The Priory of the Orange Tree – I’m Just Here for the Dragons, tbh

The Priory of the Orange Tree

Samantha Shannon

I’m aliiiiiiiive! Friends, I’m back from my weeks of reading The Priory of the Orange Tree. This book was an undertaking, and I do not say that lightly. Big books are the best, and normally I love to brag as much as any bookworm about how quickly I can make it through large books like this… but this one took some time. I feel like so much happened within the pages of this story that I cannot even begin to describe all of the events that took place. Perhaps it could have been split into multiple stories, which could have made the plot progress quicker? I wouldn’t say the pacing was rough, but there were times when I raced through the pages and times when it took quite a bit to stay focused. 

The Priory follows four main storytellers: Ead, Tane, Loth, and Niclays. Ead is a handmaiden of the Priory of the Orange Tree, and she has been acting as a spy for the past eight years at the Inysh court. Originally sent to the Queendom of Inys by the Prioress, Ead’s only mission in Inys is to keep the Queen, Sabran Berethnet, alive… which is quite difficult, since she is the target of several assassination attempts. Tane is in the East, training to become a dragon rider and following the dream she has had ever since she was a child. Though she passes her trials and becomes a rider, her world turns upside down when she discovers an Inysh man on the coast of Seiiki. To preserve her fragile future as a rider, she tries to hide the man but she can’t outrun this mistake. Loth is Sabran’s best friend since childhood, yet he is mysteriously sent away after his close friendship with the Queen poses a threat to Sabran’s marriage prospects. Loth finds himself the newly appointed ambassador to the Draconic country of Yscalin… a region sworn to Sabran’s archenemy, the Nameless One (a big, scary dragon dude). Loth must fight to stay alive and make his way back to his homeland and best friend. Niclays is in exile on the coastal island of Orisima, part of Seiiki in the East. Sabran banished him after he failed his promised task to create an elixir of life, and he finds his fate wrapped tightly with Tane’s when the man she found is dumped at his doorstep. As the Nameless One rises from the Abyss, the four storytellers must work together to banish him once and for all before he reigns terror on the world. 

If that felt like a lot, it’s because it was. It took me a whole week to make it through the first hundred pages… so much was name dropped without any pretense, and I was constantly flipping back and forth to the maps to keep the characters straight in my head. I even wrote everyone down in the beginning since I was having such a hard time keeping up with this story. Don’t get me wrong, I love fantasy… but it can be a chore to submerse yourself in a world as deep as this one. I feel like the story would have been better served if it possessed a LOTR-esque introduction to the history in the beginning, like how Galadriel narrated the story of the Ring right at the start of The Fellowship of the Ring. Once I wrote everything down and got through those first chapters, things started making more sense and it was easier to continue reading. 

Dragons… really, that cover had me drooling. I loved how Samantha Shannon incorporated both Eastern and Western dragon lore, and I honestly wish the dragons played even more of a front and center role in this tale. They would have created more action in the story, and I think this would have helped keep the book interesting (personally). I love the tale of Saint George and the dragon, and I could see how Shannon pulled inspiration from it to frame how feared and hated western dragons were. Seriously, dragon lore is some of my favorite fantasy stuff… I even had a Dragonology book when I was younger that I would read every night and write down sentences in runes (in case I ever came across a dragon, of course). Also, I truly thought that if I held my bar of soap in the shower just so and sang the song from Dragontales, I would find myself surrounded by dragons. Tell me you’re cool, without telling me you’re cool. Dragons may or may not play a huge role in a book I may or may not be writing… you heard it here first, besties. I don’t think I said dragons enough, so here’s one more: dragons.

Honestly, I loved each of the main storytellers, Loth, Tane, Ead, and Niclays. They all were such good characters, and it was a real pleasure to watch their stories interweave with each other from across the world, similar to GOT. Tane and Niclays had to be my favorites… their chapters really held my attention and had me wanting their next chapters. I didn’t care for Sabran’s character, but I loved how Ead brought the good out in her. Their relationship was so strong and passionate, and they were perfect for each other. There was fantastic female representation in every corner of this book, without it being so obvious… and I loved that. I feel as if this made the characters that much more real, and it made this novel a true feminist story. I also loved the interesting takes on organized religion; Shannon showed how a lot of it is just word of mouth, passed on through generations without any solid proof or backing. 

Overall, I’d say this was a good story… personally, it fell somewhat flat and it wasn’t quite what I expected, but there were times in which I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t my favorite… it was just a solid story. Standalones do be like that, though. I think if it was more of a series, not just a standalone, with more action amongst the characters and the dragons… it would have really been an epic read. I finished it… wanting more? More relationships, more conflict… more. The ending was a touch anticlimactic, and it had me thinking “oh really? This is it?”. Shannon has mentioned that she would love to further explore this world, and I can see how she can easily do that… Here’s to hoping she will! I’ve heard good things about her other series, The Bone Season, which is currently sitting on my never-ending TBR list. For now, I’ll be starting The Crown of Gilded Bones (ok, but whhhhhyy all the long titles though) by Jennifer L. Armentrout… and I CANNOT WAIT. Stay tuned for that review, because something tells me I’ll get through that book much quicker!

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue: A Punch to the Gut (But Like a Good One)

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

V. E. Schwab

Damn if this was not one of the best books I’ve ever read. Seriously. I was neck deep in a reading slump, struggling to stay afloat, and Addie LaRue gave me life.

Addie LaRue was born on March 10, 1691, in Villon, France. She was a wild child, a dreamer, and she was not satisfied with her life in Villon. She listened to stories from Estele, an older woman in her village, and realized that life was so much larger than her tiny town in France, where the villagers all seemed content to live their lives and die in the same spot for generations. When her parents decide to finally marry her off to a widowed man with children (she reached age 24, practically an old spinster in those times), she panics. She prays to any and all gods, hoping they would heed her prayers and keep her dreams alive. None answer, until she runs away the night of her wedding and in her desperation, she prays to have more time to live her life how she wants. There, a god answers after dark, and gives her what she asked for: to move through this life unburdened, unbound, free to spend her time as she wants until she is ready to surrender her soul to him. However, there is a catch: no one remembers her.  

