An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

“You are like a living rose amongst wax flowers. We may last forever, but you bloom brighter and smell sweeter, and draw blood with your thorns.”

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I’ve been really excited for An Enchantment of Ravens for a long time, so when I managed to get an ARC in a twitter trade (thanks again, Kelly!) I was over the moon! This book pulled me right out of my reading slump and is literally the perfect autumnal read.

An Enchantment of Ravens follows Isobel, a portrait artist living in the town of Whimsy, whose citizens mostly serve faeries through their ‘craft’. Isobel is a master of her craft, and is renowned both throughout Whimsy and the faerie courts. However, when Rook, a prince of the autumn court, commissions Isobel to paint him, she makes one deadly mistake – Isobel sees mortal sorrow in Rooks eyes and adds this detail to his painting, a weakness which could cost him his reputation and his crown. Rook then sets off to take Isobel to the autumn court to stand trial for her mistake, but the path through the faerie courts is a dangerous one for mortals to tread.

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So first off, I have to say – I definitely thought I was over faerie books, at least, YA faerie books. An Enchantment of Ravens, however, is unlike any other faerie book I’ve ever read. Although it incorporates all of the usual faerie-lore, such as an aversion to iron, being unable to lie etc, it still managed to be so unique. The faeries of Isobel’s world are unable to create anything seen as human craft (which ranges from painting to cooking, and everything in between) and therefore, they crave it – hence Isobel’s high end clients of the faerie world. I’ve always been a fond artist, and so I loved that Isobel was a painter, and the details of her painting style, method, and even her favoured oil paint colours really are what made this book stand out to me. You really could tell that Margaret Rogerson had done her research when it came to Isobel’s art, as literally no detail from the pigments to the creation of each oil painting was missed out. The descriptions throughout were vivid and beautiful, and I found it incredibly easy to picture Isobel, Rook, and their journey from Whimsy through to the Autumn court.

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I’m not generally a fan of journey books, however, this managed to be a journey book without feeling too much like one for me to get tired of the theme. The majority of the journey focused on character and relationship development, rather than jumping from one path-blocker to the next, and again, this really made the overall story for me.

If I had to give one slight criticism, it’s that I think An Enchantment of Ravens certainly could have benefited from being a bit longer. I believe it’s just about 300 pages long, and I definitely could have read about Isobel and her story for another 200 pages or more! I connected with her as a main character instantly – besides immediately clicking with her love of art, Isobel was a smart, down to earth protagonist, and you all know how much I love strong female characters. The writing was also absolutely beautiful – I cannot stress enough how much each sentence within this book was just perfectly crafted. Unfortunately, I believe that this book is a standalone, however I can say with confidence that I’ll immediately pick up anything else that Margaret Rogerson writes.

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An Enchantment of Ravens is out today and I’d highly recommend that you add it to your autumn TBR!

(PS. we’ve also just released a candle inspired by An Enchantment of Ravens on Two Candle Thieves! Take a look here!)

Love Becky @

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Heartless by Marissa Meyer

                
Angharad’s thoughts:

I will admit that I had high hopes going into this novel despite never have read a book by Marissa Meyer before. I’m a huge fan of the Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass tale and to read not only a retelling, but a retelling of the series biggest villain sounded amazing. However, it fell short for me and I only ended up giving it three and a half stars. Here are my likes and dislikes –

