The City of Brass

The City of Brass

By: S.A. Chakraborty
Published: 2017
# of pages: 533
Series: The Daevabad Triology (#1)
Challenge: Alphabet Soup
Quote:
“’You’re some kind of thief, then?’
‘That’s a very narrow-minded way of looking at it. I prefer to think of myself as a merchant of delicate tasks.'”

Goodreads description:

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.

After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for…

Review:

I’m not going to lie, I chose to read this book based on the cover! I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it and how well written and intricate it is!

Nahri considers herself a fairly normal human. Key word, human. Sure, she is all alone in the city of Cairo and steals and cons to survive, but she has to do what she has to do. Until one day when a djinn magically appears in front of her and changes her life forever. She can’t return to her normal life, she has to travel to a magic city called Daevabad. She isn’t who she thought she was, she has an entire history to consider that includes plenty of intrigue, conflict, and prejudice. On the flip side, it includes a lot of prestige and power.

This story is long and complicated. There were times I was a little confused, but I also appreciated that the author didn’t suddenly shovel an entire empire’s history on the reader all at once. So it took a while to start to figure things out and for it to come together. Sometimes I wondered if I missed something, but it would be explained a little later.

The synopsis sounds like a stereotypical fantasy series, but there were several original aspects and I really enjoyed the characters. This is an adult fantasy, but probably older teens would also enjoy the book. I’ve already read the second book in the trilogy, The Kingdom of Copper, and enjoyed it just as much. I recommend it to adults and young adults who enjoy fantasy.

The Sword of Summer

The Sword of Summer

By: Rick Riordan
Published: 2015
# of pages: 499
Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard (#1)
Challenges: What’s in a Name? (Season), Alphabet Soup, Alphabet Soup Authors Edition

Goodreads description:

Magnus Chase has seen his share of trouble. Ever since that terrible night two years ago when his mother told him to run, he has lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, staying one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.

One day, Magnus learns that someone else is trying to track him down—his uncle Randolph, a man his mother had always warned him about. When Magnus tries to outmaneuver his uncle, he falls right into his clutches. Randolph starts rambling about Norse history and Magnus’s birthright: a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.

The more Randolph talks, the more puzzle pieces fall into place. Stories about the gods of Asgard, wolves, and Doomsday bubble up from Magnus’s memory. But he doesn’t have time to consider it all before a fire giant attacks the city, forcing him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents. . . .

Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die.

Review:

I started reading Rick Riordan’s series the same time my son did, but he far outpaced me! He’s caught up with all the series of gods and for Christmas received his newest release, Daughter of the Deep. I’m way behind, but I’ve been trying to devote more time since New Year’s to reading books my kids want me to read. So that included finishing up The Kane Chronicles and on to Magnus Chase!

It’s a little hard to review this book since I also read the next in the series immediately after and didn’t like it as much. I was split on liking the characters, I really enjoyed Hearth and Blitz, but didn’t like Sam and Magnus’s hallmates on floor 19 as much.

Overall, this was fun reading in the same style as the Percy Jackson series and I recommend it to fans of young adult fantasy.

Queens of the Wyrd

Queens of the Wyrd

By: Timandra Whitecastle
Published:
2019
# of pages:
414
Series: Shieldmothers Saga (#1)
Challenges: Alphabet Soup, Book Bingo (Love Typography)
Quote: “Never trust a silence around children. It is as unnatural as a sudden calm on the tempestuous sea, and as much a herald of unpleasant surprises to come.”

Goodreads description:

Raise your shield. Defend your sisters. Prepare for battle.

Half-giant Lovis and her Shieldmaiden warband were once among the fiercest warriors in Midgard. But those days are long past and now Lovis just wants to provide a safe home for herself and her daughter – that is, until her former shield-sister Solveig shows up on her doorstep with shattering news.

Solveig’s warrior daughter is trapped on the Plains of Vigrid in a siege gone ugly. Desperate to rescue her, Sol is trying to get the old warband back together again. But their glory days are a distant memory. The Shieldmaidens are Shieldmothers now, entangled in domestic obligations and ancient rivalries.

But family is everything, and Lovis was never more at home than at her shield-sisters’ side. Their road won’t be easy: old debts must be paid, wrongs must be righted, and the Nornir are always pulling on loose threads, leaving the Shieldmaidens facing the end of all Nine Realms. Ragnarok is coming, and if the Shieldmaidens can’t stop it, Lovis will lose everyone she loves…

Fate is inexorable. Wyrd bith ful araed.

God, I loved this book! I bought it on my Kindle when it was on sale just because I liked the cover, but it ended up being one of my favorites I read this year!