For three hundred years, Addie lives, moving from place to place, forgotten by those she meets instantly. Until she meets Henry, who remembers her. Addie is bewildered, and treasures the simple fact that Henry remembers. He can walk away, turn around, and still know who she is. Puzzled why Henry is the first person who can speak her name in three hundred years, Addie learns that Henry also made a deal with Luc, the same god who answered her desperate plea for more time. Though all deals come with a catch, and time is not in his favor.

I’m late to the table here, but it was well worth the wait. I did my due diligence and avoided all fan art and spoilers like the plague, and I’m so glad I did. Actually, I made the huge mistake of not preordering this book and when I went to order it after it released, it was SOLD OUT. Like everywhere. And every time I looked for it, I had the worst luck… until I finally reached victory. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is powerful. Everything from the beautifully styled writing to the poignant concept of time well spent hit me like a ton of bricks (in the best way possible). To be honest, this is my first taste of V.E. Schwab’s writing, even though I am a huge fan of her on Instagram, and now I’m frantically adding the rest of her novels to my TBR. Her style gave me huge classics vibes, and I LOVED every second of it. She spun Addie’s story down to the most intricate of details; the words on the pages folded around my introspective heart and had my head spinning. This might be an odd, niche description, but hear me out: the way she wrote tickled my brain. I think you’ll understand if you’re also an avid reader (which you all are, right besties?). I feel like cornering her and demanding how she was able to pull such personal thoughts of mine out of my head and express them better than I ever could in the most beautiful story, but I know the answer. She is a badass author. The amount of love I have for this book is incredible, and I am going to shove it down everyone’s throats if I get the chance. If you haven’t read it, beware: spoilers from here on. 

There were certain parts of this book that hit me hard, the first one being when Addie starts to realize there is more to life than the small village where she lives with her parents. She makes the powerful realization that the villagers are content to live and die in the same spot, eventually buried in the same ten meter plot of land as their ancestors. That doesn’t sit well with her (tres relatable). Addie is a dreamer, desperate to get the hell out of dodge… and I would be lying if I said I didn’t deeply understand those feelings. The same thoughts have circulated my own mind about the town where I live. It got me thinking… would you? Would you make a deal for more time? Call me selfish… but I think I would. What I loved about this novel was how utterly real the feelings were; Addie’s desperation had my own heart racing and palms sweating. Her grief wrecked me in half when she tried to see her parents and Estele, only to find out they would never remember her again. Yet, for how terrible those feelings were, I love how Addie eventually embraced her freedom and she knew she would make the same decision again if she had the chance. It may have been to spite Luc, but she got to live. To see and experience so much. To move through a thousand different lifetimes. She wouldn’t deny that she was lonely… but a small, greedy part of me sings at the thought of living Addie’s life, deal and all. I guess that’s the point; how many times do you wistfully think there was something you could do, something you could be, but you always fall back on the same excuses? Time is a melancholy construct… and if you also find yourself wondering of deals made past dark, maybe this is a sign for all of us to live life for ourselves with the time we’ve got. 

Henry. Sweet, sensitive Henry. At first, I was in love with him because Addie loved him… then, as I learned more about his back story, I realized parts of his life ran parallel to mine. As a fellow overly sensitive soul, I was gripped by his similar confusion about life. His fear of falling behind, of never being good enough. We stan an emotional king. However, his deal with Luc was so much more heartbreaking than Addie’s. Ugh. I literally knew his deal was so sus… if I was Addie, I would have asked him how long his deal was for immediately. I’ve read too many bittersweet novels to not be suspicious of a “too good to be true” storyline (think: The Fault in Our Stars, Deadline by Chris Crutcher — side note of a side note: I read this book in 2007 when it came out and it TRAUMATIZED me for life. It was so funny and heartfelt that I was convinced what happened wasn’t going to happen… if you have also been personally victimized by this novel, contact me. I need to know someone else read it. Maybe it wasn’t that good, and my twelve year old self was just extra sensitive… but it fucked me up. I actually think it was the first novel that ever made me cry… and I remember being shocked that I was sobbing while I read it. I digress.). Also, it was obvious Luc knew about Henry and Addie, even orchestrated their meeting… not surprised at all. Though, to be honest, I didn’t expect Addie to give in to Luc to spare Henry… I thought Henry would die and eventually she would go back to playing cat and mouse with Luc. 

While I loved Henry and Addie, I think Addie and Luc were ultimately suited for each other… no matter how toxic they were. I think Henry and Addie needed each other in that moment… but Luc was low-key right when he pointed out to Addie that she really isn’t human after living for that long. Over the course of the book, as I felt Addie’s vibes towards Luc shift, I knew they would be together at the end. It might have been a little Stockholm Syndrome-ish for her to have feelings for him, but it just made sense. Though, I was very surprised that Addie did not go willingly without a trick of her own up her sleeve… and I don’t know how I feel about that. I was heartbroken over the fact that Addie gave up Henry for this life of revenge on Luc… on the other hand, I wouldn’t have expected anything more from her and Luc. They’ve played this game for three hundred years, what’s three hundred more? So, though I was in my feels about Henry, who deserves to be loved like Addie loved him, I think this story ended just right *chef’s kiss*.

Red Queen – Am I Into It? Or Am I Still Trying to Fill a Void?

Red Queen

Victoria Aveyard

I’ve had the Red Queen series on my TBR pile for a looooonnnggg time, maybe even years, and I’ve finally decided to pick it up and dive on into it. I’m a huge fan of Victoria Aveyard as a person, and I love all of her writing tips that she’s so open about on Instagram. Authors who let everyone know how they were published are real saints; they’re so inspiring to people like me, dreamers who live in a fantasy world inside their head 24/7 but have always thought writing and publishing a whole ass novel to be unattainable. Anyways, I love Victoria so I figured what the hell, might as well start her series at last. 

