review: the wrath and the dawn

the wrath and the dawnTitle: The Wrath and the Dawn
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #1
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Published in 2015
Genre: retelling
Rating: ★★★ – it was okay

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. 

my thoughts on june 19

The Wrath and the Dawn had been on my to-read list since its release in 2015. It was one of the most hyped book in the bookish community at the time, and as always, the hype scared me. I kept putting it off because I didn’t want to end up disappointed. High expectations can really kill a reading experience, which seems rather unfair to the novel. After about 4 years and seeing some mixed reviews pop up, I decided it was finally time to read it. Unfortunately, I still found it to be a disappointing read.

The premise makes it seem like an epic read. Shahrzad volunteers to be the King’s wife, even though he kills them come morning. One of his past brides that was killed was Shahrzad’s best friend, and she is determined to get revenge. Doesn’t that sound incredible?

Unfortunately, this book fell flat for me. Shahrzad hates the king (obviously), who has killed countless of women after marrying them – including her best friend. This level of hatred, these things he has done, you cannot overcome. What I wanted from this book was a revenge story. Yet only a few days after she comes to the palace (I can’t exactly remember how long it took), Shahrzad begins to waver. She starts to notice how handsome the king is, and just doesn’t understand how he could have done such monstrous things. Because we all know attractive people are inherently nice… With every little tiny act of kindness, she proclaims he can’t be a monster after all.

Listen, girl. Killers aren’t going on a rampage every single second. A person can be perfectly charming and kind, and still murder others. They are not mutually exclusive! I hated how fast she gave up on hating him, how their “love” story developed in .2 seconds, and how she seemed to forgive him for everything. I just couldn’t deal.

Let’s be honest, this was a case of insta-love. She hated him, sure. However, after being kind of nice to her for 2 days, she was ready to throw it all away to be with him. I found myself rolling my eyes for the majority of the book, because it just seemed so unrealistic and ridiculous to me.

Of course, I knew there would be a romance in this story, an enemies-to-lovers one. I didn’t expect it to develop so fast though. That took me out of the story, and made me genuinely disinterested in reading it.

For the life of me, I can’t remember what happened in this novel aside from the romance between the two main characters. The only other person I can recall is Tariq, a character I actually enjoyed. He should have ended up with the girl, in my opinion. I guess that could still happen, because I haven’t read the sequel, but I highly doubt it.

Lastly, let’s talk about the reveal on why Khalid kills his brides every morning. Obviously, I won’t spoil what the big secret is, in case you haven’t read it. When I came across the reveal, I honestly couldn’t believe it. It made me so angry, to be honest. If you’ve read this book come talk to me on Twitter in the DMs, because I need to discuss this with you all. To me, this was such an obvious ploy to make Khalid seem more likeable, and I hated it.

All in all, this book just wasn’t for me. The romance killed what could have been an epic read for me. I simply lost interest in the story, and won’t pick up the sequel.

 

mini reviews: illuminae, gemina + obsidio

illuminaeTitle: Illuminae
Series: Illuminae Files #1
Authors: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Genre: science fiction (YA)
Rating: ★★★★★ – a new favorite

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

my thoughts on june 19

Everyone in the bookish community has been screaming about The Illuminae Files since the release of the first book in 2015. I always avoided this novel because I simply didn’t think it would be one I’d enjoy. When I had to take a 7-hour train journey last December, I decided it was finally time to give the audiobook of Illuminae a try. And I promptly fell in love with the novel.

As this is a full-cast audiobook, which most of you probably already knew, it’s an incredible reading/listening experience. It adds so much to the story, and helps bring it to life. I found myself laughing at the snarkiness, rooting for the main characters, and being filled with horror at some of the events that happened. I’m also both terrified and protective of AIDAN.

Illuminae reminded me somewhat of The Martian by Andy Weir because both are set in space with characters in extremely dire situations, yet are humorous as well. The humor doesn’t take away from the gravity of their circumstances, which I really enjoyed.

