Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.
But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.
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?
Cas has fought pirates her entire life. But can she survive living among them?
For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.
There’s no time to mourn. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on her ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea
❝In A Nutshell❞
✎ Pirates! Sea monsters trained to defend against pirate attacks, bred for purpose and trained hands-on by a single person they bond with. Cas is taken captive by a pirate queen and told to raise the Reckoner pup she somehow managed to steal, or die. Cas is forced to choose between loyalty and her life.
✎ Broken social/political system across oceans and floating cities where the pirates so very obviously aren’t just The Bad Guys else why would this book have been written come on.
✎ Diverse ☒ (biracial MC, sexuality, f/f romance – not #ownvoices afaik)
❝What I loved❞
✎ The Reckoners are amazing. Everyone says “Pacific Rim” when you mention sea monsters, but I didn’t like Pacific Rim but so this was much better. The relationship between Cas and the Reckoner pup is intriguing and also pretty fun to read. This book is fun in the best sense of the word. It is exciting and I’d have happily read another hundred or so pages, so it was a little disappointing that it was so short (under 300 pages for the ppb ed).
✎ The careful way the potential romance is handled, in the possibly-problematic situation of Swift and Cas definitely not being equals on the ship and Cas, in fact, being a prisoner. It makes it fairly difficult for the two to have a clear and easy romance, but they do manage and even though a lot is held back on both sides, there’s still enough romance on the page for it to not feel entirely frustrating. The romance is hate-to-love, which can be a little “oh my god get on with it; pick one!” but the initial attraction here really shows that the eventual romance doesn’t just spring out of nowhere: what holds them back more than anything else is the odd power dynamic (captor/captive) and their own views of one another.
✎ The Reckoners. They are everything. But so is a Chinese American MC who is also queer. The cover is also so good.
✎ The fact that it’s pretty clear there’s much more to the world than the black-and-white version we see through Cas’ narrative and the suggestion that we’ll get to see more of this develop in the second part The Edge Of The Abyss.
❝What I didn’t love❞
✎ Cas’ absolute loyalty at first and her determination to take the pill and end her life instead of being taken by the pirates just… it doesn’t work for me. I’m never really a fan of the theme of people putting things like keeping what amounts to trade secrets higher than their own lives, and, whilst I get that it’s how Cas has been raised, I like people to call out BS like that internally and realise how brainwashing it is. Eh, maybe I just don’t like authority in situations like this, so the whole “if you’re captured, you must sacrifice yourself!” my first reaction is “why?” followed by “hell, no”. Maybe it comes from me being the kind of person to question absolutely everything ever, ever, ever who knows.
✎ Not really something I didn’t like, but I wish, wish, wish this book had been longer because I enjoyed it so much and wanted more.
❝If you liked this…❞
…then you might also like: Zenn Scarlet, by Christian Schoon, which is kind of similar-ish with the theme of the “monsters” and a girl who’s really good at what she does. The sequel Under Nameless Stars is not recommended as highly, however, since it honestly bored me rigid and was so much worse than the first book I didn’t even buy it after reading and reviewing the ARC. But! Zenn Scarlett can definitely be enjoyed as a standalone, so go ahead!
No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.
Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.
But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.
Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.
Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.
At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.
Until one day, he does…
As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough
❝In A Nutshell❞
❝What I loved❞
❝If you liked this…❞
…then you might also like: Holly Black’s other faerie tale books, particularly her Modern Faerie Tales books, Tithe, Valiant and Ironside, as well as the upcoming The Cruel Prince, which the first of a new series called The Folk of the Air and is also about faeries. This is slated for an early 2018 release.
Title: Flame In The Mist
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date: 16th May 2017
The first of a new trilogy by The Wrath and the Dawn author, Renée Adieh, Flame In The Mist is an exciting mash-up of Mulan and 47 Ronin. It isn’t a retelling of The Ballad Of Mulan, but rather a faint echo of Mulan’s spirit (and, you know, the passing oneself as a boy, thing), giving us Mariko, a girl who is bright and brave and unafraid to enter into a world reserved almost exclusively for men. We switch out the concept of a girl replacing her father in the army (with her family’s blessing, unlike in the Disney retelling of the Ballad) for a girl bound for an arranged marriage, who finds herself cast out into the world with little reason to head for her betrothed and all the reason in the world to choose her own path. But what begins as a quest for answers and for revenge, turns into a complex series of events that will change Markio’s life–and her heart–forever.
When Hattori Mariko is told she must marry into the Imperial family, she accepts this duty as any good daughter might: she wishes to honour her family and do what is best for their reputation, in spite of marriage being the last thing from her mind. Especially since she has far better things to do than play at being a doll in which to dress prettily in silks. Things such as continue tinkering with her many inventions, however small. She has a bright mind and wants nothing more than to prove her worth beyond her station and gender. Yet things are as they must be, and Mariko accepts her fate with grace and honour.
