Ashes of the Sun by Django Wexler – Review

Cover - Ashes of the Sun

Published: July 21, 2020

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: Burningblade & Silvereye #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 592 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

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

Synopsis:

Long ago, a magical war destroyed an empire, and a new one was built in its ashes. But still the old grudges simmer, and two siblings will fight on opposite sides to save their world, in the start of Django Wexler’s new epic fantasy trilogy

Gyre hasn’t seen his beloved sister since their parents sold her to the mysterious Twilight Order. Now, twelve years after her disappearance, Gyre’s sole focus is revenge, and he’s willing to risk anything and anyone to claim enough power to destroy the Order.

Chasing rumors of a fabled city protecting a powerful artifact, Gyre comes face-to-face with his lost sister. But she isn’t who she once was. Trained to be a warrior, Maya wields magic for the Twilight Order’s cause. Standing on opposite sides of a looming civil war, the two siblings will learn that not even the ties of blood will keep them from splitting the world in two.


Ashes of the Sun is the start to a new series I’ve been very, very excited about. I’ve enjoyed Django Wexler’s YA series and what I’ve read of his completed adult fantasy series and this was so different! From the cover you would assume a certain degree of hacking through jungles and traipsing through the bones of lost cities… but that isn’t quite what it’s about. 

Maya and Gyre were separated at a young age when the Twilight Order swept Maya off to become one of their own and scarred Gyre for life. Gyre has been determined ever since to bring down the Order that broke his family and took his eye and this has led him to join a band of rebels and take the moniker Halfmask. Maya on the other hand has been travelling with her mentor Jaedia around the Dawn Republic settling disputes and rooting out dhakim and plaguespawn. A disturbing discovery sent Maya, Jaedia, and Jaedia’s other trainee Marn quickly back to the Order headquarters to share their findings. Maya soon goes out on her first mission along with a group of younger Order trainees  and the fun really begins.

Gyre and Maya have taken very different paths in life, however each is equally fascinating. It’s not often that I find books with multiple POVs where I like both (or all) equally. They both have good love interests, tons of action, and I love when the two FINALLY meet up again – you can’t help but to assume it will happen based on the trajectory of events. I love convergences of characters! 

The settings (when described in detail) are great! There are in fact derelict cities, but it seems that much of them are underground because they were inhabited by ghouls. Being sensitive to light, ghouls tunneled or hollowed out mountains like dwarves. The Dawn Republic cities were pretty awesome as well – one that was well described had something like an airship wreckage half-buried in the sand and was a hotspot for relic hunters. The cover teases these amazing locales, but honestly I could have used some more flowery descriptions to really bring things to life. The magic/technology is also pretty darn cool. The Order use more of an elemental magic and each person’s manifests a bit differently. Maya’s manifests as fire and her hakim (energy sword) has a burning blade (hence the moniker). Gyre and his band of rebels use tech or alchemicals since they don’t have access to magic and scour the tunnels hoping for ghoul relics from the past wars.

Overall, I found this to be an excellent start to a rich and promising new series from Django Wexler. I’m eager to see news of the sequel – fingers crossed for a 2021 release!! I loved the characters, the magic, the concepts, and the sense of weighty history that the whole story has woven throughout. This could be a new favorite!

The Loop by Jeremy Robert Johnson – Review

Cover- The Loop

Published: September 29, 2020

Publisher: Gallery/Saga Press

Series: Standalone

Genre: Horror

Pages: 320 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:

Stranger Things meets World War Z in this heart-racing conspiracy thriller as a lonely young woman teams up with a group of fellow outcasts to survive the night in a town overcome by a science experiment gone wrong.

Turner Falls is a small tourist town nestled in the hills of western Oregon, the kind of town you escape to for a vacation. When an inexplicable outbreak rapidly develops, this idyllic town becomes the epicenter of an epidemic of violence as the teenaged children of several executives from the local biotech firm become ill and aggressively murderous. Suddenly the town is on edge, and Lucy and her friends must do everything it takes just to fight through the night.


UMMM. This was absolutely WILD. I expected something out of the ordinary and on the periphery of my preferred genres but this was a punch to the senses! 