Lovis wakes up one morning to the same old, same old. Take care of her somewhat wild and willful daughter Birke and make some money at the job she works in the evening. Little does she know life is about to change…back to the way it used to be for her and her former band of shieldmaidens. Everything is familiar and yet different as she is reunified with her old friends with Birke in tow.

I loved that the protagonist is a mother. There were so many insightful quotes and observations made by Lovis and her mom friend Solveig about being a mother and balancing work/motherhood/social life, etc. I also enjoyed the characters and settings as well as the Norse mythology.

I also loved that each chapter was prefaced with a quote from modern sources cited as “The Wisdom of the Volur.” The writing style was so casual, but also descriptive. There’s a section at the end of the book that has a pronunciation guide that could be useful to read while or before reading the story, but of course I didn’t discover it until I was through. But I feel like I pronounced everything correctly inside my head and it didn’t matter.

I recommend this to lovers of fantasy and mythology. It’s geared towards adults with adult characters, but I think young adults would also enjoy the story.

House of Hollow

House of Hollow

By: Krystal Sutherland

Published: 2021

# of pages: 304

Challenge: Book Bingo (published in 2021)

Seventeen-year-old Iris Hollow has always been strange. Something happened to her and her two older sisters when they were children, something they can’t quite remember but that left each of them with an identical half-moon scar at the base of their throats.

Iris has spent most of her teenage years trying to avoid the weirdness that sticks to her like tar. But when her eldest sister, Grey, goes missing under suspicious circumstances, Iris learns just how weird her life can get: horned men start shadowing her, a corpse falls out of her sister’s ceiling, and ugly, impossible memories start to twist their way to the forefront of her mind.

As Iris retraces Grey’s last known footsteps and follows the increasingly bizarre trail of breadcrumbs she left behind, it becomes apparent that the only way to save her sister is to decipher the mystery of what happened to them as children.

The closer Iris gets to the truth, the closer she comes to understanding that the answer is dark and dangerous – and that Grey has been keeping a terrible secret from her for years. 

Goodreads

Review:

Something rare happened to me, which is I just found a random book from my library on the Libby app. Since I’ve switched to mostly ebooks, I don’t usually browse shelves anymore. I find all my books from blogs, Goodreads, and recommendations. However, while searching for a completely different title, this book popped up in the search results and I was fascinated by the cover and checked it out.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a unique and interesting story that was also well-written! The book is about teenager Iris Hollow, who tries her hardest to live a boring life in spite of her traumatic past and spotlight searching older sisters. However, she spends a day with her next oldest sister, Vivi, and her structured life comes tumbling down. The oldest sister, Grey, is missing and the two younger sisters set out to find her.

I was impressed at how well the story ran together. There weren’t holes or things that didn’t make sense later in the timeline. If something was mentioned in passing it would very well come up again later. The dark, modern fairytale vibe isn’t usually my thing, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am adding it to my favorites list for this year.

Trigger warning: creepy crawly descriptions, rot/decay, bugs.

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Dragon’s Reach

Dragon’s Reach

By: J.A. Andrews
Published: 2020
# of pages: 614
Series: The Keeper Origins (#1)
Challenge: What’s in a Name? (Possessive Noun)
Quote: “’That is the curse of life. Judging your past actions in the light of what you know now.’ She tilted her head. ‘Give your past self grace, my child. She did the best she could.’”

Goodreads description:

Sable, a reluctant thief from the slums, can feel truth when people speak. For years she’s been using that skill to try to break free from the vicious gang boss she’s indebted to.

Escape comes in the form of an odd set of companions:
-a dwarf running from the past,
-an actor with a magical, glowing tree
-a too-helpful kobold,
-a playwright with a knack for getting stories out of people, and
-a man and woman with suspicious, magical powers.

But Sable’s freedom is short lived.

On the edges of civilization, they discover hidden, terrifying lies in the offers of peace from the brutal Kalesh Empire.

Now, she must return to the city she fled, and along with her companions, attempt an impossible task—convince everyone, including the powerful Dragon Prioress, of the truth.

Except the Kalesh web of lies has ensnared everyone.
With her land, her people, and everything she loves hanging in the balance, Sable is the only one standing between freedom, and certain death.

Review:

Don’t ask me how I found this book, but it’s been on my TBR list for a while. I was picking out a book to match the What’s in a Name possessive noun category and here we are: a possessive noun in the word “Dragon’s.”

I was very pleasantly surprised by this first book in a series! Yes, it’s a typical fantasy, but I still found it refreshing and interesting. I enjoyed the author’s take on “common” fantasy species like elves, dwarves, magicians, but I also liked the inclusion of a kobold (basically a house elf from the Harry Potter series!)

