Genre Dystopian Thriller( Part of the Lower Earth Series)
This was my first time using voracious readers only, and my first time receiving a book( free!) to provide a review. I had so many to choose from but this dystopian thriller set in a world where men are dying out caught my eye and I wasn’t disappointed.
Powerful. Beloved. And hunted for the secret in her blood.
Four hundred years after the Final war, eighteen-year-old Aria is poised to claim her birthright – the throne of Lower Earth.
It’s one of the last pieces of habitable continent left. Men are dying off from the after-effects of the war and women are genetically altered to survived.
But Aria’s blood is more advanced than any of them; she was designed from the genetic sequence of the settler queens.
Queen Maeva, Aria’s pseudo-mother, crushes all opposition. She has no fear of blood on her hands.
And she’s not afraid to do the same to Aria.
The threats multiply from within and beyond Lower Earth’s borders as destruction and colonization by the old men of Upper Earth approach their shores.
Aria has spent her lifetime preparing to take over the throne. Just as she is ready to fulfill her destiny, she’s blindsided.
Now being hunted, with enemies around every corner, Aria must battle the very totalitarian regime she was once destined to lead.
You’ll love this complex world in which good and evil are blurred for the sake of survival. Aria is a woman you’ll want to see win.
Book received from Voracious readers only as a review copy with thanks.
This was my first time using Voracious reader only- a service that connects eager readers with authors who are trying to get their books out there and I must confess to being nervous as I have read some bad self-published books in the world of Kindle unlimited. Once I had signed up, there was an influx of emails, with all sorts of books in my favourite genre but the cover and the synopsis of Selfsame caught my eye-I love a book set in a female-dominated society.
The first book in an intriguing fantasy series with a diverse range of characters iand an atypical magic system. I can’t wait to read the next book especially if there is more of Jorvis, pirate turned accidental hero. Here’s why
The emperor has kept his people safe with a special form of magic- he can create constructs that follow his commands but this comes at a high cost acceptable only to him. The constructs are created from small shards of bone taken from children, in a special ceremony that can sometimes be fatal.
When a person’s bone shard is in use by the emperor, their life force slowly drains leading to a slow, painful death. Lin, the emperor’s daughter tries to master this magic behind her father’s back and in the process realises that the empire is failing and she needs to stop her father. But she isn’t the only one who feels this way, there is a revolution brewing across the empire.
I found myself immersed in a well-realised world with a magic system that felt fresh and new. The story is told through several points of view-my favourites were Lin the emperor’s daughter, Jovis, a pirate and accidental hero of the people and Phalue, the governor’s daughter and reluctant rebel leader. The points of view are a mix of first person and third person which works really well and keeps the plot moving naturally.
The plot is fast paced with no lag, with plenty of action scenes and Jovis provides plenty of humour especially in his interactions with Memphi, a strange animal who adopts and his ongoing bewilderment when he finds himself becoming a hero by accident. The mystery surrounding Lin’s origins and the emperor’s experiments kept me hooked till the end.
A fresh new fantasy with a cast of predominantly people of colour and a fascinating,complicated but I couldn’t warm to the main character.
Content warning: Children deaths, Racial Violence and slurs.
Genre Magical Realism/Low FantasyFrom Amazon
Evil lives in a travelling carnival roaming the Depression-era South. But the carnival’s newest act, a peculiar young woman with latent magical powers, may hold the key to defeating it. Her time has come.
In the 1930’s American South, Eliza, a young black woman with an unpredictable power joins Bacchanal, a carnival made up of almost black performers, to escape her deary existence. She settles into a new life as an animal performer using her abilities to control animals with her mind and starts to make new friends and finds love. But she knows something isn’t right and it has to do with the red trailer which is no one but the carnival owner can go near. She is right, the carnival hides an ancient evil and Eliza is the only one who can stop her no matter what the cost.
I picked this book from Amazon first reads when I saw that striking cover and when I saw the main characters were people of colour in a fantasy set in a western setting, which is becoming more common but still is a bit of a novelty.
The book is told from several points of view, including the demon which was one of its strengths and also helped made Eliza a little more bearable as the main character( more on than at later). Clay, the nominal head of the carnival could have been a cardboard villain but the chapters from his point of view paint a picture of a deeply flawed man who is a product of his times and trying to do some good through actions that are morally questionable if not evil. Eliza’s power to influence animals through mental images feels fresh and new.
