ARC Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow

gods of jade and shadow
Title: Gods of Jade and Shadow
Author:
 Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fiction
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 352
Publisher: Del Rey
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Mexican characters, Mayan death gods, mortal/immortal slowburn
Recommended Readers: Mythology lovers and those seeking well-written, diverse stories
Rating: ★★★★★

Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher, for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia, where have you been all my life? How did you know that I am a reader who constantly craves that miraculous blend of historical fiction and fantasy? That I love gods and mythology and that surreal line that divides immortals from mortals?

Gods of Jade and Shadow transports readers to Mexico in the 1920s–a period I’ve often loved but which is commonly viewed through a white, American lens. Seeing the Jazz Age and flapper fashion juxtaposed with Mexican culture and conservative Catholicism was a treat, but the real fun begins when Casiopea Tun opens a chest locked in her grandfather’s estate. There, the bones inside form into Mayan death god Hun-Kamé.

Betrayed by his brother, Vucub-Kamé, and locked away for fifty years, Hun-Kamé seeks the parts of himself that were stolen from him and to reclaim his place as the Lord of Xibalba. With a bone shard embedded in her hand, Casiopea must accompany the god on his journey, but leaving the life of a thankless servant in her grandfather’s house makes the choice an easy one. Instead, Casiopea must discover the life she wants to live and ensure Hun-Kamé succeeds against his brother because if he does not, it will mean the demise of them both.

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Book Review: Spin the Dawn

spin the dawn
Title:
 Spin the Dawn
Author:
 Elizabeth Lim
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 400
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Chinese-based culture and diverse cast
Recommended Readers: Anyone looking for diverse, magical stories; also fashion!
Rating: ★★★★☆

Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher, for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I was ecstatic to get Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim because the cover is utterly gorgeous (seriously, look at it, I weep) and the story sounded so intriguing!

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming a master tailor, but despite her skill and vision, women are forbidden from taking such a role in A’landi. After misfortune befalls her family, leaving them more destitute than they’ve ever been, Maia also has the opportunity to jump at her chance: a royal messenger has summoned her father, a once renowned tailor, to court. Posing as her brother Keton, Maia travels to court as a boy to take part in a grand competition. If she can prove her mettle against eleven other tailors, she will become the Imperial Tailor. If she can’t, she and her family will be out of options outside of marrying her off—that is, if she isn’t discovered as a girl and put to death first.

However, treachery from her fellow competitors lurks around every corner, and the court enchanter, Edan, seems to peer straight through her disguise. And then the final challenge arrives, one that has previously been impossible to fulfill. To appease the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, Maia must embark on a journey to find the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of the stars and craft three dresses from them. But these dresses were never supposed to exist, so what will it mean for Maia and the kingdom if she actually succeeds?

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Book Review: Wicked Saints

wicked saints
Title:
 Wicked Saints
Author:
 Emily A. Duncan
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Version: Hardcover
Page Count: 385
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Dark, gothic atmosphere with no punches pulled, villain romance, diverse cast
Recommended Readers: No moral purists allowed
Rating: ★★★★★

Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher, for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Before we get started, note that Duncan used 99% real Eastern European names within her novel, and that is absolutely awesome that she didn’t dilute these names and the culture just because the names are “hard to pronounce.” More like, a lot of us aren’t used to them because of how often Western societies have forced people with these names to change them, so I’m very happy to see them here. For those curious, Duncan uploaded a handy pronunciation guide on her Twitter that I absolutely referenced while reading.

The countries Kalyazin and Tranavia have been locked in a holy war for centuries. On one side are clerics who derive their magic from praying to their patron deity; on the other side are blood mages who have rejected the gods. As the war shifts in Tranavia’s favor, Nadezhda “Nadya” Lapteva finds she’s the last cleric left in Kalyazin, but instead of only hearing the voice of her patron goddess, she hears all of them, an unheard of feat. When her monastery is attacked by the High Prince of Tranavia, she is forced to flee, becoming entangled in a plot with two foreign Akolans and a rogue Tranavian that could turn the tide of the war.

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Book Review: Beneath the Citadel

beneath the citadel
Title:
 Beneath the Citadel
Author:
 Destiny Soria
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 480
Publisher: Amulet Books
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Diverse, LGBTQA+ characters
Recommended Readers: Fans of ensemble casts, slower plots
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for offering this ARC in exchange for an honest review—and sorry for the lateness.