Sable is living a life of crime to protect her sister, but she’s been waiting for a way to remove herself from the crime boss she works for in her part of the city and move to another neighborhood to live an honest life. Soon her big chance arrives, but of course nothing can go the way she planned. Before she knows it, she’s on the road with a traveling troupe and soon discovers that nothing about her country and its religious and political structure is what she belives to be true.

The characters are likeable and relateable, the backstories and world building aren’t overwhelming or boring, and the plot is interesting. I recommend this to both young adults and adults who enjoy fantasy.

The November Girl

The November Girl

By: Lydia Kang
Published: 2017
# of pages: 340
Challenges: Alphabet Soup
Quote: “‘I’m Hector,’ he blurts out. His name is centuries old. I like this. It makes me feel like we’ve met before, that maybe our histories have a more distinct beginning.”

Goodreads description:

I am Anda, and the lake is my mother. I am the November storms that terrify sailors and sink ships. With their deaths, I keep my little island on Lake Superior alive.

Hector has come here to hide from his family until he turns eighteen. Isle Royale is shut down for the winter, and there’s no one here but me. And now him.

Hector is running from the violence in his life, but violence runs through my veins. I should send him away, to keep him safe. But I’m half human, too, and Hector makes me want to listen to my foolish, half-human heart. And if I do, I can’t protect him from the storms coming for us.

Review:

This has been on my TBR list for a while. I was born in November and the main character’s name is Anda, which is similar to mine. I felt like it was meant to be, but then the author shares a name with someone else very special in my life who also has a November birthday! So it’s even more meant to be.

This young adult fantasy follows teenaged Anda, who lives on an island in Lake Superior. During the warm months she shares the island with tourists and during most of the cold months she lives with her father, but there’s one month she spends alone: November. That is, until Hector shows up just as November is about to begin. He’s also alone, fleeing an abusive family situation. Anda knows she should leave him alone, but she’s drawn to him, and not just because he can see her when so many others don’t.

My description sounds like a sappy teenaged love story, but it’s much more than that. It was very deep and poetic at times. While I was reading it I was reminded of another story called The Tempest. I was thinking, the author should have named this character Miranda. Ooohhhh, duh, Anda! Probably other readers would have picked up on that faster, but at least I got it eventually!

Content Warning: Abuse and self harm. I recommend for people looking for a well written magical realism young adult novel. This is something adults and young adults alike will enjoy, but it is very “atmospheric” and a little heavy at times, so not a lighthearted read.

The Rook

The Rook

By: Daniel O’Malley
Published: 2012
Pages: 504
Series: The Checquy Files
Challenges: Alphabet Soup

Goodreads description:

Myfanwy Thomas awakens in a London park surrounded by dead bodies. With her memory gone, she must trust the instructions left by her former in order to survive. She quickly learns that she is a Rook, a high-level operative in a secret agency that protects the world from supernatural threats. But there is a mole inside the organization, and this person wants her dead.

Battling to save herself, Myfanwy will encounter a person with four bodies, a woman who can enter her dreams, children transformed into deadly fighters, and a terrifyingly vast conspiracy.

Suspenseful and hilarious, The Rook is an outrageously imaginative thriller for readers who like their espionage with a dollop of purple slime.

Review:

A friend loaned me this book a few months ago and recently gave me the next book in the series so I figured I’d better get a move on and read the first one! I’m glad I did because this fantasy mystery was funny, fascinating, and fast paced. I’m not into spy novels or criminal thrillers, but the fantasy aspects made all the difference and made me really interested in the main character and her job in a government-like agency.

Myfanwy (pronounced Miffany, rhymes with Tiffany) only knows her name because it’s in a note she finds in her coat pocket one evening when she wakes up in a park surrounded by dead bodies. The note also gives her a choice – face the dangers that will inevitably follow her or flee the country to live in luxury somewhere else. That doesn’t seem like much of a choice, but Myfanwy takes the road less traveled. She merges right into the real Myfanwy’s life, but spices things up a little.

In the supernatural agency she finds herself working for, nothing really needs spicing up, but Myfanwy manages to do just that in the midst of superhero-like characters and situations like sentient fungus houses and evil flesh cubes.

Basically, this is the kind of book I normally wouldn’t enjoy except for the fact that it’s filled with fantasy elements. Government agencies, spies, espionage, politics aren’t normally something I want in a book, but The Rook has lots of fun extras plus it’s well-written and super funny in parts. I laughed out loud once, which is very rare for me!

