Review: The Girl In The Tower

January 20, 2018 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Girl In The TowerThe Girl In The Tower by Katherine Arden
Series: Winternight Trilogy #2
Published by Ebury on 25th January 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
five-stars

For a young woman in medieval Russia, the choices are stark: marriage or a life in a convent. Vasya
will choose a third way: magic...

The court of the Grand Prince of Moscow is plagued by power struggles and rumours of unrest. Meanwhile bandits roam the countryside, burning the villages and kidnapping its daughters. Setting out to defeat the raiders, the Prince and his trusted companion come across a young man riding a magnificent horse.

Only Sasha, a priest with a warrior's training, recognises this 'boy' as his younger sister, thought to be dead or a witch by her village. But when Vasya proves herself in battle, riding with remarkable skill and inexplicable power, Sasha realises he must keep her secret as she may be the only way to save the city from threats both human and fantastical...

Having read (and loved) the first book in this series, The Bear and the Nightingale last Christmas, I saved my  early copy of book two, The Girl In The Tower for over the festive season. Set in the Russian winter, this is a tale that’s perfect to read at this time of year. But truthfully, Arden’s writing will transport you to the Russian winter no matter the season outside.

If you haven’t yet read the first book, then make sure you check out my review of it here and go pick up a copy! This post will inevitably contain mild spoilers for that first book.

Where The Bear and the Nightingale was set in rural Russia, The Girl In The Tower takes us on an adventure through the rural landscape and into Moscow itself. Continuing from the first book, we follow Vasya who, with accusations of witchcraft lingering at home, looks to follow her dreams, break with convention, shun marriage or the convent and travel.

We also spend time with her older brother Sasha, the monk, who I personally really liked in the first book, as well as meeting other characters – old and new!

Once again, Arden engulfs us in a beautifully written tale, built around Russian history and folklore. Through Vasya she continues to explore the lives of, and expectations towards, women at this time in Russian history – weaving historical fact within her fiction.

Having become familiarised with the conventions of rural Russia, we arrive in Moscow as overwhelmed as Vasya herself. Together we uncover the lay of the land, the customs, expectations, and requirements of the upper echelons in the Russian city.

The development of the characters in this second novel is fantastic. I love the progression of Vasya’s character – she’s everything I hoped she would be!

Arden’s writing is once again a highlight for me. Her descriptions, turn of phrase and writing style swept me up. I felt I was, once again, there in the Russian snow. I loved the continuation of the story. For me, it felt more action-packed than the first book, filled with deception, death… and a sassy horse!

The story itself is unforgettable, the writing enchanting, what more can I say? It’s a must-read for fans of The Bear and the Nightingale!

five-stars

Review: Everless

December 14, 2017 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, YA Fantasy

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: EverlessEverless by Sara Holland
Published by Orchard Books on 4th January 2018
Genres: YA Fantasy, Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
five-stars

In the land of Sempera, the rich control everything - even time. Ever since the age of alchemy and sorcery, hours, days and years have been extracted from blood and bound to iron coins. The rich live for centuries; the poor bleed themselves dry.

Jules and her father are behind on their rent and low on hours. To stop him from draining himself to clear their debts, Jules takes a job at Everless, the grand estate of the cruel Gerling family.

There, Jules encounters danger and temptation in the guise of the Gerling heir, Roan, who is soon to be married. But the web of secrets at Everless stretches beyond her desire, and the truths Jules must uncover will change her life for ever ... and possibly the future of time itself.

I’d heard so much love for this book among fellow reviewers who’ve also been lucky enough to get early copies so I was excited to delve into this new fantasy series. However I must admit, I started reading Everless with a little trepidation. Could this book live up to the early hype? The simple answer, for me, is yes.

I actually had a whole section written to try and describe this book but honestly my draft was long and I just didn’t feel it did the book justice. So we are just going to skip that bit and I refer you to the synopsis above!

