A Court of Frost and Starlight Review

A Court of Frost and Starlight Review

By Sarah J. Maas

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Print Length: 272 pages

Release Year: 2018

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.88

Available on Amazon and B&N

Hope warms the coldest night.

Feyre, Rhys, and their close-knit circle of friends are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly-changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it, a hard-earned reprieve.

Yet even the festive atmosphere can’t keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated–scars that will have far-reaching impact on the future of their Court. (Goodreads)

As you already know from my reviews on the previous instalments of this series, I am a big fan of A Court of Thorns and Roses. It goes without saying how happy I was to finally get a chance to pick up this book… too bad it did not live up to its predecessors. 

A Court of Frost and Starlight is effectively an ACOTAR Christmas special that just so happens to also happens to give us a glimpse of the war’s aftermath. Now, I have to give Maas, some credit for some of the themes she included regarding that subplot, but not much more. While she included very real aspects of post-war life, the way they were handled was… not that realistic. Yes, this is a fantasy series, but that doesn’t necessarily excuse the sort of detached feeling I got from this book. Of course, I am taking into consideration the disassociation that often follows those who have fought in a war, but this just wasn’t it. 

The only aspect of this book that truly shines is the deeper look into the found-family relationship between the inner circle. If you take out the post-war aspect of this story, its a mostly heart-warming tale of a family during holidays. The sections that focused solely on this is what made the book bearable for me, as it managed to cheer me up during our not-so-typical holiday season. And while the character has always been just as important as the plot in these stories, this one, in particular, took a lot of time to look at each character individually and give us insight on who they are and how they think without the shroud of intense hardship. We get a glimpse into seemingly everyday life, which in these times we sort of need. 
I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I had hoped to, but it did manage to make my holiday season a little better. And I might as well admit it is what I needed to hold me over until the much-awaited release of A Court of Silver Flames. This is not a necessary read, and I won’t judge anyone who decides to skip it. But, in saying that, it’s not worthless either.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Forest of Souls Review

Forest of Souls Review

By Lori M. Lee

Publisher: Page Street Kids

Print Length: 400 pages

Release Year: 2020

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.69

Available on Amazon and B&N

Sirscha Ashwyn comes from nothing, but she’s intent on becoming something. After years of training to become the queen’s next royal spy, her plans are derailed when shamans attack and kill her best friend Saengo.

And then Sirscha, somehow, restores Saengo to life.

Unveiled as the first soulguide in living memory, Sirscha is summoned to the domain of the Spider King. For centuries, he has used his influence over the Dead Wood—an ancient forest possessed by souls—to enforce peace between the kingdoms. Now, with the trees growing wild and untamed, only a soulguide can restrain them. As war looms, Sirscha must master her newly awakened abilities before the trees shatter the brittle peace, or worse, claim Saengo, the friend she would die for. (Goodreads)

Forest of Souls was one of my most anticipated releases of 2020. I was so excited when I finally got my hands on it that I had to force myself to slow down a bit. I’m trying to spend a longer time in books like this because I want to really take my time to contemplate and savour the story. While the story was fast-paced, throwing you into the action immediately, I managed to slow my reading pace comfortably. Lee does an amazing job of showing rather than telling, so whenever I set the book down I had plenty to think about. Regardless of the fact that I came to the same conclusions as our protagonist as quickly as she did, it allowed me to explore aspects of the story that the author set aside. This only adds to my excitement for the upcoming sequel Spider’s Web, because I want to see how these concepts are brought into fruition. 

The magic system definitely gave me similar vibes to Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse, and the aesthetic of this world definitely felt influenced series like The Untamed. The lore of this world felt well-developed and even though we only view the world through a single character’s eyes, I definitely felt like we were provided with more than sufficient world-building. 