It begins with Lucy and her pal Bucket, who have banded together as sort of outcast minorities in their dinky Oregon town. Life in a small town sucks, yada-yada, and then one of their classmates gets his eye gouged out by another kid in the middle of class and their teacher ends up in a rather bad way when he tries to intervene. Is it bad meth or something else? 

Spoiler: it’s definitely something else. There’s a new company in town called IMTECH and they’ve done something to a bunch of  kids that makes them turn into murderous hive-mind monsters. It was pretty awesome and then it just kept getting weirder and I got less invested. It got to the point where I found it to be absurd and just kept reading because it made me laugh in a disturbed sort of way.

The characters were actually pretty great. Lucy and Bucket were wonderful and there was another semi-main character called Brewer who was actually pretty great and played a bit of a love interest role. The dialogue between them was great and there were surprisingly heartfelt moments amidst the horror.

Overall, this was an interesting read that certainly grabbed me and didn’t let go. I read it in just a couple sittings because I just had to know what happened next! Like I said, it was almost an absurdist horror that gave me so many WTF this is stupid/laughable moments but I still just kept reading!

Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – Review

Cover- Obsidio

Published: March 13, 2018

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Series: The Illuminae Files #3

Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult

Pages: 615 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopsis:

From bestselling author duo Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff comes the exciting finale in the trilogy that broke the mold and has been called “stylistically mesmerizing” and “out-of-this-world-awesome.”

Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik narrowly escaped with their lives from the attacks on Heimdall station and now find themselves crammed with 2,000 refugees on the container ship, Mao. With the jump station destroyed and their resources scarce, the only option is to return to Kerenza–but who knows what they’ll find seven months after the invasion? Meanwhile, Kady’s cousin, Asha, survived the initial BeiTech assault and has joined Kerenza’s ragtag underground resistance. When Rhys–an old flame from Asha’s past–reappears on Kerenza, the two find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict. With time running out, a final battle will be waged on land and in space, heros will fall, and hearts will be broken.


I may keep this review a little shorter since I’ve already covered so much of what I love about this series and it all carries over into this book as well. Fantastic characters, amazing audio performance, and glorious action sequences. 

This final installment brings Kady, Ezra, Hanna, Nik, and Ella (along with all the other minor characters) into the same place while back on Kerenza, Asha Grant is trying to survive the BeiTech occupation. The BeiTech force is using the remaining miners to gather resources to repair the Magellan jump platform so they can return home. Of course, once this is done they plan on killing all the remaining civilians on Kerenza in order to keep their secrets. Dead men tell no tales and all that. Asha’s life is stressful enough, but it’s made more complicated by the sudden presence of her ex-boyfriend. Who happens to be part of the occupation force. He’s the perfect inside man for the Kerenza resistance.

Asha’s drama is fascinating and horrifying all at once and to be honest, the events aboard the Mao are equally thus. Internal strife and overcrowding make the Mao a dangerous and stressful place to be. Oxygen and food are running short and the deadline to get back to Kerenza is nigh impossible under such duress. Decisions are made and people die. I was in awe at how dark this was at times. 

This whole series was the perfect high stakes sci-fi thriller with Obsidio being a stellar and heart pounding conclusion. I couldn’t get enough (obviously) and listened to audiobooks one after another because I just HAD TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED. It was unputdownable! Obsidio was an amazing read and the darkness in this installment was practically all human to human violence. No zombie-like monsters, no psychotropic aliens, just straight up human monstrosity. This is a series that will appeal to fans of YA and adult SFF alike. 

Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim – Review

Cover- Unravel the Dusk

Published: July 7, 2020

Publisher: Knopf

Series: The Blood of Stars #2

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Pages: 368 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:

The thrilling sequel to SPIN THE DAWN, a magical series steeped in Chinese culture.

Maia Tamarin’s journey to sew the dresses of the sun, the moon and the stars has taken a grievous toll. She returns to a kingdom on the brink of war. The boy she loves is gone, and she is forced to don the dress of the sun and assume the place of the emperor’s bride-to-be to keep the peace.

