The Mercies Review

The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

The Mercies Review

Even starting this review, my emotions were tumultuous. I LOVED The Mercies and putting that love into words was not easy. I’m trying to cobble something together from the notes I made, even though most of them are just me going ‘it’s so beautiful. Incredible. Amazing. Beautiful.’ Not especially helpful, but if you want some escapism during quarantine into a standalone fantasy with a historical element, this is the book for you!

The synopsis:

On Christmas Eve, 1617, the sea around the remote Norwegian island of Vardo is thrown into a reckless storm. As Maren Magnusdatter watches, forty fishermen, including her father and brother, are lost to the waves, the menfolk of Vardo wiped out in an instant.

Now the women must fend for themselves.

Eighteen months later, a sinister figure arrives. Summoned from Scotland to take control of a place at the edge of the civilized world, Absalom Cornet knows what he needs to do to bring the women of Vardo to heel. With him travels his young wife, Ursa. In Vardo, and in Maren, Ursa finds something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place untouched by God and flooded with a mighty and terrible evil, one he must root out at all costs.

Inspired by the real events of the Vardo storm and the 1621 witch trials, Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s The Mercies is a story about how suspicion can twist its way through a community, and a love that may prove as dangerous as it is powerful.

The Mercies is told in present tense from two viewpoints, Ursa and Maren. I found that I liked both viewpoints equally, possibly with a slight leaning towards Maren. Such tension was built between them from the very first time Maren set eyes upon Ursa, and each worried the other would look down on them for their ways. All the characters in The Mercies are fascinating, the way they group and then break apart, swirling like the currents of the ever-present tide. I was completely drawn up into Ursa and Maren’s relationship, the way they felt and thought about everything so intensely illustrated.

The Mercies would not be what it is without its incredible setting of Vardo, Finnmark. It is so isolated, far from what some would consider civilisation. Kiran Millwood Hargrave beautifully evokes the freedom and fear and danger of the sea, surrounding this community who rely upon one another closely. The little details of the scenery are woven in seamlessly amongst the sea, cliffs, heather, houses and sky immersing the reader in this enchanting tale.

The Mercies is elegantly and lyrically written, emotive and full of desperation, reaching a feverish intensity as the cracks in the community widen and the line between religion and superstition is drawn by the arrival of a man. I forgot everything briefly as I was completely absorbed by the danger brewing on Vardo, thrilled by the atmosphere right from its intense beginning. I adored the ending and it is the perfect atmospheric standalone fantasy novel. Absolutely spellbinding.

Would I survive? Absolutely not. I get very, very seasick.

Herself, lost inside his name.

Kiran Millwood Hargrave, The Mercies

Enchantée Review

Enchantée by Gita Trelease

Enchantée is a YA historical fantasy, in which Gita Trelease takes us back to revolution era France. The hardest bit about writing this review was definitely finding the é, I searched Word for so long before it occurred to me that I could just google it. I have literally no tech skills!

So my main point about this book is it is definitely more fantasy than historical, at least I found it so. It felt more like a fairytale set in a world roughly based on revolution era France rather than an accurate historical retelling. It took me a moment to get used to it, but once I had adjusted my expectations I really enjoyed this book. Some moments of the French Revolution are mentioned, but they are not graphically described and it misses a sharpness necessary to be a realistic representation of history.

That being said, Enchantée is wonderful. It is sweet and addictive, beautiful and soft. I expected something harsher, but instead got love and magic and revolution all sweetly woven together. It follows the story of Cecile, an orphan who looks after her younger sister and protects them both from her horrible older brother. With money running out, she disguises herself as a Duchess using magic her mother taught her and dives into the glamorous, poisoned apple of Versaille. The story grows more and more intense as Cecile is wrapped up and pulled into the luxurious world of the aristocrats she has hated for so long. The story flows beautifully and carried me along as we met a range of characters all hiding their own secrets as they gamble the nights away.

I really enjoyed the ending and I would highly recommend this to anyone who wants some magical fun set in the French Revolution. Would I survive this? I honestly have no idea. I think I would enjoy being an aristocrat, but having my head cut off and being forced to marry someone I don’t want to doesn’t sound so fun…

Dry Review

Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

I first saw Dry in Waterstones months ago, and I was super excited when it finally came into the library! I don’t know if this is a good idea or a bad idea, reviewing a disaster scenario book given the current circumstances, but at least this one is climate-change related not pandemic related, right? Either way if you want a break from coronavirus related news and want to lose yourself in a completely different disaster, Dry is a great option.

