To Kill a Kingdom – Alexandra Christo

37541225.jpgPrincess Lira is siren royalty, feared and revered throughout the ocean but living in the terrifying shadow of her mother, the Sea Queen. Prince Elain is heir to the golden throne of Midas, dedicating himself to hunting down the elusive Prince’s Bane – a siren known for stealing the hearts of princes all over the world. The pair’s paths cross when the Sea Queen curses Lira with humanity, banishing her from life in the sea until she returns with the heart of the great siren hunter.

To Kill a Kingdom is inspired by The Little Mermaid, which I didn’t realise until I started reading and picked up on all the similarities. The story is very different, but some aspects are clearly taken from The Little Mermaid (Lira’s red hair, the Sea Queen’s tentacles, Lira being turned human and losing her ‘song’, etc). This was actually a really exciting feature for me because, although fairy-tale inspired books are common, The Little Mermaid is quite a rare one.

The book is generally well-written, but I did struggle to picture one or two aspects. I found it really difficult to visualise the difference between sirens, mermaids and mermen, but I’m not too sure why. I’m not going to blame the author’s descriptions, because it could simply be that the image of mer-people is one so ingrained in my brain that I can’t visualise an alternative. However, this didn’t hinder my overall enjoyment of the story.

There are a lot of great characters. Lira and Elain are both decent enough protagonists, but the side characters really stole the show. Elain crew, especially Madrid and Kye, are fantastic and entertaining while even much smaller characters like Khalia play important roles within the plot.

It’s not perfect, but the excessive sassy banter that fills this book really makes up for it’s flaws. The flaws are minor and difficult to pick out; there’s just something about this book that stops it being a work of genius, but it’s a good read.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Empress of all Seasons – Emiko Jean

41435393.jpgIn this Japanese inspired fantasy, a competition is held every generation to find the next empress of Honoku. The winner will be the woman who survives all four seasonal rooms: Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. Al are eligible to compete, except Yokai – supernatural beings whom the emperor is determined to destroy. Mari is a Yokai with the ability to transform into a monster, and she has spent a lifetime training to become empress. As the competition progresses, Mari finds herself torn between duty and love.

Empress of All Seasons is a very strong YA fantasy. I absolutely loved that this is a standalone novel, not part of a series. Every YA fantasy I read seems to be part of a series these days and it was wonderful to be able to read a full, complete story in just one book for a change. It has potential to grow more stories in the same world with some of the same characters, but this particular story, at least, is finished.

I liked the concept of the seasonal rooms and the competition. It’s quite Hunger Games-esk, but the contestants only have to survive, rather than kill each other. I actually would have liked more of the book to have been focused on the competition instead of the wider rebellion.

My other favourite aspect of this book was that the Japanese features were so fully integrated into the story. I recently read another Asian-inspired fantasy – The Girl King – and was sorely disappointed by how western it actually was. In this book, the world is filled with words, creatures and scenery that are clearly inspired by Japanese culture. It was fantastic.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Skyward – Brandon Sanderson

37635562Spensa’s world has been under attack by an alien race called the Krell for hundreds of years. Humanity are forced to take to the skies in defence of their lives, sacrificing pilots and cadets in the name of survival. Spensa has always dreamed of being a pilot, but since her father turned coward and deserted his team years ago, she hasn’t been able to escape from under his shadow. Finally, the opportunity arises for her to go to flight school, where she learns much more than just how to fly…

I haven’t read very many fantasies set in space – I usually prefer dragons and elves and other land-based fantasies – but I did really enjoy this one. Most of the plot unfolds in the air, while Spensa is flying or learning to fly, so in a way it was very similar to Star Wars, but with more of a YA feel.

The character growth in this book is very good. I really didn’t take to Spensa to begin with. She was annoying, whiny and aggressive, while her quirky violent outbursts felt very fake when put together with how insecure she was. However, as the plot developed, she changed. She became more confident and more thoughtful and considerate of others, and considerably more likeable.

Characters that I did absolutely love were Doomslug and M-bot. I also really liked Spensa’s flight mates. They were a witty and diverse group and *slight spoiler alert* the many deaths in this book are very sad.

This was my first Sanderson, and I would definitely read more.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Slender Man – Anonymous

30653976Lauren Bailey has gone missing. Desperate to find her, Matt Barker logs into her iCloud and finds a hidden file containing photos of a mysterious figure in the shadows. And then the nightmares start…

The style of this book made it a very quick and engaging read, because the story is told through a variety of narrative devices, including journal entries, text messages, audio transcripts and newspaper reports – not your usual, straightforward narration. The unorthodox style was refreshing and made the book very easy to read.

