REVIEW #80 | WHAT WE DEVOUR by Linsey Miller (ARC)

*I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

What We Devour is a YA dark fantasy standalone that follows Lorena, a young girl who holds a secret close to her heart. When she makes a deal with the Crown Prince to help him in researching a special Door that just barely holds back murderous gods known as Viles in exchange for human sacrifices, she will be stretched to her limits. Not only does she have to help with the Crown Prince Alistair’s research, but she is also tasked with finding information to prove Will’s (her partner Julian’s father) innocence when he is arrested for treason. However, the further Lorena goes with either task, the more she learns that neither is what they appear to be.

I’ve been following Linsey Miller ever since her first book, Mask of Shadows, came out, and I’ve been floored with her work every time. Requesting an ARC for her most recent book seemed the logical next step, and I was ecstatic when I saw it come in the mail. My whole time spent reading it was a thrill, and I was simultaneously heartbroken and blown away when I finished reading it. It’s been days, and I’m still in a bit of a bookish hangover.

I’d like to say that I try not to have any preconceived notions going in, but I’d be lying. What We Devour was one of my most anticipated reads for this year, and it absolutely destroyed the (admittedly, quite high) expectations I held for it. The commentary surrounding asexuality and capitalism was superb, and it truly was one of the book’s strengths. The characters? *chef’s kiss* I loved seeing everyone’s interactions with one another, especially Lorena and Alistair. Everything just clicked into place for me, and it was an absolutely amazing experience.

This is also coming from someone who doesn’t read a ton (if any?) dark fantasy! I didn’t think I was going to like that aspect so much just because the genre never seemed to be something that I would be interested in. I’m very glad that Linsey proved me wrong. ☺️

Just. This whole reading experience was me screaming about…basically everything? The writing really set the tone; the plot (while it seemed to be placed on the back burner at times) was exciting; the characters??? are everything I could ever ask for and more???; the world-building needed a bit of thought and was absolutely captivating; and the THEMES, oh my goodness. The themes (and the characters, tbh) is where this book really shines.

To put it simply, the writing was all around very good. It did a wonderful time setting (and keeping) the tone of the book — it was dark and tense and it had me flying through the pages as fast as possible. To me, the gore wasn’t all that bad (YMMV, however — it is a dark fantasy novel based partially around sacrifice, after all), but the writing really shines with character’s emotions, especially Lorena’s since we’re in her headspace for the whole novel.

I thought the 1st person POV did a great job of centering in on how Lorena starts off in the beginning of the book as a girl who already knows of the horrors the world and those in power can bring and then shifting to the morally grey protagonist we see at the end. Not only that, but the reader gets to see firsthand her dilemmas regarding her feelings toward both Alistair and Julian, as well as Will. Seeing her struggle with how she feels about the three of them was very intriguing to read through, and there are no easy answers.

Throughout the book, there’s a constant stream of darkness. It’s bleak, all the cards are stacked against Lorena and the others, nothing seems like it will work out. But through it all, there always seems to be this undercurrent of hope, no matter how weak. The characters are constantly up against roadblocks, but there’s always this feeling that at the end of it all, our dear protagonist and her friends will come out on top, even if it isn’t exactly the way we want them to. And this bit did a wonderful job at making me root for not only Lorena, but the side characters such as Basil and Mac (and yes, even Carlow). There is always this feeling of, “The world can be — and needs to be — different. And we’ll help get it there.” and it made the story not as dark as it could have been, which I personally enjoyed.

In terms of the more technical aspects, I found it very easy to read. While the world-building was a bit much at first — requiring me to sit with a few sections and think on them sometimes — it didn’t make for anything particularly rigorous, and in fact, I had a bit of fun with it. There are some time-jumps that, to me, seem to come out of nowhere and a few awkwardly-ending chapters, but that didn’t take away from my personal enjoyment whatsoever. I also wish we had more time with the world-building — it seemed a bit crunched in at times — but I’ll get to that later on in the review.

Overall, I thought that the writing made for a dark and tense reading experience, which I very much enjoyed. It drove the plot along, and it made me anxious to see what would happen next.

Like I said earlier, What We Devour follows Lorena when she, as a deal to prove her partner’s father’s innocence, agrees to help the Crown Prince Alistair with his research that involves the Door, the entry to the world beyond that holds powerful gods known as the Vile (those who destroy) and the Noble (those who create). However, she has her own secret: she is a dualwrought. Being dualwrought means having both a vilewright (the ability to destroy in exchange for sacrifices) and a noblewright (the ability to create in exchange for sacrifices). Dualwroughts are extremely rare — the only other known dualwrought is the queen of Cynlira, Alistair’s mother.

Not only does Lorena have to worry about the Door, as it needs an increasing amount of human sacrifices to stay closed recently, but she also has to find a way to prove Will’s innocence when he is charged with treason. Both of these, however, become more and more challenging because nothing is as it seems. Lorena will have to not only work with her newfound allies to find a solution, but also with Alistair, the symbol of everything Lorena hates in Cynlira.

I fucking loved this story, y’all. Like I said earlier, it seemed to take the back burner at times in order for us to connect with the characters, but it was still magnificent in the way that it circles back around to encompass said characters. Whether it’s the moral questions surrounding the Door or the questions surrounding Will, Lorena, and what family means, I thought the plot gives the reader a good foundation to explore the themes that pop up throughout the book. If you’re into stories about anti-capitalists attempting to take down the systems that oppress them, I think you’d really vibe with What We Devour.

I will say that it seems to take a bit for the ball to start rolling in the beginning, but when it does…be ready. When it picks up, it picks up quickly, but it didn’t feel rushed to me. The ending and resolution could seem a bit too open-ended for some, but I thought it was a perfect ending for the story: very rarely do things end with a neat bow on top, and it can be messy and complex — all you can do sometimes is weather it.

I have so many favorite scenes, but I’m adamant in keeping this review spoiler free. In the meantime, just know that I was on the edge of my seat for the last third or so of the book — there were so many memorable scenes and character development (regression?) that had me doing a lil excited dance in my chair (or bed, depending on where I was reading, lol).

I will say, though, that while I enjoyed the plot immensely, the characters are what really sold me on What We Devour. Let me tell you…Linsey Miller knows how to create some real interesting characters.