This is a hard book to put down, and yet I didn’t want it to end. The concept of time as a currency, extracted from the blood is so creative. I’ve never read anything quite like it. Sara Holland has created a fascinating, rich world where the gulfs between rich and poor are not only measured in monetary value but in time, lifespan.

There’s so much to like in this novel. The storyline is absorbing and mysterious, with characters that I certainly became invested in. It’s a clever, well-written novel that may on the surface appear like others in the genre but is actually quite unique. It has a fairytale-esque feel to it, with the same looming darkness our favourite tales contain.

All in all, this is an excellent, addictive read. I genuinely cannot wait to read the second book in this series. I really think Everless will be hugely popular in 2018. Expect to see this book everywhere.

five-stars

Short Stories For Autumn

November 8, 2017 in Book Reviews, Short Stories

There’s something about this time of year that lends itself beautifully to curling up in a favourite chair with a cuppa, a blanket and a compilation of short stories. Don’t you think? So today I thought I’d share with you two of my recent reads that I think are perfect for reading right now!

Short Stories For AutumnThe Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo
on 26th September 2017
Genres: Short Stories, Fantasy
Format: Hardback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
five-stars

Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid's voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy's bidding but only for a terrible price.

I’ve long been a Leigh Bardugo fan and her Grishaverse is one of my favourite worlds to visit. So when she announced she’d be publishing a collection of Grishaverse short stories inspired by myth, fairy tale and folklore I was beyond excited! Like many folk, I’d read a few of the tales years ago but this collection brings together three of these stories and three brand-new tales! What’s more they are packaged within the most gorgeously finished book I think I’ve ever seen!

This beautifully illustrated edition contains imagery which changes with every turn of the page – the more you read, the more of the image you see until the final page when we are introduced to the final full-spread illustration.

As you’d expect from Bardugo, her stunning, rich writing pairs perfectly with these illustrations. Each tale is beautifully crafted – each page one to savour. I can’t recommend this enough, it’s just a thoroughly breath-taking book.

 

Short Stories For AutumnThe Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell
on 2nd November 2017
Genres: Short Stories, Fantasy, Magical Realism
Format: Hardback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
four-half-stars

'These days, you can find anything you need at the click of a button.
That's why I bought her heart online.'

Spirits in jam jars, mini-apocalypses, animal hearts and side shows.
A girl runs a coffin hotel on a remote island.
A boy is worried his sister has two souls.
A couple are rewriting the history of the world.
And mermaids are on display at the local aquarium.

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night is a collection of twelve haunting stories; modern fairy tales brimming with magic, outsiders and lost souls.

I’ve been excited for this book for a long time – Jen Campbell’s first collection of adult fiction. Up until now, she’s written non-fiction, poetry and this year she released her first children’s picture book (it’s fab) so I couldn’t wait to dive into this collection of short stories. I wasn’t disappointed!

Jen shares with us 12 tales which draw upon her love of myths, fairytales and their histories. Her writing is captivating as she weaves stories that are all individual and highly memorable. It’s dark at times, strange and whimsical too – and you’ll find it impossible to put it down after each story. I intended to savour this book but I devoured it, I didn’t want to leave Jen’s writing. The perfect mixture of fantasy and magical realism, this book is not to be missed.

I hate to mention the word Christmas so soon but this would make the perfect Christmas gift, and Jen will even sign, dedicate and wrap copies for you if you order through her website – the ultimate special gift!

Review: Darien

November 4, 2017 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: DarienDarien by C.F. Iggulden
Series: Empire of Salt #1
Published by Michael Joseph on 13th July 2017
Genres: Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars

TWELVE FAMILIES. ONE THRONE. WELCOME TO THE EMPIRE OF SALT.

The city of Darien stands at the weary end of a golden age. Twelve families keep order with soldiers and artefacts, spies and memories, clinging to a peace that shifts and crumbles. The people of the city endure what they cannot change.

