sad for her, but I couldn’t bring myself to care as much as I would if I had thoroughly enjoyed the two of them together. Don’t get me wrong, this book was lots of fun and portrayed themes that were important. The romance was obviously a huge glue in the story as it’s a story about falling in love, after all. I just wish the love interest had a bigger personality that didn’t bore me.

Needless to say, I am very glad to have found this story. Lee is being added onto my list of authors to read more from, and I think you should give her a try too. Be sure to check this book out when it hits stores!

Overall Recommendation:
The Secret of a Heart Note was my first Stacey Lee book, and it’s opened my eyes to how a well-done story about falling in love, with a diverse cast and a hint of magic and fun, should look like. With every person holding a unique scent made up of many different scent notes, Mim and her family hold the unique ability to hone in on these to make potions to guide people to love. A very unique idea that was marvellously written with a witty and humorous voice, this novel is sure to entertain. If only the central romance had held more of my interest, this book would honestly have been one of the best of the year for me.

Review: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge

Series: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire #1

bright-smoke-cold-fire-rosamund-hodgeWhen the mysterious fog of the Ruining crept over the world, the living died and the dead rose. Only the walled city of Viyara was left untouched.

The heirs of the city’s most powerful—and warring—families, Mahyanai Romeo and Juliet Catresou share a love deeper than duty, honor, even life itself. But the magic laid on Juliet at birth compels her to punish the enemies of her clan—and Romeo has just killed her cousin Tybalt. Which means he must die.

Paris Catresou has always wanted to serve his family by guarding Juliet. But when his ward tries to escape her fate, magic goes terribly wrong—killing her and leaving Paris bound to Romeo. If he wants to discover the truth of what happened, Paris must delve deep into the city, ally with his worst enemy . . . and perhaps turn against his own clan.

Mahyanai Runajo just wants to protect her city—but she’s the only one who believes it’s in peril. In her desperate hunt for information, she accidentally pulls Juliet from the mouth of death—and finds herself bound to the bitter, angry girl. Runajo quickly discovers Juliet might be the one person who can help her recover the secret to saving Viyara.

Both pairs will find friendship where they least expect it. Both will find that Viyara holds more secrets and dangers than anyone ever expected. And outside the walls, death is waiting. . .


2.5 Drink Me Potions


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

**Bright Smoke, Cold Fire comes out September 27, 2016**

Rating: 2.5 stars

Being familiar with Rosamund Hodge’s kinda work and unique plot twists to works that we’re used to, I came in with 2 expectations.

1) This novel would be all dark and twisted up as is her usual style and 2) the themed storyline would be Romeo & Juliet. Well, one of those expectations was met.

Was this really a Romeo & Juliet based story?

For a story that sounded like it was based on a star crossed romance that was absolutely forbidden between 2 clan members in a dying wasteland, oddly enough, Romeo and Juliet weren’t the main characters. Oh no. Their clan relatives were. Paris and Runajo.

Paris was definitely my fav of the 2. He’s the character with the loyal heart and a sense of honour in a city where it seems that kinda trait is running out. He didn’t expect much in life, yet when he landed the responsibility to protect the Juliet, he goes all in. Even after it goes awry and it’s now Romeo he needs to protect, he still doesn’t let him down no matter that they’re rival clans that don’t particularly like or understand each other.

Runajo on the other hand was hard for me to empathize with. A more complex character, her moral compass is a little skewed if you ask me. She’ll do whatever it is that seems right in her eyes but may be seen as wrong in the eyes of her clan or society. Basically, she’s pretty self-centred and being in her head sometimes sucks ’cause she has some really dark thoughts bouncing around in there. On the up side, she’s definitely bold and unafraid of outside opinions.

Now the characterization wasn’t all bad. That’s not why my rating isn’t as high as it could be. It’s the plot.

Why was everything so confusing?

Well, to hand it to Hodge, it was really complex. The world building I mean. There are the undead called revenants popping up, killing the live people, all caused by illegal necromancy occurring in the city by an unknown entity. This is amidst the chaotic information dump that is the ritual of making someone known as the Juliet in the Catresou clan (not including the whole why and religion of this clan for doing so). Not to mention, there’s some other factor known as the Sisterhood with a High Priestess who practices blood sacrifices to appease the gods and keep the city running albeit for only a short while longer.

