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
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.
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?
Welcome one, welcome all to the blog tour for A GOLDEN FURY by Samantha Cohoe!
This new YA historical fantasy novel brings a new dark magic to our shelves! And I for one am very excited to read this one! Alchemy and magical schools always call for a grand adventure and mystery. Just from reading the synopsis I can tell that this book is going to bring the girl power, high stakes and dark secrets to unravel!
Read on for a sneak peek into this new amazing book!
~ The Book ~
Title: A Golden Fury Author: Samantha Cohoe PubDate: Oct 13, 2020 Publisher: Wednesday Books ISBN: 9781250220400
Thea Hope longs to be an alchemist out of the shadow of her famous mother. The two of them are close to creating the legendary Philosopher’s Stone—whose properties include immortality and can turn any metal into gold—but just when the promise of the Stone’s riches is in their grasp, Thea’s mother destroys the Stone in a sudden fit of violent madness.
While combing through her mother’s notes, Thea learns that there’s a curse on the Stone that causes anyone who tries to make it to lose their sanity. With the threat of the French Revolution looming, Thea is sent to Oxford for her safety, to live with the father who doesn’t know she exists.
But in Oxford, there are alchemists after the Stone who don’t believe Thea’s warning about the curse—instead, they’ll stop at nothing to steal Thea’s knowledge of how to create the Stone. But Thea can only run for so long, and soon she will have to choose: create the Stone and sacrifice her sanity, or let the people she loves die.
A GOLDEN FURY and the curse of the Philosopher’s Stone will haunt you long after the final page.
*A Nerd Daily YA Debut to Watch Out for in 2020*
“Cohoe transmutes the legend of the Philosopher’s Stone into a dark, intoxicating tale of ambition, obsession, and sacrifice. Prepare for a magic that will consume you.” – Rosamund Hodge, New York Times bestselling author of Cruel Beauty and Bright Smoke, Cold Fire
~ Author ~
Samantha Cohoe writes historically-inspired young adult fantasy. She was raised in San Luis Obispo, California, where she enjoyed an idyllic childhood of beach trips, omnivorous reading, and writing stories brimming with adverbs. She currently lives in Denver with her family and divides her time among teaching Latin, mothering, writing, reading, and deleting adverbs. A Golden Fury is her debut novel.
To celebrate the release with you today, I have the pleasure of sharing an excerpt of CHAPTER 1 today! And boy let me tell you is it intriguing! I mean just look at that very first line! I would love to hear your thoughts on it!
My mother was screaming at the Comte. Again.
I slammed the front doors behind me and walked down the carriageway, under the dappled shade of the pop- lars that lined it. A hundred paces away, I still heard her, though at least I could no longer hear the Comte’s frantic endearments and low, rapid pleading. He should know by now that wasn’t the way. Perhaps I should tell him. Adrien was the first of my mother’s patrons I had ever liked, and I did not want to leave Normandy just as spring was break- ing. Just as we were beginning to make progress.
Though perhaps we were not. Mother would not be screaming at the Comte if the work were going well. She would not take the time. Alchemy was a demanding sci- ence, even if some scoffed and called it charlatanry or magic. It required total concentration. If the work were going well, the Comte would scarcely exist to her, nor would I, now that she would not let me be of use. The com- position must have broken again. This was about when it had, last round. I could not be certain, since she had taken away my key to the laboratory. She could hardly have de-vised a worse insult than that if she had tried, and lately she did seem to be trying. The laboratory was mine as much as it was hers. If she did succeed in producing the White Elixir—which turned all metals into silver—then it was only because of my help. She had found Jābir’s text languishing in a Spanish monastery, but it had been I who translated it when her Arabic wasn’t nearly up to the job. I had labored for months over the calcinary furnace to make the philosophic mercury the text took as its starting point. I had the scars on my hands and arms to prove it. And now that success might be close, she wished to shut me out and deny my part, and claim it for herself alone.
But if she was acting ill and cross, it meant she had failed. A low, smug hum of satisfaction warmed me. I didn’t want the work to fail, but I didn’t want her to suc- ceed without me, either.
A distant smashing sound rang out from the chateau. My mother shattering something against the wall, no doubt.
I sighed and shifted my letter box to the crook of my other arm.
I knew what this meant. Another move. Another man. The Comte had lasted longer than the rest. Over two years, long enough that I had begun to hope I would not have to do it all again. I hated the uncertainty of those first weeks, before I knew what was expected of me, whether Mother’s new patron had a temper and what might set it off, whether he liked children to speak or be silent. Though I was no longer a child, and that might bring its own problems. A chill passed over me, despite the warm afternoon sunshine. God only knew what the next one would be like. My mother had already run through so many of them. And with the recent changes in France, there were fewer rich men than ever looking to give patronage to an expensive alchemist, even one as beautiful and famous as Marguerite Hope.
I veered off the carriageway, into the soft spring grass, dotted here and there with the first of the lavender anemo- nes. I sat by the stream, under the plum tree.
There was no screaming here, no pleading, no signs that my life was about to change for the worse. I inhaled the soft, sweet scent of plum blossoms and opened my letter box. If this was to be my last spring in Normandy, I wanted to re- member it like this. Springtime in Normandy was soft and sweet, sun shining brightly and so many things blossoming that the very air was perfumed with promise. Everything was coming extravagantly to life, bursting out of the dead ground and bare trees with so much energy other impos- sible things seemed likely, too. I had always been hopeful in Normandy when it was spring. Especially last spring, when Will was still here. When we sat under this very tree, drank both bottles of champagne he had stolen from the cellars, and spun tales of everything we could achieve.
I took out his last letter, dated two months ago.
This is my address now—as you see I’ve left Prussia. It turns out that everything they say about the Prussians is quite true. I’ve never met a more unbending man than my patronthere. One day past the appointed date and he tried to throw me in prison for breach of contract! He thinks alchemy can be held to the same strict schedule as his serfs.
Laws against false alchemists were very harsh in Germany, as Will knew full well when he sought patronage there. I had begged him to go somewhere else, though he had few enough choices. He was my mother’s apprentice, with no achievements of his own to make his reputation. His training had been cut abruptly short when Mother found us together under this plum tree, watching the sun- rise with clasped hands and two empty bottles of cham- pagne. She’d seen to it that Will was gone by noon. It was no use telling her that all we’d done was talk through the night, or that the one kiss we’d shared had been our first, and had gone no further. He had behaved with perfect re- spect for me, but she wouldn’t believe it. My mother had imagined a whole path laid before my feet in that moment, and scorched it from the earth with Greek fire.