The book is full of mystical tales from Africa all well woven into the main story that seems to fit perfectly in a story about America struggling to survive the depression.
I loved reading about Madame Stephanie St Clair(aka Queenie) a black woman who was head of a crime syndicate in 1930’s Harlem and one of the highlights of the book was reading the author’s note on this remarkable woman. I honestly thought she was a figment of the author’s imagination but she is real and I plan to read a few more books about this woman, so ahead of her time.
There are too many points of view, pretty much all of the carnival people have one and I struggled to read the chapters from Hope’s and Autumn’s who are two of the performers in the carnival point of view. They seem to serve the sole purpose of trying to make Eliza a more likeable character and to justify why the people in the carnival turned a blind eye to all the bad things happening around them. I know they had a vested interest in keeping the carnival going but at some point you have thought one of the carnival folk would have had a moment of doubt.
An engaging trilogy and introduction to the Grishaverse and the small sciences but could the TV ( I can’t believe I’m saying this) series be slightly better than the books?
A spoiler free review of the Shadow and Bone trilogy and the first season of the netflix show.
Author Leigh Bardugo
Books in series
Book 1 Shadow and Bone
Book 2 : Siege and Storm
Book 3: Ruin and Rising
Alina Starkov, an orphan discovers she is a rare Grisha, a sun summoner when she saves her childhood sweetheart in the Fold a piece of land deprived of life when he is attacked by creatures called the volcra. The Darkling is the leader of the Grisha, a group of people with great power and the ability to manipulate the elements using a system called the small science and takes Alina under his wing to train her to use her powers in the hope this will destroy the fold and defeat Ravka’s enemies. Alina has to learn not only how to control her power but also how to negotiate life at court, people trying to use her power for their own purposes her own feelings towards the Darkling and Mal but also how to save Ravka.
I have to confess, I only picked up Shadow and Bone after I finished the Six and Crows and The crooked Kingdom and was hoping to fix my Grishaverse craving. Even though I had some idea about how Alina’s. Mal’s, Genya’s, Zoya’s and Sturmhond”s stories pan out, I was still surprised by some of the twists and turns in these books. These books are in the first person from Alina’s point of view and she only really comes to life in the Siege and Storm, which not surprisingly coincides with Sturmhond dramatically making an entrance. Alina isn’t your typical feisty, hardass heroine and needs a lot of rescuing but I think this makes her more relatable if a little bland. The Russian inspired Grishaverse is an intricate tapestry of world-building, vividly brought to life by Leigh Burdugo. I found myself caring about the secondary characters more than Mal and Alina and I found myself rooting for Zoya, Genya, Nicholai and was beyond pleased when their stories continued in the King of Scars trilogy. The Darkling is an intriguing villain cast who like Dracula always seems to come back no matter how many times we think he has died and Baghra has now become my all-time favourite angry, old woman.
The story really picks up pace in Siege and Storm with more political and court intrigue. I may be biased but Stormhond and Nicholai make their appearance here and bring some needed humour and swashbuckle to the story. The second book remains my favourite and you can see how Alina’s character develops into the Saint and the leader the people of Ravka would like her to be.
Alina’s takes control in book three (after a dramatic rescue) and finally fulfils her destiny and create a new Ravka but we find out more Mal’s unique role and the part he plays in saving Ravka.
When destiny calls, there’s no fighting back . . .
As a bard’s apprentice, Kihrin grew up with tales of legendary deeds. He also steals, desperate to buy a way out of Quur’s slums. Then he raids the wrong house, he’s marked by a demon and life will never be the same again.
Kihrin’s plight brings him to the attention of royalty, who claim him as the lost son of their immoral prince. But far from living the dream, Kihrin’s at the mercy of his new family’s ruthless ambitions. However, escaping his jewelled cage just makes matters worse. Kihrin is horrified to learn he’s at the centre of an ancient prophecy. And every side – from gods and demons to dragons and mages – want him as their pawn. Those old stories lied about many things too, especially the myth that the hero always wins.
Then again, maybe Kihrin isn’t the hero, for he’s not destined to save the empire. He’s destined to destroy it.
Kirhin, the adopted son of a singer, brought up in a brothel in the slums of Quur is an accomplished thief who dreams of stealing enough money to give his father a new life. But one day he breaks into the wrong house and attracts the attention of Darzin, heir to the House of D’Mon and has to quickly adapt to his new role as heir to the house. But his life is going to become much more complicated when he learns that he is a link to an ancient evil called Vol Karoth.