That’s a whole lot of information that unfortunately doesn’t get dumped onto us in a way that made the reading easy. Jumping back and forth between what the boys are doing and what the girls are doing made it harder to keep track of what was going on in each other’s lives if you don’t read continuously in one sitting.

Oh, and how could I forget about the romance?? Well, that’s ’cause there really wasn’t much of any. Considering Romeo and Juliet weren’t physically together for like, almost the whole book, and Runajo was in the Sisterhood for goodness sakes, that just leaves Paris for romantic entertainment and I think I liked him as he was without being attached to some girl. So if you come romping over here for a nice (albeit dark) romance, you might wanna rethink that plan.

Overall I did enjoy the complexity and creativity put into it. Hodge easily makes a world that’s darkly intriguing, but the pacing was a little slow going. Fortunately, this gives us plenty of time to get to know our 2 – I mean, 4 – protagonists. The growth they each undergo through the events that eventually tie both their storylines together was nice to see, in particular for Runajo who was the hardest character for me to love. There’s plenty of questions left and with a cliffhanger ending like that, I wanna see what happens next to these characters.

Overall Recommendation:
Bright Smoke, Cold Fire was just as dark and complex as I had originally anticipated, especially if you’ve read some of Hodge’s other works. Although this dying world and the intricacies of each clan that’s survived so far was unique, the background history and terminology can get kind of confusing and altogether be too much at times. With a slower pacing than I’m used to in a high fantasy and a whole lot less romance than I would have thought for a Romeo & Juliet story, this novel was more of a mediocre start.

Review: The Falconer by Elizabeth May

Series: The Falconer #1

the-falconer-elizabeth-mayOne girl’s nightmare is this girl’s faery tale

She’s a stunner.
Edinburgh, 1844. Eighteen-year-old Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, has everything a girl could dream of: brains, charm, wealth, a title—and drop-dead beauty.

She’s a liar.
But Aileana only looks the part of an aristocratic young lady. she’s leading a double life: She has a rare ability to sense the sìthíchean—the faery race obsessed with slaughtering humans—and, with the aid of a mysterious mentor, has spent the year since her mother died learning how to kill them.

She’s a murderer.
Now Aileana is dedicated to slaying the fae before they take innocent lives. With her knack for inventing ingenious tools and weapons—from flying machines to detonators to lightning pistols—ruthless Aileana has one goal: Destroy the faery who destroyed her mother.

She’s a Falconer.
The last in a line of female warriors born with a gift for hunting and killing the fae, Aileana is the sole hope of preventing a powerful faery population from massacring all of humanity. Suddenly, her quest is a lot more complicated. She still longs to avenge her mother’s murder—but she’ll have to save the world first.

The first volume of a trilogy from an exciting new voice in young adult fantasy, this electrifying thriller combines romance and action, steampunk technology and Scottish lore in a deliciously addictive read.


3 Drink Me Potions


I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long time and finally came around to it. To make put this short and sweet, The Falconer was like mixing the strong kickass heroine and bad guy fighting from The Dark Days Club and the world and allure of faeries in The Iron King series.

Aileana is everything you’d want in a fighter. Witnessing a horrific crime committed right in front of her eyes, the world of ballroom dancing and finding the perfect husband just wasn’t worth it anymore. In the span of a year, she transformed into monster hunter at night. She was brave, fearless and vengeful. The memories of her mother’s death haunted her. She epitomizes revenge. I thought sometimes the darkness inside of her drowned out a bit of the story. She had others who cared about her, or at least her best friend and later an old acquaintance. They could’ve made her whole if she chose to eliminate the darkness but she never quite manages to do so.

That’s not to say this story wasn’t fierce in its mix of beautiful olden day Scotland and the mysterious Kiaran. I’ve always had a soft spot for historical fantasies and The Falconer most definitely adds onto the list of books in this genre that was done right. There’s plenty of action and suspense as Aileana fights against the clock to prevent catastrophic doomsday from happening to her city of Edinburgh. With a touch of steampunk contraptions and inventions that Aileana uses to help her fight against her opponents, there seems to be a bit of something for most people. My rating mostly has to deal with the lack of romance progression with Kiaran and the slower pacing at times in the middle. I’m not saying the slow burn romance isn’t great, but it seems almost just an implied thing at times and that just drives me a little insane. But for the most part, this novel is exactly as I described it between those 2 series above, which basically means it’s pretty cool.

