The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison – Review

Cover- The Angel of the Crows

Published: June 23, 2020

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 448 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

A fantasy novel of alternate 1880s London, where killers stalk the night and the ultimate power is naming.

This is not the story you think it is. These are not the characters you think they are. This is not the book you are expecting.

In an alternate 1880s London, angels inhabit every public building, and vampires and werewolves walk the streets with human beings under a well-regulated truce. A fantastic utopia, except for a few things: Angels can Fall, and that Fall is like a nuclear bomb in both the physical and metaphysical worlds. And human beings remain human, with all their kindness and greed and passions and murderous intent.

Jack the Ripper stalks the streets of this London too. But this London has an Angel. The Angel of the Crows.


Friends. Countrymen. This is not the book you expected based on the amazing synopsis. I mean, the synopsis does say that, but fair warning. This is purely and simply, Sherlock wing-fic (fanfic but give a character wings). I was just as shocked as so many other reviewers seemed to be, but I wasn’t entirely disappointed. It was fun and catered to my love for the mystery solving, brilliant Sherlock Holmes and the ever loyal John Watson. 

To be clear, the characters are not called Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, but rather Crow and J.H. Doyle. Crow is an unusual sort of angel who doesn’t have a building to be guardian to the way the rest of his brethren do. He’s an anomaly and has managed to bend the rules and declares himself the Angel of London. J.H. Doyle (or Dr. Doyle) has rather traditionally been injured during the war in Afghanistan and his injuries have resulted in his return to London where he can’t afford a flat by himself. If you’re at all familiar with the BBC show or the books you’ll guess what happens next. They become fast friends, solve crimes, and have dangerous adventures but this time the author throws in a bunch of supernatural stuff and Jack the Ripper.

Crow and Doyle, while original in some aspects, are comfortingly familiar characters. The cases themselves are thematically on point with the stories as well, though they certainly have minor differences. It was similar enough that I could guess who the culprit would be at each turn. 

While I greatly enjoyed this book, I struggle to rate it because it’s literally Sherlock with supernatural bits and the supernatural parts themselves weren’t all that in depth. The whole angel thing for one could have been so much more detailed! Angels guard a building. If the building is destroyed, the angel usually becomes Nameless and they sort of float about in a drone type state until further notice. The Named angels can’t leave their buildings, but protect them and usually the inhabitants. Crow has managed to avoid this, though I won’t spoil how. Angels can Fall and become evil, but this is merely glossed over. So many of the potentially amazing supernatural elements were just vague. 

This was tremendously fun, but it certainly wasn’t what I expected from Katherine Arden’s latest book. Admittedly, I would hate to have to live up to reader’s expectations following her much loved and acclaimed The Goblin Emperor. If you like Sherlock and/or re-tellings of Doyle’s stories then you’ll more than likely enjoy this as well. Do note that Crow (our Sherlock) doesn’t so much do amazing deduction as what seem to be brilliant guesses. I think this is in part due to Dr. Doyle being the main POV. 

The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso – Review

Cover- The Obsidian Tower

Published: June 2, 2020

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: Rooks and Ruin #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 528 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

The mage-marked granddaughter of a ruler of Vaskandar, Ryx was destined for power and prestige at the top of Vaskandran society. But her magic is broken; all she can do is uncontrollably drain the life from everything she touches, and Vaskandar has no place for a mage with unusable powers.

Then, one night, two terrible accidents befall her: Ryx accidentally kills a visiting dignitary in self-defense, activating a mysterious magical artifact sealed in an ancient tower in the heart of her family’s castle.

Ryx flees, seeking a solution to her deadly magic. She falls in with a group of unlikely magical experts investigating the disturbance in Vaskandar—and Ryx realizes that her family is in danger and her domain is at stake. She and her new colleagues must return to the family stronghold to take control of the artifact that everyone wants to claim—before it destroys the world.


Having absolutely loved Melissa Caruso’s first series, it only made sense for me to be equally excited for news of a brand new series set in the same world. This is set a number of years after the events of the first series and many of the characters are new, but there are a few familiar names that pop up. Things have changed a great deal since Amalia Cornaro’s push for mage rights in the first series and readers do get to see this, though the series is set in Vaskandar and the main character is the granddaughter of the Lady of the Owls.

