The State of SFF – April 2022

Welcome back, everyone. 🙂
I was too scared to make any promises last time, but it seems like I’m back in a somewhat regular blogging schedule. My reading is more or less normal again, I have a much easier time concentrating, and my pregnancy is going well. Also, I’m starting to feel more and more like a unicorn for not having had Covid yet. Even many of my friends who have been vaccinated three times are catching it (which may have to do with our government being absolute idiots and opening everything up and dropping all sorts of measures during a time with the highest, record-breaking incident numbers since the pandemic started… oh well).

I hope you are all doing well, that all your loved ones are safe and healthy, and that your reading is giving you nothing but joy.

Quickie News

  • The Hugo Award Finalists will be announced on April 7th which is very soon and thus all the more exciting. Get your TBRs ready, make sure to get plenty of rest and fluids, and then we can start reading our way through those finalists like the crazy book people we are.
  • Tor.com have graciously collected the information Brandon Sanderson has shared about his four secret novels that managed to break all Kickstarter records. Soif you want a quick overview about what these are all about, go check out the article.
  • Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronciles are being adapted as an animated film. I’ve been hoping for a movie or TV version of this guilty pleasure of mine, fairy tale retellings set in the future, with a sci-fi twist and lots of adorable romance. But I think I’m even more excited to find out it’s going to be animated. This opens up a whole new world for visuals.

Orilium Readathon

Last month, we got a week-long Orilium Gear-Up Readathon, this month, it’s the big one! G from the YouTube channel Book Roast has outdone herself. If you’re in the mood for a month-long readathon that feels like the character creation part of a video game at the same time as going to magic school, then this is for you. Naturally, I already signed up and have my TBR sort of planned out.

The rules may be many and intricate but G is known for keeping it all super low pressure. You can adapt and change the prompts and rules however you see fit. This is meant to be fun for everyone and the community is one of the most welcoming, kind ones I’ve met on the interwebs. Seriously, come play with us! We’d love to have you.


A Word about Subscription Box Special Editions and Entitled Customers

You may or may not know about book subscription boxes, a service you may subscribe to and which sends you a box with a mystery new publication plus some mechandise or useful items every month. There are plenty of them, for different genres, age gropus, and tastes and usually with different options such as “book only” or “full box” etc.

In recent years, these boxes have tried to set each other apart buy customizing their editions of a given book to be extra special. That menas sprayed edges, embossing on the hardcover, exclusive art for the endpapers or the reverse of the jacket, you get the idea. Sometimes, that also means a book will be signed by the author. Sometimes it won’t.

Now the box I subscribe to – Illumicrate – has sent out a book in March without an author signature and they’ve just announced their May book (Holly Black’s Book of Night) also won’t be signed. I know, what’s the big deal, right? Well, if you ask me, no deal at all. If you go to the comment section of their announcment however, you’ll see a whole bunch of people actually complaining and demanding to know if this is “a new trend” and how dare Illumicrate not have a signed copy for every single customer when Waterstones and other chain bookstores have them on offer?

This is just one example (and a more reasonable one) of those complaints. The comments are filled with way harsher words and that simply baffles me.

Those people, should they stumble across my blog, I would remind of the following things:

  • You didn’t sign up for a subscription box that offers signed copies guaranteed.
  • Authors are humans! Maybe if Holly Black has already signed thousands of books, she didn’t want to sign another thousand? Maybe she physically can’t? Maybe she has a deal with her publishers that grants certain stores exclusive rights to signed editions? Maybe she has better things to do, such as, I don’t know, write her next book?
  • Think about the supply chain. There may not have been time for signed editions. Books have to be printed and shipped and, in case you forgot, we’re still in a pandemic with an added war in Europe and the world is not exactly running smoothly.
  • If you’re so desperate for a signed edition, skip this month’s subscription and order a sigend edition!
    It’s not like it’s signed to you personally so what’s the big deal if you have to get it from somewhere other than your subscription box?
  • The Illumicrate team are humans as well. It’s their decision what extras to feature on any given book, it’s their work that makes all this possible. If you don’t like their work, unsubscribe. there is literally a waitlist full of people who’d be more than happy about those unsigned editions.
  • You can give feedback without sounding like an entitled brat.

