Falling in Love With Death: Martine Leavitt – Keturah and Lord Death

This is a fairy tale-esque book I’ve been meaning to read forever. It’s part 1001 Nights, part Hades and Persephone, and part medieval romance. Its simplicity is at the same time what makes it so lovely and also what will probably make it disappear from my memory quite fast.

KETURAH AND LORD DEATH
by Martine Leavitt

Published: Boyds Mill Press, 2006
Ebook: 216 pages
Standalone
My rating: 7/10

Opening line: “Keturah, tell us a story,” said Naomi, “one of your tales of faërie or magic.”

Keturah, renowned for her storytelling, follows a legendary hart deep into the forest, where she becomes hopelessly lost. Her strength diminishes until, finally, she realizes that death is near—and learns then that death is a young lord, melancholy and stern. She is able to charm Lord Death with a story and gain a reprieve, but he grants her only a day, and within that day she must find true love. A mesmerizing love story, interweaving elements of classic fantasy and high romance.

Keturah lives in a small village that has come into disrepair and wants very little of life. She wants her grandmother to be well, her best friends Beatrice and Gretta to be happy, and a true love for herself. When she gets lost in the wood and almost freezes to death, she meets a tall dark stranger who turns out to be none other than Lord Death himself. Not wanting to die without having experienced love yet, she tells him a story but leaves out the ending, bargaining for another day in which she can prove to Death that she can find her true love and marry him.

So begins the fairy tale of Keturah and Lord Death. Keturah doesn’t mess around but promptly seeks out the village wise woman (read: witch) for a charm to let her know which of the eligible bachelors in town may be Keturah’s own true love. And then go and follow her in her daily business, get to know other characters and see that, to Keturah’s dismay, none of the village boys seems to be her true love, no matter how much she likes them or how much they admire her.

This story is a very simple one but that doesn’t mean it’s easily dismissed. Not only does Keturah have to keep bargaining with Death – by use of unfinished stories – for another day, and another after that, but the way her home town sees her also changes. They accuse her of witchcraft, of having met fairies, of being in league with Death! The only people who always, always stick by Keturah’s side are her grandmother and her two best friends. It seems silly to mention in a tale like this because it really does read like a fairy tale, but the female friendships were truly heartwarming. Beatrice and Gretta not only try their best to help Keturah but even offer up the men they are secretly in love with for her to marry – just so she can escape being taken by Death.

For a book this slim, there’s actually a lot going on. The town expects a visit from the King, there is a threat of plague (how timely…), and a big celebration is coming up, including a cooking contest that Keturah needs to win in order to potentially marry one of the boys in town – men in his family only marry Best Cook because tradition. The fairy tale-like writing style worked pretty well and while not much happens that couldn’t be predicted from the first page, I was never bored.
But it was also the writing style that makes this book a little forgettable. I quite enjoyed it while I read it but it really did feel like reading an old tale that I had read many times before. There were no twists, no real villains, there was just a bunch of essentially good people and beautiful Keturah, who is possibly the best of them all.

The conclusion also doesn’t come as a surprise, and I don’t think it tried to. For us readers, it’s clear from the start who Keturah’s true love is and who she will end up marrying, but watching Keturah herself slowly learn this truth was a lot of fun. Even though I feel bad for the boys who clearly had a crush on her.

If you want a quick read that reminds you of being a child, reading fairy tales in bed, do pick this up. It’s a lovely little story with wonderful characters. And even though I’ll probably forget all their names within the next week, I will remember the feelings this book gave me fondly.

MY RATING: 7/10 – Very good

From a Different Perspective: Juliet Marillier – Beautiful

Whenever I discover a new fairy tale retelling, my ears prick up. In this case, it was also my ears who got to experience said retelling because it’s an Audible Original, meaning it only exists (so far) as an audiobook. I had read one book by Juliet Marillier previously and while I didn’t love it as much as many others did, it convinced me of her storytelling abilities and I knew she had great ideas about how to tell fairy tales in a new and original way.

BEAUTIFUL
by Juliet Marillier

Published: Audible Studios, 2019
Audiobook: 7 hours 18 minutes
Standalone
My rating: 5,5/10

Opening line: There were no mirrors in our house.

With the Nordic fairy tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon as her inspiration, Juliet Marillier weaves a magical story of a young princess’ search for her true self.
Hulde is a queen’s daughter and lives in a palace. But her life is lonely. Growing up atop the glass mountain, she knows only her violent and autocratic mother and a household of terrified servants.
Then a white bear named Rune comes to visit, and Hulde learns what kindness is.
But the queen has a plan for Hulde. When she turns 16, she will wed the most beautiful man in all the world. Hulde has never met her intended husband, and her mother refuses to explain the arrangement. Hulde becomes desperate to find out more and seeks the help of a magic mirror. Perhaps someone is coming to her rescue.
On her wedding day, Hulde’s existence is turned upside down. For the first time she leaves the glass mountain behind, setting out to be as brave as the heroines in her beloved storybook.
The journey will test Hulde to the limit. Can she overcome her fears and take control of her own life?

This audiobook comes in three parts. The first part was fantastic, the second meandered a bit, and the third was a nice, but unsurprising conclusion. That’s the reason I’m not rating this any higher because I love a book that starts out slow and the builds momentum but here, we have the exact reverse happening. Overall, I’d still recommend it but because the beginning was the best part, the story left me feeling mostly meh.

Hulde is a princess who lives in a castle without any mirrors. She is told she is beautiful and will marry the most beautiful prince in all the lands when she turns 16. Her tyrant of a mother has made arrangements. But Hulde has very little to do in her castle. Her days are spent waiting for the few months that her only friend, a polar bear, comes to stay. This white bear called Rune brings not only his friendship but also books. Hulde especially likes the stories that talk about brave heroines who go out into the world and defy the odds.