Red Queen follows Mare Barrow, a poor girl who pickpockets to save her family. She lives in a world divided by blood: some people are born with Red blood, some people are born with Silver blood. Those with Silver blood have unique abilities and powers (kinda like super powers), and through history they have squashed Reds to the slums. Silvers have a huge superiority complex, and they’ve forced Reds to be servants or live in poverty, and most importantly: fight in a century long war against a neighboring kingdom. Mare lives a miserable life, knowing her future is conscription into the army, yet everything changes when she accidentally meets the crown prince, Cal, in disguise. He pulls strings to get her a job at the palace as a servant, saving her from conscription. On her first day, a Queenstrial takes place to determine Cal’s wife, where the Silver ladies of the court fight against one another with their powers. Mare accidentally falls into the pit on live television, and somehow withstands the electric barrier that should have killed her. She discovers that she can control and create electricity… contrary to her Red blood. In an attempt to disguise her true Red blood and the fact that she has powers, the royal family betroths her to Maven, Cal’s younger brother. Mare suddenly has to navigate a dangerous life at court, hiding her true self and discovering why she is so powerful while fighting for justice for the Reds. 

This book was a very YA fantasy novel, with a surface level world and characters that lacked depth… so I really shouldn’t be complaining. I just think I’ve become that girl… the one who reads YA then gets disappointed when it’s a YA book. Mare was a meh character, her martyrdom/pessimism annoying at times. I really didn’t connect with her at all, and I felt like she made some stupid decisions. Cal, on the other hand… of course I thought he was interesting, and I’m bummed we didn’t get more of him. I knew Maven and his mother were sus as hell, and I saw that one coming a mile away. He was just too conveniently nice to Mare, always encouraging her to act against the crown, and I thought it was obvious that he was using her. However, I liked his character as much as I liked Cal, because you know where he’s coming from… you know where those thoughts of resentment towards his father and older brother originated. I really am not surprised he turned against them with his mother, and I’m excited to see how he acts as the villain going forward. That’s my villain appreciation talking. Kilorn… eh. I thought he was equally, if not more, annoying than Mare. He low-key reminded me of Mal from the Shadow and Bone series… and that’s not a compliment. She literally stuck her neck out to save his ass so many times, and he was just an angsty boy who made dumb decisions too. I used to love the teenage angst… The New Adult genre has seriously wrecked my world. Ugh. 

I wish the world building in this first book was deeper… like, I couldn’t really picture any of the scenes beyond just Mare herself. Like, what type of world is this that there is electricity, but no cars or phones? What do the clothes look like? What do the buildings look like? I feel like we hardly got descriptions about why the war with the Lakelanders (who are they again?) had been going on for such a long time. The characters and the conflict just felt so surface level… and there were SO many characters that I thought were unnecessary. I’m all for filling a book to the brim with unique characters, but they all have to serve a purpose. I felt like so many names were dropped but I couldn’t keep track of them all. And we barely got character descriptions! Yeah, yeah… I realize that is one of my personal pet peeves. When I’m reading, I want every last detail about my character’s physical description. I want it alllllllllll. And I want it upfront when we meet them too; nothing makes me more annoyed than finding out a character’s key features later on in a story when I’ve already come up with what they look like in my mind. 

Honestly, this book was very predictable, and I’m shocked that there’s enough of a story to continue on with three more significantly larger books. I can’t see where this story is going, and it’s that fact alone that will keep me marching on with the series. Plus the fact that I love Victoria as a person. Based on the sheer size of the next books in this series, I’m really hoping the world builds on itself and we get to see more character development. Fingers crossed. Truth be told, I’m desperately looking for another amazing series to fill the void that ACOSF created. I didn’t really want to acknowledge that I am knee deep in the middle of a book hangover until I realized halfway through this book that nothing I read is really pulling at my heartstrings like I want it to. *cough* I’ll take any suggestions for a good series *cough* seriously though *cough* give me anything *cough*. But I digress, so stay tuned for my thoughts as I continue with the second book, Glass Sword

The Once and Future Witches – A Feminist Masterpiece

The Once and Future Witches

Alix E. Harrow

I’m back on my witch shit, and let me tell you: this book was fantastic. I was blown away by the beautiful writing and the powerful message behind the story. The Once and Future Witches isn’t just a book about the tales of witchcraft, but a book about what it means to be a woman fighting for your rights. It was a feminist masterpiece that really pointed out what feminism means at its core: not just the fight for women’s rights, but the fight for rights for EVERYONE, the inclusion of all identities and race. As someone who pays a lot of attention to politics, I truly enjoyed this book.

The story follows three sisters, Beatrice Belladonna, Agnes Amaranth, and James Juniper, as they meet up in New Salem by happenstance in 1893. The sisters had a fall out seven years prior; details are sprinkled throughout the book hinting at what actually happened between them, but it wasn’t good. The girls are witches who learned spells, sayings, and charms from their grandmother when they were younger, but witchcraft is illegal during this time… especially in a place as uptight and god fearing as New Salem. After witnessing a Suffrage Rally, Juniper decides that she wants to fight for the right to vote and fight for the right to bring witchcraft back into the world; those things go hand in hand, right? Right. However, she is derailed when she discovers that the Women’s Union of New Salem (the union supposedly fighting for voting rights), does not condone witchcraft and is really only for the privileged, rich white women of New Salem. Determined, Juniper and her sisters form the Sisters of Avalon, and they rally together to prove that witchcraft isn’t a sin and women have the right to speak their minds through their vote. Though they form quite a strong union, they soon find out that more than just prejudice and hatred fights against their rights. A dark and powerful magic stands between them. 

This book had incredible female representation. While the three sisters were symbolic as The Maiden, The Mother, and The Crone, they stood for so much more. Bella, who is a lesbian, suffered through disgusting forms of torture by nuns as they tried to “convert her”. She was so traumatized that she thought her penance (so to speak) would be to live a solitary life as a librarian, keeping quiet and out of sight (the Crone). She had a lot of internalized trauma to work through, and it was so heartwarming to watch her finally come to embrace the fact that she can love who she loves as she grows in her relationship with Cleo Quinn, a black reporter for the black newspaper in New Salem. Agnes told a different story, one of abortion and the right to choose to become a mother. Working in the sweat shop factory in town, she made the difficult decision for herself to raise her baby by herself when she got pregnant. She didn’t need to marry the man, and it was her choice to fight for the right to keep her baby too, even though the city would try to take it away from her. When she eventually meets a man (literally the only man in this story worth a damn), he worships the ground she walks on and always respects her choice. We stan a respectful king. Fellas, just follow after Mr. August Lee… it’s literally not that hard. While each of the girls suffered under their alcoholic and assaulting father, Juniper was left with him alone for seven years after their father sent Agnes and Bella away. She grew resentful of her sisters, though each of them was misunderstood by the other, and she eventually killed her father after he tried to get handsy with her. In his will, her father didn’t even leave her his farm; instead, he gave it to her male “dumbshit” cousin (ugh, men *gag*). 

