Skulduggery Pleasant: Bedlam (and all the others) Review

Skulduggery Pleasant: Bedlam by Derek Landy Review. Also a vague review of the second series overall, which assumes you have knowledge of the first series as well. If you don’t, this is going to be quite confusing. For example, Skulduggery is a skeleton and this is a world with magic. If you haven’t read the first series, they are excellent and I highly recommend you go and read them then come back!

I LOVE the Skulduggery Pleasant series. I read the first series and was completely obsessed with them, seeing Valkyrie grow up and realise her destiny with Skulduggery Pleasant always by her side with an army of suits and sassy comebacks. The books had a colourful cast of characters who you couldn’t help but like, hate, or both! They were always so easy to read and slip into, full of plot twists and unexpected events that never felt forced while still paying attention to the normal like Valkyrie was neglecting due to her wild adventures and how she tried to balance them. If you haven’t read them, do it. You don’t need to be a kid or a teenager to enjoy the ride.

When I saw Derek Landy was bringing back the Skulduggery Pleasant series I was excited, especially since they would continue to follow Valkyrie and Skulduggery as well as introducing some new characters. Bedlam is the third book in the resurrection of the series, and for me the best thing is Valkyrie. Yes, she is still a badass main character who travels around solving (and causing) problems with Skulduggery, but she has grown. She is in her early twenties and behaves accordingly, and Landy includes Valkyrie trying to cope with the massive trauma of the events of the previous series and the effect it has had on her adult life. Her dynamic with Skulduggery has evolved with the series and I’m so glad, because it shows the reality of relationships changing as you get older. SPOILER ALERT FOR BEDLAM ALTHOUGH IT IS FOUND OUT IN THE FIRST CHAPTER: Valkyrie has a girlfriend! It made me very, very happy. And leads to a funny scene with Fletcher.

Because this series is introducing new plots, where Valkyrie is not the main recipient of the prophecies, there are more characters and plot lines to follow. It can feel a little chaotic at times, flicking between perspectives. One of the main ones is Omen Darkly, the younger brother of the chosen one. I like Omen, he is quite obviously meant to be the useless younger brother but he’s great and quite relatable at times. Both Fletcher and Tanith make appearances in Bedlam, characters I am thrilled to see again because nostalgia. Derek Landy continues to write 3-dimensional villains and characters who aren’t good or bad, just living their life and I like the lack of distinction, the blurring of the line which separates good from evil.

The world we are plunged into is a world familiar but changed, since as with Valkyrie, Landy shows the aftereffects of the previous wars and the way this would be reflected in the world. For me, this made the book really interesting as it deepened my understanding of the world while continuing to throw in delightful details. With his characteristic humour, Landy kept me grinning throughout the whole book while getting me emotionally invested in a plot with far too much happening at once, although there are a few moments of normality amongst the chaos which provide a welcome break.

In conclusion: Valkyrie is hot, Omen is hilarious and Skulduggery is Skulduggery. Not much more I could ask for really, and I will definitely be reading the next one. Since the first series both Valkyrie and I have realised we like girls, a lovely parallel which randomly occurred to me while I was writing this. If you’ve got this far and haven’t read the series yet, do it. A well-built world with plenty happening and buckets of fun. Some books you read and a month later have forgotten what happened. I can still remember loads of the first Skulduggery Pleasant series and I read them years ago. Just go for it.

I hope you’re all well, and enjoying your summer! I’m now on my summer holidays, although I have quite a bit of revision to do for my exams in September. It’s strange because holidays don’t feel that different to school anymore; it’s all at home. Anyone else experiencing this, or does your life have more distinct lines between work and home? Let me know.

A Booktiful Love Review

Rating: 2 out of 5.

A Booktiful Love is a collection of poems by Tolu’ A. Akinyemi. It is described as ‘a collection of poems that deal with the entirety of human experience in its various forms.’ I received an ebook in return for an honest review, so rest assured that all the opinions expressed here are my own.

What really struck me about this book was the writer’s biography at the end- he is VERY qualified! He is: a business analyst, financial crime consultant, a Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist, a personal development and career coach, a writer with 10 years experience, a mentor at several schools, a trained economist, has a Masters’ Degree, and has featured in several poetry festivals. Like… wow!