Oh, but darn that cliffhanger. Not a huge fan of such endings.

Overall Recommendation:
The Falconer gives a wonderful glimpse of historical Scotland while mixing it up with the dark beauty of the faerie and other such creatures. Aileana makes for a fierce protagonist with the fire of a fighter inside of her. Steeped with intrigue and excitement, her sole battle against the world of fae comes to a head in this first book of an interesting trilogy.

Review: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

V23 new typeface tagline.inddEverything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

Julie Buxbaum mixes comedy and tragedy, love and loss, pain and elation, in her debut YA novel filled with characters who will come to feel like friends.


3.5 Drink Me Potions


(1) I just finished it and let me tell you. The ending was perfect. P-E-R-F-E-C-T. Others say it was a bit rushed and there could’ve been more, but I think it was the proper place and way to end it off because of the way Julie Buxbaum set it all up from the start.

Let me start from the beginning (in which it might make more sense with my ramblings that way).

(2) I initially didn’t like this book. At all. Was thinking it pushed 2 stars at most. It wasn’t necessarily ’cause Jessie’s all sad and lonely and nothing seems to be going right in her life with her familial situation. And not necessarily ’cause it was slow. It might just be a slow accumulation of all these things happening to her at the less-than-fast pace it was going. The only thing that kept me somewhat interested was the Somebody Nobody (otherwise known as SN, of course) angle which really kept me guessing (I’ll come back to this later).

Heck, around this time, I wished I was able to escape Jessie’s life as much as she did. I suppose that should account for something if the writing brought out such a strong emotion in me too.

It got to the point where I needed to take a week-long break from this novel at around the halfway mark. But when I came back to it, it was like opening my eyes to a whole new story. Yes, Jessie still was hurting from her change in environment and situation with her dad and steppeoples, but it didn’t feel like just whining anymore. She really was like a ninja, a kick-ass fighter who could maker he way through hard stuff alone even if at the time she didn’t realize she could be so strong.

Jessie grew a lot in the second half. And what made me inhale this part so fast was that she was relatable. No, I never lost a parent (and I don’t wish that to happen any time soon), but her insecurities and her with to be seen was all very real. The pain and loss she felt were also a huge part of who she was, and it may have been annoying at first when it was all that her character seemed to be, but I wouldn’t exchange this part of her now ’cause it helped her figure things out about herself and learn to take a step forward in moving on, little by little. She didn’t solve anything big about her grief for her mom, but the little things do matter. Like patching things up a bit with her remaining parent and learning to tolerate (may I even say “love” even?) her stepbrother and stepmom. Nothing is 100% wrapped up, but these things were a start to hopefully a realistic (but happy) story for Jessie.

(3) Now, my fav. part and what cemented this story together (in my honest opinion) was SN. And his identity. I thought I knew who he was from the start, yet Buxbaum made me guess and re-guess as she threw out red herrings and what not.

And I wanted to know because SN’s conversations with Jessie were absolutely amazing. Their little game of telling each other 3 things (where the title was obviously taken from) about themselves each day was fun yet also made opening themselves up to each other easier. Their honesty about what they feel was real. Their connection over loss and grief was potent, but they knew that the other understood. That even when they felt so alone in their every day life, they were still seen.

So the ending that seemed a little abrupt? I wholeheartedly disagree. It should end there, with SN’s identity. It’s one thing to connect and say all these well-edited words on a screen and not have the person staring back at you as you open up your heart of all that’s burdening you. Buxbaum even acknowledges that every time Jessie wondered whether her connection to SN was because she could so easily be someone different, someone better, on screen since she had the time to edit her words and change them if she didn’t like it. Real life is harder. There are no delete buttons and things pop out your mouth before you can filter them. So upon meeting the one person who kept Jessie grounded since she moved to Cali was very fitting. And knowing that their identity doesn’t necessarily change everything about their relationship.