As I didn’t read any synopsis of this book before I started listening other than “a retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon”, it took me quite a while to see what Marillier was doing here, although it’s highly obvious from the start. You see, Hulde is not your average princess but the troll queen’s daughter. That’s right – she’s the villain of the original fairy tale, the girl who is supposed to marry the enchanted prince unless he can lift his curse. Once I figured that out, I was all ablaze! Because Marillier makes Hulde so sympathetic. She is a kind young woman who yearns for friendship and love, who wants to see the world rather than just wait to be married off to a prince. She also disapproves of her mother’s terrible rule and the way she “disciplines” the servants (with a whip, usually). So who are we supposed to root for here? Obviously, the poor prince shouldn’t have to be married off to a person someone else picked for him, but we also want Hulde to be happy and we, the readers, know something she doesn’t. Her friend Rune the bear, is actually that most handsome prince who is supposed to marry her when she turns sixteen.

But Hulde is also clever and eventually figures out what’s going on. Her love for fairy tales and a magic mirror lent a helping hand and Hulde’s kindness and good nature made her do what is right. Which leads me to the second part o the story. Because the fairy tale as we know it is over and Hulde is the new troll queen. But ruling, it turns out, is more difficult than expected, especially since Hulde doesn’t want to be like her mother. She decides to seek out all the troll tribes and unify her people once more. On her way, she finds out that her mother’s lack of leadership has lead to strife within the kingdom which left many people dead, villages destroyed, and Hulde to pick up the pieces.

This was where the story started to become boring for me. Hulde was as kind a protagonist as ever but there just wasn’t much going on. The plot felt forced, the conflict seemed like it was thrown in there last-minute because otherwise, what would Hulde do for the rest of the book. She goes on a journey accompanied by two pet companions (who were adorable!) and two male trolls as a sort of advisors and protectors. While she learns many interesting things about her own people’s culture, there wasn’t anything really driving the story. Hulde became almost too good, too kind to still be interesting.

The climax felt equally predictable as the ending. Although Hulde didn’t get to marry her promised prince, there is a romantic sub-plot. But where Hulde and Rune’s friendship came to life through Marillier’s storytelling, this actual romance fell completely flat for me. Again, it was obvious from the start how things would turn out, there was no tension, there weren’t any sweet moments, everything just sort of went its predictable little way.

I didn’t find this book to be bad, I had just hoped – after that great beginning – that the author had at least some little twists in store. But the fact that I could have told you exactly how things would end after the first few minutes of part two tells you that this is not the kind of story that surprises you. If you’re okay with that, if you don’t mind seeing what’s coming, and if you enjoy a protagonist who’s maybe a bit too good to be believable, then pick this up. It was a short audiobook that retells one of my favorite fairy tales and I don’t regret having bought it. But in the future, I’ll stick with Marillier’s longer novels.

MY RATING: 5,5/10 – Good-ish

So Much Better on a Re-Read: Laini Taylor – Daughter of Smoke and Bone

I don’t usually write reviews when I re-read a book but this time, I simply had to. Because this is probably the only case where a book I disliked a lot turned into a book I really loved! It goes to show that what you read before you pick up a book and your current mood makes a huge difference. I think the first time I read this, I had read too many bad YA books and went into it prejudiced or at least very carefully. When my expectations weren’t met, I was annoyed. And the love story kind of threw me.
This time around, I knew what to expect, I was in the right mood, and I ended up loving it. Sure, I still have some reservations (holy crap, the dialogue is cheesy on occasion) but I was much more forgiving on those parts because everything else was just so beautiful.

DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE
by Laini Taylor

Published: Little, Brown, 2011
Ebook: 420 pages
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1
My rating: 7/10

Opening line: Walking to school over the snow-muffled cobbles, Karou had no sinister premonitions about the day.

Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.
When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Karou is a young, blue-haired art student who lives in Prague. She also secretly works for a group of chimeara – human-animal hybrids or monsters or whatever you want to call them – running errands for them. Errands that mostly have her collecting teeth from different places all over the world. Through doors that turn into magical portals, she can get to far-off places quite easily and bring back teeth to her foster father Brimstone. Karou was raised by Brimstone and his monster friends but she doesn’t actually know who she is, who her biological parents are, or where she comes from. So even though she has otherworldly beauty and a best friend, she always feels sort of lost in the world. Like there’s a part of her missing.

Oh man, there is so much to love in this story. Having read Strange the Dreamer and some shorter works by Laini Taylor, I have to say that this feels very much like an early work. The beginnings of her genius are there but her lyrical language often veers into kitsch, something that doesn’t happen at all in her later books. What bothered me immensely the first time I read this was the description of people’s looks. Both Karou and Akiva are so beautiful that Laini Taylor unpacked a whole list of cliché descriptions that simply made me roll my eyes. Those parts were just as painful on the re-read as they were the first time. But at least I was prepared and tried to ignore it and concentrate on the other parts of the story.

And the story packs a punch. When black handprints appear on the portals Karou uses, she knows something isn’t right. When she is cut off from the only family she has evern known and has to fear for their lives, it’s time to act on her own. Even if that means talking to the weird (but of course, crazy beautiful) angel who almost killed her and who seems responsible for her dire situation. When Karou and Akiva do talk, the secrets that are revealed are way bigger than Karou could have expected. And that’s all I can say about that without spoiling. But there are twists within twists and they work because – despite the cheesy language – Laini Taylor makes us care for these characters first.

Karou wasn’t the easiest character to like. She feels a bit aloof what with all her secret-keeping and the magical abilities granted to her by Brimstone, in the form of wishes. Being a teenager, she only gets small wishes – just enough to make her hair blue without having to dye it, or to give a nasty ex-boyfriend an uncomfortable itch. But Karou is after the bigger wishes, the ones that can make you fly or turn invisible. And honestly, how can I fault her? I would totally get myself teleportation powers and invisibility… But it took me a while to actually like her. Maybe it’s because she is described as being so beautiful and well-liked that I couldn’t really identify with her. But the more the story progresses and the more it becomes evident that Karou has real problems to deal with, the more I liked her. Even the ridiculous insta-love is forgivable once you’ve read the entire book.