A Booktiful Love is split into several different sections with a wide variety of topics, quite random at times. For example, it starts with a poem about loo-roll scarcity, which made it very clear that this poem had been written since the start of lockdown! The poems are definitely accessible with simple and direct language.

I don’t have any particularly strong feelings about this collection of poems. The poem has some nice ideas, quite typical at times, some more interesting poems towards the end of the collection. The language can be vivid, the simplicity and directness effective for some topics. I found the more personal poems more engaging, for example when the author talked about his mother and his view on politics. Occasionally there was some rhyming, and I do love some rhyming.

The title poem, in my opinion, was not anything extraordinary although I do like the title. I do prefer more figurative and elaborate language in poetry, but that’s just personal preference and I do like that the poems say what they mean and are direct. The only poems I actively dislike where a few consecutive ones in the middle with were all named ‘Beauty and …”. They were clearly about a woman he loves, but they made me uncomfortable, particularly lines like ‘she is my prize’.

In conclusion this is an accessible collection of poems with a with a wide range of subjects and a simple, direct style, so if that is how you like your poetry or you are just getting into poetry I suggest you give it a go!

I can’t believe it’s July already! Half the year is gone which is absolutely crazy, and I’m coming to the end of my penultimate year at school. It doesn’t feel like that much time has passed because of all the time we’ve spent under lockdown, like we’re living in an alternate universe or something. Going back to school in September is definitely going to be very strange. What does the end of June mean to you? Let me know in the comments or on one of my social platforms linked below!

Sunshine and Whiskey by Lauren White Review

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Sunshine and Whiskey is a collection of poems by Lauren White. I was very kindly gifted an ebook of this book in return for an honest review, so all opinions expressed here are my own. As you might already know from previous posts, I have been reading a lot of poetry recently so I have lots of poetry books to review!

A bit about the author: Lauren White grew up in Maryland, and she is an engineer. She earned her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from University of Maryland, College Park and her M.S. in Systems Engineering from Naval Postgraduate School. In her free time she likes trying new whiskies, writing poetry and Star Trek.

I have mixed opinions about Sunshine and Whiskey, which is split into several sections such as Summer, Lauren and Broken. That is not to say any of the poetry is bad; in fact most of the poems were simple and well-written. I really enjoyed the rhyming White used in her poems and the mood she evoked in some of the poems was wonderful, with little details that really immersed me in the scene. There were some cliche lines, but these were accompanied by some cool original imagery.

The poems were predominantly long and free form, made up of short lines. They often had really obscure words as titles which I loved, because I am obsessed with finding out new words so I really enjoyed looking up what these meant. I was less a fan of the random pop culture references such as X-men, as I tend to prefer timeless poetry, but the self confidence shown in some of the poems was very inspiring.

As for the subjects of the poems, there was a variety. My favourites were the ones White wrote about herself, so it was rather disappointing that the majority of the collection were about relationships. The poems about heartbreak just seemed to go on forever and became a bit repetitive, definitely for more mature readers because lots of them focused on someone leaving her and her lying in bed remembering them having sex and touching. None of the poems were graphic in that sense, but it just got boring when every poem was slightly different ways of describing the same thing.

In conclusion I would recommend this collection if you are interested in reading lots of poems about love, heartbreak and missing someone. The ones White writes about herself and any other topic are more engaging, however they are sadly dwarfed by the sheer volume of poems focused on unnamed partner(s).

I hope you’re all well and staying safe! I know my reviewing has been patchy recently, but I am trying to get back into the rhythm of posting regularly and I have recently got back into fiction books again which is adds a bit of variety to my reading schedule. I say schedule, I mean randomly picking up books when I walk past them and reading a few pages. Does you have a set time you read in, or do you just read randomly like me? Let me know down below using one of my platforms or comment down below 🙂

Emily Dickinson Poetry Review

Looking for poetry to read, I was surfing my library’s elibrary when Emily Dickinson’s name caught my eye. I was looking for more modern poetry, but I thought I’d give it a try and I’m so glad I did, because I have since bought a copy of ‘Hope is the Thing with Feathers’, the complete poems of Emily Dickinson.

