Hunted By The Sky by Tanaz Bhathena ARC Review

Hunted By The Sky by Tanaz BhathenaHunted By The Sky by Tanaz Bhathena (The Wrath Of Ambar #1)

Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux (Fierce Reads)

Release Date: June 23, 2020

Pages: 384

Available Through The Book Depository: Hunted By The Sky

Cover Design: Elizabeth Clark

Summary: Gul has spent her life running. She has a star-shaped birthmark on her arm, and in the kingdom of Ambar, girls with such birthmarks have been disappearing for years. Gul’s mark is what caused her parents’ murder at the hand of King Lohar’s ruthless soldiers and forced her into hiding to protect her own life. So when a group of rebel women called the Sisters of the Golden Lotus rescue her, take her in, and train her in warrior magic, Gul wants only one thing: revenge.

Cavas lives in the tenements, and he’s just about ready to sign his life over to the king’s army. His father is terminally ill, and Cavas will do anything to save him. But sparks fly when he meets a mysterious girl–Gul–in the capital’s bazaar, and as the chemistry between them undeniably grows, he becomes entangled in a mission of vengeance–and discovers a magic he never expected to find.

Dangerous circumstances have brought Gul and Cavas together at the king’s domain in Ambar Fort . . . a world with secrets deadlier than their own.

*Received ARC through Goodreads*

My Rating: ★★★☆☆ ¾

My Thoughts: Inspired by Medieval India and Persia, Hunted By The Sky is a novel that follows Gul, a girl who can wield powerful magic and Cavas, a palace stableboy who’s only looking to heal his ill father. Filled with intrigue, revenge, and romance, Bhathena’s fantasy debut is set in a vibrant world, brimming with magic!

Perhaps its because I recently finished watching all of Avatar, but the expansive feel of Ambar gave me major ATLA vibes! I feel this is the kind of fantasy that blends the subtle world building and underlying character development in a way that’ll appeal to people that liked the show.

This was a fantasy I was really looking forward to because, I’ve read a bit of the author’s contemporary books and adored her writing style, so I was interested in seeing how her style transitions to a fantasy setting. No doubt this is a novel that takes risks as it introduces many elements to its world and expand on them over the course of the novel. Its layered and detailed setting hint at more to come in future books.

A series debut that’s definitely gone under the radar, Hunted By The Sky revolves around Gul and Cavas, two people brought together each for their own reasons. Gul’s parents were killed by Sky Warriors (who were seeking the legendary Star Warrior) and so, she’s forced to flee until she finds a mysterious rebel group of women. They help her understand her magic and aid her in taking revenge on the kingdom that took her family away.

Cavas, whose lived among the palace for years only wants to help his ill father from a fever that’s taken a toll on him for years. The death of his mother has also left him feeling lost in the world. The 2 find themselves drawn together as Cavas is tasked with helping Gul into Ambar Fort where the ruthless King Lohar lives.

While told through a dual POV, I appreciated how they each have their own storylines and distinct journeys that allow them to question their world and role within it. Its a gradually unfolding narrative led by two compelling protagonists that have been hardened by the tragedies around them. This is very much an introspective and character-driven fantasy that while slow paced, feels so immersive.

There’s mentions of Pashu (animals with human-like qualities), choli and ghagra, and an abundance of food that bring a richness in detail to the world’s culture. Also in the author’s note, Bhathena mentions that she drew on her Persian and Indian heritage to create her own myths and you can really sense the wonder and creativity woven into the tales of different deities, magic system, stories, and more!

Cavas finds he can communicate with spirits around him and yet he is labeled as a non-magi. Gul is a fabled Star Warrior who will bring an end to a tyrannical ruler and yet, she cannot come to terms with the destiny unfolding at every turn. As a magi, she grew up with parents who had magic and she herself is a whisper, able to communicate with animals telepathically.

The magic system is divided between Magi and Non-Magi, which highlights clear class division and inequality. Those with magic are treated with better schools, living arrangements, etc. compared to those without and Bhathena’s development of this system was one of the strongest throughout the novel. There’s also lots of different magical abilities from truth seekers, whisperers, and much more. Its established that powers within each magus react differently depending on the person and you can sense that with the different magis we encounter.

Because Gul is more unfamiliar with the palace, she is brought in undercover in order to infiltrate and seek the perfect moment to take down the king. However, she has to gather her intel all while feeling the stares of the court and palace at every turn. The plot overall, was very unexpected and I loved being surprised at what happened next. Also, there’s lots of scenes where the characters are very much going day-to-day in the palace and while it gives more perspective and insight to the world and characters, it does make the intrigue of the palace falter because it slows the pacing.

As she becomes familiar with the surrounding buildings of Ambar Fort, the royal siblings like Malti, Prince Amar, and the 2 other princes, she’s still trying to better understand her abilities and grasp her duty as the Star Warrior. All the while, she tries to find time with Cavas in order to learn as much as she can.

What Bhathena does so well is weave together threads of the magic system, history, lore, and character arcs that make it so much fun to try and connect it all!

The writing is descriptive and the 1st person POV really allows you to delve deep into the head space of our main characters. However, when it comes to the actual structure of the writing I felt it could have better conveyed the magic woven throughout the story with a different style.

Themes of this novel are that of destiny and how one chooses to accept it and family because its a major motivator for our 2 protagonists as they grow along their journey. The atmosphere is intriguing / fantastical as we delve deeper into the politics of the world, palace, and the developing magic system.

Now onto more about my rating! No doubt, I’m definitely interested in continuing this series, because of the unique world and its cast (including: Sisters Of The Golden Lotus, the princes, Latif, & Major Shayla). However alongside the writing, I think the pacing really impacted my reading experience. It felt like the story took more than 1/2 way to pick up as a lot of page time was spent still establishing Gul and Cavas as they had yet to meet.

This is also something I noticed while reading that actually booktuber Marines from MyNameIsMarines mentions in one of her recent videos titled “Story Elements That Worked For Me In One Book, But Not The Other” and it got the exact feeling I had while reading this book. Although I love political intrigue in novels, I think with Hunted By The Sky in particular, it really didn’t work for me. Mainly due to the slow pacing and the intrigue/court politics feeling quite brief and yet also somewhat obvious, I felt there wasn’t much room to delve into the grey area of the characters morality. I think after watching Marines’s video, I may do a blog post comparing elements that did/didn’t work with certain books, because that was definitely the case here.

I truly believe though, this was more of the case of Hunted By The Sky not being for me personally (and that’s okay!). But I do have faith that the sequel unravel new mysteries and answers left by this first book! Because wow, the ending really picks up and leaves me wondering!!

Hunted By The Sky is a character-driven fantasy tale filled with romance, intrigue, and introduces readers to a unique world! Gul and Cavas propel this story in very interesting ways that weave together an intriguing magic system, expansive world, expansive cast of characters, and page-turning story! An immersive new fantasy series definitely worth reading!

I’ll also be shouting out fellow book blogger reviews today! 📚🎉

First, I recommend Krisha’s Review which delves into character motivations, themes, and more! We also had similar ratings and I enjoyed reading her review. However, I love that its a mostly positive one if that’s what your looking for alongside a 3 star rating.

Next I recommend Fanna’s Review which is a beautifully written post that delves deeper into the #OwnVoices aspects of the culture represented in the novel. There’s also lots of detail in Fanna’s review if your looking for a more in-depth look into specific aspects of the world/story! Overall, I recommend both of these reviews if your interested in reading OwnVoices (Indian and South-Asian bloggers) thoughts on it! ✨

Blog Tour: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust {Book Recommendations}

Girl Serpent Thorn by Melissa BashardoustGirl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Release Date: July 8, 2020

Pages: 336

Available Through The Book Depository: Girl Serpent Thorn

Summary: A captivating and utterly original fairy tale about a girl cursed to be poisonous to the touch, and who discovers what power might lie in such a curse…

There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

As part of today’s blog tour for Girl Serpent Thorn, I’ll be recommending some YA Sapphic fantasy books! Many of these I’ve read and adored, so the recommendations will definitely feature some underrated favorites that deserve more hype.

The Little Queen by Meia Geddes

The Little Queen by Meia Geddes

I read this charming novella back in 2017 and more people should read it! The Little Queen is unsure of whether she’s fit to rule. This leads her to embark on a journey across her kingdom making friends, learning more about the world, and to better understand who she is meant to be.

The magical/fantasy elements are presented in a quiet sort of way and the story overall reads like a timeless fairy tale. Out little queen finds friendship, love, and its such a delightful read.

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Words cannot describe the love I have for this book! It follows twins Lil and Kizzy who find themselves taken from their Traveller community and forced to work at a prince’s castle, but at its core its about the bond these sisters share despite the horrible situation that’s upon them, to take charge of their own destinies. The novel features Romani culture and underlying vampire lore.

Hargrave’s writing evokes the style of an old historical fairytale, while her stories center on the journey of young women seeking independence, while navigating friendship and family. The Deathless Girls however is a much different tale that is essentially a dark, gothic retelling of The Brides Of Dracula! Themes of love and sisterhood are woven into every page of this book, though at times it is heartbreaking.

Crier's War by Nina Varela

Crier’s War by Nina Varela

Ayla seeks vengeance against the automae, but finds herself falling in love with the heir Crier instead! The politics, intrigue, unique world, and poetic writing are just some of the many things I love about this book.

Its a story about vengeance, hope, revolution and the way Varela weaves those masterfully into the story just highlight how brilliantly the world is crafted! Crier and Ayla each have their own personal journeys that teach them so much about the world they thought they knew. They each have their secrets, but it also explores the ferocity of emotion and how that also influences the automae/human philosophy that’s established.

