Tag Archives: #fantasy

Review: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.

Harper Voyager  |  23 April 2018  |  AUD$37.99

My Blurb (4.5 stars)

One of my most anticipated release this year and it did NOT disappoint. In fact, I’m rather speechless! Or more accurately, I have so many things to say, they’ve all jumbled up and I’ve no idea how to sort them out so that they’d make sense to everyone else ;p

That first line totally got me! I burst out laughing (thankfully, I was home and not on the train full of strangers) because it caught me completely off guard. Rin herself was astonishingly hard-headed and enterprising. She knows what she wants and she’s going to get it. She’s definitely NOT getting married.

To start with, it was a such easy, fun, and un-put-down-able read. In fact, the first half reminds me so much of The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. The academy setting, MC’s poor background & her hot-headedness, the spoiled brat who almost ruined everything for the MC, the kooky master, etc were all too familiar to be ignored and yet, so differently brilliant. I’m dubbing this first half to be ‘The Name of the Wind with an Asian twist’.

The second half was hand-on-heart hard on my sensibilities. I was warned by a friend that chapter 21 could have some triggery effects on some people. I think with my wide scope of reading, I may have become desensitised to beheading, dismemberment, etc but woah, there was some pretty graphic descriptions here and especially with rape & babies involved, I was starting to feel nauseous, but thankfully, it ended before I actually had to (and this time, I was one of many sardines packed into the train carriage on the way to work). I understand this is based on true historical event and I do not doubt that this type of cruelty exists. This actually made me feel bad that I didn’t feel more about beheadings and such. You know, sometimes, you really have to face up to what people can do & have done.

War doesn’t determine who’s right. War determines who remains.

And sometimes, the hard bits are what made the book. In the face of a senseless war, Rin and her friends faced impossible situations, inconceivable decisions, and incomparable consequences. Of course, Rin had to come on top but did she really?

Rin is an amazing protagonist. She’s fierce and fiercely independent. Rin’s world is an intricately layered complex of humanity, friendship, loyalty, and faith. Read the book! Laugh with Rin, weep with all humanity and rage against all brutality. But above all, do NOT ask me to lend you my copy of this book :p

Thanks to Harper Voyager for copy of book in exchange of honest review (& Annie @Read3rz_revu – sorry if I burst your eardrums from screaming when you handed me a copy of this book lol)

About the author

I immigrated to the US from Guangzhou, China in 2000. I currently study Chinese history at Georgetown, where my research focuses on Chinese military strategy, collective trauma, and war memorials. I’m a 2018 Marshall Scholar, and I’ll be heading to the University of Cambridge next fall to do my graduate studies.

Fiction-wise, I graduated from Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2016 and attended the CSSF Novel Writing Workshop in 2017. My debut novel, The Poppy War, is the first installment in a trilogy that grapples with drugs, shamanism, and China’s bloody twentieth century.

Find Rebecca on:  website  |  goodreads  |  instagram  | twitter

Advertisements

Review: The Black Tides of Heaven by J.Y. Yang

The Black Tides of Heaven (Tensorate #1) by J.Y. Yang

Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as children. While Mokoya developed her strange prophetic gift, Akeha was always the one who could see the strings that moved adults to action. While his sister received visions of what would be, Akeha realized what could be. What’s more, he saw the sickness at the heart of his mother’s Protectorate.

A rebellion is growing. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world every day, while the Tensors fight to put them down and preserve the power of the state. Unwilling to continue to play a pawn in his mother’s twisted schemes, Akeha leaves the Tensorate behind and falls in with the rebels. But every step Akeha takes towards the Machinists is a step away from his sister Mokoya. Can Akeha find peace without shattering the bond he shares with his twin sister?

My Blurb (4 stars)

Sometimes, there is just a book that when you finished reading, you completely have no idea where you are… This world was so immersive that I came up disoriented and rather sad that I have to leave it behind.

To begin with though, some mind-bending was required. In this world, you are born without a gender; you will remain as ‘undeclared gender’ until such time that you yourself wish to be confirmed to be one or another and then the process to change your body accordingly will take place. In an ‘undeclared gender’, ‘they’ is the pronoun used to refer to this person. I’ve only found out, thanks Google, that ‘they’ can also be used as a gender neutral third person singular pronoun. My brain is so not used to this so I’m feeling a little ignorant and slow to catch up… When I did though, I wish for this so much for our world! In a way, it will ease many heartaches… Not that this spare any of the people in this world!

This novel is divided into 4 parts and years span between each part. It begins with Mokoya’s & Akeha’s births, parts of their childhood, their teens, and ended in their thirties. This first book in the series appears to deal more with Akeha’s search for his purpose as we follow his indecision (gender), as he ran away from his heartbreak, and a discovery of new things, hopeful things.