Another strange storytelling choice was the cut from Karou’s storyline to a story from the magical world of the chimaera. It is such a crass cut that totally jarred me out of the reading experience when I first read this book.  Once you have read the entire book, it does make sense, but when you go into it for the first time, it just feels weird to completely leave Karou behind and go to a different character’s story for many chapters without ever checking back with Karou. Maybe alternating chapters would have been a better idea, maybe this is the right way to tell the story, I don’t know. But I also knew to expect this and so the wanting-to-finally-get-back-to-Karou wasn’t all that bad this time. And, unlike last time, I really enjoyed this flashback because I could just enjoy it for what it was. Madrigal’s story shows us this amazing other world, the one that Karou doesn’t really know. The one where Brimstone and Issa came from.

I can’t really put my finger on why this book worked so damn well for me this time when I kind of hated it the first time around. Sure, knowing ahead of time what things I won’t like helped. But I believe it mostly had to do with my own mindset and some prejudices about YA romantic fantasties that I have since left behind me (mostly). Whatever it really was, I am so very glad I gave this series another chance because I will definitely continue reading the trilogy and anthing else Laini Taylor publishes. The good thing is, I already know her writing gets better with every book (having adored Strange the Dreamer and Lips Touch: Three Times), so I fully expect to like the second and third novels in this trilogy even more.

MY RATING: 7/10 – Very good

Shakespeare, But With Magic: Tessa Gratton – The Queens of Innis Lear

I’ve read some Shakespeare in my life and I have usually enjoyed his plays quite a lot. However, I have never read King Lear (shame on me, I know). I tend to prefer Shakespeare’s tragedies to his comedies – at least when reading them instead of actually watching a play – so I thought, why not try this feminist fantasy retelling without actually knowing the source material? I still intend to read King Lear eventually but I also really liked this experiment of reading a retelling first.

THE QUEENS OF INNIS LEAR
by Tessa Gratton

Published: Tor, 2018
Hardcover: 575 pages
Audiobook: 26 hours 22 minutes
Standalone
My rating: 7,75/10

Opening line: It begins when a wizard cleavers an island from the mainland, because the king destroyed her temple.

A kingdom at risk, a crown divided, a family drenched in blood.
The erratic decisions of a prophecy-obsessed king have drained Innis Lear of its wild magic, leaving behind a trail of barren crops and despondent subjects. Enemy nations circle the once-bountiful isle, sensing its growing vulnerability, hungry to control the ideal port for all trade routes.
The king’s three daughters—battle-hungry Gaela, master manipulator Regan, and restrained, starblessed Elia—know the realm’s only chance of resurrection is to crown a new sovereign, proving a strong hand can resurrect magic and defend itself. But their father will not choose an heir until the longest night of the year, when prophecies align and a poison ritual can be enacted.
Refusing to leave their future in the hands of blind faith, the daughters of Innis Lear prepare for war—but regardless of who wins the crown, the shores of Innis will weep the blood of a house divided.

This was quite an adventure… This is, first and foremost, the story of three sisters who grew up on the island of Innis Lear, a place filled with magic but also superstition. It used to be that the magical wells were allowed to feed the land and the trees. But King Lear has done away with all that, trusting only in the stars. His youngest daughter Elia has learned to read the stars, make star charts, tell the future from stars, just like her father wants. So it seems clear that, when Lear is about to announce his successor, Elia will be his choice. But things don’t turn out that way and so begins an almost 600-page-long tale of war, love, revenge, grief, magic, and death. It was brilliant!

I loved how Tessa Gratton introduces her readers to all the characters first. There are quite a few but she took enough time to give each of them a personality. The alternating POV chapters help flesh out the characters and make each of them interesting in their own right. Elia was the easiest to like. She’s a good child who cares deeply for her ageing father. All she wants is to live quietly and happily, without ambition. Regan wants a child, more than anything, but so far has only had miscarriages and it weighs on her heavily. Of course she mostly wants a baby for herself and her husband, but she is also thinking about the line of succession. A queen who can’t promise her people an heir may not be queen for long. And Gaela lives for war. She wants battlefields and power, blood and strength, and most of all – her father’s throne. Her plan is to rule as king with her sister as queen.

You can see already that this book turns dark. Like many Shakespeare tragedies, the body count stays pretty low for a while but it might just go through the roof by the end. What starts as mere ambition or, in some characters’ minds, their given birthright, spirals into something quite more. Because in addition to these three amazing women characters, there are some equally amazing men among the cast. First and foremost is Ban the Fox, a Lord’s bastard son who used to be friends with Elia when they were children. When I read about these two, I couldn’t help but hope for a story quite different to the want that awaited me. I would have gladly read a romance book about Elia and Ban. But, alas, we are in a Shakespeare retelling and so I prepared myself for terrible things. Because whether there is love or not, as the succession gets more and more hazy, Elia has to think about alliances much more than love when it comes to picking a potential husband.

My biggest trouble with reviewing this book is that I don’t want to give anything away. You’d think that in 575 pages, there would be some things I could tell you but the thing is, this tale unravels so beautifully, more and more secrets are revealed over time, and the plot thickens constantly, even when not much seems to happen. I’ll give you a few teasers, though. There is a very tense (but fantastic) relationship between Ban and his legitimate half-brother. There is also a mystery surrounding the death of King Lear’s wife. And there are prophecies and tree magic and love and family. I think this is a book that everyone can take something different away from. For me, it was in large part about a young girl growing into her own and finding her place in the world, regardless of her father’s wishes or society’s expectations. And, I admit, I was also rooting for Ban and Elia to get together, never mind marriage alliances.

I should also mention that this is marketed as a feminist Shakespeare retelling and it absolutely is! If by “feminist” you mean it features a diverse cast of different kinds of women who get to be flawed but powerful, soft or assertive, girly or genderfluid. And if you worry that the three protagonists are the only women this tale have to offer, I can reassure you. They may not appear as much as Elia, Regan, and Gaela, but there are other women characters who are just as interesting as the Lear sisters. In flashback chapters, we get to see the girls’ mother, and we meet Ban’s mother as well, who is probably the coolest character in the entire book. I also found it funny how the men in this story keep trying to steer the tale when it’s clearly the women who hold the reigns.