If you couldn’t tell, the representation in this book was ah-mazing… and that’s just within the three main characters. There was so much more across all of the women in the story. One thing I especially loved was how Alix E. Harrow focused on the historical fact that the Women’s Suffrage movement had some racist and classist leaders. At the ripe age of 25, I’ll admit that I didn’t really understand this until about two years ago. In school, we all learned about the Suffrage movement: we all saw the women in their beautiful dresses and feathered hats, the banners across their chests, proudly storming about with their signs. Great. What our world class education system (HEAVY sarcasm in case you missed it) tried to erase was the fact that these women were rich and they were white; they could afford to rally, to pay their dues to be a “member” of their movement, and they excluded women of color from their movement. Now I’m generalizing; there are examples of women who fought for all equality. But the reality was that it was very divided, and I’m so glad this division was represented in this book. Because what the story touched on was that it was the hardworking women, the black women, women of color, trans women, single mothers, working mothers, and witches who fought the hard fight. The dirty fight. 

And that fight is still not over. We can’t stop fighting. It seems unfathomable that men used to burn women at the stake in fear of them, yet that is literally what happened. Women throughout history have been gaslit, pushed to the side, stripped of their rights as human beings, enslaved, and walked all over. Especially women of color. Misogyny runs deep in the foundations of our society, and it goes so much deeper than the right to vote… which is powerful, but until all women feel safe, until men realize the point isn’t “not all men”, it is far from over.  

The Lamplighters – A Job for Mystery, Inc.

I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of The Lamplighters to dive into (pun intended), and it was honestly a refreshing change up from my usual fantasy books. To start this off, I know absolutely nothing about Lighthouses. Yo girl lives in landlocked Colorado, so I find this as no surprise. In fact, my only exposure to any sort of Lighthouse lore was a puzzle with an image of a Maine lighthouse on it I received for Christmas one year, and a Scooby Doo episode in which the gang tries to solve a Lighthouse mystery. So, clearly I know nothing. Yet, as I turned the pages of this book, I was immersed in the Lamplighter life of old. I felt like I could see every detail of the Lighthouse, in and out, and the Cornish coast clear as day. I felt the wild untamed sea even though I have never visited England in real life (side note: great thing about reading? Traveling to so many cool places in your mind. Bad thing about reading? Your bucket list grows infinitely longer the more books you read *sigh*). The description was that strong within this book, and for that I give it several snaps. The Lamplighters tells the story of three Lamplighters who went missing from the Maiden Rock Lighthouse in 1972, and what the effects of their disappearance had on those who loved them as the wives of the keepers were interviewed for a novel twenty years after the incident. The story is actually loosely based on and inspired by a true story of the disappearance of three men in 1900. 

The book starts out like a mystery, where we are first introduced to the disappearance when a sailor brings a relief keeper out to the tower. When they arrive at the tower, they wait and wait and wait, yet no one comes out. The company sends a crew to investigate, and we learn key details during this time: the door was barred from the inside out, the table was eerily set for just two keepers, and the clocks were both set to 8:45. Other than that, there is no indication where the keepers went, whether they died, they were taken, or they jumped ship to create a new life for themselves. 

We read the story from the perspectives of each of the keepers, plus their wives, at various points throughout the novel as the setting jumps back and forth between 1972 and the present of 1992. My favorite parts of this book were the chapters where the wives are individually being interviewed, and we only get to hear what they say… sort of like listening to a one sided conversation. We never actually hear from the author himself, but each of their responses to the questions keys you in to what their characters are like. I haven’t read many books like that, and so I thoroughly enjoyed each unique chapter. The only thing I can compare it to is shows like The Office, Parks and Rec, Modern Family, etc., in which we get several one sided conversations throughout. 

Along with the interviews, each individual chapter with the characters gave us loads of insight. I haven’t read many mystery/thriller novels, but each time I do I wonder why I don’t read them more often. The details I gleaned from each chapter kept me racing through the pages, desperate to find out why the men went missing. To be honest, I found it a touch underwhelming when I did find out the reason why, but I’ll explain. Deep thinking books that touch on characteristics of the human condition sometimes disappoint me… and I’m exposing myself here in my escapist ways. I’d much rather enjoy an impossible reality over a melancholy reality that is within grasp. But, I think Emma Stonex did a fantastic job of incorporating grief and the ways in which people write their own reality when something unexplainable happens into this novel. Each of the wives had such a unique story to tell, and since none of them spoke their truths to each other, none of their stories lined up. This element also kept me guessing until the end, wondering which truth eventually won out over the others. Of course, we got to see the story play out with the keepers as well, but really it was the wives who ended playing a more pivotal role in what really happened. And they were the ones who eventually had to deal with the truth throughout the years. 

In the end, I would have enjoyed this book a lot more if it had more bizarre, unexplainable elements to it… if it were in fact, a ghost story. Or an episode of Scooby Doo. But that is 100% my personal preference and has nothing to do with the way this novel was written… which was very well, in my opinion. You could tell Emma Stonex did her research and she did it right, incorporating accuracies into every last detail. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers, mysteries, and books that make you think deep about how we are all living our own variation of the truth. 

ACOSF Pt. 2: It’s Raining Spoilers

Ayo, I’m back in action! In case you missed it, this is PART 2 of my full ACOSF review. This time, I want to talk about all things characters, all things theories, all things I disliked… so go back and read Pt. 1 if you’re new here. Think of this as a rapid fire, all of my thoughts, no deep explanations type of review… so really, not a review at all. If you haven’t read the ACOTAR series yet, you’ll be confused AF. If you have not read ACOSF yet, do not continue reading; every single word from now on is considered a spoiler. Let’s roll. 

First off, I loved Nesta’s journey and OF COURSE I LOVED THE HEAT IN THIS BOOK… but beyond that, we didn’t get to see much of the actual continuing plot of the series. In the end, I didn’t really mind this though because I think Nesta’s healing was important to focus on. And the heat? GIVE ME MORE. I just could have had additional details sprinkled in here and there naturally, because what was given to us felt rushed and pushed off to the side. Especially when Brialyn, the main “antagonist”, if you will, dies at the end of the story. The scene was badass, don’t get me wrong… but after reading it I thought what was the point of even having her sub-plot show up if she was going to die anyways. But, I’m hoping we’ll get more details going forward. 