I turned to the next page.
I blame myself, of course, Bee, for not heeding your advice. I can picture your face now, wondering what I expected. It would almost be worth all the trouble I’ve caused myself if I could come to you and see your expression. You must be the only woman in the world who is never lovelier than when you’ve been proven right.
The keen thrill of pleasure those words had brought me when I first read them had faded now, and left me feeling uncertain. Should I write back knowingly, teasing him for his recklessness? I had tried this, and was sure I sounded like a scold no matter what he said about my loveliness when proven right. I took out my latest draft, which struck a more sincere tone. I read the lines over, saying how I worried for him, how I missed him. I crumpled it in my hand halfway through. Too much emotion. It didn’t do to show such dependence on a man. My mother had shown me that. I didn’t wish to emulate her in everything, but I would be a fool to deny her skill at winning masculine devotion. I tried again.
I am sitting under the plum tree where we had our last picnic. I know how you feel about nostalgia, but I hope you will forgive me this one instance. I fear this will be our last spring in Normandy—perhaps even in France. Many of my mother’s friends have left already, and though you may well condemnthem as reactionaries, the fact remains that there are very few good Republicans with the ready cash to pay for our pursuits.
I sighed again and crumpled the page. Somehow I could never seem to write to him about the Revolution without a touch of irony creeping in. I didn’t want that. Will had put his hopes for a better world in the new order, and even though I was less hopeful than he, I loved him for it. At least he wanted a better world. Most alchemists simply wanted better metals.
I tried to imagine he was here. It wouldn’t be difficult then. He was so good at setting me at ease. His admira- tion was as intoxicating as wine, but unlike wine it sharp- ened my wits instead of dulling them. I was never cleverer than when Will was there to laugh with me.
My chest constricted at the memory of Will’s laugh. I didn’t know anyone who laughed like him. The Parisian aristocrats I had known all had so much consciousness of the sound they made when they did it. The Comte wasn’t like them, but he was a serious man and laughed rarely. My mother didn’t laugh at all.
But Will. He laughed like it came from the loud, bursting core of him. Like he couldn’t have kept it in if he wanted to, and why would he want to? And when he was done laughing, he would look at me like no one else ever had. Like he saw only me, not as an accessory to my mother, but as myself. And not as an odd girl whose sharp edges would need to be softened. Will liked the edges. The sharper they cut, the more they delighted him.
I threw my letters into the letter box and snapped it shut. I looked around for somewhere to hide the box, and noticed too late that one of my crumpled drafts had blown toward the stream. My mother appeared on the hill above me, the late afternoon sun lighting up her golden hair like an unearned halo. She walked down the hill with measured steps and stopped a few yards above me, I assumed because she wished to enjoy the experience of being taller than me again for a few moments. Her eye moved to the crumpled paper. I ran to it and stuffed it into my pocket before she could take it, though my haste in hiding the failed letter told her all I didn’t wish her to know.
“Oh dear,” said my mother. “I do hope you haven’t been wasting your afternoon trying to find the right words to say to that boy.”
My mother was tolerant of my letter writing these days, perhaps because she was confident I would never see Will again. She had smiled when she heard of Will’s contract in Prussia. He won’t find it so easy to charm his way past the Prussian alchemy laws. In Germany, one must deliver results, not pretty smiles, or end in prison.
“I wouldn’t have an afternoon to waste if you would let me into the laboratory,” I said.
“Don’t be pitiful, Thea,” said my mother. “Surely you can think of something worthwhile to do when I don’t happen to need your assistance.”
I clenched my teeth so tight that my jaw ached. Shut- ting me out of the laboratory, our laboratory, was the great- est injustice she had ever committed against me. Worse than all the moving about, worse than sending Will away, worse than any insult she could think to level at me. Before she had done that, I believed we were together in alchemy at least, even if nothing else. That she had raised and trained me not simply to be of use to her, but to be her partner. Her equal, one day. Throwing me out of the lab- oratory just when we might achieve what we had worked for told me that Will was right. She would never let me claim credit for my part of the work. She would never ac- cept me as an alchemist in my own right.
And yet she described it as though she had simply let me off my chores. As if I were no more necessary than a servant. There was no point in arguing with her, but even so I could not let it stand.
“I am not your assistant,” I said.
“Oh?” she asked. “Do you have news, then? Have you found a patron on your own merits? Do you intend to strike out on your own?”
“Perhaps I will,” I said, my face growing hot. “Perhaps I will stay here when you are finally finished tormenting the poor Comte.”
My mother had a perfect, deceptively sweet beauty: golden blond and blue-eyed with a round, doll-like face. It made the venom that sometimes twisted her expression hard to quite believe in. Many men simply didn’t. They preferred to ignore the evidence of their minds for the evidence of their senses. I, of course, knew her better than they did. I tensed, preparing.
But instead of lashing out, my mother turned aside, a hand to her chest. A tremor passed over her; she bowed her head against it.
Mother had been strangely unwell for weeks. At first I responded to her illness as she had taught me to, with distaste and disapproval, as though falling sick were an ill-considered pastime of those with insufficient moral for- titude. But if she noticed how unpleasant it was to receive so little sympathy when unwell, she did not show it. She had locked herself away in the laboratory every day until late at night, ignoring my silence as much as she ignored the Comte’s pleas that she rest. I had not thought much of it until this moment. Any pain great enough to turn her from chastising me for thinking I could do alchemy with- out her must be serious indeed.
“Mother?” I asked.
“You will go where I tell you.” Her voice was low and breathless, almost a gasp. “For now, that is to dinner. Wear the green taffeta.”
“The robe à la française?” I asked, perplexed. I hadn’t worn that dress since before the Estates General met. Its style was the hallmark of the ancien régime: wide pan- niered hips, structured bodice, and elaborate flounces. “But it’s out of fashion.”
“So is our guest,” said my mother.
She went up the hill again, then turned back to me at the top.
“Thea,” she said, all the sharpness gone from her voice. “I know you do not believe it any longer, but everything I do is for you.”