Now that I’ve made this sound like the greatest book ever, let me tell you about the few things I didn’t particularly like. With a book this size, I always expect there to be a certain, slowish build up to the big climax and I really enjoyed it here, because it gave me time to get to know the characters and the various factions vying for the throne of Innis Lear. But when that explosive ending did finally arrive, it felt rushed in comparison. Suddenly, every single chapter had a Big Thing happening, people died, secrets were revealed, and it all just felt like too much at once.
Secondly, I wanted more magic! I know, I know, that’s a ridiculous thing to whine about but this book gives us such nice glimpses into a cool kind of magic (several kinds, in fact) and then it does almost nothing with it. It’s probably because I’m mostly a fantasy reader but I felt there was wasted potential on the magic front. Someone who doesn’t read as much fantasy as me will probably not mind at all.

Lastly, the writing style was amazing. I thought for the longest time that this was a debut novel and I just couldn’t believe it. Turns out that I was totally wrong and Tessa Gratton has published quite a few works before this one. I don’t know if all her books are written so well or if she’s just grown better over time but keeping me entertained and on the edge of my seat for this amount of time is no small feat. This was not a fast read and it wasn’t exactly fun because lots of dark stuff happens, but it was an incredibly rewarding one. And I’ll surely be checking out Tessa Gratton’s new “hand holding a crown” book, Lady Hotspur, which is inspired by Henry IV. Maybe this time, I’ll read the Shakespeare first and see how that goes.

MY RATING: 7,75/10 – Leaning towards excellent

A Breath-Taking Debut: Joan He – Descendant of the Crane

This book is a sneaky bastard, in the very best of ways! It was actually the first book I read during my vacation but because there’s just so much contained within these two covers, my review took a bit more time. I picked this out mostly because I loved the cover and while I hadn’t heard much about it, every review I had read was glowing. And then, like other readers before me, I fell head over heels in love with this brilliant debut.

DESCENDANT OF THE CRANE
by Joan He

Published: AW Teen, 2019
Ebook: 416 pages
Standalone (for now!)
My rating: 8,5/10

Opening line: A well-conceived costume is a new identity, the father used to say as he put on his commoner’s cloak.

Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own.
Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father’s killer, Hesina does something desperate: she engages the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death… because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.
Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?
In this shimmering Chinese-inspired fantasy, debut author Joan He introduces a determined and vulnerable young heroine struggling to do right in a world brimming with deception.

Hesina’s father has just died and she is the only one convinced that it was not because of natural causes. Without any proof however, she takes a dangerous step and commits treason by seeking the help of a soothsayer. With the bits of information gained this way, she plans for a trial to prove her father was murdered and to find out who the killer was. For that, she needs the support of a convicted criminal but also lots of help from her brother and her two adopted siblings.

This book starts out like your standard YA fantasy fare. The Chinese-inspired setting is intriguing, there is a sort of magic system to discover – although magic in the form of soothsayers has been outlawed for many years – and there’s a whole fictional country’s history to learn about. So I liked the book right from the start. But then Joan He slowly reeled me in with new ideas, secrets within secrets, tangled plot strings, and characters that are so amazing and come in all shades of morally grey, by about a third of the book, I absolutely loved it!

I almost don’t want to tell you anything about the plot because discovering all the twists and turns for yourself is part of what makes the reading experience so great. But the story has a lot more to offer than just a great plot. Hesina makes for a phenomenal protagonist. She is a good person at heart and deep down, she disagrees with the rule that says all soothsayers must be killed because they were used for evil during the war. She sees them as people but she is unable to state that opinion because that would get her executed as well. Then there’s the fact that she is to become queen and the responsibility weighs heavy on her. Add to that the strained relationship with her brother Sanjing, and the even worse relationship between him and their adopted brother Caiyan. While Hesina is trying to find her father’s killer and keep her treasonous actions and thoughts secret, strange things happen at Yan’s borders and it looks like the new queen will also have her hands full preventing a war.

I can’t really explain to you why this book worked so well or which aspects convinced me of its brilliance first, because it all kind of snuck up on me. I started as an interested yet somewhat distant reader, then a hundred pages later I wanted to strangle certain characters, I gaspedin shock at other characters’ betrayals, I marveled at the wonders this world holds, and I wanted Hesina so very, very badly to be okay! Let me just give that girl a hug. And I can’t put my finger on how or when that happened, but by the end, I was so damn into this story that I still can’t believe the author wasn’t immediately asked to write a sequel or twelve.

For a debut novel especially, I was impressed with how well Joan He juggled the various aspects of this book. I mentioned great world building before but I haven’t told you that most of it is worked organically into the plot. There are no expositions, no characters explaining to others what they should already know. The picture we have of Yan and its history simply grows clearer and clearer the more we read. It helps that every chapter begins with quotes by One of the Eleven and Two of the Eleven – two of the heroes who saved the kingdom and created a system for society that appears like a pretty solid democracy. I say “appeared” because we all know no utopia is actually a utopia and while Yan’s political system is mostly quite fair, it has its pitfalls.

“The masses may be misguided, but their hearts are true.”

Even without the added bonus of a rich history, Yan was such an intriguing place to discover. And since we see it through Hesina’s eyes, we also understand that everything is political. Whether it’s the people’s fear of and hatred for soothsayers or the way they strictly adhere to the rules set by the Eleven, I loved every aspect of it. Not because it’s necessarily a perfect, happy kingdom but because it felt so realistic! Humans can be shitty and full of prejudices but that doesn’t mean they are all bad people. Hesina learns this lesson over and over again as she navigates the court and has to make the most difficult decisions. She also has to learn that sometimes the ones you mistrust are actually on your side while a trusted friend may be working against you… I’m not saying that is the case here but, yeah, it totally is the case and you still won’t be able to guess who is who. That’s probably what made the many twists so much more painful.

