New Books I’m Hyped for: January – June 2022

It’s that time again: the mega-post, the one where I list every book I could possibly be interested in that releases between January and June of 2022. Er, that I know about, anyway. Do y’all ever notice how often lists out there are skewed towards YA? Where are all the adult book releases? I’ve tried to do a worthy mix of books here, but I know some have fallen through the cracks. Maybe curated adult book lists are my true calling? Mm, maybe, we’ll see if I ever get around to it.

In the meantime, here are some books that got me like 👀

January

Echoes and Empires by Morgan Rhodes (January 4th)

Josslyn Drake knows only three things about magic: it’s rare, illegal, and always deadly. So when she’s caught up in a robbery gone wrong at the Queen’s Gala and infected by a dangerous piece of magic—one that allows her to step into the memories of an infamously evil warlock—she finds herself living her worst nightmare. Joss needs the magic removed before it corrupts her soul and kills her. But in Ironport, the cost of doing magic is death, and seeking help might mean scheduling her own execution. There’s nobody she can trust.

Nobody, that is, except wanted criminal Jericho Nox, who offers her a deal: his help extracting the magic in exchange for the magic itself. And though she’s not thrilled to be working with a thief, especially one as infuriating (and infuriatingly handsome) as Jericho, Joss is desperate enough to accept.

But Jericho is nothing like Joss expects. The closer she grows with Jericho and the more she sees of the world outside her pampered life in the city, the more Joss begins to question the beliefs she’s always taken for granted—beliefs about right and wrong, about power and magic, and even about herself.

In an empire built on lies, the truth may be her greatest weapon.

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Most Disappointing Books of 2021

Once I’d reviewed my year of reading and discovered the books that most surprised me in 2021, I knew I had to talk about the books that most disappointed me next. With the marketing hype machines that are publishing houses and authors’ Twitter accounts, you never can tell which books will become soured by disappointment upon finally experiencing them, no matter how excited or hopeful you were for them.

It wasn’t that these books merely fell short of the mark; they were depressingly bad in ways that made me feel like the hype I had for them was silly and wasteful. Many of these books also debuted in 2021, and that in and of itself is a depressing thought. Are books getting worse? Or are my expectations as a reader becoming unwieldy and unrealistic? In an era where stories are becoming bigger and bigger franchises with over-the-top visuals, rehashed plots, and plot-disarming twists, can we be surprised by anything anymore? Have we seen it all?

I don’t think so. While an original story can be groundbreaking, any story that is well-told will travel farther regardless if we have seen its like before or not.

How, then, did the following books fail to live up to my expectations? Time to find out.

Most Disappointing Books of 2021

Persephone Station by Stina Leicht

Look at that cover! Isn’t it cool? Well, that’s all the cool factor you get with Persephone Station. I was promised a high-stakes adventure and space opera in the vein of The Mandalorian and Cowboy Bebop with an all-queer cast. What I got instead was an incredibly dull 500-page slog with equally dull characters. Each character had a profession and sexuality assigned to them, and that was the extent of who they were. In addition, everyone’s relationships had already been formed before the novel, and nobody had friction with anybody. There was Some Evil Corporation the group had to overcome, but I never once was encouraged to care about it. I started off my 2021 with this book, so you can imagine how unenthused I was after the fact; that’s where Unsounded came in to save my life.

I mean, gosh, when are people going to learn? Never compare yourself to Cowboy Bebop; you’ll never be Cowboy Bebop.

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Book Review: Truthwitch

Title: Truthwitch
Author: 
Susan Dennard
Genre: 
Young Adult/Fantasy
Version: Paperback
Page Count: 
430
Publisher: 
Tor Teen
Synopsis: GoodReads | StoryGraph
Notable Notables: 
Original magic system, female friendship-inspired yet unbalanced
Recommended Readers: 
Casual fantasy readers
CAWPILE Rating: 2.29
Rating: ★
☆☆☆☆

My Review

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard was the latest pick for my book club I started this year with a few of my friends, and I had high hopes about delving into a once-hyped fantasy series I missed getting into back in 2017. The emphasis I was seeing from other reviews and the marketing of Truthwitch itself boasted female friendships as its main focus, bolstered by original world-building and a developed magic system about different kinds of witches. Unfortunately, reading the book led me to a crushing reality: over-hyped book was over-hyped and perhaps did not get better with age.