…Where do I even start with the characters, y’all? Lorena was simply amazing. Starting right out of the gate, she is a brave and outspoken girl who isn’t afraid to point out other characters’ bullshit. She is manipulative, and lying is her safeguard. Her relationships with the other characters were so interesting to get into (especially Alistair! omg!), but what really intrigued me was her relationship with her wrights. I don’t want to go into too much detail to avoid spoilers, but compared to other noblewrought and vilewrought, she treats her wrights in a much different way. I loved seeing the dichotomy between how Lorena communicates with her wrights and how Alistair does. It was very interesting to see, and I think it gives just a bit more depth to who they both are as people.

I really liked seeing Lorena’s development (regression?) throughout the novel. She isn’t afraid of doing what she thinks she must in order to protect Cynlira as a whole, which usually means doing some pretty gruesome things. At the end of the day, though, I still rooted for her. For years, the nobility class sat back and ignored the anguish and break-backing labor the lower class has put in for the hopes of scraps because, simply, they think they can have their cake and eat it. They force the masses into grueling work so they can reap the benefits for themselves and throw people away when they become just a bit too loud in their protests. I suppose Lorena isn’t a likable character in the traditional sense, but I loved her regardless.

And Alistair…just. My goodness. He respects Lorena and the other wroughts that are working with him, and he isn’t afraid of being corrected by them, which is miles better than how many of the noble people treat “regular” folks throughout Cynlira. It was charming to see.

However, it still had a bittersweet bite to it: he respects Lorena and the others as far as he sees their use and value. He likes them because they’re as invested in the research about the Door as he is, but beyond that…he is still the vilewrought Prince. If they were just regular joe blow on the street, he wouldn’t think twice about them. He is still a bloodthirsty person who won’t stop to get what he wants. To see Lorena struggle with this side-by-side with her budding feelings (platonic, romantic, or otherwise) had me eating this book up.

Don’t worry, I didn’t forget the side characters! They were all delightful; I just wish we could see them more. Creek and Carlow — a noblewrought and a vilewrought who have also been cursed by a Noble and Vile respectively — were fun to read, especially when they were together. Basil was adorable, and I would protect them with my life, no questions asked. The three of them working for/with Alistair on the Door was an interesting dynamic I wish we got to see more of, honestly. Let’s be real, though, these characters could be reading the back of a cereal box, and I would lap it up because I simply love them that much.

Julian, Lorena’s friend, and his father Will were characters that I just loved to hate. They’re the kinds of people that we all know, the ones who make it seem like they care about everyone, when they truly only care about themselves and maybe closest to them. In truth, they would let the whole burn if they were able to live, even if they have to do exactly what their oppressors have done to them.

All of the characters really shined (yes, even the characters the reader is supposed to hate — they shined in being the most annoying characters ever), but I think what really intrigued me was the world-building.

What We Devour takes place in a country called Cynlira, where the rich thrive and everyone else is left to the wolves. Or, in this case, the Door, the gate between the mortal world and the world in which Vile and Noble exist. The Door must be given human sacrifices in order to satiate it. Otherwise, it risks opening and thrusting the Noble and Vile upon the nation. Recently, the Door has become increasingly insatiable, needing more and more sacrifices more frequently to stay closed.

There are people throughout Cynlira known as noblewrought and vilewrought — people who can do certain types of magic thanks to having parts of the Noble and Vile gods. Some folks also have the ability to be both, a dualwrought. However, many of them do not have the freedom they wish for — most wrought are found and forced over to the Crown in order to be bound to some nobleman so they can do their dirty work magic and nothing else.

I will be straightforward in saying that the world-building can be A Lot when first starting out. It can be confusing, and I had to re-read passages sometimes in order to fully understand what was being conveyed. However, I will also say that this may be the first book where I was excited to learn more about the world. I was actively looking forward to when the characters discuss more about the Door and the Vile/Noble. The noblewrights, vilewrights, noblewroughts, and vilewroughts. Dualwroughts.

Outside of the characters, this is why I wish there was a sequel planned. Or, better yet, that it was going to be part of a 12-book series where I could get lost in the world and characters. I always had this craving for more. If someone had to twist my arm and ask what I thought the weakest part of the book is, it probably would be the world-building simply because I never felt like I got the full picture. Functionally, yes, I did get enough that I understood what was going on, but damn, I wish I could’ve gotten a whole encyclopedia to pick through. A whole Cynlira: A History to read. That would’ve really topped the cake and make this book a step above the “absolutely phenomenal” it already was.

In all honesty, even though I just said the world-building is probably the weakest thing about What We Devour, it was still plenty enjoyable for me, and it kept me captivated throughout my whole reading experience. And ya know what? You wanna know what really made this book shoot up to my top 3 favs of the year? Ya ready for this? It’s the themes. The themes, oh my goodness, y’all. You’re not ready for the themes.

Let me just say that if I still have any brain cells left after I’m finished with grad school, the first thing I’m doing is writing an academic-level essay on the themes in this here book, y’all. I just. What We Devour has it all: the harsh realities of capitalism! asexuality and how many ace folks constantly have to “prove” ourselves! the moral dilemma of how far is too far if you’re trying to tear down the existing system and build something new! and more!

Excuse me as I scream because the way these were all executed throughout the book was…so good. The anti-capitalism themes were immediately apparent throughout every strand of the story. The exploration of asexuality and acephobia through Lorena and her relationship with Julian was very validating to read and absorb. Seeing an ace character so damn confident in their identity right off the bat was something I didn’t know I needed until I saw it in action, and it was amazing to see.

The discussion surrounding how far is “too far” when creating a new society was interesting for me because I’m constantly thinking about what we could do in our current society, how we could tear shit down to create something better. Is there a limit to what we should or should not do in order to create a just world? Are there needed sacrifices, or are all sacrifices unjustified? Who gets to choose these things? It was compelling to think about, at the very least.

So, yeah, if you couldn’t tell already, I really enjoyed What We Devour. If you’re into dark fantasy, anti-capitalist themes, ace girls who will stop at nothing to save the proletariat and watch the rich suffer, monster gods….well, you’re in for a treat with this one. While the plot can be subtle and the world-building a bit confusing, I feel like the characters and themes definitely make up for it. I just can’t put into words how much I love this book, y’all.

I can’t exactly end this review by saying “be ace, do crimes, eat the rich”….except I totally can, it’s my review.

Be ace, do crimes, eat the rich.

✨✨✨

SO. This is set up a lot different than my previous reviews, huh? I have CW and the Quiet Pond to blame for that (except not really blame because it helped a lot!). They have a blog post chock-full of review prompts that have really helped me flesh this review out! Here is the post in question, and this is their Ko-fi page if, like me, you’ve found this post super, super helpful. I just wanted to give credit where credit is due!

