Tuesday 22 October 2019

Angel Mage by Garth Nix

Publisher: Gollancz
Format: Hardback
Published: 17th October 2019
Number of Pages: 560
Book: For Review
Genre: Fantasy, Historical, Epic Fantasy, Action-Adventure, YA, YA-Adult Crossover
Recommended Age: 13+
Contains: Violence, Death, Swearing, Alcohol References
Author’s Site: Garth Nix

Blurb From Goodreads:
More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara.
A seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, summoning angels and forcing them to do her bidding.
Liliath knew that most of the inhabitants of Ystara died from the Ash Blood plague or were transformed into beastlings, and she herself led the survivors who fled into neighboring Sarance. Now she learns that angels shun the Ystaran’s descendants. If they are touched by angelic magic, their blood will turn to ash. They are known as Refusers, and can only live the most lowly lives.
But Liliath cares nothing for the descendants of her people, save how they can serve her. It is four young Sarancians who hold her interest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer cadet; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic. They are the key to her quest.
The four feel a strange kinship from the moment they meet, but do not know why, or suspect their importance. All become pawns in Liliath’s grand scheme to fulfill her destiny and be united with the love of her life. No matter the cost to everyone else. . .

136 years ago, all of Ystra was infected with the Ash Blood plague.  Most died, their very blood turning to ash within their veins.
The ones who survived became beastlings – monsters.
The survivors still carry the curse within their blood.  If anyone calls upon angelic magic in their presence, the curse is activated and they either die an ash-y death or turn into mindless beastlings.
Now Liliath, a powerful angel mage with the ability to bend even archangels to her will, is back from her death-like state and has only one goal: to find the four she has been waiting for.  Four people who, upon meeting, feel as if they’ve known one another their whole lives.
Four people who are linked in ways they cannot begin to understand.
Four people who will be used as pawns for Liliath to accomplish her goal...
I’ve been a Garth Nix fan for years now.  I still remember borrowing the Abhorsen series from the library and falling instantly in love with his writing, his world building.  He always manages to find a totally unique way of spinning magic in his novels, and Angel Mage was no exception.  Because holy fuck, the idea of angelic magic was so freaking cool.  This whole world was honestly so brilliantly constructed and I’m absolutely heartbroken this book is a standalone!  I’m praying that Nix will do a spin off because I’m really just not done with this world - there’s so much more he can do and I need to see what happens next for everything that’s left unresolved.
I won’t lie - it took me a little while to get into this book, possibly because I was drowning under uni work and reading when I started it.  But once we were introduced to our band of misfits, I just fell in love.  The magic in this book is just so cool - and I love that while there was insta-bond, there was no insta-love.  Insta-love is one of my biggest pet peeves and I bow down to Nix for skating around the trope while avoiding it completely.
The Fab Four - my three musketeers (plus one) were amazing.  They were all so diverse and different, but they worked together so well.  I think my favourite had to be Dortea, the wacky scholar who I just fell instantly in love with.  She’s so unlike anyone else I’ve read about - having that scholarly sort of ‘not quite there because I’m too focused on my work’ vibe that I just adored.  Plus lesbian queen.  Say no more.  Agnez was probably my second favourite - and the most badass girl.  A Musketeer cadet, she was wicked with a sword and her words and I love that girl.  Simeon, the giant but gentle doctor who really didn’t want to get caught up in all of this - he had people to save!  And Henri, who just really, really wanted to make some money out of this insanity – I loved him, especially his instant big brother vibes towards Agnez.
Liliath... I don't want to say too much about her.  Only that she's awesome?  Like, yes, she's basically the villain... but she's also really cool.  And honestly one of the most compelling characters in the book.  A sequel focusing on her... would be awesome... just saying...
I also loved that this book was not lacking at all when it came to strong as hell women.  Most of the people in power?  Women.  Even if you didn’t necessarily like them, they were all women with a hell of a lot of power and not many fantasy books put the power in women’s hands.  So that was ridiculously cool to read about.
As I’ve mentioned, it does take a while for the plot to really get going – there is a lot of world building being done in this book, which is just another reason I never suspected it would be a standalone when I started it.  It reads so much like the start of some epic series and I honestly need the epic sequels!  So much of the true action happens right towards the end of the book and I’m still absolutely heartbroken that this is an only book!  Because so much time and detail went into this world.  This world which is sort of like middle ages Europe – or whenever the Three Musketeers is set – but with angel mages who can use icons to call upon the angels to do their bidding.  Please, tell me you wouldn’t wanna read more than just one book about that?!  I sure as hell want to!  I’m honestly just desperate for a book two, guys.  I still have questions about this world – I still have too many attachments both to my Fab Four and to the concept of angel magic.  Can you tell I’m a little bit too obsessed with the angel magic?
The writing was wonderful – though at times I felt all the different POVs was a little jarring.  I did forget who everyone was to begin with, but I have a bad habit of doing that with even real people.  I probably should work on that…  But yes, as expected of Nix – the writing was brilliant and he painted this world like Dortea paints her icons of the angels: with flair, talent and a dash of magic!
Honestly, I could keep going but I really don’t want to ruin anything about this book.  Just remember: angel magic, unlikely friends, a generations-old mystery illness, lesbian queen artist-student type.  Now go, buy this book, read and join me in my desperation for more angel magic

