Liminal Boy

The Opposition #2
Stefani Chaney

Two years ago I had the absolute pleasure of devouring MIDNIGHT, the first book in this series, and fell in love with the spunky Jo, a louder version of me who fights to save her brother and for what is right. I was so thrilled to hear a sequel was in the works, and when the author offered me an advance copy, I screamed for joy. I couldn’t wait to get back to Jo, Jamie, Langdon and the crew. What I got was completely different from what I expected, but amazing all the same.

Summary

An angel out of control. 

A thief who knows too much. 

A power destined to self-destruct.

These are some of the things that haunt Langdon Moore, the longest lasting survivor of a twisted experiment that transformed certain aspects of a person into a weapon. Nothing about Langdon has ever made sense, and his verve confirms it. Born twice and died thrice, he knows this is his final chance to get things right.
The rest of the experiments are at a loss, still recovering from a shocking betrayal and the disappearance of the weapon crafted from Jo Harding’s verve. After a fight over leadership fractures the already unstable bunch, Langdon finds it easy to take shelter in his old isolating habits, slipping away from everyone— except for his service dog.
Unfortunately, his plans for solitude are derailed when his quiet home becomes Jo’s new headquarters. To make matters worse, Midnight doesn’t go anywhere without her twin brother, the model Jamie Harding. When a mysterious thief foretells the arrival of Angel, the most powerful survivor of the experiment, Langdon must act quickly. As a harsh winter ices over Montreal, he makes one final attempt at saving a life… even if that means forfeiting his last chance of finally having one of his own.

Musings

TW: Liminal Boy has a much heavier focus on mental health than Midnight does. I found it was written with that in mind, like it was speaking directly to those of us whose brains work a little differently, and I loved it.

Liminal Boy has a complete tonal shift from Midnight. While the first book in the Opposition series follows the perspective of brash and rash Jo Harding, the second is set from Langdon’s POV, a few months after the events of Midnight. He has a quieter, more thoughtful way of approaching his issues, though he struggles with depression and social anxiety which sometimes tarnish his view of the world. Seeing Jo from his eyes was completely unexpected, and I loved the way the author’s character have such depth.

The pacing is also much slower: while Midnight was a superhero origin story, with wam-bam-thank-you-mam action scenes and immediate danger, Liminal Boy is more of a thriller. It’s more thoughtful and introspective, as Langdon tries to settle back into his life, while dealing with the aftershocks of what Morgan did to him and the other test subjects. But it has this fascinating intrigue: they still have to find what Morgan/Jude/Judas were actually doing, and dismantle the clinic that almost cost them their lives. Plus, how does one get unknown technology out of their friends before it’s too late?

At first I found Liminal Boy to be… confusing. Events seemed to happen to Langdon, sometimes in (what felt like) the wrong order. It took me a while to get into the style, but then it ‘clicked’ for me and I loved it even more. Langdon’s growth and struggle were deeply personal, and at times it was like I was reading a contemporary novel rather than a superhero/urban fantasy book.

But the ending… oh my gosh, that ending. In the last two chapters everything comes together, and now I’m sitting here, trembling in anticipation for book three!

If you liked the characters of Midnight, you are going to love Liminal Boy. Be ready for the tonal shift, but I promise you it’s worth it. It’s a love letter to all outsiders as well as being a brilliant superhero tale.

Liminal Boy is out TODAY! Happy book birthday, Stefani Chaney!

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Division

Adaline #4
Denise Kawaii

The next installment of Adaline is here, and I am living for it! This Middle Grade series blew me away when I binge read it just a few months ago, and I had incredibly high expectations for this fourth book. It blew them all away, and then some.

Summary

Boy 62 and his friends are crossing the radioactive wasteland.

They’re searching for the jailhouse that will be their new home.

But someone already lurks the halls of the rugged building, and they don’t want company.

When Boy 1124562 and his friends trek across the desert, they’re expecting to move into an abandoned building where they can build their A.I. enhanced computer without the danger of Hanford’s oversight. But when they arrive, they quickly discover that the building isn’t empty.

A dangerous Woman with a sordid past is hiding in the shadows of the abandoned building. Can the secret she holds be the key to keeping Hanford’s residents alive?