My other favourite aspect of this book is the anonymous nature. Thanks to the style and the lack of author (and what actually happens in the plot) the story becomes very real and very possible in real life. Especially because it does take into account the fact that Slender Man was an online phenomenon, known to be invented and developed through fan sites and photoshop. The fakeness of Slender Man is commented on and pushed aside by the events that unfold in this story.

I haven’t read a horror this good in a very long time.

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Ravencry – Ed McDonald

36666672It’s been four years since the events of Blackwing when Nall’s Engline drove the Deep Kings back across the Misery, but all is still not well. A new power is rising: a ghostly apparition known as the Bright Lady has developed a fanatical following, and an object of great power is stolen from Crowfoot’s highly protected vault. Galharrow and his Blackwings must recover the object before it can be used, a mission which takes him deeper into the Misery than ever before.

Blackwing was an excellent, absorbing fantasy debut, and Ravencry is somehow even better. The story continues with one or two new characters as well as the wonderful ones we’ve already met.I loved following Galharrow again, he really is a brilliant main character and – after the loss of Ezabeth – he’s even more damaged and tormented than before. Luckily, this does absolutely nothing to make him weak or whiny. If anything, it makes him even more heroic.

The scene-setting and story-telling is exceptionally good. There is no extensive or excessive description of landscapes and events, and yet everything is super easy to picture. Another strong aspect is that there is no definitive ‘good’ vs ‘bad’. Apart from Galharrow who is the obvious hero, both sides of the fight seem to be relatively bad. Instead of working for anyone in particular (he’s under Crowfoot’s control, but is reluctant about it), Galharrow fights for the survival of his city and not a righteous ‘good’ side.

The story is emotional, funny, action-packed and addictive. It is a fantasy-adventure through and through, with some very dark, gritty elements. I am beyond excited for Crowfall.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Girl King – Mimi Yu

41832496Lu is destined to become Emperor when her father dies – to become the dynasty’s first female ruler – while Min, her sister, is resigned to a life in her shadow. Then, in a shocking betrayal, their father names their cousin, Set, as his heir instead. Lu is forced to go on the run to keep her life and fight for her birthright. During her escape, she meets Nokhai: a wolf shapeshifter and the last of his kind. Together, they set off to find an army to retake Lu’s throne. Meanwhile, Min is left behind with Set and his mysterious adviser, a monk named Brother, who is determined to awaken an ancient power hidden within her.

I enjoyed this book. It didn’t particularly stand out in any way, but it was a standard, enjoyable YA fantasy. It follows the same formula as many other YA novels, with your expected characters and tropes, but it was still good.

Lu and Nok’s story line was definitely the best part. Lu was a strong character, because she really developed. She started out feisty and stubborn (and kind of annoying), but as the story progressed she grew into someone more caring and determined. She wanted to get back what she felt she deserved, but she also wanted to make things better for other people as well. I also found Nok very likeable. His relationship with Lu was predictable and unremarkable but very sweet and I liked reading it.

Min, on the other hand, I didn’t like so much. She had so much potential to be a unique character and really make the book stand out from the rest, but instead she remained childish and pathetic even when she’d discovered her powers. She didn’t grow at all, all that happened to her was that she got some magic and had a tantrum. I didn’t particularly enjoy her story line, but it did provide a necessary break from Lu’s thread, which would have gotten kind of boring without the cuts to the palace to see how Min was getting on.

Another point of note is that this is supposed to be an Asian-inspired fantasy, which I’m sure will attract many readers. Unfortunately, other than the characters having Asian names and a few mentions of Asian-style clothing, there isn’t anything about the culture integrated into the plot. If you changed the names of the characters, the story would read exactly the same as any Western-based YA fantasy, which was kinda disappointing.

My overall view is that The Girl King isn’t a special or unique book, but it is enjoyable and I will certainly be reading the next book when it comes out.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Aphra’s Child – Lesley Glaister

41197734.jpgTula is a chimera: half human, half animal. She has lived her whole life hidden away in the forest with her mother, Aphra – the only other person she has ever met. That is, until marauders come and take Aphra away, leaving Tula scared and alone. In an attempt to find help, Tula sets off for the city; a place where she must hide her animal side and adapt to city life to avoid anyone finding out that she is an illegal chimera. Sucked into a world of harsh politics and lies, she must do all she can to not be discovered.

The story was a little slow to get started, which made it difficult to get into. It got more interesting towards the middle and did stick in my head after I’d finished, but I didn’t manage to get fully engaged in the story throughout the whole thing.

I liked the general idea behind the story. Depending on how you choose to read it, it is either a solid fantasy adventure about a chimera trying to find her place in a world that doesn’t seem to want her, or a social commentary on race reflecting our own society. I tend towards the former, because I read to escape, but it is worth noting that this is a book with potentially meaningful layers.