Obviously, I adored the characters as well. Did I neally need to clarify that?


geminaTitle: Gemina
Series: Illuminae Files #2
Authors: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Genre: science fiction (YA)
Rating: ★★★★.₅ – loved it

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

 

my thoughts on june 19

After loving Illuminae, I knew I didn’t want to wait too long to continue the series. I had to know what would happen next! In April, I listened to the sequel, Gemina. Actually, I devoured this book even though I listened to the audiobook. In one weekend, I had listened to the entire thing! Usually audiobooks take me far longer than that.

While this is a sequel to Illuminae, it follows two different characters. The main characters in the first novel were Kady and Ezra, while in Gemina we follow Hanna and Nik. I admit that it took me a bit longer to get into the sequel than it did for the first book. That’s why I couldn’t justify giving it 5 stars. The start of the novel felt too slow for me, especially after the ending of the previous book. I had grown to love Kady and Ezra so much, why would I care about Nik and Hanna?

After a while though, I grew attached to the story. Nik ended up being one of my favorite characters in the entire series, after his cousin and AIDAN of course.

This series is so action-packed. Every time you think it can’t get worse for our heroes, the authors prove you wrong.

Like I mentioned earlier, while it did have a bit of a slower start I do think Gemina is a great sequel. We got introduced to some fantastic new characters, and the list of people we would protect with our own life grew longer.

I don’t have much else to say about Gemina, other than THAT ENDING.


obsidioTitle: Obsidio
Series: The Illuminae Files #3
Authors: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Genre: science fiction (YA)
Rating: ★★★★ – really liked it

I won’t provide a synopsis as that would truly spoil the previous two books in the series. If you want to read the premise anyway, you can click on the cover of the book or the title above to go to its Goodreads page.

 

 

 

my thoughts on june 19

As you can see from my rating, Obsidio was my least favorite book in the trilogy. While I was happy to be back with some of my favorite characters, and excited to find out where the story would take us, I can’t help but feel that the stakes weren’t as high in this book. Their journey and space battle is coming to a close, but their circumstances are very different from the previous two books. I didn’t feel as terrified for the lives of my faves, which made it into a less exciting or nail-biting read.

It wrapped up a little too neatly for me, to be honest. I felt like the authors might have been afraid to make certain choices, even though they would have been more believable in my opinion. I know that it’s science fiction and thus being “realistic” doesn’t really matter, but if you’ve read the book you might understand my point.

I don’t want make this mini review sound too negative, because I did really like the book! I gave it 4 stars after all. It’s a good conclusion to a series I fell in love with, and I’m very happy I binge-listened to them all.

By the way, that last line. What??

Have you read The Illuminae Files? What did you think of it?

review: the shadowglass, the conclusion to one of my favorite fantasy trilogies

the shadow glassTitle: The Shadowglass
Series: The Bone Witch #3
Author: Rin Chupeco
Published in 2019 by Sourcebooks Fire

I won’t provide a synopsis because this is the third book in the trilogy and would contain spoilers for the previous instalments. If you want to read the premise of The Shadowglass, you can click on the title above or the cover, which will take you to the Goodreads page.

My review on the first book, The Bone Witch.

 

 

my thoughts on june 19

The Shadow Glass was one of my most anticipated releases of 2019, and one of the only books I pre-ordered. I’ve been in love with this trilogy ever since receiving an e-ARC of the first book in 2016. I was both excited and scared to read this conclusion, because it would wrap up one of my favorite stories. Would it be a good ending? I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed by this book at all.

Obviously, I can’t say much (or anything at all really) about the plot or storyline of the book because it would spoil the events of the previous two novels. I’ll keep it very general and abstract for you.

I absolutely love the twists and turns in this story. Throughout this entire trilogy, I found myself doubting every character and interaction. I didn’t know who to trust, much like Tea doesn’t know who she can rely on. I was taken by surprise multiple times throughout this book, which doesn’t happen all that often anymore. It was a wild ride, and I even shed a few tears at some point.