Likes:
The character of Lady Catherine. It was so interesting reading an author’s interpretation of the Queen of Hearts before she became a ruthless villain. Meyer writes her as a sweet young girl, the daughter of a Marquess and aspiring baker. She is destined to marry the King of Hearts and become a respectable Queen (delving into the idea of female repression in this world) but all she wants is to open a bakery with her maid/friend, Mary Ann. You feel Cath’s desperation at trying to break free of the role forced upon her but it becomes a whole lot more complicated when she falls in love with the new Court Jester, otherwise known as Jest. I haven’t read any of Meyer’s other books but meeting Catherine has made me want to look into her other series. She is a dynamic character and develops massively along the course of the story. 
I loved Marissa’s writing, especially her descriptive text when it came to Cath’s baking. My mouth has never watered this much reading a book! She set the scene wonderfully, allowing us to feel Cath’s love for baking and how much passion she had for it. It makes you all the more desperate to see her succeed even though you know she doesn’t because, you know, the Queen of Hearts probably doesn’t frequent her kitchen. Too busy cutting off heads.
The romance. Okay, it was cliche but it’s a fairytale retelling, it’s going to be cheesy but it developed wonderfully. Catherine and Jest had fun together and protected each other. Even when Cath was courting the King, Jest had to learn to accept it, even going as far as helping the King write his love letters. Their moments were very cute together, especially one of their first moments in the garden after they meet for the first time. 
Raven. Okay, so Jest has a Raven on his shoulder where others would have a parrot but this Raven is based off of Edgar Allan Poe so he speaks primarily in rhyme. I love him. I loved the moment where a lot of panic was happening and Raven pronounced something that didn’t rhyme because he was panicking too. Probably one of my favourite characters in the entire story. Yes, a bird. Especially at the end! I also really enjoyed the character of Hatta. He was a very complex character and he had an interesting story to tell as we meet him at the first stages of his ‘madness.’ And yes, there is a tea party. 
+ I did like the ending but when I say the ending, I mean around the last ten pages. They were amazing! I won’t go into what happens but I just wish we could have had a little bit more because Catherine truly became the Queen of Hearts and everyone bows the hell down. 

Dislikes:
NOT ENOUGH FEMALE CHARACTERS OR DIVERSITY! Other than Cath, there were precious few female characters and if there were, they were poorly developed. The strong friendship between Cath and Mary Ann sours very quickly, Cath’s mother brings nothing to the table other than wanting her daughter to become Queen and another female at court only exists for Cath to dislike and for some Duke to fancy (and at this stage I can’t even remember her name.) It’s such a shame there wasn’t more, especially as Cath herself is a brilliant character. As for diversity, there was none that I was aware of so I can’t even go into that. It’s a retelling! You’re allowed to put your spin on things so spin us some diversity!!
I didn’t like the first half of the book. For me, it dragged incredibly. I’m all for books setting the scene and introducing us into its world but not for majority of the book and because of this, the second half had a lot of action, and although I loved the events of it, the ending felt a bit rushed. I mean, the entire first chapter of the book is dedicated to Cath baking some tarts and although I was hungry, I was bored. 
Becky’s thoughts:

I had quite a lot of thoughts about Heartless but no real ideas as to how I was going to put them into words. So, here’s a little list to make things easier for everyone:

Likes:
+ the character of Catherine.
I loved Cath! She was so authentic, determined and a breath of fresh air when it comes to YA protagonists. Cath is the daughter of a Marquess and therefore expected to be a Lady and be happy about the King taking a liking towards her, but all she wants to do is open a bakery with her best friend. The land of Hearts is incredibly sexist, and it seems that even if she weren’t a Lady, no one would approve of a woman opening a business, but Cath perseveres and doesn’t give up on her dream. This brings me onto my second point…

+ the cake descriptions.
When Cath is first introduced, she’s baking lemon tarts, and I’ve craved the things ever since. All of the descriptions of food are just so perfect, and frankly I’m going to go hunting for some cake right now just thinking about them.

+ the ending.
The last 70 or so pages were amazing! They took a really dark, exciting turn, and although they were tragic, I really enjoyed them. I won’t say anything more though as I don’t want to spoil anything!

+ the world building.
The book is set in Hearts, with the land of Chess, where the White Queen rules, being on the other side of the Looking-Glass. It’s completely Wonderland, but not the Wonderland that you already know. 

Dislikes:
+ the middle-ish section of the book.
I found the middle of the book to drag quite a bit and be quite boring. There was character development during this time, but I would’ve liked a bit more action within the plot as well.

