The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng | Review // Summing up how this book destroyed me!

Greetings readers!

This review has been sitting in my drafts for MONTHS and it is now finally getting its time to shine.

Let’s just say that I had so many things to say about this book, but I never could find the right way to say anything. Go figure. Nonetheless, I found myself wanted to express my thoughts and the time has come to share it with you all!

So bear with me as I chaotically tell you all about how AMAZING THIS BOOK IS and why you must read it!!

Many thanks to HBG Canada for providing me with a review copy!

The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng by K.S. Villoso

The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng (Chronicles of the Bitch Queen, #3)

Pub Date: May 4th, 2021
Publisher: Orbit Books

The stunning finale to the Chronicles of the Bitch Queen trilogy where the queen of a divided land must unite her people against the enemies who threaten to tear her country apart. K. S. Villoso is a “powerful new voice in fantasy.” (Kameron Hurley)

Queen Talyien is finally home, but dangers she never imagined await her in the shadowed halls of her father’s castle.

War is on the horizon. Her son has been stolen from her, her warlords despise her, and across the sea, a cursed prince threatens her nation with invasion in order to win her hand.

Worse yet, her father’s ancient secrets are dangerous enough to bring Jin Sayeng to ruin. Dark magic tears rifts in the sky, preparing to rain down madness, chaos, and the possibility of setting her nation aflame.

Bearing the brunt of the past and uncertain about her future, Talyien will need to decide between fleeing her shadows or embracing them before the whole world becomes an inferno.


THE REVELATIONS HAD ME FEELING SOME TYPE OF WAY

Scene Stealers: Charlie Day in Pacific Rim - One Room With A View

The first half of this book is just discovery after discovery. Revelation after revelation. I was so shook. Secrets from past books are no longer secret which means that all of Yeshin’s ploys he had set beyond the grave get uncovered. In a way we sort of get into his head and wow what a place to be. Honestly, it was a perfect way to plot an intense and incredibly suspenseful book! Trying to connect all the dots of every ploy and scheme in this book really had me feeling like this ^.

And the aftermath of all these revelations is bloody. Uncovering these secrets comes with hard decisions and sacrifice that honestly leaves the pages drenched in blood.

THESE INCREDIBLE CHARACTERS ARE THE HEART AND SOUL OF THIS SERIES.

Drunk Hot Mess GIF by Loryn Powell

If you like messy human beings, then you need to read this book.

Tali: I just *scrunches up face* I just love her. The messiest of all queens, she is simply a phenomenal character. In my review of book 2, I asked if Tali will ever see herself as more than Yeshin’s daughter and my oh my I got my answer. This entire book was here to give me an answer and WOW Tali’s reckoning with her identity, her reputation and her father’s ghost all came to push every one of Tali’s boundaries.

Khine: Literal messy perfection takes form in Khine Lamang. I said, what I said. I dubbed him my forever man. Forever haunted by the mistakes of his past. Forever dedicated to the people that he chooses to care for. And forever the most resourceful character in this book. A brilliant man, yes I love him.

Rai: So this book asked me to have a little empathy with Rai and ugh I think it worked!!! Don’t get me wrong I still detested this man for 85% of this book. He can be a real despicable mess BUT I must say there is an intense 15% where I feared for Rai and felt his every emotion. I can only attest this to the brilliant writer that is Villoso.

And I’m just going to say it – no character is unimportant in this book. Not even the ones you think are just passing by. Everyone had a role in this story, they all legitimately had a purpose and gosh darn it I was IMPRESSED.

And on that note I would just like to add that the stars of this show were WOMEN!

Image about quotes in Memes by 🌙zahra on We Heart It

Every woman in this story was simply iconic in their own unique way! Did I love them all? Absolutely not! But that’s not the point, is it? The point is that these women were chaos-makers, revenge-seekers, and power-wielders. They were ambitious and fiery and passionate. Don’t even get me started on the different tiers of mother-daughter relationships because I will literally turn into a MESS. To keep it simple: Keep an eye on all the ladies of this story. Whether you love them or hate them, they are the game changers in this book!

THE NARRATION WILL FOREVER BE THE MOST ICONIC ASPECT OF THIS BOOK SERIES

Sad Ded GIF

Tali writing down her own story will always put me in my feels. Finding out why she started writing and WHO pushed her to start writing will forever have me on the FLOOR IN TEARS. This novel reminds us that history books have a way of blurring what actually happened, of missing important details and of painting figures, especially women, in certain ways that give into misogynistic traditions. So taking it upon herself to write her story, to tell us about her life as she lived and experienced it will forever be the most iconic move she (really Villoso) made. I just loved it.

WE GOT MORE MAGIC AND DRAGONS AND GHOULISH CREATURES.

smaug the terrible GIF

If I thought book 2 was chock full of magical beings, this book upped the ante by like five levels! This final installment gets us closer to this mysterious agan that has been so far in the periphery of the story. With this third book, we get to dive deep into the lore of this magic and find out how it is connected to dragons, the land and the people. And you’d think that the looming threat of a magical bomb would lull people out of their political squabbles, but no. Of course not, *See “Messy characters”* But this squabbling just made the book all the more intense and stressful to read which is exactly what I wanted to feel. I mean it’s a political plot in combination with a magic doom, plus a mad prince wreaking havoc, a son in hostage, people trying to kill the main character on every page and the knocking consequences of a long deceased father’s decisions IT’S A LOT! And I love it.

LOVE. DUTY. SACRIFICE.

Sad Doctor Who GIF

Three words that make up three major themes of this book. There is no singular meaning to any of these words, each means something unique to different characters. You can find these themes so closely woven into every corner of the story as characters are tested to find out how far people are willing to go to gain power, save a nation, find a loved one and even obey a long dead war lord. Shooketh to my very core doesn’t even begin to cover the sheer brilliance of the story. And all of this magnificence comes from Villoso’s excellent writing. Icon moves only!

IN SUMMARY

I love this book. I love this series. The detail and the emotion Villoso put into creating this world and characters is wonderfully evocative and gut wrenching. I’m so glad that we are getting more books in this world and more work from Villoso!!

Rating: 5/5 stars! ALL THE STARS!

Recommend: HELLS TO THE YES!!


Let me know what you think! Have you read this series yet? (If no, go do that now!) Are you excited for more books set in this world? Have you ever been at a loss for words when writing a review for a book you love?

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

May-Read Reviews | Witches Steeped in Gold & Tokyo Ever After

Greetings readers!

Today I am coming at you with some reviews for some books that I read this past May!

Many thanks to the publishers for approving me for an e-ARC from Netgalley. (Yes, this is me finally posting reviews that have been sitting in my drafts for weeks!)

Witches Steeped in Gold (Witches Steeped in Gold, #1)

Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart

Pub Date: April 20th, 2021
Publisher: HarperTeen

I liked it but at the same time gosh this took a while to get through.

1. The world building was interesting, but there was so much to take in at the very beginning. The world and its conflict needed a lot of attention to know who was who and who hated who and who wanted revenge on whom. I also felt like there were lots of important aspects that were overlooked despite being quite pivotal to the plot, like The Yielding. I did not understand its purpose until about halfway through. It kept being mentioned, but we never really got to see it happen on page.

2. I really liked the characters. Usually when it comes to dual-POVs I have a favourite, but this time around I was pretty intrigued by both sides. Jazmyne the “meek ” and Iraya the “reckless” are really how I’d describe them. Other characters weren’t as fleshed out as I’d hoped and I was hoping for so much more from them. But then the ending came around and there was a complete 180 character change and I was seriously confused.