In the beginning, I did not appreciate the forced intervention on Nesta. Ok, I understand that Nesta’s behavior was horrendous, but I didn’t like how they took away her freedom. I know that if they had given Nesta said freedom, she likely would have taken it and ran… But something about the way they cornered her, full of judgment, full of disgust, did not sit right with me… anybody felt like this was a bit ick? Though, take that opinion with a grain of salt, because as someone who takes criticism similarly to Nesta, I too would have felt cornered. But I digress. 

On a similar note, I noticed a lot of people didn’t like Rhys’s behavior throughout this book. I saw so many complainants that he was rude, arrogant, and an asshole towards Nesta… but I liked it *tucks hair behind ear suggestively*. Because think about it: we fell in love with asshole Rhys, right? The asshole that Feyre first met and interacted with during ACOTAR and the first half of ACOMAF was the one who first gave us butterflies… not the vanilla Rhys we got once Feyre accepted the mating bond. And really, we have only ever seen Rhys from Feyre’s POV, so to me, it makes sense that he has an attitude with everyone else, especially Nesta. He is High Lord of the Night Court, after all… I wouldn’t expect that he would be sunshine and roses, no matter how nice he is to people who have suffered. Honestly, I would have loved to have more of him in this book for these reasons alone. You guys know how I love my dark, angsty characters. 

I can’t mention Rhys without talking about Feyre, so… she felt off. I know we now got to see her through a new character’s eyes, those eyes belonging to Nesta of all people… but I can’t quite place my finger on why I didn’t like her as much this time around… maybe it’s because I fell in love with Nesta’s character above all. I also found it kind of silly whenever Feyre commanded people or made extreme decisions. We saw a little bit of her struggle with finding a balance between friendship and command as High Lady in ACOWAR, and I do realize this book takes place two years after the war, but I just snorted every single time she made an important decision. Hence why I’m a Nesta instead of a Feyre. 

At this point, I might as well talk about the whole… baby situation. I mean, we all saw it coming from a mile away. BUT I didn’t really dig it. Rhys being weirdly territorial was ick, Feyre going to DIE because of the baby was giving me Twilight flashbacks, and then we got the cherry on top: Rhys and Feyre’s asinine promise that they’d die together. Bruh. All of it felt… forced? Plus, I predicted Nesta would save Feyre’s life some how or some way. Did I still cry though? Yes. Moving on. 

The House of Wind has my whole entire heart… That is all.

Speaking of friends, let’s chat about Gwyn and Emerie. Ummmmm, of course I loved everything about them, and what they meant to Nesta. Literally perfection. I’m so happy that Nesta found friends outside of the Inner Circle too, because I just liked the feeling of her becoming her own person. She never had that opportunity in the past. The only time I thought their little girl gang was trite was when they were dumped in to the Blood Rite. Nothing about that made sense to me, even after knowing it was all Brialyn’s idea to begin with. This entire part of the story felt really forced and really rushed… not to mention the fact that they were able to scale that mountain with like four months of training.

Ok, you’ve now made it to the segment of this episode I’d like to call: holy shit when did Azriel become my favorite character. I honestly was not an Azriel fangirl before this book. I’d see everyone talking about him, I liked him platonically, but I didn’t get his hype. This book changed EVERYTHING for me. We were ROBBED of our ménage a trois scene between Nesta, Cassian, and Azriel. I literally read the singular paragraph describing the brief image of it 20 times over, trying to make it come to fruition. We first met the Azriel who was trying to be polite to Feyre in the previous books, and I think that’s why I didn’t really connect with him… but this is the real Azriel and he’s A LOT more complicated. The copy I ordered was the Feysand copy, so once I finished it I immediately scoured the internet to read his chapter. I think the darkness within his thoughts surprised people; I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t see his possessiveness and his entitlement of Elain coming at all… BUT I will say it made me obsessed with him even more. The way he argued with Rhys… *bites knuckle*. Some people found it disturbing… I thought it was such a wicked surprise and I’m so excited that we get to see him in this new light. Going forward, I don’t care who he ends up with as long as we get a lot more insight into his extremely complex character. 

Now buckle up and put on your tin foil hats, folks, because I’ll end this with theories; specifically, my favorites since there’s a million of them out there. If you want all of the theories, I suggest watching the Maastastic IGTV episodes on Instagram.

Dark Elain. Personally, I think floorboards have more of a personality than Elain, but I would LOVE to see her character spice it up and go AWOL for a while. Maybe have Koschei use her with some of the Dread Trove objects or something… ANYTHING. Plus, I thought she was sus throughout this book… all the gardening, all the disappearing, all the weirdness around Lucien… which, by the way, I think Lucien deserves personal justice. I don’t know about you guys, but I loved his character in ACOTAR and I feel as if he has gotten the short end of the stick throughout this whole series. I do enjoy the theory that Elain and Lucien will take over the Spring Court… if Elain would ever give Lucien the time of day.

Mor and Eris are actually mates. YES. This one truly makes so much sense. I honestly love Eris, he’s a complete prick but I think we’ve gotten to see that he has ulterior motives that run very deep… and I like it. Mor… ugh. She drove me nuts in this book. I hope she finds her happiness and she can find the strength to actually tell her truths. I also hope she ends up with Emerie, because I 1000000% ship that couple. 

The Multiverse. Yes, I thought Lanthys was suspiciously described like a Valg. Yes, I do think there is a multiverse. We’ve gotten so many hints… SO MANY. Yes, I think the Harp could open up portals into the other worlds… and I do think that the fourth, blurred out item in the Dread Trove is Luna’s Horn, or something similar to it… The multiverse trope is one of my favorites, and I just think there are so many opportunities for SJM to make all of her books connect like this. I could talk about this for days.

Ooof. If you’ve made it to the end of this, kudos. Your prize is a virtual hug from myself. If you’d like to talk more theories and characters, comment below, DM me on Insta, send me an email, or even write me a letter. I would love nothing more than to talk more about this fandom.