Romance and grief aside (along with my not-so-humorous attempt to list 3 things this book was to me), this story also had its hand of strong supporting characters. Jessie had a pretty strong and distinct narrative voice, but still had that quality that made her someone I could connect with – a feat that is hard to create well. From her flamboyant, gay stepbrother to the wise and brave bestie she left back home in Chicago, this cast was well-developed, each with their own personalities and problems to overcome.

There were hints of a love triangle, even in the synopsis, but personally, it didn’t ever really feel that way. It can still be construed as one as you read it, but Jessie made it clear there was only one guy she was interested in that way from the start. So I’m not sure you can really count it as one. Ethan, her English partner, was totally a delicious character. His aloofness, hot-and-cold moodiness, plus being a rocker guitar player automatically lands him the bad boy status. But his sensitivity to poetry and smart comments about what matters in life beyond what rich kids at their school normally think are important made me wish I had an Ethan in my life too. He ranked pretty much as high as SN in this book for me.

All in all, Tell Me Three Things took me on a roller coaster ride that in hindsight I’m glad I continued all the way to the end. It may seem like just another romantic book on first love and dealing with loss, but Buxbaum crafted it realistically and beautifully.

Overall Recommendation:
A story full of emotion, Tell Me Three Things follows Jessie, a girl you may feel is quite familiar to you even if you haven’t experienced half of what she did, on her journey across the country to a brand new start she never wanted. From the excitement of conversing with an anonymous person dubbed Somebody Nobody and wondering at his identity, to dealing with the pain and loneliness of moving into her new stepfamily home, Jessie’s experiences moved from fun to heartwrenching in the next moment. Buxbaum makes the things Jessie’s going through realistic and the connections she makes with new friends in Cali are sometimes very deep and profound. After struggling for a good half of the novel, I will say that Tell Me Three Things thoroughly redeems itself, and by the end, left me sighing with an ending that was just right.

Review: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

Series: Monsters of Verity #1

this savage song -victoria schwabThere’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters.

In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.


5 Drink Me Potions


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

**This Savage Song came out June 7, 2016**

Monsters, Monsters, big and small,
They’re gonna come and eat you all.
Corsai, Corsai, tooth and claw,
Shadow and bone will eat you raw.
Malchai, Malchai, sharp and sly,
Smile and bite and drink you dry.
Sunai, Sunai, eyes like coal,
Sing you a song and steal your soul.


This Savage Song held high reviews from other early readers but the hype is really worth it. This novel was astounding. And I don’t say that lightly about most books.

Set in a world ravaged by crime and separated into little territories after decades of fights, this violent world has brought to life an evil that now breathes and destroys whatever is in its path. Monsters. Made of shadows and past crimes committed by humans, they’ve taken a form of their own. Or 3 forms, in fact. Corsai, Malchai and Sunai.

At first, the world and how it functioned was a little confusing, especially about the monsters and how they were created. But Schwab’s writing draws you in, wrapping you in this world that’s terrorized by creatures literally made of shadows and sins. Once you get past initial confusion, the details slowly fall into place and this world will amaze you at its simplicity – it’s like you know it so well by the end of it that you feel you lived there with them – and its imaginative detailing. Verity, or V-City, is one scary place to be in. And it’s been divided into 2.

Kate is the daughter of the man controlling the northern part of the city. I initially despised her. She’s human, yet she acts like a monster. She intentionally is cruel to others, willing to do whatever it took to please her very distant father and be worthy of their name. But over time with the horrid events thrown into her path in this book, she learns that there’s always a choice to be made, and maybe, just maybe, being her father’s daughter isn’t the most important thing to be in her life.

August works for the man who’s in charge of the southern half of the city, along with his brother and sister. They consider themselves one family, no matter if they’re not blood related. Because August is a monster. At first, I wasn’t even certain that he truly was. He’s gentle and hates what he is. It’s one huge part of his half of the story. Abhorring who he was, the very fabric of what keeps him alive, but he can only act human to a certain extent. His inner struggles were some of my favourite parts of This Savage Song. They were detailed and tug on your heartstrings for this poor boy who wished to be other than what he was.

 

It was a cruel trick of the universe, thought August, that he felt human only after doing something monstrous. Which made him wonder if that brief glimpse of humanity was really just an illusion, an echo of the life he’d taken. An imposter sensation.
Leo’s voice came to him, simple and steady. This is what you do. What you are.
Ilsa’s rose to meet it. Find the good in it.


