REVIEW #81 | CEMETERY BOYS by Aiden Thomas

Cemetery Boys is a YA urban fantasy book about Yadriel, a trans Latinx boy who is trying to find a way to be his authentic self as a brujo, even when his family is struggling to understand. He has the chance to prove himself when cousin Miguel is killed — a brujo has the ability to summon spirits and, if need be, force them to cross from the living to the dead. Yadriel and his friend Maritza work to summon his cousin’s spirit, and it works! Sort of. Not really. Instead of Miguel, Yadriel summoned one of his classmates that was killed the same night as Miguel — Julian, the resident “bad boy.” Now not only does Yadriel have to figure out what happened to his cousin, but he also has to help Julian find out what happened to him. And…start to fall for him? Uh oh.

Has anyone recommend this to me? More like who hasn’t recommended Cemetery Boys, lol. This book has exploded over the past year — especially during lockdown last year, damn — and if I’m being honest? It is 100% deserved! My expectations going in were already pretty high, but they were blown out of the water. I think I’d go so far as to say that Aiden Thomas may be a new favorite author of mine. He just has an amazing way of writing characters, their complexities, and their relationships with one another. It’s simply amazing!

The writing is — how do you say? — *chef’s kiss*.

Seriously, though, I thought it’s was great. It was quick and tight, which helped the story move along. It never really seemed to drag on all that much, and even though it did seem to be a bit on the nose at times, I still thought it was strong overall.

Let me be clear, though: while it was fast-paced, it was not rushed. While there were some plot points that probably could’ve been developed more (the murder mystery aspect is stuck on the back burner for a good share of the last half, let’s be honest), I thought that it did a great job at giving time to develop the characters and the relationships between them all.

Very specifically, the party scene with Julian and Yadriel at the beach party? It was simply phenomenal. I could feel what they were feeling, thinking, doing. It gave me chills. I truly loved that scene, and I thought it really showcased Thomas’ skill.

And honestly? It made me cry (or at least, as close as I wanted to get to crying while at work, lol). And we all know any book that can make me cry has an A+ story in my book. So there’s that, lol.

Like I said before, Cemetery Boys is about Yadriel, a trans brujo trying to prove himself to his family, as he and his friend Maritza try to figure out how his cousin Miguel was killed…along with Julian, resident high school bad boy, because they accidentally summoned the wrong spirit.

I thought, overall, it was a wonderful story. It wasn’t super slow, but it wasn’t rushed, either. While it did seem to tip more towards Yadriel and Julian’s budding relationship, especially in the second half, I still thought the murder mystery aspect was still a lot of fun!

The murder mystery conflict — both for Miguel and Julian — was interesting in its own right. It seemed to have a bit of slow start and took a back seat for a bit to give Yadriel and Julian time to connect, but it was still intriguing, especially near the end.

Speaking of, that climax? Holy shit, y’all, it was freaking amazing. The twist in and of itself wasn’t surprising for me — I figured out pretty early on that a particular character was going to do something — but oof, the emotion that went into it? That’s what had me in tears near the end. It was so, so good, and I absolutely love Yadriel, Maritza, and Julian.

Overall, I thought the plot was a lot of fun. I loved the focus on Yadriel and Julian’s relationship (the shift from full names to nicknames in the narrative had me screaming, omg), but the mystery plot was nicely done, too.

Is it appropriate to just leave a screaming gif and leave it at that? Probably not, but that’s how I feel, lol. I loved everything about the characters (except for, well, maybe one, but I’ll get a bit into that later).

I’m going to start with my two sons, Yadriel and Julian. Can fictional characters be your children if they’re only six or seven years younger than you? My younger siblings, then. Or maybe we just forgo the weird “let’s make these fictional beings appear real” thing that we all seem to do in bookish spaces, and I’ll say I love their characters so, so much.

Yadriel is a young trans boy that wants his family to accept who he is and actively embrace him as a brujo. He’s driven to solve Miguel’s murder and, along the way, help Julian find out who his murderer was, too. I found his Mexican and Cuban culture(s) interwoven throughout the story refreshing, and though I probably missed some nuance, I thought it was wonderful to read about.

