The Girl the Sea Gave Back

By Adrienne Young

Adrienne Young has done it again! I can’t get enough of her Viking fantasy novels. They’re wonderful and enthralling and have the most badass women in fiction, ever. 

Summary

For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse.

For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.

Musings

Fair warning, this book can be quite brutal. The author makes it very clear that absolutely anyone can die at any time. So many of your favorite characters will not make it until the end. That is just the brutality of war. One clan has learned to grow past it, to no longer want it – and another, with a power-hungry leader, want to take the opportunity to rule. After the events of Sky In the Deep, the newly merged tribes know war is the last thing they want – but they know how to fight. 

Halvard, the cute little brother from book one, has done a serious glow up. Ten years later and he’s tagged to be the next chief of the clan, a boy raised in peace to despise war. The book follows his growth as he learns to accept his new role and lead his people through a time no one wants for anyone. It is a heavy burden and he must learn not to shoulder it alone. 

But the Girl the Sea Gave Back is Tova, the other protagonist of this book, and she’s a mystery even to herself. An outcast in the Svell clan for being a Kyrr, she also has the ability to read runes and see the future. But what she can’t she is her own beginnings. This mismatch of identity and basically abuse at the hands of the people who sheltered her drives her growth in this novel. But Tova’s personal story almost takes a step back as we explore the greater story of immident war. The question that arises then is: what role does fate play in our lives? Is everything set in (rune) stone? Is war inevitable or inadmissible?

I absolutely loved how we returned to the world of Eelyn and Fiske but saw a completely different side of it. Old favorites return and we see how the end of their war has changed them. How people grow during times of peace. How a peaceful people prepares for a war they do not want. How, on the other side, power corrupts. 

It’s even stronger than Sky in the Deep. I loved it so much! 

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🌊 If you were blessed with a divine ability, what would it be? ☀️ Hello bookworms! Im so excited to be a part of the The Girl the Sea Gave Back Blog tour! If any of you are fans of Vikings, then you need this book. Adrienne Young @adrienneyoungbooks is an insanely talented author, and she weaves together an exciting novel that really transports you back in time. We follow character from Sky in the Deep, her first novel, but both are standalones and can be read without the other (even though I highly recommend them both). I loved this book even more than the first! 💨⛰✨ Short blurb: For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse. When her clan decide how they choose to survive, Tova must set in motion a series of events that could change her world forever. 🌊 💨🌙 Thanks to @titanbooks, I got to ask the author the same QOTD. Here’s what she said: I would probably want the ability to breathe underwater. I am really fascinated by the sea and sea life and I often have dreams where I’m under water and I’m not holding my breath. 🐟 🐠 🦈 The Girl the Sea Gave Back comes out TOMORROW! I’m so excited to be a part of the tour, a massive thank you both to Titan Books and Adrienne Young for letting me be a part of it. This intense Viking novel will have you on the edge of your Sea all the way until the end. It’s exhilarating! ✨🔥🌊 #thegirltheseagaveback #adrienneyoung #sea #ocean #booksandnature #booksandsea #bookstagram #blogtour #booktour #amreading #vikings #sunset #travel #france #marseillemaville #bookworm #mustread #titanbooks

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Sword and Pen Blog Tour – Giveaway and Exclusive Excerpt!

The Great Library #5
By Rachel Caine

It’s a bittersweet moment when a series you love ends. You’re excited for the grand finale, but at the same time, you’ve grown so close to the characters that you can’t imagine a world without them. Thankfully, Sword and Pen is an epic conclusion to one of my favorite series, and I’m so happy that it ended so wonderfully. I would have read it faster, but I just didn’t want it to end!

Needless to say, spoilers for the first four books here on out.

Summary

With the future of the Great Library in doubt, the unforgettable characters from Ink and Bone must decide if it’s worth saving in this thrilling adventure in the New York Times bestselling series.

The corrupt leadership of the Great Library has fallen. But with the Archivist plotting his return to power, and the Library under siege from outside empires and kingdoms, its future is uncertain. Jess Brightwell and his friends must come together as never before, to forge a new future for the Great Library . . . or see everything it stood for crumble.

Musings

We pick up immediately where we left off at the end of book four: the Archivist is on the run, and our little rebel family has taken over the great library. Now comes the toughest part: securing their victory. Saving the library from those who would rather destroy it then see it grow. 

Unlike the previous books, here we switch POV’s constantly. Jess is no longer the center of the tale: the entire team (talk about #squadgoals) gets their chance at the spotlight, and it makes the book so fast-paced it left me breathless. The archivist is fighting to regain control, the enemies are literally at the library gates, spies and traitors fill the ranks of even the most elite: it’s a non-stop roller coaster. 

I wish I could say more, but I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone. Suffice to say I was thrilled to go an adventure with Jess and the crew one last time. I’m definitely going to miss this wonderful little family, and the world that Caine has created. It’s so hard to believe it’s over, but it was a wonderful send off.