Star Rating:
4 Stars

Read this book if you liked:
The Old Kingdom/Abhorsen by Garth Nix 
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Happy Reading
*This book was received from Gollancz in exchange for an honest review

Wednesday 13 March 2019

The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton: Blog Tour Review

I'm super excited to be part of The Everlasting Rose's UK blog tour!  I adored this book and you should all definitely check this series out if you haven't already!  Quick warning: while I've avoided spoilers for The Everlasting Rose, there are some The Belles spoilers in here, so read on at your peril!  And definitely buy The Everlasting Rose - it's out now at all book stores and libraries near you! 


Series: The Belles, Book Two
Publisher: Gollancz
Format: ARC**
Published: 7th March 2019
Number of Pages: 352
Book: For Review*
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Mythical, Dystopia, YA
Recommended Age: 13+
Contains: Violence, Death, Swearing, Alcohol References
Author’s Site: Dhonielle Clayton

Blurb From Goodreads:
With a price on her head, the evil Queen Sophia out for blood, and no idea who to trust, Camellia Beaureguard, the former favorite Belle, must race against time to find the ailing Princess Charlotte, who has disappeared without a trace. Sophia's imperial forces will stop at nothing to keep Camille, her sister Edel, and her loyal guard, Rémy, from returning Charlotte to the palace and her rightful place as queen.
With the help of an underground resistance movement called the Iron Ladies-- a society that rejects beauty treatments entirely--and the backing of alternative newspaper the Spider's Web, Camille uses her powers, her connections, and her cunning to outwit her greatest nemesis, Sophia, and attempt to restore peace to Orléans. But enemies lurk in the most unexpected places, forcing Camille to decide just how much she's willing to sacrifice to save her people.