Thanks for coming to my TED talk. That needed to be said or I would have exploded.


Exciting April Publications

A new Cat Valente, hooray, and a new C.S.E. Cooney (which I’m already reading), yay, and one of my most highly anticipated debuts, and it’s all happening in April!

EMILY ST. JOHN MANDEL – SEA OF TRANQUILITY (April 5th)

It’s a new book from Emily St. John Mandel, the author who ripped our hearts out and filled us up with hope with her wonderful Station Eleven. I have yet to read her last novel, The Glass Hotel, but that doesn’t mean I can’t look forward to this one.

The award-winning, best-selling author of Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel returns with a novel of art, time, love, and plague that takes the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony on the moon three hundred years later, unfurling a story of humanity across centuries and space.

Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal–an experience that shocks him to his core.

Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s bestselling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.

When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.

A virtuoso performance that is as human and tender as it is intellectually playful, Sea of Tranquility is a novel of time travel and metaphysics that precisely captures the reality of our current moment.


GRACE D. LI – PORTRAIT OF A THIEF (April 5th)

One of my most highly anticipated debuts of the year and not just because it’s about thieves and has a gorgeous cover. Okay, maybe mostly because it’s about thieves and has a gorgeous cover. But also Harvard seniors (I’m a sucker for reading about academia), a diverse cast, and themes of colonialism. Gimme!

Ocean’s Eleven meets The Farewell in Portrait of a Thief, a lush, lyrical heist novel inspired by the true story of Chinese art vanishing from Western museums; about diaspora, the colonization of art, and the complexity of the Chinese American identity.

History is told by the conquerors. Across the Western world, museums display the spoils of war, of conquest, of colonialism: priceless pieces of art looted from other countries, kept even now.

Will Chen plans to steal them back.

A senior at Harvard, Will fits comfortably in his carefully curated roles: a perfect student, an art history major and sometimes artist, the eldest son who has always been his parents’ American Dream. But when a mysterious Chinese benefactor reaches out with an impossible—and illegal—job offer, Will finds himself something else as well: the leader of a heist to steal back five priceless Chinese sculptures, looted from Beijing centuries ago.

His crew is every heist archetype one can imag­ine—or at least, the closest he can get. A con artist: Irene Chen, a public policy major at Duke who can talk her way out of anything. A thief: Daniel Liang, a premed student with steady hands just as capable of lockpicking as suturing. A getaway driver: Lily Wu, an engineering major who races cars in her free time. A hacker: Alex Huang, an MIT dropout turned Silicon Valley software engineer. Each member of his crew has their own complicated relationship with China and the identity they’ve cultivated as Chinese Americans, but when Will asks, none of them can turn him down.

Because if they succeed? They earn fifty million dollars—and a chance to make history. But if they fail, it will mean not just the loss of everything they’ve dreamed for themselves but yet another thwarted at­tempt to take back what colonialism has stolen.

Equal parts beautiful, thoughtful, and thrilling, Portrait of a Thief is a cultural heist and an examination of Chinese American identity, as well as a necessary cri­tique of the lingering effects of colonialism.


EMILY J. TAYLOR – HOTEL MAGNIFIQUE (April 5th)

This book’s synopsis has a few anti-buzz words for me, as I thought both Caraval and The Night Circus were books with pretty settings and little substance. I will definitely wait for reviews before I get this book but I’ll remain cautiously interested.

For fans of Caraval and The Night Circus, this decadent and darkly enchanting YA fantasy, set against the backdrop of a Belle Époque-inspired hotel, follows seventeen-year-old Jani as she uncovers the deeply disturbing secrets of the legendary Hotel Magnifique.

All her life, Jani has dreamed of Elsewhere. Just barely scraping by with her job at a tannery, she’s resigned to a dreary life in the port town of Durc, caring for her younger sister Zosa. That is, until the Hotel Magnifique comes to town.