I also enjoyed the writing style. I’m not sure if this is marketed as YA but I thought the style definitely had that quality where the text just seems to flow, letting you concentrate completely on the images in your mind. There is also a bit of romance, although I appreciated immensely that it’s never the focus – Hesina’s got much more important stuff to deal with – but it evolved throughout the story almost as a side note. And it felt all the more real and important for that. The same goes for the relationships between Hesina and her remaining family: her seemingly cold-hearted mother, her twin siblings, and her blood brother. Each of these characters is a different person at the end of the book than they were at the beginning and Hesina’s relationship to each of them grows. That is such a rare thing in any kind of book, but especially in YA, where side characters are often rather bland and the focus lies more on the protagonist and the love interest(s).

“What is truth? Scholars seek it. Poets write it. Good Kings pay gold to hear it. But in trying times, truth is the first thing we betray.”

By the end of the book, Hesina has been through a cascade of ever more dangerous and harrowing situations, she has dealt with moral dilemmas, and she has to come to terms with the truth about her own beliefs and her country’s past. And while I got some satisfaction out of this story and it definitely has a finished story arc, quite a few questions remain unanswered and many problems unsolved. When I closed this book I let out a long breath and immediately googled when the sequel would come out. Alas, none is scheduled just yet. The author has plans to write one if the publishers deem the first book a big enough success. So I urge all of you to pick up this book and go on that emotional journey with Hesina because (a) it’s awesome and (b) I really need a second book!

MY RATING: 8,5/10 – Excellent!

Dealing With History: Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes – The Deep

Usually, a book is what happens when a writer sits down and puts their ideas into words – and then publishes them. But sometimes, books have more interesting origins. In this case, the band clipping.’s Hugo-nominated work “The Deep” was the inspiration for Solomon’s novella and I have to say, it makes me want to read way more fiction based on music. And of course more books by Rivers Solomon.

THE DEEP
by Rivers Solomon
Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes

Published: Saga Press, 2019
Ebook: 166 pages
Standalone novella
My rating: 8/10

Opening line: “It was like dreaming,” said Yetu, throat raw.

Yetu holds the memories for her people—water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners—who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one—the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu.

Yetu remembers for everyone, and the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface, escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities—and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.

Yetu will learn more than she ever expected to about her own past—and about the future of her people. If they are all to survive, they’ll need to reclaim the memories, reclaim their identity—and own who they really are.

This is another one of those hard reviews to write. On the one hand, the book synopsis tells you most of what happens within the covers of this book, but on the other hand, it doesn’t even get close to telling you what emotions this story will put you through. The premise is a great fantasy idea: When pregnant slave women were thrown (or jumped) from the ships transporting them, the babies they carried went through some kind of super-evolution and were born as water-dwelling mermaid-like creatures. These creatures then found others like themselves and formed a society. The wajinru, as they are called, don’t have great memories – but on purpose. They choose one person to be their historian, their memory-keeper, the one who remembers where they came from, who they are, why they are here in the deep darkness of the ocean.

Yetu was chosen as historian but to say the job overwhelms her is an understatement. She gets lost in the myriad memories stuck inside her head, she sometimes can’t distinguish reality and the present from what she remembers, from the past. The way Rivers Solomon described Yetu’s feelings was so amazing, I felt like I knew her after only a handful of pages. At the beginning of the book, we don’t even know what exactly those memories are (although we can surmise they are not pleasant, given the wajinru’s origins), but we feel Yetu’s pain nonetheless. When the annual ritual of sharing those memories with the rest of the wajinru arrives, Yetu makes a terrible decision. For a few moments, she is supposed to hand the memories over to the others, so they can remember who they are, and then she should take them back and store them within herself, so the others can go on with their lives. But Yetu isn’t sure she’ll survive another year, even another minute, carrying that weight alone. So she leaves…

And thus starts a journey of finding herself, of learning more about her past than she ever did before, of finding out that even painful memories are worth preserving. Yetu leaves the deep and goes to the surface where she meets some humans. If you think you have a Little Mermaid retelling on your hands, though, think again. Although Yetu does develop a sort of relationship with one of the humans, most of her time is spent thinking about her actions and her people whom she left below. She worries about going back, about staying, about what is right and wrong. The question of whether she should return even if the memories would destroy her is constantly on her mind and it was a strange pleasure to read.

This is a truly beautiful book. Not because the subject matter is beautiful – it’s not. In some chapters, we learn about the first wajinru, how they came to be, we see single memories of slave women, we see dark times and slightly better times. But Yetu’s journey – both physical and emotional – was just such a damn good story. Should she sacrifice her own sanity, her own health for the good of her people? Should one die so many can live? Or are there maybe other solutions to the wajinru’s problem? And is it even important to keep those memories if everyone is much happier when they forget? It’s a tale of identity, of belonging, of remembering where you came from even if it hurts. But it’s also the story of one individual who desperately wants to live and enjoy everything life has to offer. That includes maybe falling in love, learning to live with pain, choosing your own path. I can’t describe what goes on in The Deep in a better, more eloquent way. I can only urge you to pick up this book.

I’m pleased to say that the ending was a thing of utter beauty. I wasn’t sure until the very end whether this story could be resolved in a satisfying way because every choice Yetu took seemed like it had more bad sides than good ones. But Rivers Solomon definitely has a storytelling gift. They created a character that readers can identify with even if they have nothing in common with her. Then they put her through a harrowing story where, granted, not much happens in terms of plot but so much happens under the surface (pun intended) and they round it all up with an ending that made me feel warm and loved and like the part of something bigger. This is a book that wormed its way into my brain and that I’m still thinking about weeks after having finished it. After being so taken with this novella, I can’t wait to pick up Solomon’s full length novel, An Unkindness of Ghosts.

MY RATING: 8/10 – Excellent

What adorable fun: Jessica Townsend – The Trials of Morrigan Crow

This book and its sequel appear to be all the rage among the BookTube community, which is how I found it. After many, many recommendations, I finally caved and got myself a copy, only to devour it within a matter of days. I get it now, guys. While I think the comparisons to a certain boy wizard aren’t appropriate, Morrigan Crow and the world of Nevermoore certainly have enough charm of their own. I will gladly continue reading this series and hope we’ll get many more adventures in this irrisistible world.