It was the sort of thing she always said. Before this year, I had always believed it, more or less. At least, everything she did was for the both of us. She had considered me an extension of herself, so that doing things for me was no different than doing them for herself. Why else take so much care to train me, to see to it that I had the tutors I needed to learn every language necessary—more even than she knew? To take me with her in all her travels to seek out manuscripts? She was an impatient teacher at times, but a good one. A thorough one. And in turn I was a good student. The best.
Until we were close to our goal. Then, suddenly, I was a rival. And my mother did not tolerate rivals.
“You are right, Mother,” I said. “I don’t believe that any longer.”
Let me know what you think! Would you continue reading this book? Are you looking forward to reading this book? What are some of your favourite Historical fiction/fantasy books? If you had access to a secret dangerous power, would you destroy it or keep it for yourself?
Many thanks to Wednesday Books for inviting me to be a part of this tour!
*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*
Thank you to the author for providing me with a digital copy of her book in exchange for an honest review!
The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant
Pub Date: June 2nd, 2020
Publisher: Knopf Goodreads
In the violent urban jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, the French Revolution has failed and the city is divided between merciless royalty and nine underworld criminal guilds, known as the Court of Miracles. Eponine (Nina) Thénardier is a talented cat burglar and member of the Thieves Guild. Nina’s life is midnight robberies, avoiding her father’s fists, and watching over her naïve adopted sister, Cosette (Ettie).
When Ettie attracts the eye of the Tiger–the ruthless lord of the Guild of Flesh–Nina is caught in a desperate race to keep the younger girl safe. Her vow takes her from the city’s dark underbelly to the glittering court of Louis XVII. And it also forces Nina to make a terrible choice–protect Ettie and set off a brutal war between the guilds, or forever lose her sister to the Tiger.
Les Misérables meets Six of Crows in this page-turning adventure as a young thief finds herself going head to head with leaders of Paris’s criminal underground in the wake of the French Revolution.
A Prelude for my lack of knowledge
I would like to start off by saying that I think I would have had a deeper and more profound appreciation of this book if I had read/watched LesMisérables and or TheJungleBook before diving into this one.
Um but not having any knowledge of these stories shouldn’t feel so…essential when reading and yet here I am feeling like I missed half the point of the story because I don’t know who Eponine is from the original story and how anything that she goes through in this book is extraordinary. sigh
Okay onto the review…
The characters were just there…
Someone, anyone please tell me if Nina had a personality because frankly I couldn’t find one. Like she seeks vengeance on the people who hurt her and I’m like yesssssssss vengeance, but there’s nothing else to her. Nothing. She was just a notorious thief and so amazing and everybody was like omg you are amazing and she’s like yes I am and I was like girl give me something! anything? Like what’s your favourite colour. Wrong question because it is obviously black since she is THE Black Cat, best thief, mastermind, can do no wrong. She trampled every obstacle! I just found nothing substantial beyond her need for vengeance. She was so distant from the story despite being the voice of the story itself. Does that make any sense!?
As for the rest of the cast. I can’t say I have a favourite. I can’t say I remember many names. Maybe the Ghost Lord just because he was so mysterious and the father-ish figure to the MCs.
The Experience in four parts…
Part one was a doozy. The first part was a bombardment of information that I was literally so lost. So lost. And by the end of it all I think I understood about half of it. There were so many names to remember. So many houses to keep track of. I know that there were guides at the beginning of the book and it’s my fault that I never referenced them again. But should I have to keep going back to remember everyone? Nonetheless, it was a lot of information to take in within the first few chapters.
I will say though that learning about The Court of Miracles was a very interesting. (I didn’t know it was an actual thing, until I googled it after reading.) It had a rich history, with so many interesting characters (that I wished we had delved into more). I liked the sense of found family found among these different guilds. I won’t lie though some-most were pretty shady, some more shady than others: you know if you know. It was a really dynamic setting, despite the fact that it took me most of the book to understand.
Then comes part two and I’m kind of like okay I sort of understand what’s going on. I was wondering about the time jump we did because the math wasn’t really making sense, but then I was able to wrap my head around it.
Then comes part three and I started getting impatient, it was time to get this show on the road. Um but I don’t remember many things happening. Just a lot of planning and planning. Basically part 2 & 3 were blurs of information. It was all build-up and build-up and could get quite tedious to get through.
Then part four came to save this book from being a one-star review. It was pretty good. Like really really good. More on that below.
The times jumps are what really messed me up. From what I remember there was no actual distinction of time, like no year or date. (Or maybe there were? Oh dear… Don’t quote me, it might be different in the finished copy) It was just so confusing because I thought she was a teen at the very beginning and it turns out she is only 9!?!? There were no real explanations for them other than the author wanting to explore this story from the very beginning instead of doing flashbacks. I can’t say it was that effective.
My slow-ass brain. I took me until part 3 to make the connection to The Tiger and honestly I’m more disappointed in myself because hello the book was literally citing The Jungle Book before every part!
We’re gonna talk romance for just a second because it is super background-ish. But y’all. There are like three dudes into her and again I question it because personality-wise Nina is just angry and again while that’s not a bad thing, there was nothing else substantial about her in my eyes. Anyways she’s got 3 dudes into and OF COURSE the one I like seems like he’s the one she might like back BUT I bet he’s the one that will a) betray her or b) die.
The Way the last 30% of this book saved me!!! We love to see it!
I was worried for the longest time, friends. Nothing seemed to be really gripping me and while we were making plans and plans and plans, nothing was getting done until finally things started moving!!! I was very much into the secret planning going on. The deception was g r e a t. The aristocratic court life was a little less upfront than I had hoped, but the politics were very fun to read about!
It was super intense because all that build up from the first 70% finally came crashing down. There was so much happening, but it wasn’t confusing at all. The political intrigue was high with so many views clashing and so many needs to be met. It’s a book about the oppressed rising up and clamouring for justice. The resemblances to the modern context are not lost on me.
In the end, the choices that Nina had to make were difficult, but she was unapologetic about it. THERE WAS A REALLY GREAT TWIST. I actually didn’t see it coming and I appreciate it! She had one goal since the very beginning and she achieved it. Will it have serious repercussions for her…oh yesss and that’s what the sequel is for.
Overall, I didn’t have a great time with this book. I struggled mainly due to my lack of knowledge and I wasn’t the biggest fan of the very slow pacing and build-up of the first three quarters. The book had great promise, but it just didn’t grip my attention enough.
Rating: 2 / 5 Stars
Recommend?: Um well I wasn’t a big fan of it, but maybe fans of Les Mis or the Jungle Book will find something more substantial to the book.