But the war raging around Maia is nothing compared to the battle within. Ever since she was touched by the demon Bandur, she has been changing . . . glancing in the mirror to see her own eyes glowing red, losing control of her magic, her body, her mind. It’s only a matter of time before Maia loses herself completely, but she will stop at nothing to find Edan, protect her family, and bring lasting peace to her country.

YA fantasy readers will love the sizzling forbidden romance, mystery, and intrigue of UNRAVEL THE DUSK.


 I’ve definitely gotten more critical of YA books over the years, but Spin the Dawn took me by surprise last year. It was enjoyable, unique yet familiar in theme, and had a good love interest that didn’t turn into a nasty love triangle. The ending left me quite excited for the release of Unravel the Dusk, where Maia Tamarin is slowly turning into a demon. 

In addition to Maia’s personal plight, her kingdom is on the brink of war with the very people they were trying to make peace with. This is certainly a much darker book than the first, though by far the most interesting part is Maia’s internal struggle with herself. Her humanity is unravelling and she’s become a danger to those who care for her. Yet somehow, she holds on to enough of herself to know she must help save her kingdom, otherwise her brother and father will suffer along with the countless others who live there. Edan is much less present in this installment than in Spin the Dawn, though he does show up. 

On to the plot!! Maia ends up taking the place of Lady Sarnai during her wedding to the Emperor after Sarnai suffers a close brush with death. This would be a tense situation to begin with, but Sarnai’s warlord father seems to be looking for any reason to declare war. Which obviously happens, so we end up with some harrowing battle sequences and Maia shows off her deadly magic. This is a battle between men, but the demons are the big players here and why Maia is so determined to hold on to her sense of self for as long as possible. She knows she’s her kingdom’s best chance at survival. Maia really gets to show off how strong and unyielding she truly is, having no male character to rush in and save her. It was really quite something and I liked that the ladies (not just Maia)  had a chance to truly shine.

Overall, I thought this was a well-wrought duology that ended at just the perfect place. The ending had me tearing up a bit, which not many books can manage… it was just quite good. This isn’t quite a five star, emotional roller coaster leaving me with ALL THE FEELS, but it was certainly moving.

Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw – Review

Cover- Winterwood

Published: November 5, 2019

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Pages: 323 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

Synopsis:

From New York Times bestselling author of The Wicked Deep comes a haunting romance perfect for fans of Practical Magic, where dark fairy tales and enchanted folklore collide after a boy, believed to be missing, emerges from the magical woods—and falls in love with the witch determined to unravel his secrets.

Be careful of the dark, dark wood…

Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even.

Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.

But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago.

For as long as there have been fairy tales, we have been warned to fear what lies within the dark, dark woods and in Winterwood, New York Times bestselling author Shea Ernshaw, shows us why.


I’m slowly making time to read the books I’ve received in subscription boxes in the last year and this is my latest read. Winterwood is beautifully atmospheric and it’s cold, wintery setting was the perfect counterbalance to the sweltering heat this time of year. 

This is the story of Nora Walker, who comes from a long line of magically inclined women, though she doesn’t seem to have the same level of talent. She can walk into the dark part of the forest, where she gathers lost things to sell in town or keep as her own. One fateful night she finds a boy, one who went missing weeks prior and somehow survived a blizzard. Oliver Hunstman has secrets of his own – what happened that night, when one boy died and another went missing? Is he a murderer? Did one of the other boys commit the crime? 

This was a great read that was easily finished up on a lazy weekend morning. Is it deep? Nah. But is sure was entertaining and I loved the setting. Those big mountain lakes, surrounded by dark pines, with a boys camp on one shore and a seasonal village on the other. It at once feels modern and old-world, probably because the power was out for the duration of the book. I liked Nora and some of the minor characters had a surprising amount of detail and weren’t necessarily either good or bad. 

Overall, I definitely enjoyed this, though I’m glad it’s a standalone. The story was wrapped up succinctly and if a sequel were to appear, I would avoid it. No need to stretch out a complete story. There were a few harrowing moments, a big twist that I sort of saw coming, and a bit of angst/pining. It’s described as a romance, but it’s not really that big of a part of the story. Sure, Nora and Oliver end up ogling each other but it wasn’t that important.