“But my desire to see Sophia fall has become a whispered refrain making my body restless, as if my limbs and heart know that this isn’t the place for us. That I must face her. That I must make her pay for what she’s done. That I must do what Queen Celeste would have wanted.”
Camille is a Belle – she controls beauty.  But now she’s on the run from the crazed soon-to-be ruler who wishes to imprison her and abuse her abilities.  Together with her sister and their ally Remy, Camille is in a race against time.
She needs to evade capture, find the true queen of Orléans and overthrow  Sophia – to protect the people of Orléans, but most of all to protect her sisters.
She finds allies in the most unlikely places, but when Sophia is willing to go to any lengths to achieve her desires, Camille may be forced to go to new heights to restore peace to her home and save her family...
I absolutely adored The Belleswhen I read it last year – I seriously just fell in love with it.  I adored what it said about society’s obsession with beauty and fashion trends.  I adored the lavish setting, the totally different kind of dystopia that subverted so many tropes.  And because of this, I’ve been almost ridiculously excited for The Everlasting Rose.  I had some insanely high expectations – and while I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as The Belles, I still totally stormed through The Everlasting Rose!
There was definitely a lot more going on in this one – there was way more action and I seriously loved that.  I also loved the introduction of a rebel group – it was such a cool addition and really added to the narrative about questioning beauty.  I adore Clayton’s writing – it’s so wonderfully lavish and lush and beautiful.  I really enjoyed the continued character development and especially the revelation about where Belles come from – it’s so brilliantly bizarre and I really want to know more.  
Honestly, my main issue with this was one of the character choices: Camille goes pretty dark and does something I feel was really unnecessary and made me quite uncomfortable.  I don’t want to say what, but trust me when I say you’ll know it when it happens – it’s right towards the end.  I also still have so many questions and I really hope that there’s another book because I think there’s still so much more to explore in this world!
I did enjoy the characters in this one, that blip of Camille’s aside.  She’s really grown a lot from the beginning of The Belles and is way more badass now.  I really love Remy – he’s so sweet!  
But, for me, the scene stealers of this book were the teacup dragons.  I want a teacup dragon.  I want ten.  They are adorable and precious and I love them and I want to kiss their noses and cuddle them to sleep.  
Sue me, I love dragons.
For real, though, the world was literally on of my favourite things about this book.  It is lavish and beautiful and so different.  It’s like a dystopian fantasy – about the ridiculous lengths people go to for beauty, about the blatant exploitation of those who can give you beauty, about bullying and abuse.  It’s just so cleverly done and so magical and dark and I love it.  I also am kind of obsessed with the teacup pets.  I’m unsure why they are all teacup sized.  But I love them.  And the background of the Belles.  And everything, if I’m honest.
The plot was super fast paced in this one, full of twists and turns.  I do think the ending was a touch sudden and really did leave me with so many questions!  Does anyone know if she’s planning another book?  Please tell me she is – I need!  
I hope I haven't sounded harsh, but if I have it's just because I loved The Belles so much and therefore The Everlasting Rose had a lot to live up to, bless it!  It was still a brilliant and exciting book and I definitely recommend it to you if you like fantasy-dystopias with a difference.  Basically imagine Hunger Games, but with more leeches, magical beauty powers, a crazy princess, smol dragons and the Capitol on crack.
Ok that sold nothing.  This is why we shouldn’t write reviews at 1:30am.  But I couldn’t stop, ok?  I had to find out what happened!  I had to!  
I would say I’ll regret this tomorrow... but I won’t.  And if that isn’t praise enough, I don’t know what is!

Star Rating:
4 Stars

Read this book if you liked:
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Happy Reading
*This book was received from Gollancz in exchange for an honest review
**Quotes used are from a proof copy and may have been changed in the finished book

Tuesday 12 March 2019

Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear: Blog Tour Review

Series: White Space, Book One
Publisher: Gollancz
Format: Paperback
Published: 7thMarch 2019
Number of Pages: 512
Book: For Review*
Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera, Action-Adventure, Mystery, Adult
Recommended Age: 15+
Contains: Violence, Death, Swearing, Alcohol and Drug References
Author’s Site: Elizabeth Bear 

Blurb From Goodreads:
Haimey Dz thinks she knows what she wants.
She thinks she knows who she is.
She is wrong.
A routine salvage mission uncovers evidence of a terrible crime and relics of powerful ancient technology. Haimey and her small crew run afoul of pirates at the outer limits of the Milky Way, and find themselves on the run and in possession of universe-changing information.
When authorities prove corrupt, Haimey realizes that she is the only one who can protect her galaxy-spanning civilization from the implications of this ancient technology—and the revolutionaries who want to use it for terror and war. Her quest will take her careening from the event horizon of the supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s core to the infinite, empty spaces at its edge.
To save everything that matters, she will need to uncover the secrets of ancient intelligences lost to time—and her own lost secrets, which she will wish had remained hidden from her forever. 