This review is going to be less poetry analysis and more just me gushing about Emily Dickinson’s poetry, because I love it. She is now one of my favourite poets, and I read pretty much the entire collection over two days. I’ll start with some quick info on Emily Dickinson herself, then we’ll get into her poetry.

Emily Dickinson was an American poet born in Massachusetts in 1830. She enjoyed school, particularly botany and her love of nature is evident in her poetry. After leaving school her letters in the early 1950s show she didn’t like domestic work, and she disliked having lots of visitors. She wrote many letters over the course of her life, sending friends poetry and trying out different narrative voices. She died in 1886, and her firs poetry collection was released in 1890. If you want a VERY in-depth life story, check out this link.

The book itself is split into 3 series, and within each series are four sections: life, love, nature, time & eternity. Some of the poems are titled, some are not, and they vary in length. Her stanzas within a poem remain the same length and all her poems have a wonderful rhythm to them which makes them a joy to read. I loved the all the rhyming she used and the antiquated language which expresses truths relatable to the modern reader. Emily Dickinson did not write with an audience in mine, her poems were personal, and I think there’s a gorgeous vulnerability about them.  Emily makes frequent use of metaphors and similes and personification in order to create vivid and evocative imagery within her poems, with a mixture of light-hearted and deep topics covered. I think her writing is so beautiful and imaginative and I could read it over and over again. And I will be.

Here are a couple of poems I enjoyed, to possibly tempt you into reading Emily Dickinson’s work, and the book I have is here if you want to buy it too!

Sunset
A sloop of amber slips away
      Upon an ether sea,
And wrecks in peace a purple tar,
      The son of ecstasy.
Power
You cannot put a fire out;
       A thing that can ignite
Can go, itself, without a fan
      Upon the slowest night.

You cannot fold a flood
      And put it in a drawer, -
Because the winds would find it out,
      And tell your cedar floor.
Disenchantment
It dropped so low in my regard
      I heard it hit the ground,
And go to pieces on the stones
      At bottom of my mind;

Yet blamed the fate that fractured, less
      Than I reviled myself
For entertaining plated wares
      Upon my silver shelf.
A Book
There is no frigate like a book
      To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
      Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
      Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
      That bears a human soul!
A Syllable
Could mortal lip divine
      The undeveloped freight
Of a delivered syllable,
      'T would crumble with the weight

Others I loved include ‘The forgotten grave’, ‘The snow’, ‘A thunder-storm’, ‘The sea’ and many more! I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and maybe found some new poetry to read. Before you go please remember to keep signing petitions and educating yourself on racism, we need to keep going even when it’s not on the news! Stay safe and I hope you’re all well.

At the Last Minute Review

At the Last Minute by Estha Weiner

Hello everyone!

I know it’s shocking, but I have finally started writing reviews again. I’m as surprised as you are, yet here we are. I have been reading A LOT of poetry recently. I don’t know why, but I was hit by a sudden craving for poetry and in the last month it’s pretty much all I’ve read. I’ve also decided to do a school project on poetry, because not only have I been reading a lot of poetry, but I also write a lot of it. All in all, there has been quite a bit of poetry.

I was very kindly sent an ebook of At the Last Minute by Estha Weiner in exchange for an honest review, so you can be assured all opinions expressed here are my own (as usual). I was sent the book in April, but due to circumstances I have only just got back into writing reviews so I thought better late than never and jumped right in!

At the Last Minute is a collection of poems published by Salmon Poetry. It is Estha Weiner’s fourth collection of poetry, and was first published in 2019. There’s about 50 poems, and they tend to be about 10-20 lines long, although there are some longer and some shorter. This combined with the uncomplicated language used makes the collection of poetry accessible to anyone who may be interested in reading some poetry. The topics covered seem quite random (am I missing something?), including love/relationships, plays and several based off or inspired by quotes.

I enjoyed the shortness of the poems, which meant that the meaning or story being told did not get lost between endless metaphors and similes. While the enjambment used throughout Weiner’s poetry is effective, I sometimes found it harder to focus on the sentiment she was trying to put across because of it. The poems were more narrative than emotional, so I didn’t particularly connect with them and I preferred the poems that were more vulnerable, for I found them more engaging. My favourite poem was ‘At 5:45 pm in The Conservatory Garden’. It was short and sweet, and the simple imagery evocative.