Ryx is mage marked and should really be at the pinnacle of Vaskandran society, but her magic is deadly to any who may come in contact with her. She serves her grandmother, the Lady of the Owls, but has no one she can really call friend except for one of the castle gargoyles. Part of her job is to ensure that no one enters the obsidian tower that lies at the heart of Gloamingard. Its purpose is unknown, only that it must not be opened by anyone under any circumstance. Of course, there wouldn’t be a story if some foolish and ambitious mage-marked didn’t force their way into it, unleashing unknown trouble. This foolish person was the beloved of the neighboring witch lord, and when she was killed he demanded vengeance for her death. Ryx is sent to find a group of magical experts that have a deployment nearby the castle in hopes that they can help with whatever may have been unleashed when the seals were breached.

Ryx was quite a likable character and it was easy to sympathize with her desire to just be normal. She wants to be useful, but she also wants friends and human contact without the fear of harming those she cares for. The Rookery (the magical experts) were a delightful bunch that found Ryx to be fascinating rather than terrifying and I quickly fell in love with the whole group of them. The less savory characters were just as delightful, but in an evil sort of way. The Shrike Lord, whose beloved entered the tower, was rather awful. Perhaps not quite as reprehensible as Lord Ruven from the first series, but manipulative and abusive for sure. His brother, while not necessarily entirely a good guy was quite a spicy addition to the book as well. 

Overall, this was a great intro to a new series in a much beloved setting. Looking back, I ended up rating the Tethered Mage 4 stars as well, so I’m hoping that the next book will really solidify my love for this new series in much the same way! The characters are compelling, the stakes are high, and boy oh boy, do I love those morally grey Vaskandran guys.

Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha – Review

Cover- Deal with the Devil

Published: July 28, 2020

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: Mercenary Librarians #1

Genre: Dystopian

Pages: 336 (Paperback)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

Deal with the Devil is Orphan Black meets the post-apocalyptic Avengers by USA Today and New York Times bestselling author duo Kit Rocha.

Nina is an information broker with a mission–she and her team of mercenary librarians use their knowledge to save the hopeless in a crumbling America.

Knox is the bitter, battle-weary captain of the Silver Devils. His squad of supersoldiers went AWOL to avoid slaughtering innocents, and now he’s fighting to survive.

They’re on a deadly collision course, and the passion that flares between them only makes it more dangerous. They could burn down the world, destroying each other in the process…

Or they could do the impossible: team up.

This is the first book in a near-future science fiction series with elements of romance.


Alrighty then, let’s talk about the new Mercenary Librarians series! First of all, if you want a book with tons of good looking characters who are all highly skilled at something go ahead and add it to your TBR. All the characters are either super hot super soldiers or stunningly gorgeous genetically altered babes. And they’re all soooo touchingly good at heart.

Despite my sarcasm, this was an incredibly entertaining book if you suspend disbelief and accept that this is like a cheesy tv drama. Also, there’s minimal librarian stuff going on here. I was expecting something like near-future Indiana Jones hunting down hidden information and dodging booby-traps. The only booby traps here are the trio of women hunting down the information. Hahahah…. Wow that was awful. I loved them though – they had an incredible bond of sisterhood and they were tough, smart, and always looked out for one another and their little corner of the community. The guys of the Silver Devils were all equally lovable and I just couldn’t help but to ship them!

Spoiler alert! Your ship dreams might come true because this does have a romantic element to go along with the action. It’s just as corny and touching as you might imagine and yeah, it was fantastic. I do think the romance took away from the plot toward the end because it seemed to become the central focus of the story. I was hoping for more data hunting danger but that was definitely not the focus in the latter half. It starts out that way… but then the two groups get together and become friendly and it turns rather character driven.

All in all, it was a fun book and I’m planning to pick up the sequel whenever it might be released. That being said, dial back those expectations if you’re expecting female Indiana Jones searching for hidden data caches because that’s mostly superficial in this installment. I do hope in the next book that the author really shows off the Mercenary Librarian vibe and balances the romance and action a bit better.

By Force Alone by Lavie Tidhar – Review

Cover- By Force Alone

Published: June 16, 2020

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 416 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 2.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

A retelling of Arthurian myth for the age of Brexit and Trump, from World Fantasy Award-winner Lavie Tidhar, By Force Alone.

Everyone thinks they know the story of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table.

The fact is they don’t know sh*t.

Arthur? An over-promoted gangster.
Merlin? An eldritch parasite.
Excalibur? A shady deal with a watery arms dealer.
Britain? A clogged sewer that Rome abandoned just as soon as it could.