The hotel is legendary not only for its whimsical enchantments, but also for its ability to travel—appearing in a different destination every morning. While Jani and Zosa can’t afford the exorbitant costs of a guest’s stay, they can interview to join the staff, and are soon whisked away on the greatest adventure of their lives. But once inside, Jani quickly discovers their contracts are unbreakable and that beneath the marvelous glamour, the hotel is hiding dangerous secrets.

With the vexingly handsome doorman Bel as her only ally, Jani embarks on a mission to unravel the mystery of the magic at the heart of the hotel and free Zosa—and the other staff—from the cruelty of the ruthless maître d’hôtel. To succeed, she’ll have to risk everything she loves, but failure would mean a fate far worse than never returning home.


RORY POWERS – IN A GARDEN BURNING GOLD (April 5th)

Rory Powers must be a favorite of the cover gods because, damn! Also magical twins defending themselves and their siblings against their crazy father, mythology, and lots of backstabbing. Teehee.

Twins imbued with incredible magic and near-immortality will do anything to keep their family safe—even if it tears the siblings apart—in the first book of a mythic epic fantasy from the New York Times bestselling author of Wilder Girls.

Rhea and her twin brother, Lexos, have spent an eternity helping their father rule their small, unstable country, using their control over the seasons, tides, and stars to keep the people in line. For a hundred years, they’ve been each other’s only ally, defending each other and their younger siblings against their father’s increasingly unpredictable anger.

Now, with an independence movement gaining ground and their father’s rule weakening, the twins must take matters into their own hands to keep their family—and their entire world—from crashing down around them. But other nations are jockeying for power, ready to cross and double cross, and if Rhea and Lexos aren’t careful, they’ll end up facing each other across the battlefield.


CHRIS PANATIER – STRINGERS (April 12th)

Comparisons to Hitchhiker’s Guide are always a daring choice, but they also always work on me. So here I am, wanting desperately to get my hands on this very green book.

“Where Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy recommended towels, this slapstick and semisweet space opera sends its Earthlings out among the aliens armed only with a jar of pickles…Readers are in for a treat.” — Publishers Weekly in a starred review

“Panatier combines humor, action, and a memorable cast of characters to deliver a read perfect for fans of Becky Chambers who appreciate a good fart joke and fans of Douglas Adams interested in considering serious moral quandaries in between chuckles.” — ALA Booklist

Knowledge can get you killed. Especially if you have no idea what it means.

Ben is NOT a genius, but he can spout facts about animals and wristwatches with the best of experts. He just can’t explain how he knows any of it.

He also knows about the Chime. What it is or why it’s important he couldn’t say. But this knowledge is about to get him in a whole heap of trouble.

After he and his best friend Patton are abducted by a trash-talking, flesh-construct alien bounty hunter, Ben finds out just how much he is worth… and how dangerous he can be. Hopefully Patton and a stubborn jar of pickles will be enough to help him through. Because being able to describe the mating habits of Brazilian bark lice isn’t going to save them.


C.S.E. COONEY – SAINT DEATH’S DAUGHTER (April 12th)

I am reading this already because lukcy me got an e-ARC. Cooney stole my heart with her collection Bone Swans (seriously, go read it if you want a treat) so her first big novel was something I wouldn’t miss for the world. It’s as if Gideon the Ninth got hit across the head with a cheerfulness hammer, blasted with a highly creative mythology gun, and then soaked a few hours in poetic language stew. I’m loving it so far!

Fun, froofy and glorious: a coming-of-age story in a new trilogy from World Fantasy Award-winning author C.S.E. Cooney.

Nothing complicates life like Death.

Lanie Stones, the daughter of the Royal Assassin and Chief Executioner of Liriat, has never led a normal life. Born with a gift for necromancy and a literal allergy to violence, she was raised in isolation in the family’s crumbling mansion by her oldest friend, the ancient revenant Goody Graves.

When her parents are murdered, it falls on Lanie and her cheerfully psychotic sister Nita to settle their extensive debts or lose their ancestral home—and Goody with it. Appeals to Liriat’s ruler to protect them fall on indifferent ears… until she, too, is murdered, throwing the nation’s future into doubt.