(Also, lemme know how you like the new set-up, please? I think I’m gonna tweak a few things going forward, but I’m always open to hearing new ideas!)

  • Death
  • Mention of cannibalism
  • Blood and gore
  • Self-harm for magical purposes
  • Human sacrifice
  • Acephobia (moderate amount)
  • Ace girl MC
  • Wlw SCs
  • Non-binary SC
  • Side characters of color

Title: What We Devour

Author: Linsey Miller

Pub. Date: 6 July 2021

Genre: Dark Fantasy

About (via StoryGraph):

“Undertaker Lorena is comfortable in her quiet life. She knows what her future holds, anonymity and a marriage to her best friend Julian. But when the notorious Crown Prince Alistair arrives at her doorstep with an arrest warrant for Julian’s father, her life changes in an instant.

“The Prince immediately recognizes that Lorena is powerful and whisks her away to the capital in exchange for Julian’s father’s freedom. With Alistair she learns more about her power, as well as the danger facing the entire country.

“As a rebellion between the rich and powerful and the poor and downtrodden erupts, Lorena becomes less sure of her loyalties. Should she trust the boy she thought she loved and the world she thought she knew? Or should her faith lie with the boy she barely knows who has everything to lose?”

Feel free to connect with me!

Twitter

StoryGraph

Wanna tip me? Here’s how!

Ko-fi

Venmo: xxksedxx

REVIEW #79 | A DOWRY OF BLOOD by S.T. Gibson (eARC)

Review: "A Dowry of Blood" by S.T. Gibson
Review: “A Dowry of Blood” by S.T. Gibson
A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson
A Dowry of Blood – S.T. Gibson

Title: A Dowry of Blood

Author: S.T. Gibson

Series or Standalone?: Standalone

Pub. Date: 31 January 2021

Synopsis (via StoryGraph):

A lyrical and dreamy reimagining of Dracula’s brides, A DOWRY OF BLOOD is a story of desire, obsession, and emancipation.

Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things. Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets.

With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death.

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • fantasy/supernatural violence
  • blood
  • gore
  • incest (mention)
  • emotional and psychological abuse
  • physical abuse (minor)
  • character death
  • self-harm
  • depressive symptoms

Representation:

  • bisexual MCs
  • m/f/f/m relationship (but let’s be real…the f/f/m relationship is better)

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
5/5 stars

*I received an eARC in exchange for an honest review*

This is my second gothic horror novel — and my first S.T. Gibson book — and let me tell you, it won’t be my last for either of those things!

A Dowry of Blood follows a young woman renamed Constanta, who is turned into a vampire by an unnamed man (but who the reader understands to be Dracula), throughout centuries as she lives and travels with said sire. The story is told as a series of letters/diary entries written by Constanta to the lord who created her after the events have occurred.

So I’ve never read a Dracula re-telling (or anything related to Dracula, tbh), mostly because I wasn’t a huge fan of Dracula when I first read it. However, when I saw that A Dowry of Blood was a polyam book centered around the vampire partners of Dracula, I decided that I had to request an ARC from the publisher. And uhh I loved it. It was so good, omg.

The characters! Are amazing! Constanta is a wonderful narrator, and it was really interesting to see her development throughout the story. Her relationship with the other partners, Magdalena and Alexi, was amazing, and I loved seeing the subtle differences in how Constanta interacts with the two of them and vice versa.

At this point, I do want to point out that while the relationship between Constanta, Magdalena, and Alexi isn’t abusive, their relationship with Dracula is. Amongst other things, A Dowry of Blood is a study of an emotionally and psychologically abusive relationship (at some points, it is physically abusive, but it isn’t graphic or often). It starts from the moment Constanta is turned and it doesn’t stop until the (very tense, very “grips you and never lets go”) climax. I thought the exploration was done wonderfully, with extra care given since the subject matter is sensitive. But if the depiction of an abusive relationship can be triggering for you, it’d probably be a good idea to keep that in mind if you make the decision to read this.

With that being said, though, the writing was gorgeous. It’s dark and loving and amazing all at the same time, and I know that seems overwhelming to some people but I swear it makes sense when you read it, lol. It’s just…so pretty. So good. It was very easy to read, especially once Magdalena and Alexi get introduced. And that climax? I know I mentioned it before, but that was probably one of the best climaxes (and build up to said climax) I’ve ever read. I even had to put the book down for a time because I was getting so worried over the trio.

I just had such a wonderful reading experience with this book, and if it sounds like something you’d be interested in (even if it’s outside your reading comfort zone, like it was for me!), I would highly recommend it. I can’t wait to see what S.T. Gibson does next!

Kait | sixcrowsbooks
Kait | sixcrowsbooks

Feel free to connect with me!

Twitter

StoryGraph

Wanna tip me? Here’s how!

Ko-fi

Venmo: xxksedxx

REVIEW #78 | MORNINGS IN JENIN by Susan Abulhawa

Review: "Mornings in Jenin" by Susan Abulhawa
“Mornings in Jenin” review
Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa
Mornings in Jenin – Susan Abulhawa

Title: Mornings in Jenin

Author: Susan Abulhawa

Series or Standalone?: Standalone

Pub. Date: March 2006

Synopsis (via StoryGraph):

Forcibly removed from the ancient village of Ein Hod by the newly formed state of Israel in 1948, the Abulhejas are moved into the Jenin refugee camp. There, exiled from his beloved olive groves, the family patriarch languishes of a broken heart, his eldest son fathers a family and falls victim to an Israeli bullet, and his grandchildren struggle against tragedy toward freedom, peace, and home. This is the Palestinian story, told as never before, through four generations of a single family.

The very precariousness of existence in the camps quickens life itself. Amal, the patriarch’s bright granddaughter, feels this with certainty when she discovers the joys of young friendship and first love and especially when she loses her adored father, who read to her daily as a young girl in the quiet of the early dawn. Through Amal we get the stories of her twin brothers, one who is kidnapped by an Israeli soldier and raised Jewish; the other who sacrifices everything for the Palestinian cause. Amal’s own dramatic story threads between the major Palestinian-Israeli clashes of three decades; it is one of love and loss, of childhood, marriage, and parenthood, and finally of the need to share her history with her daughter, to preserve the greatest love she has.