I was hooked by the tagline ‘What if you are not the hero of the story ’ and what a story is was filled with plenty of twists and turns in a well developed, multi-layered universe.
The ruin of Kings is told from Kirhin perspective- both in the first person and in the third person and is possibly the most complicated narrative structure.
Kirhin’s story starts with him being sold as a slave and his eventual journey to being held captive and Kirhin relates this in the first person being told under duress to his captor. The rest of the story, as told by his captor, Talon, to Kirhin in the third person but is actually being written by another narrator ( who is named later in the book) covers Kirhin story as an underage boy of 15 and how he ended up being sold as a slave( I told you it was complicated). The two storylines eventually converge towards the end of the book. This is an unusual way to tell a story but it works and particularly as I would have found it hard to read about Kirhin’s experiences at the hands of Darzin in the first person.
There are a range of secondary characters who are vividly described with their own dark motivations and you might need to draw a flowchart to keep track of how everyone is related to each other either in this life or the past life. I like the fact the other characters are of all ages, sexes and races and while I have a soft spot for Tearath, I did become invested in Lady Miya, Tirentso, Doc, Ola and Talon even with their dark edges.
The world-building is amazing and Quur as a country comes to life as a place of two parts- the rough slums where Kirhin starts life to the walled-off parts of town housing royalty. There are plenty of races, magical creatures, cultures to wrap your head around as well as a stalker dragon.
And yes, the tagline is fulfilled. Kirhin unwittingly causes a whole lot of destruction by the end of the book.
The story is complicated perhaps a little more than it needed to be s. The naming system is based on taking part of your parents names, so many of the name are very similar but this can make it very hard to keep track of who is who eg, Terindel, Teararth, Thaena. And it only gets worse as the story progresses into the next two books.
The ruin of Kings opens up with a naked, 16- year- old being sold as a slave and almost put me off reading anymore. There are scenes of physical abuse and implied rape to a child ( a 15-year-old is a child in my view and even if sex is consensual is still wrong on so many levels) which takes place off the pages. This is addressed in the book instead of being glossed over but still is uncomfortable to read.
This is another series where I almost didn’t finish the first book because of graphic descriptions of sexual and physical violence which not present in the subsequent books and I think the book would have worked just as well without some of these scenes.
There isn’t much except for a budding romance between Kirhin and Tearath although Kirhin falls for the red-eyed girl he sees in a demonically implanted vision.
Yes, the book ends on a massive cliff-hanger with unknown fates for so many people in the book.
4 stars- I loved this book and would recommend this for any fantasy fans but it loses a star for the slavery and the sheer pain Kirhin is put through.
Content warning implied rape, slavery, child abuse, dubious consent ( mainly in Book 1)
Overriding story arc
This is so complicated to summarise in one short paragraph but I will give this a try ( from what I think is going on!)
Thousands of years ago, In an attempt to stop demons, one of the eight immortals takes a drastic step and creates Vol Karoth. Vol Karoth can destroy the worlds in his own right, and has been dormant for millenia but has started to wake. Kirhin, the hero of the series discovers, his destiny and his link with Vol Karoth, but is he the hero or the person who will wake Vol Karoth and destroy everything he cares for.
The ruin of Kings is told from Kirhin’s perspective- both in the first person and in the third person making the first book having the most complicated narrative I have ever read. He is also the main character in the third book, Memory of Souls but plays a minor role in the second book. Kirhin is an engaging character, you can warm to with genuine character flaws, lots of ambiguity and sexual confusion to boot. He is affected and traumatised by the awful things that happen to him which makes him a real and believable character.
Introduced in the first book but the second book Name of all things describes her story and her role in defeating Vol Karoth. I have to admit, I do not like Janel and I’m not sure why. She is everything I would want in a female character- brave, strong, confident, no messing around with romantic entanglements but I just find her overbearing and preachy.
Teraeth is my favourite character, strong, dependable and apparently unfazed by anything, he does appear to be the quiet strength behind Janel and Kirhin. He finally gets his own point of view in Memory of Souls and his own path and destiny becomes clearer.