Overall, At the Last Minute is a nicely written collection of poetry with a couple of lovely poems, but not one of my favourites. Upon reading it a second time I didn’t find myself any more interested, but it might be more attractive to an American audience (Weiner mentions American locations several times) or perhaps someone older than myself with more life experience. I hope you’re all as well as possible, and keep signing petitions and educating yourself about racism because while the news cycles will inevitably move on, the fight is far from over. Stay safe and feel free to contact me because I love hearing from you!

The Girl the Sea Gave Back Review

The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young.

I’ll start off by saying I absolutely adored the cover for this book, it was what first attracted me to it. A girl in Viking-esque style stepping out of a choppy sea? Amazing. As usual I did no research on this book before reading it, and therefore had no idea this was the second in a series. Thankfully it doesn’t directly follow on from the previous book, because that would have been very confusing. Instead the main character from the previous book appears as a very minor relation to one of the main characters in this book, Halvard. This review is a bit messy, but so were my thoughts about this book so it couldn’t be helped. The synopsis:

For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse.

For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.

Now, if you’ve read the first book, I’m assuming you went into this book knowing about the history between all the clans and who the Svell are. I didn’t, and if you are going to read this book, I highly recommend reading The Sky in the Deep first. You can read this one and understand it, but it takes some detective work to have any idea what’s going on.

Some basic details I picked up were that Tova comes from a territory not connected to the mainland, from a people called the Kyrr. They’re mysterious and no one messes with them. On the mainland there are the Svell, who Tova lives with, and the Nadhir, who are made up of two joined clans, the Aska and the Riki. Some people called the Herja attacked the Nadhir a while ago. While this book is described as a standalone, I think I would have got less distracted by random details if I had read the first one.

The book is written in first person from two perspectives, Tova and Halvard. Tova is a Truthtongue, which means she can read the runes. The Svell hate her and think she is an insult to their god, so want to kill her while their Tala (holy person) keeps her alive for his own uses. Tova is uniquely in tune with the spinners, who control the destiny of gods and men. She can sense the web the spinners weave, and occasionally hears things. I did a bit of research and while the spinners are called the Norns in Norse mythology, they are roughly equal to the fates in Greek mythology. This book definitely felt more historical fiction than fantasy. Halvard is the heir to the Nadhir chieftain and the link to the previous book.

The writing of this book was the best bit about it. There were some stereotypical features such as memory flashbacks to provide background to Halvard and Tova and some outsiders who save the day, but the plot got better as the book went one, with the mysterious Kyrr who Halvard knows and the brief encounters between Tova and Halvard before they meet properly. I really enjoyed the simple, evocative descriptions of setting and the vivid writing of action, the mixture of fate and free will, inevitability and brutality.

The ending was my favourite part of The Girl the Sea Gave Back. That sounds like an insult, but I don’t mean it as one, it’s just the book took me a while to get into and everything pulls together very dramatically near the end. It had the contrast between Tova and Halvard tentatively trusting one another, Tova finally not feeling like an outcast and a great final battle. There was a bit of romance if you like that kind of thing, although I slightly thought Tova and Halvard should be left as friends. Overall I would recommend this book, but only after reading the first one. Would I survive? Maybe not, I’m not a particularly violent person.

Storm’s Clouds Review

Storm’s Clouds by J.W. Golan

I could not wait to get into this book, and thankfully I had it within arm’s reach when I finished Storm’s Herald. Like I said in my review of Storm’s Herald, I did indeed receive Storm’s Herald and Storm’s Clouds in exchange for review, but all opinions expressed are my own! VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: this review does contain a spoiler for the first book (Storm’s Herald). Nothing that will change the plot dramatically or ruin it, and I did suspect this once I was about ¾ through the book, but if you want to read it completely spoiler free then don’t read this review! All my other reviews are spoiler free unless explicitly stated.