On top of that, I didn’t realize how anxious he was as a person until about halfway through, when he had to bring Julian with him to school. Can I just say that anxious Character A and off-the-walls Character B is one of my favorite pairings, so when I found it here, I did a lil happy dance as I was reading.

I also just…really love the complicated feelings he has towards his family. He loves them unconditionally, on the one hand, but on the other hand, he is So Tired of having to claw out any sort of validation or respect for him and his trans identity. It’s not that his family members are being purposely transphobic in trying to push him out of the duties of a brujo, but it stings just the same.

And then we have Julian. The literal ride-or-die friend, his dedication to and love for his friends — his found family — is immense and amazing. He is such a good friend to everyone he lets in close, and I loved seeing him trying to care for them even when he was a spirit.

This includes Yadriel, too. The little things Julian would do or say to truly support Yadriel when he was struggling with his family and being trans almost made me start crying with how genuine he is as a character. The way he urges Yadriel to inch outside his comfort zone and try things out while respecting who he is in his totality was amazing. And oh, I don’t want to spoil it (and I won’t!), but there’s a bit during the climax where he says something to Yadriel, and I just start crying in the club (library).

Let’s not forget his sillier side, too. This boy is off the walls goofy, and I absolutely love him for it. He has little to no impulse control, just does whatever he thinks of in the moment and goes from there. Pair this with Yadriel, who may or may not have some Anxiety Issues, and you get perfection.

I also just really enjoyed all the side characters, too. I thought Maritza was interesting, and I loved seeing her and Yadriel interact (wish I saw more of it!). Now that I think about it, I think she may be one of the few vegan characters I know, which is pretty cool. Julian’s whole friend group were a delight, and seeing them stick together no matter what was great. Yadriel’s family, though they made me wince now and again, were still a major part of Yadriel, and I liked seeing the complexities between him and them. Just, overall, I loved all the characters in Cemetery Boys — I think Aiden did a wonderful job in fleshing them out and developing them over the course of the story.

Cemetery Boys takes place in East Los Angeles, where Yadriel lives with his family in a family-owned cemetery. The magic system — and the commentary behind it — was pretty interesting, and I wished I could see more of it throughout the story. From what I understand, it’s a gender-based magic system, where brujos are able to summon spirits and send them to the other side (voluntarily or otherwise) and brujas are able to heal wounds. When each kid in the family comes of age, they partake in a special ceremony where Lady Death gives them their abilities. Yadriel wasn’t allowed to partake in the brujo ceremony because his family believed that Lady Death wouldn’t see him as his gender.

It was interesting to see him try and navigate this gendered system throughout the book, and it made me wonder what would happen with non-binary folks who were neither men/boys or women/girls. Would it just be whatever the non-binary person was “closest” to? If so, wouldn’t that be inherently antagonistic towards non-binary people who don’t coincide with either binary gender? I found myself thinking about it a bit throughout the story, and I don’t remember it ever being touched on. It’s an interesting thought exercise nonetheless.

I will say, though, the mythology surrounding Lady Death and other mythological figures within the story was really intriguing. I loved learning about them, and I thought they were a great addition to really round-out the world-building.

There was so much good stuff shoved in this delight of a book, I loved it. One of the themes that really popped out to me was this notion of proving oneself. Throughout the book, Yadriel struggles with proving he’s a man to his family, that he deserves the title of brujo, because being seen as a man by his family is one of the most important things to him. He doesn’t want to sacrifice his family or himself, he wants to confidently have both.

However, there are multiple times that Julian tries to push against this, against proving one’s own intrinsic worth. If I remember correctly, he asks Yadriel a variation of “prove yourself to whom and why?” and tries to get him to see that he doesn’t need external validation from his family, and he shouldn’t have to try so hard if there are certain people in his life who are unwilling to rise up to the plate.

It’s a conflicting spot to be in for Yadriel, though. On the one hand, he hates having to “prove” who he is, that his family can’t simply accept and support him. He hates having this doubt that Lady Death would reject him as a brujo. But on the other, he loves his family and his culture. He wants to create a space for himself and others like him, and he wants his family’s love and acceptance. It’s not as simple as “drop them and leave” when he truly wants a place within his family that he can be proud of. This conflict is threaded throughout the story, and I love the way it ends up. No spoilers, but it’s definitely not a “everything is happiness and rainbows and absolutely perfect” ending.