Hunted by Liriat’s enemies, hounded by her family’s creditors and terrorised by the ghost of her great-grandfather, Lanie will need more than luck to get through the next few months—but when the goddess of Death is on your side, anything is possible.


EMILY X.R. PAN – AN ARROW TO TH EMOON (April 12th)

Keeping with the Asian mythology trend of 2022, we get this Romeo and Juliet version but with interesting-sounding twists. The supernatural wind definitely caught my eye as did the contemporary setting. (The pretty cover doesn’t hurt either.)

Romeo and Juliet meets Chinese mythology in this magical novel by the New York Times bestselling author of The Astonishing Color of After.

In Fairbridge, a series of bizarre phenomena brings together a pair of star-crossed lovers from rival families.

Hunter Yee has perfect aim with a bow and arrow, but all else in his life veers wrong. He’s sick of being haunted by his family’s past mistakes. The only things keeping him from running away are his little brother, a supernatural wind, and the bewitching girl at his new school.

Luna Chang dreads the future. It’s the last year of high school, and her parents’ expectations are stifling. When she begins to break the rules, she finds her life upended by the strange new boy in her class, the arrival of unearthly fireflies, and an ominous crack spreading across the town.

As Hunter and Luna navigate their families’ enmity and secrets, everything around them begins to fall apart. All they can depend on is their love…but time is running out, and fate will have its way.


REBECCA ROANHORSE – FEVERED STAR (April 19th)

Finally we get the continuation of the series that started with the well-written but very non-standalone Black Sun to see where the tales of Serapio, Xiala, and Naranpa will take us.

Return to The Meridian with New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Roanhorse’s sequel to the most critically hailed epic fantasy of 2020 Black Sun—finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, Lambda, and Locus awards.

There are no tides more treacherous than those of the heart. —Teek saying

The great city of Tova is shattered. The sun is held within the smothering grip of the Crow God’s eclipse, but a comet that marks the death of a ruler and heralds the rise of a new order is imminent.

The Meridian: a land where magic has been codified and the worship of gods suppressed. How do you live when legends come to life, and the faith you had is rewarded?

As sea captain Xiala is swept up in the chaos and currents of change, she finds an unexpected ally in the former Priest of Knives. For the Clan Matriarchs of Tova, tense alliances form as far-flung enemies gather and the war in the heavens is reflected upon the earth.

And for Serapio and Naranpa, both now living avatars, the struggle for free will and personhood in the face of destiny rages. How will Serapio stay human when he is steeped in prophecy and surrounded by those who desire only his power? Is there a future for Naranpa in a transformed Tova without her total destruction?

Welcome back to the fantasy series of the decade in Fevered Star—book two of Between Earth and Sky.


NICOLA GRIFFITH – SPEAR (April 19th)

I swear, Hild has been on my TBR for way too long yet I keep not picking it up. Maybe with this novella, I’ll finally get the push to dive into Nicola Griffith’s work.

The girl knows she has a destiny before she even knows her name. She grows up in the wild, in a cave with her mother, but visions of a faraway lake come to her on the spring breeze, and when she hears a traveler speak of Artos, king of Caer Leon, she knows that her future lies at his court.

And so, brimming with magic and eager to test her strength, she breaks her covenant with her mother and, with a broken hunting spear and mended armour, rides on a bony gelding to Caer Leon. On her adventures she will meet great knights and steal the hearts of beautiful women. She will fight warriors and sorcerers. And she will find her love, and the lake, and her fate.


ADRIENNE TOOLEY – SOFI AND THE BONE SONG (April 19th)

I love when fantasy involves music as a central element and the idea of the super diligent student up against what appears to be a natural (no lessons, just pure talent) appeals to me.

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In this gorgeous, queer standalone fantasy, a young musician sets out to expose her rival for illegal use of magic only to discover the deception goes deeper than she could have imagined—perfect for fans of An Enchantment of Ravens!

Music runs in Sofi’s blood.

Her father is a Musik, one of only five musicians in the country licensed to compose and perform original songs. In the kingdom of Aell, where winter is endless and magic is accessible to all, there are strict anti-magic laws ensuring music remains the last untouched art.

