May ’21 Wrap Up

It’s June and the weather is finally getting a little better and now I’m too hot, I’m nothing if not consistently British in my ability to complain about our weather. It’s been a weird month, we’ve gotten a whole heap of freedoms back but I find myself rather reluctant to do anything, but I did make it out on my roller skates a couple of times and my ice-skating past really did me a solid.

I read a whole heap of books this month too, or at least a heap for me, and I actually made it through half of the books I bought in a moment of mad kindle panic. It has been a little light on the posts this month though, and there are a few different reasons for that, but I’m going to attempt to bring you some publishing content this month!

April ’21 Wrap Up | Bimonthly Book Haul | Review: Rule of Wolves
Review: Threadneedle

What I read in May

I read a lot of really good books this month. I think at least four of these ended up being five star reads and I like to think I’m pretty picky, but it was lovely to dig into so many good stories across a range of genres.

The review for Blackheart Knights should come out shortly, and it’ll be no surprise that a girl that wrote her whole dissertation around Arthurian myth loved it. My review of the witchy fantasy Threadneedle is already up, and I think I’m going to attempt to combine my thoughts on the Feverwake duology so look forward to that!

Covers from left to right*
Idol by Kristen Callihan | The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang | Threadneedle by Cari Thomas | Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
| The Fever King by Victoria Lee | The Electric Heir by Victoria Lee | Klara and The Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro | Blackheart Knights by Laure Eve

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Review: Threadneedle by Cari Thomas

Series: The Language of Magic #1
Goodreads: Threadneedle
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Buy: Bookshop.org UK 
Synopsis: Within the boroughs of London, nestled among its streets, hides another city, filled with magic.

Magic is the first sin. It must be bound.

Ever since Anna can remember, her aunt has warned her of the dangers of magic. She has taught her to fear how it twists and knots and turns into something dark and deadly.

It was, after all, magic that killed her parents and left her in her aunt’s care. It’s why she has been protected from the magical world and, in one year’s time, what little magic she has will be bound. She will join her aunt alongside the other Binders who believe magic is a sin not to be used, but denied. Only one more year and she will be free of the curse of magic, her aunt’s teachings and the disappointment of the little she is capable of.

Nothing – and no one – could change her mind before then. Could it?

Review: I received this digital copy in exchange for an honest review, thanks HarperVoyager.

It’s so lovely when a publisher invites you to review a book that’s been on your to be read since they announced it, and ho boy was I excited to immerse myself in a modern witch aesthetic set in London. It’s also really rather nice when the book actually manages to live up to the pre-release hype, which for me Threadneedle managed to do.

Firstly, I think it should be mentioned that Threadneedle has the feel of a young adult novel rather than the adult fantasy it’s been marketed as; it is a first in series so maybe it’ll get more adult as it goes along, but for now, this book reads a little young to sit firmly in the adult fantasy category. That’s not to say that this detracted from the story, Threadneedle is excellent, but if you’re not a lover of a very teenage voice then it’s something to consider.

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Review: Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo

Series: King of Scars #2
Goodreads: Rule of Wolves
Publisher: Orion Children’s Books
Buy: Bookshop.org UK | US
Synopsis: The Demon King. As Fjerda’s massive army prepares to invade, Nikolai Lantsov will summon every bit of his ingenuity and charm—and even the monster within—to win this fight. But a dark threat looms that cannot be defeated by a young king’s gift for the impossible. 

The Stormwitch. Zoya Nazyalensky has lost too much to war. She saw her mentor die and her worst enemy resurrected, and she refuses to bury another friend. Now duty demands she embrace her powers to become the weapon her country needs. No matter the cost.

The Queen of Mourning. Deep undercover, Nina Zenik risks discovery and death as she wages war on Fjerda from inside its capital. But her desire for revenge may cost her country its chance at freedom and Nina the chance to heal her grieving heart.

King. General. Spy. Together they must find a way to forge a future in the darkness. Or watch a nation fall.

Review: Alright here we go, lets talk about the grand finale of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse or at least the final book for now. I couldn’t figure out how to do this without spoilers so there’ll be spoilers below for Rule of Wolves, King of Scars, and the other books that make up the Grishaverse.