Expected publication: September 9th by Berkley Books 

And now, without further ado, an excerpt straight from Sword and Pen!

Jess

Brendan was dead, and Jess’s world was broken. He’d never known a moment without his twin existing somewhere, a distant warmth on the horizon, but now … now he shivered, alone, with his dead brother held close against his chest.

So much silence in the world now.

He’s still warm, Jess thought, and he was, Brendan’s skin still felt alive, inhabited, but there was nothing inside him. No heartbeat. No presence.

He was dimly aware that things were happening around him, that the bloody sands of the arena were full of people running, fighting, screaming, shouting. He didn’t care. Not now.

Let the world burn.

A shadow fell over him, and Jess looked up. It was Anubis, a giant automaton god gleaming with gold. The jackal’s black head blotted out the sun. It felt like the end of the world.

And then Anubis thrust his spear forward, and it plunged into Jess’s chest. It held him there, pinned, and suddenly Brendan’s body was gone, and Jess was alone and skewered on the spear … but it didn’t hurt. He felt weightless.

Anubis leaned closer and said, Wake up.

When he opened his eyes, he was lying in darkness on a soft mattress, covered by a blanket that smelled of spice and roses. Out the window to his left, the moon floated in a boat of clouds. Jess’s heart felt heavy and strange in his chest.

He could still feel the sticky blood on his hands, even though he knew they were clean. He’d washed Brendan’s blood away. No, he hadn’t. Thomas had brought a bowl of water and rinsed the gore away; he hadn’t done anything for himself. Hadn’t been able to. His friends had helped him here, into a strange house and a strange bed. He knew he should be grateful for that, but right now all he felt was empty, and deeply wrong. This was a world he didn’t know, one in which he was the only surviving Brightwell son. Half a twin.

He’d have taken large bets that Brendan would have been the one to survive everything, and come through stronger. And his brother would have bet even more on it. The world seemed so quiet without him.

Then you’ll just have to be louder, you moping idiot. He could almost hear his brother saying that with his usual cocky smirk. God knows you always acted like you wished you’d been an only child.

Giveaways!

Before I let you go, here’s your chance to win both your own copy of Sword and Pen AND an opportunity to maybe bring home the entire series!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And if you just want your own copy of Sword and Pen, enter here for your chance to win. Every blog on the tour has their own unique giveaway which means every you have another opportunity to win!

The Grace Year

By Kim Liggett

I read this book in a day, it was so impossible to put down; and yet it took me a whole month to digest it, and figure out how to review. This might be one of the most powerful YA books I have ever read and my mind was (and remains) blown by the entire experience. 

Summary

No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

Girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for their chance to grab one of the girls in order to make their fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between.

Musings

This book had me shaking. Anger, frustration, injustice. It was horrifying in the same way as the Handmaid’s tale was, aggravating in the same way the Crucible was. Yet it was also beautiful, taking this intense oppression and capturing the beauty of small (and big) acts of resistance. 

The city (or country?) where this novel takes place has a “The Village” sense to it. Isolated, the divide between people – and women – could not be more pronounced. If you are not married, you are nothing. You work, or you sell your body. There are only so many eligible young men, and they’ll pick their future wife and let the rest work out of sight. Subtle hints show that this city might exist isolated in the US we know today, or some dystopian version of it, which intensified the realism. 

Every girl is sent to spend their sixteenth year away, isolate, for fear that their “magic” will destroy the community they have fought so hard to build. Girls live their lives with oppresive rules, dare their :”Magic” escape and hurt the community. Men fear them in this year, but want their power as well: any girl who escapes her confinement during her Grace year can be caught and her body parts sold for medical purposes. It’s a grotesque and terrifying prospect. 

We follow a girl who would be quite content working the fields, who is crash and bold and can’t stand the oppresive nature of her village. She loves to tinker, loves science and logic (a girl after my own heart) and doesn’t give into the oppressive system. While sometimes this borderlines on a “not like other girls” trope, it made me wonder just how many other girls were conceiling these feelings just to fit in. It was something that TO BEST THE BOYS touched on, but THE GRACE YEAR is more subtle, which I think really works. 

The main core of the novel revolves around “The things we do to other girls”. How we’re raised to tear each other down, to stop us from banding together. Together, we are strong. Together, we’re terrifying. The only way to keep the girls meek is to force them to tear each other appart. And THE GRACE YEAR shows this in a violent, beautiful way. We tell ourselves that in a LORD OF THE FLIES situation, girls would prevail, but not if we’re raised to see every other girl as competition…

Nothing is expected: twists ruin everything, and not everyone is promised a happily ever after – even if they survive the violence. At first I found the ending anti-climactic, but the subtility of it was pure perfection.

Seriously. If you read one new book this year, try THE GRACE YEAR. It’s going to stay with me forever.

Expected publication: October 8th 2019 by Wednesday Books

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!

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.