ACOSF Part 1: Cloudy With a Chance of Spoilers

A Court of Silver Flames, by Sarah J. Maas

I sobbed my eyes out over ACOSF in a way I haven’t done in a really long time, and it had nothing to do with the plot and everything to do with the characters. Though this is a high fantasy novel, the portrayal of depression and anxiety and internal trauma is quite possibly the best I’ve ever read, and I needed it. Nesta’s journey to make peace with herself and face the consequences of her actions is the perfect example of how you can’t put a “one size fits all” tag on mental health and healing. We are all dealing with our own shit. And that’s ok. Just because someone recovered faster, or someone looks to be fine from the outside, doesn’t mean we get to project and assume that everyone will heal the same way. 

Ok. Here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to write two blog posts. One being just a review of the good I found in this book, another being a deep dive into characters, theories, what I liked and didn’t like, etc. Because if I tried to cram all of that into one post, we’d be here for DAYS. I can’t really mention what I didn’t like about this book without giving away major details to the story going forward. Plus, I really want to talk about other characters and theories, but I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read this series or book yet. That’s never fun. So without further ado, let’s dive on into my ACOSF review Pt. 1. 

A Court of Silver Flames is the fourth/four-and-a-half/fifth book in the ACOTAR series by Sarah J. Maas, depending on if you squint your eyes and tilt your head… though I’d deem the three previous books and one novella necessary to read before you start on this one. The book follows our main characters, Nesta and Cassian, as they work through the aftermath of trauma from the war with Hybern that took place in the third book, ACOWAR. Nesta, who has always been fighting and losing her internal battles, has spiraled out of control into a very dark, painful depression, using sex, gambling, and heavy drinking to drown out her thoughts. She lashes out at anyone who tries to get close to her… even Cassian, who has always stood up for her in the past. Because she continues to gamble away her family’s money, and because of the dangerous power within her body that she has no control over, they force her into isolation and training with Cassian, along with a job in the library. Though mean and spiteful at first, Nesta works through her own trauma and ultimately finds herself in the end. I just have to quickly say, this book combined two of my favorite past times: reading and working out, and all of the training/fight scenes in this story were top notch. SJM did her research, and I desperately want a punching bag and some swords to do the workouts in this book. Address in bio if you’d like to send me some.

Nesta. I went into this story with Nesta being a character I greatly admired in the first three books, and left with her being my favorite character out of this entire series. Though Feyre’s previous perspective didn’t paint her in the best light, her stone cold attitude and desperation to save her sister Elain was respectable, and I loved the role she played in ACOWAR. However, after reading the novella, Nesta left a bitter taste in my mouth… she lost herself and her strength, and had turned incredibly mean and nasty towards her sisters and even Cassian. She was so goddamn mean, and that was hard to read. I was very angry with her character after the novella, and my feelings had me less than excited for this book at first… though as I began ACOSF, I had an epiphany as to why her behavior bothered me on such an intrinsic level. I saw so much of myself in Nesta’s thoughts, many of which I’ve had myself… almost verbatim. I was so angry with her because it was like looking in a mirror, and hating yourself because of what you’ve done. 

Not only did Nesta’s thoughts strike home, but I love her so much because of her failures and mistakes. I’ll say it again for the millionth time, I don’t connect with a lot of female characters… and I think it’s because many of them set unrealistic expectations for us. They’re usually always a do-gooder, always a martyr, always willing to sacrifice themselves, always perfect *rolls eyes*. I’m not saying don’t try to impart goodness on the world, but let’s be realistic… how often is doing the right thing the HARD thing? And how often do we take the easy road, the selfish road? Even Feyre drove me nuts during ACOTAR because she was always putting others before herself… but NESTA. Nesta was afraid, she’d rather hide her feelings, she was a pessimist; she’d tear down the world for Elain (eldest, bossy sister here too *nervous laugh*), but she was scared shitless of doing the right thing and I LOVE that. Instead of meeting her challenges with open arms, her knee-jerk reaction to everything was to say “woe is me” and to freeze up. As someone who is also caught up in their own feels 99% of the time and often says “why me”, I FELT THAT. So much of Nesta’s journey meant a great deal to me, and I am not ashamed to say that I will draw strength from her story as I continue to face my own fears and grow into myself. But *swallows tears* as this is starting to feel a bit too much like a personal journal entry, let’s move on to Cassian, everyone’s favorite himbo. 

Cassian was always an amazing, necessary character in the other books… but now, he has also risen to my favorite. Tbh I’d rather have more Nesta/Cassian books than anyone else; their dynamic was incredible. Cassian was never afraid of Nesta and her brutal behavior. He went to the mat for her time and time again, and he understood her on a level no one else had. He wasn’t afraid to push her out of her comfort zone either, to weather her storm because he knew that’s exactly what she needed. There’s a phrase that he constantly repeated to himself whenever he struggled with Nesta, and that was “keep reaching out your hand.” Brb while I go get that tattooed on my body like it has been tattooed on my brain. Cassian wore his heart on his sleeve for all to see, and I absolutely loved that we already knew this about him. We knew he loved fiercely and passionately, we knew his actions were big and loud and he never seemed to be afraid… though what this book did was prove that he lives so loudly in order to face his fears. I thought SJM wrote his perspective so authentically (I mean, duh, but you guys know what I’m saying), and there was just something about his character that was so pure and true to himself that made me emotional. For example, Azriel’s small POV completely blew my mind… but nothing about Cassian surprised me. But THAT’s mainly a discussion for Pt. 2 and I’ll explain myself further there. 

If you couldn’t tell, I am still crying over what this book means to me like the emotionally wrapped up human I am. I saw a snippet of Sarah’s virtual book tour, and she mentioned that she hopes that these pages prove to everyone out there that you can “find your happy beginning”, for Nesta’s journey wasn’t to reach an end, it was to reach a beginning. Sobbing. But now, let me dry my tears from my laptop and let’s talk about the fun shit. If you’re ready, head on over to Pt. 2, where I’ll deep dive into all that there was to unpack with the rest of the story. 

A Touch of Death – A Glimpse of What’s to Come?

A Touch of Death – A Glimpse of What’s to Come?

