Book Review: The Captive Prince Trilogy

This is going to be a somewhat different post from me because it’s a review of not one book but three: the entire Captive Prince trilogy by C.S. Pacat, comprising of Captive Prince, Prince’s Gambit, and Kings Rising. I consumed these books in a month after a Herculean effort of trying to pace myself, to absorb what I was reading instead of blazing through it in a “head empty, no thoughts” mindset. This has been the first trilogy I’ve read all the way through in quite some time, and I had nothing but a good time, a realization that thrilled me to no end.

For a few years, I’d been eyeing these books, staying away for a few reasons that all amounted to my own unfounded assumptions and others’ naysaying. These books were in the romance section, which means they likely weren’t well-written. They contained just sex covered by the thinnest veil of plot. They were hugely problematic in the way they glorify sexual slavery, rape, and other issues. The list goes on, but finally, I’d had enough of believing the fears. I picked up Captive Prince because current fiction and romance have been boring me to death lately, and before long I realized I was utterly—wait for it—captivated.

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ARC Review: A Murderous Relation

a murderous relationTitle: A Murderous Relation
Author:
Deanna Raybourn
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 320
Publisher: Berkley
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Victorian England setting, sex-positive protagonist
Recommended Readers: Anyone who wants to start reading mystery
Rating: ★★★★★

Thank you, Net Galley and the publisher, for offering this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Once again, Deanna Raybourn returns with a Veronica Speedwell mystery that is unabashedly fun and a sheer delight to read. I flew through A Murderous Relation with a speed I regret, because I think this might be the last book? I heard a rumor that more mysteries might be in store for Veronica, but until that Goodreads page updates, I will consider this series has ended on a satisfyingly high note.

This time, Veronica and Stoker are drawn into an investigation involving her half-brother, Prince Albert Victor. He’s given a diamond to Madame Aurore, the female owner of the most exclusive club in London known for its anonymity and offerings of sexual freedom. The diamond must be reclaimed before it can be traced back to the prince and erupt scandal within the monarchy and across the country. The timing couldn’t be worse, for London is also gripped in terror over the gruesome attacks of Jack the Ripper, and Lady Wellington, a friend of Veronica and a protector of the crown, suspects that the prince might be responsible. As Veronica and Stoker investigate the brothel, secrets surrounding the royal family and Veronica’s place in it begin to present themselves—along with another dead body.

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ARC Review: Ashlords by Scott Reintgen

ashlords

Title: Ashlords
Author:
Scott Reintgen
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 368
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Interesting POV choices, commentary on class divisions, phoenix horses
Recommended Readers: This one’s for all the horse girls and competitive sports enthusiasts out there! (Is revolution a competitive sport?)
Rating: ★★★★☆

Thank you, Net Galley and the publisher, for offering this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Well, Scott Reintgen has actually done it. He’s gotten me to read a horse-racing book, the nerve of him. I couldn’t resist, though. I was blown away by his Nyxia triad over the years, falling in love with the way he tells stories and the ideas he generates throughout. I’ll pretty much read anything he does at this point.

But, c’mon, do I look like a horse girl to you? Never mind that when I was little I watched Black Beauty until the tape broke and my mom wept in sweet relief. Never mind that I lined up my little plastic horses along the length of the kitchen because they were in a parade, and the other animals weren’t invited. Never mind that I’ve seen Hidalgo, Seabiscuit, and War Horse in theaters. But I definitely wasn’t and am not a horse girl. Turn horses into phoenix horses, though, and I am a complete sucker apparently.

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ARC Review: The Dragon Republic

the dragon republicTitle: The Dragon Republic
Author:
 R.F. Kuang
Genre: Fantasy/Adult
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 672
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: POC characters, Chinese-influenced history, visceral and brilliant depictions of war
Recommended Readers: People who want their minds blown by an unapologetic grimdark fantasy and its equally unapologetic characters
Rating: ★★★★☆

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

Just like last year with her eye-opening, debut novel The Poppy War, R.F. Kuang has crafted a brutal, god-touched, and war-torn narrative with its sequel, The Dragon Republic.

So as to not spoil the first book, here’s this for the summary: Rin is looking for purpose after the actions she took to end the Third Poppy War, and the Phoenix, the vengeful god in her head granting her incredible incendiary powers, seems determined to drive her insane. Fortunately, revenge is still on Rin’s mind, so she sets her sights on destroying Nikara’s traitorous Empress. On the run, addicted to opium, and with few allies, Rin has little choice but to join the Dragon Warlord as he attempts a coup on the Empire, but is his vision for a democratic republic sincere or a smokescreen for ulterior motives?