My favourite part of this book was the characters. Forest of Souls includes a beautiful sisterly-friendship between the protagonist Sirscha and her familiar Saengo. Lee does an amazing job portraying the platonic love between the two girls, and how their situation affects them not only as individuals but as partners. The lack of romance in this book is refreshing, but not entirely not existent, as there is definitely foundation laid down for it. Whatever the author ultimately decides, I can only imagine it being executed well, as her ability to set up characters and their relationships are definitely above average.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Review

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Review

By Stephen Chbosky

Publisher: Pocket Books/MTV Books

Print Length: 213 pages

Release Year: 1999

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary 

Avg. Goodreads Rating:  4.2

Available on Amazon and B&N

standing on the fringes of life…

offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see

what it looks like from the dance floor.

This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being A WALLFLOWER

This is the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that the perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.

Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up. (Goodreads)

Originally posted on my personal website crystinaluna.com.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, at this point, is a long-time favourite of mine. At this point, it can probably be considered an older book, but– at least to me– it doesn’t read like that. The many reasons it reads that way is probably the same reason this book is considered banned in many places. 

A realistic examination of what it’s like to be a teenager, this book follows Charlie as he begins his first year of high school. Charlie immediately struggles with the transition and it’s not until he befriends two seniors, Sam and Patrick, that his year begins to make a turn for the better. Chbosky leads us through a graphically realistic teen experience that includes concepts regarding LGBT struggles, drug experimentation, mental health, and much more. 

I feel like there really is something for everyone in this book. Though I personally did not have the “traditional” teenage experience (far from it, actually) I still find myself relating heavily with the characters in this book. You may not have direct experience with certain things, such as drugs and certain mental health struggles, but it’s hard to be a teenager nowadays without being exposed to these concepts one way or another. I feel it’s even that indirect connection that fosters understanding and compassion for the book’s characters in the readers. Having read many books in my few years on this earth, with is one of those rare books that truly captures what it’s like growing up.

Regardless of all these great things, I am aware that this book is banned in many schools and to some extent, I understand why. I would probably recommend this book for a more mature audience, but not in the sense that maturity equates age. With hard subjects including molestation and suicide, this books is not for everyone. Though I think this should be read by all high schoolers, I admit that the individual should be taken into consideration. I wouldn’t go so far as to right out ban the book, rather, I’d explicitly warn younger readers what is to come and open it up for conversation if there is something they need help understanding. 

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Shatter Me Review

Shatter Me Review

By Tahereh Mafi

Publisher: Harper

Print Length: 338 pages

Release Year: 2011

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.95

Available on Amazon, B&N

I am a monster

I’m more than human

My touch is lethal

My touch is power

I am their weapon

I will fight back

Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior. (Goodreads)

I had not originally planned on reading this book, but when I came across it a local sale for only one dollar, I couldn’t help myself. I decided to give this series a chance, regardless of the fact I was going into it with low expectations. I don’t know if that fact played a factor in the end, but I was surprised to find myself enjoying this book enough to have interest in the rest of the series. 

I have nothing against the YA dystopian subgenre but will admit to generally not being impressed by it. It’s a genre over-saturated with subpar books riding on the back of the success of series such as The Hunger Games and Divergent. I picked up this book, expecting it to be readable, but as enjoyable as it ended up being. 

The writing of this book is unique, to the point where when I first opened it, I thought the previous owner had taken it upon themselves to cross-out various lines. It took me a minute to realize that no, this was something entirely intentional. It’s an odd technique, that while I’m not particularly fond of it, it does the job it’s intended to. It helps set the tone of the story, that is further perpetuated by Mafi’s unique and beautiful writing style. It’s almost poetic in how it illustrates the shattered state of mind the protagonist Juliette is in throughout the book. As the book progresses and she feels more comfortable in her reality we see some of these techniques either stop being used entirely or reduced significantly, while others continued to be used just as much if not more. At the end of the day, the writing in this book is really what elevated the reading experience for me, though I understand how it could have done the exact opposite for others. 