3. So this was a revenge story on multiple fronts and what can I say other than TRUST NO ONE. People were pulling alliances and betrayals left, right and center. It was good because it kept me engaged in trying to figure out who was on whose side…and what they were after.

4. I found the pacing off. It wasn’t smooth and there were some time jumps that skip over possibly exciting events which was disappointing. Instead we got a lot of repetitive secret meetings and talks. This is supposed to be a long book about witches! Give me more witchy action!

5. The magic system was cool but still needed more flesh to it too. Again it took me a while to understand how it works, and I still might be unclear about some stuff, but it does have potential. I like that it was forged from gold and how if created different power dynamics for different users. Very interesting.

6. Speaking of power, the politics were messyyy which is always my favourite thing. We have people seeking power, running from power, betraying power and its just a big mess. The race to become ruler is not simple. It crumbles relationships and leaves people in the dust (read sacrifices). And as I said this is a revenge story on many fronts and phew, ultimate power plays a big part in this. I liked that there is clear no good side or bad side. Each side has oppressed the other. Each has a hero that is villain to the other. And working together honestly seems like such a far fetch idea. I enjoyed the questions it made me ponder.

7. So it’s slow, lots of repetitive secret meetings and too many unknowns made the story drag in the beginning and middle. The third act though? Great. I wish we had gotten more of that. Things got 10x messier and I look forward to seeing what happens next.

8. The “romance” if you could call it that was not it for me. There were no interactions for the characters to truly find chemistry, they just started looking at each other at some point I guess. There are two potential romances…and well neither seem to be it for me. Who knows about later.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Recommend: Yes!


Tokyo Ever After (Tokyo Ever After, #1)

Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean

Pub Date: May 18, 2021
Publisher: Flaitron Books

This was so cute. Literal serotonin .

1. The characters were so much fun. Izumi is the living the actual fantasy of finding out you’re a princess and then dealing with the entire package. She was funny and cheeky. Her voice was simultaneously self-deprecating and very serious. And I loved Akio, serious grumps/poets are adorable.

2. The whole finding out you’re a princess plot was wonderful. Learning all the rules and then trying to meet these impossible standards is stressful and not easy. Plus being a woman means your every move is picked at! It was a strong message this book wanted to relay… although I do wish it had gone a little deeper into it.

3.Strong themes of identity and family. Izumi struggles with finding her balance as both Japanese and American. Especially growing up in a white neighbourhood with confederate and rainbow flags flying as the book says Izumi deals with many feelings of “unbelonging” that she has to work through. And then finding her place with her newfound family proves to be just as difficult. I loved exploring the relationship with her dad. They were so awkward together lol but I would have loved more moments between them.

4. The romance was sweet. A total modern princess and her guard trope?! Yes, give it to me and it GAVE. I like how Izumi acknowledges that she’s in her own enemies-to-lovers romance, but that she’s also such a romantic. I giggled every time she was like “he’s hot, but ughhh” or when she’d start fantasizing about him. That was fun. I would like to petition for a book about the mom and dad though. Thank you.

5. The whole book was evenly paced and there wasn’t too much action save for some hijinks Izumi gets into and the scandals that follow. It was pretty entertaining throughout and I wasn’t bored, but I felt like a little more drama was missing.

6. It is tagged as Princess Diaries meets Crazy Rich Asians and I think it delivers. Even without those comps, this book alone has much to say about identity, family, self-acceptance and love. They’re all messy and complicated. Even when perfection and answers are demanded, we might not have them all and that’s okay because as we grow and discover more about ourselves we learn to embrace our imperfections and unknown answers more. 

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Recommend: Yes!


And that’s it for me! Let me know what you think! Have you read either of these? What kind of fantasy and contemporary books have you been loving as of late?

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

Flamefall | Review // That moment when a book blows every single expectation away!

Greetings readers!

First of all, I know for a fact that not enough of you have read Fireborne by Rosaria Munda. And I’m going to need you to go do that…like now. Do that and come back for this because if you have any doubts that you should be reading this series, let me put those worries to rest!

Many thanks to Penguin Teen CA for providing me with an e-ARC!

Flamefall by Rosaria Munda

Flamefall (The Aurelian Cycle, #2)
via Goodreads

Pub Date: March 23rd, 2021
Publisher: Putnam

Revolutionary flames ignite around Annie, Lee, and a brand new POV character in the second book of the Fireborne trilogy.

After fleeing the revolution and settling into the craggy cliffs of New Pythos, the Dragonlords are eager to punish their usurpers–and reclaim their city. Their first order of business was destroying the Callipolan food supply. Now they’re coming for the Dragonriders.

Annie is Callipolis’s new Firstrider, and while her goal has always been to protect the people, being the government’s enforcer has turned her into public enemy number one.

Lee struggles to find his place after killing kin to prove himself to a leader who betrayed him. He can support Annie and the other Guardians . . . or join the radicals who look to topple the new regime.

Griff, a lowborn dragonrider who serves New Pythos, knows he has no future. And now that Julia, the Firstrider who had protected him, is dead, he is called on to sacrifice everything for the lords that oppress his people–or to forge a new path with the Callipolan Firstrider seeking his help.

With famine tearing Callipolis apart and the Pythians determined to take back what they lost, it will be up to Annie, Lee, and Griff to decide what to fight for–and who to love.


I just have to say…

I FUCKING KNEW IT. AHHHHHHHHHHHH I LOVE THIS BOOK.

Alright so these characters are so foolish, so hurt and so so so complex. And yes I love them all. Throughout the entire book I was simultaneously rooting for them but also screaming for them to get their acts together!!!

We start with my fave, Annie. Even though there were times when I wanted to shake her, she is brilliant. This book has her in the limelight where lots of voices, opinions and agendas are being pushed onto her and she is being picked at and judged with every word and turn of her head. Annie has so much responsibility thrust upon her and has to contend with people opposing her every move, confronting the big mistakes she makes and keeping her head up when her name is dragged through the mud. My baby goes through so much, but her strength and inner fire warmed my heart. She grieved, gave into her pettiness and got mad with herself and through it all I am a proud mama. And on a final note: Sweetie, thank you for not letting Power get in the way.

And now Lee. Babe, your grief, your sense of lostness and conflict between these two worlds was so compelling and frustrating to read about. Lee spent the entire book questioning where he belonged, who he was and to whom his allegiance lied. And these are not easy questions for him to answer. So obviously he screws up multiple times and pays the price for it, but watching him grow into himself and make some tough choices was *sobs* as I said very compelling.

Finally, the new guy, Griff. Sir, at first I was like “um okay you’re here I guess” and then I was like “AHH GRIFF, YOU’RE HERE! BABE!” so it is safe to say that I enjoyed his POV very much. I love that his personality really is “IDGAF, I am willing to risk it.” Griff’s story is one that pulled at the heart strings, made me rage on his behalf and sob at one point. He was brave and passionate and yearned for the freedom of his greatest loves. We stan.

Other characters…I can’t even say much because *spoilers* But I will say: Thank you, Crissa, for being the only character with reason and brain cells. To summarize, EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER HAD TO MADE TOUGH CHOICES. AND THEIR DECISIONS DO NOT ALIGN MOST OF THE TIME. This book is all about choices. More often than not, the ones where options are between evil and deplorable.

So the politics GOT EVEN MESSIER. So much stuff happens I can’t even explain it all. Clashes between classists and revolutionists. The exhausting plight of sexism and how women are painted as villains and promiscuous snakes for the sake of preserving the image of golden boys. And to top it off, the horrors of colonialism and conquest are central to the politics in New Pythos. When I say so much goes on…I mean it. SO MUCH GOES ON.