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ARC Review: Sparrowhawk

sparrowhawkTitle: Sparrowhawk
Author:
 Delilah S. Dawson & Matias Basla
Genre: Graphic Novel/Fantasy
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 128
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Biracial main character, a brutal Faerie world
Recommended Readers: Anyone looking for grimdark to go with their fairytale
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

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

Uh, well, hmm. I really didn’t like this one, which is very surprising to me. The five issues that make up Sparrowhawk, written by Delilah S. Dawson and illustrated by Matias Basla, seem like they would contain plenty of elements that I love: a diverse woman protagonist, a brutal world of faeries, and gorgeous art. The graphic novel certainly has some of these things, but the execution is definitely not to my tastes.

Artemisia Grey is born of a British naval captain and an African slave, and despite coming to live with her father’s family, she is treated with shame and disgust by everyone except her half-sister, Elizabeth. On the eve of being married off so she’ll “have some use” to her family, Art is pulled through a mirror by an evil faerie queen, effectively switching places with her. To survive in Faerie against the Unseelie, Art makes a bond with a mischievous fae who cannot lie to her but certainly has his own agenda. If she wants to return home and defeat the faerie queen that’s taken her place, Art must kill any evil faerie that stands in her way and absorb their power, but as she does, she starts to undergo her own strange metamorphosis.

Doesn’t this sound awesome? Why don’t I feel any kind of satisfaction or gladness upon reading it?

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ARC Review: House of Salt and Sorrows

house of salt and sorrowsTitle: House of Salt and Sorrows
Author:
 Erin A. Craig
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 416
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Fairytale retelling, spooky AF
Recommended Readers: Fans of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” and ghost stories
Rating: ★★★★☆

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

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig is a haunting debut that pulls no punches, and I hope Craig is so proud of it because I certainly am! This book delivered everything I had wanted out of The Wicked Deep–a maritime setting, a spooky mystery, and murder most foul–and cranked everything up to eleven.

The novel opens with a funeral. Annaleigh Thaumas is once again returning one of her sisters to the Salt after she mysteriously plunged to her death. Three others have been returned to the sea, and she, her father, and her seven remaining sisters have been steeped in mourning for years. That changes when her father’s new bride announces she’s pregnant. Thus, the Highmoor estate does what it never has before: it moves on.

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Book Review: War

war
Title:
 War
Author:
 Laura Thalassa
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Version: ebook
Page Count: 427
Publisher: Lavabrook Publishing, LLC
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Fantasy-ish story featuring the Biblical end times; romance featuring the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Recommended Readers: [Simon Cowell voice] It’s a no from me.
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

I had hoped that when Laura Thalassa had to change the covers of this series to this godawful thing, it wouldn’t be an indication of the story quality tanking, too. Pestilence was a shockingly, incredibly moving story with an engaging plot; contained a running commentary on human nature; featured a glorious, problematic villain love interest; and yeah, had some actual, well-written sex scenes. Who knew I could actually have it all in this genre, right? But then the cover change happened, War was unveiled looking like this, and I feared it was an ill omen of things to come.

Judging by my rating, you can see I was right, and you’re probably correct in guessing that, unlike the arrival of all my fears and doubts, I didn’t come at all. Instead, I am hugely disappointed by one of my most anticipated reads of the year, and even worse—War broke my five-star rating streak.

Upon finishing War, I am left with two burning questions: 1) Was Pestilence a fluke? 2) If not, then what the hell happened here?

Alright, let’s back up. It’s synopsis time, and oh yeah, expect spoilers throughout.

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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: Middlegame

middlegame
Title:
 Middlegame
Author:
 Seanan McGuire
Genre: Science Fiction/Contemporary
Version: Hardcover
Page Count: 528
Publisher: Tor.com
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Unconventional narrative, messy characters, well-written villains
Recommended Readers: Hey, kids, wanna have your minds blown?
Rating: ★★★★★

Middlegame marks the first book from Seanan McGuire that I have ever read, and I fear that I have made a mistake. I fear that Seanan has ruined me for other books, including her own because honestly? Where am I supposed to go from here? There’s nowhere more up to go! This is it. I have reached a pinnacle of storytelling and composition I had no idea I was going to receive or was even looking for to begin with. It’s a masterpiece, a tour de force; it’s everything all the other books want to be like when their authors spend decades honing their craft and feel like attempting the impossible.

Our story follows separated twins Roger and Dodger, and yes, those names are deliberately bad, and yes, they have been deliberately separated, unaware of the other’s existence. This is a regular Parent Trap scenario–if your parents are two evil alchemists, a lab was your womb, and you were created, not to be people, but to embody two parts of an all-powerful, alchemical doctrine that, when united, can give the wielder enough power to control the fabric of the universe—to become a god, in other words.

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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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