A savage and cutting epic fantasy, equally poetic and profane, By Force Alone is at once a timely political satire, a magical adventure, and a subversive masterwork.


Have you ever come across a book that you just don’t know how to rate? Or one that was SO not what you expected? This is that book. I went in to this book with so much certainty that it would be that dry, British humor that I so love with a dash (or more) of glorious Monty Python. Well, let me tell you reader – IT WAS NONE OF THOSE THINGS. I mean, it’s described as political satire, but I feel like that strongly implies some humor. It wasn’t funny. AT ALL.

This is a host of supremely unlikable characters ranging from Uther Pendragon’s drunk, lecherous self to his power hungry thug of a son and everyone in between. Merlin and Guinevere were the most likable of the lot and that ain’t sayin’ much. It’s like the author thought to himself… what if we took every good trait these characters had in the original stories and just sort of threw it away and made them cold, greedy villains. Yes, I get that they’re power hungry and they give no heed in stepping on those who might lift them to the lofty heights of a throne just like politicians (and so many others) today. The metaphors are not lost on me. It doesn’t change the fact that I didn’t really care for it.

That being said, I also didn’t really want to put it down because it was also really, really weird. There is a portion that reminded me so much of the Misery in Ed McDonald’s Raven’s Mark series and it was one of my favorite sections of the book. It was so bizarre and out of place compared to the rest of the setting and I swear there were aliens. Like, what? It was mundane for so long, like yeah yeah… the Romans aren’t coming back, all the gutters are full of crap and rats and bums, and Arthur’s a thug with grandeur. And then WHAM, radiation and weirdness dude!  

Honestly, this is a really tough one to rate. I definitely didn’t like it but I’m also still rather peeved that it wasn’t funny, so I might be a little biased. It was well written, but it seemed to have these big jumps forward in the timeline and I also felt as if much of it was skimmed across. Like you were a mere observer of these pitiful ants trying to build a kingdom. Ultimately, this book wasn’t for me but it seems like many other early reviewers did enjoy it. If you want a dark version of Arthur where he isn’t noble (or doesn’t have the propaganda budget) then check it out. 

The Last Emperox by John Scalzi – Review

Cover- The Last Emperox

Published: April 14, 2020

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: The Interdependency #3

Genre: Science Fiction

Pages: 320 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

Synopsis:

The collapse of The Flow, the interstellar pathway between the planets of the Interdependency, has accelerated. Entire star systems—and billions of people—are becoming cut off from the rest of human civilization. This collapse was foretold through scientific prediction… and yet, even as the evidence is obvious and insurmountable, many still try to rationalize, delay and profit from, these final days of one of the greatest empires humanity has ever known.

Emperox Grayland II has finally wrested control of her empire from those who oppose her and who deny the reality of this collapse. But “control” is a slippery thing, and even as Grayland strives to save as many of her people from impoverished isolation, the forces opposing her rule will make a final, desperate push to topple her from her throne and power, by any means necessary. Grayland and her thinning list of allies must use every tool at their disposal to save themselves, and all of humanity. And yet it may not be enough.

Will Grayland become the savior of her civilization… or the last emperox to wear the crown?


This is a trilogy that I’ve absolutely loved. The characters are hilariously irreverent and John Scalzi has written these books so that they’re both humorous and serious at the same time. So serious. Because the world as we know it is collapsing one Flow stream at a time. Humanity is about to be cut off from one another and the time is growing shorter by the day. 

Anyway, I digress. The Last Emperox is the final installment in this trilogy and it certainly wraps things up in an interesting way. It was mostly satisfying but I almost wanted more? Like, I’m not quite sure how to put it. It wrapped things up and gave me a sense of closure but it was also rather open ended. That’s so contradictory! I give up!

I have loved the characters from the very first book and continued to love them here. Scalzi just likes to give em a figurative kick in the spleen periodically to keep readers on their toes. What will he do to your favorite character next? Maybe nothing? 

Honestly, I’m just blathering at this point.

The book was really entertaining and was a pretty good conclusion. To some degree I felt it rushed, but I also expect things like that from John Scalzi because it DOES keep you on your toes and everyone is fair game. he definitely takes moments that could be huge and emotional and pares them down to a brief paragraph. I can see myself re-reading this series when the going gets slow and I need something blatantly irreverent to get me through the week!