Let me know what you think! Have you read this? Do you find it necessary to know background story of comp titles before diving into a new story? Has the ending of a story ever saved it from being a DNF or one-star review?
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Pinterest is a lot of fun and looking up mood boards by your favourite authors and seeing what kind of stories they have lined up in their WIPs is always fun! Well, Marie Lu has lots of interesting boards including one that was entitles The Kingdom of Back. I remember going through it and quickly falling in love with the whimsical pictures she had saved.
The moment I heard the announcement for this book, I was so ready to drop all my dollars to have it in hand.
THE MOMENT PENGUIN TEEN CANADA GOT IN ARCS, I WAS SO HAPPY TO FIND OUT I GOT ONE FOR MYSELF!
Then I read it. Loved it. SOBBED. And here I am trying to write an elegant and coherent review about how much I adored this. I cannot say if my attempt will be successful, but here we go.
The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu
Pub Date: March 3rd, 2020 Publisher: Putnam Goodreads
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu comes a historical YA fantasy about a musical prodigy and the dangerous lengths she’ll go to make history remember her—perfect for fans of Susanna Clarke and The Hazel Wood.
Two siblings. Two brilliant talents. But only one Mozart.
Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish—to be remembered forever. But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she’ll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in 18th century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age—her tyrannical father has made that much clear.
And as Nannerl’s hope grows dimmer with each passing year, the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, only seem to shine brighter. His brilliance begins to eclipse her own, until one day a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true—but his help may cost her everything.
In her first work of historical fiction, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu spins a lush, lyrically-told story of music, magic, and the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister.
*Thank you Penguin Teen CA for the ARC*
I didn’t know what to expect, if I am being honest. This was historical fantasy, something I have never read from by Lu, but my oh my did she deliver with this book. I was touched body and soul by this story.
These characters were phenomenal. I’ll be honest (again), I had no idea that Mozart had a sister who was also a musical genius, but if book-Nannerl was anything like historical-Nannerl I would have loved to meet her. Nannerl was a wonderfully crafted character in every way possible. She had a passionate spirit and a wicked imagination that kept her company during her most lonely times. She had a fierce love for her family, especially her brother and she had ambition even when she was told to hold it in. But she was not all heart of gold and devotion, she was petty and jealous and resentful of the conventions that held her back. And I loved her for it. I would find it highly unrealistic if she didn’t feel any of those emotions when she never got any credit or was given less than she deserved. But God I loved her. I loved that she was so real and raw.
Woferl…who I called Will Ferrel for like half of the book. He was such a sweet heart. And wow a genius! And his devotion to Nannerl, I am sobbing!!! He was just a kid for most of the book, but he makes mistakes too and I couldn’t help but feel mad at him and bad for him!
The dad. God I hated him. Nannerl is a better person than I am, trust me.
Hyacinth. Well, if a cute magical boy showed up out of the blue and took me to an imaginary world…I would not have acted much different! He was quite something!
The music. Let me tell you, I know nothing about music and composition and I know nothing about Mozart really. But I did not for one second feel lost in this story when Lu explored the musical adventure of these siblings. The descriptions of music were lovely and it is constantly interwoven beautifully in the narrative! I mean if you have musical knowledge I’m sure you will find even more nuance then I did, but even if you are a music noob like me, you’ll find something impeccably beautiful about its role in the book.
This atmosphere was just ethereal. The real-world itself was pretty enchanting. We get to follow the siblings as they tour Europe and play for different aristocrats. Lu crafted three stupendous settings for readers. There was the warm–sometimes harsh–home of the music room of the family home, the glamorous life of the courts the children got peaks of on their tours and then there was the Kingdom of Back! I loved how Lu transported us to the imaginary world, with subtle changes to the atmosphere as it got more whimsical and magical with each word on the page. The creatures and beings of the kingdom were so rich and mysterious for *reasons* and ugh, I loved everything about it! If I could step into that kingdom, 10/10 I would go!
The FAMILY DYNAMICS. I am sobbing. This family was something else. It was loving at the same time it was suffocating. Nannerl and Woferl’s father had high expectations for his children, he wanted them to achieve everything they could with the talents that they had. And he pushed them hard to get them out there. But he wasn’t always that amazing at being a dad. He actually sucked a lot. You can’t help but be angry every time he praised Woferl and critiqued Nannerl. Her constant desire for his validation and praise—I AM CRYING! All she wanted was to make him proud and be on the receiving end of his unconditional love. AND I AM SOBBING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The things this family goes through honestly pulls so much at the heartstrings you cannot help but sob.
The sibling relationship was my absolute favourite part of this book. I loved that it was a complex dynamic between Nannel and Woferl. There was the unconditional love that just existed between them, then there was the utter devotion to each other and finally the resentment, the jealousy, and the pettiness that exists too! Trust me, I know, I have two older sisters and we all sometimes hate each other as much as we love each other!
I am not one to say that this is historically accurate because I just don’t know, but Lu does hit Nannerl’s historic troubles on the nose. She is a girl of the late eighteenth century who has an amazing talent, but knows she will never amount to much because she is a girl. And I felt rage. A lot of rage. Rage at the unfairness that was and is our world. That her greatest wish to be remembered didn’t exactly come true. She is always in the shadow of her brother as much as she tries to fight it. AND I CRIED. I CRIED. I CRIED. I CRIED AT THE UNFAIRNESS OF IT ALL. Then the Author’s note and acknowledgements did me in because they spit out so much truth and !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I sobbed!
The ending. I–I was—Marie Lu did that with her words. And I fucking sobbed. I’m writing this now and choking up a little because she did that. And *that* is probably one of my favourite kinds of way to end a book because it is a full circle. None of what I just wrote makes any sense because I am being super vague. Just know that it is amazing and pulls hard at the heartstrings!
There is not one thing I have to critique about it. Marie Lu completely knocked it out of the park. This is a fabulous and incredible love letter to a lost but never forgotten musical genius. I already want to reread it!
Overall, This book is amazing. The story enchants you from page one and you cannot help but love following these two siblings as they grow up and are thrust into the lime light and create their own magic with music. It is a compelling read and makes an honest and heartfelt statement about the historical limitations put on people like Nannerl who didn’t get to have their glory and names woven directly into the fabric of our cultural history. It’s a story about family and forgiveness and self-love. It’s an emotional roller coaster with a sweet yet longing ending.
