New Releases Wednesday

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected on Water by Zen Cho

Published: June 23, 2020 by Tor.com Publishing

Goodreads

Synopsis: Zen Cho returns with a found family wuxia fantasy that combines the vibrancy of old school martial arts movies with characters drawn from the margins of history.

A bandit walks into a coffeehouse, and it all goes downhill from there. Guet Imm, a young votary of the Order of the Pure Moon, joins up with an eclectic group of thieves (whether they like it or not) in order to protect a sacred object, and finds herself in a far more complicated situation than she could have ever imagined.

Why I’m Excited: First off, the cover looks more like a painting than a book cover. I could stare at it all day. I was not familiar with the term “wuxia” when I happened on this book. But I looked it up and it means “martial hero”, so a hero of the martial arts. This just sounds so good! I want to read this so badly.

Sisters of Sword & Song by Rebecca Ross

Published: June 23, 2020 by Harper Teen

Goodreads

Synopsis: From the author of The Queen’s Rising comes a thrilling YA stand-alone fantasy about the unbreakable bond between sisters. Perfect for fans of Ember in the Ashes, Sky in the Deep, and Court of Fives.

After eight long years, Evadne will finally be reunited with her older sister, Halcyon, who has been proudly serving in the queen’s army. But when Halcyon appears earlier than expected, Eva knows something has gone terribly wrong. Halcyon is on the run, hunted by her commander and charged with murder.

Though Halcyon’s life is spared during her trial, the punishment is heavy. And when Eva volunteers to serve part of Halcyon’s sentence, she’s determined to find out exactly what happened. But as Eva begins her sentence, she quickly learns that there are fates much worse than death.

Why I’m Excited: The synopsis of this one made me want to learn more, so I did a little research. Turns out this book is an alternate history Ancient Greece. All of the gods/goddesses have left behind powerful relics that the Queen is on the hint for. Something goes wrong and Halcyon ends up charged with a murder. That sounds so good. And it sounds like a very good sibling story, where both siblings are good people who want to protect each other from the world. That appeals to me.

New Releases Wednesday

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Published: June 2, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis: Set on a remote island off the Irish coast, this is one guest list no one would want to be on, just as no one would have wanted an invitation to the New Year’s Eve party in Foley’s previous novel, The Hunting Party . Lives unravel amid the revelry on an eerie and remote island as family and friends assemble for a glam wedding in an updated Murder on the Orient Express. Each of the principal characters has a reason to want one of their number dead, there are old secrets, and one of them is murdered.

My Thoughts: This sounds like a twisty turny adventure. A bunch of people invited to a glitzy party and one of them is a murderer. But who? I love a good whodunit and this sounds like it fits the bill.

The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant

Published: June 2, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis: Les Misérables meets Six of Crows in this page-turning adventure as a young thief finds herself going head to head with leaders of Paris’s criminal underground in the wake of the French Revolution.

In the violent urban jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, the French Revolution has failed and the city is divided between merciless royalty and nine underworld criminal guilds, known as the Court of Miracles. Eponine (Nina) Thénardier is a talented cat burglar and member of the Thieves Guild. Nina’s life is midnight robberies, avoiding her father’s fists, and watching over her naïve adopted sister, Cosette (Ettie). When Ettie attracts the eye of the Tiger–the ruthless lord of the Guild of Flesh–Nina is caught in a desperate race to keep the younger girl safe. Her vow takes her from the city’s dark underbelly to the glittering court of Louis XVII. And it also forces Nina to make a terrible choice–protect Ettie and set off a brutal war between the guilds, or forever lose her sister to the Tiger.

My Thoughts: I feel like I say this all the time but it’s true here too, I LOVE retellings. And Les Miserables is probably one of my favorite pieces of all time. I have memorized the entire musical and seen every iteration of it. I am practically drooling over this one.

The Last Flight by Julie Clark

Published: June 2, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis: Two women. Two Flights. One last chance to disappear.

Claire Cook has a perfect life. Married to the scion of a political dynasty, with a Manhattan townhouse and a staff of ten, her surroundings are elegant, her days flawlessly choreographed, and her future auspicious. But behind closed doors, nothing is quite as it seems. That perfect husband has a temper that burns as bright as his promising political career, and he’s not above using his staff to track Claire’s every move, making sure she’s living up to his impossible standards. But what he doesn’t know is that Claire has worked for months on a plan to vanish.