That is the nature of tyranny, young Tea. Maintaining power is their sole intention. Why worry about retaliation and revolution when they have always intended to wield the sword?

What makes this trilogy stand out to me are the characters. They’re all so well-developed, given their own time, and have their strengths and flaws.

Tea is a badass woman, but she isn’t infallible either.

“We all admired her, Knox.” Lord Besserly raised his glass. “Let’s raise our glasses to the Dark asha. As strong and mighty as we are, able warriors one and all – may nothing we do piss her off.”

She’s way too impulsive and emotional at times, which leads to rash decision making. The great part is that she’s very aware of her personality flaws and they don’t overtake the story – if that makes sense. Love, family, and friendship are incredibly important to her, which shows in the way she treats her friends. She’d do absolutely anything for them. While she has a strong sense of duty, she won’t let it overshadow her humanity, or her as a person.

“I am selfish. I am not the compassionate woman she is. Sometimes I feel she is far too kind for her own good. I will serve the kingdoms, but not at the cost of my health.”

Another character I want to bundle up in a blanket and protect forever is Likh. In the entire trilogy, we’ve seen how fluid gender is through Likh’s story. While the rest of the world considers Likh a boy, she has always been drawn to the asha (female witches) over the Deathseekers (males capable of drawing runes and magic). Likh loves the intricate hua of the asha, the way they perform and carry themselves. In The Shadowglass, we see Likh realize which pronouns actually fit her and how she explains it to the others. Seeing this transition, this realization and acceptance, was wonderful.

Aside from gender, there’s also diversity in terms of sexuality. There’s an f/f relationship I absolutely adore, but I feel is more prominent in the second book rather than the third. There’s a male character who is primarily attracted to other men as well.

If you haven’t read this trilogy yet, please give it a try. I promise it’s worth your time. I’m so happy to say that this Asian-inspired fantasy series written by a Filipino author belongs on my favorites shelf. 

review: the sacred lies of Minnow Bly (the YA cult novel everyone should read)

the sacred lies of minnow blyTitle: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly
Author: Stephanie Oakes
Genre: contemporary, mystery (YA)
Published in 2016 by Speak
Rating: ★★★★.₅ – loved it

The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust. And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too.

Now their Prophet has been murdered and their camp set aflame, and it’s clear that Minnow knows something—but she’s not talking. As she languishes in juvenile detention, she struggles to un-learn everything she has been taught to believe, adjusting to a life behind bars and recounting the events that led up to her incarceration. But when an FBI detective approaches her about making a deal, Minnow sees she can have the freedom she always dreamed of—if she’s willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.

my thoughts on - review black (1)

I bought this book during YALC 2018 in London because I remembered hearing some buzz about it prior to its release. I’ve always been fascinated by cults, so this book seemed perfect for me. I can’t believe it took me almost a year to read it, because it was incredible.

This novel follows Minnow Bly, whose parents joined the Kevinian cult when she was 5. She grew up in their compound in the middle of nowhere, following the rules of their prophet. Minnow’s doubts about the prophet have been increasing for years, and she gets punished more frequently as she gets older.

The story is divided into the past and the present. In the present, Minnow is in juvenile detention for a crime she committed after escaping. In the past, she is growing up in the cult and meeting a boy who lives with his dad in the woods close to their compound. As the novel continues, Minnow’s story unfolds and you slowly learn how she lost her hands, and how she eventually escaped.

That’s right, I said ‘how she lost her hands’. One of the few things you know going into this book is that the Prophet ordered her hands to be cut off for disobeying him (and thus, God). I have to admit that reading how this happened, and why, was devastating. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

In those moments, I wish I could’ve articulated how unremarkable brutality is. How common.

I couldn’t possibly pick a favorite timeline in this book. Both had their fascinating, heart-breaking, and thought-provoking moments, which is why this was such a fast read for me. I didn’t want to put it down at all. I think this is the perfect book for those in a reading slump because the compelling nature of it will make you want to read it in one sitting.