So this world brilliant. I love that we got to go beyond Calliopolis and into New Pythos. I loved that these places were so distant yet closely tied to one another I also loved that we got to see more kinds of dragons spring up and up the ante for our dragonriders. And my oh my, even though this book didn’t have a competition to keep dragons in this story, the beasts played an even more important role this time around. Their presence was so central to the story, to the history of violence and the freedom/victory so many of these characters desire.

This book was hella stressful and I am telling you there was NEVER A DULL MOMENT! Annie, Lee and Griff get caught up in so many plots, get caught up in who others say they should be, get caught up in their own emotions and consequently find themselves in lots of traps that they then have to get themselves out of! The twists and turns kept me entertained from the beginning to the very end. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

This book is wrought with emotion. So much grief and exhaustion. So much rage. Despite having been entrusted with leading a future, these characters are constantly being restrained by the adults who have wreaked havoc before them. The emotions that bubble up from memory of what happened in the past make each character so human. Real, raw and flawed. And it is these emotions that unifies the characters under a banner of hope that change is possible and I cry. (Did these last two sentences even make sense, I—)

We’re gonna talk a bit about romance because I AM SO SOFT! Lee x Annie is The Ship. I love them so much and omgggg let me tell you their relationship is complicated AF. There is so much baggage!!! And then we add Griff x Delo to the mix who are also complicated AF and bring even more baggage to this boat, but they are so so sweet and !!! I mean I live for this drama and all these ship moments together!!! And it all boils down to THE YEARNING! Both ships are all about agnst and pining and it is sweet, sweet torture. *chef’s kiss*

THE ENDING. Munda really said I’m giving you all a final page twist and she did. She really did. I GUESSED IT, DOUBTED MYSELF, AND THEN WAS GOBSMACKED IN THE END REGARDLESS. The wait for book 3 is torture .


Overall, I love this book. Even better than book 1. Simply brilliant.

Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Recommend: YES!

Let me know what you think! Have you read this yet? What are your favourite yearning ships? Have you ever rooted for characters that are on two different sides of a conflict?

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

The Light of the Midnight Stars | Review // A gorgeous fairy tale read! *Updated*

Greetings readers!

Update May 8th, 2021: It has come to my attention that author Rena Rossner, has been silent in light of the oppression Palestinians are facing at the hands of the Israeli state sanctioned violence. There are also several tweets in which the author misrepresents the relationships between Israelis and Palestinians for a manuscript wish list during heightened times of violence. I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t do thorough research beforehand and apologize for my ignorance when I initially published this review. What is going on is an extreme violation of human rights, and for this author to live in the same place where this is happening and stay silent about it is appalling.

I encourage you to learn more about what is happening in Palestine and support the Palestinian community in any means you can. For resources to educate yourself please visit @theimeu and Free Palestine Carrd, to donate please refer to this thread of organizations.

I will leave my review for accountability purposes, but moving forward I will not be further endorsing this book/author.


Have you ever experienced a reading moment where you read an author’s debut book and you love it so much that you HAVE to read everything else that they put out? Yes.

Well that is exactly what happened with me and Rena Rossner. After falling in love with The Sisters of the Winter Wood, I was so excited to find out she was releasing another historical fantasy book based in Jewish folklore!

May is Jewish Heritage Month and Rena’s books are definitely deserving of your attention!

Many thanks to HBG Canada for providing me with an ARC!

The Light of the Midnight Stars by Rena Rossner

The Light of the Midnight Stars

Pub Date: April 13th, 2021
Publisher: Redhook

An evocative combination of fantasy, history, and Jewish folklore, The Light of the Midnight Stars is fairytale-inspired novel from the author of The Sisters of the Winter Wood.

Deep in the Hungarian woods, the sacred magic of King Solomon lives on in his descendants. Gathering under the midnight stars, they pray, sing and perform small miracles – and none are more gifted than the great Rabbi Isaac and his three daughters. Each one is blessed with a unique talent – whether it be coaxing plants to grow, or predicting the future by reading the path of the stars.

When a fateful decision to help an outsider ends in an accusation of witchcraft, fire blazes through their village. Rabbi Isaac and his family are forced to flee, to abandon their magic and settle into a new way of life. But a dark fog is making its way across Europe and will, in the end, reach even those who thought they could run from it. Each of the sisters will have to make a choice – and change the future of their family forever.


The Likes…

I was promised a fairy tale like feel and I got exactly that. This book was incredibly magical in that atmospheric way where every turn of page just ups the enchantment! But like any good fairy tale it was both warm and enticing but dark and dangerous in the corners. I really enjoyed how the historical setting and mythology worked together to create this beautiful story about family and faith.

As for the characters, I am always a sucker for a trio of sisters! Woohoo! And I am glad to report that I liked these sisters very much! Obviously I attached myself to the youngest (how could I not) but all in all I really enjoyed how sisterhood was portrayed in this book. It is not always sunshine and rainbows. There are some bumpy roads and distances to bridge even between the closest of sisters. I liked that they each had a distinct personality, a distinct voice and individual story line that still blended so well with the others. I was a little wary about how young they were, but I had to constantly remind myself that the time period this book was set in had young girls living very different experiences.

The story itself was nicely done. The first half is very different from the second half for *reasons* and I just really liked seeing how the events changed these characters! There were so many instances where the themes of love and grief were intertwined. Finding love after a first is so hard and letting it go is even harder. The plot is really multiple stories in one, or rather one story that then splits off into different directions but collectively united under the threat of this looming darkness that they must face off together. There was lots of intensity and some mystery to be had and for history-lovers they might find something extra fun to love by connecting this book to reality!

I could tell Rena did her research even before I read the author’s note. There is so much history, folklore and tradition in this book to take in. This combination really sets the tone for this book as wonder. There is a lot to be said about the Jewish way of life in this time period which anchors the story in a distinct tradition and experience. There are so many journeys and hardships that this family endures throughout the book, but it does have that touch of wonder woven throughout. It’s a dark fairy tale no doubt, but there is a light up ahead that you chase as you read on and it is quite intriguing!

I’m so happy Rena included poetry that was reminiscent her storytelling in Sisters and ahhh it just made reading so much more exciting and suspenseful! This book in general is gorgeously written and phrased. It is very image-provoking and full of symbolism that I think was perfectly evoked on the cover! There is an elegance to it that weaves in history, magic and languages! I am someone who loves a good glossary so I was living for this (again!)

And here we find some questionable items…

Okay, I liked the emphasis of storytelling. There is something very meta in finding stories told with stories told with stories. There is a depth in this form of narrative. But damn the stories within the story in this book were very elaborate and stylized, and if I am being honest I am pretty sure some metaphors just went way over my head. I would get stuck trying to figure out what was the point about this story since I could figure others out with not much trouble. It was beautiful yes, but sometimes a little distracting.

And while I liked the diverging storylines, sometimes I had trouble wrapping my head around things. This reading definitely requires lots of focus to be able to keep track of who is who, who is doing what and why and where in the world it is taking place.

So why don’t I love this book as much as I loved Sisters? I think it boils down to the fact that I wanted a more exciting confrontation between the sisters and the Black mist. To be honest, the ending left me hanging. I had so much anticipation, but no closure really. Like there is more to tell, more I want to know. It ended very abruptly and quietly. And it is very much possible that this was the intention of the novel. Has this darkness truly been defeated? No. (It’s a metaphor for anti-Semitism so I believe that this unfinished feeling I feel is what I am supposed to be feeling) It was nonetheless a very subdued ending. There was lots of build up and tiny sparks, but no burning in the end.

Also there was a death that hmm did not sit well with me, but who am I to say whether a death is merited or not?


Overall this book is gorgeously written, filled with stunning imagery and wordplay that brings forth an elaborate and intricately woven tale of sisterhood, grief and destiny. While it could get a little convoluted at times, these characters and their hopes, dreams and fears will keep you hooked no matter what!

Rating: 3.75/5 Stars

Recommend?: Yes! We all need some elaborate dark fairy tales to fill our days!

Let me know what you think! Have you read this? Are you looking forward to reading it? What are some of your favourite fairy tales, dark or otherwise?

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

The Ikessar Falcon | Review // Literally here without an eloquent thought in my head, I’m just screaming! + My Fan Art

Greetings readers!

Here I am with another attempt at trying to explain how much I absolutely adored a book! This was my first read novel of the new year and AH it delivered. It delivered so hard my friends!

I can only hope my words make enough sense to tell you how much this book ROCKED MY FRICKIN WORLD.

If you haven’t read book one, I highly recommend dropping by my review of The Wolf of Oren-Yaro and as always beware of spoilers below!

The Ikessar Falcon by K.S. Villoso

The Ikessar Falcon (Chronicles of the Bitch Queen, #2)

Pub Date: Sept 22nd, 2020
Publisher: Orbit

The stunning sequel to The Wolf of Oren-yaro where the queen of a divided land struggles to unite her people. Even if they despise her. K. S. Villoso is a “powerful new voice in fantasy.” (Kameron Hurley)

The spiral to madness begins with a single push. Abandoned by her people, Queen Talyien’s quest takes a turn for the worst as she stumbles upon a plot deeper and more sinister than she could have ever imagined, one that will displace her king and see her son dead. The road home beckons, strewn with a tangled web of deceit and impossible horrors that unearth the nation’s true troubles – creatures from the dark, mad dragons, and men with hearts hungry for power. To save her land, Talyien must confront the myth others have built around her: Warlord Yeshin’s daughter, symbol of peace, warrior and queen, and everything she could never be. The price of failure is steep. Her friends are few. And a nation carved by a murderer can only be destined for war.


*Thank you HBG Canada for the review copy!*

I LOVED EVERYTHING.

Villoso really knows how to write messy humans. And make it a good time. For me, that is. A good time for me.

Tali – I bow to the queen, but this does not mean that the queen makes good decisions. I love Tali with all my heart. I love that she is fighting twice as hard to find that peace she still thinks she can achieve. But I also see her flaws. She does wear her heart on her sleeve and it is constantly getting her into trouble. She may be ruler but she is still quite naive. She’s a queen, but her status as mother takes over in this book and I really liked this angle. Why wouldn’t a mother fight tooth and nail for her son she loves? But even in that fight there is some naivety. Tali is messy and makes mistakes which in my opinion makes her an INCREDIBLE CHARACTER. It means that she has room to grow, to change, to mess up again and repeat the process! I think a lot of reader’s will be put off by some of the choices she makes (I was too) but, nonetheless, her desire to see things through makes me admire her all the more! And I can’t wait to see if she will ever consider herself more than Yeshin’s daughter? Will she break free of this dead man’s grip? I don’t know, I’m excited to find out.

Queen GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY
via giphy.com

Khine – Sweetie, you are doing amazing. My heart aches for one man in this series and it is KHINE LAMANG. He is resourceful, he knows how to make a plan, he has medical experience, he can make a friend out of an enemy, he will tell you as it is, HE IS SIMPLY THE BEST. he was thrown into this political, violent mess and he endures time after time. We love to see it. BUT WE ARE ALSO VERY AFRAID FOR HIS WELL-BEING. OMG but seriously the best character in this series. It goes Khine then Tali. Khine is #1! Never forget.

Keeping Up With The Kardashians Youre Doing Amazing Sweetie GIF by  PeacockTV - Find & Share on GIPHY
via giphy.com

Agos – I don’t know. I sat there after closing the book (whilst reeling) trying to understand my emotions towards this character and all I can is that they are quite complex and not at the same time. Agos is far more fleshed out and present in this book than in the first one. We see first hand how far he goes for Tali and how much his position as her servant, her guard, makes him both a man with less power and yet one who still feels himself entitled to some anyways. Not sure that makes sense, I’m still working him out. There is this reoccurring imagery of Agos as Tali’s dog, obedient to her every beck and call. But can there also be a point where the dog overpowers the chain and drags the master? *shrugs suggestively* This is not say Agos is some poor chap caught up in this mess like Khine. No, no, no, Agos is a hypocrite, overbearing and possessive which is why I can’t say I like him very much even though he spat some truths here and there.

Rayyel – I definitely see how we were supposed to empathize with this man, but the note I wrote to myself in the middle of the night right after closing the book is this: “Rayyel – useless ass mofo. I still hate you.” Which is a little unfair because he isn’t totally useless and again I’m coming from a very biased POV. He is 100% still a bitch (not the cool kind) and yeah I don’t like him, but I can’t deny he isn’t as conniving as I once thought.

So this a chunky book because we go exploring friends. WHO DOESN’T LOVE A GOOD QUEST NARRATIVE?! Thank goodness for the map because I loved tracking where our characters travelled too! I loved that we got to explore Jin-Sayeng in much more depth. I loved that we got to see the differences between the east and west! But buckle buds, because it is a long and winding road we travel!

Adventure Going GIF
via giphy.com

This book is all about the political intrigue! It’s about the divide of a nation no longer split in two, but in absolute shambles. I love that Villoso wove in so many opposing views and voices within a single part of the nation to emphasize just how shattered ties between countrymen are. I also loved that we got to break down the class system! I loved how privilege and poverty, power and oppression were dissected within the characters from their blood down to the very structure of their names! Who gets caught in the cross-hairs of warring aristocrats? How much power is held within a name and title? Can one life replace another? These are the questions that seep through the story, the haunting words that follow Tali as she comes to terms with her own privilege and persecution.

Fantasy elements? You name it, this book has it. Assassins, zombie-like things, DRAGONS, DRAGON FIGHTS, creatures of the dark, gore, blood blood blood. And this only adds to THE INTENSITY OF THIS NOVEL. People this book is so INTENSE. There was literally no break. Twist after twist. Turn after turn. THE BETRAYALS. I, for one, LOVED IT. I loved that I couldn’t catch my breath, I was so invested in this story, so eager to find out what happened next! It’s a suffering fest and I loved it.

once upon a time dragon GIF by HULU
via giphy.com

I can’t even talk about the romance plot because it is so much more complex than I could ever put into proper words that make sense without spoiling anything. On the one hand, it is an element of the story that has sparked so much of the fire that is going on in this story and on the other hand it can be so insignificant because of the even bigger, hotter fires burning around the characters! It is truly just a wonderful level of complex drama that I lived for while reading. So, so much tea was spilled.

The best, absolute best, element of this series is the narration style. I love that future Tali is telling us this story. I love that she is talking to us, the readers. Feeding us her version of the events of her life and nation. Telling us what happens…and holding back on certain details, perhaps? It was subtle in book one, but this book really plays with this idea of what Tali is telling us and what actually happens to her, what she thought then and what she thinks now. I try so hard to read between the lines and I am sad to say I have not yet found the HEA I am looking for *sobs*

So the ending, specifically the last 20 pages, HAD ME ON THE FLOOR. I saw things coming and yet…I ABSOLUTELY DID NOT SEE THOSE THINGS COMING! It was a whirlwind of emotions at the end. So many things go down…and not very happy things *sobs some more* But gosh Villoso really pushed in the knife sheath-deep with this end. The blade had been hovering over me the entire time, inching in little by little, but these last pages were the final painful stab.

Tired King Of Queens GIF by TV Land
via giphy.com

I loved it.

People will critique the book for being too long, but it was such an adventure. You have to accept it and bask in its length.

Final words: K.S. Villoso has brought down the hammer with another incredible installment of this epic fantasy series! If you want to dive into a captivating world of shady politics, fiery dragons, raw, messy characters and tantalizing revelations, then this pulse-pounding page-turner is for YOU. I cannot wait for book 3, we are in for so much trouble!!!!!!!

Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

Recommend: YES. You all need to get on this series LIKE NOW!


My Fan Art

To commemorate my love for the series, I made a painting of one of my favourite scenes from book 1! If you guys want to find out why Tali is looking fierce in the rain, I suggest you read the books!

Let me know what you think! What fantasy series are you loving these days? Any recommendations for dragon-y stories? Do you have this sequel on your TBR?

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

Get to Know the Fantasy Reader Tag

Greetings readers!

As you all know fantasy is my genre! If I had to pick one genre of books to read for the rest of my days, we all know it would be fantasy no question about it! So when I found this tag on Angele @ A Dominique Reads‘s blog, I knew I really wanted to give my shot at it! The fantasy version of this tag was created by  The Book Pusher.


WHAT IS YOUR FANTASY ORIGIN STORY? (First fantasy novel you read)

I think the first fantasy novel I ever read was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Okay, it was read to me in the sixth grade and I had already been OBSESSED with the movie since the tender age of six…but still it definitely was the first fantasy story in my life.

IF YOU COULD BE THE HERO/HEROINE IN A FANTASY NOVEL, WHO WOULD WRITE IT, AND WHAT IS ONE TROPE YOU WOULD INSIST ON BEING IN THE STORY?

Oh my…such hard decisions! Well if we’re going for a magical and mythical fantasy I want Silvia Moreno-Garcia to write me as a heroine with rivals to lovers THAT STAY TOGETHER. I just gotta make that note because SMG does have a track record here and there *eyes two of her novels*

Silvia Moreno-Garcia

WHAT IS A FANTASY YOU’VE READ THIS YEAR THAT YOU WANT MORE PEOPLE TO READ?

The Ikessar Falcon by K.S. Villoso! Well, first you would have to read The Wolf of Oren-Yaro…so maybe it would be more relevant to say that I want you all to read The Chronicles of a Bitch Queen! It is a high stakes, character driven epic fantasy set in a world that draws from the author’s Filipino heritage. It is an absolutely brilliant series that I recommend to all fantasy readers!

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FANTASY SUBGENRE? WHAT SUBGENRE HAVE YOU NOT READ MUCH FROM?

Favourite subgenre is definitely Portal Fantasy! (Hello Narnia obsession) Any and all books that deal with travelling to a different world instantly grabs at my attention. And even though I haven’t read many (I know, I know) it is a subgenre I absolutely love.

A subgenre I have not read much from is Urban Fantasy. There are lots of UF books out there but there is just something that gives me a pause before I pick them up. I want to give them a better shot, so if you have any recommendations I am all ears!

WHO IS ONE OF YOUR AUTO-BUY FANTASY AUTHORS?

Sabaa Tahir. K.S. Villoso. Leigh Bardugo. Marie Lu.

Ahh and I’m hoping to lengthen the list with time. I definitely want to add more BIPOC to the list!

HOW DO YOU TYPICALLY FIND FANTASY RECOMMENDATIONS? (Goodreads, YouTube, Podcasts, Instagram, etc.)

I think mainly Instagram! People just have a way of selling books to me with gorgeous pictures and fun captions. I have gotten so many amazing recommendations from my bookstagrammer friends! I also look through the weekly publishing announcements to find out what books I can look forward to!

WHAT IS AN UPCOMING FANTASY RELEASE YOU’RE EXCITED FOR?

Oh so, so many!

Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart
The Light of the Midnight Stars by Rena Rossner
The Dragon of Jin Sayeng by K.S. Villoso
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri 

Witches Steeped in Gold (Witches Steeped in Gold, #1)
The Light of the Midnight Stars
The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng (Chronicles of the Bitch Queen, #3)
The Jasmine Throne (Burning Kingdoms, #1)

WHAT IS ONE MISCONCEPTION ABOUT FANTASY YOU WOULD LIKE TO LAY AT REST?

“Fantasy books are all always way too long and complex.”

There are a lot of long and complex fantasy novels. There are some series that just go on and the worlds get more convoluted as you go. There are some books that are chunky and thick that intimidate even me! Can’t deny that, BUT fantasy books come in all shapes and sizes! Using the excuse that they are all long and complex makes you miss out on all the short and concise fantasy books there are to enjoy! Need some recommendations? Here you go:

*These are all less than 400 pages*

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (standalone)
The Young Elites by Marie Lu (trilogy)
The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi (standalone w/ companion sequel)
Raybearer by Jordan Ifeuko (duology)

Gods of Jade and Shadow
The Young Elites (The Young Elites, #1)
The Star-Touched Queen (The Star-Touched Queen, #1)
Raybearer (Raybearer, #1)

 IF SOMEONE HAD NEVER READ A FANTASY BEFORE AND ASKED YOU TO RECOMMEND THE FIRST 3 BOOKS THAT COME TO MIND AS PLACES TO STARTWHAT WOULD THOSE RECOMMENDATIONS BE?

Ahhh the pressure is on! Okay top 3…here we go!

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown


I’m tagging ANYONE who wants to give this tag a shot!

Ahhh this whole tag has only made me want to drop everything and go read a fantasy novel! I don’t even know which one! But I just want the magic and tension and high stakes of a good book to immerse myself in!

Let me know you think! What kind of fantasy reader do you consider yourself? What is your ultimate favourite fantasy book? What fantasy worlds/stories would you love to visit yourself?

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

A Sky Beyond the Storm | Review // I will NEVER recover from this book, and that’s okay with me

Greetings readers!

How do you write a review for the single, most anticipated read of the past year? How do you write a review for a book you’ve been waiting ages for? How do write a review for a finale of a series so near and dear to the heart? How?

It is simply impossible.

But the Commandant beat that word out of my vocabulary.

Or rather Sabaa Tahir wrenched it from my mouth.

So here goes my attempt to describe my love for a series literally EVERYONE needs to read.

Beware of spoilers for books 1-3.

A Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir

A ​Sky Beyond the Storm (An Ember in the Ashes, #4)

Pub Date: Dec 2nd, 2020
Publisher: Razorbill

Prepare for the jaw-dropping finale of Sabaa Tahir’s beloved New York Times bestselling An Ember in the Ashes fantasy series, and discover: Who will survive the storm?

Picking up just a few months after A Reaper at the Gates left off…

The long-imprisoned jinn are on the attack, wreaking bloody havoc in villages and cities alike. But for the Nightbringer, vengeance on his human foes is just the beginning.

At his side, Commandant Keris Veturia declares herself Empress, and calls for the heads of any and all who defy her rule. At the top of the list? The Blood Shrike and her remaining family.

Laia of Serra, now allied with the Blood Shrike, struggles to recover from the loss of the two people most important to her. Determined to stop the approaching apocalypse, she throws herself into the destruction of the Nightbringer. In the process, she awakens an ancient power that could lead her to victory–or to an unimaginable doom.

And deep in the Waiting Place, the Soul Catcher seeks only to forget the life–and love–he left behind. Yet doing so means ignoring the trail of murder left by the Nightbringer and his jinn. To uphold his oath and protect the human world from the supernatural, the Soul Catcher must look beyond the borders of his own land. He must take on a mission that could save–or destroy–all that he knows.