Love, and nothing else. It was enough. As long as there was love, there would be hope. It was enough.

The Black Tides of Heaven is a magical novel with an array of complex world building. That magic (loved how it’s called ‘Slackcraft’!) and modern technology being complementary was interestingly harmonious. The characters were alive and with all their flaws invited you to welcome them into your heart. The story took me on a flight of love, explosions of heartbreaks, and only to end with a broken but living hope.

About the author

JY Yang is the author of the Tensorate series of novellas from Tor.Com Publishing (The Red Threads of Fortune, The Black Tides of Heaven, and two more slated for 2018 and 2019). Their short fiction has been published in over a dozen venues, including Uncanny Magazine, Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, and Strange Horizons.

In previous incarnations, they have been a molecular biologist; a writer for animation, comics and games; and a journalist for one of Singapore’s major papers. Currently they are a science communicator with Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).

JY identifies as queer and non-binary.

Find Clarissa on:  website  |  goodreads  |  twitter

Review: Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor #1) by Jessica Townsend

Morrigan Crow is cursed. Born on an unlucky day, she is blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks – and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on Eventide.

But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.

It’s there that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious organisation: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart. Except for Morrigan, who doesn’t seem to have any special talent at all.

To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests – or she’ll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.

My Blurb (5 stars)

I bought this book as a gift for my 8yo. I don’t particularly know what an advance reader is for his age but he’s in the top reading group in his class so I thought this might be readable for him. Nevertheless, he was intimidated by all the words and NO illustrations which makes it a monster of a book for him. I wanted to read it too so we read it together aloud. Honestly, I would probably inhale this book in a single sitting (or two) because it was really so much fun! A light-hearted read filled with incredible characters and magical world, Nevermoor is an absolute gem of a book.

I love that nothing is as it seems in Nevermoor just like there is always 2 sides to every story. And there is all sorts of creatures too; a talking giant cat, a vampire, a dwarf, zombies, dragons, unicorns… you name it! The funny bits and the magic especially excite us. Nevermoor is the bright star at the end of our day.

We took the whole of February to read this aloud. He has to read 4-5 pages per night and I read 20ish… My voicebox is feeling a little overused atm. It has been a pretty good month though because the promise of reading this book helps him get ready for bed without too much nagging/shouting from me! That’s a smasher of a praise for this book, I tell you. It’s been amazing and now I’ve got to find another with, hopefully, the same impact on him.

He says: (4.5/5 stars)

The book is actually pretty good. I rate 4 and a half at the because at the end its sort of scary. But the rest of the book is awesome my favourite character is Fenestra and my least favourite character is Ezra squall. My favourite place in Nevermore is the Gossamer Line because you can travel to a different place and you are sort of like a ghost.

About the author

JESSICA TOWNSEND lives on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. She was a copywriter for eight years, and was once the editor of a children’s wildlife magazine for Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo. Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow is her first novel.

Find her on: goodreads  |  twitter  | instagram

 

Review: Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce

Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce

Bestselling author Tamora Pierce crafts a richly realised world in the highly anticipated first installment of The Numair Chronicles – a gripping fantasy series for young adults.

THREE STUDENT MAGES, BOUND BY FATE . . . FATED FOR DANGER

Arram Draper is on the path to becoming one of the realm’s most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness – and for attracting trouble. At his side are his two best friends: Varice, a clever girl with an often-overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the ‘leftover prince’ with secret ambitions.

Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. But as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram’s heart, Arram realizes that soon he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie.

My Blurb (4 stars)

Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series is one of my favourite ever. I first read it in school (that would’ve been over 2 decades ago) and have re-read it many times (I don’t even know how many now). And it is probably the reason why I love the girl-dressed-as-boy trope so very very much. Needless to say, I was very excited to see a new book by a beloved author set in the same universe as my favourite series ever!

The protagonist of Tempests & Slaughter is a teenage boy named Arram Draper and we first met him as he’s supposedly enjoying some bonding time with his father and grandfather at the Arena. What they didn’t know was that Arram dreaded seeing these bloody fights everyone is excited for. Still, he was determined to have a good time but then of course, the first accident happened.

Arram was an easily likeable protagonist though there was some time when he was a little obsessed with his ‘member’ that it was feeling a bit awkward to me… The number of times ‘his member’ (yes, that’s how it’s being referred to in the book) started to annoy me to no end but then again, maybe that’s how it is with teen boys? I don’t know… I was never a teen boy… Thankfully, we got through that phase just as I started to get really annoyed.