Musings

62 has been exiled from the other survivors, and along with his friends needs to learn how to live in this hostile, radioactive wasteland on his own. They’re not without a few resources: they’re living in a semi-abandoned building and have a few resources from Hanford. But they’re also harboring a terrible secret: one of the women thought to be living with the Oosa has actually escaped with a story too gruesome for the boys to even know.

What’s brilliant about Kawaii’s writing is that anyone at any age can read it and enjoy it. I binge read it in two days, only putting it down for work (groan) and was terrified of Sunny’s story, though I realize she doesn’t actually outright say what happened to her. It’s vague enough that any actual child reading this will be in the same mindset as 62, but adults can fill in the blanks, which makes the horror all the more horrifying since we tend to imagine the worst. 

There were moments of sweetness, too. My favorite parts had the boys discovering their world, such as the snakes, new buildings, and even the sweet potatoes. 62 is actually doing well with food now, and I feel so happy for this adorable cinnamon roll of a boy. I just want the best for him, and I have no idea how the author will give them happy endings with just a single book left!

I feel like adults and middle graders will approach this book differently, while both loving it to bits. It’s a fantastic adventure and a beautiful exploration of what it means to be human, from the point of view of the sweetest, most innocent protagonist you will ever meet. Book four ups the tension, and I cannot wait to see how book five will tie everything up!

Don’t miss book four of the Adaline series!

Wicked Saints – Blog Tour

by Emily A. Duncan

Once I got into this book, I couldn’t put it down. It was like the Grishaverse, except so much darker, and more gruesome: as if someone stitched Nevernight and Shadow and Bone together and didn’t apply a bandage.

Summary

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.
A prince in danger must decide who to trust.
A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings. 
Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.
In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world
of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between
dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something
Dark and Holy trilogy.

Musings

So if you don’t like blood, turn away now. My only qualm with the book would be how gratuitous it was with all the bloodletting, cutting, and just everything blood; but I’m willing to look past it since it was such a gosh-darn great story. 

Three characters come into play: Nadya, a cleric girl given power by the gods, trying to save her country; Serefin, prince of the enemy country, and Malachiaz, a mysterious boy on the run. We have holy, royal, and cursed – and each willing to do what they must to get what they want. Nadya’s nation has been in a holy war with Serefin’s for centuries. While her country worships the gods, Serefin’s has renounced them, taking power from within under the form of blood magic. Both want the war to end by any means possible, and will become who they must to tear town the enemy. 

So far, it might seem formulaic. Until the author does one single, tiny little thing: she makes her characters begin to question where the gods actually come from. All of a sudden, the holy war seems inconsequential, as we realize that there is so much more at play. The author delves into the complex issues of wars fought over ideals, of the people who are caught in between. And I was hooked.

It’s basically YA on steroids. Everything is ramped up x1000: the blood, the magic, the complexity. Nothing was predictable. I really don’t want to give anything else away if I can avoid it, so I’ll stop my review here. But this book is really going to blow everyone away – I guarantee it!

OUT TODAY from Wednesday books!

The Near Witch – Blog Tour

By V.E. Schwab

It’s such a fascinating adventure to read your favorite author’s debut novel. V.E. Schwab is one of those instabuy authors of mine who would put any book out there and I’d preorder with my eyes shut. But the Near Witch was still one of hers that I hadn’t read yet, simply because I couldn’t find it anywhere. I was so excited for the new edition, and reading my favorite author’s first book was so much fun!

Summary

The Near Witch’ is only an old story told to frighten children. If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company. There are no strangers in the town of Near. These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. But when an actual stranger, a boy who seems to fade like smoke, appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true. The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

Musings

A dark and mysterious novel, we follow Lexi, a young girl in a tiny, isolated village on the moors, still mourning the loss of her father. She’s not happy staying at home, she’d rather follow in her father’s footsteps, working and hunting on the moors. When children start disappearing from town à la Pied Piper, Lexi is desperate to find answers to protect her beloved little sister, before she’s next. It doesn’t help that the children start disappearing just when a stranger appears in town, a boy who is more than he looks.