What stood out to me most is Minnow’s life in juvie. She meets a ton of other girls there, whose lives mirror hers in one aspect or another.

Here, my scars are the only part of me that could be called normal. It seems like every girl here has had their own personal Prophet.

It truly made me think about the huge amount of girls who grow up in abusive homes, have abusive partners, or grow up in poverty. The odds are stacked against them from the start, and there’s barely a way out of that life. When they finally fight back against their abusers in the only way accessible to them, they get sent to juvie/jail.

It left me stuck in this grey area of morality. Of course I don’t think we should all murder or assault people. But what else were some of these girls supposed to do? Just take the abuse forever? They have no power, and need to take some back in one way or another. I just felt so much for them, and it makes me want to do more research on juvenile detention centers in my own country.

Aside from Minnow’s life in juvie, a large part of the book also takes place at the cult’s compound. I don’t want to say too much about this part, because this is where the mystery aspect of the story comes into play. What I will say, is that the intriguing part of the cult is the different way it affects the followers.

Part of her doubting the teachings of her Prophet results in her trying to get others to leave the compound with her, to escape. She’s baffled when she realizes that not everyone wants to leave. I think the author did an incredible job portraying the mindsets of the cult people. The ones who are so indoctrinated, the ones who are simply to afraid to take action, and the ones who would do anything to leave.

But the offer of freedom doesn’t mean anything to people who already think they’re free.

This story does partly revolve around love, as Minnow meets someone while she lives at the compound and falls in love with him. The romance aspect never takes over the rest of the story, however. It’s an important part of the main character’s life which is why it’s entangled in her memories. But it’s not the core of the story. I loved the way the author managed to intertwine all these different aspects of a person’s life, without allowing one to overwhelm and overtake the others.

I don’t know how else to convince you to pick this book up. If you haven’t read it yet, I hope you’ll give it a try. It’s a brutal read, and will make you doubt humanity once again, but it’s an important read as well. Family, friendship, and love are all prominent parts in Minnow’s life, and Stephanie Oakes portrays both the beautiful and ugly parts of the relationships in the main character’s life.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

 

my thoughts on 3 YA contemporaries I never reviewed

I’m so far behind on my reviews, it’s not even funny. A little while ago, I realized that there are 3 YA contemporaries I read but never reviewed on this blog. Sometimes, I don’t have all that much to say about a book which leads to me never reviewing it at all. To combat that, I’ll try to make more of these combined mini reviews. Here are my thoughts on Leah on the OffbeatI Believe in a Thing Called Love, and I Was Born For This.

leah on the offbeatTitle: Leah on the Offbeat
Series: Creekwood #2
Author: Becky Albertalli
Rating: ★★★★ – really liked it

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended. 

my thoughts on - review black (1)

When Leah on the Offbeat was first announced, I couldn’t contain my excitement. I loved the first book in this companion duology/series, and wanted to know more about Leah as a character. After its release, the book started to get some mixed reviews which made me incredibly nervous. What if I didn’t like it?

I shouldn’t have worried. I absolutely loved this book, and read it in one sitting. It’s not a perfect novel, which I’ll discuss later, but I don’t really believe that exists. The reason most people didn’t like this book is because they disliked Leah as a character or person. I would be a complete hypocrite if I were to say that though, because Leah is basically me as a teenager.

As a teen, I was horribly insecure. Yes, I’m still somewhat insecure, thank you for bringing that up. I was afraid of being the one in the friend group who didn’t really belong, and couldn’t really talk about my feelings. I pushed my friends away and distanced myself from them instead of talking it out, because that’s all I could deal with. I could see so much of myself in this teenage girl, which is why I loved this book so much. I’m happy to say I’ve grown out of that mindset though.

The reason I can’t give this book 5 stars is because of the way Leah reacts when someone comes out to her. She basically denies their sexuality and claims it can’t be true, and honestly it’s just the worst way to react. It isn’t challenged in the book, which is why I feel like we need to address it.

Overall, I absolutely adored this book. I’m so grateful to have gotten to know Leah better.