I loved Destiny Soria’s Iron Cast and was greatly looking forward to this book, but after finishing it… Iron Cast was better by far.

I’ve had a hard time determining if Beneath the Citadel just isn’t for me, or if it isn’t for me right now. Would I have enjoyed it more if I was in a better mood for it, or would my thoughts still be the same? Unfortunately, I have absolutely no urge to reread it to find out, but who knows? Maybe I will someday.

The novel takes place in the fictional city of Eldra, where infallible prophecies determine events and the fate of the people. The High Council rules with an iron fist, taking advantage of the gifts of rooks, diviners, seers, and sentients to prevent threats to their power. As a result, the last rebellion was crushed underfoot, leaving only their children as bitter survivors. Cassa, the daughter of rebels, seeks to expose the council’s corruption and overthrow them, and the key to doing so lies beneath the Citadel—but she and her friends have to break in and get there alive first.

Before I get more into the plot, let’s talk about my reactions to the characters.

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Book Review: White Stag

white stag
Title:
 White Stag
Author:
 Kara Barbieri
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 368
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: MC with body dysphoria
Recommended Readers: No one, sadly
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher, for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I’m going to be honest with you: I DNF’d White Stag by Kara Barbieri at 56%. I normally don’t review books I don’t finish because it’s unfair, but I’ve made an exception for this book because it needs major editorial help, and I think interested readers should be aware of that before they buy.

First, the plot: A human girl named Janneke has been a slave in the Permafrost for one-hundred years. Her first goblin master was Lydian, who was endlessly cruel and malicious to her, eventually giving her as a gift to his nephew Soren. While Janneke’s current goblin master is much kinder than her last, she longs to escape to the human world, but without any family left to welcome her and her body undergoing monstrous changes from human to goblin, she is at war with herself about where she belongs. When the Goblin King dies and the White Stag that symbolizes his power flees from the throne, Janneke is forced to join the Hunt with Soren, who seeks to kill the stag, inherit its power, and become the new Goblin King.

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Book Review: The Mermaid’s Voice Returns in This One

the mermaid's voice returns in this one
Title:
 
The Mermaid’s Voice Returns in This One
Author:
 Amanda Lovelace
Genre: Poetry
Version: ARC – eBook
Page Count: 210
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Free verse poetry, Feminism
Recommended Readers: Women especially, but men should read this, too, honestly
Rating: ★★★★☆

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

It’s been a hot minute since I read The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This Onethe second poetry collection in Amanda Lovelace’s Women Are Some Kind of Magic series. While I’ve still yet to read the first book, The Princess Saves Herself in This One, and therefore don’t have the full picture of this journey of growth, The Mermaid’s Voice Returns in This One still delivers on Lovelace’s trademark poetic voice in all its vulnerabilities and harsh truths.

I’ll go ahead and say now that The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One ranked higher for me simply because I related to its anger, ferocity, and zeal more than I did this collection’s emphasis on trauma and healing. I also enjoyed the former’s greater usage of imagery more, since here, the imagery surrounding mermaids and their returning voice held more of a subtle place than downright literal usage. (I actually felt there was more imagery used with stars than anything else.) But that’s because this collection’s imagery was more figurative, and it encompassed the entire journey, namely that of a woman (or any reader) reclaiming their voice and at last speaking openly about the traumas of their past and how tough the healing journey is.

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Book Review: A Dangerous Collaboration

a dangerous collaboration

Title: A Dangerous Collaboration
Author:
 Deanna Raybourn
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Version: ARC – eBook
Page Count: 336
Publisher: Berkley
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Victorian setting, Sex-positive protagonist
Recommended Readers: Anyone who wants to start reading mystery
Rating: ★★★★★

Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher, for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The mystery and adventure continue with A Dangerous Collaboration, the fourth novel in the Veronica Speedwell series. It’s rare to find a series that maintains its charm, fun, intrigue, and accessibility, but Deanna Raybourn has done exactly that. I love that I gave this series and new author (for me) a chance.

After the almost-revelation that Veronica and Stoker had in A Treacherous Curse, Veronica takes a few months to go on her own excursion without Stoker. When she returns, she finds she’s struggling with dissatisfaction, and there’s a distance between her and Stoker that she doesn’t like but doesn’t know how to bridge.