Shatter The Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells

Shatter The Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells

This is also a more quiet fantasy that follows Maren who essentially goes undercover and becomes an aromatory for the palace to figure out where her girlfriend was taken. Along the way she learns more about dragons, the world’s empire and much more on her quest of rescuing someone she loves! Its a character-driven story with a fun, unique plot.

Also, what makes this book incredible is how it really is a story about Maren who starts off as a reluctant hero, but as she learns more about the world around her there seems to be a transformation to her as a character too and I really appreciated that! Overall if your looking for a character-driven, YA fantasy adventure with dragons, I recommend this!

To conclude the tour, I wanted to recommend some upcoming 2020/2021 Sapphic fantasy books (YA & SFF) that you should have on your radar:

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart
Release Date:
September 8, 2020

Summary: In an empire controlled by bone shard magic, Lin, the former heir to the emperor will fight to reclaim her magic and her place on the throne. The Bone Shard Daughter marks the debut of a major new voice in epic fantasy.

The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.

Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.

Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright – and save her people.

Each Of Us A Desert by Mark Oshiro

Each Of Us A Desert by Mark Oshiro
Release Date:September 15, 2020

Summary: From the award-winning author Mark Oshiro comes a powerful fantasy novel about finding home and falling in love amidst the dangers of a desert where stories come to life.

Xochital is destined to wander the desert alone, speaking her troubled village’s stories into its arid winds. Her only companions are the blessed stars above and enimagic lines of poetry magically strewn across dusty dunes.

Her one desire: to share her heart with a kindred spirit.

One night, Xo’s wish is granted—in the form of Emilia, the cold and beautiful daughter of the town’s murderous mayor. But when the two set out on a magical journey across the desert, they find their hearts could be a match… if only they can survive the nightmare-like terrors that arise when the sun goes down.

These Feathered Flames by Alexandra Overy

These Feathered Flames by Alexandra Overy
Release Date: April 20, 2021

A queer #ownvoices retelling of “The Firebird,” a Russian folktale, by debut author Alexandra Overy.

When twin heirs are born in Tourin, their fates are decided at a young age. While Izaveta remained at court to learn the skills she’d need as the future queen, Asya was taken away to train with her aunt, the mysterious Firebird, who ensured magic remained balanced in the realm.

But before Asya’s training is completed, the ancient power blooms inside her, which can mean only one thing: the queen is dead, and a new ruler must be crowned.

As the princesses come to understand everything their roles entail, they’ll discover who they can trust, who they can love—and who killed their mother.

Hope you enjoyed checking out my Girl, Serpent, Thorn Blog Tour & thank you to the publisher! 📚🐍💗

Are you planning on reading Girl Serpent Thorn? Any Sapphic fantasy books you recommend?

Scavenge The Stars by Tara Sim Review

Scavenge The Stars by Tara SimScavenge The Stars by Tara Sim (Scavenge The Stars #1)

Publisher: Disney Hyperion 

Release Date: January 7, 2020

Pages: 327

Available Through The Book Depository or Bookshop

Cover Design: Marci Senders (designer) & Tom Corbett (photographer)

Summary: When Amaya rescues a mysterious stranger from drowning, she fears her rash actions have earned her a longer sentence on the debtor ship where she’s been held captive for years. Instead, the man she saved offers her unimaginable riches and a new identity, setting Amaya on a perilous course through the coastal city-state of Moray, where old-world opulence and desperate gamblers collide.

Amaya wants one thing: revenge against the man who ruined her family and stole the life she once had. But the more entangled she becomes in this game of deception—and as her path intertwines with the son of the man she’s plotting to bring down—the more she uncovers about the truth of her past. And the more she realizes she must trust no one…

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Scavenge The Stars is an intriguing tale of revenge! Amaya and Cayo traverse Moray, a tropical port city with an underbelly of corruption as they both seek vengeance in order to alleviate the pain of their pasts! Lush, immersive world building, a fast-paced plot, an all diverse/Queer cast, and wonderfully developed main characters makes Scavenge The Stars a highly entertaining and captivating read!

For years I’ve known about Tara Sim’s Timekeeper series, but I just have not taken the time to read it yet (hopefully I’ll get to it soon). Then, when I heard her newest series featured an epic revenge plot featuring stabby girls with knives, tropical cities, and much more, I knew I just had to pick up Scavenge!

I’m not sure how else to describe it, but this book was just SO good and lots of fun? And I feel like that’s what I needed right now. Also I will say its a YA Fantasy in the sense that it takes place in a secondary world, but there isn’t any magic!

Told through a dual POV we follow Amaya Chandra whose trapped on a debtors ship with other Water Bugs (children) controlled by the awful Captain Zhao. Then we have Cayo Mercado, son of a wealthy merchant whose recovering from a gambling addiction and trying to get back on his father’s good side (after losing quite a bit of money in the gambling dens of the Vice Sector and Slum King).

Sim layers so much development, incorporating vengeance into both Cayo and Amaya’s storylines, while also bringing a lot of character growth and this underlying hope for freedom that subtly weaves its way throughout the novel.

Amaya is almost through with her sentence aboard the Brackish and ready to see her mother again, after having spent so many years away from not only her family but also her home. But, when she saves a drowning man and risks increasing her stay, she knows there’s only one option…team up with this mysterious man named Boon and reap more wealth than she can possibly imagine, if she’s ready to enact vengeance along the way.

Amaya, now has to go undercover into the neutral city of Moray and take down wealthy merchant, Kamon Mercado.

As Cayo attempts to recover, his former lover/best friend Sebastian gets involved with Moray’s Slum King and he finds himself getting tangled back into its mysterious underbelly. As Ash Fever spreads across the city, he also has to grapple with the fact that his sister Soria has mysteriously caught it too.

Another important storyline of his journey involves his realization that he has to help keep his family afloat financially. So, as he begins to uncover more secrets about Moray and possibly his family, his entire world begins to slowly shatter.

What I feel is at the soul of Scavenge The Stars, among personal journeys of growth and reflecting on vengeance, it’s a book that heavily delves into themes of legacy and identity. Its something that I find, feels like is naturally interwoven into this story that Sim masterfully explores in this almost dual-sided city.

As Cayo and Amaya are so desperate to seek their own identities, they can’t help but be connected with the past deeds of their parents. They each grapple with understanding truths about their families and how they can overcome them despite feeling connected to that unsaid legacy. Alongside that link to a past they were never involved with, there’s another underlying truth that Sim presents and that’s how much the present is influenced by the past. The same can also be said for Romara who’s secretly trying to take over her father’s empire and destroy his legacy (FAMILIAL) in the process. I feel like these quotes from the book sum it up perfectly:

“…children are the victims of their parents’ crimes.” & “They had all been ravaged by the generation that came before them…” (154 / 195).

The world building is fantastic! From its first page, you could feel the cool sea air, navigate the double-sided nature of Moray, its tropical paradise of opulence and corruption. Traveling among the casino sectors and more historical 19th century atmosphere was just wonderfully detailed, rich with mythology, history and lavish estates, etc.

My only issue is that Moray is a neutral city caught between the Sun and Rain Empires. Although that itself is fascinating and leads to a lot of unique politics and intrigue, I still felt the empires (as important as they sounded) weren’t really developed all too much. We get descriptions of what they’d look like, but I never really felt that weight to how they’d impact Moray (unless it was briefly reminded to the reader). I wish there was more description/depth to the warring empires, because I did feel at a distance.

I also wish there was just a bit more description to Cayo and Amaya’s POVs to feel even more immersed in Moray.

Alongside legacy and identity, there’s also deeply explored themes of power, class, and the perils of revenge! These are delved into not only through the great world building, but mainly through Amaya who has to keep up with these various sides to herself (Silverfish, Amaya, and her role as Countess Yamaa) while still understanding who she wants to become now with her new-found freedom. There’s also this uncertainty and mystery as we learn more about her plan for vengeance will bring and what led her to the Brackish in the first place. Amaya begins to see what the price of vengeance truly brings the more she uncovers her past and tries to avenge herself and the other Water Bugs, which leaves her confronting many truths she was not expecting!

The characters are all wonderfully written and I enjoyed them all! Sebastian, Roach (Amaya’s ship mate), Romara, Kamon, etc. they all had their own personal journeys, development, and just came to life!

Also who doesn’t love a diverse cast? Cayo is bi and according to Sim from her twitter Amaya is demi! There’s Queer rep among almost all the side characters and features a non-white cast!

Now onto what lowered my rating. While I absolutely loved Cayo and Amaya as separate characters, I really wondered why there had to be a romance between them (Look I LOVE romance in YA, but this one just didn’t work― it surprised even me). They both stood incredibly well on their own and so when it came to their feelings it seemed like they thought more about each other than they were actually together (especially considering how they have few page moments together and its more reflection). It never felt like it needed a romance because there’s all these other things going on in their lives, I would have loved a bigger focus on their friendship.

Also just from personal expectations, I was hoping for just a bit more action and adventure! It focuses a lot on Cayo and Amaya doing their own investigating in Moray because of that, the intrigue and suspense of revenge is a bigger focus of the novel which does leave the action towards the more intense story moments.

Personal expectations aside, the book’s last couple chapters really leave you hooked and there’s where the action, suspense and reveals all finally come together. Its done SO well  and leaves many questions for what’ll happen in the sequel!

I’d really been looking forward to reading Sim’s books and I’m thrilled to have finally picked this one up! Looking forward to seeing where Cayo and Amaya’s adventure is headed next!