Dry follows the actions of a girl, Alyssa, and her younger brother as they navigate life immediately after the taps run dry in South California, with no signs of water coming back soon. The story follows multiple viewpoints, each one added in as Alyssa meets them. She ends up forming a group with her next-door neighbour called Kelton, a badass girl named Jacqui, a rich boy named Henry and her younger brother. The story is told chronologically, day by day, with snapshots of random other people interspersed throughout to show what is happening elsewhere. The viewpoints of Alyssa and her companions are all first person, whereas the snapshots are third person, distinctly marking them out and making sure you stay focused on the important characters. The book is divided into parts and each part is a different stage of their journey, which breaks up the story nicely.

Within a few pages I was wishing I had read this book sooner! Neal and Jarrod Shusterman have written a brilliant book together, I’d love for them to write more. The book begins with a really interesting concept that is made more engaging by how possible it is, to the extent where I was slightly freaked out by it. With climate change getting worse by the day, running out of water might be real in the future and the way it plays out in the book seems very realistic. I genuinely flinched when someone disturbed me because I was so absorbed in the book, it was tense and dramatic and I never knew what was going to happen next.

The writing kept me on edge, with distinct viewpoints and the ability to evoke mood vividly, whether it be in a fight or a relaxed car drive. I could not stop reading and I didn’t want to, especially as the chapters grew shorter towards the end as they built to the climax. The ending was heart stopping, but followed with a little of the aftermath. I am a big fan of being shown the consequences of the story on the world and characters and I prefer it not to be in an epilogue because the epilogues are often removed whereas I want to stay with the characters I’ve got so attached to. Would I survive this book? Yeah, I’d be in the UK!

A Twist in Time Review

A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain

(Picture from Goodreads since I read it as an ebook)

The Kendra Donovan Mysteries are, in my humble opinion, a hugely underrated series. They follow the adventures of ex-FBI agent Kendra Donovan after she is somehow transported back to 1815. A Twist in Time is the second book in the series, the first being a Murder in Time. This review will include minor spoilers for the first book, so if you intend to read it and don’t want spoilers, please don’t read on!

In A Twist in Time Kendra is unfortunately (for her, not the reader) still in the past despite her best efforts to get back to the twenty first century. She is called to London along with the Duke she is staying with after his nephew is suspected of the murder of Lady Dover. This book is full of more people being shocked by Kendra’s ‘American’ (future) manners, murder and crime, Alec and Kendra irritating each other and high society in 1815. Amazing.

I really enjoy the plot and writing style and characters of these books. It’s the perfect trifecta. The plot is well paced, with lots of action and constantly moving. The writing style flows smoothly and carried me along through the story, ramping up the tension in some places and drawing moments out in others keeping the reader gripped. Kendra’s twenty first century background means that she notices everything different between the past and present, therefore alerting the reader to key differences between the centuries especially when considering the different classes. Kendra coming from an FBI background as well means she is very observant and is always shaking things up within the 1815 method of solving crimes.

A Twist in Time is a brilliantly written historical crime novel which carries on from the excitement of the first book excellently, full of rich descriptions and historical details. I desperately want to read the next book and I will somehow get my hands on it, even if neither of the counties I have library cards for have it! I’m not sure if I could survive in the 19th century- no toilets or proper cleaning materials sounds like a nightmare, not to mention how restricted women were!

This Lie Will Kill You Review

This Lie Will Kill You by Chelsea Pitcher

Slightly confusingly, I am posting this review before the review of All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban, despite reading it after. I mention this because my first thought when seeing the premise was that it seemed like the one for All Your Twisted Secrets- a mixture of students invited to a location to get some prize money. I was wrong. The books had two similarities- the one just mentioned, and that they were both awesome. Apart from that, they went in different directions with different styles.

This Lie Will Kill You follows a bunch of students who are invited to a mysterious mansion for a murder mystery game, the prize being $50,000. It starts with a thrilling prologue, mysteriously introducing the antagonist. The first few chapters are labelled with the role of the character it is following- class act, drama queen, golden boy, meat head and lone wolf. The multiple character, third person perspective continues throughout the book, allowing the reader insight into the drama happening simultaneously throughout the large mansion. Throughout, there are lots of references to an event that happened at a party the year earlier which all the characters were somehow involved him. Clues are dropped at various points, leaving the reader increasingly curious and trying and piece together what happened.

The atmosphere is consistently tense, as well as being very intense. The story swallowed me up and left me willing to kill to know what happened. Even the memories the characters reflect on from the past are mysterious, only providing small bits of context and explanation at a time. The ending was a total surprise, with so many twists. Every time you thought you had resolved something, another layer of the web was revealed. Would I survive this book? Probably, because I don’t go to parties so wouldn’t have gone to the one the year before.

All Your Twisted Secrets Review

All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban

I’ll start by saying I was very kindly gifted and advance copy of this by Harper Teen, so thank you! I’m on a bit of a YA crime streak at the moment- I recently read two Karen M. McManus books, and my next book to read is This Lie Will Kill You. I never think of this as one of my favourite genres, but after all these I think I may reconsider because I’ve really enjoyed them. All Your Twisted Secrets will be released in two days, on the 17th March 2020.