Sofi has spent her entire life training to inherit her father’s title. But on the day of the auditions, she is presented with unexpected competition in the form of Lara, a girl who has never before played the lute. Yet somehow, to Sofi’s horror, Lara puts on a performance that thoroughly enchants the judges.

Almost like magic.

The same day Lara wins the title of Musik, Sofi’s father dies, and a grieving Sofi sets out to prove Lara is using illegal magic in her performances. But the more time she spends with Lara, the more Sofi begins to doubt everything she knows about her family, her music, and the girl she thought was her enemy.

As Sofi works to reclaim her rightful place as a Musik, she is forced to face the dark secrets of her past and the magic she was trained to avoid—all while trying not to fall for the girl who stole her future.


CATHERYNNE M. VALENTE – OSMO UNKNOWN AND THE EIGHTPENNY WOODS (April 26th)

AAAAAAAAAAH a new middle grade adventure by my favoritest of authors and it has a PANGIRLIN in it. That’s right, pan-girl-in. My heart! Plus, this is Valente’s underworld novel for kids so I just know there’s going to be lots of nods to mythology and folklore in it as well as adorable characters.

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A fantasy following a boy journeying away from the only home he’s ever known and into the magical realm of the dead in order to fulfill a bargain for his people.

Osmo Unknown hungers for the world beyond his small town. With the life that Littlebridge society has planned for him, the only taste Osmo will ever get are his visits to the edge of the Fourpenny Woods where his mother hunts. Until the unthinkable happens: his mother accidentally kills a Quidnunk, a fearsome and intelligent creature that lives deep in the forest.

None of this should have anything to do with poor Osmo, except that a strange treaty was once formed between the Quidnunx and the people of Littlebridge to ensure that neither group would harm the other. Now that a Quidnunk is dead, as the firstborn child of the hunter who killed her, Osmo must embark on a quest to find the Eightpenny Woods—the mysterious kingdom where all wild forest creatures go when they die—and make amends.

Accompanied by a very rude half-badger, half-wombat named Bonk and an antisocial pangolin girl called Never, it will take all of Osmo’s bravery and cleverness to survive the magic of the Eightpenny Woods to save his town…and make it out alive.


VAISHNAVI PATEL – KAIKEYI (April 26th)

To be honest, most of the description for this sounds like rather generic women’s uprising fare. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I just like my fantasy to offer more layers. So it’s the “evil from childhood stories” that drew me in after all and makes me want to give this Ramayana retelling a go.

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“Patel’s mesmerizing debut shines a brilliant light on the vilified queen from the Ramayana….This easily earns its place on shelves alongside Madeline Miller’s Circe.” –Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“I was born on the full moon under an auspicious constellation, the holiest of positions—much good it did me.”

So begins Kaikeyi’s story. The only daughter of the kingdom of Kekaya, she is raised on tales about the might and benevolence of the gods: how they churned the vast ocean to obtain the nectar of immortality, how they vanquish evil and ensure the land of Bharat prospers, and how they offer powerful boons to the devout and the wise. Yet she watches as her father unceremoniously banishes her mother, listens as her own worth is reduced to how great a marriage alliance she can secure. And when she calls upon the gods for help, they never seem to hear.

Desperate for some measure of independence, she turns to the texts she once read with her mother and discovers a magic that is hers alone. With this power, Kaikeyi transforms herself from an overlooked princess into a warrior, diplomat, and most favored queen, determined to carve a better world for herself and the women around her.

But as the evil from her childhood stories threatens the cosmic order, the path she has forged clashes with the destiny the gods have chosen for her family. And Kaikeyi must decide if resistance is worth the destruction it will wreak—and what legacy she intends to leave behind.

A stunning debut from a powerful new voice, Kaikeyi is a tale of fate, family, courage, and heartbreak—of an extraordinary woman determined to leave her mark in a world where gods and men dictate the shape of things to come.