  Scavenge The Stars is a glimmering, high stakes story of revenge and a great start to a new series! Sim’s gender-bent Monte Critso retelling presents a great cast of characters, an intriguing world, and an immersive tale that will leave you wondering what else there is to explore in the captivating city of Moray! ⚔✨

↠ There was also recently a cover reveal for RAVAGE THE DARK (book 2)…if you loved stabby girls with knives like on this cover, the sequel cover is even more epic! 😍💞🗡

Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 4 by Kamome Shirahama {Manga Review}

Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 4 by Kamome ShirahamaWitch Hat Atelier Vol. 4 by Kamome Shirahama (Witch Hat Atelier #4)

Publisher: Kodansha Comics

Release Date: November 12, 2019

Pages: 192

Available Through The Book Depository: Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 4

Summary: The ruin of an ancient nation’s pride is stage for three apprentices to prove how deftly their concealment abides, for stealth and honor both a witch behoove. But Richeh bridles  at the test’s constraint, preferring magic of her own design, and Euini finds expectations faint, a student by his master oft maligned. In prying from despair a shadowed grace, now Euini has seized a slender hope, but triumph with creeping dread replaced as from the dark a fearsome evil gropes. Forbidden magic’s nightmares come afresh in shadow-shrouded horror freed from flesh.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Witch Hat Atelier Volume 4 delves a little more into the world of the series! Agott, Richeh, and newcomer Euini attempt to complete their next trial, while Qifrey delves into a history lesson for Coco and Tetia. However, a mysterious force may be lingering to cause chaos on Cape Romonon! This fourth volume delves more into the mysterious Brimmed Caps, while also exploring prominent themes and messages!

Before getting into my review, I’d been thinking not too long ago how it’d been a while since I’d read this series and how much I’ve really missed it. No matter what I can always count on Shirahama’s whimsical, magical series to immerse me in a fun, witchy adventure that’s also filled with hope & wonder! Its comforting and feels like home! If you’ve read any of the other Witch Hat manga, has it felt that way for you? Definitely let me know in the comments! I think its just how the author is so brilliant at storytelling that even if it takes a darker turn, I’m always excited to be back with Coco, Qifrey, the other witches, and their latest adventure! ♥♥

As soon as this volume opened up with Agott talking about the Scalewolves (in a rather figurative way), I knew Vol. 4 would be one of the more symbolic and metaphorical books of the series!

As Agott examines one of the wolves scales, she says: “If they didn’t feel the need to form pairs, they could keep their armor on all the time.” That quote told me exactly what I needed to know about Agott. Though its pretty obvious each of the girls longs for deeper connections with their fellow atelier witches, this volume took the chance to delve more into the psyche of 2 witches in particular! Not only Agott, who comes from a prominent house but also Richeh, who has secrets of her own that we learn a bit more about in this volume!

As shown with the previous books, each one takes time to delve into a specific character’s journey and this time its Richeh. She’s a serious girl who can conjure crystal ribbons and longs to show she doesn’t need to copy/paste spells to prove her worth. She wants something she can call her own.

However, in order to show her the skills she’s potentially missing out on, Qifrey signs her up alongside Agott in the “Sincerity of the Shield” test, which takes place on the ocean side valleys of Cape Romonon, more specifically in the Serpentback Cave.

Led by senior witch and friend of Qifrey’s Alaria, she proctors Agott, Richeh and Euini’s test to safely lead myrphons through the serpent-shaped road towards the cliffs on the opposite side of the cape. However, the catch is they have to use special cloaks to disguise themselves as a myrphon to lead them to breeding grounds.

The world-building as with all previous volumes has been fantastic! With this one though, its definitely more specified to the location of the story which made it feel much more contained, but I enjoyed that! We learn about the history tied to the Serpentback cave, Myrphons which are penguin-like birds, and early in the volume I loved learning about the Scalewolves too!

Its very much a test of knowledge, skill and applying all of those things well under pressure.

That theme is very much explored through Euini! I’ll be honest, based on his design I thought he was going to be a more serious, no-nonsense kind of kid, I’m glad my theory was wrong! In reality he suffers from anxiety and struggles to find the confidence within himself, thus leading him to over plan and later collapse under pressure (this plot thread broke my heart, there were moments I related to his inner thoughts and felt for him).

His master, Kukrow, is very much an absentee type of mentor and never really supports Euini in the way that he should, even as he’s prepping to take his test for the third time. Their dynamic was surprising, but definitely added a different layer as it contrasted the more comforting witch & apprentice dynamic with Qifrey and the girls!

Back with Qifrey, he delves into the history of the Cavern Nation Of Romonon which soon fell under the weight of its ignorance. But the only thing that remained, was the serpent road. This was one of my favorite sections because although they mostly stay in 1 location for most of the volume, there’s so much detail and importance to the setting. You can sense the wind blowing through the cliffs, the expansiveness of the cave, and the emptiness of what’s been left behind.

With this volume in particular, I also loved how it highlighted the difference between Coco’s enthusiasm vs. Richeh, even Agott and their struggles to hold onto that child-like wonder again, its a nice juxtaposition that was more obvious in this book, but it was a nice plot thread!

Also, let me just say that you can really see their friendship starting to grow with Coco, especially Agott, she was phenomenal in this volume! When confronted with the Brimmed Cap, she doesn’t waste a second to defend Coco and back outside, Qifrey tells Coco that Agott’s held onto her spelled shoes that she made during one the earlier volumes! ❤

There were also such prominent themes to this volume such as learning from the past, but more especially from failure, even the struggles that come with doing that! That’s a message that I feel isn’t often explored much in fiction, but  Euini’s arc explored it in such an inspiring way!

Euini was so wonderful and I just want him to be a happy, anxiety-free apprentice after what he went through in this volume!

Shirahama explores anxiety and confidence subtly through this journey in the cave with the girls and I loved how Euini really grew throughout the exam (learning there’s more than 1 way to do things, never giving up, finding the confidence within yourself and avoiding that negative voice in your head). Also, his friendship/foil to Richeh was so wonderful and I can’t wait to see where its headed in future volumes!

The writing in volume 4 was easily one of the more symbolic and allegorical of the series so far, in my opinion! From Euini’s fate at the end, the history of the cave, even delving into Richeh & Agott’s inner thoughts. There were so many inspiring quotes I wrote down while reading this volume, it kind of brought me back to how I did the same thing during Volume 1. I also felt storytelling wise, it came full circle from beginning to end, making this a really self-contained volume like Vol. 3 and it was beautifully done!

The Brimmed Cap makes more of an appearance and there’s definitely more secrecy around who they actually are, but their desire to unleash more forbidden magic is getting very interesting! I need to know more!

Witch Hat Atelier has some phenomenal artwork and the paneling is presented in an even more dynamic way with this volume that showcases Shirahama’s brilliance with storytelling (especially through action scenes), there’s more horizontal panels that really show the scope and depth of the cave/cliff setting. There’s one particular full-page spread of the serpent cave (56-57) which really immerses you into the location. There’s detailed lines during the action scenes, so they really bring to life and capture the moments within the actions themselves. Also, its tough to explain but the way the paneling was presented in this volume really did the story justice–not one panel felt underused or out of place, Shirahama is brilliant when it comes to artwork.

Though I’ve rated all the past volumes 5 stars, I think Volume 4 for me personally felt a little slower than previous ones! However, I will say that this is such a plot/character-driven volume that never has a single dull moment! I think it just boils down to how I felt the story progressed for me personally…but I still loved it!

Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 4 is just as captivating as previous volumes and the ending will leave you wondering what’s next for our group of apprentices and Qifrey! Filled with action, beautiful character arcs, and important underlying themes, this volume does take on a slower pace, but its worth it as the phenomenal story continues to develop! Shirahama once again, will leave readers needing the next volume right away!

Warrior Of The Wild by Tricia Levenseller Review

Warrior Of The Wild by Tricia LevensellerWarrior Of The Wild by Tricia Levenseller

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Release Date: February 26, 2019

Pages: 329

Available Through The Book Depository: Warrior Of The Wild 

Cover Design: Nekro & Liz Dresner (Jacket Design)

Summary: How do you kill a god?

As her father’s chosen heir, eighteen-year-old Rasmira has trained her whole life to become a warrior and lead her village. But when her coming-of-age trial is sabotaged and she fails the test, her father banishes her to the monster-filled wilderness with an impossible quest: To win back her honor, she must kill the oppressive god who claims tribute from the villages each year—or die trying.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Warrior And The Wild is viking-inspired YA Fantasy filled with adventure, fun and witty banter, romance, and delivers a fast-paced story perfect if your looking for a standalone tale! Rasmira is sent to the Wild where she encounters monsters, meets new friends, and can only be redeemed by killing a god that causes mayhem across the villages!

Ever since I read Tricia’s debut Daughter of The Pirate King, she became a new favorite author! Her books are always such fun, unique, and immersive fantasy tales. They’re also so readable that you can get through them in just a couple sittings (like I did). I loved that because its been a while since I read a book within the span of a couple days and this is exactly the kind of read I needed!

I’m also looking forward to reading the recently released YA The Shadows Between Us because not only is it a Tricia Levenseller book, but there’s a mysterious Shadow King, royalty, and the main character Alessandra wants to take the kingdom for herself?! How epic does that sound?

So back to Warrior, you see a complete transformation from Rasmira as she goes on her  quest where it becomes a tale of survival, trust, friendship, and discovery in this viking-inspired world!

Rasmira Bendrauggo is next in line as leader of her village, Seravin! With her father being the master of the village, she’s trained most of her life to be one of the toughest axe-wielding warriors (being the youngest of 5 older sisters) and although the other guys in her training group are always quick to tease her, she’s grateful to have her friend Torrin.