On top of that, I’m always down for a good ol’ found family theme, and Julian and his friends really make it good. The relationships between one another, looking out for each other, everything. I absolutely loved meeting them, and I wish that if, for whatever reason, Aiden Thomas decides to make a sequel, we can see more of them.

I was also pleasantly surprised at Julian’s brother — their relationship is complicated, but I was so happy to see him look out for Julian and his friends, no matter what. He’s just trying his best to be a dad to a bunch of teenagers, and I love it. He gets a 10/10 from me.

In short, I had an amazing reading experience with Cemetery Boys. While the plot was engaging enough, I think it really shines with the characters and their relationships with one another (especially Yadriel and Julian, but the entire cast was intriguing in their own way). If you want a fun slow-burn supernatural romance with a dash of murder mystery on the side, I would definitely recommend Cemetery Boys!

✨✨✨

Shoutout to CW and the Pond for their blog post full of different book review prompts — it was the basis for this here review structure! If you want, shoot over to their Ko-fi to give a tip!

  • Transphobia, including deadnaming (the act of it; the deadname itself isn’t used) and misgendering
  • Classism
  • Xenophobia
  • Blood
  • Violence
  • Character death
  • Mexican-Cuban gay trans boy MC
  • Colombian achillean LI
  • Trans and queer side characters
  • Side characters of color

Title: Cemetery Boys

Author: Aiden Thomas

Pub. Date: 1 September 2020

Genre: Paranormal; Urban Fantasy

About (via StoryGraph):

A trans boy determined to prove his gender to his traditional Latinx family summons a ghost who refuses to leave in Aiden Thomas’s New York Times-bestselling paranormal YA debut Cemetery Boys, described by Entertainment Weekly as groundbreaking.

“Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him. When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his true gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

“However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie off some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.”

Feel free to connect with me!

Twitter

StoryGraph

Wanna tip me? Here’s how!

Ko-fi

Venmo: xxksedxx

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 #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 #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

LIST #18 | Books on My Physical TBR, pt. 1 YA SFF

Hey there, everyone! Hope you’re all doing well and staying safe right now when things are as hectic as could be. I’ve been wanting to do different kinds of posts outside of just reviews because I found myself in a bit of a rut. So I figured why not do one about the books on my physical TBR? And here we are, a new mini-series! I differentiate between my physical TBR and general TBR because the former is the TBR for books that I already own, and the latter is just books that I want to get around to reading. I own a number of backlist books, so I figured this would be a fun series so y’all can see books that maybe you haven’t seen in a while (or at all!). Part one is on my YA sci-fi and fantasy collection!

Shadow and Bone (Shadow and Bone, #1)
Siege and Storm (Shadow and Bone, #2)

Shadow and Bone & Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

  • bought these a few years ago, still haven’t read them
  • ready to hate both Mal and the Darkling, and I can’t wait
  • not ready for the mid-2000s YA fantasy style of writing though, lmao

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch, #1)
  • I’ve heard so many great things!
  • I need an anti-hero/morally grey MC again, it’s been a while
  • Kate from YaTitaKate on YouTube also did a drunk review of The Bone Witch which, uh, definitely made me want to read it more now, lol. Maybe next month!
Girls of Paper and Fire (Girls of Paper and Fire #1)

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

  • the themes…the t h e m e s
  • another that I have to read soon!
  • well, that, and the sequel
Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle, #1)
Eldest (The Inheritance Cycle, #2)
Brisingr (The Inheritance Cycle, #3)

Eragon & Eldest & Brisingr by Christopher Paolini

  • am I ready to roast this hodgepodge of well-known SFF media? Yes. But will I enjoy roasting it? Also yes
  • I actually tried the audiobook sometime last year or the year before, and wow, that was the worst audiobook experience I’ve had in my life. So. Physical book it is
A Living Nightmare (Cirque Du Freak, #1)
The Vampire's Assistant (Cirque Du Freak, #2)
Tunnels of Blood (Cirque Du Freak, #3)