Reading Tempests & Slaughter is almost like putting on a much-loved-very-well-fitted glove. It fits me so very comfortably that I have really loved the whole book. When I try to step back and review it as a new reader though, I’m not sure if that may be the case for others. Despite the number of accidents Arram had with his gifts, he seems to be getting on too well. He seems to be a very well balanced character (which seems to not be what’s ‘in’ at the moment with all the antiheros happening). In any case, it did feel like nothing happened much. I also feel like Prince Ozorne may prove to be a much more interesting character. I am very much looking forward to get to know him better next time 😉

If you’ve never read Tamora Pierce previously, Tempests & Slaughter is really a new series and even though is set in a universe of earlier series, you can definitely pick this up without missing too much. You may want to pick them up to tide them over until book 2 is published though so bewarned! If you need anymore persuasion: magic school, Ancient Rome feels, & an old cranky crocodile (my most fave character in this book!).

If you’re a Tamora Pierce’s fan, you will NOT be disappointed. If you’re anything like me, this is a comfort read & an addition to your treasured collection.

Thanks to Hachette Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

Tamora Pierce is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of over eighteen novels set in the fantasy realm of Tortall. She is the winner of the Romantic Times Book Reviews Career Achievement Award, the Skylark Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction, and the Margaret A. Edwards Award for her ‘significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature’.

Pierce lives in Syracuse, New York, with her husband, Tim, and their cats, birds, and occasional rescued wildlife.

Find her on: goodreads  |  website  | twitter  | facebook  |  instagram  

 

Review: Esme’s Wish by Elizabeth Foster

Esme’s Wish (Esme Series #1) by Elizabeth Foster

This was her last chance.
Her hand twisted high in the air.

When fifteen-year-old Esme Silver objects at her father’s wedding, her protest is dismissed as the actions of a stubborn, selfish teenager. Everyone else has accepted the loss of Esme’s mother, Ariane – so why can’t she?

But Esme is suspicious. She is sure that others are covering up the real reason for her mother’s disappearance – that ‘lost at sea’ is code for something more terrible, something she has a right to know.

After Esme is accidentally swept into the enchanted world of Aeolia, the truth begins to unfold. With her newfound friends, Daniel and Lillian, Esme retraces her mother’s steps in the glittering canal city of Esperance, untangling the threads of Ariane’s double life. But the more Esme discovers about Ariane, the more she questions whether she really knew her at all.

My Blurb (4 stars)

I do love stories which takes us from our mundane world into another magical one. Doesn’t it just give us hope that maybe one day it’ll happen to li’l normal me? lol

Esme’s Wish is one such story. Esme herself grew up on an island where everybody knows everyone. In the opening scene, she’s attending a wedding… her father’s. Of course, she couldn’t accept this and made her objection known (wowser! It took some guts to stand up in front of everyone you know!). Unfortunately, she wasn’t taken seriously… Still, this image is totally imprinted in my mind!

Esme finally decided to take matters into her own hand and to investigate her mother’s disappearance especially after some strange things were happening to her. In following her mother’s footsteps, she suddenly found herself somewhere beyond this world. A world where magic is strong though it appears to be faltering. A world where her mother has been and disappeared into. The more she finds out about her mother, the more determined she is to find her & fix things.

I have really enjoyed the reading of Esme’s Wish. I must admit it may not be to everyone’s cup of tea as the language is quite flowery & descriptive but I did find it mesmerisingly magical. The magic system is very interesting though not quite yet fleshed out (I am looking forward to book 2!) so this book is very much a world-building one. And what a beaut! It’s just like Venice (canals etc) with hints of Greek gods and magical creatures (dragons and sirens). Yep, if you like your world to be filled with magic, I’d highly recommend Esme’s Wish.

I won this book in a giveaway via another book blog; review is my own honest thought.

About the author

Elizabeth Foster read avidly as a child, but only discovered the joys of writing some years ago, when reading to her own kids reminded her of how much she missed getting lost in other worlds. Once she started writing, she never looked back. She’s at her happiest when immersed in stories, plotting new conflicts and adventures for her characters. Elizabeth lives in Sydney, where she can be found scribbling in cafés, indulging her love of both words and coffee.

Find Elizabeth on: goodreads  |  website  | twitter  |  facebook  | instagram  | pinterest

Come back tomorrow for Q&A with Elizabeth! 😀

Review: Draekora by Lynette Noni

Draekora (The Medoran Chronicles #3) by Lynette Noni

“I swear by the stars that you and the others slain tonight will be the first of many. Of that you have my word.”