I think this is the first V.E. Schwab book where she uses first person narration. The novel follows a somewhat familiar YA fantasy plot, with a dark, mysterious danger, and a heroine who doesn’t conform. I found it a little odd that in such an old fashioned, puritanical town, we’d have a girl with such a modern name like Lexi, but whatever. She’s a bit – I hate to say this – flat, since her character can be recapped by two traits: not fitting in, and fiercely loving her sister. However, we already see traces of Schwab’s signature voice in the way Lexi stands up to the men in her village, and in the incredible atmosphere she creates.

When I was reading the book, I couldn’t help but feel cold. It’s a perfect ghost story, in the sense that it really does raise goosebumps on your skin, without resorting to cheap horror tricks. It made me feel like I was watching The Crucible – on the Moors of England. The oppressive fear of the ‘other’ makes the air thick and hard to breathe. So while my first reaction to the book was that I could see the plot coming a mile away, I was still transported by it, and blown away (no pun intended) by the subtle worldbuilding. MOORS! WITCHES! MAGIC! HECK YES!

The love story was also a bit flat. Cole is probably my favorite character of the bunch, but it felt super weird to read an instalove here. I was more excited about the actual story of the Near Witch, and wanted to spend more time tracking her down, and learning about her past. I thought there might be an extra twist at the end, but none came. I think it’s why I loved the short story that came after so much – Cole’s point of view, written with the power of Schwab’s writing ten years in the making.

This might be a bit blunt, but I think the best part of reading the Near Witch, now, is seeing how far V.E. Schwab has come since. The Near Witch is good, especially for a debut novel. But compare it to Vengeful… it’s like watching a child grow into a queen. Schwab has grown so much as a writer in the past decade, and it shows. It just makes me even more excited to see what she writes next!

Massive thank you to Titan Books for sending me the new collector’s edition!

Honor Bound

By Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre
The Honors #2

I’m not gonna lie, this book was one of my highest anticipated reads of the year, and so it bore the weight of my massive expectations. Even so, it somehow blew them all away, making me already resent the fact that I have to wait another year for the next book! It’s so amazing, I don’t know if I can even put my thoughts into words.

Spoilers here on out for the first book, Honor Among Thieves!

Summary

Zara Cole was a thief back on Earth, but she’s been recently upgraded to intergalactic fugitive. On the run after a bloody battle in a covert war that she never expected to be fighting, Zara, her co-pilot Beatriz, and their Leviathan ship Nadim barely escaped the carnage with their lives. Now Zara and her crew of Honors need a safe haven, far from the creatures who want to annihilate them. But with two wounded Leviathan to treat, plus human and non-human refugees to help, they’ll have to settle for the nearest outpost, called the Sliver: a wild, dangerous warren of alien criminals. Zara’s skills from the Zone may be invaluable. However, Zara discovers that the secrets of the Sliver may have the power to turn the tide of the war they left behind—but in the wrong direction. Soon Zara will have to make a choice: stand against the ultimate evil or run from it. But she’s never walked away from a fight.

Musings

While the first book took place over a couple of months, this one is more condensed to a few days, I think about a week (ignoring moments of time that are breezed over because people are either healing or traveling). The revelations from the end of book one have shaken the characters, and Zara is faced with whole new responsibilities – and aliens.

I love the growth of Zadim, the Nadim and Zara relationship. They are just so fantastic together! The authors explore so many different kinds of bonds and love, and it’s amazing how they’re creating something beyond romantic. It’s also refreshing to read a YA that doesn’t focus on physical attraction and our human understanding of love. The authors really push the SF envelope by exploring what we can only imagine. The bond matures as Zara begins to explore beyond our human understanding and senses, how they are better together, and how this bond can still continue to grow.

On that same note, it was entertaining watching Zara grapple with the spectrum of alien genders. What pronouns are we meant to be using? How do we relate to something that earth has no equivalent of? It was done in such a natural way that it didn’t feel contrived at all. A handbook for astronauts on first contact missions!

Zara herself has grown so much since she left earth. She might not want to admit it, but she’s really grown into her space legs. Her rough upbringing in the Zone back on earth means she’s able to handle any tough situation that space can throw at her, but we see in the way she approaches problems that this instinct has grown into something stronger and new.