I believe in a thing called loveTitle: I Believe in a Thing Called Love
Author: Maurene Goo
Rating: ★★★ – it was okay

Desi Lee believes anything is possible if you have a plan. That’s how she became student body president. Varsity soccer star. And it’s how she’ll get into Stanford. But—she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation magnet whose botched attempts at flirting have become legendary with her friends. So when the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides to tackle her flirting failures with the same zest she’s applied to everything else in her life.

She finds guidance in the Korean dramas her father has been obsessively watching for years—where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. It’s a simple formula, and Desi is a quick study. Armed with her “K Drama Steps to True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos—and boat rescues, love triangles, and staged car crashes ensue. But when the fun and games turn to true feels, Desi finds out that real love is about way more than just drama.

my thoughts on - review black (1)

I picked this one up because a) the hype surrounding it, and b) the main character tries to win over her crush with tips she got from her favorite K-dramas. Doesn’t that sound wonderful and hilarious? I love K-dramas, no matter how cliche they might be at times, so I figured this would be the perfect light and fluffy read for me.

I was wrong. I ended up giving this 3 stars, but I’m still somewhat conflicted on my rating for this book – even though it’s been a year since I finished reading it.

One the one hand, I enjoyed a large part of this book. I loved all the K-drama references and little tidbits you learn about Korean culture while reading. Desi’s dad is one of my favorite characters ever, and I wish to protect him forever. Lastly, I’m also glad this wasn’t a love triangle. I was kind of scared that would happen when I first started reading. All in all, this is a quick and enjoyable read.

On the other hand, I hated what Desi did. Yes, I’m aware of how cliche dramas can be, and how they are full of tropes that aren’t necessarily healthy especially when it comes to relationships. However, Desi took it to a whole new level in this book. What she did was incredibly dangerous and completely insane. The worst part is that there were really no consequences to what she did. I can’t really accept that as a reader, so I decided to lower my rating. It truly tainted the entire book for me.


i was born for thisTitle: I Was Born For This
Author: Alice Oseman
Rating: ★★★.₅ – liked it

For Angel Rahimi, life is only about one thing: The Ark – a pop-rock trio of teenage boys who are currently taking the world by storm. Being part of The Ark’s fandom has given her everything – her friendships, her dreams, her place in the world.

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci owes everything to The Ark too. He’s their frontman – and playing in a band is all he’s ever dreamed of doing. It’s just a shame that recently everything in his life seems to have turned into a bit of a nightmare.

Because that’s the problem with dreaming – eventually, inevitably, real life arrives with a wake-up call. And when Angel and Jimmy are unexpectedly thrust together, they will discover just how strange and surprising facing up to reality can be.

my thoughts on - review black (1)

I read this before going to YALC in July 2018, because I wanted to read all of Alice’s books before meeting her. I Was Born For This is Alice Oseman’s latest novel. It revolves around the frontman of a band called The Ark and one of their fans called Angel.

Angel is preparing to go to The Ark’s concert with her best friend, who she is meeting for the first time. They’ve been fangirling over The Ark online for ages, and became friends along the way. Now, they’re going to see their favorite band live.

This is a story of friendship, fandom, fame, and family. Ah, the alliteration. I couldn’t help myself. While I think this novel explored these aspects incredibly well, I didn’t fall in love with the book itself. I loved what Alice had to say about how fandom and sexism and (online) friendships. I tabbed certain passages because I was so glad to see my thoughts written in a book.

I was also quite intrigued by some of the characters. Jimmy, the frontman of The Ark, has to deal with fame and addiction as well as being outed against his will by someone else, and the transphobic comments still thrown his way. I wish I could have read more from all the members of The Ark, because I found them to be the most fascinating.

While I loved a lot of the concepts of the book and some of the characters, I just couldn’t connect to the book itself. The entire time I was reading, I knew it would end up as a 3.5 star-read. One that is okay, or just good. Not great, but not bad either. Just okay.