However, when she’s set up and banished to the Wild during her ceremony, her only way to get back into her village and father’s good graces is to complete an impossible quest (Mattugr) by killing a god. More specifically, Peruxolo, a god filled with magic that demands goods/payment from villages each year.

She feels alone during her banishment, but is mostly filled with anger at being betrayed by those she thought cared about her (Torrin & her mother). She soon meets other banished warriors, Sorren & Iric, and the closer they become she realizes the only way for them all to get back home, is to work together. Though she’s eager to work things out herself, she learns how important it is to stick together through the dangerous Wild.

Sorren is honor-bound to stay with Iric which is why he’s put a hold on completing his own quest. Both boys have a deeper sense of loyalty and kindness that Rasmira isn’t used to, but she soon realizes that she can depend on them.

While Raz’s emotional/character arc is something we have seen before, its in the surrounding mysteries and unique world of the Wild that keeps things interesting!

As the story progresses, there’s lots of questioning as to what Mattugrs really do, whether they really can change a fallen warrior. Yet, the guys realize that along their own journeys they don’t feel all too different. So Raz takes that realization to heart and on her quest to return promises to change her village’s rules, even with the hopes of inspiring others to do the same. That left a lot of wondering as to where the villages are headed once the reader finally reaches the end!

The themes present in this book also wove in inspiring messages that added even more depth to Rasmira’s character, which were fun to explore! Her conflict of being both a good warrior and not disappointing her father, while also learning to respect her feminine side was a great message that was present throughout the entirety of the book (especially showcased through the romance and friendships she creates). She learns its okay to be emotional and although she was never given the chance to show it, she learns a newfound respect for it. Trust is also a big theme explored throughout Warrior as she learns to overcome her past hurt with Torrin as she becomes even closer with Soren!

Friendship was an even bigger theme present and in true Levenseller style, its filled with a lot of banter and humor (I know this book is meant to be serious at times, but I couldn’t help but read this book as a comedy because even Raz has a snarky internal voice you can’t ignore). The same goes for the romance! Tricia always builds a lot of layers and development to the romantic relationships and this one was so well done! I never felt that any of the relationships were rushed.

Learning more about Sorren and Iric’s pasts, how loyal and honor-bound they are to each other and it was a nice alternative to Raz’s hometown where she really didn’t have any friends to rely on anymore. Getting a glimpse into their village of Restin added more history/depth to the world too!

Iric is a skilled smith, while we also learn Sorren had changed for the better, when being banished to the Wild too. From goddesses, to all the different monsters like Ziken, hyggja, and other interesting details, it made the setting really come to life.

The world itself feels confined but it really allows for the unique atmosphere and tension to build. According to an interview from Curiositales Magazine April 2019 issue, here’s what Levenseller said about how she crafted the “hardened world” of the Wild and its surrounding villages:

“… the “animals they hunt […] have tough exoskeletons; even their fruit has these tough husks. The monsters that hunt them can only be killed with the heavy swing of an axe…”

The descriptions of the world delivery a dense forest setting, alongside the culture (from what I’m guessing) is inspired by Norse myth and language!

Its through the 1st person POV that allows for not only the atmosphere to shine through, but also the various emotional layers to the story as well! Rasmira tries to recover what she’s lost, but also learns there is so much more to be gained! It was a small detail, but I loved how Tricia added that because Raz begins questioning her world more and the rules its established. I admired her resiliency, even if she faced quite a bit of hurt. She not only learns what it takes to be a leader, but also the importance of friendship and trust.

Through her perspective you also feel a connection to the characters and that’s because of how emotionally-driven her character is! You really get to know her healer sister Irrenia, the main guys, even more about Peruxolo.

There’s lots of mystery that keeps you guessing, from coming up with plans to complete the quests, to learning more about Peruxolo and how he can be defeated! One of the most interesting mysteries was Peruxolo’s past, I had many theories and there was a lot of unique little pieces thrown at the reader as to how he got his powers to keep you guessing! I also liked how like elements of minerals and bit of geology was used in very interesting ways!

It feels like your just thrown into this world without much background, but the more you delve into Warrior, it develops as it goes along. The only issues that dropped my rating stem from the world building and how the plot/writing develop at points.

In the beginning, I was struggling to really grasp this world, but that’s also because viking-inspired stories aren’t really my thing. I felt we knew only the basics of the villages the more the story progressed, but the development of the Wild was really well done. There were moments in Rasmira’s POV (mainly in the beginning) that I felt could have been more descriptive and less direct to make certain layers of her journey detailed and immersive (maybe less obvious too b/c it was easy for me to pick up on certain story beats), but again the further I read it was just lot of fun. As for certain characters, I just wanted a bit more depth to them, like Raz’s other sisters. Her mother’s journey was an interesting one too, but again there were just characters introduced who I felt we only got to know through the surface level.

As for diversity, Iric is gay and its mentioned there was a m/m relationship between Iric and his boyfriend Aros from back home. Its reflected on and develops throughout the book.

Overall if your looking to enjoy a quickly-paced, fantasy story with a unique setting, engaging plot and witty banter to keep things interesting, I recommend this standalone!

Warrior Of The Wild is viking-inspired quest fantasy that follows warrior Rasmira and the journey she undergoes in becoming a more skilled leader for her people when she’s banished to the Wild! Filled with banter, unique viking-inspired setting, mystery, romance + banter, and a fast-paced story, Levenseller’s YA Fantasy wraps up very nicely!

Its been a while since I’ve done this, so for today’s post I’m also shouting out a fellow book blogger review 😍📚✨:

Review: Warrior And The Wild from Ellie at PrincessOfInk

We had a lot of similar thoughts on this book and you can sense her enthusiasm all throughout her 5-star review! I also love the nice list she added at the end to sum up what you can expect from Tricia’s book!

Storm From The East by Joanna Hathaway Review

Storm From The East by Joanna HathawayStorm From The East by Joanna Hathaway (Glass Alliance #2)

Publisher: Tor Teen

Release Date: February 11, 2020

Pages: 496

Available Through The Book Depository: Storm From The East

Cover Design: Marisa Aragón Ware

Summary: War has begun, and the days of Athan’s and Aurelia’s secret, summer romance feel a world away. Led by Athan’s father, the revolutionary Safire have launched a secret assault upon the last royal kingdom in the South, hoping to depose the king and seize a powerful foothold on the continent. Athan proves a star pilot among their ranks, struggling to justify the violence his family has unleashed as he fights his way to the capital—where, unbeknownst to him, Aurelia has lived since the war’s onset. Determined to save the kingdom Athan has been ordered to destroy, she partners with a local journalist to inflame anti-Safire sentiment, all while learning this conflict might be far darker and more complex than she ever imagined.

When the two reunite at last, Athan longing to shake the nightmare of combat and Aurelia reeling from the discovery of a long-buried family truth come to light, they’ll find the shadow of war stretches well beyond the battlefield. Each of them longs to rekindle the love they once shared . . . but each has a secret they’re desperate to hide.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Storm From The East is a phenomenal sequel that expands on the layered politics and deeply complex cast of characters, as Athan and Aurelia attempt to establish their identities while facing the realities of war! Exquisitely written, this historical fantasy, WW-infused tale continues to be as thought-provoking as it is enthralling! Storm From The East is haunting, beautiful and Hathaway establishes herself as a master in geopolitical storytelling!

Storm From The East is many things: it’s character-driven, a deep dive into the impacts of war, legacy and pride, it’s dark and hopeful, rooted in multi-layered politics, a tale of star-crossed love, but above all…it’s a book that’s daring!

Set about 3 months after Dark Of The West, Athan and Aurelia’s families are recuperating from the attempted coup of the Etanian throne. There’s a war headed to the South (Resya) and both of them are tangled up in it, with little means of escape. Athan becomes promoted to a squadron leader, while Aurelia attempts to follow her cousin Lark’s advice to get more evidence about the photographs from Beraya and learn more about whatever secrets her family tree is hiding.

It’s been so long since a sequel captivated me in such a way as this one did and I loved every moment. Hathway’s writing continues to be poetic, necessary even as we get a deeper look into how Aurelia and Athan’s perspectives create such distinct views of the world.

If you love plot-heavy/driven books, this sequel will leave you pleasantly surprised. From Aurelia leaving with Havis to uncover more secrets in Resya, taking up the role of a journalist. Then there’s Athan who is stuck fighting yet can’t seem to escape, he’s slowly realizing that he can’t seem to make his own choices anymore–even to the point where he’s unintentionally standing in his father and older brother’s shadows. All the while, Athan and Ali are still linked to each other, unsent letters and longing for reunion keep them grounded.

As Hathaway cemented even more of the evolving politics and devastation of Resya, it painted a distinct picture of both the consequences and realities of war.

Athan and Aurelia are faced with this stark truth, they have important choices to make if they’re to see each other again once this war is over. However, they also face the political shroud built by decades of history that obscures their chances at seeing the truth― the world around them can change for the better, but they must work together.

As established in book 1, Hathaway clearly draws inspiration from her love of history and through the increasing power of Savient, we see influences from early 20th Century political, militaristic, and geopolitical ties of Europe. In this book especially there’s a heavy influence through the planes and strides of journalistic reporting of that era!

Dark Of The West won me over for many reasons, one of those being these characters! One of my favorite dynamics in the sequel involved the increased layers to the Dakar family. There’s the General, cunning, manipulative, and Athan’s older brother Arrin, an equal yet unpredictable mirror. What surprised me too, was seeing Kalt who is unlike them and the more down-to-earth of them all, even more so than their sister Leannya.