Here, amongst old feuds, a plot is hatched to kill a king. It will summon strangers to the city - Elias Post, a hunter, Tellius, an old swordsman banished from his home, Arthur, a boy who cannot speak, Daw Threefold, a chancer and gambler, Vic Deeds, who feels no guilt - and Nancy, a girl whose talent might be the undoing of them all.

Their arrival inside the walls as the sun sets will set off a series of explosive events. Before the sun returns, five destinies will have been made - and lost - in Darien.

In the past I’ve very much enjoyed Conn Iggulden’s works of historical fiction – his Emperor series being one that really captivated me. So upon hearing that Iggulden would be releasing his first work of fantasy, Darien, (under the name C.F. Iggulden) I knew I had to read it!

Darien is the city around which most of this novel revolves. Headed by a King and twelve families, Darien is a city of power, where those that crave it use whatever means to attain or retain it.

I’m not going to go into the detail of this novel; the synopsis above tells you all I think you need to know. What I will say is that we are introduced to some very interesting characters in this book, each of whom have their own stories, skills and motivations. Although there are many characters in this novel, Iggulden (in my opinion) does them all justice. I always admire this skill in a writer – the ability to introduce depth of character in many characters without overwhelming the reader.

I really enjoyed how the author has drawn upon his great historical knowledge to help to build this world, add the details and merge fact with fantasy.

I became thoroughly swept up in the story, remembering just how much I’ve always enjoyed Iggulden’s writing. As for the fantasy aspect? Well, I love it! It’s hard to describe fantasy as realistic but the building of the world and the characters, if not the magic element itself, make it so.

In short – I’m eager for book two!

four-stars

Review: The Last Namsara

October 11, 2017 in Book Reviews, YA Fantasy

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Last NamsaraThe Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli
Series: Iskari #1
Published by Gollancz on 12th October 2017 (UK)
Genres: Fantasy, YA Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be dark—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up hearing in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.

Asha is the daughter of the dragon king. The people are afraid of her because she brought dragonflame upon the city as a child, telling Old Stories which attract the dragons. She herself was badly burned, but was rescued by the commandant’s son, Jarek. Now she is a hunter of dragons, a dragon slayer for her father the King who has also named her Iskari, from the Old Stories.

Asha is betrothed to the very boy who saved her. He’s commandant now, leader of her father’s armies and one of the few people who isn’t scared of her. In fact, if anything, she is scared of him.

When her father offers her the chance to call off their impending marriage, Asha leaps at the chance. Should she finally capture the First Dragon, Kozu, the very one that burned her skin and torched her city, her father would be willing to cancel the ceremony but Asha doesn’t have much time. Her quest leads her to cross paths with her betrothed’s slave, a boy called Torwin who doesn’t seem to fear her. In fact he breaks laws to look directly at her face.

There is much to love in this book – not least the dragons! Our story is told around Asha but also shares the Old Stories that she holds dear, those that remind her of her late mother. However, not only do the stories make people ill and are therefore banned, but they also draw dragons. The telling of the Old Stories attracts the dragons, which is a tempting proposition when you are hunting them, tasked with returning with their heads.

I enjoyed the storytelling style of this novel – the way the old and new cultures and beliefs were conveyed, so integral to the story yet also told as part of the tale.

I was unsure of Asha at first but I grew to like her. Honestly, and probably unsurprisingly, Torwin was my favourite character in this novel. As for other characters, I’d have liked to have seen more of Safira (Asha’s cousin) and Dax (Asha’s brother). I felt that they were kind of peripheral although they played a role in the story.

I will admit to feeling slightly overwhelmed by the world at times. It took me a while to get things straight in my mind, the different peoples, regions, names etc, but that’s probably down to my foggy brain!

I really enjoyed the writing in the novel and found it so easy to get swept up in this tale. This is the first book in a trilogy and I will most definitely be picking up book two.

four-stars