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
Recommend: YES. YES. YES.
Let me know what you think! Are you looking forward to reading this? What is your favourite Marie Lu book? Have you ever cried to books?
Portal fantasy is probably my favourite type of fantasy and I don’t read it often. Hypocrite much? I know. The Narnia books were my introductory novels to this genre and…well we all know how obsessed I am with that series. I just love stories that go beyond this world and yet keep that connection alive. They are literal stories of escape from this world, just like books are the metaphoric escape from our real lives. I am sure if someone were to pop-psycho analyse me then I would fully understand this inner wanderlust and desire to leave this world for something different, but I’m not sure I want to know those answers yet.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.
In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.
Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.
Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories awaits in Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding debut–step inside and discover its magic.
*Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the review copy!*
I didn’t know exactly what to expect going into this book, but I didn’t actually think I would love it this much. I was absolutely enchanted from the very first pageand all of it has to do with Harrow’s writing style! First we have to talk about the narrative voice. I don’t know what the technical term is, but it is when the narrator directly addresses the reader as the story goes on. It’s as if we are sitting side by side and actually being told this story over some cookies and drinks. It is a personal, intimate kind of story telling that I absolutely love.
The actually writing style itself was incredibly whimsical. It’s a flowery, purple prose that has its wild, metaphoric phrases that still surrender you completely under the book’s enchantment. I LOVED IT! The study of the actual physical shape of words and letters was so interesting. I think I may have made it sound too ~scientific~, but I promise you it was delightful! It’s a careful and, again, intimate kind of story telling that just hits you in the feels. Other than that, I think the story flowed wonderfully, it’s not hard to follow along and every turn of the page just gets more and more interesting.
Now we have to talk about these characters because they are incredible! The first shout-out goes to my girl January, who is one of the most realistic characters I’ve ever read. She was a lonely girl, with a big imagination constantly being told to reform, conform and endure a society that didn’t exactly know what to make of her. As much as she loved the fact she was being taken care of, she couldn’t help but hate the suffocation. As much as she hated the way she was left behind, she couldn’t help but love the people who left. She lived a life full of mysteries and curiosities that never gave her the right answers. And while she was incredibly curious herself, she had to find a way to let that adventurous side of her free after years of being told to keep it down. She was naive, but also intelligent. She was sheltered, but courageous enough to face the horrors of her life. She was angry and she learned to harness it to get out of trouble. I loved everything about her if you can’t tell.
Honourable mentions go to Jane, who was seriously fierce and angry! I think that she deserved a lot more than what she got and I felt so angry for her! Shout out to Samuel for being incredibly sweet with a total white knight complex that made me want to melt. To a certain pair of characters whose story made me SOB—I just wanna say #couplegoals…but also maybe not XD
The magic of the doors was marvellous. I loved the history behind it, I loved that we got to explore how these portals are constructed and destroyed. How they bring out the best and the worst of people. With magical doors comes increasingly new and magical lands! The way in which Harrow imagined these other nations with totally different cultural practices and ways of life. I mean…I can barely survive on my own in this world, and there was definitely one world in this book I would not survive in…but I would love to see books based solely in these other worlds.
The book has an incredible conversation about colonialism. There was almost an anti-museum rhetoric to this book. It’s not denying the importance of understanding a people and its culture, but this book is arguing that a culture is not a collectible. An artifact is not something that can be taken from its home and charted across the seas to be locked up and stared at. It is stripping that object of its real purpose, to serve the people it was created for. The book tackles the deeply problematic private collections of stuffy rich people who bought up–stole–precious cultural items (see the British, Spanish, French and basically all other European colonizers) for their own selfish wants. It’s important that we understand how deeply problematic our modern museums are. They are full of items that are labeled as belonging to “collectors” but they don’t. Those pieces belong to people and nations that still exist, that are not extinct and of the past, but increasingly labeled as history long gone.
The plot itself is charming yet wildly fun too. It is more contemplative than action-y although I will say that there is a fair share of blood that is shed and there may or may not be a vampire character? It’s not really a spoiler, but a treat to intrigue you with. I was never bored and I always wanted to keep going! There is also a story within a story being told and let me tell you that inner story is one that kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time! Plus since its a story within a story, you are technically getting two books for the price of one!
The ending…how do I even explain the ending. It was beautiful. I had tears in my eyes from the feels that just overtook me in the moment. Not only are the final words so preciously gorgeous and ripped my soul apart, they explain the reason why this book is told the way it is and it makes so much more sense AND OH MY GOSH IT WAS SO BEAUTIFUL I WANTED TO CRYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!
Nothing. It was amazing.
Overall, I enjoyed this book so much! It was heartfelt, charming, suspenseful and absolutely magical. It is a perfect book for readers like me who are constantly being struck by wanderlust, but don’t have the guts to get out there just yet! It’s also perfect for general fantasy readers, historical fiction lovers and people who just love books about books!
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
Recommend:YES! Open the doors this book has to offer!
Let me know what you think! Have you read this? Do you like portal fantasy? What are some of your favourites? If you could open the door to another world, would you go in?
I cried to get my hands on this ARC. I seriously sent the most lamentable email to the Penguin publicist and begged for a copy. It was dramatic af because I literally had no hope of actually getting one. BUT the people at Penguin are too amazing for words (@SamDevotta) and they sent me a copy!
It is to my shame that the review is coming so late after it’s publication. I seriously am a terrible blogger. So without further delay…
In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as La Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sébastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of La Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sébastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.
When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.
At once a sultry romance and a thrilling murder mystery, master storyteller Renée Ahdieh embarks on her most potent fantasy series yet: The Beautiful.
*Thanks to Penguin Teen CA for the ARC*
So what I really loved about this book is that we start off with a first person POV and we don’t know who it is. I love it. I love the mystery it brings up, I love that we get to guess who it could be, I love that it adds so much more danger to the story. What I didn’t love so much is that these very sporadic little snippets were the only real vampire moments I got.
Celine was a great character. On the run from her past, on a hunt for a better life, risking it all for a bit of adventure and struggling very badly with some inner demons. Her anger, wit and stubbornness were as wonderful to read about as they were frustrating!
Bastien was….he was a little too mysterious, but I liked him well enough. I liked that we got a little bit from his POV here and there just to see how things were running in his life. I loved that he was such a suave charmer but also a “Bitch, please” kind of man. Good looking? Absolutely. I just hope to see him fleshed out a little bit more in the next book.