THE TRIALS OF MORRIGAN CROW
by Jessica Townsend

Published: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2017
Ebook: 513 pages
Series: Nevermoor #1
My rating: 8/10

Opening line: The journalists arrived before the coffin did.

A cursed girl escapes death and finds herself in a magical world – but is then tested beyond her wildest imagination
Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks–and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday.
But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.
It’s then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart – an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests – or she’ll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.

I don’t read a lot of middle grade books because I’m just not deep enough into books for that age group to know what would be for me and what wouldn’t. But reading The Trials of Morrigan Crow reminded me why I absolutely love middle grade and why I should read way more of it. I believe the best kids’ books are those that offer you so much to discover, while following a maybe simple plot line on the surface. All the best stories hide depth under what first meets the eye and I cannot wait to see where Morrigan’s story goes next. But let’s start at the beginning.

Morrigan Crow is a Cursed Child. That means she will die on her eleventh birthday but before that horrible fate arrives, everything that goes wrong in her home state is her fault. Or so people say at least. Being cursed, she is considered bad luck. If there’s a car accident, it’s because Morrigan looked at the driver funny. If an elderly lady breaks her hip ice skating, it’s becaues Morrigan said the weather is nice… To sum it up: It’s no fun being Morrigan Crow, especially since her parents are just as annoyed by her existence as everyone else. Enter Jupiter North, a character whom I immediately liked. He whisks Morrigan away just before midnight on her eleventh birthday and helps her thus escape her prophecied death.
Now Morrigan lives in his hotel in the city of Nevermoor and, for the first time, learns what it’s like to belong somewhere. Although, if she doesn’t succeed in the four trials ahead of her to become a member of the Wundrous Society, then she’ll have to go back to her old home where death still awaits…

There was so much to love in this book! Morrigan is a lovable protagonist, Jupiter North is a slightly chaotic father figure, Morrigan makes some wonderful friends and I loved all of them dearly. Of course since she’s competing against other children in the aforementioned trials, there are also some characters who aren’t so nice. But what could have been a younger version of high school drama with the Queen B as the evil antagonist actually turned into a charming adventure. I won’t tell you anything about the actual trials because you should all have the pleasure of discovering them for yourselves. Let me just say that only one of them was somewhat predictable but still so much fun to read. And the other three were all brilliant, surprising, exciting and so original.

The world building was also spot on. There are still many, many questions I have about this magical world hidden within another magical world but Jessica Townsend gave us just enough to look forward to the next book but still be satisfied with what we got in this one. You see, the world seems to run on something called Wunder – electricity is Wunder, the trains run on Wunder, you get the point. Wunder is controlled by a large company owned by a very rich man and lately, weird things have been going on with Wunder…

This book is about many things, but most of all it is about found families. While much time is spent following Morrigan on her discovery of this magical new place Nevermoor, the character developments and relationships happen almost imperceptibly. The bright, wonderful world of Nevermoor with all its new rules and traditions was fun to read, but my heart grew warmer every time Morrigan made a friend or got a nice word out of the giant talking cat (yes, this book has a giant talking cat, do you really need to know more?).

It was also beautiful that – while Morrigan fully embraces her new home where she is finally loved for who she is, curse and all – she doesn’t just forget about her old family. Having grown up the way she did left its mark and it shows in the trials, it shows in the way she behaves, and she has to start learning from scratch that she is a valuable person who deserves to be loved! I have read some critique about this book having too much. Too much information, too many ideas, but I disagree! Sure, there are a lot of small asides about all the crazy stuff that goes on in Nevermoor but the plot is pretty straight forward. The extra ideas are what make this book so much fun for adults as well as children. Just like all the best middle grade books, this one can be read simply for plot – and the plot is super exciting – or, if you’re an older reader and expect a little more from your fiction, there are all the beautiful relationships, the character growth, and the world building.

I cannot say enough how much I enjoyed this book. The pages turned themselves, I felt like a kid again, and I will probably pick up the next book very soon. The third book, Hollowpox, comes out in August 2020 and I already have it preordered. Give me all the Wunder!

MY RATING: 8/10 – Excellent!

Nothing to offer: Kiersten White – The Guinevere Deception

I had read one of Kiersten White’s books last year for the Retellings Challenge and, while I thought it missed the point of being about Egyptian myths, it was a nice enough teen romance. So I thought why not see what White does with Arthurian legends. The setup – Guinevere is dead and our protagonist is an impostor taking over her place – sounded exciting enough. Sadly, pretty much everything about this book ended up being lame and left me feeling very “meh”.

THE GUINEVERE DECEPTION
by Kiersten White

Published: Delacorte Press, 2019
Ebook: 352 pages
Series: Camelot Rising #1
My rating: 2/10

Opening line: There was nothing in the world as magical and terrifying as a girl on the cusp of womanhood.

Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom’s borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution–send in Guinevere to be Arthur’s wife . . . and his protector from those who want to see the young king’s idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere’s real name–and her true identity–is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot.
To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old–including Arthur’s own family–demand things continue as they have been, and the new–those drawn by the dream of Camelot–fight for a better way to live. And always, in the green hearts of forests and the black depths of lakes, magic lies in wait to reclaim the land. Arthur’s knights believe they are strong enough to face any threat, but Guinevere knows it will take more than swords to keep Camelot free.
Deadly jousts, duplicitous knights, and forbidden romances are nothing compared to the greatest threat of all: the girl with the long black hair, riding on horseback through the dark woods toward Arthur. Because when your whole existence is a lie, how can you trust even yourself?