Haimey Dz is a salvager and engineer – together with her partner Connla and their shipmind Singer, she travels through space to locate old ships that have been abandoned and lost.
It’s during one such mission that she encounters the mutilated body of one the largest sentient beings to exist between worlds and an ancient ship with long forgotten technology...
Despite the obvious evidence of a crime, Haimey investigates the ship.  And there she discovers technology beyond belief – technology with the power to change the universe.
And the power to ruin her life.
Because now she’s on the run – from both the government and pirates – anything to keep this technology from falling into the wrong hands.
Such as the beautiful pirate Zanya Farweather, who holds secrets from Haimey’s past and threatens to crash through all her defences…
I’ve been reading more sci-fi lately – space operas are really beginning to grow on me after reading a few of Alastair Reynolds’s books.  So when I was offered the chance to read Ancestral Night, I of course agreed – especially when I was told my review would be part of the blog tour!  And so when my bookish package came through my letter box, I instantly got stuck in.  To begin with, I felt totally in over my head – as I always do with sci-fis, especially if I dip into a space opera after reading a bunch of fantasy.  But I soon realised not only is Bear brilliant at making heavy scientific facts seem fairly easy to understand, she’s also brilliant at weaving humour into the story.  I soon got to grip with all the terms and fell totally in love with the world building.  I was totally hooked and literally speed read the book to find out what happened!  
Plus oh my gosh, I’ve never read a truly feminist, girl-power space opera before.  This is literally everything I’ve been searching for in my life.  I am in love.  I did not know how badly I needed this book until I had this book in my hands. Because not only is Haimey a brilliant heroine – she’s also a believable one, capable and witty, brilliantly female and unapologetically gay.  Yes, if you haven’t gathered, I really loved Haimey.  I just loved that she wasn’t perfect or flawless or amazing at everything.  She made mistakes, she failed, she picked herself back up again and tried again.  Plus I just loved her wit and snark and stubbornness.  And I also loved how we slowly got to know more and more about her.
The rest of the cast was great – especially her crew!  I loved the dynamics between Haimey, Connla and Singer.  They were totally like family – bickering and bantering: it was perfect!  I also want to shout out Cheeirilaq for being totally unique and weirdly adorable.  And the cats for being just everything: they were everything, you guys.  Everything.
But yes, there was a lot of world building – mainly cause there were loads of worlds and ships and futuristic stuffs to explore.  I’m awful at science (I haven’t done it for years, in my defence) but I found everything really easy to understand – or, well, simple enough that I didn’t feel totally confused.  I think it really helped that the heavy science-y things were interspersed with jokes and drama and excitement and twists and turns a-plenty.  Basically, Bear nailed it.
Also I continue to be intrigued by the concept of ‘rightminding’ – basically manipulating your brain chemistry to affect your mood.  I don’t know if this is something that happens a lot in sci-fis (I’m still fairly new to this genre) but it was just something I found really interesting! 
I believe this is the first in a series – and I really hope it is.  I enjoyed this so much and I need more female-powered space operas in my life.  Please.  And guys, if you’re looking for a non-stop adventure through space, pick up Ancestral Night.  It’s really one of the most fun sci-fis I’ve read for ages and I can’t recommend it enough!

Star Rating:
4 Out Of 5 Stars

Read this book if you liked:
The Illuminae Files by Jay Kristoff and Aimee Kaufman
Prefect Dreyfus Emergency by Alastair Reynolds
Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

Happy Reading
*This book was received from Gollancz in exchange for an honest review


Previous Stop On The Blog Tour: Cover 2 Cover
Next Stop On The Blog Tour: Sci-Fi Bulletin, Rambling Mads

Monday 4 February 2019

Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) by L.C. Rosen

Publisher: Penguin
Format: ARC**
Published: 7th February 2019
Number of Pages: 368
Book: For Review*
Genre:  Contemporary, Romance, Coming-Of-Age, Mystery, YA
Recommended Age: 14+
Contains: Alcohol, Drug, Smoking, Sexual References – Like a Lot
Author's Site: Lev A.C. Rosen

Blurb From Goodreads:
Couldn't get enough of Love, Simon or The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue?
This is the (slightly NSFW) book for you!
'My first time getting it in the butt was kind of weird. I think it's going to be weird for everyone's first time, though.' 
Meet Jack Rothman. He's seventeen and loves partying, makeup and boys - sometimes all at the same time.
His sex life makes him the hot topic for the high school gossip machine. But who cares? Like Jack always says, 'it could be worse'.
He doesn't actually expect that to come true.
But after Jack starts writing an online sex advice column, the mysterious love letters he's been getting take a turn for the creepy.
Jack's secret admirer knows everything: where he's hanging out, who he's sleeping with, who his mum is dating.
They claim they love Jack, but not his unashamedly queer lifestyle. They need him to curb his sexuality, or they'll force him.
As the pressure mounts, Jack must unmask his stalker before their obsession becomes genuinely dangerous...