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • child abuse
  • war
  • bombing
  • kidnapping
  • death (both human and animal)
  • child sexual assault/rape (inferred)
  • execution
  • trauma (and the effects of it)
  • torture
  • sexual content
  • ableism (including internalized ableism)
  • genocide

Representation:

  • Palestinian cast (MCs and SCs)
  • Jewish SC/MC

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
5/5 stars

Everyone go thank Jia for rec’ing this book for as long as I’ve known her. She’s the entire reason I even knew about this book’s existence. And because of that, she’s also the reason I’ve cried so much within the past two weeks (for book-related reasons, obviously, lol).

Mornings in Jenin follows four generations of a Palestinian family, from the time of Al Nakba to after 9/11. Center stage through most of is Amal and her older brother Yousef as they grow up in a refugee camp in Jenin, as well as beyond, and deal with the trauma thrust upon them from such a life.

So, I want to be super upfront about this book: it doesn’t pull any punches. While there are happy moments throughout the book, it’s meant to pull at your heartstrings, and it’s an extremely emotional read. Please take care to read the trigger/content warnings, especially if war, genocide, trauma, and the effects of such things could potentially trigger you.

With that being said, however, I loved this book. It is very much character-focused: while Abdulhama uses the Israeli occupation of Palestine as a backdrop, the story centers around Amal and her family as they live through this tumultuous and traumatic time. The reader is thrust into their lives and experience what they experience alongside them. The writing very much helps with this — the purple prose is both beautiful and heart-breaking at the same time, especially when it comes to the tragedies that befall the characters. The reader connects with them quickly, and just as quickly it seems that something happens to them that break’s their heart.

Along with that, the narrative switches between the past and the present. This might put some readers off from reading Mornings in Jenin because it could be confusing for some folks, but I thought it worked very well. I liked how it flowed between the different times and characters. I’m not sure if I can put into words how it worked, only that it did. If that makes sense?

I also want to point out that even though tragedy and trauma are a constant in this book, I don’t think the book would be considered trauma porn. What happens to the characters isn’t purely for the emotional effect it has on the reader, but instead, it has a purpose. It’s supposed to show the atrocities of war and occupation, very particularly when it concerns the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the subsequent attempt of pushing Palestinians out of their own country. The book is supposed to humanize a community that has been simultaneously dehumanized and ignored for so long, to show that in the face of oppression, loving one’s family, one’s culture, one’s country is an act of resistance when the oppressors want to eradicate you and pretend you don’t exist for their own gain.

If you’re into sad books, but still aren’t convinced enough to try this one out (assuming the reasons are outside any triggering content, of course)? Let me just say that this book made me cry within the first fifteen pages, and it is now the book that has made me cried the most while reading it. I wasn’t really keeping track, but it was at least five, lol.

So yeah, if you want a book that has the potential to make you super emotional and pull at your heartstrings — especially when you think about how many of the events throughout the book are based on events that actually happened (or described exactly events that happened) — and one that encompasses a family story four generations in the making, I’d give Mornings in Jenin a shot. It may become a new favorite like it did with me!

Kait | sixcrowsbooks

Feel free to connect with me!

Twitter

StoryGraph

Wanna tip me? Here’s how!

Ko-fi

Venmo: xxksedxx

REVIEW #77 | ERAGON by Christopher Paolini (The Inheritance Cycle #1)

Review for "Eragon" by Christopher Paolini
Review for “Eragon” by Christopher Paolini
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
Eragon — Christopher Paolini

Title: Eragon

Author: Christopher Paolini

Series or Standalone?: The Inheritance Cycle #1

Pub. Date: April 2005

Synopsis (via StoryGraph):

One boy…
One dragon…
A world of adventure.

When Eragon finds a polished blue stone in the forest, he thinks it is the lucky discovery of a poor farm boy; perhaps it will buy his family meat for the winter. But when the stone brings a dragon hatchling, Eragon soon realizes he has stumbled upon a legacy nearly as old as the Empire itself.

Overnight his simple life is shattered, and he is thrust into a perilous new world of destiny, magic, and power. With only an ancient sword and tge advice of an old storyteller for guidance, Eragon and the fledgling dragon must navigate the dangerous terrain and dark enemies of an Empire ruled by a king whose evil knows no bounds.

Can Eragon take up the mantle of the legendary Dragon Riders? The fate of the Empire may rest in his hands.

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • fantasy violence
  • gore
  • character death
  • fatphobia
  • torture
  • massacre
  • imprisonment
  • beheading
  • attempted rape (inferred)
  • ableism
  • grief

Representation:

  • N/A


1/5 stars

I don’t even know where to start. My god.

For those of you that don’t know, Eragon is a YA fantasy novel that follows a 15-year-old boy Eragon and the dragon Saphira whose egg he finds in the forest near his house. When mysterious creatures called the Ra’zac destroy his home and kill his uncle, Eragon and Saphira go on a quest with storyteller Brom to hunt them down.

Let me be blunt: this books is one of the worst I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a lot. For starters, the writing is almost impossible to read through. Yes, I understand Paolini was a teen when he wrote it, but I’m quite certain his editor wasn’t (assuming he had one). So like. They could’ve made it so much better. The reader doesn’t need an adjective or adverb every three words to understand what is going on in the story, and they definitely don’t need every single detail spelled out for them. On top of that, I had the feeling that Paolini was trying to write like some sort of pretentious classic literary author, but it did not work whatsoever. Instead of wanting to submerge myself into the story, the writing pulled me out of it so many times, I just started to skim for most of it.

The same can be said for the dialogue. It was written as if the author was trying to pull off Tolkien’s or some other “classic” high fantasy author’s style of dialogue, but at the end of the day, it just sounded like a rip-off. I just couldn’t get behind the writing whatsoever.

Second of all, the world-building. I just…what the fuck was that? Having Brom (or any other character, for that matter) monologue to Eragon about any world-building of importance — dragons, Riders, Galbatorix, etc. — is. not. world-building. It was boring and tedious, and it makes the reader want to skim. Two or three or four pages of a character talking to the ~naive protagonist~ is definitely not needed, and if the reader actually needed the content of the monologue, the author should have figured out some other way to include it that wasn’t info-dumping. Taking a five minute break to tell the reader the entire history of the world through Eragon’s perspective isn’t world-building, either! Please, I beg, find another way.