The only thing that rubbed me the wrong away about this book is the romance. It’s easy to say I didn’t care for it, and the little bit of exposure I’ve had to the fandom had me thoroughly confused (though I understand further reading may clear that up.) I’m not as bothered by love triangles as some are, but I struggled with this one in particular because I either don’t trust or don’t like either of the love interest. And… Warner? Am I supposed to like him? Cause no. And while I realise this negative is entirely subjective, for me, it detracted enough from the story to pull me out of it. I imagine for readers who don’t like love-triangles the effect would have been but quicker and more intense. 
Coming up with a rating for this book, even with the help of a rubric, was a struggle for me. It’s not quite a four-star read for me, but not as low as a three. That said, a 3.5 doesn’t quite seem right either. I imagine my final subjective rating being somewhere between 3.5 and four.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Permanent Record Review

Permanent Record Review

By Mary H.K. Choi

Publisher: Simon & Schuster 

Print Length: 400 pg. 

Release Year: 2019

Genre: Contemporary Young Adult

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.45

Available on Amazon, B&N, and Libby

After a year of college, Pablo is working at his local twenty-four-hour deli, selling overpriced snacks to brownstone yuppies. He’s dodging calls from the student loan office and he has no idea what his next move is.

Leanna Smart’s life so far has been nothing but success. Age eight: Disney Mouseketeer; Age fifteen: first #1 single on the US pop chart; Age seventeen, *tenth* #1 single; and now, at Age nineteen…life is a queasy blur of private planes, weird hotel rooms, and strangers asking for selfies on the street.

When Leanna and Pab randomly meet at 4:00 a.m. in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn, they both know they can’t be together forever. So, they keep things on the down-low and off Instagram for as long as they can. But it takes about three seconds before the world finds out… (Goodreads)

Permanent Record is one of those books you pick up cause its absolutely gorgeous and keep cause it’s just as good. I had mixed feelings going into, having had mixed feelings when going into Choi’s previous book Emergency Contact. When I first read Emergency Contact, I adored it; but the second time I picked it up not so much. So I was justifiably scared about picking up Permanent Record, but in the end, it worked out. 

Choi writes relatable romance with genuine issues that young couples often face. Permanent Record steps a bit farther away from most peoples reality by being a romance between a multifaceted pop star and once-internet-viral college drop-out. In a way, this book plays on many peoples fantasies of somehow running into a celebrity and falling in love. But, regardless of the circumstances of the romance, it is still very relatable and realistic. Pablo, our protagonist, really likes Leanna (his popstar love interest) but is embarrassed by his own shortcomings as a college drop out. He can’t communicate this to her and feels his only option is to lie. This critical failure in communication causes an invisible wall between them, that is only fortified with the struggles that come with dating someone in Leanna’s field of work. Choi manages to write this outlandish and rare situation in a very relatable and easy to understand manner, making it just as easy to relate to Leanna as it is to Pablo. 

Overall, the writing in the book is standard for YA contemporary, but as mentioned above, extra points to the author for being able to craft such relatable character even when they have less-than-relatable circumstances. In the end, I found that I enjoyed this book quite a bit, even more than its predecessor. If this trend continues, I have high hopes for Choi’s next book (which I believe is titled Yolk).

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Ruinsong Review

Ruinsong Review

By Julia Ember

Publisher: Darrar, Straus, and Giroux

Print Length: 368 pages

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Release Date November 24th 2020

Available for pre-order on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Special thanks to Macmillan for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Her voice was her prison…

Now it’s her weapon.

In a world where magic is sung, a powerful mage named Cadence has been forced to torture her country’s disgraced nobility at her ruthless queen’s bidding.

But when she is reunited with her childhood friend, a noblewoman with ties to the underground rebellion, she must finally make a choice: Take a stand to free their country from oppression, or follow in the queen’s footsteps and become a monster herself. (Goodreads)

Ruinsong is a delightfully dark and sapphic fantasy retelling of Phantom of the Opera that boast exceptional writing and a unique take on magic. This book is refreshingly queer and uses every page to its advantage. I devoured this book, and foresee myself wanting to do so again. 