+ most of the secondary characters.
I really liked Jest, Raven, and the Sisters, but apart from that, I couldn’t click with any of the other secondary characters. Cath’s family were awful to her, so were naturally meant to be disliked, but I didn’t think her friend Mary Ann was very well rounded either, and most of the rest of her acquaintances are dull or aren’t explained very well. 

(We’d like to thank Macmillan UK for sending us a proof copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

Love,

    A Court of Thorns and Roses – Sarah J. Maas


    “Be glad of your human heart, Feyre. Pity those who don’t feel anything at all.”

    A Court of Thorns and Roses is Sarah J. Maas’s retelling of Beauty and the Beast. The story follows Feyre, a young girl who is forced to hunt in order to keep her father and sisters alive. However, when Feyre kills a wolf that turns out to be a faerie, she is taken across the wall that divides the mortal lands and faerie lands to pay for her crime by spending the rest of her life in the Spring Court of Prythian, where she will face trials that she could never have anticipated.


    Angharad:
    Oh wow, this book was a roller coaster of a ride.

    I almost put the book down after 100 pages. It just did not hook me in any way and I found the huge information dumps about the fae world to just be monotonous. Although in its defence, I have never been a huge fan of fairy tales/stories. I was originally going to give this book 1 star but the last 100 pages saved it, in my opinion.


    Before the last few pages, I was reading purely for the sake of reading. I found Feyre’s time in the Court to be so uneventful that I nearly tore my hair out. Painting, eating, hunting, painting, eating, hunting and on and on and on. The occasional event happened but other than that, it was extremely boring.

    On to the romance side of things. The relationship between Feyre and Tamlin, in my opinion, was quite problematic (the whole bite thing. Her fault apparently??) but other than that, it was… there. They were basically like horny teenagers. The three characters I enjoyed the most were the side characters – Lucien, Rhysand and Nesta. 

    Basically, to cut a long story short, as soon as the trials began, so did the story. It’s such a shame that we had to wait until the end of the book for that. I’ll be in no rush to get the sequel.



    Becky:

    Well. What can I say about A Court of Thorns and Roses?
    I LOVED THIS BOOK.


    I haven’t found a fantasy novel that I literally couldn’t put down in a very long time (probably since I read Throne of Glass, to be honest) so I was so happy when I was immediately sucked into Feyre’s story. 


    I thought that Maas adapted the classic story of Beauty and the Beast enough so that it didn’t feel as though you knew exactly what was going to happen whilst reading, but at the same time the inspiration for the book still very much shone through. A Court of Thorns and Roses really is a fairytale through and through – from the events leading up to Feyre’s actions and the consequences of it, the way that the love story develops, the folklore elements, to the three trials at the end of the book. As always with Sarah J. Maas’s books, it was written beautifully and I thought that the world building was perfect – I really could imagine what both the locations and characters looked like whilst reading. 

    As for the characters, I loved Feyre from the beginning. The Hunger Games (as it did for many others, I imagine) ignited in me a love for girls who are good archers, and Feyre’s passion for art touched a soft spot too. As well as this, I loved that she had shouldered the task of keeping her family alive, despite being the youngest and not really being noticed or appreciated for all that she did for them. Her strength and bravery carries on throughout the book, when she willingly goes with Tamlin to Prythian in order to protect her family yet again, and when facing the three trials. 

    On to Tamlin – of course, I hated him to begin with, but as his and Feyre’s romance developed, he grew on me more. However, Rhysand is the faerie that truly has a place in my heart after reading this book. 
    I really enjoyed most of the other side characters as well, especially Lucien and Nesta (her development was perfect!) and Amarantha was an amazing antagonist. 

    I did feel like this would have worked really well as a standalone book, but at the same time I am so glad that it isn’t and I can’t wait for the sequel!

    I’d definitely recommend A Court of Thorns and Roses to all fantasy and fairytale lovers, and definitely to people who’ve loved the Throne of Glass series so far!



    Have you read A Court of Thorns and Roses? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!