Odette? A star. Pippa? A sweetheart. The court? It was also a little too ambiguous and mysterious. I didn’t get quite attached. Michael? Maybe I have a soft spot for him and perhaps shouldn’t.
The New Orleans was très fantastique! (That is grammatically horrible…but you get the point) I thought Adhieh did a wonderful job in creating this lush atmosphere where we get those flashes of the luxurious aristocracy, with the sterility of the convent and the shady alleyways of the city. I loved that we got insight into the strict high society life and also mixed in the magic of the secret court life. The magic was a little more tame than I was first expecting, but still very intriguing.
This book had lots of languages and as a language student this was a HELLS YES. The unfortunate thing is that I read an ARC version, so the French and Spanish phrases were plagued with grammatical errors, BUT I am pretty sure that would have been all cleaned up in the finished copy! Regardless of the fact, I thought that the use of languages was lots of fun and I love how the characters were snarky in any tongue!
Things that disappointed me:
The lack of vampires. I mean they were there but their actual action was so minimal. I felt like I was just reading a regular historical fiction book and totally forgot about the supernatural flair. It wasn’t completely absent, but I wanted MORE. I always want more!
The romance… Look. I like this ship. It is a well established ship. It is going to happen, I don’t really have any doubts about it. So why bring in a second possible love interest only to disappoint a very cute nonna! Just sayin!
The big twists…………………………………………….weren’t that impacting. I just didn’t get that WOW! A lot of it has to do with the fact that we do not get in depth with the court and all it’s secrets. I’m not saying we needed a detailed history, but I felt like we needed a lot more to get why the final actions of the characters led to this disaster. Also she used a trope…that I just don’t like. I feel like it is such a cop-out. Yikes.
Overall,the book entertained me but the hype got to me. It was most certainly a lush, historical fantasy with an amazing cast of characters. A headstrong protagonist who does what she needs to do and is un-apologetically herself will charm your hearts. However, I felt it lucked some luster and that it could have benefited from more detail.
Rating: 3 / 5 Stars
Recommend:I say yes! I still think this book has a lot to offer even if it lacks some blood…
Let me know what you think! Have you read this? Did you like it? What are some of your favourite vampire books?
I can’t promise you that the following review will make any sense. I am honestly planning on gushing my whole way down. I would like to send a special shout out to Mandy @ BookPrincessReviews who hyped me up for this book long ago.
Six teenagers’ lives intertwine during one thrilling summer full of romantic misunderstandings and dangerous deals in this sparkling retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
After she gets kicked out of boarding school, seventeen-year-old Beatrice goes to her uncle’s estate on Long Island. But Hey Nonny Nonny is more than just a rundown old mansion. Beatrice’s cousin, Hero, runs a struggling speakeasy out of the basement—one that might not survive the summer. Along with Prince, a poor young man determined to prove his worth; his brother John, a dark and dangerous agent of the local mob; Benedick, a handsome trust-fund kid trying to become a writer; and Maggie, a beautiful and talented singer; Beatrice and Hero throw all their efforts into planning a massive party to save the speakeasy. Despite all their worries, the summer is beautiful, love is in the air, and Beatrice and Benedick are caught up in a romantic battle of wits that their friends might be quietly orchestrating in the background.
Hilariously clever and utterly charming, McKelle George’s debut novel is full of intrigue and 1920s charm. For fans of Jenny Han, Stephanie Perkins, and Anna Godbersen.
Okay okay breathe Rendz, breeaaattthhheee. *inhale* *exhale* OKAY LET ME TELL YOU HOW ABSOLUTELY AMAZING THIS BOOK IS AND HOW YOU NEED TO PUT THIS ON YOUR TBR IMMEDIATELY. I AM OFFICIALLY NAMING THIS REQUIRED READING MATERIAL.
What I Liked
These Glorious Characters
There are a lot of them, so I have to be brief, but just know that George crafted such incredibly dynamic, complex and rich characters for her novel. This gang of guys and gals had a lot of magic–not literally XD–but they were incredibly charming and enchanting and I would love to spend more time with them.
Beatrice: My girl genius. She was literally all brains and all snark and I adored her. Her brilliance was one thing, but her awkwardness in social situations was just so relatable XD. But don’t for one second think she didn’t have guts because she had them and more.
Benedict: Oh my charming, tragic writer-in-training. I loved him too. I loved his persistence with his writing, his adoration for his newfound family and his self-sacrificing-ness, (Can’t seem to find the write word there) But he was just so great! A Book boyfriend for sure!
Maggie: Magical. Seriously. She had this charm to her and this willpower within her that I admire so much. Her life wasn’t easy and as a black girl in the 20s she had to put up with so much crap, but she didn’t let any of that hold her back. She had dreams and she worked hard to make them come true.
Hero: Was another charmer (I swear everyone in this book is a charmer). But she was definition of “life of the party.” I absolutely loved her dedication to her family and her speakeasy. Her heart was huge even though she could be a little (a lot) selfish, but if you really look at it it’s all part of her charm.
Prince:My baby. Literally a soft boi who has the biggest heart. He was a quieter more background character, but he had such a pivotal role in this book. His devotion was so admirable, liked I wanted to sob for him because he was so loyal to the end. My heart.
John: Mandy put it exactly right. He was the Kaz of this bunch. Shady but with a soft(ish) heart. He was literally a semi-leader of an Italian mafia—which was dangerous—but also really, really hot. Tell me I’m lying!?! It’s hot and I think his broodiness was perfect addition to this novel.
It is a known fact that the Roaring 20s is probably the coolest decade to set a book in. There was a lot of political and cultural movement. Clothes changed. Music changed. Laws were obviously more strict. The whole speakeasy aspect of this novel was perfect. We spent a good amount of time in it and the plot directed a lot of drama with it which I found fascinating. You can tell George did her research (especially if you read the Author’s Note). She used actual events and people in her story albeit a little bit altered. When I found out that the Italian Mafia family that was involved in the book was actually real…well I’ll be darned that is pretty cool. Scary, but cool.
But anyways, yes. This setting was amazing. It was a perfect blend of fun and danger which is exactly what the twenties is all about.
I Know Nothing about Much Ado About Nothing But I Still Love It!