I picked up this book because of its gorgeous cover and promise of a sapphic relationship. The latter is delivered and then some, as the author throughs in world-building details that illustrate a world more accepting (in some, but not all) of queerness. As a queer individual, I was b=both charmed and delighted at even the smallest of details representing under-represented communities. The sapphic nature of the book was particularly refreshing, do to the tendency of gay male relationships being seemingly favoured in publishing. The relationship is a slow-burn enemies-to-lover sort of romance, which, on its own, is swoon-worthy. Throw in two girls, both powerful in their own right, rebelling against the injustice of the crown… Well, you get a damn good book.

This book is a relatively short read, but for what it lacks in page count, it makes up with it’ well-crafted world. Not a single detail of this book is unnecessary, as every page is used wisely. We get a glimpse into a world that is so well developed it may as well be real. While reading this book, you are transported into this world, being slowly destroyed by a tortuous dictator, and you see the contrast of the palace and city. 

The only criticism I can offer is in regards to the villain of the book. While she is captivating, her motivations and methods of evil aren’t particularly unique. Regardless, she still manages to be terrifying, holding her power with elegance. Even when she cracks, she does so with a rare sort of grace. 

The magic system in this book is one of its strongest aspects. There are defined limits and defining aspects of power. The decision to make the magic music-based is truly genius, and its application is so well done. 

I fully intend on acquiring a physical copy of this book, because I thoroughly enjoyed it and see myself wanting to reread it. I recommend this book to anyone who loves dark fantasy and overthrowing tyrannical matriarchies.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Goblin King Review

Goblin King Review

By Kara Barbieri

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Print Length: 320 pages

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Release Date: November 17, 2020

Available on Amazon and B&N

Special thanks to Netgalley and Wednesday Books for providing me with an ARC.

The Hunt is over, but the War has just begun.

Against all odds, Janneke has survived the Hunt for the Stag–but all good things come with a cost. Lydian might be dead, but he took the Stag with him. Janneke now holds the mantle, while Soren, now her equal in every way, has become the new Erlking. Janneke’s powers as the new Stag has brought along haunting visions of a world thrown into chaos and the ghost of Lydian taunts her with the riddles he spoke of when he was alive.

When Janneke discovers the truth of Lydian and his madness, she’s forced to see her tormentor in a different light for the first time. The world they know is dying and Lydian may have been the only person with the key to saving it. (Goodreads)

Goblin King is a worthy sequel to White Stag. The book follows a very similar format of its predecessor, Goblin King includes a fair amount of action, but is ultimately an examination of emotion and healing. This book is much more character-driven than many other fantasy books. Still, it excels at integrating fantastical elements in a story that is ultimately the story of a young woman healing. 

The plot of the book is considerably formulaic and is very reminiscent of the first book. The characters head out on a grand journey with high stakes, they get quite beaten up, but they ultimately pull through. The action is entertaining enough, but the story isn’t really about the sheer brutality of goblin-kind. Barbieri presents a fantastical book about healing from significant trauma, heavily inspired by her own struggles. For readers who’ve gone through similar struggles, there is a specific power in being able to see yourself reflected in a powerful character such as the protagonist Janneke.

The writing overall is very well done. There is evident growth in the authors writing since her first book, and this book, while not having quite the bite as the first, is the better written of the two. The plot is straightforward and well-paced, and the underlying message is just as evident. 

For those who have read White Stag, and those who are fans of Norse Mythology, this is a worthwhile read. There is a handful of trigger warnings, so be sure to research that beforehand. As mentioned above, this book is heavily about healing and maybe an intensely emotional read for some.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Rent a Boyfriend Review, Thoughts, and Fan Art (Book Tour)

Rent a Boyfriend Review, Thoughts, and Fan Art (Book Tour)

By Gloria Chao

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Print Length: 320 pages

Release Year: 2020

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary 

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.0

Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Chloe Wang is nervous to introduce her parents to her boyfriend, because the truth is, she hasn’t met him yet either. She hired him from Rent for Your ’Rents, a company specializing in providing fake boyfriends trained to impress even the most traditional Asian parents.