And now…the characters. The characters, the characters, the characters. I cannot put into words how utterly underdeveloped and boring these characters are. Let’s start with Eragon, the most Gary Stu protagonist ever to Gary Stu. Learns sword fighting quickly, learns magic even quicker (and is then somehow able to manipulate it to do basically whatever he wants). The other characters around him are practically there only to give him Important Life Lessons. He’s the perfect protagonist with the perfect morals because all he wants to do is avenge his uncle and go home…or something. Let’s ignore how his morals make no sense — “why would you kill a slaver who sells human beings for a living? He wasn’t armed!” — and that he totally crushes over a random elf girl he saved from prison even though she’s in a coma with no clue where she is or who he is. Oh! And on top of that, he later questions said elf girl why she is on the battlefield with everyone instead of fleeing with the women and children when she beat him in a sword fight twenty pages earlier. I think this was yet another way for Paolini to show that Eragon ~cares about her~, but it was….pretty sexist and ridiculous, lol.

And speaking of Arya… Y’all. If there’s one thing I hate more than the “I went through traumatic things, and ✨ it made me stronger ✨” trope with woman/girl characters, it’s mixing it with the fact that there are no solid, re-occurring woman/girl characters until three quarters of the way through the novel. On top of that (…as if this book wasn’t bad enough), Arya doesn’t even count until about 90% of the way through the book because she was comatose for the majority of the time the reader knows her. And Eragon’s out here getting a crush on her without even knowing her name or if she’d even live.

Going on to the other characters… Brom was the “wise old teacher with a mysterious past” trope, and that was it. Saphira starts out interesting, but turns into the “wise old dragon” trope real fast for ~plot purposes~ so that got boring quick. Murtagh was somewhat intriguing, but Paolini doesn’t understand subtle foreshadowing, which kinda ruined his character. Angela and Solembum were actually pretty interesting characters, and I hope they stay around. They made this whole ordeal…somewhat tolerable, I guess.

But I think what gets me the most about the characters…well, there’s a couple things. One, specifically regarding Eragon, but it could pertain to basically everyone else: there’s little to no character development. Sure, Eragon (…pretty effortlessly…) learns magic and fighting and all, but he never seems to learn from his mistakes throughout the book. The other characters are constantly left to pick up after him. Even with a certain character’s death, I…didn’t feel like it really changed Eragon as a character. Sure, he says that he’s sad about said death, but because the connection didn’t seem to be there to begin with, his thoughts/feelings/actions read as extremely shallow.

I think most of it boils down to the fact that, at the end of the day, the characters are so incredibly flat. They don’t inspire any positive connection or emotions within me, and because of that I didn’t see any connections between the characters. Even between Eragon, Brom, and Saphira, the relationship/connection just seemed…fake? manufactured? The reader is told that they care about one another (at the most — sometimes, not even that), but they aren’t often given any evidence that such a deep connection exists at any meaningful level. The fact that these three major characters have such little connection with one another was extremely frustrating to read, and I really wanted to DNF.

But yeah, this book was…horrible, lmao. The writing was bad, the world-building was dry, and the character development was non-existent. And yet I am forcing myself to read the rest of the series because I own them…y’all better thank me for this, and keep your eyes out for the rant reviews for the rest of the series in the coming months ✨

Kait | sixcrowsbooks

Feel free to connect with me!

Twitter

StoryGraph

Wanna tip me? Here’s how!

Ko-fi

Venmo: xxksedxx

REVIEW #76 | WHO DO YOU SERVE, WHO DO YOU PROTECT? ed. by Maya Schenwar, Joe Macaré, and Alana Yu-lan Price

Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? edited by Maya Schenwar, Joe Macaré, and Alana Yu-lan Price
Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?
Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? Police Violence and Resistance in the United States by Joe Macaré, Alana Yu-Lan Price, Alicia Garza, Maya Schenwar
Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? — Maya Schenwar, Joe Macaré, and Alana Yu-lan Price

Title: Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? Police Violence and Resistance in the United States

Editors: Maya Schenwar, Joe Macaré, and Alana Yu-lan Price

Pub. Date: 10 May 2016

Synopsis (via StoryGraph):

What is the reality of policing in the United States? Do the police keep anyone safe and secure other than the very wealthy? How do recent police killings of young black people in the United States fit into the historical and global context of anti-blackness?

This collection of reports and essays (the first collaboration between Truthout and Haymarket Books) explores police violence against black, brown, indigenous and other marginalized communities, miscarriages of justice, and failures of token accountability and reform measures. It also makes a compelling and provocative argument against calling the police.

Contributions cover a broad range of issues including the killing by police of black men and women, police violence against Latino and indigenous communities, law enforcement’s treatment of pregnant people and those with mental illness, and the impact of racist police violence on parenting, as well as specific stories such as a Detroit police conspiracy to slap murder convictions on young black men using police informant and the failure of Chicago’s much-touted Independent Police Review Authority, the body supposedly responsible for investigating police misconduct. The title Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?is no mere provocation: the book also explores alternatives for keeping communities safe.

Contributors include William C. Anderson, Candice Bernd, Aaron Cantú, Thandi Chimurenga, Ejeris Dixon, Adam Hudson, Victoria Law, Mike Ludwig, Sarah Macaraeg, and Roberto Rodriguez.

Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • police brutality
  • mentions of torture/torture devices (both historically and currently)
  • racism (anti-Black, anti-Brown, and anti-Indigenous)
  • medical abuse/neglect

Representation:

  • a collection of essays about police brutality that centers Black women, LGBTQ+ folks, pregnant folks, indigenous folks, and migrants

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
5/5 stars

I was able to get an e-copy for free through the publisher Haymarket Books because they offered it for no charge sometime last May. As of the day this review is being written (7 January 2021), the eBook is still free! Here is the link to snag it (even if it isn’t free, I would still recommend buying it regardless!). Anyway, it was something I was interested in, and who doesn’t like free books? So here I am.

Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? is a collection of essays surrounding police brutality, its impact against marginalized communities (especially Black folks), its connections to imperialism, and how to combat it and be less dependent upon police. While most of what was written I already knew about or wasn’t a surprise to me personally, I know that it’ll help educate and inform many other readers who may be in a different place in their learning. I could tell, throughout every single essay, how angry these writers were about police brutality and the system it upholds. But I could also tell how much these contributors love and care for their communities and wish to see them thrive. I can only hope that this book can motivate and/or radicalize folks in order to make that happen.

There was an essay that did bring up some new ideas for me, and that was the one that focused on pregnant people in prison/under arrest: “Your Pregnancy May Subject You to Even More Law Enforcement Violence” by Victoria Law. While none of what was written was particularly surprising — I’m not shocked that prison guards often ignore pregnant people’s concerns until it’s too late, for instance — it brought a new lens to my understanding of police brutality. While theoretically, it makes sense that pregnant people would be at risk of violence, I didn’t consciously think about it until I read that essay. And it isn’t only pregnant folks — anyone who needs regular medical attention or medicine is often looked over by guards and cops. It just adds another layer to one’s understanding of how heinous police brutality and the prison system are.