Black Mirror meets the future in A Touch of Death, written by Rebecca Crunden. I’ll be honest, dystopians aren’t usually what I gravitate towards. There’s just something about the futuristic feel to them, the gloom and doom, the downfall of societies, that mostly stirs my anxieties instead of offers me escape. Like, we are just a handful of natural disasters away from those terrifying dystopian nightmares becoming reality, and something about that thought doesn’t sit right with me. However, when Rebecca sent me a copy of her book, she totally grabbed my curiosity and I just had to dive into this series. 

The book follows the perspective of Catherine Taenia in a futuristic world, as she gets tangled up with a notorious criminal, Nate Anteros. The book starts out with Catherine and Nate on the run, escaping a fight. We’re given the smallest of insights into both of their characters, and we mostly realize they argue quite a bit; we’re also given hints that Nate is very familiar with the life of crime at this point. Catherine hates that about him. Seeking refuge from a storm, they stay the night in an abandoned building. Catherine accidentally steps on a jar of something, and while Nate is cleaning up her cut, he also cuts himself. As they continue on to meet up with Nate’s brother (who happens to be Catherine’s complement — aka “husband”), both of them start to feel ill, Nate more considerably. Only after they meet up with Thom do they realize something is horribly wrong — neither one of them can touch Thom without their skinning burning and blistering, and they only can touch each other without feeling anything. They also find out that their touch heals one another. Things spiral quickly out of control as they try to find out what is wrong with them, and soon Catherine and Nate are forced to go on the run when Thom is killed after he tried to break into the lab to find out information on this mystery disease. 

The rest of the story follows Catherine and Nate as they flee the authorities, but Nate continues to get more and more sick from whatever disease infected him and Catherine. Catherine’s touch eases his pain and seems to briefly heal him. Soon they are not only on the run from the Crown and Council, but they are also desperately trying to find out why Nate is so sick before he dies. Personally, I didn’t connect with either main character at first, but I did find Nate more interesting than Catherine… UNTIL the end. She just seemed so sheltered and willfully ignorant at the beginning… aren’t we all, though? I found Nate’s desire to bring change and fight against the Crown and Council inspiring. I feel like many people start out like Catherine: against change of any sort, accepting, content in their ways without realizing how privileged they are. It wasn’t until she was forced to rough it with Nate that she began to see the state of the starving people, and she began to realize her comfortable reality wasn’t the same for the rest of the nation. Once Catherine realized this and she grew more inspired to fight like Nate, I found out that I liked her more and more. I think that was the point of her character, to make us look inward upon our own privileges. It’s easy to be content, to not question… ignorance is bliss, as the saying goes. It is infinitely harder to know the truth, and it’s even harder to DO something about it. Nate grew up privileged as well, but he was able to recognize it from a young age. 

Not going to lie, I did find this story a bit difficult to get into at first. I wanted more description, deeper characters, and more of a twisting plot, but I do think the lack of all of these things in the beginning really played into the Black Mirror vibes I got. You’re just thrown into the story, without much background, and you have to infer quite a bit about the setting as you go along. I had so many questions that didn’t quite get answered; what exactly is a mutant? What do they look like? When will we get to meet a mutant? What do each of these cities look like? However, and this is a big however, I felt like there was a HUGE energy shift about three quarters in to the book that suddenly came out of nowhere. I’ve mentioned before that patience evades me while reading, and this was the perfect example of why I just need to sit tight and hold on until the end. Catherine and Nate’s journey had gone predictably throughout the story, but the ending gave me the massive plot twist I had been waiting for… and I was so stoked to see it. The stakes had suddenly risen, and Catherine became much more likable as she began to fight for the same change Nate had fought for his whole life. 

While the characters and story grew on me, I instantly loved the way this story made you question our current societies and social privileges. I found a lot of parallels to our world, and a lot circumstances that you could easily envision happening today. Some dystopians seem far fetched. A Touch of Death is a dystopian, but it’s a very REAL story… so much of what happened in this book seemed palpable, within the grasp of our future. I’m hoping that some of my questions get answered as I continue on with the story, and I’m so curious to see how Catherine moves forward to save Nate and her new friends. I can’t wait to learn more about how they will work together to take down the rich and save the people suffering from famine in their country. Hey, maybe I’ll even take notes… like I said above, we’re all only a few disasters away from this life…  

King of Scars Review

Nikolai. Nikolai. Nikolai. I’m finally back in Ravka, after my brief hiatus from the Grishaverse. If you’re new here, the Grishaverse and I have small bits of beef (*cough* this is your cue to pause this, read my reviews of the Shadow & Bone series and the Six of Crows duology, and come back to this one *cough*). However, my curiosity and excitement peaked after I saw the promotional pictures of the Shadow & Bone Netflix show, and I could hold out no longer… I cannot wait for April. Virtual watch party, anyone? After reading, I think King of Scars is the perfect combination, both literally and figuratively, of the two Grishaverse series. 

Let’s chat about the characters first. Obviously, I was thrilled to get to Nikolai’s perspective. Watching him struggling against the monster within him was a bit painful, but it provided great insight to Nikolai’s inner demons and how he views himself. The rest of the world sees the swagger and confidence, but he truly thinks of himself as an imposter with the drive to make Ravka a better place. I thought the way Leigh Bardugo painted his attitude towards Ravka was beautiful, especially with the story of Nikolai as a child. The only maddening aspect about him was how he kept himself platonic around Zoya. Speaking of Zoya… talk about a character that totally blew my mind. I had low expectations for her this time around, but Alina’s sorry portrayal of her in S&B did NOT do Zoya justice. The sacrifice… the anger… the willingness to fight… she was incredible. My favorite part of this book was when she trained with Juris. Did I understand it? No. But did I love her spitting attitude, fury, and strength? Yes. If Leigh does not let her and Nikolai come together in this final upcoming installment like they need to, I will reign hellfire. I still haven’t forgiven her for what she did to Nina and Matthias… and honestly, any chapter in Nina’s POV during King of Scars felt bittersweet to me. Sweet because she was one of my favorites from Six of Crows, but bitter because Matthias wasn’t there and Nina just didn’t feel the same as before. I didn’t like any of it, and it hurt like hell to get through… plus, it just made me nostalgic for the Six of Crows characters. However, I do ship Hanne and Nina, so we’ll see how they work together to take down Jarl Brum. 