Everything is really well explained at the start of the book, not explicitly but through the first few pages of character interaction so if you forgot anything in the previous book you can work it out pretty quickly. Of course, I had finished the other book seconds earlier so that wasn’t such a problem. The chapters in this book are really long, and it can be a bit on the nose sometimes, but there are moments of real humour where I genuinely laughed. I loved that they set off on a quest with no clear plan except ‘find a dragon’ when they had no idea where it was. Again there is a lot of jumping to random perspectives for a few pages to see what is happening elsewhere, but I had got used to it at this point and I could generally tell how they were linked to the main story at this point. There was a lot more of the Fae court and the magic school in this book as well as the quests, including lots of focus on Princess Elise and what she was up to. There was more tension in this book than in Storm’s Herald, which had me reading faster and faster!

THIS IS THE SPOILER. Okay, I’m done yelling about it being a spoiler. What I want to talk about here is Garth. Garth has enough personas to fill a city here people, and they are very varied. Garth is actually Gwythr, a guy who was a hero in the Fae’s war. He’s now human and wanders around as Garth, except when he is Gyaltso, an old dude who turned Kalden’s hair white then straight up left him which I found hilariously random. I have several problems with Garth. The first is quite petty but I think Garth’s nickname of ‘little bird’ for Lynette is so creepy and it made me cringe and my skin crawl every time he said it. Maybe it’s meant to be cute, but NOPE. And even weirder, a trope I hate, is Lynette being *strangely attracted* to the bad guy (Garth) who is nice only to them. I know Garth isn’t technically bad, but he isn’t exactly good either. Also, this isn’t a problem but how does Garth get around so fast? Can he teleport? What?!

Anyway, back to the rest of review. Princess Elise was a lot more prominent in this book and although she was a little irritatingly perfect, I did like seeing what she was up to. It was quite stereotypical that the lady in waiting was a spy, like it wasn’t even subtle. At some points I felt there were too many characters, but if I just thought of the characters from the random jump arounds as one time things it was a lot easier to focus on the main ones. There were some giants who inexplicably spoke like Scottish people. Not sure what was going on there. Then there is Waya. Waya is introduced as a boy and it is later revealed they are transgender, or at least very confused about their gender and sexuality. You see, Waya is in love with a girl, and to impress her parents they go on a quest to act manly. While I liked Waya as a character and I would definitely be interested in knowing more about them and whether they decided to have Garth magically change their body, it did feel a bit like a token because Waya is the only character I can think of who is on the LGBTQ+ spectrum.  Once again in this book time jumps around with no respect for how much time it seemed had passed.  One minute I’m chilling, and the next two years have passed, and I am like WHAT.

In conclusion I really enjoyed Storm’s Clouds. Especially the sentient library which moves books around to mess with the librarians. I could read a whole book about that library. I really liked the ending, and I very much need to know what happens next. Would I survive this book? Yeah I would, I’m living in that library.

Storm’s Herald Review

Storm’s Herald by J.W. Golan

Happy Easter everyone! Or just happy Sunday if you don’t celebrate Easter, I hope you have a great day with chocolate regardless. If you want to read these books, Storm’s Herald is free as an ebook on Amazon 10-12th April, and Storm’s Cloud 24-25th April.

I received both Storm’s herald and its sequel, Storm’s Clouds, in exchange for a review. All views expressed are honest and my own. I have a very terrible habit of writing notes while I’m reading a book, then writing the actual review quite a while afterwards. It means that sometimes my notes are very vague and incomprehensible, but not this time. I had so much fun rereading the notes I made, I think they are possibly some of the best notes I’ve ever made. And you can’t have good notes without an interesting book to make them on, so kudos to Storm’s herald. Here’s the synopsis:

A peasant girl who dreams of becoming a sorceress, a boy who imagines himself a knight – trailed by a ruthless mercenary armed with an ancient sword.

All Lynette wanted was to leave her boring village life – to attend the Fae Academy and become a Druid priestess like her teacher before her. Her clumsy attempts at magic are a reminder of how much she has yet to learn. But if they would only accept her, if the Fae Kingdom – closed to human visitors for centuries now – would only just open its doors, she is certain she could become a master of the magical arts.