Jack Rothman is kind of notorious in his school.  He likes sex, you see.  A lot.  And partying.  The number of guys he’s slept with always a source of gossip – which is a bit awkward, but Jack can deal.  
Until he starts writing a sex advice column for his friend’s website.  And the love notes he’d been receiving turn into threatening emails...
Someone is stalking him and judging him.  They don’t approve of Jack’s promiscuity and want him for themselves.
Jack and his friends have to discover his stalker – before he carries out his threats...
I knew about this book like a year before I got my greedy hands on an ARC copy.  I’ve been desperate to read it since I heard about it.  And yet when I finally got it, I was too busy!  So when I got a break over the Christmas holidays, I happily dove straight into Jack of Hearts.  I devoured two thirds of the book in an evening, reading until 2am when my eyes began to get heavy.  This book... is awesome.  Seriously just brilliant.  It’s bold and brave and glittery – it tackles serious issues like stalking, bullying, homophobia and stereotypes without ever feeling heavy or preachy.  It was hilarious and sassy and scary and I just loved this rollercoaster of a read.  I really didn’t want it to end!
Jack I just adored.  He is utterly unashamed of his love of sex, bold in his fashion choices and his eye make-up slays everything.  He’s so strong and it honestly hurt to see him become so broken by the stalker’s actions!  I really wanted to hug him and protect him from all the bigots in the world – but Jack needed no protection!  He’s totally fierce and someone all kids – gay, bi, straight, asexual, all the letters of the rainbow – need to read about. 
I also loved Jenna – best girl friend and ally ever.  She was so strong and fierce and I adored her.  Ben was the cutest bean ever – my little romantic fashion geek, I just wanted to wrap him up in fabulous blankets and hug him!  Basically, the two of them were the best best friends ever, period.
I also adored Jack’s mum – who was just t he coolest ever.  She was totally open-minded and supportive of Jack and I just loved that.
So, Rosen really didn’t shy away from sex details!  This book is kind of an LGBTQ+ sex-ed lesson – in the best possible way.  It tells you everything you could want to know as a gay teen thinking about sex – and everything they really ought to teach you in school.  It’s fun and informative and not at all preachy – it’s totally like an advice column.  It concentrates on the fun of sex – and the less fun bits that you should be aware of.  And it was brilliant – I haven’t read a sex-ed book this brilliant since Dawson’s This Book Is Gay and I’m pretty sure Jack of Hearts pips This Book Is Gay to the sex-ed trophy of the year prize.  This comparison has become awfully unwieldy so I think it’s time to move on.
But really, Jack of Hearts manages to make you question so much about heteronormativity and homophobia without you even realising.  You’re reading about this boy who is gay and enjoying life, having sex and then is being bullied.  More than anything, it’s the reaction of the principal that made my blood just boil over.  So many people claim to be ‘supportive’ of LGBTQ+ people and just aren’t when it comes down to it and that’s just not ok.  It’s not ok to judge someone because of their sexuality or their skin colour or their sexual habits – Jack is terrified of going to the police because he’s sure they’ll just see him as a “slut” and won’t do anything.  And that’s just not ok.  There is so much wrong with the world and it’s only with books like this that things can change for the better.
I’m making this sound so heavy, but honestly it isn’t.  Yes, the bullying storyline is a big part of the story.  But it somehow doesn’t overshadow Jack’s brilliant personality, his friends’ antics, the humour in the story.  Everything is just done so cleverly that this book manages to tackle some big issues without crushing you under their weight.
I really need to stop with the metaphors.
Seriously, though.  Read Jack of Hearts.  It’s honestly one of the best LGBTQ+ things I’ve read and I seriously think it may just be a favourite of mine in 2019.  It’s so unapologetic in its queerness and the sexual details it includes are so honest and real.  It’s like a breath of fresh air, honestly.  It’s an ‘eff you’ to everyone who thinks stereotyping is ok, that doing nothing is better than encouraging shaming of any kind, that it’s ok in this day and age to be a homophobic dickhead.  As someone who is bi and has a bunch of LGBTQ+ friends, I honestly just can’t recommend this book enough.  We need more books like this!  Please give me more books like this.  It’s the kind of book you finish reading grinning, just thinking ‘Can I get an amen?’ to yourself, because preach.  
Also.  If you get my reference there, I love you.
And please read Jack of Hearts.
Ok, bye.  I need to go shove this book at some people because the word must be spread!

Star Rating:
5 Out of 5 

Read this book if you liked:
Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Happy Reading
* This book was received from Penguin in exchange for an honest review
** Quotes used are from a proof copy and may have been changed in the finished book