I loved the new characters this book introduces, especially Starcurrent. Zis race of singers are so fascinating. Not only that, but ze is an amazing character, introducing Zara to the dangerous world out here. The focus on signing and music adds another dimension to the worldbuilding.

I could keep going on and on and on about how much I love this book, but I’m going to wrap up. Honor Bound is brilliant. It’s fast passed and exciting, full of action and a whole new kind of romance. Exciting from the first page to the last, with a sense of exploration and wonder, along with universe-shattering dread. Gosh, I cannot wait for the third book!

Stronger than a Bronze Dragon

by Mary Fan

I’m a massive fan of Mary Fan, who wrote one of my favorite YA SF books of all time, Starswept (see my review!). So when I saw the announcement for this book, I knew I just had to read it. A hero’s journey through a fantastical Qing dynasty China, where we have steampunk technology mixed with magic, a lady warrior who wields a dangerous blade… this is the exact book I needed in my life, and it was perfect in every way.

Summary

When a powerful viceroy arrives with a fleet of mechanical dragons and stops an attack on Anlei’s village, the villagers see him as a godsend. They agree to give him their sacred, enchanted River Pearl in exchange for permanent protection—if he’ll marry one of the village girls to solidify the alliance. Anlei is appalled when the viceroy selects her as a bride, but with the fate of her people at stake, she sees no choice but to consent. Anlei’s noble plans are sent into a tailspin, however, when a young thief steals the River Pearl for himself.

Knowing the viceroy won’t protect her village without the jewel, she takes matters into her own hands. But once she catches the thief, she discovers he needs the pearl just as much as she does. The two embark on an epic quest across the land and into the Courts of Hell, taking Anlei on a journey that reveals more is at stake than she could have ever imagined.

Musings

Anlei is one of those fierce Warioress characters who jump out of the page. A village girl, trained as an acrobat and struggling with dyslexia, trying to find her place in a village where a woman’s place is in the home. It is a vocation she respects, but knows deep down is not for her. Being able to fight for her village takes courage, but not so much courage as when asked to marry a complete stranger in order to solidify the promise of protection for her people.

Tai, a thief with many mysteries up his sleeves, is the perfect foil to her character. He always seems to have the perfect joke or quip to catch her off guard. They make a perfect fighting pair, a team built on respect and trust. I loved seeing the two of them fight together both with a sword or with their words.

And the magic, the technology – the concept itself is so cool. I love the idea of giant bronze dragons soaring through the air, ships propelled along the breeze, swords harnessing ancient magic. All this to fight an enemy straight out of a nightmare.

Once again, Mary Fan proves she is the master of twists. She manages to take a story that seems to be going one direction, then swing it around until it is going another – while making me wonder how I couldn’t have seen it before. This book constantly keeps you on your toes!

While I haven’t read many Chinese tales, I feel like Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon reads like a cross between YA fantasy and a Chinese hero’s ballad, almost poetic in a sense, a journey to save one’s people, an ode to family, culture, and tradition, in the face of massive danger. The author’s writing is somehow even more lyrical than in her Starswept books, which I assumed we musical simply from the fact they were about music – turns out Mary Fan can bring this same music to Steampunk China.

If you’re looking for a story you will never have seen anywhere else, with characters you can fall in love with while simultaneously want to fight alongside with, then you are going to love Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon.

Expected publication: June 11th, 2019 by Page Street Kids
Thank you Mary Fan for sending me a copy to review!

Book of Fire

by Michelle Kenney

I didn’t know where this book would go when I started reading it: at first glance, it seemed like a traditional dystopia, with the world post-apocalypse, and the surviving humans split between the outsiders (who live in the forest) and those inside the Lifedome, a massive structure housing what is left of civilization. We follow Talia, an outsider, hunting and gathering for her family until the day her brother and grandfather are taken in a raid by those mysterious people inside the dome. And that’s when every expectation I had got thrown out of the window, and my mind was blown.

Summary

Life outside the domes is not possible. At least that’s what Insiders are told. Twins Eli and Talia shouldn’t exist. They’re Outsiders. 

Their home is a secret. Their lives are a secret. Arafel is a secret. 