All Your Twisted Secrets is Diana Urban’s debut novel, and honestly I can’t wait for her next one. It follows the queen bee, star athlete, valedictorian, stoner, loser and music geek after they are invited to a scholarship dinner, then locked in there. They are given a choice- poison someone or a bomb will kill them all. They have one hour.

The main viewpoint followed is that of the music geek, Amber Prescott. Diana quickly and smoothly establishes the setting and characters without it being obvious or clunky. There are two different storylines followed, the present in the scholarship dinner and the past. The present stretches over the course of an hour, while the past follows the events over the course of about a year. The characters are all linked in different ways, some obvious and some less so, and all the characters are well rounded and interesting, especially the ways in which they change under pressure. All the characters are around my age, 17, which was a bit strange because a lot of their drama and secrets could never happen to me. Nonetheless, I was engaged throughout and could hardly put it down.

The setting of this novel was perfect. An empty restaurant, the locked room, the elaborate dining setup and the rising temperature of the room. As the heat increases so do tensions, with incredible sensory descriptions to immerse the reader in the situation. The drama which unfolds is a mix of secrets being revealed and the consequences of the students’ actions as they desperately try to escape the room. Alliances are made and broken all in the space of an hour, under the watching eye of a ticking bomb.

The ending was perfection. I loved it. Despite all the twists and turns, I never saw this one coming. Oh My Goodness. Would I survive this book? That would be spoilers.

A Noble’s Path Review (Blog Tour)

A Noble’s Path by I.L.Cruz

Happy Saturday everyone! I know I don’t usually post on a Saturday, but I guess this week you’re getting four posts- lucky you!

Following on from yesterday’s review of A Smuggler’s Path, I have the sequel, A Noble’s Path. A quick thank you to Rachel, who is hosting this blog tour, and I.L.Cruz who kindly sent me a copy of this book in exchange for a review! All opinions expressed are my own.

Here’s how the book describes itself:

Divided loyalties test Inez Garza.

The infamous incident at the Academy of Natural Studies has forced her to work for the King’s Men while continuing to serve the hidden market.

Supporting Birthright furthers the cause of Magical Return, but the cost may be the fall of the royal house and losing Zavier forever.

And the strongest pull of all is her growing and erratic magic, which demands everything and offers only destruction in return.

Inez must decide where her loyalties lie—saving Canto or saving herself.

I think I must begin with mentioning the cover of the book- the artwork is so pretty! I had great fun photoshopping pictures of both this book and the first in the series. I especially like the little streak of purple in Inez’s hair, I just think it’s so cool.

In a similar style to the previous book, A Noble’s Path feels a bit chaotic, albeit less so because I was now used to all the characters and the world. My favourite thing about these books is definitely the plot, always fast paced and never boring. Inez being forced to work with the people she normally tries to avoid, the King’s Men, was hilarious and fun to watch despite my frustrations at Inez not just giving in and getting together with a certain someone! (If you’ve read either of the books in the series you know who I’m talking about.) A couple of elements of the story feel quite random even after they’ve been tied into the plot, like the magic shells and the mild obsession with farm animals (Froth, the magic sheep).

I like Inez. She is quite realistic and doesn’t let her struggles with magic take over her life, trying to focus on other things as well. Her life is chaotic and she sometimes gets overwhelmed, constantly having to make difficult choices and worrying about an uncertain future. While most of us aren’t worrying about whether we’re being spied on by our friends or whether our magic shells will be stolen, everyone must make hard choices and the world at the moment does feel quite chaotic, making Inez more relatable. I would have liked some of the relationships and characters to be developed further, as the volume of characters and the constantly moving nature of the plot meant some felt a little underdeveloped. I would have enjoyed more of Inez and her mother’s relationship, which is quite tumultuous during the book but doesn’t get much time.

I devoured A Noble’s Path the moment I finished A Smuggler’s Path, desperate to find out what happened next, and I wasn’t disappointed. A Noble’s Path was just as action packed as the first book, I only wish it was a bit longer! I await the next book in the series excitedly and I recommend reading this magical, fun and dramatic adventure. Would I survive this book? Yeah, I would just have been chilling in the smugglers market and wandering around the forest.

A Smuggler’s Path Review

A Smuggler’s Path by I.L.Cruz

I was very kindly gifted a copy of A Smuggler’s Path in advance of the blog tour for A Noble’s Path. The blurb reads:

In Canto, magic is a commodity, outlawed by the elites after losing a devastating war and brokered by smugglers on the hidden market. But some know it’s more—a weapon for change.

Inez Garza moves through two worlds. She’s a member of the noble class who works as a magical arms dealer—a fact either group would gladly use against her. Neither know her true purpose—funding Birthright, an underground group determined to return magic to all at any cost.

