Monday, April 2, 2018

Review: Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

Firstly, thanks to Wednesday Books for this review copy <3


Date Read: February 23 - 27 2018
Date Released: April 24th 2018
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Source: E-galley via publisher
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating:

Synopsis:
"OND ELDR. BREATHE FIRE.

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother's betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating."

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Sky in the Deep was a great light fantasy set in Scandinavia. I enjoyed every aspect of this book and it deserves all the hype it’s been getting.

I liked being in Eelyn’s mind. She’s a fierce and loyal warrior of the Aska clan with a very obvious fighter mentality. Her character was drawn out very well, I especially liked when she finds out about her brother and the struggle to love him but also feel betrayed spans nearly the whole book. It’s not an easy thing to get over and Eelyn is faced with a LOT of conflicting emotions throughout. Loyalty to her people, what she thinks is right and the unmistakable pull of the Riki family. Her internal battle is a long one and I like the way she manages to still hold to her beliefs while embracing new ones.

There’s a bit of romance in this but it’s super slow burn and I actually had no idea it was coming until like halfway through the book. It’s minimal and doesn’t take away from the story but the build up is perfect. Having not read the blurb prior to diving into this, I actually had no idea there was romance at all haha. Young keeps it lowkey but also angsty at the right times. I’m on board with this ship.

One of my favourite themes in Sky in the Deep was the familial aspect. Bonds to family and bonds to clan were explored deeply here as Eelyn struggled to come to terms with her brother fighting with the Riki. He’s fighting for the enemy but he’s still her brother. Does loving him mean she accepts him as Riki and does that in turn betray her family back home and the Aska? The Riki are not so different from the Aska in their way of life, and they too have loving families as Eelyn witnesses first hand. I loved the dynamic between Eelyn and her brother’s Riki family.

Young has put just the right amount of action and detail into this to make it a juicy fantasy but not too much that it should be stomach turning. There’s lots of axe throwing, sword slicing, guts spilling out as well as stitches (without anaesthesia back in those days mind you) and resetting bones right on the spot (this did kind of creep me out). These are people born to fight, male and female alike, a weapon put into their hand as soon as they can walk so it was fitting. I was curious about this ruthless clan and wish there had been more about their origins though.

That being said can we talk about the male and female equality in this book? It was great, both genders can fight, are EXPECTED to both contribute and both can take positions of leadership too. Hallelujah. Women who’ve had children can choose to take care of them but can also take up the blade again if they feel like it. I’m here for that.

The writing in this is great, it flows well in a sophisticated manner. You don’t realise how much you’ve read (and you’ll fly through this) because Young’s style is so effortless you take in the descriptions so quickly, the images easily conjured in the mind and you don’t want to stop.

Sky in the Deep is kind of one of those stories that you know how it ends. You kind of get the general idea of where it’s heading based on the blurb, but you’re there for the ride. Which is sublimely executed. It’s one helluva ride with lots to see and learn along the way. As they say, it’s all about the journey right?

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Review: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Firstly, thanks to Allen & Unwin for this review copy <3


Date Read: March 12 - 15 2018
Date Released: March 6th 2018
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating:

Synopsis:
"Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?"

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Honestly, what DIDN’T I love about To Kill a Kingdom? The answer is not much because this was a darn near perfect book. A debut you say? Could’ve had me fooled.

To Kill a Kingdom is a Little Mermaid inspired tale, but Christo has given this a dark twist. Siren princess Lira is no damsel in distress. Known as the Prince’s Bane, she instils fear in the hearts of men, and then rips their hearts out… literally. She basically feared nobody (except her seriously scary mum) and was sure of her powers as a Siren. I loved conflicted Lira as a human. Without her powers she was like every other human and her character growth was phenomenal. She saw the value of friendship and loyalty beyond blood, forged through near death experiences and saving each other’s lives. By being human, she was subject to humanity and I thought Christo executed this so well. Lira saw it and felt it all, but she didn’t necessarily understand at first which made her development so believable. At the same time she maintained her fierceness and I’m-not-afraid-of-you-I-will-claw-your-eyes-out-if-you-so-much-as-look-at-me persona. She’s super switched on, doesn’t need to be told twice in a situation where she’s in danger and just has the common sense I wish all heroines had.

Then there is prince and sailor Elian who is definitely more sailor than prince. He’s supposedly a pirate but I didn’t really get this because I didn’t see any hint of him and the crew of the Saad raiding any other ships? Plus everybody knew he was the prince of Midas so he was untouchable anyway. With absolutely no care for the title waiting for him back in Midas, his home is the sea. I loved his longing for adventure, of the need to be free and discover new lands – it really brought my wanderlust to the surface. I admired his loyalty, especially to his crew but also to his kingdom – despite claiming he’d make a horrible prince, he makes sacrifices for his country. Elian’s determination to achieve his goal was inspiring like wow his need to destroy the Sirens was so intense he’d give up what he loved most? I wish I had half that determination to wake up in the morning to go to work… and I get paid too.

The romance was the slowest burn everrrrr, made all the better by the banter. THE BANTER YOU GUYS WOW. Peak sarcasm, wit and sass, Christo had me craughing from the hilarious back and forth between Lira and Elian. I LIVED for their exchanges, and it showed how intellectually matched they were that the banter kept flowing – a battle of brains and a matching of souls if you ask me. Who needs sappy moments when you can have awesome roasting all day?