On top of that, I really appreciated the second half of the book, which focuses on helping one’s community without police input. I thought many of those essays were enlightening, especially one that delved into how community members and EMS could serve the community better without the police butting in and escalating things like they often do. I found myself feeling hopeful for the future, knowing that there is a history of becoming less dependent upon police. I’ll be excited to see what community organizers can do on this front in the future.

Overall, I thought Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? is a wonderful, knowledgeable book and everyone should pick it up if they’re at all interested in learning about police brutality and what we can do to minimize our dependence on the cops. Again, here is the link so you can get a free e-copy (if they still offer it for free by the time you get around to reading this review, lol).

To end this review, here is something new I want to try with reviews from now on: a few quotes that I like from the book! I know a lot of reviewers splash them throughout the review, but I’m way too indecisive for that, so y’all get a block at the end, lol. Enjoy, and I hope you liked this review! Let me know your thoughts by commenting below 😊

(also, quick note, there’s only three quotes because this new thing was a split-second decision made right before I scheduled this post, lmao. but expect more in other reviews in the future!)

Fav Quotes ✨

When cops bully them, scare them, fuck with them, it’s because our children aren’t seen as part of the future. Our children are disposable.

Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?

If we seek to dismantle the police state, we must also dismantle the military.

Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?

Self-preservation of the state is the primary priority.

Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?
Kait | sixcrowsbooks
Kait | sixcrowsbooks

Feel free to follow me!

Twitter

StoryGraph

Want to support me? Here’s how!

Ko-fi

Venmo: xxksedxx

REVIEW #75 | THE SILVERED SERPENTS by Roshani Chokshi (The Gilded Wolves #2) (eARC)

Review: "Silvered Serpents" by Roshani Chokshi
Review: “The Silvered Serpents” by Roshani Chokshi
The Silvered Serpents (The Gilded Wolves, #2)
The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi

Title: The Silvered Serpents

Author: Roshani Chokshi

Series or Standalone?: The Gilded Wolves #2

Pub. Date: 22 September 2020

Synopsis:

Returning to the dark and glamorous 19th century world of her New York Times instant bestseller, The Gilded Wolves, Roshani Chokshi dazzles us with another riveting tale as full of mystery and danger as ever in The Silvered Serpents.

They are each other’s fiercest love, greatest danger, and only hope.

Séverin and his team members might have successfully thwarted the Fallen House, but victory came at a terrible cost — one that still haunts all of them. Desperate to make amends, Séverin pursues a dangerous lead to find a long lost artifact rumored to grant its possessor the power of God.

Their hunt lures them far from Paris, and into the icy heart of Russia where crystalline ice animals stalk forgotten mansions, broken goddesses carry deadly secrets, and a string of unsolved murders makes the crew question whether an ancient myth is a myth after all.

As hidden secrets come to the light and the ghosts of the past catch up to them, the crew will discover new dimensions of themselves. But what they find out may lead them down paths they never imagined.

A tale of love and betrayal as the crew risks their lives for one last job.

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • blood and gore
  • character death
  • racism
  • xenophobia
  • anti-semitism
  • violence
  • dismemberment

Representation:

  • Jewish autistic girl MC
  • Indian girl MC
  • bi/pan Filipino Spanish MC
  • queer boy MC
  • Algerian French MC

⭐⭐⭐⭐ .5

4.5/5 stars

*I obtained an eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

So after The Gilded Wolves, why did Roshani have to go so hard in The Silvered Serpents? Is wanting the gang to have a happy ending too much to ask for?

The Silvered Serpents begins a few months after The Gilded Wolves ends, with Séverin and the others making their way to Russia in order to look for The Divine Lyrics, a book that is told to have unimaginable power. However, they all have to deal with their own demons and insecurities on top of the possibly absolutely dangerous mission they’ve partaken on.

I loved seeing all the characters again, especially their interactions with one another! They all (mostly) still love and trust one another, except for Séverin. This book was 400-some pages of everyone side-eyeing him, and (not gonna lie) I kinda lived for it. And his character development! I absolutely cannot wait to see what comes of him in the third book. As for everyone else, I absolutely adored them all and their angst. Let me tell you, there was a lot of angst. But it was refreshing to see in a published book and not just in fanfic!

The plot itself was super interesting, too. I don’t want to say too much about it in fear of revealing too much (and also because I can’t remember much due to my goldfish memory), but it kept me entranced the whole time I was reading. Though that might be because I’m not very smart with figuring things out in books, so I could just be easily entertained with heist books, but still. I am a simple person: is it a heist book? Automatic four star minimum.

Seriously, though, if you haven’t picked up this book or The Gilded Wolves, I seriously recommend it! There is rich world-building, lovely (morally grey) characters, and a few relationships you’d die for.

Kait | sixcrowsbooks

Feel free to connect with me!

Twitter

StoryGraph

Wanna tip me? Here’s how!

Ko-fi

Venmo: xxksedxx

REVIEW #74 | SETTLING THE WORLD by M. John Harrison (eARC)

Settling the World: Selected Stories 1970-2020 by M. John Harrison, Jennifer Hodgson

Title: Settling the World: Selected Stories 1970-2020

Author: M. John Harrison

Series or Standalone?: Standalone

Pub. Date: 20 August 2020

Synopsis:

Throughout his career, M. John Harrison’s writing has defied categorisation, building worlds both unreal and all-too real, overlapping and interlocking with each other. His stories are replete with fissures and portals into parallel dimensions, unidentified countries and lost lands. But more important than the places they point to are the obsessions that drive the people who so believe in them, characters who spend their lives hunting for, and haunted by, clues and maps that speak to the possibility of somewhere else.

This selection of stories, drawn from over 50 years of writing, bears witness to that desire for difference: whether following backstreet occultists, amateur philosophers, down-and-outs or refugees, we see our relationship with ‘the other’ in microscopic detail, and share in Harrison’s rejection of the idea that the world, or our understanding of it, could ever be settled.

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • character death
  • blood and gore

Representation:

  • N/A

⭐⭐⭐ .5

3.5/5 stars

*I received an eARC via the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This anthology has such a variety of stories that nearly everyone will find at least one that they like and/or connect with! Myself included.