I was late in discovering this series, and only came across this when trying to find boks similar to the Lymond Chronicles and was intrigued by the tagline ‘ What if you weren’t the hero of the story ‘. I can see why the Chorus of Dragons could be compared to the Lymond Chronicles- they both feature blond, blue-eyed heroes who face hardship and challenges from a young age, a vast range of characters and spread across many places although obviously in this case the worlds are completely made up.
The plot races along, with plenty of twists and some genuine moments of WTF when another tangled relationship or what the stone of shackles can do is revealed. The books all end on a bit of a cliffhanger .so I bought book 2 immediately after finishing the Ruin of Kings but more about that disappointment later. Luckily, book 3 picks up Kirhin’s story with the familiar twists and WTF moments from book 1.
The author’s world-building is extraordinary and she doesn’t confine this to just one world. There are several countries, planes of existence and afterlives and each country and race has its own well-defined culture. When the author takes time to describe places or food, you could almost be there enjoying a piece of sag bread under a dull sun.
There is oodles of diversity in these books, and people change races through magic at the drop of a sign of trouble. The slaves in this universe appear to be from all races and not just from one race, and slavery seems to be due to trickery or punishment.
The sexual diversity in this book isn’t shoehorned with just one character as in the books, but all the characters seem to be comfortable in their sexuality with the same or opposite gender especially by the third book. Name of all things is more focussed on gender fluidity and people are accepted in the gender of their choice but I did find it hard to wrap my head around the voramer, a race of beings who are born male and then become female- I mean, how is that biologically possible?
There are footnotes, but these do help with the story for example explaining why someone might have chosen to act a certain way when it made no sense to do so. The footnotes also help when you realise that the story is in fact being told by someone else. I haven’t come across such a complicated way of telling a story in fantasy but I enjoyed this.
There are thousands of characters ( it felt like this anyway), who all seem to have a role to play and had their own unique flaws and strengths. I loved how most of them seemed to be connected to each other through family, or through past lives. Darzin, from the first book, was two-dimensionally evil but I’m glad the author didn’t attempt to give him any redeeming features.
I do like the fact the author has tried to talk about issues such as gender, sexuality and slavery in these books but some readers might find this boring.
I almost forgot, there are dragons, lots of dragons.
I could witter on for ages on what really annoyed me but to summarise this it would be book 2- Name of all things. I loved the main and secondary characters from the first book and I desperately wanted to find what happened to them. So, you can imagine my crushing disappointment when the next book was about preachy, annoying Janel with Kirhin playing a secondary role. I found the second book boring and while the discussions on gender were interesting the first few hundred times, it did get a bit annoying after a while ( I know I exaggerate but did I tell you how disappointed I was?). I started to reread the series before buying Book 5 in the series but couldn’t face
300 pages of preachy Janel, so, I skipped book 2 without missing another that adding to the story in the third book. There is a helpful summary of the events of book 2 at the start of Memory of Souls.
The plot in book three drags in the middle with t far too many conversations between people which is a shame as the author’s descriptions of food, clothes and places really bring Kirhin’s world to life. The characters in book three all sound the same and sound far too modern day for this kind of book.
I wouldn’t call the series grimdark but the first book does have some dark parts. The ruin of Kings opens up with a naked, 16- year- old being sold as a slave and almost put me off reading anymore. There are scenes of physical abuse and implied rape to a child ( a 15-year-old is a child in my view and even if consensual is still wrong on so many levels). This is addressed in the book instead of being glossed over.
This is another series where I almost didn’t finish the first book because of graphic descriptions of sexual and physical violence but not present in the subsequent books. Is this a trend or trope I’m not aware of?
There a complicated, messy romance between Kirhin, Janel and Terarth but it isn’t your usual love triangle. There are also romantic plots between several of the other secondary characters
Yes, at the end of each book. After reading the last page and that ending in Memory of Souls, I have to find out what happens next in the House of Always.
Perfect for Fans of
Games of Thrones, Lymond Chronicles, Captive Prince Trilogy
4 stars. I recommend this ambitious series but have knocked a star off for the second book and draggy middle of the third book.
I can’t wait to read the next book and will update this review once done.
Six years ago in Archetellos, humans caused the Coda an event leading to magic dying and as a result the world has changed with magical creatures struggling to survive in this new world. Fetch Phillips, a human private detective is trying to survive in Sunder City along with all the other non-humans in a post Coda world. But Fetch has a guilty secret- he caused the Coda.