A chance meeting in an airport bar brings her together with a woman whose circumstances seem equally dire. Together they make a last-minute decision to switch tickets ― Claire taking Eva’s flight to Oakland, and Eva traveling to Puerto Rico as Claire. They believe the swap will give each of them the head start they need to begin again somewhere far away. But when the flight to Puerto Rico goes down, Claire realizes it’s no longer a head start but a new life. Cut off, out of options, with the news of her death about to explode in the media, Claire will assume Eva’s identity, and along with it, the secrets Eva fought so hard to keep hidden.

The Last Flight is the story of two women ― both alone, both scared ― and one agonizing decision that will change the trajectory of both of their lives.

My Thoughts: This is my pick for the June Book of the Month. I am excited to receive it. It sounds like a good thriller. On woman trying to escape an awful husband, who realizes that perhaps he might be willing to go farther than she thought to be rid of her. But, what is her new identity isn’t any safer? That’s what I am hoping this book is.

Review: Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

Published: March 3, 2020 by Katherine Tegen Books

Buy this book at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis:

The world is not tame.

Ashley knows this truth deep in her bones, more at home with trees overhead than a roof. So when she goes hiking in the Smokies with her friends for a night of partying, the falling dark and creaking trees are second nature to her. But people are not tame either. And when Ashley catches her boyfriend with another girl, drunken rage sends her running into the night, stopped only by a nasty fall into a ravine. Morning brings the realization that she’s alone – and far off trail. Lost in undisturbed forest and with nothing but the clothes on her back, Ashley must figure out how to survive despite the red streak of infection creeping up her leg.

Review:

I have never read a Mindy McGinnis book before this one but from reading reviews she seems to be a love it or hate it author, often from the same reader. A huge fan might love one of her books and hate the next. I looked forward to reading it based on the synopsis but I didn’t know quite what to expect.

Most of this book is narrated in Ashley’s head, because she’s alone in the woods for most of it. I worried that this might be a bit overplayed and turn out boring. Girl alone in the woods, we’ve all read it and seen it plenty of times. But I liked Ashley. We had some tropey “I’m not like all the other girls” going on. She doesn’t care about makeup or her hair, she hunts, she lives in a trailer, she drinks beer. But apart from the tropes, I liked her. She was funny and very frank, even in her own head. There was no sugarcoating going on from herself or anyone else. That was great, it make the novel feel very gritty. Although I do have to note that Ashley made some pretty rookie mistakes. Anyone who has gone camping knows that if you get lost the first thing you do is stay still, because people coming to look for you are going to start at the last place you were seen. And Ashley is a very experienced woodsman. But no, Ashley chooses to wander off, thinking she’ll find her own way. Rookie mistake. But without that mistake, we wouldn’t have had a book so I can forgive that.

The pacing of the book was just right for me. We had a lot of flashbacks and Ashley going over her life in her head, and I liked that. It took me away from the gritty grossness long enough to see another side of her and then get plunged back into the grossness. I can also honestly say that the author left me wondering if Ashley would make it out of this alive. Most of the time you can intuit that the single narrating character must live to the end because without that character then the narrative is over. But the way it was written, I could imagine Ashley giving us a posthumous play by play of her final days. That left me not knowing what to expect for the end of her journey.

This was a good book, I enjoyed it. And I will likely pick up the author again in the future. My only complaints is the minor tropes and some rookie mistakes that didn’t make sense from the character.

Take My Money! Sunday

This feature now has a better name. I’ve been thinking of one for awhile and then it hit me. These are the books that make me want to yell, “Just here’s my wallet! Take the money and gimme gimme!”

A Mother’s Lie by Sarah Zettel

Expected Publication date: April 7, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis:

A compulsive family drama about a mother’s desperate search to reclaim her daughter from the horrors of her own past, perfect for fans of Then She Was Gone.

Beth Fraser finally has her life together. She’s built a successful career in the tech sector, has a bright fifteen-year-old daughter, and she’s completely erased all evidence of her troubled past. At least that’s what she thought.

Dana Fraser always wondered why she’s the only kid with two backup phones, emergency drills, and a non-negotiable check-in time every single day. When a stranger approaches her on the street claiming to be her grandmother, Dana starts to question what else her mother has been hiding. 