But the discovery of a powerful relic from before the Rending threatens her delicate balance.

Inez’s inherent magic, which lies dormant in all the Canti, has been awakened. Now the Duchess’s daughter, radical and smuggler must assume another forbidden title—mage, a capital crime. This will bring her to the attention of factions at home—fanatical rebels bent on revolution, a royal family determined to avoid another magical war, her mercenary colleagues at the hidden market willing to sell her abilities to the highest bidder—and in Mythos, victors of the war and architects of the Rending.

Evasion has become Inez’s specialty, but even she isn’t skilled enough to hide from everyone—and deny the powers drawing her down a new path.

As you can see, this book has A LOT of ideas. In the beginning there is quite a bit of explanation of the world which takes a little while to process, but this could be said of any fantasy book. Inez’s world is a land which was pulled from the sea after people with magic were driven from the mundane world, and it is protected by a magic barrier to hide them. I was a bit confused and overwhelmed for the first few pages of the book, as the reader is thrown right into the thick of the action, but the more I read the more I wanted to read on. Once you have got used to the various ways magic works and the workings of the world the plot is really quite good, and I found myself desperate to know what would happen next.

There are a few fantasy clichés used, such as a letter from a deceased relative and a parent who has hidden something from their child, but these are weaved in amongst many unique and fun details such as Froth, the milk bar where smugglers and guards alike spend time, and the seemingly random appearance of lots of different characters. They can be slightly hard to keep track of, thankfully there is a useful glossary of characters at the start which I made use of frequently. There seems to be a random element to the plot in some places, leaving me wondering what just happened, but it does all have a purpose eventually, it just sometimes takes a while to discover it. I liked Inez, the main character. She never did anything insanely stupid or unreasonable which some fantasy MCs sometimes do in a rather frustrating way, she made decisions and stuck to them the best she could.

I can say with certainty that this book is never boring. It is packed full of action and mystery and intrigue and plenty of plot twists. A Smuggler’s Path takes time to pull everything together, and I wish it happened a bit sooner, but when it does it is awesome. I was definitely missing the presence of any LGBTQ+ characters, and I could have used some more elegant descriptions that I like in fantasy, but overall I really enjoyed this book and could not wait to start the next one! Would I survive this book? Yeah I think so, I’d enjoy being a smuggler or a rich person.

Look out for my review of A Noble’s Path tomorrow as part of the blog tour!

Letting Go Short Review

Letting Go by Cat Clarke

When I ordered this book from the library, I was expecting a full-length book. It turned out to be a novella, which was a surprise but it did make a nice short read. From the blurb I just really wanted to know how Agnes got herself into her situation.

Letting Go follows Agnes as she goes hiking up a mountain with her ex-girlfriend and the ex’s new boyfriend. You can tell it’s going to be awkward, and it is very, but it’s much more than that. It was a lot deeper than I thought it was going to be, and it definitely took a turn. I felt bad for Agnes throughout the story and Cat Clarke managed to set up the characters and their backstories quickly and with enough detail that I cared what happened.  If I say much more, I’ll give away the twist, but I would recommend reading this. It’s a quick, good teen read about relationships and mountain climbing.

I was pleased with the ending. Overall, a satisfactory experience. Would I survive this book? Yes. Although I’m really not sure how I would get myself into that situation.

Fight Like a Girl Review

Fight Like a Girl by Sheena Kamal

Happy International Women’s Day everyone! I hope you have a great day and I’d love to hear what books you’re reading today!

Fight Like a Girl is Sheena Kamal’s debut novel released on the 10th March, and it is one whopper of an entrance. I was kindly gifted it by Hot Key Books and from the moment I saw it I found the blurb intriguing, especially since it tells us that Trisha kills her father straight up. This book is an emotional tapestry of love and violence, based around Trisha, a badass Muay Thai kickboxer of Trinidadian descent. From the blurb I had no idea how hardcore this book was going to be, but I loved it.

The story is told in first person, Trisha, who lives with her mum and her mum’s new boyfriend who moves in soon after her father dies. The main locations are her house and the Muay Thai gym which I found quite interesting since a lot of YA contemporary books have a heavy focus on school, whereas in this it is barely mentioned. This brings the events of the novel into higher definition and prevents any distractions, showing Trisha’s decline in excruciating detail.

Sheena Kamal nails the tone, ramping up the tension and mystery as time goes on with an excellent amount of sensory descriptions to immerse you in the scenes. Kamal somehow conveys a feeling of something being off without explicitly describing it, causing the reader to question both their own and Trisha’s paranoia. This book had a darker tone than I was expecting, although looking back I wonder why because it does involve patricide in the blurb!

The ending does leave some things as a mystery, but I found that okay, I think the epilogue covered the most important things. Overall this book is filled with twists and turns, harsh love and one fighter’s changing world.