One of the dynamics I find the most fascinating is Athan and Arrin, there’s an unsaid rivalry between them! I’m interested in seeing where Arrin’s journey is headed (will he pay for his crimes?) , if this book was any indication, I think Hathaway will leave readers surprised!

As Athan finds himself bound to the Resya conflict, we see how Hathaway digs deep to present our deeply flawed characters, while showing the cracks in their armor. As Athan attempts to undo his mistake and get in his family’s good graces again, he surprisingly begins to take up the roles he desperately wanted to avoid. Arrin gets him to attack innocents and his father, the ruthless General, begins incorporating him to more vital positions of war. General Dakar clearly knows more than is revealed and it’s surprising to see him brew this competition between his sons. In doing so, Athan’s forced to assume an identity that’s causing him internal dilemmas, pain, and possibly even early signs of PTSD. The truths as to who his family really is (especially in times of war) painted a clear picture not only in Athan, but Ali’s POV of the false perfection that certain sides are upholding. Because of that, their compassion and humanity is explored in such a thought-provoking way.

As Aurelia teams up with journalist Triza, we see her shed her role as princess to seek out the truth and publish propaganda that goes against the Dakar/Safire mission. As she goes undercover it’s all with the hope to inspire people to realize that Resyans shouldn’t be forced to suffer because of a vain plot for conquest.

What Hathaway brilliantly does in this book is continue to portray this idea of opposing mirrors. Athan and Aurelia are essentially the mirrors of those around them, yet it’s through Hathaway’s complex politics and intriguing storytelling that they learn whether they are ready to face or shatter that mirror.

There were many different layers to these characters (some that surprised me like Havis & Kalt)– I found myself seeing how well-developed and deeply flawed they were. But again, that just shows how strong Hathaway’s characterization and writing is. No matter what I already know about these characters, seeing them change through Ali & Athan’s perspective showed how much they themselves grew too!

We get underlying family history uncovered about Sinora and how Aurelia’s ties to the south are much bigger than she first realized. I also loved exploring the possibility that these characters have much more to gain than we first realize such as Havis, General Dakar, Arrin, Trigg and many more.

Athan and Aurelia also carry with them, a quiet strength that I relate to so much.

Along the way we get introduced to a couple new characters who I’m positive we’ll see again in book 3! Triza & Trigg are new friends that allow Athan & Aurelia to think more about their allegiances and their own roles in the world! They are so much fun to follow and although Athan does find himself at odds with Cyar at some points, I loved the trio dynamics between them so much and I can’t wait to see where their friendship is headed!

The romance was even more beautiful! Subtle and yet it envelops such critical emotional parts of Athan and Aurelia’s perspectives. Though they’re separated for much of the book, it’s in the letters, memories, and hopes for the future that we see how their innocent love is also an escape from the cruelties of their world! They grew so much during their journey and when they were together, their scenes were my absolute favorite! & YES there were moments I cried! ♥♥

I just want to give Ali, Athan, Cyar, Trigg, and Triza a hug, they’ve been through so much and I’m nervous for what’ll happen to them next ♥♥ I also hope to see more Violet & Reni too~

The ties between politics, world building, and how family legacy bridges these POV’s together were essential to this story, explored through stark truths and obscure motives. The first-person perspective allows us to see unique angles to these characters that they themselves never really see and I loved how that’s used so brilliantly in Storm From The East!

Some of my favorite themes included identity, legacy, sacrifice, and the flawed, conflicted loyalties of humanity!

Family itself continues to drive much of the internal conflict and the way Hathaway cleverly ties political divisions, underlying intrigue, history even, showed why it’s such an important layer woven throughout the characters past, presents, and possibly even futures for the Dakars & Isendares!

My only minor critiques, which didn’t take away from my absolute enjoyment of this book was wanting a little more intrigue between the Dakar family and a bit more clarity to the ties that Ali has in the South (mainly towards the end), because the development of that did feel a bit rushed at points.

I’ll be honest I was scared because of that haunting prologue from Dark Of The West, but if anything I was left feeling both hopeful and intrigued as to how the South and North will hopefully find peace in Book 3!

Storm From The East is a sequel that delves deep into its characters, politics, and realities of war established in Dark Of The West! From its riveting storytelling, immersive world, layered politics, and complex development of Athan and Ali, makes this a stellar sequel! This is a truly underrated YA Historical-inspired fantasy series that explores legacy, geopolitical conflict, and at its heart follows characters longing for a place to call home! You’ll want the 3rd Glass Alliance book right away when you turn that last page!

Bookish Buzz: Recently Released YA Books That Need More Hype!

Hey 24hr.YABookBlog here! (~˘▾˘)~💞📚✨ I’m back with my very first Bookish Buzz of 2020 also in collaboration with #QuietReadathon, my year-long readathon to inspire you to read more of those underhyped or quiet books on your TBR! 🎉🎉

Bookish Buzz, if your new to my blog or haven’t checked it out before, is a feature I created last March to talk about upcoming books I feel need more buzz!

Today I’m highlighting January and February book releases, mainly YA and 1 Middle Grade, that may have slipped under your radar 😄❤📚

January

Scavenge The Stars by Tara Sim

1. Scavenge The Stars by Tara Sim (Scavenge The Stars #1)

Release Date: January 7, 2020

Summary: When Amaya rescues a mysterious stranger from drowning, she fears her rash actions have earned her a longer sentence on the debtor ship where she’s been held captive for years. Instead, the man she saved offers her unimaginable riches and a new identity, setting Amaya on a perilous course through the coastal city-state of Moray, where old-world opulence and desperate gamblers collide.

Amaya wants one thing: revenge against the man who ruined her family and stole the life she once had. But the more entangled she becomes in this game of deception—and as her path intertwines with the son of the man she’s plotting to bring down—the more she uncovers about the truth of her past. And the more she realizes she must trust no one…

Dark And Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore2. Dark And Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore

Release Date: January 14, 2020

Summary: Summer, 1518. A strange sickness sweeps through Strasbourg: women dance in the streets, some until they fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft spread, suspicion turns toward Lavinia and her family, and Lavinia may have to do the unimaginable to save herself and everyone she loves.

Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes seal to Rosella Oliva’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her toward a boy who knows the dancing fever’s history better than anyone: Emil, whose family was blamed for the fever five hundred years ago. But there’s more to what happened in 1518 than even Emil knows, and discovering the truth may decide whether Rosella survives the red shoes.

The Mystwick School Of Musicraft by Jessica Khoury3. The Mystwick School Of Musicraft by Jessica Khoury

Release Date: January 21, 2020

Full Review: The Mystwick School Of Musicraft (ARC Review)

Summary: Humor and heart shine in this middle grade fantasy about a girl who attends a boarding school to learn how to use music to create magic, perfect for fans of Nevermoor and The School for Good and Evil series.

Amelia Jones always dreamed of attending the Mystwick School of Musicraft, where the world’s most promising musicians learn to create magic. So when Amelia botches her audition, she thinks her dream has met an abrupt and humiliating end—until the school agrees to give her a trial period. Amelia is determined to prove herself, vowing to do whatever it takes to become the perfect musician. Even if it means pretending to be someone she isn’t. Meanwhile, a mysterious storm is brewing that no one, not even the maestros at Mystwick, is prepared to contain. Can Amelia find the courage to be true to herself in time to save her beloved school from certain destruction?

How To Build A Heart by Maria Padian4. How To Build A Heart by Maria Padian

Release Date: January 28, 2020

Summary: All sixteen-year-old Izzy Crawford wants is to feel like she really belongs somewhere. Her father, a marine, died in Iraq six years ago, and Izzy’s moved to a new town nearly every year since, far from the help of her extended family in North Carolina and Puerto Rico. When Izzy’s hardworking mom moves their small family to Virginia, all her dreams start clicking into place. She likes her new school—even if Izzy is careful to keep her scholarship-student status hidden from her well-to-do classmates and her new athletic and popular boyfriend. And best of all: Izzy’s family has been selected by Habitat for Humanity to build and move into a brand-new house. Izzy is this close to the community and permanence she’s been searching for, until all the secret pieces of her life begin to collide.

Seven Deadly Shadows by Courtney Alameda and Valynne E. Maetani5. Seven Deadly Shadows by Courtney Alameda & Valynne E. Maetani

Release Date: January 28, 2020

Summary: Kira Fujikawa has always been a girl on the fringe. Bullied by her peers and ignored by her parents, the only place Kira’s ever felt at home is at her grandfather’s Shinto shrine, where she trains to be a priestess.

But Kira’s life is shattered on the night her family’s shrine is attacked by a vicious band of yokai demons. With the help of Shiro—the shrine’s gorgeous half-fox, half-boy kitsune—Kira discovers that her shrine harbors an ancient artifact of great power . . . one the yokai and their demon lord, Shuten-doji, will use to bring down an everlasting darkness upon the world.

Unable to face the Shuten-doji and his minions on her own, Kira enlists the aid of seven ruthless shinigami—or death gods—to help stop the brutal destruction of humankind. But some of the death gods aren’t everything they initially seemed, nor as loyal to Kira’s cause as they first appeared.

With war drawing nearer by the day, Kira realizes that if this unlikely band of heroes is going to survive, they’re going to have to learn to work together, confront their demons, and rise as one to face an army of unimaginable evil.

Diamond City by Francesca Flores6. Diamond City by Francesca Flores (Diamond City #1)

Release Date: January 28, 2020

Summary: Fierce and ambitious, Aina Solís as sharp as her blade and as mysterious as the blood magic she protects. After the murder of her parents, Aina takes a job as an assassin to survive and finds a new family in those like her: the unwanted and forgotten.