Soon Beth’s worst nightmare is coming true: Dana is in grave danger, and unless Beth is willing to pull one last con job for her parents, she may never see her daughter again.

Why I’m Excited: This sounds really good. A child who grew up surrounded by secrets and has to piece things together when it all comes crashing down around her. I really need to hurry and read the ARC I have of this one.

Hush by Dylan Farrow

Expected publication date: October 6, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis:

How do you speak up in a world where propaganda is a twisted form of magic?

In the land of Montane, language is literal magic to the select few who possess the gift of Telling. This power is reserved for the Bards, and, as everyone knows, the Bards have almost always been men.

Seventeen-year-old Shae has lived her entire life in awe of the Bards—and afraid of the Blot, a deadly disease spread by ink, which took the life of her younger brother five years ago. Ever since, Shae fears she’s cursed. But when tragedy strikes again, and her mother is found murdered with a golden dagger—a weapon used only by the Bards—Shae is forced to act.

With a heart set on justice, Shae journeys to High House in search of answers. But when the kind, fatherly Cathal, the High Lord of Montane, makes Shae an undeniable offer to stay and train as a Bard, Shae can’t refuse.

Through this twisty tale, Shae endures backbreaking training by a ruthless female Bard, tentative and highly-forbidden feelings for a male Bard with a dark past, and a castle filled with dangerous illusions bent on keeping its secrets buried.

But sometimes, the truth is closer than we think. We just have to learn to listen.

Why I’m excited: I have always loved the idea of words having actual power, so this seems to play on that theme. It begs the question of how much more careful would people be if they knew there was real world consequences for the things they say. Or would they be more reckless?

Review: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

26032825._SY475_The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Published: January 2, 2018 by Little, Brown Books for Readers

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

Rating: 5 star

Review: I admit that the only reason I picked up this book was because I keep seeing the cover for the upcoming third book in the series, and it is absolutely gorgeous. But I didn’t want to start with the third book in a series, so I started from the beginning. And it was glorious!

For the first half of this book it was a pretty typical YA book. A human girl who was spirited away to Faerie as a young child. She desperately wants to fit in and make it her new home, but gets relentlessly bullied by the other faerie kids because she’s human. She strives to be more than “just a human” but isn’t sure exactly how to do that. So far all of this is pretty typical and it was good. I enjoyed reading about Jude and the book was well written. I also loved that the world of Faerie was depicted in such a dark and cruel way, it was refreshing from how most faeries are portrayed in YA books.

Then, around the halfway point of the story, things took a drastic turn for the darkness. I was shocked. My jaw hung open and I proceeded to read the final half of the book in one sitting because I HAD TO KNOW! The deceit and deception got so much deeper and darker the longer I read. It was fantastic.

Just when I thought I had Jude’s plan all figured out, things took another turn that I did not see coming. I loved every second of this plot. I love that it lulled me into a false sense of security that this would be just like all the other YA books I’ve read and then yanked that dream away from me in a split second, and with no remorse.

Also, Taryn is possibly the worst person in the entire book. I knew I didn’t like her much from the beginning but she is just downright awful. At one point I just kept thinking “that #&U%(#, Jude stab her!” I know I would have.

This book was fabulous. I will be picking up the second book just as soon as I can, because I have to know what happens now.

Review: The Swallows by Lisa Lutz

43744294 (1)The Swallows by Lisa Lutz

Published: August 13, 2019 by Ballantine Books

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: A new teacher at a New England prep school ignites a gender war–with deadly consequences.

What do you love? What do you hate? What do you want?

It starts with this simple writing prompt from Alex Witt, Stonebridge Academy’s new creative writing teacher. When the students’ answers raise disturbing questions of their own, Ms. Witt knows there’s more going on the school than the faculty wants to see. She soon learns about The Ten–the students at the top of the school’s social hierarchy–as well as their connection to something called The Darkroom.

Ms. Witt can’t remain a passive observer. She finds the few girls who’ve started to question the school’s “boys will be boys” attitude and incites a resistance that quickly becomes a movement. But just as it gains momentum, she also attracts the attention of an unknown enemy who knows a little too much about her–including what brought her to Stonebridge in the first place.