The Nikolai duology and I have really not gotten on, and Rule of Wolves really does follow the same pattern unfortunately. This book feels almost like fan service, all your faves will appear here including The Darkling (he even gets his own pov chapters) after his revival in King of Scars, and if you love a story based around bringing together all the characters for one last hurrah then you’ll probably love this. I, unfortunately, loathed this feature because it meant that the book was stuffed so full that most plot points ended up being meaningless or forgotten after a few pages. In Rule of Wolves you’ll get, without adding in the huge spoiler plot points:

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Bimonthly Book Haul

Bi-monthly she said, well that didn’t happen did it. I went on a wildly unsuccessful book buying ban, and due to the country shutting down and my brush with Covid-19 I didn’t managed to read many books let alone buy ’em but now we’re back baby. This is going to be a bit of a long clean-up post so we can get back on track with this whole book haul thing, and so I can call myself out for buying books and then forgetting about them like a fool. There’ll also be no ARCs in this post because I did, somehow, manage to resist requesting advanced reader copies and I’m quite proud of myself!

Bought

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Review: King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

Series: King of Scars #1
Goodreads: King of Scars
Publisher: Orion Children’s Books
Buy: Bookshop.org UK | US
Synopsis: The dashing young king, Nikolai Lantsov, has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war–and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, Nikolai must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha general, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried–and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.

Review: So I finally sat down and read the Nikolai duology all in one go. I’d been saving it because I know Leigh is partial to a cliff-hanger and I wanted to avoid that whole experience, so I waited patiently for Rule of Wolves and now I’m going to release the reviews back to back too! There’ll be a few spoilers for other novels in the Grisha series below.

Right, first things first, this book was a surprisingly mediocre experience for me, just so we’re both on the same page before we get into things. King of Scars and I just did not click. I’d been really looking forward to a narrative based around Nikolai but I think he ended up getting the least amount of character development, and that’s not to say I didn’t love the addition of Zoya and Nina’s perspectives, it was just unexpected. In fact, Zoya completely steals the show from Nikolai and her story-line and characterization just feels better than his, to the point where I kind of wish this book was completely Zoya focused. Zoya is powerful, talented, and her snark with Nikolai was right up my street. I really feel like Bardugo excels when it comes to dialogue and relationships between characters, and it’s always a joy to read the characters interacting with each other.

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Review: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Series: The Locked Tomb #1
Goodreads: Gideon the Ninth
Publisher: Tor Books
Buy: Bookshop.org UK | US
Synopsis: The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.
Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.
Of course, some things are better left dead.

Review: Gideon the Ninth has been on my to be read since its release back in 2019, I mean who can say no to lesbian space necromancers? not me. I’ll admit though that I found this harder to get into than I thought, but I think the fault lays entirely with my kindle and my goldfish sized brain. This book introduces so many new terms and characters, and if I’d picked up the hardback I would have easily been able to flick to the back and enlighten myself, but instead I was reading on my kindle and didn’t realize there was a glossary until I’d finished the whole thing. My single brain cell really let me down here so I’m not holding it against Gideon, and I really did love this book (to the point where I’m probably going to attempt a Harrow cosplay build).

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Review: A Touch of Darkness by Scarlett St. Clair

Series: Hades and Persephone #1
Goodreads: A Touch of Darkness
Publisher: Self Published
Buy: Bookshop.org UK | US
Synopsis: Persephone is the Goddess of Spring by title only. The truth is, since she was a little girl, flowers have shriveled at her touch. After moving to New Athens, she hopes to lead an unassuming life disguised as a mortal journalist.

Hades, God of the Dead, has built a gambling empire in the mortal world and his favorite bets are rumored to be impossible. After a chance encounter with Hades, Persephone finds herself in a contract with the God of the Dead and the terms are impossible: Persephone must create life in the Underworld or lose her freedom forever. The bet does more than expose Persephone’s failure as a goddess, however. As she struggles to sow the seeds of her freedom, love for the God of the Dead grows – and it’s forbidden.