Yet her journey puts her on a collision course with a reawakened evil – offering a king’s ransom for the recovery of a long-lost relic. Treasure hunters of every variety – werewolves, mercenaries, common thieves and undead alike – are soon locked in pursuit of its promised riches. Together with Baxter, a young squire who fled his own kingdom, and Eirlon, a gnome who trades in rare antiquities, Lynette is drawn unwillingly into the hunt for the elusive relic.

Hounded by goblins, ogres – and darker things – Baxter carries his own burdens: secrets that have made him the enemy of the crown. And then there is Garth, the mysterious mercenary who both frightens and intrigues Lynette: the weapons-master armed with an ancient blade – snatched from the hand of a long-vanished fae prince.

Willingly or not, Lynette, Baxter and Eirlon must together solve the riddles behind the relic – and stay one step ahead of the ruthless killers that pursue them.

Like many a fantasy, and lots of books now I think about it, Storm’s Herald begins with introductions to various different viewpoints over the first few chapters. Quite quickly I understood the basic worldbuilding and the traditional type of fantasy I was reading. Slightly uncommonly, new points of view were introduced throughout the book, sometimes only for one chapter. These were usually to show what was happening somewhere else in the world, but sometimes I found the switching too frequent, so it took me longer than usual to properly get to know the characters. Slowly all of the various characters crossed each other’s paths, and for once there was none of the hiding information from these people are clearly on your side. I was very thankful for that, because nothing irritates me more than a character being unnecessarily reticent as a plot device. The storytelling is not very complicated, but the story was good, and it was fun and easy reading.

Let’s move onto the characters. There were four main viewpoints I could identify, with several minor ones who would appear once or twice like Kalden. The main viewpoints were Lynette, Elise, Eirlon and Baxter. I don’t know if I have a favourite, but I like them all in different ways and by the end of the book I was very interested in seeing what happened next. The story begins with Lynette, a normal girl with magic her half-fae teacher is teaching her to control. After some *events* Lynette sets off to the Fae-gate from which she can enter the fae lands and join the magic school. Lynette is the typical beautiful, magical peasant in many ways and she does get attached to a very dodgy guy, but when he first meets her in the forest and is very creepy (in my opinion), she doesn’t put up with it which I applaud.

Baxter is apprenticed to a knight and is very accepting of his master being a horrible person because of his nobility but apart from that he’s quite a nice guy. He’s just a regular, hardworking human who predictably ends up with a crush on Lynette, but the focus on the romance is very minor. Eirlon the gnome is pretty cool. A chill guy, albeit with a minorly annoying habit to keep things to himself. Elise is the fairy princess, heir to the fae throne. She doesn’t take any rubbish from anyone and despite her insecurities she pretty much does what she thinks is right. I’m down with that. The other character mentioned in the synopsis, Garth, I have a LOT of opinions on but that would be spoilers so that will be going in my next review. The fae are what you would expect of fae in a traditional fantasy, with longer life spans, few children, attuned with nature and big fans of trees.

This is not a particularly descriptive book in terms of physical descriptions of people/settings, but personally I actually tend to pretty much read those and forget them anyway unless they’re long and lyrical, so I didn’t mind. The one thing that threw me in this book was the passing of time. From one chapter to the next 9 months could have passed and there would only be a brief mention of it which was a bit wild, but once I got used to it, I just rolled with it.

When I got to the end of the book, I was very thankful to have the sequel next to me because I really wanted to know what happened next. I was left like what?!?! But ready to read the next one. Would I survive? I think I would, if I stayed out of the way of goblins.

Two Dark Reigns Review

Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake

Two Darks Reigns is the third book in the Three Dark Crowns series by Kendare Blake, a Fantasy YA series with four books plus novellas told in the present tense. I read Three Dark Crowns a couple of years ago now, along with the sequel, so as usual I decided not to read a summary of the previous books and jumped straight into the third book in the series. How badly could it go?

Synopsis:

Queen Katharine has waited her entire life to wear the crown. But now that she finally has it, the murmurs of dissent grow louder by the day. There’s also the alarming issue of whether or not her sisters are actually dead—or if they’re waiting in the wings to usurp the throne.