 

review: noteworthy | a cappella, girl disguises as boy, and boarding school greatness

noteworthyTitle: Noteworthy
Author: Riley Redgate
Genre: contemporary (YA)
Published in 2017 by Amulet Books
Rating: ★★★★.₅ – loved it

It’s the start of Jordan Sun’s junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts. Unfortunately, she’s an Alto 2, which—in the musical theater world—is sort of like being a vulture in the wild: She has a spot in the ecosystem, but nobody’s falling over themselves to express their appreciation. So it’s no surprise when she gets shut out of the fall musical for the third year straight. But then the school gets a mass email: A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshiped . . . revered . . . all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

my thoughts on - review black (1)

When I picked this up, I was in need of a cute contemporary read after finishing some heart-wrenching and moving books. I wanted something lighter, a novel that would leave me happy by the end. If you’re ever in the mood for some contemporary YA, fluffy or not, I’d recommend Noteworthy

Noteworthy revolves around Chinese-American student Jordan Sun, who recently started her junior year in musical theater at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts. As the author is also Chinese-American, this is an #ownvoices novel in that regard. She’s just found out she didn’t get the lead in the upcoming show, and after confronting her teacher, discovers it’s because she is an Alto 2. Female leading roles in musicals tend to go to sopranos, after all. There’s nothing Jordan can really do about it, as it’s not a skill she can work on or improve. It’s simply her voice.

Then she receives an email that could change her life at school. The Sharpshooters, the most revered a cappella group on campus, have an open spot and are holding auditions. The only problem? They’re an all-male group. Jordan decides to dress up as a guy and audition anyway – and then gets stuck in an endless cycle of lies when she gets in.

To be honest, I liked everything about this book. The story was engaging, fun and light, yet thought-provoking. The pacing was pretty consistent, and I found myself reading huge chunks of the book in one go. I didn’t want to put it down at all. 

I’ve always loved the gender bending stories, and this one is no exception to that rule. I think it tackles to topic far better than most, as it delves into a discussion on sexuality and gender as well.

I’ll say it now: I absolutely loved Jordan. She’s such a fun main character. In fact, I would read more contemporary books if female leads were more like her. She was funny and witty at times, awkward at others. Sometimes she knew exactly what to say, other times she was lost for words. She got into the most ridiculous situations because of her lie, yet it never felt over the top. I related so much to her, even though we have pretty much nothing in common. I wish I could be her friend.

Honestly, I wish I could have been friends with all of the Sharpshooters. Their little found family is so fantastic and adorable, and I want to be part of it.

This is basically a brilliant and diverse version of the gender bending story we’ve all read before. Note that I said brilliant AND diverse. AND. The book is not brilliant simply because it is diverse. It’s an incredible book, and it’s incredibly diverse.  It’s a novel about teenagers with different religions, ethnicities, sexualities and so on, but it doesn’t focus solely on that aspect of their characters. It’s not a story about Jordan being Chinese-American or bisexual, even though she is. I also want to say that I loved the fact that one of the Sharpshooters is dyslexic. I feel like with regards to diversity, we don’t talk enough about disability representation.

What I loved most about this book is that it addresses gender identity and how it affects people differently. Jordan dresses, acts, and shows herself to the world as a guy, even though she doesn’t identify as male. She isn’t trans, but she finds herself in a situation a lot of trans people go through. She becomes Julian to be a part of the Sharpshooters and boost her level of experience – and possible save her future career. But she also realizes that for a lot of people, these things are not so frivolous. The trans community deals with things like secretly buying boys’ clothes and becoming someone “else” all the time, in a far more serious and often terrifying way. I say terrifying because unfortunately the world is full of pieces of shit who abuse trans people for being who they are. I like that the author addressed that this isn’t fun and games for everyone.

In the book, you see Jordan struggling with applying tips she finds on forums for trans people and people in drag to her life. She knows that she is borrowing from a community she doesn’t belong to, and it makes her feel like shit. Thank you, Riley Redgate, for including stuff like this in your book!