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix – Review

Cover- The Southern Book Club

Published: April 7, 2020

Publisher: Quirk Books

Series: Standalone

Genre: Horror

Pages: 404 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopsis:

Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meet Dracula in this Southern-flavored supernatural thriller set in the ’90s about a women’s book club that must protect its suburban community from a mysterious and handsome stranger who turns out to be a blood-sucking fiend.

Patricia Campbell had always planned for a big life, but after giving up her career as a nurse to marry an ambitious doctor and become a mother, Patricia’s life has never felt smaller. The days are long, her kids are ungrateful, her husband is distant, and her to-do list is never really done. The one thing she has to look forward to is her book club, a group of Charleston mothers united only by their love for true-crime and suspenseful fiction. In these meetings, they’re more likely to discuss the FBI’s recent siege of Waco as much as the ups and downs of marriage and motherhood.

But when an artistic and sensitive stranger moves into the neighborhood, the book club’s meetings turn into speculation about the newcomer. Patricia is initially attracted to him, but when some local children go missing, she starts to suspect the newcomer is involved. She begins her own investigation, assuming that he’s a Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. What she uncovers is far more terrifying, and soon she–and her book club–are the only people standing between the monster they’ve invited into their homes and their unsuspecting community.


I spent a couple months eagerly awaiting the release date of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires. It had such an exciting premise and I couldn’t wait to see a group of southern housewives go full on Buffy and slay a vampire menacing their neighborhood. That’s… sort of what I got. It certainly didn’t play out how I had expected, which isn’t entirely a bad thing. I like when books can surprise me and occasionally turn my expectations upside down in a good way. 

As you might have inferred from the synopsis (go you, you can hypothesize!) the main character of this book is Patricia Campbell and her group of southern housewife friends in the Mount Pleasant area of South Carolina. They have a monthly book club where they read true crime and talk about murder because let’s face it, sometimes you need to talk to someone your own age about something a little more engaging than what the kids are doing. Then the mysterious James Harris moves in down the street from Patricia and at first he seems charming, if a little strange. Then things start happening and his unusual characteristics make Patricia suspicious that, at the very least, he’s not who he says he is. Turns out he’s a blood sucking predator and Patricia seems to be the only one who can see that he’s a threat. Everyone else is convinced he’s a charming fellow and he’s invested so much into their businesses and personal lives that surely he can’t be a murderer.

This was a wild story – it went from mundane to horrific and back again that sometimes I nearly got whiplash. There were some horrific moments, which I wasn’t surprised by as this is listed as a horror story, but WOW they triggered some primal revulsion in me. I mean, RATS. EUUGHHH. This is more of a psychological horror than a slasher type book and honestly, the worst offenders were the husbands!! The real horror is how Patricia’s husband basically gaslit her and she just kind of figured that maybe she was crazy! They were all pretty awful and brushed of the concerns of their wives because they were a bunch of silly housewives, notwithstanding the fact that they were all intelligent women. James Harris was certainly a monster, but if they had banded together from the beginning and hadn’t cowed before their idiot husbands this would have been a much shorter book.

Overall, this was a good read if one that was somewhat infuriating. The psychological abuse Patricia received from her own family was so much worse to read about than the vampire terrorizing vulnerable children. It took me awhile to get through the audiobook, just because I kept getting mad and had to put it down for a little while. The narration was done very well and each character has a very unique (and southern) voice. Despite my frustrations with some of the characters, this was an engaging book that kept me guessing the entire time. I was never quite sure how things would turn out and things would de-escalate for just long enough to lull you… and then WHAM, MORE HORROR!

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman – Review

Cover- Thunderhead

Published: January 9, 2018

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Series: Arc of a Scythe #2

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian

Pages: 504 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopsis:

Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.

Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?


Thunderhead was quite the thrilling sequel to Scythe and it was certainly an entertaining read. I didn’t think it had quite the same impact on me that Scythe had, but it was memorable nonetheless and THAT CLIFFHANGER! I would have hated to have to wait a year to find out what happened!

Citra, now known as Scythe Anastasia, is doing her duty as an ordained scythe all the while trying to change Scythedom for the better from the inside. Rowan Damisch, who has been on the lam since the end of the previous book has taken matters of justice and change into his own hands. He’s dressed himself in black scythe robes (the forbidden color) and taken up the mantle of Scythe Lucifer and has been killing those who glean cruelly or inappropriately. He’s feared by the Scythe community and they seek him out to pay for his crimes. The Scythedom is corrupt and someone has to fix it before it crumbles on it’s own rotten foundations.