Drew Chan’s passion is art, but after his parents cut him off for dropping out of college to pursue his dreams, he became a Rent for Your ’Rents employee to keep a roof over his head. Luckily, learning protocols like “Type C parents prefer quiet, kind, zero-PDA gestures” comes naturally to him.

When Chloe rents Drew, the mission is simple: convince her parents fake Drew is worthy of their approval so they’ll stop pressuring her to accept a proposal from Hongbo, the wealthiest (and slimiest) young bachelor in their tight-knit Asian American community.

But when Chloe starts to fall for the real Drew—who, unlike his fake persona, is definitely not ’rent-worthy—her carefully curated life begins to unravel. Can she figure out what she wants before she loses everything? (Goodreads)

Special thanks to Simon Pulse and Hear Our Voices Book Tour for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review and participation in this tour. 

An emotional ride through the darker aspects of Asain culture in the United States, and the rift it can create between generations. Rent a Boyfriend follows the lengths a young woman would go to protect herself from a future she doesn’t want. In the process of doing so, she learns exactly what she wants, and what she has to do to have. This book is about sacrifice and how in excess it does more harm than good. Illustrating the importance of communication, and the battle to find stable ground among the generations. It’s an emotional ride, the ends with a breath of relief.

An absolute highlight of this book is the romance. Young-adult books have a tendency to fall victim to insta-love, and while there was immediate chemistry between the two romantic interest it wasn’t insta-love. Their love is visibly flawed and organic, making it a breath of fresh air. You see both of their sides, the feelings and thoughts that dictate their actions and the whole thing just makes sense. You root for them, not only because of their chemistry but because of their realness. The organic nature of the romance is this book is truly one of the best I’ve ever read. 

I often found myself mad reading this book, not at the book itself but at characters within it. Chao does an amazing job showing the rift between Chloe and her family, and how truly detrimental their situation is. All the emotions Chloe goes through you can feel yourself and it seriously hurts. I think it’s a universal struggle, wanting your parents to be happy, but what they want for you isn’t exactly what you want for yourself. While I come from a culture considerably different, it wasn’t hard to find parallels between my experiences and that of Chloe and Drew. 

This is a powerful book, that just so happen to have a happy ending. The way there is rocky but worth it. There is so much to be learned from as well, making this book an easy recommendation. This is a must-read.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Thoughts While Reading

  1. I was fascinated by the idea of “Rent for Your ‘Rents” and found myself wondering how such a business would work. Especially for female operatives, if there is such a thing.
  2. Hongbo made me utterly angry, I used many choice words in my notes related to him. 
  3. The misogyny surprised me, but not that much after I thought about it. I related to it, actually. I really felt Chloe’s pain. 
  4. I struggled alongside Drew with some of his decisions. The wants to help people and the moral struggle of living a lie. 
  5. I learned some things about a culture that’s always fascinated me. And I continue to have a deep appreciation for many aspects of it.
  6. I loved the sheep, they’re so cute. When I can’t sleep I’m going yo start counting sheep.
  7. I took the time to sit and contemplate what  I would do if I was in Chloe’s place. It actually made me sad what I found out about myself. But at the same time, I’m not surprised. 
  8. I lost count of how many times this book gave me flashbacks to similar situations I’ve found myself in.

Fan Art

The Faithless Hawk Review

The Faithless Hawk Review

By Margaret Owen

Publisher: Henry Holt & Company

Print Length: 400 pages

Release Year: 2020

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.43

Available on Amazon, B&N, Libby (availability may vary by region)

As the new chieftain of the Crows, Fie knows better than to expect a royal to keep his word. Still she’s hopeful that Prince Jasimir will fulfill his oath to protect her fellow Crows. But then black smoke fills the sky, signaling the death of King Surimir and the beginning of Queen Rhusana’s ruthless bid for the throne.

Queen Rhusana wins popular support by waging a brutal campaign against the Crows, blaming them for the poisonous plague that wracks the nation.