A Living Nightmare & The Vampire’s Assistant & Tunnels of Blood by Darren Shan

  • cue the nostalgia: ya know how a bunch of people had Harry Potter and Twilight growing up, which really solidified their love of reading? Well, Cirque du Freak is, essentially, my Harry Potter or Twilight
  • I’m a bit nervous it won’t be as good as I remember it, but to be fair, there has been ten years or more since I first read it
The Emerald Atlas (The Books of Beginning, #1)

The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

  • got this for my 12th or 13th birthday, but uhhh never actually read it
  • excited to get into it, but I don’t have a clue on what it’s about, lol
The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle, #2)
Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle, #3)
The Raven King (The Raven Cycle, #4)

The Dream Thieves & Blue Lily, Lily Blue & The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

  • I am ready to be absolutely bodied by the rest of this series and then never touch it again
  • I got them all from my library’s book sale for super cheap, so that’s pretty rad, too!
Tarnished Are the Stars

Tarnished are the Stars by Rosiee Thor

  • my most recent YA SFF buy from a couple months ago
  • bit of an impulse buy because I usually don’t buy new releases, but I couldn’t resist a queer YA sci-fi with that kind of cover

And those are all of the YA SFF books on my physical TBR. Let me know if you liked any of these, or what YA SFF books you own that you haven’t gotten around to yet!

Feel free to follow me!

Twitter

Goodreads

Want to support me? Here’s how!

Ko-fi

REVIEW #65 | THE BLACK VEINS by Ashia Monet (eARC) (Dead Magic #1)

Title: The Black Veins

Author: Ashia Monet

Series or Standalone?: Dead Magic #1

Publishing Date: 17 July 2019

Synopsis (Goodreads):

“In a world where magic thrives in secret city corners, a group of magicians embark on a road trip—and it’s the “no-love-interest”, found family adventure you’ve been searching for.

“Sixteen-year-old Blythe is one of seven Guardians: magicians powerful enough to cause worldwide panic with a snap of their fingers. But Blythe spends her days pouring latte art at her family’s coffee shop, so why should she care about having apocalyptic abilities?

“She’s given a reason when magician anarchists crash into said coffee shop and kidnap her family.

“Heartbroken but determined, Blythe knows she can’t save them alone. A war is brewing between two magician governments and tensions are too high. So, she packs up her family’s bright yellow Volkswagen, puts on a playlist, and embarks on a road trip across the United States to enlist the help of six strangers whose abilities are unparalleled—the other Guardians.”

Trigger/Content warnings (copy and pasted directly from the novel) [Note: they usually aren’t this specific with chapters, but like I said, I’m taking it directly from the book’s content warning section]:

  • discussion of deceased parents and siblings; potential parent/family death
  • description of mild bloodshed in violent scenes
  • mention of drugs/drug use (specifically marijuana)
  • gun use
  • supernatural horror in the form of monsters, primarily found in Chapters 6, 12, and 25
  • car accident in chapter 19
  • discussion of anxiety disorders/panic disorders, primarily found in Chapters 22, 23, and 25
  • racial n-word slur, ending in -a, found in Chapter 21
  • mild anxiety attack in Chapter 25

Representation (drawn from the author’s handy-dandy Twitter thread):

  • Black bisexual girl protagonist with anxiety
  • Chinese/British mixed girl side character who will (eventually) identify as questioning (she identifies as straight in The Black Veins)
  • Puerto Rican boy side character that will (eventually) come to identify as demisexual, demiromantic, and only attracted to boys
  • Black straight girl side character
  • Black bisexual boy side character
  • white ace trans boy side character
  • white non-binary/agender side character that uses they/them pronouns

⭐⭐⭐⭐
4/5 stars

*I received an eARC from the author in exchange for an honest review*

(We’ll just…ignore the fact that I’m a half a year late with this review. Ha…haha…)

I didn’t know I needed this wild, magical road trip book until I was done with it. Y’all, it was so good!!

The Black Veins follows Blythe, a Black bisexual girl who is also, coincidentally, a Guardian, a person who has control over one of the several different branches of magic. When her family is kidnapped and her family-owned coffeeshop is destroyed, Blythe is heartbroken. She decides, however, to follow them across the country in order to get them back. But she can’t do this alone. She has to go on a road trip to find the other Guardians in order to be strong enough to take on the people who kidnapped her family.