Meanwhile, Gemma, a defiant senior, has been plotting her attack for years, waiting for the right moment. Shy loner Norman hates his role in the Darkroom, but can’t find the courage to fight back until he makes an unlikely alliance. And then there’s Finn Ford, an English teacher with a shady reputation who keeps one eye on his literary ambitions and one on Ms. Witt.

As the school’s secrets begin to trickle out, a boys-versus-girls skirmish turns into an all-out war, with deeply personal–and potentially fatal–consequences for everyone involved.

Rating: 1 star

Review: I picked this audiobook up on a whim. I needed something to listen to while I was working and the synopsis sounded interesting. I saw some good reviews from people that I know and thought I’d give it a whirl. I have heard a lot of praise over the years for Lisa Lutz. In the end, hopefully this book is not indicative of her work in general or I don’t think I’ll pick up another.

To put it simply this was a book with a good idea that was made to be completely nonsensical. The story features approximately five narrators along the way and all of them are basically identical. I didn’t find anything that separated the characters from one another in personality or behavior. They also introduce us to too many other characters. Half the time I had no idea who we were talking about because they mention about fifty people but only ten of them are actually important so I have no idea who anyone else is.

There’s also a lot of filler in this book. Most of the first half of the book was loooooong conversations about teenagers hooking up, who was popular, and what everyone was wearing. I swear, if Gemma went on one more rant about her outfit I would have screamed. And it just went on and on and on. Literally nothing happened for several hundred pages except sex, clothes and parties.

I don’t mind a book that’s a slow burn but this was a snail’s pace. I didn’t even realize that the revenge plot was in motion until about four pranks into it, and Gemma blatantly calls it out. I remember thinking, “Oh, we’re already in motion with this? I had no idea!”

Ms. Witt was utterly useless. She acts like she stumbles on some deep, dark secret. But it must not be too big of a secret because eight different students tell her about it and at least half the staff knows about it too. This secret is also supposed to be indicative of an embedded institutional attitude of “boys will be boys”, but it’s only been going on for five years and when the rest of the staff find out about it they are horrified. So I would hardly call that an institutional issue.

Also, I have no idea why this was portrayed as some horrible abuse on women. Yeah, the boys are talking about their sexual conquests, pitting the girls in a contest that they don’t know about. It’s not right, it’s gross, but teenage boys are functioning at a maturity level of barely above caveman. You can force feed them as much feminism as you like, he’s still going to act like a rabid animal. Because he is. There was a single instance in the book of a girl being coerced into a sexual act she didn’t want to perform, the rest of the girls were either in a relationship (or thought they were, lying for the win) or were completely willing. So, shouldn’t the real lesson here be that randomly hooking up with boys gave them fodder to act like animals and girls should value themselves more than that? That’s the message I would want my daughter getting. The only valuable thing that Mr. Witt does in this book is tell the girls that they don’t have to perform sexual acts unless they want to, and all the girls act like this is some shocking revelation to them. That’s rather sad if that’s true of teenage girls these days.

Finally, the ending was completely ridiculous. It went to a place that made no sense at all. The girls had already won. They had made an end to the contest. They had punished the boys involved. But then we go to the absolute extreme anyway. Why? You already won. It’s not smart to keep fighting a war that has already been won. And in the end the girls complained a lot about the boys not taking responsibility, but they ended up doing something far worse and took no responsibility either. This book did nothing to further any conversation about bullying, feminism, or sexual relationships between teenagers. It was just bad.

Review: Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

50157754Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

Published: April 14, 2020 by Amulet Books

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: The gods are dead. Decades ago, they turned on one another and tore each other apart. Nobody knows why. But are they really gone forever? When 15-year-old Hark finds the still-beating heart of a terrifying deity, he risks everything to keep it out of the hands of smugglers, military scientists, and a secret fanatical cult so that he can use it to save the life of his best friend, Jelt. But with the heart, Jelt gradually and eerily transforms. How long should Hark stay loyal to his friend when he’s becoming a monster—and what is Hark willing to sacrifice to save him?

Rating: 4 star

Review: This book drew me in with its cover, as is often the case. I was intrigued by the synopsis. And several reviews of it called it a merging of Frakenstein, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Hyde, and that left me even more interested. Normally with that much hype surrounding a book it is bound to disappoint, at least a little bit, but this book was fantastic.