Her boss is brutal and cold, with a questionable sense of morality, but he provides a place for people with nowhere else to go. And makes sure they stay there.

DIAMOND CITY: built by magic, ruled by tyrants, and in desperate need of saving. It is a world full of dark forces and hidden agendas, old rivalries and lethal new enemies.

To claim a future for herself in a world that doesn’t want her to survive, Aina will have to win a game of murder and conspiracy—and risk losing everything.

February

Turtle Under Ice by Juleah del Rosario1. Turtle Under Ice by Juleah del Rosario

Release Date: February 11, 2020

Summary: Rowena feels like her family is a frayed string of lights that someone needs to fix with electrical tape. After her mother died a few years ago, she and her sister, Ariana, drifted into their own corners of the world, each figuring out in their own separate ways how to exist in a world in which their mother is no longer alive.

But then Ariana disappears under the cover of night in the middle of a snowstorm, leaving no trace or tracks. When Row wakes up to a world of snow and her sister’s empty bedroom, she is left to piece together the mystery behind where Ariana went and why, realizing along the way that she might be part of the reason Ariana is gone.

Haunting and evocative—and told in dual perspectives—Turtle Under Ice examines two sisters frozen by grief as they search for a way to unthaw.

This Train Is Being Held by Ismée Williams

2. This Train Is Not Being Held by Ismée Williams

Release Date: February 11, 2020

Summary: When private school student Isabelle Warren first meets Dominican-American Alex Rosario on the downtown 1 train, she remembers his green eyes and his gentlemanly behavior. He remembers her untroubled happiness, something he feels all rich kids must possess. That, and her long dancer legs.

Over the course of multiple subway encounters spanning the next three years, Isabelle learns of Alex’s struggle with his father, who is hell-bent on Alex being a contender for the major leagues, despite Alex’s desire to go to college and become a poet. Alex learns about Isabelle’s unstable mother, a woman with a prejudice against Latino men. But fate—and the 1 train—throw them together when Isabelle needs Alex most.

With a Star in My Hand Ruben Dario, Poetry Hero by Margarita Engle

3. With A Star In My Hand Rubén Darío, Poetry Hero by Margarita Engle

Release Date: February 18, 2020

Summary: A novel in verse about Rubén Darío, the Nicaraguan poet and folk hero who initiated the literary movement of Modernismo.

As a little boy, Rubén Darío loved to listen to his great uncle, a man who told tall tales in a booming, larger-than-life voice. Rubén quickly learned the magic of storytelling, and discovered the rapture and beauty of verse.

A restless and romantic soul, Rubén traveled across Central and South America seeking adventure and connection. As he discovered new places and new loves, he wrote poems to express his wild storm of feelings. But the traditional forms felt too restrictive. He began to improvise his own poetic forms so he could capture the entire world in his words. At the age of twenty-one, he published his first book Azul, which heralded a new literary movement called Modernismo that blended poetry and prose.

Rebelwing by Andrea Tang4. Rebelwing by Andrea Tang (Rebelwing #1)

Release Date: February 25, 2020

Summary: Business is booming for Prudence Wu.

A black-market-media smuggler and scholarship student at the prestigious New Columbia Preparatory Academy, Pru is lucky to live in the Barricade Coalition where she is free to study, read, watch, and listen to whatever she wants. But between essays and exams, she chooses to spend her breaks sweet-talking border patrol with her best friend, Anabel, in order to sell banned media to the less fortunate citizens of the United Continental Confederacy, Inc.

When a drop-off goes awry, Pru narrowly escapes UCC enforcers to find that her rescuer is, of all things, a sentient cybernetic dragon. On the one hand, Pru is lucky not to be in prison, or worse. On the other, the dragon seems to have imprinted on her permanently, which means she has no choice but to be its pilot.

Drawn into a revolution she has no real interest in leading, Pru, Anabel, and friends Alex and Cat become key players in a brewing conflict with the UCC as the corporate government develops advanced weaponry more terrifying and grotesque than Pru could have ever imagined.

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller5. The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

Release Date: February 25, 2020

Summary: Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:

1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.

But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?

Thanks for joining me on my return to Bookish Buzz! Will any of these books be on your radar?

Are there any recent book releases you think need more buzz? 📚🎉

In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire Review

In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuireIn An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire (Wayward Children #4)

Publisher: Tor.com (Tor Books)

Release Date: January 8, 2019

Pages: 204

Available Through The Book Depository: In An Absent Dream

Cover Design: Robert Hunt

Summary: This fourth entry and prequel tells the story of Lundy, a very serious young girl who would rather study and dream than become a respectable housewife and live up to the expectations of the world around her. As well she should.

When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she’s found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the goblin market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ 

My Thoughts: In An Absent Dream is a cozy and haunting sort of read that introduces you to a world based on an fairness, logic, and entrenched in a young girl’s journey to find home! McGuire’s fourth installment in the Wayward Children’s Series layers important themes of friendship, the impact of choice, and the worlds we choose to root ourselves in!

I’d taken a break from this series after Beneath The Sugar Sky, but I knew I’d always find a way back to it. Then, having noticed I’ve only read ONE book this month, I decided a novella was exactly what I needed! After not being able to put this book down for the past 24 hours, I can honestly say that In An Absent Dream is my favorite book in this series!

This novella delves deep into the past of Lundy, beloved therapist in Eleanor’s Home For Wayward Children. When I first read Every Heart a Doorway, I felt there was so much left to learn about her and while I had little connection to her character, Absent Dream changed that!

Set in 1964, we follow Katherine Lundy, a logical and brilliant girl who longs for more. Friendship, above all, that connection to those she can relate to and who can truly see her. She’s always been proper, an avid reader, more clever and perceptive than those her age.

However, she soon finds a door that leads her to place where she quickly feels right at home. A place founded on fairness, barters, and promises that are destined to be kept.

She makes new friends (who are very much like family) Moon (a bird-like girl) and Archivist, who teach her the ways of the puzzling Goblin Market. To me, I found this book to be above all, about loneliness and the bond one creates through friendship. Lundy has never had an real friends, but when she’s introduced to the peculiar Moon, she knows she’s found a friend she can rely on.

One trip after another, however, she quickly learns that our world no longer feels like hers. Each return leads to situations she believes are well within her control, always finding her way back through the door.

Part coming-of-age and part portal fantasy, Lundy’s adventures back and forth to the Goblin Market change her at each turn, in ways she doesn’t even realize until we reach that final page.

As established in the Goblin Market, the concept of fairness was beautifully crafted and made into such a vital piece of the novel, and like Lundy, you can’t help but keep that concept in the back of your mind with every turn of the page! It still shocks you because you know the laws and how they work, yet as values build Lundy’s approach to them change as she grows. Her way of thinking alters to where she sees that rules and collecting costs weren’t always so simple as they had once been.

This is also a novel about growing up, seeing the world not as you did when you were young, but seeing how it changes and evolves the more that time passes.

I know I’ve probably said it multiple times already, but its true: Lundy is my favorite character now! This novel gave us such an introspective look into her childhood and the years that follow. We understand her drive, her ambition, the distinct way she sees the world around her and its beautiful. There were many moments where I related to Lundy, feeling like I’m distant from the world at points, escaping to my world (similar to her, through books) and the wondrous, deep connection one feels when they have friends and faith you put in them.

McGuire does a spectacular job at building the ambiance of the Market world into a tangible, real world with history, atmosphere, and rules that present it as such a stark contrast to ours, in a quiet, fairy-tale like way! Overall, the world-building in this installment is spectacular and one of my favorites.

There’s also little details that really set this world apart from other Doors in previous books, which made it such a distinct place to be! The bird cages, the bird/feather motifs, the delicious pies, detailed rules of the market and its cost. But above all, it was also this back and forth between our world (seen as more ordinary with each return) and the vibrant, almost understanding world of the market. However it was how these both separate, but distinct worlds easily wove together through Lundy’s perspective.

Lundy’s real world journeys through school ,the complex emotions and goals she defines for herself are challenged by those around her the more she carries back knowledge from The Goblin Market. With each journey back you could see how she continued to grow and even see the market itself change from her perspective because of it.

I loved following her adventures with Moon through the stalls and just being immersed in their beautiful friendship that has so many complex layers to it. Also Archivist’s home, her comforting library, and the unchanging door that always welcomed her.

We also learn how Lundy’s family tree has a connection to the market, which makes it an even more layered tale! This is also a story about familial relationships: Such as that with her father and his own secretive connection to The Goblin Market. I also loved that during a time when there’s still many external expectations for women, her father gives her choice and she’s respected for all her different layers.

Lundy herself is a girl with ambition that not many can see or understand. Its that internal, almost detached feeling that she has from our world the more she realizes that The Goblin Market truly feels like home.

The 3rd person POV allowed for not only the world to be beautifully developed and explored, but also the themes, coming-of-age story, characters, and layered pieces that brought it all  together.

My only minor issues (which make this rating so difficult because I TRULY  loved this book), include McGuire’s common element to her writing where she repeats certain phrases too often. While I completely understand its supposed to offer that classic storytelling atmosphere, for me personally it loses the impact because they are so often thrown in. It feels like we already know what its meant to imply and it could’ve allowed for more variation and description to further expand on Lundy’s story.

Also, I did feel the ending was a little rushed as we reached that last chapter–I honestly wouldn’t have minded if this book was just a bit longer! I loved being in Lundy’s world, so it would have been fantastic to get a bit more expansion on her friendship with Moon & Archivist, her family (who aside from her father, doesn’t seem like she has such a deep connection to), and the in-between battles/adventures she had before coming back to our world.

