ARC Review: Blessed Monsters

Title: Blessed Monsters
Author: Emily A. Duncan
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Version: ebook – ARC
Page Count: 528
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Dark, gothic atmosphere with eldritch horror descriptions; villain romance; diverse LGBTQA+ cast
Recommended Readers: No one; I fear we’ve jumped the shark
CAWPILE Rating: 3.57
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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

My Review

For the record, I’m not going to be reviewing the author and her behavior here but the book. If you’re curious about the former, plenty of folks on Goodreads have already done so for me. I have, frankly, read much better from much worse people.

So what’s the deal with Blessed Monsters by Emily A. Duncan? Well, it turns out it’s better than Ruthless Gods, but it’s still not good. Descriptions of cosmic horrors and eldritch monsters were emphasized vastly over setting, so I never got a clear sense of where we were in Kalyazin. Characters would be at a nondescript palace, manor, safe house, graveyard, capital city, etc., and then they would be at the next nondescript place. So my brain did what it does: imagined whatever it wanted with nothing to ground its imaginings. Neither author nor editor has gotten a handle on the comma splices, either, so they were beyond annoying, along with the “noun and noun and noun and noun” description style. Whatever weight those had before gets beaten to death in this book. Whatever enthusiasm I had left for this trilogy was slowly chipped away as I read, to the point where even if other books were planned to be set in this world, I wouldn’t reach for them.

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ARC Review: The Gilded Ones

Title: The Gilded Ones
Author: Namina Forna
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 432
Publisher: Delacorte
Add To-Read on: GoodReadsStoryGraph
Notable Notables: Female-led, POC cast; original, if underdeveloped, world-building
Recommended Readers: Older teens, but also no one unless you’re really in the mood for some grimdark
CAWPILE Rating: 2.29
Star Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

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

My Review

Well, what happened here? I’m flabbergasted.

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna was easily one of my most anticipated books since it was supposed to be released in 2020, its publication date pushed back due to the pandemic. Finally reading it, however, has been a bizarre, disturbing, and deeply unenjoyable experience.

Synopsis time. Sixteen-year-old Deka waits anxiously for the Ritual of Purity—for her blood to run red, so she can be accepted as a pure woman by her village at last. In the country of Otera, women must wear masks and defer to the men in their lives at all times, and all Deka wants is to be accepted enough to be considered marriageable. When her blood turns out to run gold, she is deemed impure, a demon, and must face the Death Mandate all her kind go through. Except she doesn’t die. Before the male elders can find her true death, a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. These girls—alaki—are near-immortals with strength and speed men don’t possess, and they are the key to stopping the deathshrieks that plague the empire.

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ARC Review: Black Sun

Title: Black Sun
Author: Rebecca Roanhorse
Genre: Fantasy
Version: ebook – ARC
Page Count: 454
Publisher: Saga Press
Add To-Read on: GoodReadsStoryGraph
Notable Notables: POC, LGBTQ+, and blind characters
Recommended Readers: Anyone wanting a fresh, non-European take on epic fantasy
Rating: ★★★★★

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

My Review

Yes! This is it! This book is… wow!

Maybe my 2020 reading life has experienced a drought of easy, five-star reads. Maybe everything about this year has been utter shit and brimming with disappointment. So when I picked up Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse, I was begging, Please be good. You sound so interesting and your cover is gorgeous and if another of my most anticipated reads disappoints me, I will cry.

Well, Black Sun wasn’t just good; it was wonderful. It wasn’t just interesting. It was page-turning and original. I’ve already ran out and bought a copy for myself because I fell for it so hard.

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Book Review: The Silvered Serpents

Title: The Silvered Serpents
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy/Historical Fiction
Version: ebook – ARC
Page Count: 416
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Add To-Read on: GoodReadsStoryGraph
Notable Notables: POC, LGBTQ+, and autistic characters
Recommended Readers: Lovers of character-driven, fantasy adventures set in the real world (19th century)
Rating: ★★★★★

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

My Review

What a dramatic and tragic return! Roshani Chokshi has taken everything that made The Gilded Wolves fun and intriguing and added so much more for The Silvered Serpents. It’s not perfect, of course, but it’s an easy 4.25 stars from me because I felt swept away from the first page. Everything here is richer. The world, the magic system, the stakes, the consequences, the characters, oh my, the characters.

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ARC Review: Ruthless Gods

ruthless gods
Title:
Ruthless Gods
Author:
 Emily A. Duncan
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Version: ebook – ARC
Page Count: 432
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Dark, gothic atmosphere with no punches pulled; villain romance; diverse LGBTQA+ cast
Recommended Readers: Fans of the first book and cosmic horror enthusiasts
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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

EDIT: I have changed my review from a four-star rating to a two-star rating on 4/11/21 to reflect my lingering feelings of dissatisfaction with this book and how unenthused this trilogy’s conclusion has left me.

I absolutely fell in love with Wicked Saints, the first book in the Something Dark and Holy trilogy by Emily A. Duncan. It connected with me on a level that I can’t fully explain; all I know is, it was one of those rare books where I read the ARC and went out to buy the published version that very same day.