An unexpected forest raid forces Talia into a desperate mission to rescue her family while protecting the sacred book of Arafel from those who would use it as a weapon. As Talia and her life long friend Max enter the dome, she makes some unexpected discoveries, and allies, in the form of rugged Insider August, that will change the course of her life forever. 

She’ll stop at nothing to save her family but will she sacrifice her heart in the process? 

Musings

Mild spoilers from here on out: if you don’t want to know what society is like under the dome, and would rather find out for yourself, head on over and start reading the book now. If you don’t mind having that spoiled for you, it’s what I found the most compelling with the book, and I’m going to rave about how awesome it is.

The dome was built before the downfall of humanity in order to house massive strides in bioengineering. It’s only logical that when the apocalypse came and mankind needed a place to ride it out, the elite got the better end of the deal, and the lower classes – let in by sheer pity and necessity for a labor force, à la Snowpiercer – got the sharp end of the stick. The new society is entirely ruled by the fundamentals of bioengineering, artificial selection, and genetic experimentation.

And the Roman empire. Because what cooler combination than modern day Romans trying to bring their myths back to life? If you enjoy Greek/Roman mythology, then you’re going to see it come alive in marvelous, terrible ways. The author’s abundant knowledge of Roman life and culture infuse the novel with a degree of realness that you can’t help but be drawn in.

On top of the cool premise, we have Talia, a headstrong main character with a massive love for her family (she reminds me a little of Katniss in the way she deals with disaster) and a secret that could end mankind if it ends up in the wrong hands. With the help of a mysterious knight named August, and her lifelong friend Max, Talia battles the cruel realities of the dome and its vicious despot, Octavia as she tries to rescue her brother and grandfather.

While the love triangle felt a little forced, I’m 100% team Taugust (is that a thing? it should be a thing) though someone should really tell August calling a girl ‘Feral Cat’ all the time isn’t as sweet as he thinks it is. Oh well.

This book is if The Isle of Doctor Moraux was crossed with Hunger Games but written by a Roman. It’s exciting, fun, and brilliantly clever. I cannot wait to read the sequel!

Published August 27th 2017 by HQ Digital
I want to thank author Michelle Kenny and Harper Collins for providing me with a wonderful review copy.

The City in the Middle of the Night – Blog Tour + Author Q/A!

by Charlie Jane Anders

I’m a massive Charlie Jane Anders fan, from the days where she was running io9.com. I devoured her short fiction and fell in love with her spellbinding novel All the Birds in the Sky. So when I had the opportunity to join the blog tour for her newest book, The City in the Middle of the Night, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world.

My expectations were set incredibly high, and yet she still blew them all away: I binge read the book in less than two days, and even after finishing the last page I’m still caught there, and can’t get the story out of my head. Not that I want to: as I digest the book, I’m seeing more, understanding more, and loving it more.

Summary

A new book from the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Charlie Jane Anders. On a planet that has never-changing zones of day and night, time means only what the government proclaims, and lost souls and disappeared bodies are shadow-bound and savage. One such pariah, sacrificed to the night, forms a bond with an enigmatic beast, and will rise to take on the entire planet–before it can crumble beneath the weight of human existence.

Musings

Set on January, a planet tidally locked with its star, the city of Xiosphant lies in the strip of habitable land along the terminator. To the one side, the heat of a planet baked under a neverending sun. To the other, the frozen desert of a world that has never seen sunlight. In the strip of twilight in between, human colonists have established a great city, self-sufficient, a testament to survival. But in order to thrive, one must live in a dystopian nightmare.

In order for the city to work, people must all sleep at the same time (between shutters up and shutters down, a curfew punishable by violence), eat the right food at the right time, work, live, die, at the same time. Timefulness (mindfulness of the time of day) even saturates their language, as the conjugation you use depends on what time it is. You day to day life is mapped out, as well as the entirety of your life ahead of you.

In the midst of all this, lives Sophie, a quiet girl from the dark side of town, attending university on a scholarship she earned for her distinguished studying, desperate to avoid the life her social class has laid out ahead of her. There she meets Bianca, a beautiful affluent girl who dreams of changing the world. Together, they might make a difference.