Review: I’ve recently descended into booktok hell and alongside that swift descent I rekindled my love of Greek mythology, so when A Touch of Darkness popped up on my for you page it felt like fate. A spicy Hades and Persephone retelling while I’m gripped by Lore Olympus, yes please, but this book ended up being a major flop for me.

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Webtoon has taken over my life.

So I made the mistake of getting into Lore Olympus towards the end of the summer. A couple of friends had mentioned pulling together a cosplay group and wondered if I’d be interested, and so like a fool I went ahead and started something that my group chat were in love with.

Unsurprisingly it was a hit. I was instantly in love with the comic and devoured all the available chapters in just under 48hrs, but once I was finished I desperately wanted more. For those who haven’t used Webtoon before you can buy early access to chapters using coins, but I’m strictly opposed to in-app purchased and so that wasn’t happening. This is where my love got slightly out of control. Lore Olympus is the weed of Webtoon, the gateway drug into a land filled with weekly updated comics, and there’s just so many fabulous ones to choose from.

I start reading Webtoon before I’ve even made my first cup of tea in the morning, I open up the app to check which comics have been updated and read the chapters instantly. Webtoon is bringing me romance in graphic form, and some of my faves are definitely ones I didn’t expect to love. It’s also been the thing that has been pulling me away from my to be read recently (usually this is a job for fanfiction), so I figured that I may as well get some content out of it. Yep, this is a list post with a reeeally long lead in…anyway here are a few of my fave Webtoons of the moment!

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Review: Reaper of Souls by Rena Barron

Series: Kingdom of Souls #2
Goodreads: Reaper of Souls
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Buy: Bookshop.org UK | US
Synopsis: After so many years yearning for the gift of magic, Arrah has the one thing she’s always wanted—at a terrible price. Now the last surviving witchdoctor, she’s been left to pick up the shattered pieces of a family that betrayed her, a kingdom in shambles, and long-buried secrets about who she is.

Desperate not to repeat her mother’s mistakes, Arrah must return to the tribal lands to search for help from the remnants of her parents’ people. But the Demon King’s shadow looms closer than she thinks. And as Arrah struggles to unravel her connection to him, defeating him begins to seem more and more impossible—if it’s something she can bring herself to do at all.

Review:  I received this digital copy in exchange for an honest review, thanks HarperVoyager.

So, when I got an email from HarperVoyager offering me an eARC of Reaper of Souls I swiftly broke my Netgalley ban so I could read it. I managed to win a physical ARC of Kingdom of Souls back in 2019 (you can read my review here), and it was a series that I definitely wanted to continue reading.

Reaper of Souls picks up pretty much where Kingdom of Souls left off, so just in case you hadn’t realised there’ll be spoilers for the first book ahead! Arrah is dealing with the fall-out after her families betrayal and attempt to free the Demon King, and with her role as the last remaining witchdoctor. In this book we also get a few other perspectives in the form of her love interest Rudjek and the Orisha Dimma’s memories, their perspectives are a great and necessary addition as Arrah and Rudjek split from each other and go on their own journeys.

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Review: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Series: These Violent Delights #1
Goodreads: These Violent Delights
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Buy: Bookshop.org UK | US
Synopsis: The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

Review: I received this digital copy in exchange for an honest review, thanks Hodder & Stoughton.

I’ve been struggling with this review in the same way I struggled to finish this book. I think it may be a case of covid brain and an ill-timed Hades play-through that meant I read this in bits and couldn’t settle into it, but I’m going to try my best to explain why I didn’t click with this book.

The Shanghai that Chloe Gong developed was so intricate and interesting, and I really felt as though I was walking the city streets alongside Juliette and Roma. It’s vivid, and the clashes between the different cultures alongside the colonisation of Shanghai, and Juliette’s discomfort with the westernisation of her home is palpable. Juliette was certainly my favourite part of the These Violent Delights. She’s tough, whip smart, plus I loved the fact she was torn between her loyalty to the gang and working with Roma to save Shanghai. Juliette returns to the city from America with something to prove and a lot to lose, and you can really feel how on edge she feels walking round an often unfamiliar Shanghai. She’s wonderfully well developed, and I was always disappointed when we moved away from her perspective!

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