Yes it’s true, I’ve never read Shakespeare’s play, but I sure do want to know. Of course I didn’t want to go in completely blind when I went into this book so I googled a quick summary of the play and ending up watching a 6 min summary video on YouTube. And you know what! It really helped me hehehe. I found some of the connections and I do believe that the chapter titles are lines from the play which I thought was genius. So while I cannot give you the best comparison of the two, I think fans of the play will like this book! Oh and I just noticed that the names of the characters are from the play too.
Because let’s be honest this was a love story. And I had three ships to ship. And all three were epic. And I want more more more MORE. I mean the amount of banter in this book was so so great. The TENSION it created was perfect. I wanted so badly to yell “just kiss already!!!” And boy did we have to wait for those kisses, but it was so so worth it! The chemistry was perfect. The epic emotions. The drama. The ~scandal~. It was all so great.
Not applicable. I enjoyed myself too much while reading this.
Overall, this book was great. Seriously. If you’re looking to pick up a historical fiction with the perfect blend of romance and risky speakeasy business and Shakespeare then this is the book for you. I am positive you will find yourself in love with each of these characters.
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
Recommend?: Ay! In troth, thou needest to readeth this booketh!
Let me know what you think! Have you read this? What Roaring 20s book did you love? Which of Shakespeare’s play would you love to see a YA retelling of? Have any recs for me?
I am bringing this review to you a little late because I am such a mess right now. Phew. School is actually trying to reduce me to a pulp, so please wish me the best and read on for a review of one of my most anticipated reads of the month!
Paris in 1789 is a labyrinth of twisted streets, filled with beggars, thieves, revolutionaries—and magicians…
When smallpox kills her parents, Camille Durbonne must find a way to provide for her frail, naive sister while managing her volatile brother. Relying on petty magic—la magie ordinaire—Camille painstakingly transforms scraps of metal into money to buy the food and medicine they need. But when the coins won’t hold their shape and her brother disappears with the family’s savings, Camille must pursue a richer, more dangerous mark: the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
With dark magic forbidden by her mother, Camille transforms herself into the ‘Baroness de la Fontaine’ and is swept up into life at the Palace of Versailles, where aristocrats both fear and hunger for la magie. There, she gambles at cards, desperate to have enough to keep herself and her sister safe. Yet the longer she stays at court, the more difficult it becomes to reconcile her resentment of the nobles with the enchantments of Versailles. And when she returns to Paris, Camille meets a handsome young balloonist—who dares her to hope that love and liberty may both be possible.
But la magie has its costs. And when Camille loses control of her secrets, the game she’s playing turns deadly. Then revolution erupts, and she must choose—love or loyalty, democracy or aristocracy, freedom or magic—before Paris burns…
**Thank you so much to Raincoast Books for the ARC**
This was France, I loved going to Versailles and just the gambling and gaming in general. It was lots of fun. I mean I am not a wiz at any gambling games, but I did love the suspense that they brought to the book. I would be yelling a lot at *certain* characters who just didn’t know when to stop and risked losing it all!
I liked Camille enough. I thought she was very brave and passionate, especially to be living in a very manly-mans world and having to care for her younger sister. I just didn’t get her logic with secret keeping. I’m sorry, hun, but this just frustrated me soooo much. Other than that she was good.
Lazare was cool too. He was biracial, so there was a lot of discussion around identity and of course racism. He was an interesting character and quite elusive, so I liked getting into his background. Would I qualify him as a Book Boyfriend….mmmm…no. Maybe like boy toy?
Sophie would have been better if she hadn’t been treated like she was a baby. Like I ain’t saying that a fifteen year-old has the wisdom of a 100 year old, but they ain’t that naive. I could be totally wrong…but I felt like Sophie had a spark in her that was constantly being stamped out and overpowered by Camille. And it frustrated me because Sophie made such dumb choices because of this.
The shining star was Chandon. Who was charming and sneaky and tragic. And just great overall. I would have loved to read a little bit more about him and his soldier boyfriend…whose name escapes me.
I liked the discussion surrounding the Revolution.
Viva la France! **That’s the expression right** The books digs a little into the political history of France at the time. It is not actually set during the actual revolution (at least I don’ think), but it does showcase some of the rumblings and grumblings of the citizens of France before the war breaks out. The impoverished people who were not happy with the wealthy nobles. We get to see from perspectives of both parties through Camille and it is actually quite, quite interesting.
The magic, although minimal, was interesting for the time setting it was in. It was reminiscent of the glamour in TLC! I think maybe the origins of the magic were a little bit rushed through, but there was a lot of background on the dangers of being a magician in this time and I especially like how the author tied it to the flamboyance of the royal court.
The plot was interesting, but very slow moving and nothing truly exciting happened until the very end. This is why I had really hard time with it. Look. I like short chapters. But something has to actually happen in those chapters. This book was full of short chapters and many of them I felt were really unnecessary.
I wanted more balloon story. The hot air balloon aspect of this story really intrigued me, but we got to see so little of it!
The writing was good. Nothing particular stood out to me and the French that was involved mixed well with the English. It wasn’t all that random, *unlike certain other books ~coughGrimLoveliescough~*. It kept me well-engaged for the most part if anything.
It was too long though. On top of the slowness, it got repetitive. Really fast. Camille is either gambling or thinking about gambling or with her balloon friends. The action was at the end and it was good, but the previous 70% was the same thing over and over again. It was tough to push through sometimes.
Overall, I enjoyed the book for the most part. I think my high expectations may have cursed me because I didn’t know what to expect, but by the end I was a little less than wowed. If that makes any sense. It was a good book, with good characters, a good plot and a great ending. I just felt like the goodness of it all was what kept me from thinking it was great.
Rating: 3.5 / 5 Stars
Recommend: I think this is perfect for Historical fic readers who want just a hint of the fantastical!
Let me know what you think! Have you read this? Are you looking forward to reading it? What is one time period you would love to have a historical fiction book set in?
For the last ten years, nineteen-year-old Eleanora Svobodová has worked as a servant in her stepmother’s household. Along with her older brother, she dreams of the day they will be free to live life on their own terms.
But everything changes when their estranged grandmother comes to Prague on behalf of Queen Victoria. Throughout Bohemia, a string of murders and secret whispers hint at a larger coup. As the leader of the Order of the Crystal Daggers, an ancient order of spies and soldiers that protect kingdoms and their rulers, Lady Penelope is determined to mete out the perpetrators. Now, Eleanora must make the choice between a life of intrigue and saving the lives of others.
Can Eleanora find a way do the right thing and still find freedom?