We follow a young girl impersonating Guinevere on her way to marry King Arthur. She has been sent there by her father, Merlin, to protect the king from a mysterious threat. What that threat is – we don’t know and neither does Guinevere. But she’ll just have to go to Camelot, marry the king (who is in on the whole thing by the way), and protect him from evil magic. By doing magic herself. Which is outlawed… but the king knows about it and lets her do magic in secret. Because reasons. Don’t ask too many questions, this book doesn’t make sense. It’s 350 pages of Guinevere making magical knots, thinking how hard it is to be queen (even though she never really does any queen stuff). Seriously, that’s it.

There is never a feeling of an actual threat. And because Arthur knows of Guinevere’s secret, this isn’t a source of excitement either. Guinevere doesn’t really have to pretend that much, she only has to convince people of being the real Guinevere who don’t get that close to her. There’s never any tension, there’s never the feeling that she has to watch out or risk being caught… any potential for thrilling plot points was taken right out of the book at the very beginning. Who does that?? Why not make Arthur unaware and Guinevere actually having the difficult job of convincing her new husband that she is who she says he is? I’ll tell you why. Because then you can’t have her fall in love with three separate people in one book.

The only, and I mean only, thing that made this book bearable was the magic used by Guinevere. She makes knots. I know, doesn’t sound that great, does it? But it was the only original idea that kept me vaguely interested in finishing this book. Guinevere knots her hair for protection, uses metal knots to keep the castle safe, and so on. This kind of magic always takes a toll, so either she has to use her blood to make a spell work, or she loses her eyesight for a while, etc. I love magic that comes with a price and while nothing is explained about this magic system, at least it was something that made me continue reading because I was hoping to learn more about it. Spoiler: no such luck.

The other thing that is probably supposed to hook readers is Guinevere’s real identity. I suspect this question will remain open until the end of this series, so I will never find out (and I don’t much care, to be honest). But unlike the three (!) potential romances, at least the question of who she is and why Merlin sent her to Camelot was mildly interesting.
Guinevere is missing a lot of memories yet she never seems to question this. It’s like “oh hey, I barely remember how I grew up, who my mother was, how I spent my childhood, or much of anything else about myself, but let’s just go with it because I HAVE TO PROTECT ARTHUR FROM SOME UNKNOWN THREAT THAT I’VE ALSO NEVER QUESTIONED!” While this might have been explained pretty easily – just invent something, author, that’s what you do for a living! – it never is and that makes Guinevere not only seem boring but also pretty damn stupid. Why should I care about someone who is presented as an intelligent and somewhat powerful character yet behaves like an idiot all of the time?

As for the romances and the “plot twist” about Lancelot… It was all so obvious and so lame. I would try to use a better word to describe it but lame actually encapsulates it perfectly. So Guinevere is married to Arthur and mostly has friendly feelings toward him. However, there are many scenes in which her heart starts racing or she wants to touch his hair or whatever, so a potential romance is implied. Then of course there’s Mordred who flirts with Guinevere pretty often and she reacts like a giggling teenage girl, not like a young woman on a mission to protect her husband and king. Aaaaand let’s not forget Lancelot because we all know how the legend goes. Apart from being just too much, there was also no distinction between Guinevere’s feelings for these three people. I had to roll my eyes so hard, you guys…

After three quarters of the book passed without any plot to speak of, apparently someone (author, editor, whoever) realized that something should probably happen. So we get a last minute threat which was presented as some kind of twist. But if you retell King Arthur’s story and use what everyone knows about that story, by no stretch of the imagination can you call it a plot twist. The shocking reveals weren’t shocking, the moment just fell completely flat. Just as flat as the characters whose only distinguishing qualities are their looks.

I did kind of like how Tristan and Isolde was incorporated into the story, even though the author drops that side plot pretty quickly, making it feel like token name dropping. This entire book was just a string of nothings held together by cardboard characters behaving like morons. Anything that could have been interested was immediately shut down by the author, leaving an empty husk of a book. No matter how many Sir Whatshisnames you mention, if you don’t show who the characters are, if you don’t show the world they live in, if all you do is tell me how Guinevere’s breathing quickens when lover A/B/C is nearby, then you’ll lose my interest pretty fast. The only brownie points go to the magic system and that’s being generous.

All things considered, this book had nothing to offer. I don’t know why I should continue reading this series. Even if we do eventually get more information about Guinevere’s origin, why would I read another 300 pages of her sitting around, thinking half-finished thoughts about some threat and making knots? The way Kiersten White churns out books, I probably shouldn’t be surprised. This was so bad, in fact, that it will probably be my last foray into her work.

MY RATING: 2/10 – Bad!

P.S.: It probably didn’t help this book that I read The Mists of Avalon only a few months ago…

A mini update and my current reads

Hey everyone! As I’m currently on holiday in a sunny place, this post is coming to you from my phone. So don’t expect any shiny pictures or fancy formatting. I just had to let you know about my current reads and the fantastic books I’ve read so far.

Joan He – Descendant of the Crane

Boy, did this book surprise me! It started out as a nice fantasy story in an alternate China (with magic, but outlawed magic!) and then got better and better without me even noticing. By the end, I was a complete mess!! So many twists, such brilliant characters, great ideas and cool worlbuilding…. this is now one of my favourite books published in 2019.

Diana Peterfreund – For Darkness Shows the Stars

This sci-fi retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion felt a little strange at first. The futuristic world felt a bit flimsy but that got better quickly. And the romance was absolutely amazing! I felt for these characters immediately and wanted nothing more than to push them together and see them happy.

Marlon James- Black Leopard, Red Wolf

I just started this so I can’t say too much about it but I really like the style. It6very different from most books I’ve read before but I like how this fantasy world incorporates African myths rather than the usual fantasy fare. Also, I am super intrigued by the narrator and I want to explore the entire gorgeous map.

So my holiday is going very well. We’re doing a lot of exploring and sightseeing but I have plenty of time to read as well. I hope you’re all doing well and may your current reads be as fantastic as mine. 😁

Middle Book Syndrome: Benjanun Sriduangkaew – Mirrorstrike

If you’ve read my review of Sriduangkaew’s beautiful novella Winterglassyou know that my one gripe with it was that it felt so unfinished, like the beginning of a bigger story. Well, apparently the author felt the same because here is the sequel in what will probably be a trilogy.
There are some spoilers below for the first book in the series, although I think Winterglass is just as enjoyable to read even if you already know what happens.