Like with All the Birds in the Sky, Anders takes idealistic youth who want to change the world, and bring them face to face with reality. Sophie is dragged through a traumatic experience that almost kills her, and she deals with the aftermath for the rest of the book. Bianca’s own reaction to this violence is with more violence, hoping to make change through revenge. These characters motivations are so real they feel like your own.

There was so much to love about this novel. Not only was the worldbuilding so perfect that I was fully immersed from the first page, but I couldn’t help but be attached to Sophie and the other characters that crossed the page. Especially Mouth, a nomad born on the road between the two major cities on January, is the last of her people, and struggles to fit in anywhere.

But what connected me most with this novel was the theme of culture. As a girl born in one country, raised in another, by parents who come from neither, my own culture comes into question every stinking day. And through City, Anders explores what it means to be uprooted, how cultures are built, or how they are forgotten. As the characters perspectives on their own place in the world shifts, I found myself exploring my own feelings of cultural identity through their different eyes. It felt so deeply personal, like a conversation held between me and the book.

Some fit more in the rigidly defined society of Xiosphant, where their lives are controlled, but they are comfortable. Everyone has food, a home, a future. No one speaks about the past, and it’s disconcerting to bring up your heritage, where your family was from on Earth. And then you have a polar opposite in the other major city, Argelo, which is more like an open-air bazaar, a libertarian paradise only with the real consequences such a free-for-all would create. Time there is impossible to tell, and heritage is embraced, along with new ideas, art, and music. And in the middle, there is only the road, a dangerous place where being alone means certain death.

And in the end, after Anders explores what it means to belong to a society or culture, she goes deeper – and asks you what it means to be human. The so-called ‘crocodiles’ which the humans of January hunt and fear are the native intelligent life of the planet, and they have their own culture and world. Are we visitors on their land? What kind of colonists are we, friendly or cruel? The last part of the novel is beautiful and distinct: it feels like you’re drifting in a dream, going beyond the human experience. And it was so… hopeful. It made me want to be so much more than I am right now.

There is so much more the author explores through this book, I feel as if I need to reread it right away to see what I might have missed. This is a story of control: how our control has ecological consequences and human ones. It’s a story about our need to have someone to believe in, or believe in us. How our idea of the person we love may be quite different from the person they truly are, and how it is so hard to admit when we have been betrayed by a person we thought worthy of our trust.

This book was the perfect read for me: great science fiction with a cool science-based premise (I’m an astrophysics masters student working with a planetary science supervisor. This book is gold.) and complex exploration of humanity and culture, a question that I struggle with myself. It feels as if the author was writing just for me.

A quick question to Charlie Jane herself!

Readcommendations: It’s been three years since the release of All the Birds in the Sky. How has the writing experience been different for you in creating The City in the Middle of the Night compared to AtBitS? Have you found it ‘easier’ in the sense that you have already published, or has it been more complicated because of the critical acclaim your last book received? Were there differences that surprised you?

Charlie Jane Anders: It’s been such a crazy whirlwind! I’ve been just amazed and blown away by the response to All the Birds in the Sky. Makes me really kind of nervous about putting out another book and having to live up to that buzz. On the other hand, after spending years writing novels that never got published, it’s great that I can now come up with a new book, and it actually appears on shelves.

Massive thank you to Titan Books for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour, and providing me with a copy of The City in the Middle of the Night. I also want to thank them for putting me in touch with the author, and thank Charlie Jane Anders for not only answering my question, but also for writing this remarkable book.

Winter of the Witch

Winternight Trilogy, Book 3
by Katherine Arden

BRB, I’m crying because one of my favorite series of all time is over, and despite a perfect finish I know I’m going to miss Vasya so much that it hurts.

I half don’t want to write this review, because I don’t want to admit that this series is actually over. The final book was such a perfect conclusion, so beautiful, so painful in all the best ways, that I feel I want to hug the author and thank her for leading me through such a wild range of emotions. It feels like the perfect fairy tale, only better because this time, the girl wins.

Summary

Following their adventures in The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, Vasya and Morozko return in this stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, battling enemies mortal and magical to save both Russias, the seen and the unseen.

Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.

Musings

“I have plucked snowdrops at Midwinter, died at my own choosing, and wept for a nightingale. Now I am beyond prophecy.”