Settling the World is an anthology of short stories the author, Harrison, has written between the years 1970 and 2020. At first, I thought it was primarily a science fiction anthology — especially with the first few stories — but as I read more and more, I realized that the anthology doesn’t fit one specific genre. Yes, many of them stories would be considered science fiction (and they flow between “hard” sci-fi and “soft” sci-fi), but many more are contemporary with a flash of fantasy/science fiction, or even a bit of thriller/horror. I was put off by the focus on aliens and the like in the first few stories, but there were quite a few later on that I could not read fast enough.

Harrison has a way of writing that reminds me of older books (pre-1990, let’s say), which makes sense, considering the stories have been written anywhere as early as 1970. It wasn’t bad by any means, and for a few stories, I quite enjoyed it. It just caught me off guard, is all. Also, I felt like I couldn’t really connect with many of the protagonists, and as someone who prefers character-focused stories, this was something that was hard for me to get over. That doesn’t mean the writing itself was “bad” in an objective way, it just wasn’t my personal cup of tea.

However, like I said earlier, there is so much variety in the stories that I think everyone will find at least one story that they love. I have my fair share, for sure! The tone of each story is distinct, and it’s interesting to see that, even though Harrison usually uses first person, the narrator sounds so different. In my experience, first person POV usually blends together, but each seemed to have their own voice. A pleasant surprise!

Overall, while I didn’t love every short story in the collection, I thought Settling the World‘s variety in genres was a breath of fresh air, and I’m glad the publisher reached out to me to read and review it!

Feel free to follow me!

Twitter

StoryGraph

BookSloth: Kait | sixcrowsbooks

Want to support me? Here’s how!

Ko-fi

Venmo: xxksedxx

REVIEW #73 | NON-BINARY LIVES by Jos Twist, Ben Vincent, Meg-John Barker, & Kat Gupta

Title: Non-Binary Lives: An Anthology of Intersecting Identities

Editors: Jos Twist, Ben Vincent, Meg-John Barker, & Kat Gupta

Pub. Date: 21 April 2020

Synopsis:

What does it mean to be non-binary in the 21st Century?

Our gender identity is impacted by our personal histories; the cultures, communities and countries we are born into; and the places we go and the people we meet. But the representation of contemporary non-binary identities has been limited, until now.

Pushing the narrative around non-binary identities further than ever before, this powerful collection of essays represents the breadth of non-binary lives, across the boundaries of race, class, age, sexuality, faith and more.

Leading non-binary people share stories of their intersecting lives; how it feels to be non-binary and neurodiverse, the challenges of being a non-binary pregnant person, what it means to be non-binary within the Quaker community, the joy of reaching gender euphoria.

This thought-provoking anthology shows that there is no right or wrong way to be non-binary.

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • misgendering
  • ableism
  • transphobia

Representation:

  • an anthology that explores being non-binary and how it interacts with other parts of the authors’ identities (religion, ethnicity, race, disability, etc.)

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
5/5 stars

*I received an eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

I have been staring at my screen trying to figure out how to put my feelings into words, and. I don’t think I can do them justice. But I’ll try my best.

Non-Binary Lives is a collection of essays from various non-binary folks from mostly the UK, but other parts of the world as well. In these essays, they describe their experiences with being non-binary, especially with how it interacts with other parts of their identity and culture. While there could be some overlap between themes, each essay had a distinct feel to it as each author discussed their own lived experiences.

I truly do not know where to start with this essay collection. This book made me feel seen in a way no other book has. There were so many authors whose experiences did not match up perfectly to mine (basically all of them, let’s be honest), but they still felt and thought things about their non-binary gender that I have, and I have such a softness in my heart right now. For transparency’s sake, I just finished the book an hour ago, and I’m trying to write the review now because if I don’t, I don’t think I ever will. If I can’t write anything down now, I don’t think there will ever be an opportunity for me to write about how this book settled into my heart, into my being, like very few books have before.

And that’s what Non-Binary Lives has done: taken up space in my heart and settled in for the long haul. To read an entire anthology about people who share an identity with you is incredibly freeing and validating, and reading it made me incredibly soft. Just thinking about buying a physical copy (…whilst on a spending ban, lmao) is making me tear up.

If that weren’t enough, I just learned so much about different things? There was an essay with two twins who were born and raised in Malta, and I learned a little bit about the country and its politics. I learned about being a Quaker from another essay, whose author is a Quaker. I learned from a number of the contributors about how, in different ways, their counseling practice is affected by their gender.

That last point — about counseling? — yeah, I want to expand on that. Not only do I feel validated because of my gender, but I also feel validated because of the surprisingly large number of counselors that contributed to the anthology. For those of you that don’t know, I am a graduate student studying clinical mental health counseling. I want to become a counselor, and I eventually want to work with the LGBTQ+ community specifically. However, before this, I wasn’t really sure what I would do or how I would go about doing it to begin with. I was worried it was too niche, and that I would have to “settle” on doing something else that would still be fulfilling, just not as much.

Those counselors that spoke about their practices? They helped with that. Even though they work in England, I felt validated and that there is space in the mental health profession for my passion and work. It has motivated me to reach out to a faculty member at my school that does similar work and ask about resources and tips. And at the end of the day? It made me feel seen as a genderqueer future counselor. It has given me hope about what my future will bring.

I literally have nothing else of substance to add to this review unless y’all want incoherent screaming, so to end this, I want to give you a few quotes that have struck a cord with me.

What does it mean to “pass”? To “pass” places the burden of intelligibility on the person who seeks to “pass”: if we are not interpreted correctly, it is because we have failed to make our meaning clear. I reject that. I reject that there is one meaning that we can make of our bodies. I reject that we have such a degree of control over the ways in which people interpret us. I reject the implication that failure to be read — failure to be seen — is our fault. Instead, all we can offer is ourselves.

Non-Binary Lives

It is both terrifying and exciting, like plunging into a swirling galaxy of other lives, an array of lives not your own but which you temporarily inhabit. Like trying on new clothes, like acting a part, like conducting some kind of grand social experiment in perception. Which “I” am I today? It is both freedom and recklessness and danger and love, love, love for every life you could have led.

Non-Binary Lives

We cannot think of gender as a linear concept with masculinity and femininity as opposing poles. Instead, I think we can conceive of gender as a galaxy, with each person determining their own location at any given time. This galaxy is home to planets and comets and shuttles and stations. Some of us will never leave our home planets, some of us will never be home, and some of us will take off and go into orbit for a while and then land again.