Hark was a fabulous character. He was uncertain and timid but trying to find a foothold in the world. He could see that his friendship with Jelt was changing but admitting it to himself meant that nothing would be the same. He broke my heart and left me cheering him on. He had a great story arc. Through the course of the story he was forced from being a little boy running a small time con to a man who takes responsibility for his own story.

I had a hard time feeling too much sympathy for Jelt because he was pretty mean to Hark from the moment we met him. But, despite that, I felt tremendous sympathy for how Hark dealt with the changes in his friend.

The gods were presented as monsters first, deities almost by accident, and I liked that approach. The idea of monster gods is appealing to me and this was the perfect blend of monster and majesty to suit me. The world this book was set in was also beautifully detailed. I could feel the undulating waves of the Undersea. The permeating fear of it that fed the gods for thousands of years. It was a beautifully written story. My only complaint was that the ending when Hark is going after the heart dragged on for a bit too long. After about 50 pages my mind started to wander and I wished we could stop describing everything so thoroughly and move on with the action a bit quicker. But the ending was compelling, as was the epilogue. I read the last thirty pages or so with tears streaming down my face, my heart breaking and cheering for Hark all at the same time. In the end this was a story about the power of stories, and it had a profound power all its own.

Review: The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

35702241The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

Published on February 25, 2020 by Feiwel & Friends

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:

1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.

But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?

Rating: 4 star

Review: This book was so much fun! I have never read the author before but I enjoyed her style very much, so I think I might pick up some of her other books after this one. This one had a bit more romance than I expected but it had a lot of adventure and twists and turns that kept me entertained.

Alessandra is delightfully scandalous. She is witty and funny but also slightly sociopathic. She delights in using men and bucking the patriarchal system she lives in. She figures that if men can have a thousand lovers then the women must not be being very chaste either so why not. She killed the first boy who broke her heart and is determined to not make herself vulnerable ever again. Instead she has a mission to seduce the king and then kill him and take over his kingdom. She finally sees her opportunity with the engagement of her older sister, since she was not allowed to attend court until that time. She catches the Shadow King’s eye immediately and away we go.

I fully expected for the plot of the story to be a romance. I knew going in that Alessandra would fall in love with the king, and he with her, and she would no longer want to go through with her plan. So, I didn’t really mind when the story started taking me that way. Especially since the romance was handled with a lot of snark and lots of nefarious plotting and teasing. There was so much sexual tension in this book and it was delicious. Kallias set my heart pitter pattering and I hoped beyond hope that he was getting through to Alessandra too. He’s just so delightfully bad!

The only downside I had with this book was that I found the rules of the world building to be a tad inconsistent. We are told from the outset that this is a very Victorian world. Women are expected to be demure, chaste, and never be found in a compromising situation that could ruin their opportunities for a good marriage. Women cannot go to court to attempt to woo a husband until all of their older sisters are married off. The males of the family make the marriage arrangements. All of this is extremely typical. But then, it’s also okay for the nobles to be engaged in homosexual or bisexual relationships. Openly and at court. That certainly does not fit with the world you have built. At all. I am okay with either world. I am okay with a very straitlaced Victorian world. And I am okay with a slightly more liberal world encompassing people of all sexualities. But the two things don’t work well together.

This small gripe aside, I loved this book. It was wonderfully wicked and very sexy. I was sad it was over.

Review: The Queen’s Assassin by Melissa de la Cruz

39334176._SY475_The Queen’s Assassin by Melissa de la Cruz

Published on February 4, 2020 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: Caledon Holt is the Kingdom of Renovia’s deadliest weapon. No one alive can best him in brawn or brains, which is why he’s the Guild’s most dangerous member and the Queen’s one and only assassin. He’s also bound to the Queen by an impossible vow–to find the missing Deian Scrolls, the fount of all magical history and knowledge, stolen years ago by a nefarious sect called the Aphrasians.

Shadow has been training all her life to follow in the footsteps of her mother and aunts–to become skilled enough to join the ranks of the Guild. Though magic has been forbidden since the Aphrasian uprising, Shadow has been learning to control her powers in secret, hoping that one day she’ll become an assassin as feared and revered as Caledon Holt.

When a surprise attack brings Shadow and Cal together, they’re forced to team up as assassin and apprentice to hunt down a new sinister threat to Renovia. But as Cal and Shadow grow closer, they’ll uncover a shocking web of lies and secrets that may destroy everything they hold dear. With war on the horizon and true love at risk, they’ll stop at nothing to protect each other and their kingdom in this stunning first novel in the Queen’s Secret series.