The conflict in this book was hard to pinpoint. Not only did Nikolai and Zoya have to battle the monster within him, but they also had to deal with the threats from several different nations and parem. Nina also was dealing with parem, but a different strain of it… which wasn’t well explained. I felt as if there was a little bit too much happening, and I’m not entirely sure how it will all come together in the upcoming last release. I also did not like the introduction of Isaak in the second half of this story. He was bland, and I wonder what his purpose was since Leigh just killed him off in the end anyways. To provide insight into just how hard it is for Nikolai to be a king? We already knew that. To tell us what was happening while Nikolai and Zoya disappeared into the Shadow Fold? That could have been told from Genya’s POV, or even the twins’ POV. Something about him didn’t quite sit right with me, and even when I was reading his perspective I felt bored and desperate to get to Zoya or Nikolai. 

I thought Zoya and Nikolai’s detour into the Fold was uber-confusing. I had to reread it several times over because I didn’t understand how they were pulled in. Only when Isaak was introduced did I come to the conclusion that they actually disappeared. As they worked with the Saints in the Fold, my confusion grew. What was the root of the Saints’ powers? Why did just the three of them get stuck in the Fold, where were the other Saints? The Saints are Grisha, or what Grisha were before they were called Grisha? So much happened in such a short amount of time in the Fold that I found puzzling, and while I suspected Yuri and Elizaveta weren’t to be trusted, I did NOT expect the Darkling to come back (in Yuri’s body?). Yes, I loved the Darkling in S&B, for my own reasons. But did he need to come back? I would have said yes, if that meant we got an explanation of his character. But I truly doubt we will get that deep dive into him, and so I feel like bringing him back is pointless. Focus on the threat of parem instead… though I did catch that when parem was created, the Darkling’s power awakened within Nikolai. Hopefully that gets a further explanation as well, because I just feel as if they’re going in circles within the Grishaverse. I think that is why I loved Six of Crows so much more than S&B because it wasn’t a true Grishaverse story and it made so much more sense. 

For all my nitpicking, I enjoyed this book… but let’s be honest, it’s only because of Nikolai and Zoya. Six of Crows is still my favorite, and Ninth House is actually my favorite Leigh Bardugo book of all time. The Grishaverse is such a cool world in concept, but there are just certain parts of it that still pull at me and prevent me from really getting into it. I do believe it should make a great show though, because I think there’s potential for the show to fill in the plot holes and create more depth to the characters. For now, I’ll be patiently waiting on the release of Rule of Wolves in approximately one month.

A Touch of Di… I mean, Darkness

Who doesn’t love Greek mythology? Really, it is one of my favorite topics to read about, and I’ve always been obsessed with the legends of the gods. That obsession lead me to A Touch of Darkness, which explores the legend of Hades and Persephone in a modern setting. There are many different variations to the original story, but the gist of it is that Hades (the God of the Underworld) saw Persephone (the Goddess of Spring) and instantly fell in love with her. He then kidnapped her and forced her to marry him to become Queen of the Underworld. She became very unhappy in the Underworld, so Hades allowed her to return to the surface for a portion of the year. 

Such a fun tale, with all the dramatics and flair of a true Greek myth. I find it interesting when people retell ancient myths, because it’s so fascinating to see how they spin a well known tale into their own version. Kinda like the ultimate fanfiction. In Scarlett St. Clair’s story, Persephone has been hidden for the majority of her life by her controlling mother, Demeter. She’s never known true freedom, and she has had to borrow her mother’s magic, as every plant she touches dies. Her mother let her attend university at New Athens, where she is studying journalism. Right before she graduates, she comes across Hades at one of his gambling clubs, and accidentally loses a bet to him; he then gives her six months to create life in the Underworld or else she will be forced to live there for all eternity. Big problem for a girl whose touch brings death, not life. As she spends more time in the Underworld, she discovers that there is more to the dark, mysterious god of death than meets the eye, and in turn, he helps her discover her confidence and a path towards her own destiny. 

As far as characters go, Persephone felt like a very typical heroine, who doesn’t quite believe in herself and has a lot to learn. She was okay as a main character… a bit boring, a bit melodramatic, and not quite as deep as I would have liked to read. Hades was… also everything you’d think he would be. Tall, dark, and handsome… which is normally my favorite trope but he fell flat for me as well. It wasn’t like I found them to be bad characters… but they just felt superficial to me. Every bit of conflict seemed very predictable, and that predictability had nothing to do with the fact that I already knew the outcome of the tale. Girl lacks confidence, wants adventure. Girl meets dark “bad guy”, determined to find fault with “bad guy” but continues to be surprised against her own judgement when he disproves everything she’s ever thought about him. They fall in love. Girl discovers “bad guy” might have fallen for her to get out his own bet. “Bad guy” says no, that isn’t true. Girl blows everything wayyyyy out of proportion and refuses to listen to him. Girl runs away, crying and heartbroken from nonexistent betrayal. Girl realizes she is sad, magically starts believing him again, and says I forgive you… even though she made up his betrayal. Sound familiar? 

I would have liked to see more conflict and action from the characters outside of Persephone’s own foreseeable thoughts… but alas, romance. Speaking of romance… oooof. This was quite the steamy read, so if that is your cup of tea, you should be satisfied with this book. Personally, I need a love interest, but I’m more into the *tension* than mesmerizing graphic descriptions. Tension plus excellent world building plus love built into that world is what truly gives me butterflies. Give me a good enemies to lovers build up over several books… don’t give it to me halfway through the book and then every single scene from that point on is a sex scene between the main characters. BUT as I’ve said before, this is just my personal take on romance; if that is what you love, I harbor no judgement against you! To each their own, and A Touch of Darkness is hot AF, mindless read full of guilty pleasure. 

This Hades and Persephone retelling is a delightfully fast read, and even though I thought the characters were a tad boring, I am still excited to continue on with the story. I’m not scrambling to get the next one in my hands, but I will look forward to reading it on a rainy day. In fact, my favorite part of the book was searching the pages for the names of each of the characters. For example, the story of Minthe is familiar to those invested in Greek mythology, so every time she entered a scene I was curious how her original legend would play out in this version. I felt the same about Adonis, or even Tantalus. It’s why I love retellings, because you never quite know where the author will take a well known myth, and turn it into something uniquely their own. Stay tuned for an eventual update when I start the next book! 

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