Scythe Anastasia plays a tremendous role in this book, while Rowan steps back somewhat as far as page time goes. Another POV by the name of Grayson Tolliver is introduced as well, who acts on behalf of the Thunderhead to investigate and interfere in the Scythedom. He was fairly likable, but I didn’t connect with him as much as the rest of the characters. There’s so much action, character development, and incredible plot twists/arcs! It was another book that was so hard to put down!

While I didn’t love this as completely as the first book, it was still a well-written story that deserves the praise. I can’t wait to start the third and final book to see how the series concludes!

Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst – Review

Cover- Race the Sands

Published: April 21, 2020

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 544 (Paperback)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

In this standalone fantasy, a pair of strong and determined women risk their lives battling injustice, corruption, and deadly enemies in their quest to become monster racing champions.

Life, death, and rebirth—in Becar, everyone knows that who you are in this life will determine what you are in your next life. The augurs can read your fate in your aura: hawk, heron, tortoise, jackal, human. Armed with that knowledge, you can change your destiny with the choices you make, both in this life and your next. But for the darkest individuals, there is no redemption: you come back as a kehok, a monster, and you will always be a kehok for the rest of time.

Unless you can win the Races.

As a professional trainer, Tamra was an elite kehok rider. Then a tragic accident on the track shattered her confidence, damaged her career, and left her nearly broke. Now Tamra needs the prize money to prevent the local temple from taking her daughter away from her, and that means she must once again find a winning kehok . . . and a rider willing to trust her.

Raia is desperate to get away from her domineering family and cruel fiancé. As a kehok rider, she could earn enough to buy her freedom. But she can’t become good enough to compete without a first-rate trainer.

Impressed by the inexperienced young woman’s determination, Tamra hires Raia and pairs her with a strange new kehok with the potential to win—if he can be tamed.

But in this sport, if you forget you’re riding on the back of a monster, you die. Tamra and Raia will work harder than they ever thought possible to win the deadly Becaran Races—and in the process, discover what makes this particular kehok so special.


I unexpectedly LOVED this book! I picked it up one Sunday morning just to pass the time and ended up finishing it that afternoon. I basically didn’t move for six hours because I desperately needed to know how it would end. 

Race the Sands is one of the rare standalone fantasy books in a sea of series. Sometimes it’s wonderful to know you’re about to read an entire story contained in a single book and you won’t have to wait for a sequel or end with a nasty cliff hanger. It’s set in the desert empire of Becar, where you’re reincarnated when you die and how you live your life determines your next form. The worst of the worst come back as kehoks, which are brute monsters, often chimera-like in nature. Some of them are captured and trained as mounts for the famed and deadly Becaran Races. The rider of the kehok will win fame and fortune and the winning kehok will win an amulet that will make them human in their next life. 

Tamra was a former champion kehok rider, but after an injury she can no longer ride and must instead train those who wish to ride. Or rather, she coddles the children of wealthy families so that they might gain some status. They’re certainly not cut out to ride the kehoks because they don’t have the will or mental fortitude. Tamra is given one last chance by her employer and she purchases a kehok whose form is that of a black scaled lion. Raia sees Tamra in the market and begs to be taken on as a trainee, so that she may ride and win her way free of her manipulative parents. So begins a desperate journey to train Raia and the kehok so that they might win the Becaran Races. There’s more to all of these characters than first meets the eye.

This was an absolutely wild ride, no pun intended and I loved every single page of it! I love when a story takes you by surprise and sweeps you off your feet – it’s not a feeling I have often, where I hate to put down a book for even a minute. The main characters were all fascinating, but the side characters were just as engaging. Tamara’s daughter was a delight, the augurs varied from honorable to awful, and the prince was a rather diverting POV as well. I really can’t think of a bad thing to say about this book, even after some time has passed and my enthusiasm has returned to a reasonable level. In short, you should definitely check this out!

Dragonslayer by Duncan M. Hamilton – Review

Cover- Dragonslayer

Published: July 2, 2019

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: Dragonslayer #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 304 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopsis:

In his magnificent, heroic, adventure fantasy, Dragonslayer, Duncan M. Hamilton debuts the first book in a fast-moving trilogy: a dangerous tale of lost magics, unlikely heroes, and reawakened dragons.

