Review // The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Review // The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

“I am going to keep on defying you. I am going to shame you with my defiance. You remind me that I am a mere mortal and you are a prince of Faerie. Well, let me remind you that means you have much to lose and I have nothing. You may win in the end, you may ensorcell me and hurt me and humiliate me, but I will make sure you lose everything I can take from you on the way down. I promise you this” —I throw his own words back at him—“this is the least of what I can do.”

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The Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag!

So this post was originally going to be a June wrap-up but after writing and rewriting the post about five times, I decided that I’m just not up to it. However, I managed to read thirteen books – eight physical and five eBooks (because I finally bought a Kobo!) I haven’t been tagged to do this but I’ve seen it all over Booktube and the wonderful Taryn’s blog so I thought I’d give it a shot anyway. 

1. THE BEST BOOK YOU’VE READ SO FAR IN 2017?
This was so difficult as I’ve hit the halfway mark with my reading challenge (50 out of 100 books!) so I’ve had to choose two. From the start of the year, my favourite has to be The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and my most recent favourite is Ragdoll by Daniel Cole. Both completely different – one a YA contemporary and the other a Crime Thriller but both have stayed with me to this day.

2. YOUR FAVOURITE SEQUEL OF 2017

Try and stop me using this book for the answer to every question though. This is the final book in the Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab and woah, didn’t it half end with a bang. This series has just been magical and diverse and funny and Lila and Rhy will forever be two of my favourite characters. I miss this world all the time! 
3. A NEW RELEASE YOU HAVEN’T READ BUT WANT TO


I have wanted this book from the second it was announced and now that it is finally out, I’ve got a TBR the size of a small child so I can’t get to it yet. However, it is getting amazing reviews so I may have to bump it up further. It is an incredibly diverse sci-fi novel which is exactly up my street so I encourage you guys to check it out too!


4. MOST ANTICIPATED RELEASE FOR THE SECOND HALF OF THE YEAR


Yes, I am SO excited for Warcross by Marie Lu and 27 Hours by Tristina Wright but I would be lying if I didn’t say this amazing book right here wasn’t what I was most excited for. Not only is this a Wonder Woman story but it’s also written by one of my all time favourite authors. There’s a 99.9% I had a heart attack when it was announced. It will be released on August 29th!



5. YOUR BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

A lot of books were a disappointment this year but I think you have to choose one that you had high hopes for and for me, it was Flame in the Mist. I didn’t watch a lot of Disney movies when I was younger but the one I loved above all else was Mulan and to hear this was a retelling made me so happy. Although the book wasn’t terrible, it has problems with cultural and historical inaccuracies and bi-erasure. 

6. BIGGEST SURPRISE OF THE YEAR


This was a surprise for me because the one genre I’ve never really read has been memoirs/non-fiction. However, I picked this up because of the blurb and the fact that it was being sold for very cheap in a local supermarket. When I finished this book, I probably cried for about ten minutes and immediately started researching other popular memoirs on Goodreads. It surprised me how much I was invested in a story that was real life and I also come away with a line that stays with me to this day – “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”



7. FAVE NEW TO YOU OR DEBUT AUTHOR

Ok, for this I’m going to choose Seanan McGuire who I discovered after reading Every Heart a Doorway. I just instantly fell in love with not just her twisted take on fairytales but also her imaginative and diverse writing. Definitely an author I’m going to keep up to date with.


8. YOUR NEW FICTIONAL CRUSH

I don’t really develop crushes on characters and if I do, I haven’t developed one this year but one of my newest loves is definitely Jessica from Not Your Sidekick. I just think she’s amazing and the hero of her own story and just somebody I’d want in my life so she’s getting this trophy. Sorry, Abby.

9. NEW FAVOURITE CHARACTER

 

I’m going to have to choose Molly from The Upside of Unrequited. She has just managed to stand out for me – she’s kind, very good at baking and is an avid fan of Pinterest. I think she’s just somebody you’d love to have as a friend. She’s written brilliantly, has amazing humour and is just a character I missed as soon as I finished the book.


