Book Review: The Grief of Stones


Katherine Addison

Rating: 4 out of 5.

published: 14th June 2022
spoilers? yes

Goodreads

Celehar’s life as the Witness for the Dead of Amalo grows less isolated as his circle of friends grows larger. He has been given an apprentice to teach, and he has stumbled over a scandal of the city—the foundling girls. Orphans with no family to claim them and no funds to buy an apprenticeship. Foundling boys go to the Prelacies; foundling girls are sold into service, or worse.

At once touching and shattering, Celehar’s witnessing for one of these girls will lead him into the depths of his own losses. The love of his friends will lead him out again.

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Book Review: The Stardust Thief


Saara el-Arifi

Rating: 3 out of 5.

published: 19th May 2022
spoilers? none

Goodreads

Loulie al-Nazari is the Midnight Merchant: a criminal who, with the help of her jinn bodyguard, hunts and sells illegal magic. When she saves the life of a cowardly prince, she draws the attention of his powerful father, the sultan, who blackmails her into finding an ancient lamp that has the power to revive the barren land.

With no choice but to obey or be executed, Loulie journeys with the sultan’s oldest son to find the artifact. Aided by her bodyguard, who has secrets of his own, they must survive ghoul attacks, outwit a vengeful jinn queen, and confront a malicious killer from Loulie’s past. And, in a world where story is reality and illusion is truth, Loulie will discover that everything—her enemy, her magic, even her own past—is not what it seems.

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Book Review: Siren Queen


Nghi Vo

Rating: 2 out of 5.

published: 10th May 2022
spoilers? no

Goodreads

It was magic. In every world, it was a kind of magic.

“No maids, no funny talking, no fainting flowers.” Luli Wei is beautiful, talented, and desperate to be a star. Coming of age in pre-Code Hollywood, she knows how dangerous the movie business is and how limited the roles are for a Chinese American girl from Hungarian Hill—but she doesn’t care. She’d rather play a monster than a maid.

But in Luli’s world, the worst monsters in Hollywood are not the ones on screen. The studios want to own everything from her face to her name to the women she loves, and they run on a system of bargains made in blood and ancient magic, powered by the endless sacrifice of unlucky starlets like her. For those who do survive to earn their fame, success comes with a steep price. Luli is willing to do whatever it takes—even if that means becoming the monster herself.

Siren Queen offers up an enthralling exploration of an outsider achieving stardom on her own terms, in a fantastical Hollywood where the monsters are real and the magic of the silver screen illuminates every page.

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Book Review: The Final Strife


Saara el-Arifi

Rating: 3 out of 5.

published: 23rd June 2022
spoilers? sort of

Goodreads

In the first book of a visionary African and Arabian-inspired fantasy trilogy, three women band together against a cruel Empire that divides people by blood.

Red is the blood of the elite, of magic, of control.

Blue is the blood of the poor, of workers, of the resistance.

Clear is the blood of the servants, of the crushed, of the invisible.

Sylah dreams of days growing up in the resistance, being told she would spark a revolution that would free the Empire from the red-blooded ruling classes’ tyranny. That spark was extinguished the day she watched her family murdered before her eyes.

Anoor has been told she’s nothing, no one, a disappointment by the only person who matters: her mother, the most powerful ruler in the Empire. But dust always rises in a storm.

Hassa moves through the world unseen by upper classes, so she knows what it means to be invisible. But invisibility has its uses: It can hide the most dangerous of secrets, secrets that can reignite a revolution.

As the Empire begins a set of trials of combat and skill designed to find its new leaders, the stage is set for blood to flow, power to shift, and cities to burn.

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Book Review: The Collarbound


Rebecca Zahabi

Rating: 3 out of 5.

published: 12th May 2022
spoilers? none

Goodreads

On the other side of the Shadowpass, rebellion is brewing and refugees have begun to trickle into the city at the edge of the world. Looming high on the cliff is The Nest, a fortress full of mages who offer protection, but also embody everything the rebellion is fighting against: a strict hierarchy based on magic abilities, and the oppression of the Kher community.

When Isha arrives as a refugee, she attempts to fit in amongst the other mages, but her Kher tattoo brands her as an outcast. She can’t remember her past or why she has the tattoo. All she knows is that she survived. She doesn’t intend to give up now.

Tatters, who wears the golden collar of a slave, knows that this rebellion is different from past skirmishes. He was once one of the rebels, fought beside them, and technically, they still own him. He plans to stay in the shadows, until Isha appears in his tavern. He’s never seen a human with a tattoo, and the markings look eerily familiar. Despite his fear of being discovered, Tatters decides to help her.

As the rebellion carves a path of destruction towards the city, The Collarbound follows an unlikely friendship between a man trying to escape his past and a woman trying to uncover hers, until their secrets threaten to tear them apart.

A tale that questions fate and finds strength in not-belonging, The Collarbound hooks from the opening pages and will appeal to fans of magical, brink-of-war settings, like that of The Poppy War, and lyrical, character-driven writing, as found in A Darker Shade of Magic.