Christo gives great personality to the crew of the Saad. The banter between Kye and Madrid were especially entertaining, it pleased me greatly that Madrid always came out on top. Also loved that Madrid was all about helping her fellow girls out. There’s also Lira’s cousin Kahlia who I had a soft spot for and I think she really needs a hug. The characters are all diverse – in race/skin colour, sexuality and traditions which heightened the fantasy element. However, it was still obvious that the Pagese were Japanese inspired especially in names and eye shape, but I appreciated that Christo mixed up the rest of the looks what with the white hair/skin and blue lips.

The world-building in this book is stunning. There’s the chilling underwater world of the Sirens, the golden (Egyptian-Greco inspired?) land of Midas and the sweet queendom of Eidyllio which reminded me of Wonderland for some reason. But nothing compared to the descriptions of freezing Pagos. There’s this one part in the book that left me awe-struck and gave me massive Mt Gagazet vibes (Final Fantasy X/Fantasy X-2, Google image it!). Christo descriptions are so detailed I felt myself freezing my arse off along with the Saad crew.

Christo weaves this all together with her captivating writing. It’s the flowery writing I love, accentuated with banter of the highest calibre. Add on the immersive world-building and everything is tied together with dark undertones, both gritty and sensual at the same time. Lira and Elian’s story is not one to be missed – it’s a tale of humanity, trust and the struggle of living up to expectations whilst finding freedom for yourself.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Review: The Queen's Rising by Rebecca Ross

Firstly, thanks to HarperCollins Australia for this review copy <3


Date Read: March 1 - 6 2018
Date Released: February 19th 2018
Publisher: HarperCollinsAustralia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating:

Synopsis:
"Born out of wedlock, Brienna is cast off by her noble family and sent to Magnolia House - a boarding house for those looking to study the passions: art, music, dramatics, wit and knowledge. Brienna must discover her passion and train hard to perfect her skill, in the hope that she will one day graduate and be chosen by a wealthy patron, looking to support one of the `impassioned'. As Brienna gets closer to the eve of her graduation, she also grows closer to her smart (and handsome) tutor, Cartier. He can sense that she is hiding a secret, but Brienna chooses not to reveal that she is experiencing memories of her ancestors - memories uncovering the mysteries of the past that may have dangerous consequences in the present. A daring plot is brewing - to overthrow the usurper king and restore the rightful monarchy - and Brienna's memories hold the key to its success. Cartier desperately wants to help Brienna, but she must chose her friends wisely, keep her enemies close and trust no one if she is to save herself and her people."

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My goodness I haven’t read something this lovely in such a long time. If an author was to take a list that said “Jaz’s Checklist for Perfect Book”, this would’ve basically ticked all the boxes. I didn’t really have any idea what I was getting into reading this (didn’t even read the blurb) but your girl was SO pleased.

I loved Brienna’s character. She starts off as kind of average, not really excelling in any of the passions of art, music, dramatics or wit. She eventually settles on knowledge but she knows she’s got nothing on the other knowledge student. What I admired about her character was her dedication and diligence – hell she knows she’s lacking and makes up for it by studying endlessly and trying her hardest. I saw in her this drive to extend herself and when she found a purpose, a calling, she dedicated 110% to the cause. She’s loyal, committed and uses her brains to her advantage when she knows she lacks in swordsmanship.

There’s a whole cast of characters dedicated to the cause of overthrowing the tyrant king and I liked the way Ross showed different sides to the characters – the refined Valenians versus the Maevans who are skilled with swords. I admired Jourdain who accepted Brienna so quickly for his cause, it took a lot of trust on his part. My favourite was Yseult who’s very quick with her blade but also kind and had a just side to her. I really hope we get to see more of her in future books. The Queen’s Rising was really Brienna focused and didn’t have the other characters as fleshed out, which I’m sure means we’ll see more of them in the sequels!

The romance WOAH AM I HERE FOR THE ROMANCE. Like I said I hadn’t read the blurb (or properly looked at the cover) going into this (sometimes I like to live life on the edge and request books based on their titles LOL) so didn’t have a clue there was romance. BUT BOY WAS I ON BOARD THIS SHIP FROM THE GET GO. I’m getting all swoony and biting my lip just thinking about it. It’s hella slow burn… SLOW. And it’s worth every. Angsty. Agonising. Precious. Stolen. Moment. I love my men smart, gentle, slightly broody but caring and hella sweet. The kind who don’t try to hide their feelings but tell you straight out how they feel and my heart is pounding just thinking of Brienna and the love interest haaaaah. I’m rest assured by Ross that there is more of this person in book 2 and I AM EXCITE.

I thought the plot was very intriguing, starting with Brienna’s flashbacks, then the mystery unfolding and the whole plan coming together. I did have a few questions as there were things that happened that looked a teeny bit like possible plot holes. I overlooked these because the beginning of the book has a whole cast of characters that gives some things away so I may have gone off these assumptions? I don’t know. Either way, it was still very fun and I loved the adventure. There’s also a touch of magic with the promise of more. I’m not usually one for light magic but I’m here for the potential! Not gonna lie, some twists were predictable but I was having so much fun (AND MY SHIP) I was happy to be along for the ride.

I can’t get over Ross’s lovely writing. It’s the perfect balance of flowery and effortless so I just flew through the pages, every night going “one more chapter” and reading like 3 instead. I really liked the world she created too – the French-inspired Valenia was delicate and lush, whereas Irish-inspired Maevana was more wild in a highlands-calling-you kind of way that spoke of freedom and castles. I loved both and can’t wait to see more of Maevana in the next books.

I enjoyed The Queen’s Rising the further I read, to the point where I was smitten. I’m not going to even deny that it’s mainly because of the romance/ship because IT IS. Lovely writing, great ship, dedicated heroine, swoony love interest and an intriguing world set up for more – WHEN IS BOOK 2?