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Book Review: Lakesedge

Title: Lakesedge
Author: 
Lyndall Clipstone
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Version: 
ebook – ARC
Page Count: 
384
Publisher: 
Henry Holt and Co.
Synopsis: GoodReads | StoryGraph
Notable Notables: 
Original fantasy world, a death god is here
Recommended Readers: 
Young adult readers who like emotional stories
CAWPILE Rating: 4.57
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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

My Review

Violeta Graceling travels with her younger brother, Arien, to Lakesedge estate, expecting to be at the mercy of the Monster of Lakesedge. The lord of the estate, Rowan Sylvanan, is said to have drowned his parents and brother in the lake. However, once she arrives, neither lord nor lake are what they seem. She discovers that Rowan has a connection to the Lord Under, a sinister death god that makes bargains for a terrible price. She vows to save Rowan, the estate, and herself, all while discovering why she is also being drawn to the Lord Under.

I was so, so hopeful for Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone, a novel that promised to be about monsters and magic, told in a lush gothic style—but was it truly a gothic work in the end?

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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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New Books I’m Hyped for: July – December 2021

Welcome back to another post where I highlight books I’m excited for in a truly excessive fashion. Will most of these books be featured on other people’s lists? Probably. Will that stop me? No. I like what I like, and the sounds of these are very pleasing. We have an East Asian YA fantasy that is a retelling of The Wild Swans; an adult fantasy novel where all the protagonists are renowned villains; a work set in Victorian London featuring an African tightrope dancer who cannot die; and much more!

I’m looking forward to seeing which of these will be my favorite book releases between July and December 2021, especially compared to which ones the book community at large will fawn over.

[slaps the roof of this post] This baby can fit so many books inside it, so let’s get started!

July

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim
(July 6th)

Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.

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Book Review: The Will and the Wilds

Title: The Will and the Wilds
Author: 
Charlie N. Holmberg
Genre: 
Adult Fantasy
Version: 
ebook
Page Count: 
267
Publisher: 
47North
Synopsis: GoodReadsStoryGraph
Notable Notables: 
Original fae lore, strong standalone fantasy, enemies-to-lovers
Recommended Readers: 
Lovers of fairytales and trickster characters
CAWPILE Rating: 
9.14
Rating: ★★★★★

My Review

A modern-day fairytale does exist that can sweep you away into adventure and make you sigh wistfully, and it’s The Will and the Wilds by Charlie N. Holmberg.

I’ve had my eye on this book for awhile, especially since a certain long-winded, so-called fae court series continued to disappointment me and fuel my hatred. Didn’t any author besides Holly Black actually know what fae are? Can’t anyone capture the sense of adventure and danger that comes with bargaining with magical creatures that exist beyond human understanding? Is enemies-to-lovers well and truly dead, with my choices being either “had an argument once”-to-lovers or animalistic alpha male rutting and mating bonds? “Nay!” said Holmberg. “I am here for you, my child.”

Thank you, Ms. Holmberg, I owe you my life.

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ARC Review: The Descent of the Drowned

Title: The Descent of the Drowned
Author: 
Ana Lal Din
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
Version: 
ARC – ebook
Page Count: 373
Publisher: White Tigress Press
Add To-Read on: GoodReadsStoryGraph
Notable Notables: 
Diverse cast, Pre-Islamic Arabian mythology
Recommended Readers: 
Anyone looking for a slow-building yet gripping read with two main characters who stand on their own
CAWPILE Rating: 9.14
Star Rating: ★★★★★

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

My Review

A dark, compelling read, The Descent of the Drowned by Ana Lal Din immensely impressed me with its rich cultural descriptions, complicated characters, and slow-building plot. So much so that I already own a copy for myself.