MIRRORSTRIKE
by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Published: 2019
Paperback: 160 pages
Series: Her Pitiless Command #2
My rating: 7,5/10

Opening line: In the house of the Winter Queen, even time itself slows.

With her mother’s blood fresh on her hands, Nuawa has learned that to overthrow the tyrant Winter Queen she must be as exact as a bullet… and as pitiless.
In the greatest city of winter, a revolt has broken out and General Lussadh has arrived to suppress it. She’s no stranger to treason, for this city is her home where she slaughtered her own family for the Winter Queen.
Accompanying the general to prove her loyalty, Nuawa confronts a rebel who once worked to end the queen’s reign and who now holds secrets that will cement the queen’s rule. But this is not Nuawa’s only predicament. A relentless killer has emerged and he means to hunt down anyone who holds in their heart a shard of the queen’s mirror. Like the general. Like Nuawa herself.
On these fields of tumult and shattered history, the queen’s purposes will at last be revealed, and both Lussadh and Nuawa tested to their limits.
One to wake. Two to bind. These are the laws that govern those of the glass.

There are few retellings that gripped me as much as Winterglass did. With striking language, brilliant characters, original world building and the beginning of a kick-ass plot, it had everything I wanted from a retelling. Some of the things I loved so much are continued in this sequel, although I have to say it could have used some more editing. The plot meanders and it felt like it couldn’t quite decide which direction it wanted to go. Are we still in a science-fantasy retelling? Because we drift off into very cheesy romance territory at times… but let’s start at the beginning.

Nuawa is now a lieutenant in the Winter Queen’s service and she’s also started a relationship with general Lussadh, that most intriguing of characters. Unfortunately, the characters and world building really stalled in this book, or in some cases was even less present than before. Nuawa’s goal is still destroying the Winter Queen, working closely by her enemy to discover weaknesses and exploit them. So far, so exciting. But instead of the active part she played in the first book, in this one she mostly just reacts to other people’s actions. She is still kick-ass and her character grows throughout the story, but she has much less agency than she did in Winterglass and the book was just a little less good for it.

One of the most interesting aspects of the first book was the world building. Set in an alternate Thailand (or at least South East Asia), winter rules supreme since the Winter Queen conquered the land. With people’s ghosts used for power, magical ghost kilns which extract those ghosts from living people, science-fantasy style chiurgeons who can perform unbelievable feats, and magic weapons that can kill someone by hurting their shadow, there was so much to discover, so many little things that I wanted to learn more about. Sadly, there is almost nothing new in this book about ghosts or the kilns or even how this conquered world even really works, government-wise. Most of those ideas are treated as throw-away lines here and there. It felt like the author had lost all drive to establish her world further, or maybe she hadn’t thought her ideas through to the end. What was imaginative in the first book felt like window dressing in this one.
The one thing Sriduangkaew does give her readers is more information about the Winter Queen’s origins and the power of those glass fragments that created her glass bearers. While interesting, that didn’t nearly reach the level of world building and lore from the first book.

As I already mentioned, the characters also seem to have lost a lot of their strength. I don’t mean physical strength – both Nuawa and Lussadh are still amazing fighters – but I’m talking more about their agency and personalities. Nuawa has done some crazy stuff in the first book in order to get close to the Winter Queen and achieve her goal of avenging her country and her family. Lussadh has equally been through horrible things, but while in Winterglass she was surrounded by a mesmerizing aura of mystery, all of that was gone in Mirrorstrike. It’s nice to see those two as a happy-ish couple but they exchanged some serioiusly cheesy lines and felt like cliché people from a bad romance story.
Nuawa does go through an interesting development, although it is lessened by the fact that it’s so blatantly stated instead of being shown subtly. She is warned that being a glass-bearer will turn her more and more to the Queen’s side, make her willing to help the Queen stay in power, and Nuawa feels that pull and has to fight it. But this also felt like something that came and went, being very visible in one chapter only to be almost forgotten in the next. Nuawa was such a standout strong character and now she felt kind of wishy-washy. Sometimes she feels how the Queen draws her in, then that’s all forgotten and she pursues her goal single-mindedly again.

As for the plot… that was the weakest part of the book. A lot of little things happen, only some of which pushed the plot forward, and most of which felt like distjointed scenes put together somehow. There is a plot line about traitors to the Queen plus some assassination attempts – and that just fizzles out. There is a new character who has connections to Nuawa’s past, and while I think that story will continue in the next book, it was also left hanging in this one, rather unceremoniously. What bothered me the most was that it felt like I could see through the writing. It felt like the author wanted to get a piece of information across – like the Winter Queen’s weakness or a hidden truth about Nuawa’s mothers – and the scene did just that, but nothing more. And I know the author can do more, she proved that over and over in the first book. I actually re-read Winterglass before starting this one and even on the second reading, that book was just amazing. Mirrorstrike felt like a bit of a mess in comparison, with no red thread to follow, random things happening here and there, but very little that connects it to the bigger plot hinted at in Winterglass.

But the one thing that still stands out and that made this still a very good book is the language. You kind of have to like that particular style, but if you do, you’ll love it. It’s lyrical, it has big words, and it flows beautifully. I did think that Sriduangkaew overdid it a few times in this book, maybe trying a tad too hard to sound poetic and ending up with something more resembling ridiculous, mostly during the romantic exchanges between Nuawa and Lussadh. But for most of the book, the prose is gorgeous and paints vivid pictures in the reader’s mind. And it kept me reading even though the somewhat disjointed plot kept confusing me.

This is definitely a case of middle book syndrome but at 160 pages, that is forgivable. The ending delivered a nice little twist (which made sure I’d want to read the next book) and, sadly, another super cheesy moment. But I’ll forgive that because I really finally want to know how the story ends and whether the Winter Queen can be vanquished. Now all I have to do is wait for the third book…

MY RATING: 7,5/10 – Very good