This book took my breath away.

Plain and simple.

First of all, we have to talk about the characters because the characters are what make this series so amazing.

Laia will forever be my queen. You can all complain about the amount of wrong decisions she makes all you want, it will go in through on ear and out the other for me because in this house Laia of Serra is perfection. We root for the fact that she never stops fighting, that she fights for her people, her family, her love (hello Elaia rights) and herself. She fights with her compassion and her sense of justice. Yes, she gets things wrong and she makes mistakes along the way, but when you have everything to lose, you never stop fighting. And geez Laia has just grown so much over the series, she has struggled with her past decisions, they haunt her and continue to haunt her, but the love that she gives is enough to push her, to keep going no matter what and I’m literally here sobbing.

Elias Veturius will forever be my book husband. Considering how Reaper ended, his chapters continuously TORE OUT MY HEART!

tired al pacino GIF

Fighting the magic that has taken over his consciousness takes a toll on him and I loved the exploration of humanity when it came to his arc. Reading about Elias’ fighting to regain the one thing he promised himself he would never give up brought me to tears so many times! And the things my poor baby goes through in this book!!! The pain and suffering he endures because of the deals he’s made to save those he cares for the most even if he cannot remember them! His white knight complex is next level and that really bothers Mauth XD. Learning to let go of that responsibility and shame he feels, learning to fight the magic that tells him to forget, figuring out how to keep the world from collapsing…it’s a lot. (Understatement of the century) And *tears up* my husband takes it all on because he is just that amazing.

Helene will forever be a roller coaster character. Helene suffers in this one. I mean they all suffered, but she dang she goes through a lot. (Another understatement) While trying to protect her nephew, managing a divided empire, fighting a magical demon and his Commandant-shaped henchperson…she deals with A LOT. But you know what? More than anything, I am thankful for the epiphany she finally has! And yes I’m talking about her finally recognizing the atrocities of the empire she holds in such high regard. In the end she needed it to move forward, for her people to have a future she needed to recognize the humanity in all the people the empire has trampled in its path. Does she still have a lot to learn and a lot to change? Oh YEAH, but getting to the start is an important step.

I also have to note how much I loved the friendship between Laia and Helene. Especially after two books of them hating each other, their easy friendship was so heartwarming!

flattered brittany murphy GIF

Other characters…I would die for Musa of Adisa. I WOULD DIE FOR HIM. I would literally lay my life down for him. (We get it, Rendz.) Yes. We love a sassy, snarky and ship-supporting beekeeper. We love a magician with secrets! And we love that he puts people in his place when he needs to! But oh my poor baby suffers. Darin, my sweet summer child. He is the kind of brother I would want. As he fights the dark memories from Kauf, he does his best to fight for Laia, to keep his family united! He is a star! Avitas Harper, sir you deserve the world. Harper, in his quiet and background way always makes himself known and we stan him so hard. I would really love to know more about his backstory.

The Commandant can choke, as usual. The Nightbringer can also choke. But dang I gotta say I love how Sabaa plotted out this villain/antagonist script in the end. I loved the grayness that she poured into the story. Don’t get me wrong, these two needed to be defeated, but I liked the twistiness that prompted their motivations. No tragic past can ever truly justify the evil they unleashed on the world, but dang I have to say I was impressed. I also like how Sabaa showed how none of the groups were 100% *good* or 100% *bad*. Like the Scholars were terrible to the Jinn, the Martials were terrible to everybody, the Jinn also terrible to everyone, the Marinn were kind of snobby, but there was still some goodness in the individuals of these groups. Enough goodness to rock the lines of divide…which I guess is the point of the series!

Now let’s talk ships because I am here for the ships. But of course I won’t be spoiling anything so all I have to say about the romance in this book is that.
It was torturous.
It was constant pining.
It was hot hot hot.
It was heart-SMASHING.
It was MIND BLOWING.

Tim And Eric Omg GIF

Okay so plot wise, things are intense. Just thinking about all the places and people we visit in order to fight this evil. Personally, I loved it. I wanted to savour this world and ending so I was happy that we got to travel and have so many intense mini battles before the big showdown. That being said, it is a slow read. With continuous POV switches and a million things to fix this story is one you have to allow yourself to simmer in. Because before you know it, you are in a pot of boiling water.

AND I MEAN IT. THE WATER IS BOILING.

THE LAST 70ISH PAGES LITERALLY SHATTERED BY HEART INTO A MILLION PIECES.

I’m telling you I sobbed. SOBBED.

I was sitting in my room at 1:30 a.m. in a boogery-teary state. So so much goes on in these final chapters. I was SCREAMING AT LITERALLY EVERYTHING! Sabaa promised a jaw-dropping ending and she delivered! She 100000% CRUSHED MY HEART IN A MATTER OF PAGES.

SABAA DID NOT HOLD BACK IN BRINGING ON THE EMOTIONAL PAIN. 

What can I say…but be prepared to not be ready. Be prepared to not be ready about what goes down, who shows up, what goes wrong, what goes right. I sure as heck was not prepared for a single thing that happened. These 70 pages were the most intense, the most scary, the most hopeful and the most painful pages I have ever read.

And people, be ready to cry because you are not prepared for the character deaths. You are not prepared. I was on the floor. I was on the fucking floor crying my eyes out. I sobbed for three days straight after putting down this book and a lot of it has to do with the characters deaths: Both who dies and how. I just..I’m sitting here getting emotional again.

And then we up the ante with CHARACTER REVELATIONS THAT JUST AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH I DID NOT SEE THESE COMING AND I WAS ONCE AGAIN ON THE FLOOR ABSOLUTELY GOBSMACKED. GOBSMACKED BY MY EMOTIONS.

So yeah these last 70ish pages.

Also the section titles: Iconic.

And finally the ending: When I tell you that I was in my feels. I WAS IN MY FEELS.


And we have made it to the end. How are we doing? Because I just relived every emotion I went through while reading this book and to be honest I want to do it again. My heart will never heal. I literally am never going to get over this series and that is exactly how I like it.

I asked for this, friends. I asked to be emotionally wrecked by this finale and when I tell you it delivered, it DELIVERED.

Sabaa is a master storyteller. She is going down in my books as one of my favourite authors ever. She deserves your love and attention!!!

Rating: ALL THE STARS!

Recommend: HELL YES. GET ON THIS SERIES PEEPS!

Let me know what you think? Have you read this series? Were you also emotionally destroyed? If you could pick an Ember character to get more story from, who would you pick?

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

The Faithless Hawk | Review // A Series I Will Never Forget

Greetings readers!

Never have I had a book series so intimately connected to my life. And I’m not even talking emotionally. I’m talking about major life connections.

When I read The Merciful Crow, I was healing from having my wisdom teeth removed only to crack open a book where magic is found in pulled teeth!!! People!! Are you listening to me!

Then this year, I picked up The Faithless Crow only to immerse myself in a world where there is a plague and people need to practice proper hygiene and quarantine themselves. PEOPLE, ARE YOU SEEING WHAT I AM SAYING.

I will never forget these books! XD

Lucky for me, I enjoyed them very much! And this sequel was quite epic!

*Many thank to Raincoast Books for the ARC*

The Faithless Crow by Margaret Owen

The Faithless Hawk (The Merciful Crow, #2)

Pub Date: Aug 18th, 2020
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co
Goodreads

Kings become outcasts and lovers become foes in the thrilling sequel to Margaret Owen’s The Merciful Crow.