T. KINGFISHER – NETTLE AND BONE (April 26th)

Not only are we getting a new Cat Valente adventure in April, we’ll also get a T. Kingfisher fairy tale-esque novel about sisters and witches and impossible tasks. The fact that they want to kill the prince makes this 100% cooler, and I just know I will fall in love with the demon-possessed chicken.

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A dark and compelling fantasy about sisterhood, impossible tasks and the price of power, from award-winning author T. Kingfisher

After years of seeing her sisters suffer at the hands of an abusive prince, Marra―the shy, convent-raised, third-born daughter―has finally realized that no one is coming to their rescue. No one, except for Marra herself.

Seeking help from a powerful gravewitch, Marra is offered the tools to kill a prince―if she can complete three impossible tasks. But, as is the way in tales of princes, witches, and daughters, the impossible is only the beginning.

On her quest, Marra is joined by the gravewitch, a reluctant fairy godmother, a strapping former knight, and a chicken possessed by a demon. Together, the five of them intend to be the hand that closes around the throat of the prince and frees Marra’s family and their kingdom from its tyrannous ruler at last.


FONDA LEE – THE JADE SETTER OF JANLOON (April 30th)

The crowning finale of April is a new (if shorter) work in the mind-blowing Green Bone Saga by Fonda Lee. If you want the limited hardback edition, go to Subterranean Press now. These usually sell out quickly! I’ll stick with the e-book but I cannot wait to see what this prequel novella has in store for us.

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THE JADE SETTER OF JANLOON is a standalone novella in The Green Bone Saga. It takes place two years before the events of Jade City, and it will be coming out from Subterranean Press in early 2022, in beautiful limited edition hardback and ebook.


News from the blog

I am back in the game. It wasn’t a record-breaking month, especially considering that I picked a few shorter books to read, but I am okay with it.

What I read last month:

I am so glad I finally started the Divine Cities trilogy because now I know why everyone says it’s so good. Because it is! I’m afraid my brain wasn’t all that fair to Tasha Suri’s book but then I had fun with two shorter instalments by authors I like, and I tried a new book (first adult after only YA) by a new-to-me author that left me underwhelmed.

Currently reading:

  • C.S.C. Cooney – Saint Death’s Daughter (ARC)
  • Robert Jordan – The Dragon Reborn
  • Ann Leckie – Ancillary Sword
  • V.E. Schwab – Gallant
  • Jessica Townsend – Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow

Yeah, yeah, so my Wheel of Time read-through isn’t exactly going smoothly. I do read a chapter every once in a while but then I’m reminded that the book is treating me like I’m a little stupid, with its many repetitions (what is up with the braid tugging?!), its rather one-minded female characters (who gets to marry Rand, my ass, don’t you have bigger problems?), and its long-winded explanations of things that have been made perfectly clear already. But I still kind of want to know where it’s all going, so I will read on. Just very, very slowly.

My e-ARC of C.S.E. Cooney’s first full-length novel is brilliant and wonderfully weird and very intriguing. I have no idea what direction the story will take me in and that is just how I like it. The Raadchai mood has left me a little but I am still on the Ancillary books. And the Orilium readathon gave me the push to pick up two middle grade books. Both the Schwab and the Townsend are quite fun so far.

Until next month: Stay safe, stay kind, and keep reading. 🙂

3 thoughts on “The State of SFF – April 2022

  1. Tammy says:

    I keep hearing great things about Saint Death’s Daughter, and I’m kicking myself for not requesting it. And The Glass Hotel is so good, if you get the chance to read it. Completely different from Station Eleven😁

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jenny @ Reading the End says:

    Saint Death’s Daughter sounds really fun — Cooney is one of those authors who’s been at the periphery of my reading consciousness for a while, but I’ve never picked up a book (yet). Saint Death’s Daughter sounds like the perfect one.

    I’m a bit sad you don’t like Tasha Suri, but at the same time I am really struggling with ANY long books so I get it. I can’t remember, is this your first book by her?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dina says:

      No, I’ve read Empire of Sand and really liked it. Tasha Suri is great, I think my last read just didn’t work for me because I had trouble concentrating. Not the author’s fault at all. 🙂

      Like

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