Lesley Glaister is an extremely talented author. She has a knack for writing about real-life issues within a diverting and engaging story. However, this is the first fantasy of hers that I’ve read and I didn’t rate it as highly as some of her other books. I’m a massive fan of fantasy, but I actually prefer Glaister’s less fantastical novels.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Twisted Tree – Rachel Burge

41581245Martha can read things about a person and their emotions just by touching their clothes. It’s an ability she’s had since she fell from the tree outside her grandmother’s cabin and became blind in one eye. Determined to find answers about her strange ability, Martha travels alone to visit her grandmother, Mormor, in Norway. However, when she arrives, she discovers that Mormor is dead, there is a strange boy squatting in her cabin and a deadly creature on the loose.

The Twisted Tree is a relatively short book – about 250 pages – and surprisingly slow for such a short story. The plot is very simple and takes a long time to get going. When it did, it was pretty eventful, but kind of dull for the first 100 pages at least.

I struggled with Martha. Her damaged eye is a big chip on her should (fair enough) but her bitterness and the way she kept bringing it up stopped her from being particularly likeable. Also, considering that she was facing death-by-demon-creature and being visited by ghosts, she managed to spend a shocking amount of time stressing over whether Stig fancied her or not. Get your priorities straight, girl.

I’m a big lover of mythology in general, so the Norse mythological aspects were very enjoyable. It was cool to read a story based on a part of the mythology that didn’t revolve around the gods.

Overall, I didn’t think The Twisted Tree was fantastic, but it’s short and entertaining enough to be worth the read.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Quanderhorn Xperimentations – Rob Grant & Andrew Marshall

39801235The Quanderhorn Xperimentations is completely bonkers and difficult to describe without sounding crazy, so I think the best course of action is to take the synopsis from Goodreads:

England, 1952.
Churchill is Prime Minister for the last time. Rationing is still in force. All music sounds like the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. People like living in 1952: it’s familiar and reassuring, and Britain knows its place in the world.
Few have noticed it’s been 1952 for the past 65 years.
Meet Professor Quanderhorn; a brilliant, maverick scientific genius who has absolutely no moral compass. With his Dangerous Giant Space Laser, High Rise Farm, Invisible Robot and Fleet of Monkey-driven Lorries, he’s not afraid to push the boundaries of science to their very limit.
Even when it’s clearly insane to keep pushing.
Despite the fact he’s saved the world from several Martian invasions, the attacks of the Mole People, the Troglodyte Shape-shifters and the Beatniks from Under the Sea, plus countless other sinister phenomena which threatened to rend the very fabric of reality, the Government would like to close him down. Why? Because they’re terrified of him. Of his reality-warping experiments, of the mysterious button on his desk which he’s constantly threatening to press. Of the unearthly secret locked in his cellar. And yet they’re even more terrified it might stop being 1952 and they’ll be out of power.

My favourite thing about this book is how completely bizarre and totally fantastic it is. Within the first few pages, Professor Quanderhorn’s team are attempting to stop a giant broccoli creature from destroying Big Ben, and it only gets madder from there. It is creative, unique science-fiction at it’s very best.

The plot is a little confusing and messy – the team jump from mission to mission without any kind of break in between, but it’s never boring or predictable. However, what really makes this book excellent are the characters: Brian Nylon, an unlikely hero with severe memory loss; the logical, semi-clockwork Dr Gemma Janussen; insect-brained Troy; and the Martian, Guuuurk. They’re the most incompetent, hilarious and lovable characters you’ve ever met.

I would recommend this book 100% to fans of Red Dwarf and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy… and anyone who loves a Martian death ray.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Moira Ashe: Kindred Spirits – Brendon Bertram

40898924.jpgHaving been exposed as a werewolf and forced to abandon her life in Quinn, Moira Ashe flees to Trident Bay in the hope of finding transport across the sea. Denied by every ship in the port, she turns to Caspian, the chieftain of Trident Bay, who enlists her help in defeating the legendary Terror of Trident Bay. Caught up in an uprising and a surprising romance, Moira’s plans to escape go awry and the risk of her identity being discovered increases.

I enjoyed this book immensely, as I did the first. It is short and sweet with an action-packed and fast story. As this is the second book in the Moira Ashe series, I would say it is important to read the first book: Enemy Within. They flow directly into each other and a lot of the plot and character development would be missed if you dove straight into book #2.

Surprisingly, in this one, there was somehow time for there to be a couple of dull parts. In such a short book, I didn’t know this was possible, but the parts where Moira was learning how to fight with an axe and, frankly, the romantic and sexual aspects were pretty boring.

Although I didn’t love the romantic angle of the story, I very much enjoyed the political plotline, with the peasant uprising and the secret committee meetings. They added an extra layer to the story on top of Moira’s general escape plan and fight against the Terror.

This is a great series, very fast-paced and quick to get through.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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