Mirabella and Arsinoe are alive, but in hiding on the mainland and dealing with a nightmare of their own: being visited repeatedly by a specter they think might be the fabled Blue Queen. Though she says nothing, her rotting, bony finger pointing out to sea is clear enough: return to Fennbirn.

Jules, too, is in a strange place—in disguise. And her only confidants, a war-gifted girl named Emilia and her oracle friend Mathilde, are urging her to take on a role she can’t imagine filling: a legion-cursed queen who will lead a rebel army to Katharine’s doorstep.

This is an uprising that the mysterious Blue Queen may have more to do with than anyone could have guessed—or expected.

This story definitely feels like a YA, but that’s what it’s meant to be, and I enjoyed it. At times it felt a bit slow and meandering, especially nearer the start, yet as I got more into the story, I found myself really wanting to know what all the mysterious dreams and signs meant. Through Arsinoe’s dreams we are shown the events of the life of someone in the past who I grew to quite like.  I’m a big fan of the story being focused on three sisters and their relationships with each other as well as the overarching plot, which I’ll be honest I did not see coming. From the first book I did not expect to end up here, yet I was equally interested in all the viewpoints and there was the occasional cliff-hanger which I’m almost always down for.

The main characters of the story are the three sisters, Queen Katherine, Princess Mirabella and Princess Arsinoe (both supposed to be dead, along with Jules who grew up with Arsinoe with the naturalists. My favourite character was Braddock. If you’ve read the previous books, you know who I’m talking about. I stand by my choice. Also, while I wasn’t such a fan of Jules in the previous books I grew to like her a lot more in this one. I’m also very into the setting, because while the ‘magic island hidden from the mainland’ trope is a common in fantasy, I liked the way Kendare Blake decided on its relations with the mainland and the way it is set up.

In conclusion while I am not as obsessed with the series now as I was when I read the first book, this is still an interesting series and I will definitely be reading the final book to find out what happens to all the characters and see how the author chooses to resolve the plot. Would I survive? Yeah, probably. I think I’d be a naturalist or poisoner.

To Kill a Kingdom Review

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

I absolutely LOVED To Kill A Kingdom. I’m a huge fan of retellings done well, and this bewitching dark retelling of the little mermaid was both brilliant and felt different to the original. The main thing to take away from this review was I had great fun reading this book. It was the first time I’ve read a book in one sitting in a while, I just couldn’t put it down!

The Synopsis:

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

Like a lot of fantasy stories, the first chapter or so had a bit of explanation but the way it was weaved into the story was not at all boring. We get introduced to the two main viewpoints, Elian and Lira pretty early in the story so we get lots of time seeing their individual sides of the story. Alexandra Christo balances the fairytale feel to the story perfectly with and edge of cruelty which stops the story being to sickly. There’s plot twists, marriage alliances, disguises, sirens pirates and a magic quest for a crystal. What more could you ask for in a fairy-tale fantasy? The enemies to lovers trope is a common one but I thought it was done really well here, slowly enough that it didn’t feel like two characters being shoved together and then you get partway through the book and they’re in love and I’m in love and there’s so much romantic tension. It made me very happy, I smiled most of the way through this book.

There are two points of view in To Kill a Kingdom, and if you asked me to choose one I would have a very hard time. I liked the narrative voice of the siren Princess Lira, her development from cruelty throughout the book, but Elian’s crew completely stole my heart. Elian is a prince who adores the open sea and killing sirens, and to begin with their POVs are completely contrasting with the darker Lira and more noble Elian. That being said they are both bloodthirsty from the beginning. What better to bond over than violence and murder? There is some great banter, lots of romantic tension and a pirate crew I would die for. If Alexandra Christo would like to write a book solely on that crew, I would definitely buy it. The setting comprises of several different kingdoms, each with fairy-tale aspects that match their name in some way. For example, Prince Elian is from Midas, a kingdom of gold. The kingdoms are wonderful, nothing too complicated but described succinctly to perfectly capture the mood of the place.

In conclusion this is a brilliant standalone fairy-tale retelling with what I thought was a pretty perfect ending. Would I survive this book? I reckon I could live in Midas or one of the other kingdoms without too much trouble. Not the sea though. As I have previously mentioned, I get seasick.