A desperate Fie clings onto a prophecy that a long-forgotten god will return and provide a cure to the plague. Fie must team up with old friends? and an old flame? to track down a dead god and save her people. (Goodreads)

Special thanks to Henry Holt for providing with an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Faithless Hawk is the conclusion to one of the best duologies I’ve ever read. If you haven’t read the first book in the duology, The Merciful Crow,  you should definitely do so as it is one of the most unique and well done young adults books I’ve read in a long while. This series is a good entry point for many fantasy readers, as it definitely teaches you to keep track of certain details; because while the books look short they are packed with world-building. For those who have read The Merciful Crow you may even find yourself needing to revisit it before, or after, reading its sequel. There is so much that can be missed, that I’m sure when I pick up this series again I’ll discover something I didn’t the first time. 

The writing continues to be exceptional, and a true experience to read as the stylization enhances the reading experience. The characters, the world, all of its is so well realized that it’s hard to believe this story fits into two relatively thin books. When I read the first book I noticed there was definitely a heavy focus on world-building, and while this book achieves a lot in that realm, this sequel definitely takes its time to further delve into its characters. I found myself much more emotionally invested in what happened to the characters and certain events held more weight as a result. It’d be interesting to see if this changes how I view the characters in the first book when I get a chance to reread it (if you haven’t already noticed, I definitely plan on rereading this series.)

While reading, its easy to become absolutely engrossed in what is happening, the book is quite hard to put down. I recommend for readers looking for a shorter fantasy series, this one 100 times! You really won’t regret it. And for younger readers, or those who just aren’t used to fantasy this book is definitely a good gateway book into the broader genre.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Cup and the Prince Review

The Cup and the Prince Review

By Day Leitao

Publisher: Sparkly Wave

Print Length: 256 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Release Date: October 15, 2020

Special thanks to Sparkly Wave for providing me with an ARC.

Available for pre-order on Amazon.

One prince wants her out.

Another wants her as a pawn.

Someone wants her dead.

Zora wants to win the cup and tell them all to screw themselves.

Yes, 17-year-old Zora cheated her way into the Royal Games, but it was for a very good reason. Her ex-boyfriend thought she couldn’t attain glory on her own. Just because she was a girl. And he was the real cheater. So she took his place.

Now she’s competing for the legendary Blood Cup, representing the Dark Valley. It’s her chance to prove her worth and bring glory for her people. If she wins, of course.

But winning is far from easy. The younger prince thinks she’s a fragile damsel who doesn’t belong in the competition. Determined to eliminate her at all costs, he’s stacking the challenges against her. Zora hates him, hates him, hates him, and will do anything to prove him wrong.

The older prince is helping her, but the cost is getting Zora entangled in dangerous flirting games. Flirting, the last thing she wanted.

And then there’s someone trying to kill her. (Goodreads)

If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a sucker for fantasy that promises a strong female protagonist, and this book delivered. Other than a propensity to randomly cry, Zora is a competent woman. And while her motivation is not as noble as that of other female protagonists, it is a legitimate one. After all, nothing is more dangerous than I woman scorned. 

I enjoyed the book well enough to read it through and to have an interest in a sequel, but it’s evident that this book has much more potential than what was delivered. The plot is solid, but the world wasn’t. We are introduced to a magic system that is never explained and the world with rules and laws that seem arbitrary. As a result, certain stakes just don’t hold the weight that they could. 

The major downfall of this book is over-simple writing. The writing is not that of a final book, not even a second draft really. There are many scenes that would benefit from being drawn out that just aren’t and at times the writing just seems incomplete. It’s a quick read as a result, which isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s just missing something. 

I enjoyed the book, I’m interested to see more. I feel like first books in YA fantasy series are allowed an amount of leeway for the author to focus on what they think is the most important thing to set up, in this case, that was the characters and plot. I’m open to a sequel in the hopes that it fleshes out this world more because there is definitely great potential.

Subjective Rating

Objective Rating

Final Rating