So, like. I don’t really read a lot of urban fantasy now. Most of the ones I know about are those adult urban fantasy series that are basically police procedurals with magic/magical creatures and sex, and they never caught my eye. But The Black Veins??? Was so much fun???

Seriously, I think one of the best parts about this novel was how fun it was. You have seven teens (or, well, mostly teens since Dan’s, like, twelve) that are eventually all travelling together. They are wildly different from one another, but they just seem to click, ya know? There were so many lines and jokes throughout the story that had me laughing outloud because the humor is just so spot-on. Ashia Monet, being a millenial (or Gen Z? I dunno, around that age range, lol) herself, does our kind of humor so well, and it worked. There were also some serious moments for sure, and they were given their time to be serious, which I appreciated. But, man, that humor… I was honestly not expecting that.

Also, damn, those characters??? Those characters!! I literally loved all of them. First of all, just look at that representation list. Five out of seven of the main cast are characters of color, and all but two are part of the LGBTQ+ community. That alone makes me so happy because their existence is never questioned. They’re bi? Cool. They’re trans and/or non-binary? Dope. They find out that they’re questioning later on? Awesome. In the end (definitely not in the beginning for all of them, lol), they support one another no matter what, and I that found family trope is just…so wonderful. I love it so much, and I think Ashia does an amazing job of creating and building these relationships in such an organic way. To me, it is definitely one of her strengths.

I’m just going to go right down the line and give a quick description of the seven of them because if I go even more in-depth, this review will take ages. So, without further ado…

  • Blythe: the protagonist; super determined to get her family back, but anxious about how to do it/what’s happening to them
  • Cordelia: doesn’t take anyone’s shit; literally a hacker what the fuck; under that cold exterior, she really does care for everyone
  • Daniel: *ahem* I WILL PROTECT HIM WITH MY LIFE; just a sheltered boy who likes plants and nature and shit, and has a ~secret~
  • Antonio: sunny surfer boy is, actually, my son; just a happy dude who likes to bake and make everyone feel good
  • Storm: probably the funniest out of the seven of them (literally made me laugh out loud so many times); makes me want to know more about her
  • Caspian: listen…this boy…can I just say that I love his character development (and Daniel’s!)
  • Jay: flirty bi king we all need; I need to see more of him in the next book because his and Antonio’s interactions are something else entirely

Overall? I felt connected to the characters even with the plot being as fast as it was. While there were a few parts I was confused by or I thought were just a tad too coincidental, I thought this was a wonderful debut, and I can’t wait to see what Ashia has in store for us in the future.

Feel free to follow me!

Twitter

Goodreads

Want to leave a tip? Here’s how!

Ko-fi

REVIEW #60 | RUIN OF STARS by Linsey Miller (Mask of Shadows #2)

Title: Ruin of Stars

Author: Linsey Miller

Series or Standalone?: Mask of Shadows #2

Publishing Date: 28 August 2018

Synopsis (Goodreads):

“The thrilling conclusion to the Mask of Shadows duology that weaves a tale of magic, shadows, and most importantly, revenge.

“As one of the Queen’s elite assassins, Sal finally has the power, prestige, and permission to hunt down the lords who killed their family. But Sal still has to figure out who the culprits are. They must enlist the help of some old friends and enemies while ignoring a growing distaste for the queen and that the charming Elise is being held prisoner by her father.

“But there’s something terribly wrong in the north. Talk of the return of shadows, missing children, and magic abounds. As Sal takes out the people responsible for their ruined homeland, Sal learns secrets and truths that can’t be forgotten.”

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • blood and gore
  • violence
  • misgendering
  • character death

Representation:

  • genderfluid main character
  • bisexual love interest
  • aromantic side character
  • trans man side character
  • non-binary side character
  • sapphic character(s)
  • multiple characters of color, including mixed race characters

⭐⭐⭐⭐ .5
4.5/5 stars

I thought that Ruin of Stars was a wonderful sequel and finale of the duology. Compared to Mask of Shadows, this book hits fast and hard, pulling no punches. I think I like it just a tad bit better than the first book!

After the events of Mask of Shadows, Sal is tasked with hunting down the nobles that were responsible for killing their family. Along with that, the tension also begins to rise at the Queen’s court as insiders are looking shadier every day.