Driftwood by Marie Brennan – Review

Cover- Driftwood

Published: August 14, 2020

Publisher: Tachyon Publications

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 240 (Paperback)

My Rating: 3.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:

Who is Last?

Fame is rare in Driftwood- it’s hard to get famous if you don’t stick around long enough for people to know you. But many know the guide, Last, a one-blooded survivor who has seen his world end many lifetimes ago. For Driftwood is a strange place of slow apocalypses, where continents eventually crumble into mere neighborhoods, pulled inexorably towards the center in the Crush. Cultures clash, countries fall, and everything eventually disintegrates.

Within the Shreds, a rumor goes around that Last has died. Drifters come together to commemorate him. But who really was Last?

About Driftwood
Driftwood is the invention of bestselling author Marie Brennan. Mirroring the world that many people are currently living in, the Driftwood stories chronicle the struggles of survivors and outcasts to keep their worlds alive until everything changes, diminishes, and is destroyed. Driftwood is the first full-length novel in this world.


Marie Brennan’s work always deals with such fascinating concepts and Driftwood may be the most fascinating of all. The synopsis was all it took for me to rustle up a copy of the book and check it out for myself. I mean, who could possibly resist a book where fragments of countless ended worlds appear in what is called Driftwood, where they are inexorably drawn towards the Crush and they will be no more. 

Yes, the world building here is absolutely tantalizing and offers the opportunity for endless small and possibly even a few full length tales about the different world fragments, but the story is really about one called Last. He is the last of his race and his world was drawn into the Crush long ago. No one knows how old he is or what his world was called, though he sometimes helps those who seek him out for advice or assistance. Now he is thought to have died or at the very least, disappeared.

The story is a series of smaller tales, brought together by Last’s disappearance and the gathering of those who mourn (or seek) him. They tell tales of how he tried to save their world fragments, or assisted kingdoms or seekers of lost things. The tales were rich little nuggets of world building, but ultimately failed to satisfy me. I admit, I often have this issue with novellas or shorter length novels like this one so please take my assessment lightly. If you often enjoy shorter reads, you’ll probably think this is fantastic, as most others do.

The synopsis implies that there will be other tales set in this world, and I would very much like to give them a try. I think the concept is brilliant, and as I said before it’s ripe for more short stories or other forms of expansion.

The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty – Review

Cover- The Empire of GoldPublished: June 30, 2020

Publisher: HarperVoyager

Series: The Daevabad Trilogy #3

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 766 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

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

Synopsis:

“No series since George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire has quite captured both palace intrigue and the way that tribal infighting and war hurt the vulnerable the most.” —Paste Magazine

The final chapter in the bestselling, critically acclaimed Daevabad Trilogy, in which a con-woman and an idealistic djinn prince join forces to save a magical kingdom from a devastating civil war.

Daevabad has fallen.

After a brutal conquest stripped the city of its magic, Nahid leader Banu Manizheh and her resurrected commander, Dara, must try to repair their fraying alliance and stabilize a fractious, warring people.

But the bloodletting and loss of his beloved Nahri have unleashed the worst demons of Dara’s dark past. To vanquish them, he must face some ugly truths about his history and put himself at the mercy of those he once considered enemies.

Having narrowly escaped their murderous families and Daevabad’s deadly politics, Nahri and Ali, now safe in Cairo, face difficult choices of their own. While Nahri finds peace in the old rhythms and familiar comforts of her human home, she is haunted by the knowledge that the loved ones she left behind and the people who considered her a savior are at the mercy of a new tyrant. Ali, too, cannot help but look back, and is determined to return to rescue his city and the family that remains. Seeking support in his mother’s homeland, he discovers that his connection to the marid goes far deeper than expected and threatens not only his relationship with Nahri, but his very faith.

As peace grows more elusive and old players return, Nahri, Ali, and Dara come to understand that in order to remake the world, they may need to fight those they once loved . . . and take a stand for those they once hurt.


At last! The conclusion! I’ve been greatly looking forward to Empire of Gold since the previous book ended on such a wild cliff hanger. I mean, really – Daevabad’s fate was looking pretty bad, Nahri and Ali had just jumped into the cursed lake, and there were a few other important characters whose fates were questionable. Finally, my fears were laid to rest (or horribly, awfully confirmed).