Inspired by pre-Islamic Arabian mythology and culture, The Descent of the Drowned is the start of a YA fantasy trilogy that definitely leans hard on the older side of the scale due to its many heavy themes, which are addressed headfirst and unflinchingly. I recently read a book that equally horrified and enraged me at how gratuitous its violence and sexual themes were to be directed at a younger audience than truly appropriate. Therefore, my guard was up when I started this book, which tackles topics regarding sacred prostitution, rape, sexual assault, torture, self harm, suicide ideation, and many others.

Turns out I needn’t have bothered to be so wary. Each of these issues—and others—are treated with the gravity, horror, and fury they rightfully deserve. Readers have time to sit with these issues along with the characters and experience how these issues affect and inform the characters and their world, which is lovingly detailed with rich descriptions juxtaposed against the ugliness of human trafficking, transphobia, rape culture, caste systems, ethnic cleansing, and other cruelties. While reading, nothing ever felt glossed over or overdone, yet I also never felt hopelessly mired down by darkness. That’s because Lal Din managed to walk a delicate line between bringing awareness to these issues while also crafting a sincerely enjoyable story with characters I couldn’t help but be drawn to and root for.

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ARC Review: Down Comes the Night

Title: Down Comes the Night
Author: 
Allison Saft
Genre: 
Young Adult/Fantasy
Version: 
ARC – ebook
Page Count: 
400
Publisher: 
Wednesday Books
Add To-Read on: GoodReadsStoryGraph
Notable Notables: 
Bisexual main character, lesbian side character
Recommended Readers: 
Those looking for a standalone, atmospheric fantasy
CAWPILE Rating: 6.57
Star Rating: ★★★☆☆

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

My Review

Down Comes the Night is Allison Saft’s debut novel, an original YA fantasy that pits logic and ruthlessness against emotion and forgiveness—and explores where the line is drawn between the two. What choices render you into your best self? Following the duty you’ve pledged yourself to or following your instincts to do what is right?

These are choices that Wren Southerland wrestles with daily in the country of Danu. A solider with healing magic in the Queen’s Guard, she is torn by the empathy she feels even toward enemy soldiers. Not even her best friend and commanding officer, Una Dryden, can save Wren once she makes a reckless mistake healing a captured enemy. Dismissed from the guard, Wren is determined to get back into the Queen’s good graces and return to the side of the girl she loves, even if Una can never truly reciprocate her affections. Wren sees her chance for redemption when an invitation arrives from a lord in a neutral country promising to lend his support to the Queen in exchange for curing his favorite servant from a mysterious illness plaguing his estate. However, Colwick Hall holds more mysteries than a disease that can kill, including that Wren’s patient isn’t a servant at all but Hal Cavendish, the Reaper of Vesria and Danu’s public enemy number one. As the estate and its eccentric host, Lord Lowry, turn more ominous, Wren and Hal will have to work together to solve the sinister forces at work even at the risk of committing treason, if their feelings for each other don’t render them traitors first.

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Book Review: Asunder

Title: Asunder
Author: David Gaider
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Version: Mass Market Paperback
Page Count: 485
Publisher: Tor Books
Add To-Read on: GoodReadsStoryGraph
Notable Notables: Written by openly-gay man who was a head writer of the Dragon Age games
Recommended Readers: Dragon Age fans wanting to read some sweet, sweet lore
CAWPILE Rating: 9.57
Star Rating: ★★★★★

My Review

Picture this: I’m in my third, back-to-back playthrough of Dragon Age: Inquisition when I learn that my son, Cole, has a book that’s all about his backstory. Naturally, I had to find and read it as soon as possible.

While I’ve vaguely known that Dragon Age books existed, I hadn’t picked up any until now because, historically, books written to supplement a video game franchise are often lackluster comparatively. It can be hard to capture all the things that make a video game wondrous through text alone, without you there as the player character that makes all the decisions and ultimately saves the day. So imagine my delighted surprise when I read Asunder, only to find that I didn’t just like it; I devoured it.

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