As the new chieftain of the Crows, Fie knows better than to expect a royal to keep his word. Still she’s hopeful that Prince Jasimir will fulfill his oath to protect her fellow Crows. But then black smoke fills the sky, signaling the death of King Surimir and the beginning of Queen Rhusana’s merciless bid for the throne.

With the witch queen using the deadly plague to unite the nation of Sabor against Crows—and add numbers to her monstrous army—Fie and her band are forced to go into hiding, leaving the country to be ravaged by the plague. However, they’re all running out of time before the Crows starve in exile and Sabor is lost forever.

A desperate Fie calls on old allies to help take Rhusana down from within her own walls. But inside the royal palace, the only difference between a conqueror and a thief is an army. To survive, Fie must unravel not only Rhusana’s plot, but ancient secrets of the Crows—secrets that could save her people, or set the world ablaze.


The Likes

Fie is still the raddest of all characters! She is a ferocious girl with a soft side and we love to see it. Her loyalty to her band and the people she loves most in the world is incredible! She doesn’t always think every plan through and sometimes her bite gets the better of her, but I really enjoyed her character. She is someone I would definitely want to be friends with!

Jas…you know for disliking him so much in the first book, I loved him during every second of this book. You can see how much he has developed since the first chapter in book one! If you ever feel like you can’t unlearn the hatred/biases you’ve been taught, his character is proof that it is possible. It’s not easy to do, but it is doable and necessary!

Tav…OMG. I shouldn’t say much because of spoilers, but you know what we go through a boat load of emotions. I mean it’s not really a spoiler, but the book is called what it is called for a reason! I really can’t talk about him, any words I can think of typing come out spoilery. He’s just someone to look out for.

Other characters…we have your iconic evil queen, Rhusana, who is *roars* just awful. Then there is Khoda who is a new and pleasantly wonderful character. He is a bit uptight, but him hanging around with these chaotic kids made things all the more fun.

The world is still quite fascinating. The caste system and the societal divide and classification was so interesting and scary to read about. But I loved that we dove deeper into what the Covenant was, how these different castes were connected, learning about their vulnerabilities and dependencies. The rich history that Owen endows us with may seem confusing at first but boy oh boy do we get some answers!

The Magic! It is still in the teeth! This is still one of the most unique sources of power that I have read in a book! I want to explore this system even more! I loved that everyone had a sense of magic and I also liked that we got to explore the repercussions of power imbalances.

The plot was very a deep dive into the questions from book one. This time we dive deeper into the persecution of the Crow Caste. We dive deeper into the magical history that governs the relationships between castes. Unlike book one where we had a lot of reflection through walking, in this book we are dumped right into the belly of the beast as Fie and her new crew pull off a heist of sorts within the palace walls. There were disguises, scheming and revelations galore!

The romance was *incoherent screeching noises* I really cannot talk about this without getting spoilery. BUT I must say that relationships play a huge part of Fie’s journey. The question of how far you’re willing to go for love and how far is too far are huge hurdles for many characters!

This is a slow-burn again and you really have to be patient and immerse yourself into the lives of these characters, but it is so worth it. The twists just keep coming and when things go wrong they go wrong and then finally things get WILD in the end. I really really really liked those final few chapters. They were INTENSE and all that build up throughout the beginning of the book really came crashing down.


Overall, I really enjoyed this conclusion. I feel like this was a perfect ending, although I wouldn’t mind having one more book just to get some more tooth magic! This is a great slow-burn that leads to an explosive ending. The characters that endeared themselves to me in book one got even better in this book! If you are looking for an intriguing and new magic system and mythology, a cast of colourful characters, cats and great twists, I highly highly recommend this series!

Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

Recommend: Yes! Duology lovers will definitely want to check this out!

Let me know what you think! Have you read this series? Which character is your favourite? What is your favourite kind of magic system?

*Please Share and/or Donate = Link to a master list of how you can help/educate yourself on Black Lives Matter and other humanitarian movements across the globe*

Happy reading!
~ Rendz

The Barren Grounds | Review // Living my best life reading portal fantasy!

Greetings readers!

I don’t ask for much in life, but I do ask for all the portal fantasies to make their way to me. It’s a love that stems from my younger days watching and reading about Narnia and wanting so desperately just to go somewhere else. I think that desire is what really got me into reading and engaging in that whole escapism complex.

But enough about me, I’m here today to scream about this incredible book. It promised me delight and gave me much delight! So Happy Book Birthday to The Barren Grounds by David A. Robertson!

*Many thanks to PRHC for the review copy!*

The Barren Grounds by David A. Robertson

The Barren Grounds
via Goodreads

Pub Date: Sept 8th, 2020
Publisher: Puffin Canada
Goodreads

Narnia meets traditional Indigenous stories of the sky and constellations in an epic middle grade fantasy series from award-winning author David Robertson.

Morgan and Eli, two Indigenous children forced away from their families and communities, are brought together in a foster home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They each feel disconnected, from their culture and each other, and struggle to fit in at school and at their new home — until they find a secret place, walled off in an unfinished attic bedroom. A portal opens to another reality, AskĂ­, bringing them onto frozen, barren grounds, where they meet Ochek (Fisher). The only hunter supporting his starving community, Misewa, Ochek welcomes the human children, teaching them traditional ways to survive. But as the need for food becomes desperate, they embark on a dangerous mission. Accompanied by Arik, a sassy Squirrel they catch stealing from the trapline, they try to save Misewa before the icy grip of winter freezes everything — including them.


The Likes

This book has a fantastic cast of characters that never allows for a dull moment.

Morgan was such a delight. She was fierce and soft. She was sassy and sweet. She loved reading fantasy novels and imagining up wild scenarios! I could tell she engaged very well in the arts of sarcasm and she knew how to crack a joke which I appreciated very much. She also had quite a temper. She struggled with handling her anger that often made her “unlikable”. (I like how Robertson used the imagery of fire to illustrate the pain and fury coursing through her.) Nevertheless, Morgan’s journey to self-discovery and identity was an emotional one that takes her across lands to find answers. She was an incredible character who saw much growth!

Eli was the purest child! So soft! I loved how he complemented Morgan’s spikier personality. He was a more quiet kid to begin with, but I loved watching his journey in grow more brave and heroic. His talent for drawing and his pull of adventure into lands unknown makes him the perfect partner for Morgan. His levels of compassion were *clutches heart* so pure and I loved how he always fought for what was right!

Other characters…Ochek and Arik were the best companions to have on this adventure! From Ochek’s serious, noble and humble heart to Arik’s snarky and sneaky charm, these two were absolutely delightful. They were also just as dynamic as our MCs. I enjoyed that they grappled with their own flaws in their efforts to save themselves and the land they cherish.

The writing was wonderfully whimsical in a not too flowery way. As Morgan mentions in this book there is such a thing as “fantasy talk” in which the characters use grand words that bring out an other-worldliness of a fantasy land. Well this book does a great job of balancing the contemporary talk and the fantasy talk. From the humour and snark to the whimsy and enchantment, this book used that traditional grandeur of fantasy talk but made it way more accessible to readers so we don’t spend half a page trying to figure out one metaphor. It was easy to follow and yet it wrapped you up in its magic too!

This story takes us to lots of places, from the halls of a Winnipeg school to an in-construction attic to a snowy plain. However, the journey across landscapes of Aski is the most exciting part. I absolutely loved how Robertson made us travel so far without needing to do so much. (Vague much, Rendz?) I don’t want to spoil, but I loved the portal in this book. It was simple and yet essential to the plot. It reminded me of my own childhood tactics to finding other magical lands!