Once a member of the King’s personal guard, Guillot dal Villevauvais spends most days drinking and mourning his wife and child. He’s astonished—and wary—when the Prince Bishop orders him to find and destroy a dragon. He and the Prince Bishop have never exactly been friends and Gill left the capital in disgrace five years ago. So why him? And, more importantly, how is there a dragon to fight when the beasts were hunted to extinction centuries ago by the ancient Chevaliers of the Silver Circle?

On the way to the capitol city, Gill rescues Solène, a young barmaid, who is about to be burned as a witch. He believes her innocent…but she soon proves that she has plenty of raw, untrained power, a problem in this land, where magic is forbidden. Yet the Prince Bishop believes magic will be the key to both destroying the dragon and replacingthe young, untried King he pretends to serve with a more pliable figurehead.
Between Gill’s rusty swordsmanship and Solene’s unstable magic, what could go wrong?


If you’re looking for a traditional, “dragons are burning my village” style fantasy then you should probably check this out. This was a joyful return to a very traditional fantasy story with a little spin on it.

Guillot dal Villevauvais, though once the finest swordsman in the world and personal guard to the king, is now a drunken wastrel. Think fat Thor but in medieval clothes. Gill, as he’s called casually, has suffered through a series of unfortunate events from leaving the royal court in shame to the death of his wife and child and things aren’t getting better for him. Now he’s got a dragon at his doorstep and he’s been called back to the capital by the Prince Bishop. It seems like things just can’t get any worse. The other main POV in this book is that of Solène, who I also quickly grew to adore. She dreams of opening her own bakery one day, but when it’s discovered that she has magic she’s nearly burned at the stake. Only Gill’s timely arrival and sense of conscience saves her from becoming a human rotisserie. Once she arrives in the capital and is introduced to the Prince Bishop, she is quickly swept into his coterie. She’s a magical prodigy and the Prince Bishop wants her beholden to him.

This was such a great read, despite Gill’s tragic backstory and all the destruction associated with a dragon destroying the countryside. It’s full of political machinations, action, adventure, and good ol’ knights in shining armor. The characters were easy to love and even those who you might consider to be the bad guys aren’t totally detestable. It’s hopeful without being too much so and it has the feel of a grittier traditional fantasy story. Yes, it’s full of chivalry and honor, but it’s also got Gill about to keel over because he’s gotten chubby and out of shape after a decade of avoiding a sword. See – totally realistic.

*The audiobook narration was awesome and is the ONLY reason I could begin to pronounce Guillot dal Villevauvais.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman – Review

Cover- Scythe

Published: November 22, 2016

Publisher Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Series: Arc of a Scythe #1

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian

Pages: 435 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 5/0/5.0

Synopsis:

Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.


I’ve seen this book (actually the whole series) hyped for so long that I decided to pick up the copy I’ve had on my shelf for more than a year. The hype was well deserved – mostly because the hype was from readers and not so much the publisher like many YA books. This was the most brilliant and thought provoking book (young adult or otherwise) that I’ve read in awhile. 

As you may have gathered from the synopsis and title of the book, this book is set in a world where humanity has beaten death. Now people jump off of buildings for the adrenaline rush and are revived in a couple days and when they get old, they “turn the corner” and revert back to a younger age. What happens in a world where death isn’t natural anymore? The Scythes are the answer to this – they are carefully chosen from those who are supposed to be the best among humanity, who do not want to be scythes, and they are tasked to kill. A Scythe gleans people from their district of the world and this is the only permanent death (aside from a couple notable exceptions). They are above the law of the Thunderhead (an AI that runs the world) and answer only to the Scythes.

Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch both encounter Honourable Scythe Faraday on separate occasions and both are chosen to become his apprentice. He makes it clear that this is a competition and only one of them will be chosen to become a Scythe after a year of training. His training is intense and it’s as much moral/through training as it is physical training and surprisingly, the two remain cordial. Certain events transpire and Rowan and Citra are separated and trained by two different Scythes that have made their mark on the world. They are famous, even outside of the Scythedom and represent two very different schools of thought. This is where the story really gets gripping – how will these two mentors pit their students against one another? 

This was a brilliantly written story and one that will stick with me. It prompts the reader to think on morals and ethics while still being an entertaining read that could easily make a successful movie or tv series. It also prompted me to immediately purchase the next two books so I could satisfy my curiosity. If you’re looking for a finished series to binge read and you’re looking for a YA book that manages to subvert or avoid the most notable of tropes, maybe give this a read. There’s a good reason for such a high rating on Goodreads!