The longer I sit here and think about what to write about this, the less I feel like I need to go into great detail because I’ve mentioned so many of the same things I want to say about this in my reviews for the first two books. Obviously I love the characters. It’s been wonderful to follow the growth and detailing of each character. Not all the growth, or perhaps I should say change, was for the better. Dara spiraled out of control and went from a character you sort of loved to one I pitied. His is nothing but a tale of tragedy. 

One of my favorite parts about this book was that we get to see even more of the broader Daeva world. Like Ali’s banishment in the previous book, certain events take us to new lands, where we meet new characters and have the most divine scenery described. For all you folks that think pretty scenery is just alright, there’s plenty of action too! This book is all about defeating Manizheh and retaking Daevabad from her clutches and obviously that’s going to take some force. Plenty of battle scenes for all you action-hungry readers!

Overall, this was a fantastic ending to a trilogy that quickly became a favorite from the first few pages. I do think there was a lot of dithering around in this installment and the pace definitely slowed down in some parts. I found myself wishing they would just hurry up and get to Daevabad and start swinging some swords or magic or something, but I liked how things played out and realize that sometimes I’m just impatient. Slow can be good. It can mean time to digest events and well, enjoy some of the new scenery. 

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer – Review

Cover- Artemis Fowl

Published: April 1, 2003

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Series: Artemis Fowl #1

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade(?)

Pages: 396 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopsis:

Twelve-year-old Artemis Fowl is a millionaire, a genius, and above all, a criminal mastermind. But even Artemis doesn’t know what he’s taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit. These aren’t the fairies of bedtime stories—they’re dangerous! Full of unexpected twists and turns, Artemis Fowl is a riveting, magical adventure.


After the Artemis Fowl movie was released on Disney+ I decided to do a quick refresh of what was one of my favorite childhood books before I watched the movie. I had probably read this book 5 or 6 times as a youngling and even so, the details were a little fuzzy. It was a quick read and I quickly remember why I loved it so much and marveled at how it leaned a little more YA than middle grade and how it probably shaped my taste in books.

I mean really, if you have kids aged 10 or older (and maybe even younger) who love to read this is a fantastic book. Heck, I loved it as a late twenty-something and found it had withstood the test of time ridiculously well. 

Artemis Fowl is a twelve year old criminal mastermind, set on starting his own criminal empire and restoring his family’s fading fortunes by stealing fairy gold. In order to do this, he must capture a fairy and do some serious negotiating. This is where LEPrecon captain Holly Short comes in. She’s the first female Lower Elements Police officer and she’s one of the recon members who wrangle fairies that have illegally gone top-side into the human world. It’s after a recon mission that she’s captured by Artemis and then the real fun begins. There’s a kleptomaniac dwarf and eats and then… expels… dirt/rock/other matter, a crazed troll, and a whole swarm of LEP officers that provide both tension and comedic relief. This is not to mention Domovoi Butler and his little sister Juliet who have trained for years so that they might protect the Fowl lineage. Both Butlers are master marksmen, trained in hand-to-hand combat, and numerous other martial skills and are quite likable despite their formidable skillset. 

The plot is quite good and is succinctly wrapped up in a single book. There are further books that (obviously) expand the story and bring in new and old characters alike, though I will admit that I thought the series went downhill after the third book and stopped reading after the fourth book. I must say, youngling me was still wise in the way of the series DNF. 

I will also note that while the movie kept certain elements of the plot, particularly those surrounding the Holly Short hostage situation, the writers/directors changed so many things that made this book so appealing to little me. I mean, a young criminal mastermind and his cool Russian bodyguard became a little boy trying to save his father by any means necessary and his bodyguard who was a big dude, but not quite as scary as book Butler. Also, they changed Commander Root from a raging, cigar smoking  old man fairy to the much less intimidating Judi Dench, thus also taking away Holly’s success at being the first female LEPrecon member. That being said, it was a cute movie and I still enjoyed it for what it was.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – Review

Cover- Illuminae

Published: October 20, 2015

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

Series: The Illuminae Files #1

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Pages: 602 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

Synopsis:

Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the worst thing she’d ever been through. That was before her planet was invaded. Now, with enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra are forced to fight their way onto one of the evacuating craft, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.
But the warship could be the least of their problems. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their biggest threat; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady plunges into a web of data hacking to get to the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: Ezra.
Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents–including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more–Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.