10. A BOOK THAT MADE YOU CRY

I think 99.9% of people who read this book got tears. I’m not kidding. This book isn’t fun to read. It’s heavy and heartbreaking and be aware of triggers for pretty much everything – suicide, self-harm, abuse. There’s nothing ‘little’ about A Little Life so don’t go into this expecting a light-hearted read. 

11. A BOOK THAT MADE YOU HAPPY
This trilogy is bound to make anyone happy. It’s light-hearted, fun and just generally cute. Lara Jean is a likeable and relatable character, there is a strong family dynamic especially between the Song sisters and the story lines are typical coming-of-age issues. They are just books you can fly through in one sitting and just have your heart warmed by its contents.


12. FAVE BOOK TO MOVIE ADAPTATION YOU’VE SEEN THIS YEAR

I haven’t actually seen one? I’m not the hugest fan of book to movie adaptations anyway but there’s none I can think of this year.


13. FAVE BOOK POST PUBLISHED THIS YEAR
I’m super proud of a lot of posts we’ve made this year, especially our diverse recommendations but my favourite has to be our post featuring books with bisexual characters which you can find here. We’ve since posted a part II here.


14. MOST BEAUTIFUL BOOK YOU’VE BOUGHT/RECEIVED

So my initial choice would have been The Tiger’s Daughter because I fell in love with that cover art as soon as I saw it but I don’t technically own it as I read the ARC from Netgalley. So if I had to choose one I do own, I’d choose the Russian fairytale The Bear and the Nightingale. Like most books, this has different editions but each one manages to be stunning! 



15. WHAT ARE SOME BOOKS YOU NEED TO READ BEFORE THE END OF THE YEAR?


So, in reality, the answer to this question would be the entirety of my TBR which is, no exaggeration, the size of a fridge but these are the five that have already been released and that I want to get around to reading ASAP. I’ve got some fantasy, crime thriller, sci-fi and contemporary so I think this is a good mix.

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And that’s the tag. I tag everybody who reads this to do this tag, whether it’s on their blog or Youtube channel. Especially the bloggers who are just starting out! I’m happy with the way my reading is going this year – I have delved into the world of non-fiction and gone back to my favourite genre growing up which was crime fiction. Can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings in terms of reading!
Love Angharad @

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

“You’re a storyteller. Dream up something wild and improbable,” she pleaded. “Something beautiful and full of monsters.”

“Beautiful and full of monsters?”


“All the best stories are.” 


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I’ve been a huge fan of Laini Taylor ever since reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone all those years ago, so Strange the Dreamer was such a highly anticipated read for me. I’m so happy to say that it didn’t disappoint.
I’ve taken my time writing this review but, for those of you who haven’t read this book yet, I’ll be avoiding spoilers throughout this post!
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So, as always, Laini’s writing was absolutely magical; Strange the Dreamer truly felt like a fairytale, and I could almost taste and sense the beautiful descriptions being weaved throughout this story. I didn’t think it was possible, but I think Laini’s writing has improved so much since DOSAB – despite that being such a beautifully written trilogy, she’s somehow managed to grow within her writing and surpass it.
Although the story is fairly slow paced, the world building and character development means that this isn’t an issue in any way. I have to admit that Lazlo Strange is definitely one of my fictional crushes now – the gentle giant trope, his love of books, and just the general fact that overall, he is a dreamer – he was a perfect main character, and that’s coming from someone who often struggles to read novels with male main characters. Besides Lazlo, I adored all of the characters, and immediately fell in love with Sarai and her story. The way in which each characters path intertwines to connect each thread of the story together worked in the most perfect way, and although there weren’t necessarily any huge plot twists or surprises in my opinion, Strange the Dreamer had such a wonderfully woven plot and left me craving the sequel. 
Without giving away too much, I also loved how easily Strange the Dreamer could be linked to the world of DOSAB, in terms of its mythical and magical aspects, especially within the world building (although I’m not sure if this was purposeful). irregardless, I enjoyed forming the connections between the two stories.
Overall, Strange the Dreamer is a story of gods and monsters, of an orphaned librarian and a half-human girl with dreams that they can’t escape, of lost cities and lost histories, of long-standing prejudices spanning centuries, and of a dreamer who just wants to be the hero of the story, despite believing that he has no skill to ever achieve that goal. It brings together a strong social commentary on how grudges can be held against a group of people based purely on the actions of their predecessors and a simple overarching message to never give up your dream. If, deep down, you have a storytellers mind and a dreamer’s soul, this is the book for you.
love Becky @

Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

Nearly a year has passed since Amani and the rebels won their epic battle at Fahali. Amani has come into both her powers and her reputation as the Blue-Eyed Bandit, and the Rebel Prince’s message has spread across the desert – and some might say out of control. But when a surprise encounter turns into a brutal kidnapping, Amani finds herself betrayed in the cruelest manner possible.

Stripped of her powers and her identity, and torn from the man she loves, Amani must return to her desert-girl’s instinct for survival. For the Sultan’s palace is a dangerous one, and the harem is a viper’s nest of suspicion, fear and intrigue. Just the right place for a spy to thrive… But spying is a dangerous game, and when ghosts from Amani’s past emerge to haunt her, she begins to wonder if she can trust her own treacherous heart.


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Thank you to NetGalley for sending me an eArc of this book.

This is a spoiler-free review of Traitor to the Throne, however, it does include spoilers for Rebel of the Sands! 


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Traitor to the Throne is the highly anticipated sequel to Rebel of the Sands. Having loved the first book in this series when I first read it, I was quite excited for the release of the second book in this trilogy. However, I have to admit that I feel slightly let down by Traitor. 

I feel as though, in my opinion, the biggest let down in this book (compared to Rebel) was Amani’s drastic character change. I’m all for character growth and development, but that wasn’t what this was. After discovering her Demdji heritage in Rebel, Amani seems to now be completely reliant on her magic and brings it into absolutely everything in this book. I much preferred the gunslinging sharpshooter version of Amani from the first book. Traitor also seemed to bring a few plot holes to light – for example, at one point, Amani comments that she is unable to make a sarcastic comment (as, being a Demdji, she physically can’t lie) and “her tongue can’t tell the difference between sarcasm and lying”. However, Amani’s entire personality in Rebel was based around her sassiness and sarcasm? I don’t want to sound too picky so I won’t go into detail, but I noticed a few little things like this that just didn’t quite make sense to me when you take the first book into consideration. 

Now, I’ll stop slating Amani and move onto a big issue I had with the plot. Skip this section if you want to avoid very mild spoilers!
So basically, Amani spends the majority of this book inside the Sultan’s harem after being kidnapped and sold to him, as he is looking for a Demdji. She slowly manages to gain more of his trust, and there is a point where she starts to have clear doubts about Ahmed’s ability to rule and about the rebellion in general. However, these doubts are voiced by her and then just never dealt with again? Fair enough if it was just a moment of doubt and she didn’t take it too seriously, but I would have liked to have read how she worked through that. Plus, anyone who knows me knows that I am in no way going to support a tyrannical character, but apart from a few things, the Sultan didn’t seem too awful. Like, I’ve seen fictional dictators who are far more evil. Ahmed is barely in this book, but he’s pretty insufferable in the scenes he is in, and to be honest, he just isn’t that good a good leader. Why is Shazad not leading this rebellion? Yes, she’s not royalty, but surely rebellion is just slightly about overthrowing imperialism. Shazad would be a far better ruler than any of the men in this book. I’m rooting for #ShazadforSultan2018. Anyway.

I feel as though I’ve complained way too much in this review (I’m sorry) so here’s a few things that I did like:

  • The political intrigue – of course I like action, but a bit of intrigue is never a bad thing in my opinion!

  • Some of the new/reintroduced characters – I won’t say much as I don’t want to spoil anything, but there’s a wonderful example of a strong female character reintroduced in this book, and I would’ve loved for her to have been a bigger part of the plot

  • The little myths and legends inserted between chapters every now and then! Not only were they intriguing, but they were beautifully written and really helped to build the story. I think more of these in book three would go far. 

  • There’s very little romance – the plot is almost entirely focused on the plot, and therefore on the rebellion and politics. Although I don’t dislike Jin and Amani as a couple, and I didn’t really see the point in her basically being mad at him for almost this entire book, I was glad that the romance was put to one side for a while.

  • Shazad, Rahim and Sam. Three characters I really liked in this book and really hope will be around more in book three. 

  • The Sultan. I love a good grey-area villain; this guy is clearly in the wrong in some aspects, but you can’t fully disagree with his ideas, and he clearly has an interesting back story. 
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Traitor to the Throne is published on the 2nd February in the UK / 7th March in the US.

love Becky @



The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift – a precious jewel on a delicate chain, intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, Pytor hides the gift away and Vasya grows up a wild, willful girl, to the chagrin of her family. But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay.

The Bear and The Nightingale is a beautiful, fairytale-like story set around 14th Century Russia. Inspired by many Russian folklore tales, specifically the story of Morozko the Frost King, it follows the life of Vasya. It’s a story of family, the rising of orthodox Christianity in a pagan land that still worships household spirits, sacrifice, and wild untameable girls. The Bear and the Nightingale perfectly weaves fairytale into reality, incorporating traditional Slavic spirits – such as the household protective spirit, the domovoi – with harsh Russian winters and the day to day life of a family living by the forest in Northern Russia in the Middle Ages. 
A quick summary of the book – Vasya is born to Marina and Pyotr, and Marina predicts that Vasya will be different, as her mother was (a woman who many believed to be dabbling in witchcraft). Marina dies giving birth to Vasya, but pleas with Pyotr to protect her, telling him that she is special. The years pass, and Pyotr travels to Moscow to find a husband for his eldest daughter Olga, and a new wife for himself. When leaving the city, a stranger threatens Pyotr’s son, and in exchange for his life, bids Pyotr to give his youngest daughter (Vasya) a necklace embedded with a precious jewel. Pyotr is unwilling, and gives the necklace to the household maid, Dunya, to gift Vasya with. Dunya recognises the necklace for what it is – a gift from the Frost King Morozko – and pleads with him to let her keep the necklace safe until Vasya is grown. 
Meanwhile, the Priest Konstantin arrives in Vasya’s village. Anna, her stepmother, tells the Priest that she sees demons everywhere, and Konstantin makes it his mission to rid the village of their pagan ways. In turn, Vasya discovers that she must protect these demons – actually the Russian protective spirits of the household, horses etc – in order to protect her family. As Vasya grows into a young woman, Konstantin is constantly tempted by her, whilst at the same time believing her to be a witch. What follows is a battle against darker forces than either Vasya or Konstantin expected to be up against, in the dark Russian midwinter.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book – I’ve always been a huge fan of Russian folklore and modern day novels inspired by it, and this book introduced me to a traditional Russian tale that I haven’t come across before. Vasya was the perfect main character – she was elusive, brave and plucky, and as wild as the author made her out to be. In my opinion, the balance between mythology and reality was absolutely perfect; the two were expertly blended and neither felt as though it was overpowering the other. I enjoyed the relationship between Konstantin and Vasya – the way that he was drawn to her whilst at the same time almost repulsed by her, and the way she constantly felt the need to protect him even though she believed that he would cause the downfall of her village and her people. This was such a complex, magical book, and I would definitely recommend it, especially if you enjoy Russian mythology or similar slow-building fantasy novels (for example, Uprooted by Naomi Novik).

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love,


Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

Vassa in the Night, a retelling of the Russian folklore tale Vasilisa the Beautiful, tells the story of Vassa, a young girl living in an alternate Brooklyn that is plagued by dark magic. Residents of Vassa’s neighbourhood have noticed that, whilst the days last mere hours, the nights last for days – and this all started when the local convenience store,  BY’s, was open by Babs Yagg – a shopkeeper who has a tendency to behead thieves. When Vassa heads out to BY’s in need of lightbulbs, she finds herself tied up in a contract with Babs, and her life will be forfeit if she’s unable to work at the store for three nights without making any mistakes. However, Vassa has help – a magical wooden doll by the name of Erg, made for Vassa by her mother before she passed away. With Erg’s trickery, can Vassa survive three nights at BY’s, and maybe even break the curse upon her neighbourhood?

Bookmark from Behind the Pages

I’ve always been a huge fan of Russian-inspired fiction, so when I received Vassa in the Night in September’s Fairyloot box, I was over the moon! I had previously read the tale of Vasilisa the Beautiful, and I would recommend reading it if you’re planning on looking into this novel – if anything, it’ll help you understand what’s going on when the magic gets too much!

Overall, Vassa in the Night is quite a quirky, nonsensical book – but this is often the case with folklore, and definitely isn’t a negative. It reminded me a lot of one of my favourite books, Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente, but is written in a much more whimsical style to this. The book is very much written like a fairytale, what with the “things coming in threes” aspect, the overarching quest to save Brooklyn, the hero (Vassa) and the villain (Babs). There were also interludes which took place whilst Vassa was asleep, a little touch which I really liked – and these definitely complemented the plot. 

Vassa as a main character was interesting, but I didn’t fully connect with her. I liked her attitude and sarcasm, but would’ve liked to have got to know her a little bit better. I do feel as though Erg got in the way of this at points, as she could be a very irritating character at times. I sometimes struggle with magic realism as a genre, but it managed to (mostly) make complete sense in this book – it worked well, in any case. It stuck to both the original story and to Russian folklore in general really well, and I appreciated this as the Russian aspects were basically what made me want to read it in the first place. 



The only negatives I had with this book was that it could be a bit slow at times – considering that the majority of it is set in one location, this is bound to happen. I also did get a bit confused at some points, such as some sort of crazy fight scene towards the end (which confused me so much that I genuinely am not quite sure what happened). There was also a bit of a love interest at one point, which I just didn’t understand – it came from nowhere and had absolutely no build up or purpose.

I’m not entirely sure who to recommend this book to, just because it’s written in such a niche style, but if you’re interested in Russian mythology or magic realism, I would definitely recommend taking a look at it! 

Have you read Vassa in the Night? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments!

Love,

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

*Angharad’s thoughts* 
Recently, after many years of doing anything but, I finally got around to reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Why? Because after the announcement of Caraval, people instantly started comparing so I decided this was the best time to read them both and see for myself. I can easily say that for me, Caraval ticked all the boxes of magic, mystery and plot whereas (and I know I’m alone in this), The Night Circus just wasn’t for me. Both tell the story of a mysterious and magical circus/carnival but that’s where the similarities end. 

Caraval tells the story of Scarlett who has always lived on a tiny island with her sister, Tella and their ruthless father and became even worse after their mother’s disappearance. Scarlett’s life has already been planned for her, starting with an arranged marriage but from a young age, her wish has always been to see the legendary Caraval, an annual performance where the audience have the opportunity to participate. One night, just a few days before Scarlett’s wedding, an invitation to Caraval arrives and Tella manages to enlist the help of Julian, a mysterious sailor to take her and her sister to this magical event. Upon arrival, things turn sour as Caraval’s illustrious organiser, Legend, kidnaps Tella and thus begins Scarlett’s game with help of Julian, whether they wanted to play or not.