Non-Binary Lives

Feel free to follow me!

Twitter

StoryGraph

BookSloth: Kait | sixcrowsbooks

Want to support me? Here’s how!

Ko-fi

Venmo: xxksedxx

REVIEW #72 | CIEL by Sophie Labelle (eARC)

Title: Ciel

Author: Sophie Labelle

Series or Standalone?: Standalone

Pub. Date: 15 September 2020

Synopsis:

Ciel is excited to start high school. A gender non-conforming trans kid, Ciel has a YouTube channel and dreams of getting a better camera to really make a mark. Ciel can always rely on their best friend, Stephie, a trans girl who also happens to be a huge nerd, but their friendship begins to feel distant when Stephie makes it clear she wants the fact that she’s trans to be more invisible in high school. While navigating this new friendship dynamic, Ciel is also trying to make a long-distance relationship work with their boyfriend Eirikur, who just moved back to Iceland. When Ciel befriends Liam, a new trans boy at school, things become more complicated by the minute.

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • transphobia
  • misgendering
  • xenophobia
  • homophobia (slurs)
  • parent death (mentioned)

Representation:

  • Brazilian-Canadian non-binary trans MC
  • multiple side characters of color (I don’t have the exact races because I somehow lost all my notes, I’m sorry 😭)
  • trans boy side character
  • bi trans girl side character
  • multiple queer/LGBTQ+ side characters (identities not specified)

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
5/5 stars

*I received an eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

So I normally don’t read Middle Grade books — not because I’m disinterested, but because I usually completely forget about them — but I’m so, so glad I was able to snag this up on NetGalley! It was unbelievably cute, and we need all the happy, uplifting trans/non-binary books for younger readers.

Ciel is about this young non-binary trans kid, Ciel, who is just starting high school. They’re also a small YouTuber, making videos about their day, family, friends, etc. The book follows them and their friends as they come to terms with high school life and the up’s and down’s that come with it.

Lemme be upfront with all y’all and say that not a lot happens in terms of plot: the whole book spans only the first two weeks of high school for Ciel, and it isn’t even 300 pages long. If you’re much more action-oriented, this book may not be for you.

However, this is part of the reason why I fell in love with it: it was basically just a slice-of-life story that focused on Ciel and their issues with their new friend group, their boyfriend, and how to express themself and their gender at a new school. I finished it within about three or four hours, and it was everything I wish I had when I was younger, even though I didn’t know I was genderqueer until much later in life.

Ciel spoke to me as a main character, in more ways than one. I completely empathized with their issue regarding what to wear as a non-binary person, especially because they didn’t want to stand out too much at first. While I usually don’t wear too many overtly feminine things (I’m AFAB), I still have a look where if you saw me on the street, you would probably code me as a woman. However, I wish wish wish I could dress more overtly masculine, maybe even bind. But where I live right now, I don’t want to stand out like that, mostly because I’m not out to barely anyone IRL. So Ciel’s issue? I totally understood them.

And their anxiety regarding friends! Going into high school was so scary for me because I didn’t know a lot of people, even though I was in stuff like band and cross country. I kinda just lumped together with folks from band, and called it a day, even though I felt they were just putting up with me and not because they wanted to be my friend. Seeing that paralleled with Ciel’s experience validated my experiences from so long ago, in my first year of high school.

Oh! And the fact that Ciel wasn’t the only trans person in the book! Their best friend Stephie is a trans girl who, upon entering high school, doesn’t want to make it known that she’s a trans girl, which causes a bit of friction between her and Ciel. There’s also a trans boy character as well, Liam. I just really enjoyed seeing the three of them interact with each other because of how different they come at their trans/non-binary identity. It’s different for each of them, and seeing that variety should make it clear that there’s no specific “right” or “wrong” way to be trans, which I think will be awesome for both trans and non-trans kids alike.

The only thing I wish we got more of was more of the side characters. Understandably, you can only fit so much into a middle grade novel, but damn, I would have loved to see this book spread out over the course of the year, seeing the side characters and how they developed throughout the course of it. That would’ve honestly made it a 10/5 star read for me, really.

I think Ciel is a perfect book for non-trans kids who want to learn more about trans/non-binary experiences, and (first and foremost) for the trans/non-binary kids who are either questioning if they’re “trans enough” or who want a happy, hopeful representation of kids like them. Because that’s what Ciel is: even though it has instances of transphobia and homophobia, it is ultimately a hopeful, positive book about trans kids and their lives. I hope when a trans kid reads it, they see themselves in it, like I did.

Feel free to follow me!

Twitter

StoryGraph

BookSloth: Kait | sixcrowsbooks

Want to support me? Here’s how!

Ko-fi

Venmo: xxksedxx

REVIEW #71 | LAIR OF DREAMS by Libba Bray (The Diviners #2) (Mini Review)

Lair of Dreams (The Diviners, #2)

Title: Lair of Dreams

Author: Libba Bray

Series or Standalone?: The Diviners #2

Pub. Date: 5 September 2017

Synopsis:

After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O’Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. Now that the world knows of her ability to “read” objects, and therefore, read the past, she has become a media darling, earning the title, “America’s Sweetheart Seer.” But not everyone is so accepting of the Diviners’ abilities…

Meanwhile, mysterious deaths have been turning up in the city, victims of an unknown sleeping sickness. Can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld and catch a killer?

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • homophobia
  • xenophobia
  • racism
  • ableism
  • character death
  • sex trafficking

Representation:

  • gay MC
  • Black MCs
  • mixed (Chinese and Irish) disabled (childhood paralysis; uses crutches) ace lesbian MC
  • (Note: it isn’t declared on-page that the MC is an ace lesbian until the next book, Before the Devil Breaks You)
  • Jewish MCs

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
5/5 stars

  • after the events of The Diviners, New York has something else to fend against: a mysterious “sleeping sickness” that’s killing citizens; Evie and the other Diviners have to figure it out before it’s too late
  • I don’t really know what to say outside of….it was great!
  • Ling! Ling! Ling! Ling! I love her so much, and I’m so glad she’s a Diviner
  • her relationship with Henry is amazing, and I enjoyed seeing it develop throughout the novel. I love seeing platonic m/f relationships!
  • Evie was getting on my nerves at times, but her behavior is understandable when you think about what she’s been through
  • I thought the ending was a bit anti-climatic, but overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book; it really starts to set things up for the later books while also being interesting in its own right

Feel free to follow me!

Twitter

Goodreads

Want to support me? Here’s how!

Ko-fi