Review: Blood Heir (Amélie Wen Zhao)

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Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher:
 Delacorte Press
Publication Date: November 19th 2019
Format: Hardback
Source: Times Reads
Page Count: 464

Blurb from Goodreads:

This hot debut is the first book in an epic new series about a princess hiding a dark secret and the con man she must trust to clear her name for her father’s murder.

In the Cyrilian Empire, Affinites are reviled. Their varied gifts to control the world around them are unnatural—dangerous. And Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess, has a terrifying secret. Her deadly Affinity to blood is her curse and the reason she has lived her life hidden behind palace walls.

When Ana’s father, the emperor, is murdered, her world is shattered. Framed as his killer, Ana must flee the palace to save her life. And to clear her name, she must find her father’s murderer on her own. But the Cyrilia beyond the palace walls is far different from the one she thought she knew. Corruption rules the land, and a greater conspiracy is at work—one that threatens the very balance of her world. And there is only one person corrupt enough to help Ana get to its core: Ramson Quicktongue.

A cunning crime lord of the Cyrilian underworld, Ramson has sinister plans—though he might have met his match in Ana. Because in this story, the princess might be the most dangerous player of all.


RATING 

4.5 STARS

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

I finish Blood Heir today and wow, what a ride.

I have been so interested to get my hands on Blood Heir since the news about alleged claims on the ARC. I’ve read web posts regarding that matter and I want to applaud Amélie Wen Zhao for being so brave in handling this subject.

Blood Heir is a dark retelling of Anastasia and is set in Russian-esque setting. Blood Heir revolves around affinite indenturement, which discusses about forced labor among the affinites, who possess magical abilities, or as quoted in the book, “a person who has a connection to physical or metaphysical elements, ranges from a heightened sense of element to ability to manipulate or generate the element.”

In the book, they are forced to obey to their master, for example doing performances for the rich as a form of entertainment, like a circus. They are physically and mentally controlled so they are unable to fight for themselves. The author has stated that the story is based on her extensive research on indentured labor specifically from her heritage. What I can say is that the author does a decent job in telling us the features of indentured labor in the story incisively. It’s important that we acknowledge global problems like indenture labor so that we understand the history behind it.

There are not many fantasy books that can keep me hooked from start till the end. Yes, as you have guessed, Blood Heir keeps me hooked. From the first page, I am totally engrossed with the story. The synopsis sounds so cliché, but trust me once you’re in this book, you are in for roller coaster ride. The author does a great job in handling the pacing. The narration is consistent enough to make me continue reading. For the writing, it is wonderfully done. It’s impossible to believe that this is a debut novel because the writing is fantastic.

The two main characters, Ana and Ransom are quite interesting. Their development are fleshed out. Both have different motivations but their mission is the same. I like the way the author writes about the style of point of view between Ana and Ransom. They are written via third person so it gives the readers more time to explore and decide what their motives are. The author also gives enough background information for Ana and Ransom so it is interesting to see how the story unfolds at the end.

The whole message from this book is about self acceptance. Ana, from the beginning of the book, doubts on her abilities and sees herself as a monster who destroys her family to realizing that people cannot change what they are born with, however it is our choices that depict what we truly are.

I am happy that my expectations are met, however I am sad that we have to wait a year for second book, Red Tigress to release.

Highly recommend this engaging story to YA Fantasy lovers.

Thank you Times Reads for sending me a finished copy of Blood Heir in exchange of an honest review.

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Sabrina

ARC Review: Thorn (Intisar Khanani)

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Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher:
 Hot Key Books
Publication Date: March 24th 2020
Format: ARC Paperback
Source: Pansing Books
Page Count: 456

Blurb from Goodreads:

A princess with two futures. A destiny all her own.

Between her cruel family and the contempt she faces at court, Princess Alyrra has always longed to escape the confines of her royal life. But when she’s betrothed to the powerful prince Kestrin, Alyrra embarks on a journey to his land with little hope for a better future.

When a mysterious and terrifying sorceress robs Alyrra of both her identity and her role as princess, Alyrra seizes the opportunity to start a new life for herself as a goose girl.

But Alyrra soon finds that Kestrin is not what she expected. The more Alyrra learns of this new kingdom, the pain and suffering its people endure, as well as the danger facing Kestrin from the sorceress herself, the more she knows she can’t remain the goose girl forever.

With the fate of the kingdom at stake, Alyrra is caught between two worlds and ultimately must decide who she is, and what she stands for.


RATING

3.5 STARS

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

TW: Abuse.

Thorn is a retelling of The Goose Girl and I haven’t read the original fairy tale. I am always interested in reading fairy tale retelling so this is a great start for me to try and read something new.

Princess Alyrra doesn’t want to be a princess. She longs for a normal life without her abusive brother and cold mother. However, one day, a king asks her to marry his son and as someone who wants to get away from the abuse, she agrees. Everything changes when her handmaiden swaps her body with Alyrra’s identity.

The first few chapters is enough to make me captivated with story. The plot is okay, enough to kept me reading till the end. The pace is fast at the beginning as many things happen and we get to see minor characters that contribute to the story. However, the pace declines in the middle of the story as they are many filler chapters that drags the story too much. I struggle through a few chapters because it is kinda monotonous. I understand that the story needs to slowly build up towards the climax, just as we see in many other fantasy books out there. The length of the book doesn’t do justice to the story. It would be better if the book is shorten to just 300 pages long.

I have read reviews and many express that the main character is too flawless. I get it, we want to see a perfect heroine in all of the books that we read, but we all have flaws.

Unfortunately for me, I am not invested in any of the characters in the book except for Alyrra and Kestrin. Maybe because there are too many characters to begin with and that makes the character development to slack. They are not memorable enough to be remembered. I am particularly interested in Alyrra’s relationship with Falada, but their time together is very short as something happens. I don’t understand why the author needs to that.

I appreciate that the author addresses issues like abuse and politics in the royals. We witness Alyrra is abused by her brother but no one bats an eye towards the issue. We see that the royals are not serious with the people’s welfare. I adore Alyrra’s criticism towards the King and its government in being complacent to care for its people. Corruption should be stopped, in any kind of levels.

I look forward to read more books from Intisar Khanani after this.

Thank you Pansing Books for sending Thorn in exchange of an honest review!

X

Sabrina

Review: The Tyrant’s Tomb (Rick Riordan)

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Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher:
 Puffin Books
Publication Date: September 24th 2019
Format: Paperback
Source: Times Reads
Page Count: 469

Blurb from Goodreads:

You will get to the Tiber alive. You will start to Jive.

I am Apollo
I will remember

The former God Apollo, cast out by his father, Zeus, is having a pretty rough time of it.

Well, for one thing, he’s called Lester. But being an awkward mortal teenager is the least of his worries.

Though he and his friends (some of them) have emerged from the Burning Maze, rescued the Oracle and lived to fight another day, they can’t escape the tragedy that has befallen them, or the terrible trials still to face.

So, with heavy heart, Apollo (OK, Lester) and Meg have a triumvirate still to defeat, oracles to rescue, and prophecies to decipher, so that the world may be saved, and Lester may ascend into the heavens to become Apollo once again.

But, right now, Caligula is sailing to San Francisco to deal with Camp Jupiter personally, and they have to get their first. Or risk its destruction . . .


RATING

4 STARS

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

My review for The Trials of Apollo series:

The Hidden Oracle
The Dark Prophecy
The Burning Maze

This is one of my most anticipated reads of the year. I’ve always enjoyed reading Rick Riordan’s books for the past few years, firstly with Percy Jackson and Hero of Olympus series because of its uniqueness in telling about Greek and Roman gods and mythologies. That is the reason why I continue reading The Trials of Apollo.

I also love that Rick Riordan incorporates his other books into The Trials of Apollo series because you can see the growth, development and change within the Percy Jackson’s world. Even though you will get confused with the old Greek and Roman’s god, goddesses and emperors, there is always a guide at the back of each book for you to refer.

I’ve always loved Lester as a character in The Trials of Apollo. He’s very different from other heroes like Percy Jackson. He’s a former God named Apollo, he is banished by his father to Earth and he has lost everything he knows including his sister, Artemis. His narrative is extremely amusing and that makes me truly entertained throughout this book. I also love Lester and Meg’s relationship, even though by contract Meg is Lester’s master, they are like family who understand and take care of each other in every way. There is a reference to Avengers: Infinity War in this book and I truly appreciate the pop culture reference in this world.

In this book, we meet characters from Heroes of Olympus series such as Reyna, Hazel, Frank Zhang and Ella the Harpy and it is great to see and read about their journey in protecting Lester and Camp Jupiter’s safety from the prophecy. By reading the ending, I can truly sense that we will meet characters from Percy Jackson series like Percy, Annabeth and Grover again soon because we are going to reach the end of The Trials of Apollo series, The Tower of Nero.