Rating: 3 star

Review: This book was almost a four star book for me, the final few chapters were what changed my mind in the end. The premise of this book is nothing new. A rather ordinary female lead character who dreams of doing bigger things who crosses paths with the daring bad boy. Together they run off on an adventure and fall for each other along the way. It’s a tried and true formula in young adult. When done properly it makes for a very good read. But sometimes authors fall into a trap of feeling like they MUST make their story different and so they do things that don’t make sense. That is what happened with the end of this book I believe.

Shadow is a pretty good character. She has a more finely honed sense of self preservation than most female leads in fantasy novels, so I appreciated that. She was strong and looking for adventure, not afraid to leave her entire world behind to do it. The love story between her and Cal seemed very organic, which can be unusual in the genre. But she was also too stubborn for her own good and it made no sense. She defied Cal or opposed his opinion just because she could. There was no logical reason behind her belief that her idea was better than his, she just decided that her idea was better. Even though this whole adventure was Cal’s job, literally, and he was very good at it. It might have been better to defer to his expertise from time to time. It might have saved both of them some trouble along the way.

Cal was a fairly typical young adult love interest. At times he was dashing, brave, and witty. And at other he seemed like a set piece. I had no real objections to him, but I did not find him particularly compelling in his own right either. And I have no idea how this magical Blood Vow actually works either. Supposedly it binds Cal to the Queen, to do her bidding until he fulfills the vow. And if he tries to defy the vow he will be in horrendous, increasingly awful, pain the longer he tries to resist. But, he does resist the Queen’s orders, for most of the book and doesn’t seem to be in any discomfort. Because Shadow told him this was the Queen’s plan, so I guess his belief is a loophole? If he believes he is following the vow then he is? That makes no sense if it’s a magical thing. The story would have been just a good without this piece that wasn’t actually explained.

As for the plot and the plot twists, I expected most of them. Especially the big one, I knew it from very early on in the book. But I also didn’t really mind, the fact that I had figured it out was largely inconsequential to the other pieces of the puzzle. I may have discovered one piece, but the rest of the puzzle didn’t hinge on that one piece so it was still a surprise to me later. A few of the “twists” I didn’t really find that shocking or distressing. Cal seemed distressed over them and frankly I didn’t know why. Maybe it was because there was so little world building in this book that I didn’t have enough information to be as disturbed as other characters were. The only world building is an occasional chapter of an excerpt from some historical text. So, a few info dumps. And honestly, as a reader, I never remember information given to me in an info dump. They are boring and my mind skims them automatically. As a consequence, I know very little of the history of the world or how its magic works. That didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of the story, but it might have impacted how I felt about certain plot reveals.

Now, my one and only SPOILER WARNING for this review:

I figured out very early on that Shadow was really the Princess. All I needed was to know that the Princess was secreted away somewhere as a commoner, and that Shadow’s mother worked in the palace and I knew. It wasn’t difficult. But, Shadow’s chapters are narrated in the first person. So the reader is quite literally inside her head. She never actually revealed that she knew she was the Princess in her narrative. So, as a result, I figured that she did not know. That everyone had kept it a secret for her own protection or something,

But then in the last few chapters she literally thinks, “My mother is the Queen of Renovia. I have known this for my entire life. And I have been in denial about this truth my entire life. For my own safety, I do not speak of it, let along think about it.” (Chapter 49, page 350). So, wait, you don’t even think about it? I recognize that this is an attempt at giving the author a good “out” for why Shadow was narrating in first person but didn’t let on that she was the Princess. But, our brains are messy things. Human thinking is a messy thing. Thoughts come in and out of our minds like clouds, entirely without our bidding. It doesn’t make any sense that at no point she didn’t randomly think “Cal would be so horrified if he knew who I was.” or “I feel so bad for deceiving him about my identity.” I was very confused about that. Our brains are tricky things that often think things that we don’t intend to think.  This was the most annoying factor in the entire book. Why not just narrate Shadow in the third person? Cal is narrated in third person, it wouldn’t have been out of place.

So that’s the book. I liked it a lot. I think I will tune in to the 2nd book in the series to see where it goes. Some bits were a little frustrating, it certainly isn’t perfect but it was a fun use of my time.