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Book Review: The Blood Trials


N. E. Davenport

Rating: 4 out of 5.

published: 23rd June 2022
spoilers? yes

Goodreads

It’s all about blood.

The blood spilled between the Republic of Mareen and the armies of the Blood Emperor long ago. The blood gifts of Mareen’s deadliest enemies. The blood that runs through the elite War Houses of Mareen, the rulers of the Tribunal dedicated to keeping the republic alive.

The blood of the former Legatus, Verne Amari, murdered.

For his granddaughter, Ikenna, the only thing steady in her life was the man who had saved Mareen. The man who had trained her in secret, not just in martial skills, but in harnessing the blood gift that coursed through her.

Who trained her to keep that a secret.

But now there are too many secrets, and with her grandfather assassinated, Ikenna knows two things: that only someone on the Tribunal could have ordered his death, and that only a Praetorian Guard could have carried out that order.

Bent on revenge as much as discovering the truth, Ikenna pledges herself to the Praetorian Trials—a brutal initiation that only a quarter of the aspirants survive. She subjects herself to the racism directed against her half-Khanaian heritage and the misogyny of a society that cherishes progeny over prodigy, all while hiding a power that—if found out—would subject her to execution…or worse. Ikenna is willing to risk it all because she needs to find out who murdered her grandfather…and then she needs to kill them.

Mareen has been at peace for a long time…

Ikenna joining the Praetorians is about to change all that.

Magic and technology converge in the first part of this stunning debut duology, where loyalty to oneself—and one’s blood—is more important than anything.

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Book Review: The City of Dusk


Tara Sim

Rating: 2 out of 5.

published: 22nd March 2022
spoilers? no

Goodreads

The Four Realms—Life, Death, Light, and Darkness—all converge on the city of dusk. For each realm there is a god, and for each god there is an heir.

But the gods have withdrawn their favor from the once vibrant and thriving city. And without it, all the realms are dying.

Unwilling to stand by and watch the destruction, the four heirs—Risha, a necromancer struggling to keep the peace; Angelica, an elementalist with her eyes set on the throne; Taesia, a shadow-wielding rogue with rebellion in her heart; and Nik, a soldier who struggles to see the light— will sacrifice everything to save the city.

But their defiance will cost them dearly.

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Book Review: The Shadow Glass


Josh Winning

Rating: 4 out of 5.

published: 22nd March 2022
spoilers? no

Goodreads

Jack Corman is failing at life. Jobless, jaded and facing the threat of eviction, he’s also reeling from the death of his father, one-time film director Bob Corman. Back in the eighties, Bob poured his heart and soul into the creation of his 1986 puppet fantasy The Shadow Glass, but the film flopped on release and Bob was never the same again.

In the wake of Bob’s death, Jack returns to his decaying childhood home, where he is confronted with the impossible — the puppet heroes from The Shadow Glass are alive, and they need his help. Tipped into a desperate quest to save the world from the more nefarious of his father’s creations, Jack teams up with an excitable fanboy and a spiky studio exec to navigate the labyrinth of his father’s legacy and ignite a Shadow Glass resurgence that could, finally, do Bob proud.

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Book Review: Good Intentions


Kasim Ali

Rating: 4 out of 5.

published: 3rd March 2022
spoilers? yes

Goodreads

Nur and Yasmina are in love
They’ve been together for four happy years
But Nur’s parents don’t know that Yasmina exists

As Nur’s family counts down to midnight on New Year’s Eve, Nur is watching the clock more closely than most: he has made a pact with himself, and with his girlfriend, Yasmina, that at midnight he will finally tell his Pakistani parents the truth. That he has spent years hiding his personal life from them to preserve his image as the golden child. That he has built a life with a woman he loves and she is Black.

Nur wants to be the good son his parents ask him to be, and the good boyfriend Yasmina needs him to be. But as everything he holds dear is challenged, he is forced to ask, is love really a choice for a second-generation immigrant son like him?

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Book Review: The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea


Axie Oh

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

published: 22nd February 2022
spoilers? no

Goodreads

Deadly storms have ravaged Mina’s homeland for generations. Floods sweep away entire villages, while bloody wars are waged over the few remaining resources. Her people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now curses them with death and despair. In an attempt to appease him, each year a beautiful maiden is thrown into the sea to serve as the Sea God’s bride, in the hopes that one day the “true bride” will be chosen and end the suffering.

Many believe that Shim Cheong, the most beautiful girl in the village—and the beloved of Mina’s older brother Joon—may be the legendary true bride. But on the night Cheong is to be sacrificed, Joon follows Cheong out to sea, even knowing that to interfere is a death sentence. To save her brother, Mina throws herself into the water in Cheong’s stead.

Swept away to the Spirit Realm, a magical city of lesser gods and mythical beasts, Mina seeks out the Sea God, only to find him caught in an enchanted sleep. With the help of a mysterious young man named Shin—as well as a motley crew of demons, gods and spirits—Mina sets out to wake the Sea God and bring an end to the killer storms once and for all.

But she doesn’t have much time: A human cannot live long in the land of the spirits. And there are those who would do anything to keep the Sea God from waking…

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