Overall, it was a fun read and I’m looking forward to reading the second in the series, Stiletto. It looks like a third in the series will be published this year, according to Goodreads. I recommend this to adults who enjoy fantasy, especially when it’s mixed with the modern world.

Blanca & Roja

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Blanca & Roja

By: Anna-Marie McLemore
Published: 2018
# of pages: 375
Challenges: What’s in a Name? (ampersand), Book Bingo (reliving fairytale)
Quote: “There were ways to carve away from your heart everything that did not truly belong, and still come back to life.”

Goodreads description:

The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.

The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.

But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.

Review:

I’m not going to lie, the cover and the title of this book are what made me put it on my TBR list. Then because it had an ampersand and had been on my list a good while, I decided to give it a go.

All in all, it was an interesting retelling of the fairytale Snow White. I loved the family myth aspect and the traditions and environment the sisters Blanca and Roja grow up amidst.

The problem (for me) was that this is a magical realism novel and it’s rare that I enjoy that genre. I have no clue why because I love fantasy and I think magical realism is such a cool concept, but for some reason I almost always don’t get into the plot or connect with the characters and this book was no exception, unfortunately.

Parts were also repetitive and others didn’t quite make sense. It was frustrating that so much hinged on miscommunication. And while this is true in real life and is a common theme in many novels, it came across as dense and stilted in this book.

What I did like are the many themes of relationships, the mythical aspects, and the original concept.

I’d recommend this to fans of magical realism, fairytale retellings, and anyone looking for a LGBT+ theme.

Vicious

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Vicious

By:  V.E. Schwab
Published: 
2013
# of pages:  366
Series:  Villains (#1)
Challenge:  A to Z
Quote:  “The moments that define lives aren’t always obvious. They don’t always scream LEDGE, and nine times out of ten there’s no rope to duck under, no line to cross, no blood pact, no official letter on fancy paper. They aren’t always protracted, heavy with meaning. Between one sip and the next, Victor made the biggest mistake of his life, and it was made of nothing more than one line. Three small words.”

4stargreen

Goodreads description:

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

Review:  So you’d think that since this is the first in a series and it was published in 2013 would mean that there’s now a complete series to enjoy.  But you’d be wrong!  There is a second book in the series that was just published a few months ago.  But obviously the author took a break from the Villains series to work on other books, such as the Shades of Magic series, which was a good series.

Vicious is about two friends, Eli and Victor, who take a college thesis idea and decide to act on it…by killing themselves.  As you can imagine, things quickly go downhill and 10 years later, Victor is out of prison and seeking revenge on Eli, a self-professed hero in the city of Merit.  Eli has an ability of his own, but he considers himself a hero because he’s ridding the city of everyone with supernatural powers.  Victor doesn’t really care about saving people’s lives, and of course he doesn’t really care about the “strays” he keeps attracting such as Mitch and Sydney, he just wants his revenge.

I really enjoyed this story and the characters.  There were a few things that I thought could have been more rounded out, such as Eli and Victor’s decisions in college, but the present day storyline and all of the characters made this an interesting and original book.  I recommend it to fans of fantasy and superhero/anti-hero fans.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Great characters, original story, could have been a little more detailed.

The Song of Achilles

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The Song of Achilles

By:  Madeline Miller
Published: 
2011
# of pages: 
352
Challenges: Full House (historical fiction)

5stargreen

Goodreads description:

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.

My review:  I can’t remember where I stumbled upon this book, but it’s been on my TBR list for a few months.  It doesn’t sound overly fascinating, but since I’m interested in mythology and want to learn more, I decided to check it out.  I’m so glad I read it because it was great!  Miller has a true talent for taking an ancient story of a time and place that are foreign to me and made it interesting and real.  I cared about the characters and learned a lot about the story of Achilles and the Trojan War in the process.  I visited Greece many years ago and was excited to read about some of the places I’ve seen with my own eyes.

We’ve all heard of Achilles, but this story is about Patroclus, a prince who was exiled from his home to the court of Achilles’ father.  Patroclus is an awkward character and definitely doesn’t fit in with the other men of Greece who live to fight for all sorts of different reasons, including the kidnapping (run away?) of Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world.  Patroclus is also very thoughtful and for the most part, he sticks with his values.

I loved how his story and the story of Achilles is realistically woven into the mythical aspects.  The gods are a regular part of men’s lives, especially Achilles, whose mother is the sea goddess Thetis.  I don’t feel like this review does the book justice, but The Song of Achilles is now one of my favorite books and I’m eager to read more by Madeline Miller.

Why I gave this book 5/5 stars: