ARC Review // Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

ARC Review // Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most cruel.

But this year, there’s a ninth girl. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.

In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it’s Lei they’re after–the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king’s consort. But Lei isn’t content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable–she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

TW: violence and sexual abuse.

Girls of Paper and Fire was one of my most highly anticipated releases of this year, so I was over the moon when I managed to snag an ARC of it at YALC. I’m happy to say that it did not disappoint and has quickly become a favourite of mine!

Girls is an Asian inspired fantasy that follows Lei, a human girl who lives in a world controlled by the Moon caste (anthropomorthised animals). Steel (humans with animal features) are also above Paper (human) castes, the lowest of all. Every year, eight Paper girls are chosen to serve as concubines to the Moon Caste king. This year, however, rumours of Lei’s golden eyes – never seen in a Paper caste before – have reached the King, and she is taken away from her family to be the ninth girl. What follows is a story of intrigue, justice and forbidden love.
Continue reading “ARC Review // Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan”

Review // Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones

Review // Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones

“Perhaps I loved the monstrous because I was a monster. Josef, the Goblin King, and me. We were grotesques in the world above, too different, too odd, too talented, too much. We were all too much.”
– S. Jae Jones, Shadowsong

“I can only live, either altogether with you or not at all.”
– Ludwig Van Beethoven, The Immortal Beloved Letters

Continue reading “Review // Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones”

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.”

Continue reading “Review // The Cruel Prince by Holly Black”

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 @

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Beauty and the Beast has never been my favourite story, but when I saw that this BATB retelling was set in medieval Russia and incorporated aspects of Ivan Tsarevitch, the Firebird and the Gray Wolf, it went straight onto my TBR list!

Hunted follows Yeva (nicknamed Beauty by her family), a young girl who’s a skilled hunter after training for years beside her father in the woods close to their village. Yeva has a comfortable life with her father and two sisters, spending most of her days accompanying the baronessa of the village with a group of other women. However, she grows tired of living up to the standards of high society, and longs to live in the woods and carry on hunting – and also to meet someone who will understand her unconventional ways and treat her as an equal with admirable skills, rather than a submissive woman. 

When Yeva’s father loses his fortune, her family is forced to move back to his small hunting cabin deep in the woods. This may seem like a blessing in disguise for Yeva, who is finally able to escape the confines of high society, until the day that her father goes missing after becoming convinced that there is a beast living in the forest chasing away his prey. Yeva is then forced to go deep into the woods to search for him. What follows becomes a merging of Beauty and the Beast alongside Ivan and the Firebird, mixed with multiple other Russian folktales that I’ve come to love over the years.
I generally have three problems with Beauty and the Beast, and thankfully, Hunted eradicates all of them. First off, the stockholm syndrome. Yeva gets to know the Beast and forms a bond with him before knowing that he is the one who imprisoned her, and once she finds out, she struggles with her fondness for her mysterious friend Ivan, and the beast who chained her up and who she believes hurt her father. There is also a conversation between Yeva and a friend of hers about abusive relationships – something which I’ve definitely never seen in a Beauty and the Beast retelling before, and which improved the story as a whole so much. Issues like this need to be addressed in these sort of stories, and I was so thankful that Meagan Spooner took the time to add this conversation into the book. 
Second, I’ve never really liked Belle/Beauty in these stories. Thankfully, Yeva was a much more interesting character – she’s a strong female character (and we can never have too many of those, in my opinion), she had depth, she was incredibly selfless and always put others before her (even those who hurt her), she was determined and she knew exactly what she wanted, and I really came to relate to her story. The author’s note at the back of Hunted points out that this is very much a coming of age story that the author herself feels relates to her own life, and I could also relate to so much of it, so Yeva really grew on me. 

Third, the sisters. I don’t think I’ve ever read or seen a version of Beauty and the Beast where Beauty’s sisters aren’t awful to her, but Yeva’s sisters, Lena and Asenka, are both wonderful characters in their own right and are always looking out for their younger sister. I really enjoyed both of their individual stories and would definitely read more about them. 
Fourth (I think) the Gaston character. We’ve all seen this guy be the typical douche (lets take Tamlin in ACOTAR, for example) but Yeva’s suitor, Solmir, is actually such a nice person and admires Yeva’s talent for hunting and tracking – he doesn’t treat her like she’s below him or expect her to be the typical wife figure, and constantly reassures her that he’d never impose any expectations on her if they were to marry. When she’s unsure about being with him, he doesn’t push her at all and promises to protect her family when she leaves the cabin to search for their father. There was honestly a small part of me that was shipping him with Yeva, he was just that lovely!
And finally, the ‘fall in love to break the spell’ trope. Without spoiling anything, I’m so happy to say that the Beast isn’t constantly trying to force Yeva to fall in love with him in order to break his curse. He believes that his curse has to be broken in other ways that require Yeva’s help – but I won’t say anything else on this as it’ll spoil too much of the plot! 
I have to say that the incorporation of Ivan Tsarevitch, the Firebird and the Gray Wolf worked so perfectly with this story, and the second half of this book is definitely more of a retelling of this folktale than of Beauty and the Beast. It was done in such a clever way, and I’m still in awe at the way that the author managed to weave the two together and set the result in medieval Russia so perfectly. I’m always on the lookout for new books inspired by Russian folklore, and I’m so glad that I came across Hunted.

love Becky @


Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza


“Was there really so much hatred in the universe, so much prejudice, even among people who claimed to be unbiased? Had this always been true?”


Honestly, Sci-Fi isn’t always my go-to genre; I have always been an avid Star Wars fan, but I tend to be quite wary of sci-fi novels as I really struggle to find ones that I can connect with, or that don’t info dump too much (in my opinion). However, when Empress of a Thousand Skies was announced, I jumped straight on the hype train along with everyone else. All I knew about this book was that it was a YA sci-fi, centered around a Princess set on vengeance, full of diverse characters, and I had high hopes for it. I’m happy to say that this book didn’t disappoint. 
Empress of a Thousand Skies switches between two POV’s – Princess Rhiannon Ta’an (Rhee), the last survivor of the Kalusian dynasty. Rhee is approaching her sixteenth birthday and coronation, but is determined to out her family’s murderer before she is crowned. The second POV character is Alyosha, a Wraetan refugee who has found fame in a DroneVision show, The Revolutionary Boys. When Rhee is attacked during her journey to her home planet a few days before her coronation is planned, the galaxy assumes her dead, and Alyosha is blamed – a scapegoat in a universe still full of prejudices against Wraetans. 

For me, what really made this book was the incredibly relevant social commentary. Alyosha struggles daily with being Wraetan and being famous – he feels as though his actions will reflect the actions of everyone from Wraeta, his home planet which was destroyed in the last war with Kalu. Despite the treaty between the Kalusians and the Wraetans following the war, tensions are still high between them both, and Alyosha is determined to prove the often racist and stereotypical opinions that the Kalusians have of the Wraetans wrong. However, when he is framed for Rhee’s murder, all of his carefully done hard work goes awry, and war flares back up across the galaxy. Alyosha also has an incredibly emotional backstory, focusing on his journey away from Wraeta before it’s destruction, and his feelings of displacement ever since. I felt as though Alyosha’s story particularly is so relevant to the world we’re currently living in, and it was easy to see the parallels despite him being from a completely fictional planet. 
Rhee’s side of the story is far more fast paced, and is much more of a coming of age story as she delves into the secrets surrounding the murder of her parents and sister, as well as coming to terms with the differing opinions of her being on the brink of taking the crown at such a young age. Both Rhee and Aly’s stories circle each other and join together in such a perfect way, making the overall plot of this book full of cliffhangers, surprise twists and heartbreaking scenes. 

I often struggle with world building in sci-fi novels, however the world building in Empress was both easy to follow and complex enough to flesh out the galaxy at the same time. Each of the characters visited multiple planets, moons etc throughout, which I thought really added to the overall plot – why stick to one planet when you have a whole galaxy in your reach? There was also a map and a little glossary at the front – two things which are bound to start a book off on the right foot!
If I were to have one criticism, it’d be that I would have liked more character development. I felt as though I could have connected to Rhee more than I did, and hopefully I’ll be more emotionally invested in her story in the second book. 
Overall, Empress is truly unlike any other sci-fi book I’ve ever read – it’s culturally relevant to our time, whilst remaining fast-paced enough to keep you interested, and is set across a whole galaxy that I can’t wait to see more of in the sequel. I’d definitely recommend this book! 
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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 @