*Side note, with the friend of the Market we never meet, Mockery, I wish I felt more of a connection to her. She sounded interesting, but she’s only ever referenced in flashbacks and when we’re back in the present she has little impact on the story.

Overall though, McGuire’s 4th book in this series is one that connected with me on such a deep level and I would gladly read this book again in the future. There were many deep, moving messages I got out of it and would probably discover more on a reread.

In An Absent Dream dives deep into the story behind its characters, builds on themes of friendship and self, while delivering a profound world such as the Goblin Market that inspires further exploration! Lundy’s story will captivate you from page 1!

Shatter The Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells Review

Shatter The Sky by Rebecca Kim WellsShatter The Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells (Shatter The Sky #1)

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers

Release Date: July 30, 2019

Pages: 304

Available Through The Book Depository: Shatter The Sky

Cover Design/Illustration: Olivier Ponsonnet

Summary: Raised among the ruins of a conquered mountain nation, Maren dreams only of sharing a quiet life with her girlfriend Kaia—until the day Kaia is abducted by the Aurati, prophetic agents of the emperor, and forced to join their ranks. Desperate to save her, Maren hatches a plan to steal one of the emperor’s coveted dragons and storm the Aurati stronghold.

If Maren is to have any hope of succeeding, she must become an apprentice to the Aromatory—the emperor’s mysterious dragon trainer. But Maren is unprepared for the dangerous secrets she uncovers: rumors of a lost prince, a brewing rebellion, and a prophecy that threatens to shatter the empire itself. Not to mention the strange dreams she’s been having about a beast deep underground…

With time running out, can Maren survive long enough to rescue Kaia from impending death? Or could it be that Maren is destined for something greater than she could have ever imagined?

My Rating:★★★★☆ 

My Thoughts: Shatter The Sky is a quiet, character-driven YA Fantasy! When Maren’s girlfriend is taken by prophets of the emperor, she goes on a quest to rescue her! Wells’ delivers a tale with intrigue, politics, dragon lore, adventure, and much more!

Shatter The Sky is one of those books I’d had on my TBR and knew it would be a perfect fantasy adventure, but I just wasn’t able to get to reading it in 2019. Luckily my #Quietreadthon inspired me to look at more backlist titles and I’m glad I was able to finally pick this up!

This book was a wild ride and it surprised me in a lot of ways, which for me is always a plus. All I knew going into it was that it featured a F/F relationship., Bi rep., dragons & a rescue! But that definitely worked in my favor, because I was left pretty much unsure as to all the rest of the details of the plot, which went in very unique directions (from my perspective). This is a YA Fantasy book that feels like it went under many people’s radars and needs a lot more love!

First in a duology, Shatter The Sky follows Maren and her girlfriend Kaia who live in the mountain nation of Ilvera which, along with many other small nations, is part of an ever-growing, corrupt Zefedi empire. This empire has taken control of the dragons to use for its own benefit, many of which used to live among the people of Ilvera many years ago!

Very early on, I felt I could really relate to Maren! She finds comfort in her quiet town and unlike Kaia, doesn’t feel too eager to explore what else lies beyond. Its that comfort and uncertainty that makes her a “Reluctant Hero” as Wells mentions in this Q&A from We Need Diverse Books:

“The reluctant hero is one of my favorite tropes…Something I really like about Maren is that even though she’s a homebody (a trait I borrowed from myself) and very hesitant to do anything to mess with the equilibrium of her life, she is determined to do what she feels is right…”

What made Maren such a fun protagonist to follow was not only that the book was told from her perspective, but through her eyes you sense a deep connection to the world she’s familiar with. This makes her discoveries about the world, unlocking a more confident side to herself, even development to the layers/different sides to the setting itself, feel lived in and expansive!

When prophetic seers of the emperor known as the Aurati visit Ilvera to offer prophetic advice and take another girl with them to be among their ranks, Maren is surprised and heartbroken to learn that Kaia’s been chosen. However, she wastes no time setting out on a journey to find her!

With her parents support, Maren sets out on her adventure which leads to a position at an Empire fortress, where they have dragons! Her plan is to essentially find a suitable dragon and use it to break into the Aurati’s fortress to get Kaia back.

But during her time there, she realizes she needs to fit in. A cousin of her father luckily has a job for her, food taster! This gets her noticed by Neve, who’s the lead Aromatory. From there, she learns more about what it takes to train a dragon through the use of oils and how they impact dragons in different ways.

Maren and her nation of Verran’s have a history that has rooted them dragons. So, throughout her journey she tries to better understand her Dragon Dreams that show her Kaia and the Aurati’s that have her. The dragon lore, much like the world-building in this novel as a whole, is presented in different ways that provide layers and new perspectives to the world as a whole through Maren as she continues on her journey.

Verran’s cultural ties to dragons, ways of the aromatory, dragons roles and positions under the Zefedi empire, the dragon guard known as Talons, even what it takes to care for a dragon are all explored throughout different moments of the story! It’s in Maren’s  personal narrative that she learns more about dragons as a whole and discovers a newfound appreciation for more beyond her personal quest!

As Maren works in the fortress she meets guards (Lilin & Sev) that help her better learn about the Zefedi empire and open her eyes to different parts of her world she never really understood, all while she’s trying to keep her plan under wraps! While I really loved this section of the book looking back (because I’m fascinated by politics in fantasy), it really did take up a big chunk of the story. It felt like the urgency of the conflict slowed down. But I will say there’s so much she learns during her time there that REALLY becomes important later on in the story.

Following Maren Vilna’s perspective allowed me to feel such a deeper connection to the world and the people she’s close to― I never felt distant to the world, Maren’s discoveries just made me feel even more connected to it because different sides are explored throughout the story! She never thought she’d have to know about her Empire in such a way (with talks of a rebellion & lost prince), but the journey she embarks on really changes her perspective. Another important piece to her as a character is her personal growth! She learns to value more than just her personal mission and realize her own potential as well!

Neve, Maren’s Aromatory mentor was my favorite character! Maybe it’s because I’m no longer a teen and just felt even more of a connection to her? I’m not sure, but you can tell there’s so much she knows not just about dragons and her role and what it means for the empire (which is permanent), but just life beyond the fortress and there’s a snark/jaded air to her that made her fun to learn about (I hope she makes a return in Storm The Earth).

There’s also Sev and Lilin who become Maren’s friends, much to her surprise! I loved their dynamic and also how Sev gets a bigger role in the story as it progresses! Sev is the one who opens Maren’s eyes to the treatment of dragons and how Maren can do more to change her perspective. He’s interested in Maren and can tell she’s hiding something, but either way their dynamic is great and I also loved his dynamic with Lilin!

Lilin is pretty much the opposite of Sev, where she doesn’t give much thought or question to her role as a Zefedi guard. I never realized that until I finished reading, but I loved how she reflected Sev and showed two different sides to those who work for the empire!

The cast was great! I felt they all really stood out no matter how little page time and I genuinely loved learning about each of them! Sev and Neve were 2 of my favorite characters!

Politics, intrigue and the development of the world (both setting & dragon lore) play a big part in the “Fortress” section of the book and really allowed me to get more immersed in the world little by little.

Next I wanted to discuss the representation throughout Shatter The Sky! Through the different cultures presented, you can really get an understanding as to how big and diverse this empire is! I’ve read and loved a lot of YA Fantasy, but I applaud this book for weaving in such a prominent inclusive representation in different ways: Within the Zefedi Empire we learn about its 5 nations, Ilvera (mountain nation), Oskiath (where Maren’s father was from before Ilvera), Seda Serat, & I think the other nation was Deletev (don’t quote me on that 😂).

Characters are described as having light & dark brown skin, women are in positions of power and there’s normalized Queer relationships & a character that uses “they/them” pronouns. This is a beautiful fantasy world that normalizes Queer rep. and showcases women across different roles in the empire, it was great to see those elements presented throughout the story!

Themes of family, loyalty, love, and strength of self are developed through Maren and her journey, which really come together as the story progresses (especially in regards to loyalty & self).

Next I wanted to discuss why I personally rated it 4 stars, but will I read the sequel? ABSOLUTELY! This world really grows on you and I felt such a connection to it and the main cast that I felt sad when I reached those last few pages! The ending leaves you feeling hopeful, but also scared for a particular character…won’t say who!

Though I absolutely love 1st person POVs, I felt that because we were in Maren’s head it did make the pacing feel slow (particularly in the Fortress sections) where there’s an urgency to her mission it really slows down. While I also got a great sense of the world by the end, I felt description wise there was a lot about the settings/different nations as a whole that could have been developed a bit more to differentiate them more in my mind.

Because this is an introduction to the world I felt there’s still more detail that could have been presented on through Maren’s perspective that tied in with the underlying politics, culture, and so on since she does quite a bit of traveling/journeying!

This is a quiet, slow, and unique fantasy that I recommend you try out! Trust me that the further you read and root yourself into the world, you’ll see how the plot threads get more interesting with each chapter!

The ending, especially with its characters, left me wanting more and I can’t wait to read Storm The Earth!

Shatter The Sky is character-driven, expansive YA Fantasy steeped in dragon lore, politics, diverse cultures, and a cast of fantastic characters! Rebecca Kim Wells’ debut is an underrated fantasy well worth your time!