With Aven Dalmarta now hiding in the shadows of Meya, Alex is desperate to save Jordan and keep the Rebel Prince from taking more lives.

Training day and night to master the enhanced immortal blood in her veins, Alex undertakes a dangerous Meyarin warrior trial that separates her from those she loves and leaves her stranded in a place where nothing is as it should be.

As friends become enemies and enemies become friends, Alex must decide who to trust as powerful new allies—and adversaries—push her towards a future of either light… or darkness.

One way or another, the world will change…

My Blurb

The future was a terrifying thing… But she did have a choice. 

Woah, a fantastic installment of The Medoran Chronicles especially since it’s got one of my fave bits in books (possible (view spoiler) – I won’t specify though it probably won’t be hard to find, I’m sure someone will have mentioned it somewhere). I’m just going to state some points of what I love in this book:

💗 New Mayeran character (a real toughie!)
💗 Different perspectives to some familiar characters
💗 Alex consistently being funny, kind, and generous
💗 Oh, that heartache!!!
💗 A very good conclusion to that problem from book 2

I don’t want to give anything away so this is oh so very vague. Despite the missing ‘romance’, Draekora will not disappoint you because all of the above points. It has fantastic setting with some literally awesome characters (*wink wink*) and great plotting. The best book in the series yet! I cannot wait for Graevale! *Is it February yet?*

About the author

Lynette Noni grew up on a farm in outback Australia until she moved to the beautiful Sunshine Coast and swapped her mud-stained boots for sand-splashed flip-flops. She has always been an avid reader and most of her childhood was spent lost in daydreams of far-off places and magical worlds. She was devastated when her Hogwarts letter didn’t arrive, but she consoled herself by looking inside every wardrobe she could find, and she’s still determined to find her way to Narnia one day. While waiting for that to happen, she creates her own fantasy worlds and enjoys spending time with the characters she meets along the way.

Find her on: goodreads  |  website  | twitter  | facebook  |  instagram

 

Review: Godblind by Anna Stephens

Godblind (The Godblind Trilogy #1) by Anna Stephens

For fans of Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch, and Mark Lawrence comes a brutal grimdark fantasy debut of dark gods and violent warriors.

The Mireces worship the bloodthirsty Red Gods. Exiled from Rilpor a thousand years ago, and left to suffer a harsh life in the cold mountains, a new Mireces king now plots an invasion of Rilpor’s thriving cities and fertile earth.

Dom Templeson is a Watcher, a civilian warrior guarding Rilpor’s border. He is also the most powerful seer in generations, plagued with visions and prophecies. His people are devoted followers of the god of light and life, but Dom harbors deep secrets, which threaten to be exposed when Rillirin, an escaped Mireces slave, stumbles broken and bleeding into his village.

Meanwhile, more and more of Rilpor’s most powerful figures are turning to the dark rituals and bloody sacrifices of the Red Gods, including the prince, who plots to wrest the throne from his dying father in the heart of the kingdom. Can Rillirin, with her inside knowledge of the Red Gods and her shocking ties to the Mireces King, help Rilpor win the coming war?

My Blurb

When I picked this book up, I thought it was a stand alone. When I got around halfway and things still did not progress to enable a satisfying ending in this book, I started to get a bit confused. It was around then that the Goodreads’ page was updated to reflect that this is the first book of a trilogy. I was rather upset…

Nevertheless, it was an interesting but very very dark book. It was also so very violent (I am thinking of one particular incident from which I literally winced & I think all males may just have run to the bathroom and vomit from imagining it only). So, yea, this author was certainly NOT shy! I haven’t read all the books in the world so I can’t say if it’s ever happened anywhere else or if any male author would have written such a scene. Can you tell that it’s totally shocked me?

The beginning was quite slow but then again there’s a new set of world being built. There were also quite a number of perspectives from a number of different locations. It wasn’t that easy to get into but a couple of the characters were easily likeable so that helps. When the battles begin, the rest of the book flew by in what felt like minutes.

If you like your fantasy dark and full of action, I’d recommend this first book of The Godblind Trilogy. It’s a brutal world filled with bloodthirsty power-grabbing villains with a vision to rule the world. I’m definitely keeping an eye out for the sequel (warning: a bit of a cliffhanger of an ending).

Thanks to HarperCollins Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

Anna Stephens works in corporate communications for an international law firm by day and writes by night, normally into the small hours, much to her husband’s dismay. Anna loves all things speculative, from books to film to TV, but if you disagree keep it to yourself as she’s a second Dan black belt in Shotokan Karate.

Godblind is Anna’s first novel.

Find her on: goodreads  |  website  | twitter  | facebook  |  instagram