Except that inside she is slowly dying at the notion of what her life will become. Hattori Mariko was never meant for the dull security of marriage. She was always meant for more.
When tragedy strikes on her way to the Imperial palace and she is betrayed, Mariko seizes her chance and flees into the night; it’s that, or die. Though she could make herself and the fact that she survived known, she has no idea who it was who betrayed her and if, should she finish her journey to meet her betrothed, she would be again only travelling to meet her doom. With only the knowledge that the infamous Black Clan is responsible for the attempt on her life and the blood spilled in the Jukai forest that night, Mariko takes on the appearance of a boy and thrusts herself into the hidden world of mercenaries and dark power. Soon she finds herself in the midst of the very people she believes tried to murder her, taken into their fold and privy to their secrets.
Only nothing is ever as it seems, and soon Mariko learns that the Black Clan is not what they appear. As she grows closer to the members of the clan, Mariko realises that the world has never been black and white, but is cast in infinite shades of grey. The only constants are power and honour and she begins to rethink everything she ever thought she knew about both.
Meanwhile, Mariko’s twin brother, Hattori Kenshin, refuses to believe that Mariko is dead. He is a skilled tracker and he finds evidence that leads him to believe that she escaped the slaughter that befell her party in the forest. He can’t fathom where she went, but he trusts that his cunning sister has a reason for having vanished. But with the betrothal to the prince being such an important step in their family’s ascension, Kenshin knows he must tread carefully so as not to draw suspicion and shame. Mariko is now by herself in the wild and with unknown persons possibly still eager for her death–the last thing he can do is draw attention to the fact that she survived at the same time as not wishing to jeopardise the marriage by news of his sister’s death. Kenshin, the Dragon of Kai (the moniker bestowed for his prowess in battle and his skill as a samurai), must navigate carefully if he is to bring Mariko home and keep her both safe and leave their family’s honour–and his own–intact.
But a force moves in the shadows, with its own agenda and with eyes where those it watches least expect. The only question is when it will move.
During all this, two boys are bound together by more than blood and through a bond that runs deeper than the honour their parents chose to throw to the wayside before them. One has designs on revenge and reclaiming his rightful title and position, whilst the other wishes only to quell the anger and shame at their pasts and live in anonymity. Yet when all these paths finally converge and become entangled with one another, everything is set to change.
Flame In The Mist is the first of what is set to be a trilogy that is equal parts political intrigue and adventure, with a lost legacy to reclaim, a powerful betrothal at stake and the true meaning of both honour and friendship on full display within the vivid and exciting world that Adieh has presented. Easily one of the best books I’ve read so far in 2017, Flame In The Mist blends an rebellion against gender roles and conformity seamlessly with an exhilarating story of exiled warriors and old magic, all whilst delivering a page-turner of a book that left me eagerly awaiting the next.
One thing I will mention is how disappointed I am by the fact that Ahdieh chose not to include any queer rep. Especially given how much the historical context of Japan lends itself to the acceptance and even celebration of queer relationships, especially between men in the context of samurai etc. It’s actually a little lazy and generally demonstrates that most authors won’t even consider even a hint of queer rep. It’s alienating and unfair, not to mention, very unrealistic–especially in the context of the Black Clan and their interpersonal relationships with one another.
(P.S. Not sure whether this next applies more to the writer or the publisher, since italicising foreign words is a Thing in publishing, or if it was an inconsistency of the eArc I received from NetGalley by the publisher, but there seemed to be little to no reason or rhyme regarding which Japanese words were typed in italics and which weren’t. Arguably the words that are more “familiar” and less “foreign” were left un-italicised (e.g. kimono, samurai, sake, etc), and yet words such as ‘tabi’, ‘hakama’, ‘tantō’ and ‘rōnin’ were presented in italics, even though it’s also arguable that these words are just as familiar. To further illustrate the seemingly random choices regarding italics, words such as ‘kata’ were left without italics, when in fact this is a word related specifically to martial arts and form and therefore would be less familiar than perhaps ‘rōnin’. Generally the italics seemed a little confusing regarding where they were used, with little consistency. But then I’m of the opinion that no italics to designate foreign words is better.
Further, it would have been amazing for, in the glossary of terms, perhaps, for the kanji used to write all of the character’s names to be included. As someone studying Japanese (including kanji), it would have been a nice little touch and also I am a nerd so there’s that, too.)
Title: Masquerade (Micah Grey #3)
Author: Laura Lam
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publication date: 9th March 2017
It’s been a long wait between Shadowplay and Masquerade, and there were times when it seemed it would never come, short of Laura Lam electing to self-pub and/or kickstart the third and final Micah Grey novel. Thankfully, Lam’s publisher, also responsible for publishing the fantastic futuristic sci-fi thriller False Hearts swooped in and seized the entire trilogy, meaning that Micah was coming home.