Woven In Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez ARC Review

Woven In Moonlight by Isabel IbañezWoven In Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez

Publisher: Page Street Kids

Release Date: January 7, 2020

Pages: 384

Available Through The Book Depository: Woven In Moonlight

Book Of The Month YA (January 2020 YA Pick)

Cover Design: Isabel Ibañez

Summary: Ximena is the decoy Condesa, a stand-in for the last remaining Illustrian royal. Her people lost everything when the usurper, Atoc, used an ancient relic to summon ghosts and drive the Illustrians from La Ciudad. Now Ximena’s motivated by her insatiable thirst for revenge, and her rare ability to spin thread from moonlight.

When Atoc demands the real Condesa’s hand in marriage, it’s Ximena’s duty to go in her stead. She relishes the chance, as Illustrian spies have reported that Atoc’s no longer carrying his deadly relic. If Ximena can find it, she can return the true aristócrata to their rightful place.

She hunts for the relic, using her weaving ability to hide messages in tapestries for the resistance. But when a masked vigilante, a warm-hearted princess, and a thoughtful healer challenge Ximena, her mission becomes more complicated. There could be a way to overthrow the usurper without starting another war, but only if Ximena turns her back on revenge—and her Condesa.

*Received a print ARC from the publisher*

My Rating: ★★★★☆ 

My Thoughts: Woven In Moonlight is a Bolivian-inspired YA Fantasy that focuses on politics and history! Ximena is a stand-in for the Illustrian’s heir, whose on a mission to help her people and get Catalina on the throne. When Ximena’s role takes her deep into the palace of the Llacsans, she learns more about where she fits into this revolution and what her job as a decoy Condesa means for the future of Inkasisa! Ibañez’s standalone debut layers intricate politics, fascinating characters, and a vibrant, magical world inspired by Bolivian culture! 

I’d been looking forward to this debut for a couple years at this point and knowing it’s a Latinx YA Fantasy, I was even more hyped to read this book! Now that I’ve finally finished it, I wish I could go back and re-read it all over again!

Woven In Moonlight is a magical novel that’s deeply rooted in politics that’s explored through our introspective 1st person POV of Ximena Rojas!

Set in the country of Inkasisa, the Illustrians & Llacsans are battling over who will rule Inkasisa. The world itself is inspired by the author’s Bolivian culture! We follow Ximena, whose a stand-in for the Illustrian royal, Catalina! When the current ruler Atoc demands the Illustrian royal’s hand in marriage, Ximena has to go in her place.

It wouldn’t be a YA Fantasy novel without some magic, so early on in the novel we get beautifully written sentences that introduce the unique magic system!

“Illustris magic― magic from the heavens…manifests in different ways…” (9).

While there’s definitely a variety of abilities that are explained such as Moonsight, the ability to light darkened rooms, and reading fortunes through constellations, Ibañez beautifully described Ximena’s ability which allows her to create thread from moonlight!

There’s a deeply personal and introspective look into Ximena’s ability that you can sense through the lush, emotionally-driven descriptions. The reader really gets a sense of how this magic is so special to her! It’s also one of the more developed abilities we see throughout WIM and it was a lot of fun getting to explore the different facets to her magic from the thread to something very special that happens when she looks more closely at her woven tapestries!

As Ximena becomes immersed in the world of the Llacsans we delve even deeper into the politics, their royalty, and palace life. She’s on a mission to find the Estrella, which is an ancient relic that could give Illustrians a chance to reclaim their power. However, Ximena also has to make sure that her true identity is never found out.

Luckily, Ximena uses her ability to weave through moonlight as a way to hopefully keep in touch with the Illustrians and her closest friend Catalina. An important arc to her story and development is that throughout the novel, she learns more about the Llacsans of the palace, while also reflecting on these two sides of Inkasisa and where she fits in.

Throughout Woven In Moonlight as Ximena connects more with the Llacasan’s in the castillo like Rumi, Juan Carlos (his cousin), and the secretive princess Tamaya!

Ibañez’s writing perfectly balances the world, its layered politics, and the personal arcs of our main characters! Also woven into Ximena’s perspective is the Spanish language, weather and architecture, the most wonderful descriptions of Bolivian food, and focus on crafts such as textiles & weaving!

Some of the most memorable descriptions of this novel definitely included the delicious food and detail of Bolivian cuisine (which is mentioned in a glossary). I loved that they were often placed in quiet moments of the story when Ximena was planning or exploring the Cuidad Blanca!

I appreciated these descriptions so much because coming from a Latin American background, I felt such a deep connection to the world! There’s also deeply interwoven messages about identity, family, loss, revolution that are very clear from the start of the novel and become even more layered into the story as it progresses!

As mentioned before, the magic system was incredibly unique, especially Ximena’s ability and I appreciated how it was explored through the plot as Ximena finds a way to stay in contact with the resistance.

Just reading the descriptions of how she was weaving thread through moonlight were moving and beautifully explored why the art of crafts tied in so well with Ximena’s own personal journey to create something for herself!

While the magic itself is very light, I appreciated how it was a used more for developing the political layers of the story!

Identity was an important theme that I found was beautifully explored throughout WIM! Ximena was switched with Catalina 10 years ago when she joined the resistance and only a select few truly know that she’s a decoy. But it isn’t until she’s forced to go to Atoc’s palace where we see her skills as a decoy are truly tested. I found that Ximena’s new life in the palace forces her to confront who she really is and how her role as a decoy has made her realize she isn’t entirely sure where she fits in this revolution.

Through the use of a 1st person POV, the world of Inkasisa is painted through a unique lens where we really get a focus on politics and characters!

For me, I can often find it difficult to fully immerse myself in a world if the perspective is too driven by characters or internal emotion, but Ibañez delivered Ximena’s POV spectacularly!

I adored her narrative voice so much! Ximena is a fierce heroine who has lost a lot to the war between Illustrians & Llacsans that in realty has left her alone. Her parents died almost 10 years before and throughout the novel, she’s constantly confronted with losing those close to her! Ximena’s loneliness is present throughout the novel in distinct ways that really show how its such a vital piece to her as a character: her distance to others, how she navigates her role as Condesa while connecting with Llacsans at the palace, and how she grapples with the loss of people in her life that are like family to her!

I found that Ibañez deeply explored this element of loneliness through Ximena’s POV in such a subtle but impactful way! Ximena’s internal voice as we follow her journey is told through introspective and perceptive narrative that allows her to reflect on important choices she has to make when she begins to question her mission and how she can better help Inkasisa!

Also, what made this such a unique reading experience is that although, you go into YA Fantasy expecting epic adventure, constant action, etc. I appreciated that this was more of a slow-paced fantasy, but it really works because your able to be more rooted into the rich atmosphere and setting! So when there were big action scenes, they felt more impactful for sure!

The cast of characters were fantastic, there were always interesting dynamics to be explored throughout the story! I felt that there were many surprising sides to them that are developed throughout the novel and what made that fun was how they were perceived through Ximena’s POV. A vital thread that links all this together is Ximena’s duty to Catalina, her friend who is like a sister to her and what she’s willing to risk to get her on the throne. Their bond is incredibly important to her and alongside Ximena & Tamaya’s friendship, I adored the focus on female friendships in general throughout this novel! There’s also Rumi’s dynamic/friendship with Ximena and while I felt they could have had just a bit more page time together, it was really fun to read.

Some of my favorite characters include, the mysterious princess Tamaya, Rumi, and a mysterious vigilante known as El Lobo, who doesn’t side with either the Illustrians or Llacsans!

Ximena has grown up hearing stories about El Lobo who doesn’t really align with anyone, but fights for those who need it! She’s surprised to find him in a room of the castle one night when she’s trying to gather more intel on the Estrella, she runs into the famous vigilante! From the very beginning I loved their dynamic and how they become unlikely allies–there’s great banter between them and I loved the solving the mystery as to who he really was!

Next I wanted to discuss why I lowered my rating to 4 Stars: The plot itself continued to surprise me and I loved following Ximena’s journey. There’s tons of intrigue, mystery, and politics wrapped up into this story! However, there were moments I found the writing was very focused on Ximena’s internal POV. She really comes to life through a 1st person POV which is fantastic! But, because we’re really in her head and focus on a lot of internal/emotional dialogue, there were elements of the story could have been developed even more!

It felt like there were elements that could have been expanded on, because Ibañez made them such important and vital parts of the world itself! Such as the setting of Inkasisa, delving deeper into the history, and more interactions between the characters! I also felt the ending was a bit rushed, but left on a very real note that has me wanting more from the unique cast of characters!

With WIM being a standalone I definitely see there was a lot that Ibañez wanted to introduce in regards to Inkasisa’s setting, climate, culture, daily life, and history (which was fantastic 💞!!) I just wish there was even more exploration to all those wonderful elements!

Also as I’ve read other reviews about WIM from fellow Latinx bloggers, I wanted to highlight an important point that they’ve discussed, when it comes to how privilege was poorly handled through Ximena’s POV. These past few weeks have been hectic for me and as I read this book it really was just to escape into an immersive world, so with that said I personally had overlooked this element of the story! However, here are 2 wonderful bloggers whose reviews delve into how WIM handled colonization, privilege & how those discussions could have been improved! I recommend checking them out:

Cande from LatinxMagicbk & Alicia from AKernelOfNonsense

Woven In Moonlight is a delightful YA Fantasy that’s rooted in Bolivian culture and is deeply explored through the politics, world, and intriguing story that’s presented from Ximena’s wonderful POV! Ibañez ‘s debut is an immersive tale that delves deep into history and politics, while also being an action-packed, character-driven tale! This is a wonderful debut filled with surprises, set in a unique world that you want to keep exploring!

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WIM is one of 1 of 5 Young Adult choices for Book Of The Month YA in January! If your a new subscriber, click the link above or Here & use the promo code ‘NEWME’ to get your 1st box for $9.99!! 🎉📚