Summary: Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most demeaning. This year, there’s a ninth. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.
In this richly developed fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards for an unknown fate still haunts her. Now, the guards are back and this time it’s Lei they’re after — the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king’s interest.
Over weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive palace, Lei and eight other girls learns the skills and charm that befit a king’s consort. There, she does the unthinkable — she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens her world’s entire way of life. Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.
My Thoughts: I have been looking forward to reading this book for so long because the description sounded amazing. Unfortunately I was fairly underwhelmed. The prologue was gripping and hooked me right away, but the rest of the story unfolded too slowly for me. I was more than half way through the book and it still felt like we were in exposition land. While we did get some beautiful world building and writing style, not enough happened with the characters or the plot. It definitely picked up towards the end, in fact the climax is spectacular, but the build up just wasn’t paced well enough for my taste. It also didn’t help that I had trouble visualizing, and getting on board with the demons/castes in this world. The concept is so unique and cool, especially with Ngan’s Malaysian influence, which is very clear in the narrative and schemes, but I struggled to fully grasp it all. My favorite thing about this book was the depth and complexity of the relationships. I loved Wren and the gradual way we got to know who she was through Lei’s eyes. She is fierce and I can’t wait to find out more about her and her people. All of the supporting characters were fleshed out really well and added so much depth to the story. My least favorite character was Lei. While she was the main character, I felt like she didn’t grow or change enough by the end to sustain the whole plot. She didn’t do much and stayed pretty stagnant the whole time. The evolution of her relationship and discovering who she was was nice, but I needed her to be more than that. While I didn’t love this book, I am fascinated by the world, and gasp-worthy ending made me itch to find out what is going to happen next.
Summary: You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.
The first lesson is to make yourself strong.
After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.
When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.
My Thoughts: I’m not gonna lie, I was underwhelmed by The Cruel Prince. It had so much hype and I think my expectations were too high so it let me down a little. But I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed The Wicked King. First of all, the world building is spectacular in this series. It’s so creative, full, and vibrant. The rules of the Faeries are perfectly explained and add so much to the story and our understanding of the world. There is so much political intrigue and it is handled in such an exciting way that kept me super invested. I think my main problem with The Cruel Prince was that I didn’t really connect with Jude, but I liked and rooted for her so much more in this one. I loved the way her relationship with Cardan developed and watching her scheme to maintain her control. She is smart and badass, and it was fun to see people underestimate her and have her prove them wrong. Cardan is such an interesting and complex character. He was my favorite in book 1, and after this book I am obsessed with him. I really hate Jude’s twin sister Taryn. I have since the first book, but even more so now. She is such a snake and I don’t trust her at all. Actually, my favorite thing about this book was that I could trust NO ONE. I loved having no idea where the story was going to go, and just when I thought I knew, I was blindsided with a twist (or 5).
The ending was fantastic and I hate that I have to wait forever to find out what is going to happen next. I finally understand the hype about this series, and have a slight book hangover. You got me Holly Black. You got me.
Summary: In this sequel to the instant New York Times bestseller, Camille, her sister Edel, and her guard and new love Remy must race against time to find Princess Charlotte. Sophia’s Imperial forces will stop at nothing to keep the rebels from returning Charlotte to the castle and her rightful place as queen. With the help of an underground resistance movement called The Iron Ladies-a society that rejects beauty treatments entirely-and the backing of alternative newspaper The Spider’s Web, Camille uses her powers, her connections and her cunning to outwit her greatest nemesis, Sophia, and restore peace to Orleans.
*Release Date: March 5th, 2019*
My Thoughts: I was such a huge fan of The Belles, and when I got approved for an ARC on Netgalley for the sequel, I was SO happy. I was excited to get back into the world that I loved so much from book one, and find out what was next for the characters after that cliff hanger ending. The book jumps right back in to where we left off, and it took me a minute to remember everything and readjust to the creative and specific verbiage they use. Unfortunately, the plot of this book is a bit slower than The Belles, and even though things were happening, everything just felt less vibrant. The action does pick up in the second half, but the characters stay pretty linear without much growth. The chemistry between Camille and Remy was nice, but I wanted their relationship to be stronger. It didn’t progress enough for me. The best relationships were between Camille and her sisters, and I loved seeing the different ways they all dealt with the battle against Sophia and their way of life. Speaking of, I wanted more of Sophia. They talked about her a lot, but I wanted more interactions and moments with her because her craziness made the first book so engaging. I liked where the story went, but it just felt like something was missing. I appreciated the open ending- it was satisfying enough if there is not another book, but it definitely leaves room for the story to continue. Overall, I was a little underwhelmed by this sequel, but there was enough for it to be enjoyable and I look forward to seeing if there is more to the story.
Summary: He was raised in revolution. She was raised in a palace. Can their love stop a war? Code Name Verity meets The Winner’s Curse in Joanna Hathaway’s Dark of the West, a breathtaking YA fantasy debut.
Aurelia Isendare is a princess of a small kingdom in the North, raised in privilege but shielded from politics as her brother prepares to step up to the throne. Halfway around the world, Athan Dakar, the youngest son of a ruthless general, is a fighter pilot longing for a life away from the front lines. When Athan’s mother is shot and killed, his father is convinced it’s the work of his old rival, the Queen of Etania—Aurelia’s mother. Determined to avenge his wife’s murder, he devises a plot to overthrow the Queen, a plot which sends Athan undercover to Etania to gain intel from her children.