With a fun blend of historical fiction, true love, castle intrigue, and family dysfunction, The Order of the Crystal Daggers is the latest adventure series from C. S. Johnson.
*Thank you Prodigy Gold Books for providing me with a digital copy in exchange for a review!*
What I Liked:
Eleanora was a lovely character to follow. She lived in a sort of Cinderella story with a wicked step mother and two wicked step siblings that enslaved her in her own household after the death of her father. Unlike Cindy, however, Eleanora has a brother, Ben to keep her company. I liked Eleanora well enough, she had a resilient personality. Always had a quick comeback in her mouth. She was fiercely devoted to her family and the memory of what they once were. Once she was thrust into this secretive society, full of intrigue and danger, I could definitely tell that her life became much more colourful. That is to say I did find her character lacking just a little. I would have liked to see a little more growth in perspective of the world and her willingness to go along with her new society’s ways.
Every other character was a little flat. Don’t get me wrong, there were some very colourful characters to be had and some of them I quite enjoyed. Especially Ferdy who was all suave and charming. Still I would have liked to have seen more complexity in the characters that surrounded Eleanora. They had their secrets, but they didn’t really bring any moments of personal change. You know what I mean?
I loved the setting. It’s Victorian and of course every Victorian book I read has some sort of political strife that is the cause of all these secret clubs that are building up! This book touches upon many of the political antics during 1870 Prague, such as England’s empire of colonies, the ghettoization of the Jews and much more. Quite a problematic time in history, but then again what isn’t.
I enjoyed the direction of the story. It was a mystery and while I knew things were not the way they seemed, I couldn’t help but fall into some of Johnson’s traps! Johnson’s writing is easy to follow and quite appropriate for the setting. She even knows how to add in those bits of humour that I love reading! Some of it was a little predictable, but I was not expecting the ending that we were going to get! And while I felt it ended in an awkward position, I am very much intrigued to find out what happens next!
What I Disliked
The romance was okay. Very much insta-love and while the characters admit to it–therefore Johnson admits to it–they still go ahead and proclaim their love on their second or third time meeting. While I shipped the ship, I’m really hoping that the next book fleshes out these feelings and that it brings it to better light with a better basis for chemistry.
Also, I feel like the whole idea of the secret society needs more fleshing, I need more information on how it works and why we need it. I know that it is top top secret and we are supposed to be naive like Eleanora, but I still need to know more about it and how it functions and why it is needed.
Also, the crystal dagger??? It was mentioned for two seconds. More information please.
Overall, I enjoyed the story. It was a quick read and it had some great scenes of action, political intrigue and quite a few balls! I still think that the characters need more oomph to have really made this pop, but they were still quite nice and I wish them the best after that ending!
Rating: 3.75 / 5 Stars (Like a good 4)
Recommend: Yes! Historical fiction and secret societies, you gotta love ’em!
Let me know what you think! Have you read this? What are some of your favourite historical fiction books? Have you noticed the trend of secret societies in HistFic?
Historical fiction is always an intriguing genre. Unlike fantasy, the world which the characters wander through is–or rather was–real. Sometimes real historical figures are taken into account and we get a little educational at the same time as being fictional! Victorian settings are often popular in HistFic, so when I saw this Canadian YA Historical Fantasy, I knew I wanted to pick it up right away!
Felicity Cole sells flowers in the streets of Victorian London to feed herself and her young brother. But she has a close-guarded secret–her brother is a Tainted, born with special abilities that society fears and a shadowy organization called the Hunstsman scours the country to eliminate. When Felicity becomes the target of one of these individuals, she discovers something horrible: she’s Tainted, too.
Rescued by a mysterious gentleman on the eve of execution, she’s whisked away to a school funded by Queen Victoria, established to train selected Tainted into assassins in service of the crown.
Struggling to harness her incredible strength, speed, and agility, and despised by her classmates, all she wants is to use her new position to find a cure so she can be normal and reunited with her brother.
But with the Golden Jubilee fast approaching and the discovery that there’s a traitor in their midst, she has no choice but to embrace the one thing she’s been fighting all along.
*My gratitude goes out to Thomas Allen & Son for providing me with a copy for review!*
What I Liked:
I liked Felicity. She was headstrong and yet afraid of the new world she was thrust into. She comes from a lowly background which is much unappreciated by her new peers. She is one who looks for loopholes to get out of the world until she finally becomes a willing part of it.
None of the other characters really stood out to me. The love interest was really–in my opinion–bland. He had some substance but it was more like water. You can hold it for a while, but then it slowly slips away leaving just a wet feeling that lasts only until it dries. And yet I need him in the story to add in some interest. (How poetic, Rendz)
The magic was very cool and I liked how well it fit into the Victorian setting. All these Victorian books I have been reading always include a secret society of some kind and I honestly love it. It leaves room for mystery and adventure in an otherwise pristine and aristocratic era.
The plot was fine. It was not utterly astounding, not too complicated in terms of following and keeping up with all the secrets, but it lacked that bit of oomph. It had some great action scenes, but not nearly enough. If this is a secret society of training assassins, how come there is so little action????
It is an evenly paced book. The writing is very smooth and I sped through it rather fast. I will say that the chapters were very short, sometimes where they paused was a little awkward. I felt like some could have been combined, just to keep up a better flow.
What I Disliked:
Most of my dislikes comes from the fact that this book is tropey. You have the special snowflake MC. With powers that are better and more magnificent than all others. I would have been fine with this if there was a solid reason as to why she was so crazy amazing. And don’t spring up this “one in a million chance” thing on me. That’s not a solid origin. There was also some girl-on-girl hate. Not as terrible as other books I’ve read, but it would have been nice to see the girls not be competitors and instead allies in this mans world.
The book was not boring per se. I just thought that it could have used more excitement, more risk and more twists to make this something that really grabbed at my attention. It held it while I read, but I could close it to easily. There was never a need to read it. That’s what I found quite disappointing.
Overall, the book was okay. It was neither utterly amazing, nor terribly awful. It holds your attention, the MC is quite fun at times, there is some drama and the few action scenes are ones to look forward to. And the author does bring up quite a mini twist at the end, which I found wrapped this historical fantasy quite good.
Rating: 3 / 5 Stars
Recommend: Like Historical fiction but want a fantastical twist? Then sure.
Let me know what you think! Have you read this? What are some of your favourite Historical Fiction books? What historical setting would you love to read about?