FINAL THOUGHTS

If it’s not obvious by now, I don’t know what to say. I absolutely loved this book. It’s a diverse, own voices novel with tropes I simply adore yet it isn’t afraid to address the real issues hiding behind those tropes either. If you want to read a contemporary YA novel, I’d recommend picking this up. Seriously. READ IT.

 

spoiler-free review: the wicked king | preferring the sequel to the first book?

the wicked kingTitle: The Wicked King
Series; Folk of the Air #2
Author: Holly Black
Published in 2019 by Little, Brown and Company
Genre: fantasy (YA)
Rating: ★★★★.₅ – loved it

I won’t provide a synopsis, as this is the second book in a series and I don’t want to spoil anyone. If you want to check the premise out, you can click on the title or the cover of the book, which will take you to the Goodreads page.

You can also read my thoughts on the first book, The Cruel Prince, on my blog. I’ll go over some of my thoughts on the first book in this review too, as it’s relevant to my explanations, but you can read a more detailed version here.

my thoughts on - review black (1)

If you’ve read my review of The Cruel Prince, the first book in the series, you’ll know I was left somewhat disappointed by the novel. I certainly didn’t hate it, but I was bored throughout most of the book. Nothing really happened until 75% into the story, and it made the pacing feel somewhat off. As I had borrowed that book from my local library, I wanted to do the same for the sequel. I put in an acquisition request, got approved, and picked The Wicked King up a few weeks later.

I’m so happy to say I enjoyed the sequel far more than I did the first book. I had no issues with the pacing of this story, and the predominant themes of The Wicked King are somewhat more up my alley.

This entire novel is basically made up of scheming. As the faerie world thrives on power, political intrigue and backstabbing is all in a day’s work. In The Wicked King, Jude is participating more and more in the scheming of faeries. She’s reached a certain level of power, and now needs to do everything she can in order to hold her position. I adore stories that focus on strategy, politics, and scheming, even though they can seem a lot less plot-driven to others. That’s why I think this sequel was more up my alley than the previous one, because we were always looking at all the players on the board, what has been happening, who could gain from it, and so on.

Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold on to.

I was also far more intrigued by the characters in the sequel. I feel like we didn’t truly get to know anyone in the first book, including Jude. In The Wicked King however, I had more of a grasp on their characters.

I’m absolutely fascinated by Jude. I find myself rooting for her all the time, even if that means cheering her on as she kills someone. She’s not a good person, and she owns it. She’s ambitious, smart, and realistic which is everything I’ve ever wanted in a main character. Basically, she’s a Slytherin and I’m in love with her. What I liked most about her is that Holly Black made her smart and cunning, but not all-knowing. She was able to outmaneuver so many people and faeries, but was caught off guard at times too.

I was also horrified to discover I started to like Cardan. I mentioned in my review of the first one that I wasn’t sure how to feel about the tension between Cardan and Jude, as he treated her so horribly for years – and that having an abusive past does not excuse you from abusing others. But while reading The Wicked King, I actually started to like him. Do I think he’s a good guy? Definitely not. Am I still rooting for him? Yes. I actually sort of felt like a proud mom by the end of the book, which is so odd.

I did wonder what the point of Locke in this story is. Is there actually a reason to have him in the novels, other than create tension between the families and couples? I also want to say that I absolutely hate Vivi. There, I said it. I think she’s selfish and naive to the point of hurting others, without even realizing how her behavior is affecting others in a negative way.

Before I end this review, I’ll quickly say… THAT ENDING. WHAT??


Surprisingly, I truly enjoyed reading The Wicked King. I wasn’t enamored by the first book in the series, so I didn’t have the highest expectations for the sequel. Unexpectedly, I ended up loving it! It’s filled with strategic plans, politics, scheming, murder and power plays, which I absolutely adore. If you were slightly disappointed by The Cruel Prince, I’d still recommend giving this a try. You might end up pleasantly surprised!

Have you read The Wicked King? What did you think of it? Have you ever enjoyed a sequel more than the first book?