Just like the books that came before it, this is a novel about religion and horrible things people are willing to do in the name of it. It is a story of old beliefs and new, of courage in standing for what is right. It is a book about family and doing whatever it takes to protect the ones you love. And it’s a story about being a woman in a world where your gender is a prison, taking action, taking control of her life, and saving even those who told her she wasn’t capable of anything. In the final book in this series, Vasya becomes the very thing men fear and despise: a witch. And she saves the world.

This story picks up right after the events of The Girl in the Tower in Moscow, the city has burned but was saved by Vasya’s quick thinking and Morosko’s waning power. But now Konstantin wants Vasya dead more than ever, and a certain bear named Medved is happy to aid with the chaos in any way they possibly can. But with Vasya standing up to both the bear and the king of winter, she’s made herself a third power in this war, and has more to fight for than ever before.

This book is a battle scene. A massive war, between the old beliefs and the new religion, between two brothers caught in an eternal fight for power, between the Russians and the Tartars, between Vasya and herself. The author pulls from a lot of historical events, making the story feel more real than a simple fairy tale. It’s so masterfully crafted that I could almost believe Arden was there herself. And yet, despite all this, it still captures the magic and whimsy of classic storytelling.

While I felt a little like there wasn’t any doubt for Vasya, ever – as hard as they sounded, her victories always seemed so certain – I think it added to the sense of tradition to the story. And I’m a little wary of how Vasya won Morozko back from his captivity, but hey: if this book had been any more perfect, it would have probably punched a hole in the universe.

Do yourself a favor and grab this magical trilogy, your life will be all the more beautiful for it.

The Guilded Wolves

by Roshani Chokshi

What a fun little gem of a book! Having just read Six of Crows for the first time only a week ago, I found the resemblance startling – but in form only. The story is rich and fast-paced, with all the magic Chokshi brings to her books. It was exciting to see her take the magic of her usually Indian inspired novels and bring them to Paris, nothing lost in the transition. Her rich worldbuilding and colorful detail made this book a joy to read.

Summary

Set in a darkly glamorous world, The Gilded Wolves is full of mystery, decadence, and dangerous but thrilling adventure.

Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much.

Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.

Musings

Chokshi has created an alternate Paris where magic is commonplace and the Order of Babel retains control. Babel pieces hidden from the world allow forgers to create beautiful and dangerous items, which give this alternate world technology similar to ours. It is here, in the lavish hands of the order, that our story takes place.

The crew of this Oceans-Eleven-Meets-Indiana-Jones-with-Magic book is diverse and easy to relate to:

Séverin, the heir to the third house of the French Order of Babel, stripped of his title due to nefarious reasons and politics. He owns a hotel, L’eden, and secretly runs heists to steal the most remarkable forged objects the world has ever seen, along with his team.
Laila from India, with an ability to read people’s history while holding an object of their possession, with an amazing talent for baking and one of the best dancers Paris has ever seen. (Can she be my best friend, please?)
Enrique, the Spanish/Filipino historian with a great sense of sarcasm and who occasionally remembers how to act human.
Zofia the mathematician/engineer of Polish Jewish descent, kicked out of university for her dangerous magical affinity, who only seems to tolerate people and would much rather ber tinkering.
Tristan, the recluse botanist, and who is a very recluse sort of person, with his gigantic pet spider he seems to love more than anyone else.
And unoficially, Hypnos, heir to another French House, a French aristocrat of mixed race, which doesn’t sit well with his peers, making him defy expectation at every turn.

Together, they need to solve the clues to basically save France, using their own set of skills. It involves cunning, deceit, and a fair bit of math, along with amazing forged gadgets a bit à la James Bond with a scoop of magic. You get to know each of the characters just enough to relate to them, though I wish I had more time to know them more. If I had one disappointment to say of the book, it would be that it was too fast: in some places, it got confusing because the action piled up and the points of view were all over the place, and it could have been paced down to show us more about the characters and their past.

All and all, I’m getting the hardcover. This book is sure to be a hit and I can’t wait for the sequel!

Expected publication: January 15th 2019 by Wednesday Books

But I still have no idea why the book was called The Gilded Wolves 😛