I’m going to be honest, I finished this book about a month ago, and I kinda forgot what exactly happens outside of the fact that I really liked it, lol. But!! I do remember that I absolutely loved these characters, forever and ever. The reader learns more about Amethyst and Emerald and sees them interact more with Sal as an equal. You also learn more about Ruby, which is probably one of the best parts. Also! Multiple non-binary characters!! I literally did a little happy dance when I found this out as I was reading. There is also a trans side character as well.

I will say that I thought Sal and Elise’s conflict was pretty “meh”. I nearly hit my head against the wall because how thick did Elise have to be to not believe what Sal was saying until it was nearly too late? She didn’t have issues with anything else, but this one thing had to be insurmountable for her. She wasn’t my favorite character in Mask of Shadows, so I knew she wasn’t going to be my fav in this book either, but still. Thinking about it more, I understand what the author was trying to get at, but I thought it fell a bit short.

The writing itself is pretty good, though! It is very fast-paced, and I thought it was easy to fly through. The action never seems to stop, which took a bit getting used to compared to the the first book of the series (which I thought was a bit slower in terms of action). On top of that, there is so much talk about marginalized people and simply living in a society that doesn’t even want you to exist, let alone be visible and thriving. I really appreciate that aspect of the novel, and I wish I could have more of it.

But yeah, while I wasn’t a huge fan of Elise in this book, I thought that Ruin of Stars was a good book overall, and I would still definitely recommend this book (and the duology in general)!

Feel free to follow me!

Twitter

Goodreads

Want to support me or leave a tip? Here’s how!

Patreon

Ko-fi

REVIEW #59 | BELLE REVOLTE by Linsey Miller (eARC)

Title: Belle Revolte

Author: Linsey Miller

Series or Standalone?: Standalone

Publishing Date: 4 February 2020

Synopsis (Goodreads):

“Emilie des Marais is more at home holding scalpels than embroidery needles and is desperate to escape her noble roots to serve her country as a physician. But society dictates a noble lady cannot perform such gruesome work.

“Annette Boucher, overlooked and overworked by her family, wants more from life than her humble beginnings and is desperate to be trained in magic. So when a strange noble girl offers Annette the chance of a lifetime, she accepts.

“Emilie and Annette swap lives—Annette attends finishing school as a noble lady to be trained in the ways of divination, while Emilie enrolls to be a physician’s assistant, using her natural magical talent to save lives.

“But when their nation instigates a frivolous war, Emilie and Annette must work together to help the rebellion end a war that is based on lies.”

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • gore
  • character death
  • family death (a character’s brother)

Representation:

  • biromantic asexual girl MC
  • multiple f/f relationships and lesbian (or otherwise sapphic) characters
  • trans man side character

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
5/5 stars

*I received a copy of the novel via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

I read this book within a day or two, and I loved every second of it.

Belle Révolte follows two girls: Emilie, a noble girl who wants to study the noonday arts and become a physician instead of the midnight arts, and Annette, a peasant girl from a family who doesn’t want her and who wants to study the midnight arts. They end up meeting one another and, on a whim, decide to switch places. Annette pretends to Emilie and studies the midnight arts while Emilie admits herself to a school for the noonday arts. However, tension and action start to stack up quickly as the country is thrust into a war/revolution, and the girls are thrust into it as well.

First off, this magic system? Is simply amazing. It is split into a binary: the midnight arts (divination, scrying, etc.), which are traditionally used by women, and the noonday arts (divided between surgery/medicine and fighting/warfare) are traditionally used by men.

I love that Emilie is fighting tooth and nail to become a physician and prove everyone wrong with what she can do. The magic system is believed to be entirely binary: women weren’t considered strong enough to use the noonday arts, and men believed the midnight arts to be below them. However, Emilie proves throughout the novel that women can actually prove to be just as competent in the noonday arts (shocker, I know), and there is a debate that touches on both arts actually being the same side of the coin, not opposites. This magic system and the discussion about it within the novel were very intriguing, and I love this aspect.