I loved how much he developed as a character. Sometimes the decisions he made were necessary ones, and this story was so good at being unbiased about the white and the black, the light and the dark. Sometimes, there are just gray areas. Sometimes, you are just made of both light and darkness.

This Savage Song also didn’t have a huge array of characters. In fact, although there are a number of minor characters and a few more important supporting figures, this book really does only centre on Kate and August. And I’m perfectly fine with that.

Their relationship was initially brought about intrigue. Like the two of them could understand each other, no matter how different they were. Maybe it’s because they both understood what the world truly was like that they lived in. They weren’t pretending that everything was okay, that monsters didn’t just walk among them. But they also weren’t just cowering in fear until the day they died. They both wanted to live. No matter what living really meant in a world like theirs.

 

Whatever he as made of – stardust or ash or life or death – would be gone.
Not with a bang, but with a whimper.
In with gunfire and out with smoke.
And August wasn’t ready to die.
Even if surviving wasn’t simple, or easy, or fair.
Even if he could never be human.
He wanted the chance to matter.
He wanted to LIVE.


With prose like this and more, it’s easy to see why I absolutely adored Schwab’s writing. The descriptions aren’t long and tedious, but it gets you thinking and exploring what’s on the minds of both Kate and August. It’s not all clouds and rainbows, if any. They understand the harshness of life.

As their relationship progressed, you may think “hey, maybe a beautiful forbidden romance would bloom between them”. Well, guess again.

Their relationship maintains platonic throughout and although I’m normally a huge lover of a cute romance between protagonists, this just felt right. A romance didn’t fit in with everything else that was going on here. It would’ve taken away from the development of their individual characters with the problems they were dealing with. They needed to do it on their own without being clouded by the other’s opinions if they were thinking of each other in that way. Maybe in the sequel it might take a different stance, but here, this was perfect. A friendship that depended on one another, a trust that was built on danger but tested and solidified through the fire. I adored them both equally, but I also loved them together the way they were.

 

….a single shadow screamed and toppled forward from the mass, white eyes winking out, teeth raining down on the damp floor like loose stones.
“Any time now,” snapped Kate as the Corsai rattled and hissed.
“Can’t rush art,” said August as he rested the bow on the strings.

At moments, their interactions and banter were even a little comical (in the dry sense, of course) to take off some of the tension building.

 

“Listen to me,” he said, pulling off his coat. “You need to stay awake.”
She almost laughed, a shallow chuckle cut short by pain.
He tore the lining from the jacket. “What’s so funny?”
“You’re a really shitty monster, August Flynn.”


At the end of the day, This Savage Song explored what it meant to accept what you are but to also understand that you decide what you do with that. Your decisions are what warrant you a monster, whether you were born human or a monster. Victoria Schwab goes through this all by immersing you into the heart and minds of August and Kate, two people who became so real to me that I was sad to see their story ending for the moment. Until the sequel, then.

I shall end off this long review with another beautiful moment between Kate and August. Maybe you can start to see how I fell so in love with them both. Their ability to continue on even when it’s just so much easier to give up all hope.

 

The sky was on fire. He wondered if Ilsa had ever seen stars, which were so strange and perfect. One streaked across the sky, trailing light.
“I read somewhere,” said Kate, “that people are made of stardust.”
He dragged his eyes from the sky. “Really?”
“Maybe that’s what you’re made of. Just like us.”
And despite everything, August smiled.


Overall Recommendation:
There is so much that I can say about Victoria Schwab’s This Savage Song but I’ll simply just say this. It’s a beautiful story depicting two teenagers who learn that there’s more to light and darkness than just what you’re born as or whose family you belong to. Finding hope in a violently torn apart world like theirs, Kate and August both grow in ways that make you hold your breath and silently root for them as they navigate decisions that are hard to make. I absolutely adored them both, and the mental journey they each took to the place they’ve reached at the end of the book. This goes to show that the YA genre doesn’t require a romance as a driving force for a good story. Their platonic friendship was beautiful in its own way and I cannot wait to see what else comes their way in the sequel. With plenty of action, imaginative creatures made of darkness and a world that sucks you in along with two very strong protagonists leading the way, this is one book you most definitely have to read.

*Note: All quotes taken from the ARC are subject to change