Honestly. Could this have been much cooler? I sort of avoid books that have huge amounts of hype until the hype is pretty well justified (and sometimes until the series is finished). Decided to finally check out Illuminae and just WOW. The hype was entirely justified and I loved every page of it! I highly recommend the audio format as well, because it’s a full cast performance, with sound effects and it just makes it 10x cooler than it probably is in print.

The story is told in a really interesting style – not exactly sure what to call it (epistolary?), but it’s a collection of documents, emails, transcribed video recordings, etc. It starts off on the planet Kerenza, where an illegal mining colony is attacked by a corporate competitor called BeiTech. Kady Grant and Ezra Mason have just broken up and now their day has just gotten unimaginably worse. They escape the planet with a few thousand other refugees and are now on the run from a BeiTech dreadnought that only wants to silence the few remaining witnesses. It’s a race to jump station Heimdall where they can hopefully find refuge and share their story but things just keep going wrong. BeiTech dropped a bioweapon that has infected people one one of the refugee ships and now there are raging space berserkers who only wish to kill running amok. And the AI AIDAN has gone mad. It’s just an all around bad situation.

Obviously the story is pretty non-stop just based on the details I’ve shared here. The characters are also pretty fascinating. Kady is on the path to become an extraordinary hacker and Ezra has quite the necessary hand-eye coordination to make a decent pilot so he’s drafted by the marines. They’re on separate ships and are still technically not a couple and so avoid each other for long weeks. When things begin getting a bit sketchy Kady reaches out and they begin to share info. And of course fall madly in love once again. There are tons of minor characters that really round things out, many of which you actually begin to feel for. 

This was truly a fantastic performance and I would love to see the event in a movie. It’s perfectly set up for adaptation and the writers would barely need a script. There was some cheesy dialogue, but hey, the main characters are a bunch of teenagers with raging hormones and a penchant for occasional poetry. I loved this SO MUCH and immediately picked up the sequel, Gemina which (as I type this) I have already finished.

The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh – Review

Cover- The Beautiful

Published: October 8, 2019

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Series: The Beautiful #1

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Pages: 448 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

Synopsis:

In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as La Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sébastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of La Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sébastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.

When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.

At once a sultry romance and a thrilling murder mystery, master storyteller Renée Ahdieh embarks on her most potent fantasy series yet: The Beautiful.


I received this in a book box I got last year and it’s been gathering dust since then waiting on me to have time to read it. Well, I finally made time because sometimes you just need a fun vampire book! It was entirely binge-able and I read it in a single sitting! It’s been a while since I’ve actually done that and I needed a nice break from some of the hefty books I’d been reading.

Okay folks – a lovely French girl running from her past arrives in New Orleans, ready to start anew and perhaps find a beau…. And then BAM, enter the bad boy. This is just so YA and I loved it. Celine Rousseau killed a man who tried to take advantage of her and she fled Paris. She’s a strong girl, a talented dressmaker, and she’s hopelessly unfit for the convent she’s staying at.  She quickly gets involved with a group called La Cour des Lions, or the Court of Lions when she’s commissioned for a dress. All the while, someone is stalking the streets murdering people and it seems to be a vampire with a grudge against the Court.

This is an interesting and beautifully atmospheric book and has given me serious inspiration for my Fantasy Feast post series. The food descriptions are luxurious and had me bookmarking recipes. In regard to the actual plot, well, it was fun but not incredibly deep. The serial killer aspect of this book had a great deal of potential but the murderer never felt like much of a threat until the last little bit. It will most certainly be a bigger focus in the next book and I hope it turns out well!

The sequel will be released in just over a week and I do plan to pick it up, mostly in hopes of more awesome food descriptions. Oh yeah, and that irresistible YA angst. Sometimes it just really hits the spot in terms of what I’m looking for in a book and The Beautiful had plenty of it.