Now, the characters… While I can’t remember names (not the novel’s fault, I am incredibly bad with keeping up with who’s who, especially when they don’t have their own POV chapter), I do remember that I loved all of the characters. I felt like I knew them, and following Annette and Emilie was a joyride in and of itself. The reader just gets to know the both of them so well, including how they don’t feel like, a lot of the time, they can’t be who they truly are in public. They are constantly fighting to be themselves in a world that doesn’t care for them, and I love that. I don’t love that they have to, but I feel connected to both of them. I understand that struggle.

On top of that??? The side characters??? I love. They are honestly so, so amazing, and that representation? *chef’s kiss* We got multiple f/f relationships, a trans man side character, and an MC who’s asexual and biromantic. I just loved how everyone was super casual about it, and the best part? While this book was gruesome and bloody and violent, none of the violence was queer antagonistic/transphobic/homophobic/etc. in nature. It was just refreshing to see.

There were a couple parts of the novel that, if I didn’t already absolutely love this book, I would probably take a half-star or two off. One was a plot twist with one of the side characters. I thought it was a bit goofy and allowed everything to wrap up nicely, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment at all. The second part was the ending: at first, I wasn’t a huge fan of it because I thought it was very rushed. However, the more I thought on it, the more my mind began to change: revolutions can often take suddent turns toward the end, and that’s just what happens with the end of Belle Revolte. I think it fit the overall narrative.

But yeah, please please please pre-order/order this book or request it for your library, y’all. This was a wonderful, quick read, and I’m so glad I was able to snag it when it was under the “read now” tab on NetGalley!

Feel free to follow me!

Twitter

Goodreads

Want to support me or leave a tip? Here’s how!

Patreon

Ko-fi

REVIEW #58 | THE GILDED WOLVES by Roshani Chokshi (The Gilded Wolves #1)

Title: The Gilded Wolves

Author: Roshani Chokshi

Series or Standalone?: The Gilded Wolves #1

Publishing Date: 15 January 2019

Synopsis (Goodreads):

“No one believes in them. But soon no one will forget them.

“It’s 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

“To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood.

“Together, they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history–but only if they can stay alive.”

Trigger/content warnings:

  • blood
  • child abuse/neglect/domestic abuse
  • character death
  • parental death
  • torture (non-graphic)

Representation:

  • autistic Jewish girl character
  • Indian girl character
  • bi/pan Filipino Spanish character
  • mixed-race characters

⭐⭐⭐⭐
4/5 stars

Before even starting this review, I have to say this: stop comparing this book to Six of Crows, they are nothing alike! The heists aren’t even the same, nor are the team/family dynamics! Just stop, and stop being disappointed when two books with one sliver of a theme in common are *gasp* different!

*ahem* Now that that’s done… The Gilded Wolves is a wonderful book, and I had so much fun reading it!

The synopsis/overview of the book is a bit hard to explain, but I’ll try my best. The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi takes place in Paris, right around the time of the Exposition Universelle (1800s). However, an organization exists called the Order of Babel, which dabbles in magic and magical relics.

Keeping this in mind, Séverin and his crew are known to steal relics and examine them. However, one of the people in the order ends up blackmailing him and his crew in order to steal/acquire a specific relic. In order to do so, the crew must pull off a heist they’ve never done before.

Lemme tell you, I had a lot of fun reading this. It was a quick read, with the plot moving pretty steadily (for me, at least), but there was still a good amount of time spent on the characters and the relationships between each of them. And y’all!! There’s my fav trope!!! Found family! I was so excited to see how each character interacted with one another, and what each of their backstories were (though I do wish there was a bit more backstory on everyone, but! that’s what another book is for, lol). I do have to say, though, that I was a bit confused by Tristan’s motivations. It didn’t really inhibit my enjoyment of the novel, but I wished there was a clearer reason for certain things that he does throughout the novel.

Also??? Can we talk about how perfect Zofia, Hypnos, and Enrique are? I really hope that they [redacted] [redacted] because that would be absolutely lovely. I just love their interactions with one another (and everyone else’s, to be honest).

One of the downsides, though, was the world-building. I was a bit confused about what the Order of Babel actually was, and how everything fit together. I was able to piece enough of it together for it to make sense, and it might have been just because I was reading it so fast. But I felt like it could have been described in a less confusing way. However, again, it didn’t take too much away from my reading enjoyment.