Athan’s mission becomes complicated when he finds himself falling for the girl he’s been tasked with spying upon. Aurelia feels the same attraction, all the while desperately seeking to stop the war threatening to break between the Southern territory and the old Northern kingdoms that control it—a war in which Athan’s father is determined to play a role. As diplomatic ties manage to just barely hold, the two teens struggle to remain loyal to their families and each other as they learn that war is not as black and white as they’ve been raised to believe.
*I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge! Thank you for the opportunity!*
Release Date: February 5th, 2019
My Thoughts: This book was different than I had expected. It is billed as a fantasy novel, but other than being set in a fictional world, there were no fantasy elements whatsoever. It read more like a historical fiction war story- which is cool, but I kept waiting for the fantasy aspect to emerge and it never did. The fictional world is really in depth with complicated politics, which was amazing, but I found myself floundering without enough knowledge to fully grasp it all (I didn’t have the map in my ARC, and I think that would have helped me to understand it all better. There will be map in the official release.) In addition to the fully developed world, the characters were also pretty well formed and interesting- Athan especially. He was really likable and I empathized with him a lot. There was a great contrast between him and Aurelia and their relationship was sweet, however; I didn’t feel like it progressed enough. I loved their star-crossed lovers scenario, but I just wish there would have been a little more heat. In fact, the whole book was pretty slow and there wasn’t a lot of action. It was very politically focused, with intricate schemes and plans, and it felt like a set up for later action that didn’t come in this book. The last few chapters were a bit more exciting as things came to a head, and I did enjoy the twists, but I didn’t feel like there was enough plot driven action for the first book in a series. Overall, it was beautifully written with an interesting premise and characters, but it was a bit too slow for me to get fully on board.
Summary: Elloren Gardner and her friends were only seeking to right a few wrongs, but their actions have propelled them straight into the ranks of the realm-wide Resistance against Gardnerian encroachment. As the Resistance struggles against the harsh rulings of High Priest Marcus Vogel and the Mage Council, Elloren begins to realize that none of the people she cares about will be safe if Gardneria seizes control of the Western Realm.
With tensions heating up in Verpacia, more and more Gardnerian soldiers continue to descend upon the university…led by none other than Lukas Grey, now commander of the newly rebuilt Fourth Division base. Though Elloren tries to keep him at arm’s length, Lukas is determined to wandfast to her, convinced that she has inherited her grandmother’s magic—the prophesied power of the Black Witch. As his very nearness seems to awaken a darkness inside her, Elloren finds it more and more difficult to believe that she’s truly powerless, as her uncle always claimed.
Caught between her growing feelings for the rebellious Yvan Guriel and the seductive power offered by Lukas Grey, Elloren must find a way to stay true to what she knows is right and protect everyone she loves…even if that means protecting them from herself.
My Thoughts: I was so excited to get back to the world of The Black Witch Chronicles with The Iron Flower. It was one of my most anticipated releases of this year, and it definitely delivered. We pick up right where we left off at the end of The Black Witch, and I immediately became reabsorbed into the story of Elloren. While she can sometimes be a bit whiny and victim-y, I can’t help but feel for her and root for her to succeed. She recognizes and is disgusted by the privilege that she comes from, and wants to do everything in her power to fix the horrible things that her people are doing. All of the characters in this series are very well developed and interesting, and we only add more layers in this book. The love triangle between Elloren, Yvan, and Lukas is great and continues to grow. The sexual tension between Elloren and Yvan almost killed me with anticipation and I wanted to scream at them to BE TOGETHER ALREADY. Their relationship has grown so much and is the ultimate slow burn. This world that Forest has created is incredibly vast and detailed, and we got to experience so much more of it this time. We deal a lot with the politics happening in and around Verpacia, and it’s all super dark and I can’t wait to see how things will end up. SO much happens in this book and I never knew where it was going to go. The ending was very satisfying and had a great build leading up to a huge cliff hanger. I am along for the ride, and I can’t wait to see what is going to happen next.
Summary: Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.
But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.
With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.
My Thoughts: I loved this book. Dhonielle Clayton created a fantastic new world, and I am completely invested in it. The concept of “The Belles” was immediately fascinating to me and I couldn’t wait to figure out how everything worked and the mystery surrounding them. There was such a sinister undertone throughout the entire story, which was juxtaposed by the frilly, pink, and sweet surroundings and way of life of the people in Orléans. The way they view beauty is disturbing, and yet relatable, which is even more disturbing. It worked so well and the atmosphere made this story addicting. Our heroine, Camellia, was a fantastic main character and narrator. The world view from her eyes was captivating, and I thought her character arc was really wonderful. I loved how imperfect she was, and seeing her struggle against the things she was brought up to do was really relatable and engaging. Princess Sophia was an awesome villain. It was both entertaining and horrifying at the same time to watch her unravel. In fact, all of the characters were really well developed and complicated. The plot was gripping, and there were a few twists that really threw me for a loop. By the end I was screaming at my book, and the last chapter was entirely satisfying. This book would make an INCREDIBLE film, and I really hope someday we get to see it on screen. My only complaint is that I have to wait until 2019 to find out what happens next.