Now, we will have to wait for another year to pass by for The Tower of Nero. I’m doomed.

Thank you Times Reads for sending me a copy of The Tyrant’s Tomb!

X

Sabrina

 

Review: Tunnel of Bones (Victoria Schwab)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

Trouble is haunting Cassidy Blake . . . even more than usual.

She (plus her ghost best friend, Jacob, of course) are in Paris, where Cass’s parents are filming their TV show about the world’s most haunted cities. Sure, it’s fun eating croissants and seeing the Eiffel Tower, but there’s true ghostly danger lurking beneath Paris, in the creepy underground Catacombs.

When Cass accidentally awakens a frighteningly strong spirit, she must rely on her still-growing skills as a ghosthunter — and turn to friends both old and new to help her unravel a mystery. But time is running out, and the spirit is only growing stronger.

And if Cass fails, the force she’s unleashed could haunt the city forever.


RATING

4 STARS

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

I am so excited to know that there will be a second book in this Cassidy Blake series. I love reading middle grade books and if there is a pinch of paranormal inside of the story, I would be definitely sold!

Here’s my review for City of Ghosts. 

This time around, Cassidy is on a mission to hunt down ghost stories in Paris, France, where it is known to be a heaven of fashion and a scene of love among tourists. However, we do not know that underneath Paris, there is a creepy catacomb that places millions of dead bodies turned into a tunnel of bones.

Paris plays a wonderful backdrop to this ghost story. I love reading about the scenery, people, food and most importantly about the places. Cassidy and her family travel to many landmarks in Paris to explore the history of the place and ghost stories behind it and it is so interesting to see how the stories unravel. I love the juxtaposition on how Victoria can turn this fashion city into such a haunted place that is so terrifying to even visit.

I also love Cassidy’s friendship with her ghost friend, Jacob. Their friendship are honestly hashtag goals because they are always be there for each other. Even though they are very different in terms of personality, but the difference makes the relationship even stronger.

I cannot wait to see what city Victoria is going to write about in the next book and I know that it will not disappoint us all.

X

Sabrina

 

Review: A Torch Against the Night (Sabaa Tahir)

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Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: August 29th 2017 (First published August 30th 2016)
Format: Paperback
Source: Times Reads
Page Count: 452

Blurb from Goodreads:

Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.

But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.


RATING

4.5 STARS

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

It has been a while since I’ve read something so dark and intense. That’s probably the reason why I managed to read the book just in a day. Frankly speaking, at first I was scared that I won’t be able to enjoy this book as much because it has been three years since I read An Ember in the Ashes so, it is safe to say that I didn’t remember any important details from the first book. Besides, I remembered what I initially felt about the book once I finished reading it, that I was aware that some of the plot lines were similar to fantasy books I’ve read before, to a point where I went to watch reviews on BookTube to validate my opinion and apparently some BookTubers also agreed on this.

A Torch Against the Night continues exactly where the first one left off. The first few chapters are so engaging and that makes me so pumped to continue the rest of the book. We receive so many new information in this second book regarding the characters and their origins and that shows how everything either it is big or small plays into a larger story. I love character-driven stories because you get to see how they evolve and change from time to time. For instance, Laia, Elias and Helene. Sabaa Tahir writes them as human beings with instincts and feelings, rather than just plot devices to carry out the story. All of their acts in the story are supported by their own thinking process and not influenced by any other entity. I also love that the characters evolve so much in this book, if to compare with the first one. I absolutely love Helene’s character progression, where she grows as a human being by realizing and reflecting to her past doings and mistakes. I cannot wait to see where the story leads her in A Reaper at the Gates!

All in all, this book is truly a PAGE-TURNER. Once you read this, you cannot stop and when you finish it, you will crave for more. Like I do.

Thank you Times Reads for providing me this wonderful copy of A Torch Against the Night!

X

Sabrina

 

ARC Review: Into The Crooked Place (Alexandra Christo)

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Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication Date: October 8th 2019
Format: ARC Paperback
Source: Pansing Books
Page Count: 471

Blurb from Goodreads:

Magic rules the city of Creije Capital and Tavia Syn knows just how many tricks she needs up her sleeve to survive. Selling dark magic on the streets for her kingpin, she keeps clear of other crooks, counting the days until her debt is paid and she can flee her criminal life.