Overall, while the world-building was a bit hard to follow, I still really liked The Gilded Wolves, and I can’t wait to read the e-ARC of the sequel I got via Netgalley. 🙂

Feel free to follow me!

Twitter

Goodreads

Want to support me or leave a tip? Here’s how!

Patreon

Ko-fi

REVIEW #56 | THE STORM CROW by Kalyn Josephson (The Storm Crow #1)

Title: The Storm Crow

Author: Kalyn Josephson

Series or Standalone?: The Storm Crow #1

Publishing Date: 9 July 2019

Synopsis (Goodreads):

“In the tropical kingdom of Rhodaire, magical, elemental Crows are part of every aspect of life…until the Illucian empire invades, destroying everything.

“That terrible night has thrown Princess Anthia into a deep depression. Her sister Caliza is busy running the kingdom after their mother’s death, but all Thia can do is think of all she has lost.

“But when Caliza is forced to agree to a marriage between Thia and the crown prince of Illucia, Thia is finally spurred into action. And after stumbling upon a hidden Crow egg in the rubble of a rookery, she and her sister devise a dangerous plan to hatch the egg in secret and get back what was taken from them.”

Trigger/content warnings:

  • depictions of depression
  • anxiety/panic attacks
  • self-harm (for blood magic; non-graphic)
  • death of family members
  • violence/gore
  • blood

Representation:

  • MC with depression and who struggles with the aftermath of trauma (including having panic attacks)
  • sapphic side-characters
  • gay side-character who is a man
  • m/m minor relationship
  • f/f side relationship
  • characters of color

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
5/5 stars

Yo, who was going to tell me I was going to fall in love with this book and think about it for days after I finish it? Seriously, I adored The Storm Crow.

In Rhodaire, where the protagonist Thia lives, the people live and work with magical Crows who are able to use elemental magic. However, on the night of their festival, Rhodaire’s capital is attacked by the enemy country of Illucia. In the end, not only are all the Crows dead, but Thia’s mother, the queen, is as well.

Months pass, and Thia is stuck in a deep depression as her sister tries to run Rhodaire as queen. The country is in disarray as it tries to move on from the extinction of the Crows it used to depend on.

One day, though, Thia learns two things: a Storm Crow egg survived the attack by the Illucians, and she is being forced into an engagement with the Illucian prince, Ericen. Soon she is carted away to an enemy nation with only her closest friend and the Storm Crow egg as allies.

Like I said earlier, I have little to no negative thing to say about this book. The world-building was confusing for me at times (there’s a lot of name-dropping with different countries), but by the time the book ended, I think I had a good grasp about the world. Anyway, on to what I loved.

You want casual diversity? You get casual diversity. And I absolutely love it! We have Thia, who has depression and panic attacks as a result of the trauma she faced at the beginning of the book. I can’t say personally if the rep is any good, but from the standpoint of someone studying mental health, I thought the MI rep was done very well (obviously, depression symptoms vary widely from person to person, but I think this case was dealt with with love and care). On top of that, we also have sapphic and gay side characters, f/f and m/m side relationships, and characters of color.

Y’all wanna know what else? There is no homophobia. The sapphic and gay characters are just accepted for their sexuality, and if they’re bad, it isn’t because they’re queer. How rad!!

Somewhat related to that: I loved all of the characters. Usually, I latch on to a few and then feel neutral about the rest, but I genuinely enjoyed the complexity given to these characters, especially Thia, Ericen, and the Illucian queen. I felt that we got to see all of their struggles (some clearer than others), and as far as my experience goes, nobody seems one-dimensional.

One thing that I especially liked was how Thia and Ericen’s relationship unfolds. It didn’t go the way I thought it would, so I was pleasantly surprised as I was reading about what actually happens. Their relationship in particular is one of the things I’m especially interested in learning about in the sequel.

As for the writing itself, I have no qualms with it. Its fast pace kept me on my toes as I was reading, and I was able to fly through it. If memory serves me right, I finished this book in a couple days, which is fast for me.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book, and I cannot wait until the sequel is released so I can snag it up!

Feel free to follow me!

Twitter

Goodreads

Want to support me or leave a tip? Here’s how!

Patreon

Ko-fi