Her slump is broken with the arrival of Tiberius, Stoker’s half-brother and the Lord Templeton-Vane, who invites Veronica to attend Lord Malcolm Romilly’s house party with him on a remote island off the tip of Cornwall. Sensing a new adventure, Veronica jumps at the chance, even as Tiberius convinces her to pose as his fiancée, to Stoker’s annoyance (oh, hello, trope I absolutely love with all my heart). But there’s more behind this invitation than just a house party, and Veronica and Stoker find themselves investigating the party-goers and their connection to Rosamund, Romilly’s missing wife who disappeared from her own wedding three years ago.

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Book Review: The Night Tiger

the night tiger

Title: The Night Tiger
Author:
 Yangsze Choo
Genre: Historical Fiction/Magical Realism
Version: ARC – Paperback
Page Count: 368
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Malaysian/Chinese characters and culture
Recommended Readers: Fans of rich settings, diverse characters, and a dash of the superstitious
Rating: ★★★★★

Both my roommate and I received ARCs of The Night Tiger, one an ebook from NetGalley and one a beautiful paperback edition from the publisher, so thank you both for each of these. This review is given in exchange and is my honest and true opinion.

Mark down Yangsze Choo as officially being one of my favorite authors. It’s unfair how wonderful her sophomore novel, The Night Tiger, is—or it would be, if it weren’t so apparent how much time, care, and hard work Choo put into her story. While I’ll go on record to say that her first book, The Ghost Bride, is my favorite of the two, there’s no denying how much I enjoyed The Night Tiger. It’s a book that will stay with me. Her style in particular is that perfect blend of historical fiction and magical realism that I love to death but is so hard to find, so this is definitely going on my favorites shelf.

The novel follows three protagonists: Ren, an 11-year-old Chinese houseboy; Ji Lin, a young woman who dreams of pursuing medicine but must work as a dressmaker and moonlight as a dancehall girl, both because of her gender and to pay off her mother’s high-interest Mahjong debts; and William, an Englishman with a murky past. Their fates and those of other characters collide as Ren attempts to fulfill the final request of his late master: locate his severed finger and reunite it with his body before 49 days are up, or his master’s spirit will roam the earth as a night tiger, unable to rest forever.

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Book Review: Shadow of the Exile

books october 2018Title: Shadow of the Exile
Author:
 Mitchell Hogan
Genre: Fantasy
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 491
Publisher: 47North
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Demon protagonist, driven female character
Recommended Readers: Fans of epic fantasy
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this ARC of Shadow of the Exile by Mitchell Hogan in exchange for an honest review. And sorry this wasn’t sooner!

Tarrik Nal-Valim, a demon of the 37th order, is summoned from his exile in the Abyssal Realms to human lands by sorceress Serenity “Ren” Branwen. Ren is the daughter of Tarrik’s former master, who he’d come to trust, but now it appears he revealed all of Tarrik’s secrets for his daughter to enslave him once again to do her bidding. Ren instantly commands Tarrik to protect her from her enemies, while keeping her own goals shrouded in secrecy.

Tarrik hates Ren for enslaving him and vows to get free of her bindings as soon as he can, but his urgency grows when he discovers she’s part of the Nine, a group of deranged sorcerers who have been broken and compelled to free the worst and most powerful demon who ever lived, Samal. If Samal is freed, the human realm will be wiped out and the Abyssal Realms enslaved to his will, and Tarrik finds himself facing increasingly difficult choices, especially when Ren’s path appears to deviate from this goal.

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Book Review: Priest of Bones

books october 2018
Title:
 
Priest of Bones
Author:
 Peter McLean
Genre: Adult Fantasy/Fiction
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 352
Publisher: Ace Books
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Distinctive first-person POV, LGBTQ characters
Recommended Readers: Fans of gangster-esque novels, gritty stories, the Gentleman Bastards series
Rating: ★★★★☆

Thank you to NetGallery and the publisher for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Priest of Bones by Peter McLean promised old-school gangster activity in an adult fantasy setting, and it absolutely delivered. This story was gritty in all the right ways, politically intricate in terms of characters, and a complete romp all around.

Thomas Piety, an army priest, and his band of soldiers have just returned home from the war, only for Thomas to discover that his former businesses have been stolen out from under him. With his lieutenant, Bloody Anne, and his unpredictable younger brother, Jochan, Thomas is determined to reclaim his streets and bring back the prosperity his people lost in the course of the war.

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