Needless to say, I have been eagerly awaiting the sequel, Ruthless Gods, and was overjoyed to receive an ARC for it. I’m a bit disappointed to say that it didn’t resonate with me as strongly as its predecessor did. Its strong points came through splendidly, but its low points were detracting and, in some cases, downright annoying.

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ARC Review: The Library of the Unwritten

\library of the unwrittenTitle: The Library of the Unwritten
Author:
 A. J. Hackwith
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 384
Publisher: Ace Books
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: A book about stories, diverse, LGBTQA+ characters
Recommended Readers: Those wanting a dash of mythology to go along with their adventure
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher, for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review—and sorry it’s a tad bit late.

I absolutely love any kind of content about angels, demons, heaven, hell, and the mortals trapped between them. I love written works that are themselves tributes to stories and storytelling. The Library of the Unwritten by A. J. Hackwith boasted all of the above, with an emphasis on unwritten stories and characters by unwritten authors. While I was overall more in love with the idea of this book than I was with the actual execution, there is still a fair amount of good I’d like to highlight with this review.

Our story begins with finding Claire Hadley as the current Head Librarian of Hell’s Unwritten Wing, one of the few neutral spaces in Hell, where it’s Claire’s job to repair and monitor all unwritten books. When a Hero awakens from one of the books and escapes to the mortal world to meet his Author, Claire leaves in pursuit along with her assistant Brevity and a nervous teenage demon, Leto, who seems more human than he ought to. In pursuit of the character and his book, the group runs afoul of fallen angel and Watcher Ramiel, who accuses them of having pages of the elusive Devil’s Bible. Claire and her motley crew, including the Hero and an old demon Arcanist named Andras, must locate the pages and return them to the library before any other angels or demons can get ahold of them—or risk a cosmic war and power imbalance between the realms.

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ARC Review: Saving Fable

saving fableTitle: Saving Fable
Author:
 Scott Reintgen
Genre: Middle Grade/Fantasy
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 384
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: POC characters
Recommended Readers: Anyone searching for a wholesome fantasy and a tribute to stories
Rating: ★★★★☆

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

I don’t read Middle Grade books much anymore, but when a publicist from Random House Children’s Books reached out about an ARC, I couldn’t pass it up for the same reason they offered: I became an instant fan and reviewer of Scott Reintgen with his Nyxia Triad, and I couldn’t wait to see what else he produced. In this case, it’s Saving Fable, the charming first book of a Middle Grade fantasy series that’s also a tribute to literature and storytelling.

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Book Review: Nyxia Uprising

nyxia uprisingTitle: Nyxia Uprising
Author:
 Scott Reintgen
Genre: Young Adult/Sci-Fi
Version: Hardcover
Page Count: 368
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: POC characters, LGBTQA+ characters, Social class struggles
Recommended Readers: Fans of space adventures and high stakes
Rating: ★★★★★

No, it’s over! Why??? Hats off to Scott Reintgen for delivering not only one of the best sci-fi trilogies in YA but also one of the best trilogies period with the Nyxia Triad. Like the others, Nyxia Uprising does not disappoint, and in fact it might rival the first book as being my favorite. I didn’t think that was going to be possible, but Reintgen did it!

Since this is the final book, I’m not going to be offering a synopsis since it will spoil the others, and I want people to go into this trilogy with fresh, eager eyes like I did. Nyxia Uprising especially contains the right balance of character, action, grit, heart, and heartbreak that begs to be experienced. Part of me wishes I could go back and read it all over from the beginning, not knowing what’s coming, and the best way I can do that is to recommend it to everyone I know.

If you’re looking for a fun space adventure with a diverse cast and thoughtful prose, the Nyxia Triad is it. If you’re looking for a “fuck corporations, pro-middle class” narrative, here you go. If you’re looking for a group of down-trodden kids with their own motives, goals, and dreams who grow in adversity, rivalry, collaboration, and friendship into a found family, look no further. If you love exploring gray morality and trying to make the right and/or strategic choices in the face of survival, you’re welcome.

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ARC Review: Pet

petTitle: Pet
Author:
 Akwaeke Emezi
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 208
Publisher: Make Me a World
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: POC cast, LGBTQA+ characters
Recommended Readers: Everyone!
Rating: ★★★★★

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

From its distinctive prose to its powerful message, Pet by Akwaeke Emezi is a compelling novel that asks us to be watchful of monsters, especially those that look, act, and smile just like us.

Our story follows Jam, who was born in a world without monsters. During her parents’ youth, the world finally got tired of the political corruption and social degradation, and said enough. Now, the city of Lucille teaches its children that there are no more monsters, that angels—ordinary people who rose to the challenge of saving the world—got rid of the monsters for good, through rehabilitation or otherwise. However, Jam’s understanding of this world is shaken when Pet, a creature with horns, feathers, and claws, emerges from one of her mother’s paintings, claiming it has come to hunt a monster. Jam has to work with Pet to uncover the monster, but she is torn with indecision when she learns it is located in her best friend Redemption’s house—and that none of the adults in her world want to believe that monsters still exist right in front of them.

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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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