But then, one day, with her freedom in sight, Tavia uncovers a sinister plot that threatens to destroy the realm she calls home. Desperate to put an end to her kingpin’s plan, Tavia forms an unlikely alliance with three crooks even more deadly than her:

Wesley, the kingpin’s prodigy and most renewed criminal in the realm.

Karam, an underground fighter with a penchant for killing first and forgetting to ask questions.

And Saxony, a Crafter in hiding who will stop at nothing to avenge her family.

With the reluctant saviours assembled, they embark on a quest to put an end to the dark magic before it’s too late. But even if they can take down the kingpin and save the realm, the one thing they can’t do is trust each other.


RATING

3 STARS

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

It took me nearly four weeks to complete this book. It’s not that I don’t enjoy reading Fantasy books, particularly stories that involves ‘gangster heist fantasy’ like Six of Crows. I truly enjoyed reading Six of Crows and I rated the book a solid five stars for its amazing cast and story line. However, I didn’t feel the same way towards Into the Crooked Places.

I tried reading this book until 100 pages and I still didn’t connect to any of the characters at all. I felt like the characters were just written to be plot devices to carry out the story, while the characters could just be written properly to be human beings with feelings and instincts. I was even more disappointed because the story was written to have various point of views (POV) from the casts and it’s definitely a plus point to ensure that the readers have ample information on what to know and expect from each character. For me, characterization is very important no matter how bombastic the story is. If the characters are dull, it is enough to make the reader feel bored.

This book has so much potential because the story line is kinda interesting to follow. I like reading about broken people with their own dark past and how they form their group to defeat others. I just wanted a more face-paced storytelling and interesting characterization from Into the Crooked Places. 

I am intrigued to know what the second book can offer us next and I really hope that it won’t disappoint us!

Thank you Pansing Books for providing me this copy in exchange of an honest review!

X

Sabrina

Review: Stepsister (Jennifer Donnelly)

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Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher:
Hot Key Books
Publication Date:
May 14th 2019
Format:
Paperback
Source:
Pansing Books
Page Count:
469

Blurb from Goodreads:

‘In an ancient city by the sea, three sisters – a maiden, a mother, and a crone – are drawing maps by candlelight. Sombre, with piercing grey eyes, they are the three Fates, and every map is a human life . . .’

Stepsister takes up where Cinderella’s tale ends. We meet Isabelle, the younger of Cinderella’s two stepsisters. Ella is considered beautiful; stepsister Isabelle is not. Isabelle is fearless, brave, and strong-willed. She fences better than any boy, and takes her stallion over jumps that grown men fear to attempt. It doesn’t matter, though; these qualities are not valued in a girl. Others have determined what is beautiful, and Isabelle does not fit their definition. Isabelle must face down the demons that drove her cruel treatment of Ella, challenge her own fate and maybe even redefine the very notion of beauty . . .

Cinderella is about a girl who was bullied; Stepsister is about the bully. We all root for the victims, we want to see them triumph. But what about the bullies? Is there hope for them? Can a mean girl change? Can she find her own happily ever after?


RATING

3.5 STARS

HERE’S MY REVIEW!

I have been looking forward to read this book since first time hearing about it. Especially stories with antagonists or villains as the main character since we don’t always get to read from their point of view.

However, I didn’t enjoy this book as much. Maybe because I wasn’t in the great mood to read, because I was totally into watching movies and TV shows that my reading progress was totally disturbed. The story was so long that at times I had to put it down as I was losing my interest to read about the characters. The pacing was slow and there were many filler chapters. Fortunately, after 200 pages in I started to like story because I had a better grasp of what the story wanted to tell.

I love Isabelle’s depiction in the book. She is firstly portrayed as an evil and grim character, who does all sorts of bad things just to impressed others. At some point I can relate to Isabelle, whenever she feels undervalued by people around her, just because she doesn’t have the standard looks. When things become hard, she takes the responsibility in becoming the breadwinner of the family, and she realizes that in order to be treated well by the society, she must treat others nicely. Great things will come to those who wait.

I also love the portrayal of Tavi, Isabelle’s sister in the book. She is such a nerd and a questioner. She loves learning and knowledge. She experiments about cheese just to try new things. Women during the old days didn’t get the chance to learn and go to college like men do, so it is refreshing to see the scenario in this book.

All in all, Stepsister is a unique story that is the complete opposite of pretty. “Ugly” and “Girls who don’t fit into the social norm” are the main theme of the story that compels me the most.

Thank you Pansing Books for providing me this review copy in exchange of an honest review!

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Sabrina