First and foremost, I’ll talk about the characters because for me, characters are the most important aspect of a story, even in one as elaborate at this. I did really enjoy Scarlett. I love how the story focused on her love for her story and her desperate need to rescue her. Although she started off being quite timid and apprehensive, it made sense because she feared her father and wanted to protect Tella. She grew a lot over the course of the book which takes place during five nights of the Caraval. Although there was a romance aspect, Scarlett never deviated away from finding her sister which can be the case in a lot of YA novels. Unfortunately for me, Julian (whose name I forgot an hour after finishing the book) didn’t stand out for me. He’s like a lot of YA love interests – seemingly arrogant but is actually really nice and has a lot of depth – and even with the mystery surrounding him during most of the book, he still didn’t manage to grab my attention. YET, their budding relationship did from the moment Julian first nicknamed Scarlett ‘Crimson.’ They got on and that’s something I always want in YA relationships. They laughed together and he he helped her even when he barely knew her. I’m excited to see where their relationship goes.

The plot is definitely the most exciting aspect of this book. Having it set over the course of five days made you anxious to find out what happened and if Scarlett would find her sister in time. There was a few twists and turns, a few moments that made you question the incentives of certain characters and also the added mystery as to Legend’s true identity. There were a lot of plot twists and even when you thought you had something figured out, something else would happen and I definitely think this was the strongest aspect of the book. Although it’s primarily a fantasy book, it has a lot of mystery weaved throughout it. I do wish we had seen more of Caraval, both the environment and maybe some other characters throughout. I think this could have happened as the trio arrive, rather than have Tella kidnapped straight away so nobody is thinking about the event itself. However, the epilogue gave us a very exciting cliffhanger which has made me extremely excited for the sequel. 

Overall, this book is a must-read. Although there are a few things I would have changed, this young-adult, fantasy novel still manages to grab your attention from the first page. Nothing is straightforward and this seemingly magical world is full of darkness. I hope we find out more about Caraval itself in the sequel, maybe its origins and past players. I’m excited for Scarlett after seeing her witness so much but also grow as a character throughout this novel and also her relationship with her younger sister. This is a solid foundation for the rest of the series and I can’t wait to see where it goes as Stephanie Garber definitely knows how to play with your mind as much as the game plays with the minds of the characters. 
*Becky’s thoughts*
There has been so much hype about Caraval, despite it not even being released until next year – and the hype is definitely deserved. Although I haven’t read The Night Circus, as Angharad said, this book has been compared to a more complex, magical version of it.

Caraval definitely is full of magic. Scarlett, the main character, has been entranced by Caraval all her life, and has been writing to Grand Master Legend of Caraval since she was a child. When we meet Scarlett, she’s been betrothed to a man she’s never met, and this is when she and her sister Tella receive their invitations to Caraval. 

I really liked Scarlett – she appears to be very timid and scared for a lot of the book, but with the way she was treated by her father and her determination to keep her younger sister safe from him, this is completely understandable, and I’m so glad that Stephanie Garber chose to portray her in an accurate way. I feel like if she’d immediately become more bold once leaving her home and escaping her father, this wouldn’t have been a true to life depiction, so I really am glad that she stayed cautiously brave in her own way. Scarlett’s personality at the beginning of the book also really helped to emphasise her growth throughout, which I loved following. I wasn’t too bothered about the romance in this book, however I do think it’ll be a more compelling one in the second book. 

Caraval was a very fast paced book, and I really didn’t want to put it down. There are five days of the event of Caraval, and so the book is laid out to complement this – each section of the book is called “First Evening of Caraval”, “Second Day of Caraval”, etc. As Scarlett has a countdown to find Tella after she’s been kidnapped, the book being laid out in this way really added to the suspense that’s created throughout the entire book. 


What I liked most about Caraval is, although that I’ve finished the book, I still feel very much in the dark. I had a lot of questions towards the beginning of the book, and very few of them were answered, meaning that I probably have even more questions now. Although Caraval was a great book in it’s own right, I do think that it’ll end up being a strong start to a series that just gets stronger and more exciting as it goes along.

This book is released on January 31st, 2017
Love,