And what a homecoming. Masquerade is a fast-paced and exciting story, full of mystery and heart, from the second we’re taken back to Ellada.
I was worried about the amount of time that had passed, having expected to forget absolutely everything, and since I do not have the ability to re-read books, it was a genuine concern that part of my enjoyment might be diminished by “what is happening? Who are these people?” and “I have no memory of this place!”. There were things I’d partially forgotten, but the way Lam both opened Masquerade and weaved the story, any of those gaps were very easily filled, with my memory being jogged where relevant and not once did I feel I was reading something I only half connected with, in spite of the huge gap and subsequent gaps in what I remembered. It felt every bit the same as having waited a year or so between books, with no clumsy dumps of exposition or info.
And the wait was worth it.
After the circus and then the magic contest with the Masque of Magic, things seem to be looking up for Micah. Except that at the close of Shadowplay, to sour the success, Micah fell suddenly ill and it seemed related to his burgeoning abilities as a chimera. Luckily, soon Micah is well (but for how long?), but at the cost of trusting someone he never wanted to see again. The Royal Physician is someone Micah would rather steer clear from, and with good reason, following the man’s employment of a Shadow to report their actions and whereabouts during the magic contest, even sending someone to get close to Masque in order to glean all the info he could. Yet Micah doesn’t have much choice and his treatment at the hands of the Royal Physician becomes regular affair–one he remains deeply mistrustful of.
Yet ridiculously, allowing Pozzi to treat him is soon the lesser of Micah’s worries, as tension grows within the city due to both the rumours of chimera and the politicking of the Foresters. The problem is: they have a point. For too many centuries, the noble families and the royal family have had much of the power and all of the privilege, whilst many in the country go hungry or find themselves in poverty. This dissent will not be eased without change, and yet when a particularly violent arm of the Foresters, calling themselves the Kashura in reference to the old histories and tales of the chimera and the Elder race, rises up and makes themselves known, the people of Ellada are caught between the need for change and the dislike for violence and bloodshed.
Things will come to a head eventually and civil war may well be on the cards.
Meanwhile, Micah’s abilities seem to strengthen thanks to the treatment rendered by Pozzi and soon he is experiencing strange dreams that seem to show him the actions of another person as they go about their business in shadow. That business is body snatching. But without any notion of who is behind the actions or why, Micah and his friends are working blind. They’re not in this alone, aided by the mysterious Anisa, the Damselfly apparition from the Aleph who knows more than she says and who sometimes appears only to help them when it suits her best. None of them are entirely willing to trust her, but with their secrets held tightly to their chests, there are few around them who know the full truth and they must take whatever help they can get.
Matters become more complicated when hands behind the scenes begin to play their cards and Micah, Drystan and Cyan are pulled into things far more complicated and delicate than they could have imagined–and with the Foresters poised for action and change (one way or another) it looks as though things may come to a head sooner than anyone hoped.
One of the things that I’d been hoping for most with Masquerade was Micah’s confrontation with his parents, one way or another. I felt that given the storyline that led him from the noble house in the first place, there needed to be some manner of resolution given that Micah had returned to Imachara with a mind to stay and settle into his new life. This happened, in a way, and although there were elements of what I wanted to see, I felt disappointed in how Micah ultimately handled the situation. Which, really, is to say, I was disappointed in how easily Micah was able to set aside his anger and hurt regarding what his parents wanted for the daughter they believed they had. I think that any narrative from Micah suggesting that he understands what his parents were trying to do, and that he knew it came from a place of love, possibly suggests that Lam maybe hasn’t experienced strained relations with parents regarding queerness and acceptance. Micah loses his anger at his mother, understanding her “reasons” for wanting to fixing (or at least this was how it read to me) and I wasn’t entirely comfortable with that. Micah’s mother does not really, really, truly admit fault and she does not truly accept Micah–and therefore she deserved no quarter, no acknowledgement and no further consideration from Micah. It felt like Micah gave too much for the sake of resolution and that just didn’t sit well with me, considering how his mother both was and wasn’t–and how she’d been earlier in the trilogy.
Overall, Masquerade was just as wonderful as I’d hoped it would be, jumping effortlessly back into the same world we’d been forced to leave behind for so long. Every bit as exciting and compelling as its predecessors, Masquerade was a delight and being given such diverse characters with a q u e e r r o m a n c e as casually as any other never, ever, ever, ever gets old and it means every bit as much as it ever did. I very desperately want more of Micah and Drystan and still hold out hope for further Micah Grey novels that see him older, wiser and more established with his place in the world.
A wonderful end to the trilogy and almost everything I’d anticipated it would be.