The Misewa community was beautifully crafted! The Cree language and traditions were very important aspects to this world and I loved that Morgan (and the reader) learned new words and phrases and stories along with her. I loved that we delved into the history of Misewa and the two-legged animals that walked and talked. It is a community that has been doomed by humans, but who will need two human children to help find the key to their salvation.

The story had a strong message about importance of the relationship between people, animals and the land. It emphasized the need for balance and warned of the dangers that come from taking too much and being greedy. The antagonist is one we often find throughout history and even today. (I actually gave a snort-laugh when I read it) Themes of environmentalism and the dangers of consumerism were beautifully woven into this tale of wonder that has two kids, a fisher and a squirrel journeying across dangerous terrains to save Misewa.

This book also puts forwards the truths of the foster care system in Canada that has an over-representation of Indigenous children. It shows the deep emotional effects it has on children who are removed from their people at such young ages and put into situations that leave them questioning and wondering about who they are. Especially for kids like Morgan, who has been fostered since she was a toddler, with little memory of her family from before. No matter the intentions of the foster family, this book puts into light the experiences of the child and the feelings of constant displacement. I love that in Misewa they find another place of care, one in which Eli and Morgan find themselves feeling more at home than ever before.

Maybe I cried a little bit? There is just a very emotional scene in this book. You might think middle grade is all fun and smiles and adventure, but there is some bittersweetness too. It’s not tragic, it just pulls very hard on the heart-strings. And I would just like to say that book design is there for a reason and wow I was delighted and hurt at the same time!

And finally, I caught 2 Narnia references. TWO! I was living!


Overall, I really enjoyed this book! It is a story about family and finding home in people who may not be blood, but with whom you share ties with. It’s a story about adventure and valuing yourself. It’s about sticking up for yourself and knowing how to practice compassion. It warmed my heart even though it brought the chilly vibes! I think it is a perfect fall or winter read if you really want to be immersed in the atmosphere and feel that bite of the wind!

Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

Recommend?: Absolutely! For all the portal fantasy lovers!

Let me know what you think! Are you a fan of portal fantasy? Are you going to pick up this book? What world would you wish to travel to?

*Please Share and/or Donate = Link to a master list of how you can help/educate yourself on Black Lives Matter and other humanitarian movements across the globe*

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

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Where Dreams Descend | Review // Only sparks when I wanted to be burned!

Greetings readers!

Here I go again being unfamiliar with popular culture things and still reading books based on them anyways! That’s right, I’m doing it again. To be fair though, I know the absolute bare minimum details of the two comp titles used to promote this book, so I didn’t feel as lost as other times.

And yet even if I hadn’t been exposed to The Phantom of the Opera and Moulin Rouge before reading this I would 10/10 want to know all about them afterwards!

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles

Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards, #1)
via Goodreads

Pub Date: August 25th, 2020
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Goodreads

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed.

The Likes:

Kallia is *chef’s kiss* phenomenal! A powerhouse is the best description for her. She was fierce and unapologetic all the time. She had dreams and a goal and boy did she risk it all for to get what she wanted! She has been living in the cage all her life and I love that she takes her chance at freedom despite the fact that she might be headed into more danger. She got bite and she not afraid to use it!

Demarco was your broodster and I liked him well enough. He was more reserved for *reasons* He was not running from his past, but more trying to do penance for tragedy that stopped him from performing. I liked how much he overthought things. Quite opposite from our dear Kallia who went in head first and damned the consequences.

Jack is most mysterious of all the characters and I liked that we got to circle back to him every once in a while. I liked the intrigue and danger that surrounded him and his club that was in the middle of the woods. He’s not a villain per see, but I can definitely tell he is not everything that he seems!

Aaros is my favourite character. Gosh I loved him. He was charming and silly and complemented Kallia perfectly as her assistant (no toxic masculinity here), I don’t know why I always fall for the side characters, but I did and I love him! His platonic relationship with Kallia was so great! We love to see it!

The world building…oh I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but this world is quite intriguing! I raged at the patriarchal society that tries to squash Kallia, but I gotta say I loved to see her break every barrier and overcome their fragile gender ideals! That being said there is some mystery deeply engraved in this world. The dynamics between the magicians and non-magicians were interesting because the people with power were both revered and feared! Then we throw in a circus and things just get way more fabulous! I loved the Conqueror ladies and I would 10/10 read a book solely based on them! And finally put in a deceptive and dangerous forest that isolates this city and you are fully immersed in this world of wonder and magic!

Spectaculore was exciting! I’m always a sucker for competitions in books! As I said before, Kallia had to break through several hurdles set in her path because she was a female magician performing on stage as herself and not an assistant or showgirl. This competition had high stakes and always held a surprise. Personally, I loved reading about Kallia excel in this craft! I loved reading about the shows she put on and the magic she made happened.

The romance was triangular and yet…was not. I can definitely see The Phantom of the Opera influences when it comes to the romance. I liked the hate-to-love thing going on between Kallia and Demarco! It kept things interesting. I liked Jack’s secret visitations to Kallia, even though they bordered stalker creepiness! It just kept things interesting. And I hesitate to call this a true triangle because I’m not sure if Kallia can truly be interested in Jack after having kept her trapped for so long.

The ending was quite quite QUITE fascinating and cliff-hangery. I’m into it.

The Questionable

Alongside the competition plot is also this mystery that well stays a mystery XD It digs into every corner of the story and it brought some thrill which I liked, but in the end it’s just a series of bad things that happen. It hooked me in the moment, but then we quickly forgot about it so I didn’t find it all that compelling in the end. 

This story is a slow burn, it was a lot of build-up as these characters danced around revealing their secrets to each other and to the readers! I like the slow burn, but this one led to some not really jaw-dropping reveals. Like I wasn’t shocked when the revelation happens. It was a little underwhelming really. I had hoped for something more. Something big and explosive, but I felt only a little glimmer of “Oh!” I was just not that surprised or shocked by the secrets that get revealed.

The magic is just magic. I didn’t really identify any origins other than some are born magical and some acquire it. I was left with several questions of what exactly this magic is to a person, born or acquired. Like what do they feel? Is it a force they pull from within? How does magic vary from person to person? What makes one stronger than the other? It was a book full of magic, and yet I felt like it was the least explained part of the novel.

I wanted to see more of Jack and Kallia and Hellfire House’s past to feel that emotional intensity. I get that Kallia was supposed to be really attached to Jack and the house, but I just didn’t feel it. I think more time should have been spent in Hellfire House before we left for Glorian. The former had thrill and was such a big part of Kallia’s life, but we spend so little time there. Like we are told that her connections to this house are big, but we hardly spend enough time there to feel that same pull ourselves. It’s simply a place I would have liked to spend more time in, even though I understand the bigger part of the story happens in Glorian.


Overall, this book was a magical experience that sparked but didn’t catch fire. It is long and you have to be patient with the slow burn, but I think that it was pretty entertaining overall. I’m sure big fans of The Phantom of the Opera and Moulin Rouge will find little Easter eggs and nuggets to enjoy. I, myself, found this book enjoyable but not astounding. It has magic, but the mystery of the unexplained bad thing kept me from truly being swept off my feet. I think even a tiny more information about it could have helped. I think the characters and the circling perspectives were the greatest assets of the story. This book might have not met the shock I had hoped for, but I would be willing to read book two!

Rating: 3.5 / 5 Stars

Recommend: I’d say yes for the slow-burn lovers!

Let me know what you think! Have you read this? Are you looking forward to reading this? Are you fans of the musicals?

*Please Share and/or Donate = Link to a master list of how you can help/educate yourself on Black Lives Matter and other humanitarian movements across the globe*

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

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