Fetch Phillips is cynical ,decrepit ,shambles of a man with a grudging sense of humour trying to redeem himself with limited success. The book is written in the first person, so we have an intimate of view of his thoughts. He is a likeable character and there were a few times I laughed at some of Fetch descriptions of events. The author Luke Arnold played Long John Silver, in the amazing Black Sails ,so I can’t help imagining Fetch looking a bit like a pirate down on his luck.
There is a love story of sorts but you know straight off these are two lovers who won’t be walking into the sunset.
None. Each book’s individual story is resolved by the end of the book.
I was really looking forward to read this book, after reading a review in a magazine describing this as a gothic horror. But unfortunely, I was left sorely disappointed despite the amazing cover.
Author:Emily M Danforth with Illustrations by Sara Lautman
Genre: Romance/drama( sometimes described as horror but more feels more creepy than scary)
Content :warning attempted rape scene
Good reads summary
Our story begins in 1902, at The Brookhants School for Girls. Flo and Clara, two impressionable students, are obsessed with each other and with a daring young writer named Mary MacLane, the author of a scandalous bestselling memoir. To show their devotion to Mary, the girls establish their own private club and call it The Plain Bad Heroine Society. They meet in secret in a nearby apple orchard, the setting of their wildest happiness and, ultimately, of their macabre deaths. This is where their bodies are later discovered with a copy of Mary’s book splayed beside them, the victims of a swarm of stinging, angry yellow jackets. Less than five years later, The Brookhants School for Girls closes its doors forever—but not before three more people mysteriously die on the property, each in a most troubling way.
Over a century later, the now abandoned and crumbling Brookhants is back in the news when wunderkind writer, Merritt Emmons, publishes a breakout book celebrating the queer, feminist history surrounding the “haunted and cursed” Gilded-Age institution. Her bestselling book inspires a controversial horror film adaptation starring celebrity actor and lesbian it girl Harper Harper playing the ill-fated heroine Flo, opposite B-list actress and former child star Audrey Wells as Clara. But as Brookhants opens its gates once again, and our three modern heroines arrive on set to begin filming, past and present become grimly entangled—or perhaps just grimly exploited—and soon it’s impossible to tell where the curse leaves off and Hollywood begins.
A story within a story within a story and featuring black-and-white period illustrations.
This book is about a film about a book that is about a book- a memoir written in early last century by a teenage feminist Mary MacLane. Merritt, a young wonderkid whose bestseller about a tragedy occuring in 1902 is about to be turned into a film starring the famous actress Harper Harper. Merritt’s book delves into the death of two young girls obessed with Mary Maclane in a progressive school run by Libby and her lover Alex. But the main players in this story are being filmed to capture how the Merritt and Harper respond to a number of staged , creepy moments except these may not be staged, the film and the book may actually be cursed ( or not, I just couldn’t work this out by the end of the book.).Confused, I have to admit I was for most of the book.
Fetch Philips has nothing left to believe in. Which is why he’s surprised when the people of Sunder City start to believe in him…
Rumour has it that Fetch is only one who can bring magic back into the world. So when a man is murdered in a way that can only be explained as magical, Fetch is brought in on the case. A case which just might unearth things best left buried…
The book picks up soon after the end of the first book, when Fetch Phillips, man for hire, is contacted by the Sunder City police and much to Fetch’s surprise, it’s not because he is in trouble for a change. A human has been murdered and Simms, the reptilian police detective would like to hire Fetch to find out if he died by magic and the murderer too. She has heard the rumours too- Fetch is trying to find a way to bring the magic back to Archetellos.
I was so happy, I had the second book in the Fetch Phillips series as soon as I finished the first one, so I could jump straight back into the post Coda world in Sunder City.
The book was an intriguing mix of styles- murder mystery, crime noir and thriller but these different parts blend seamlessly to produce a book I couldn’t put down.
Fetch is still remains a shambles of a man, a misfit who doesn’t belong with humans but will never be accepted by the non-humans ( if only because he caused the Coda – the event that made magic disappear). Fetch is more empathetic and caring than he would like to be which makes his constantly shifting loyalties and bad decisions more bearable. His character growth is evident in this book when he has to make a hard choice that leads to heartache.
The plot races along with more action than the last book and we see more Archetellos and how Sunder City fits in the new world order. The new female characters are more fleshed out and I would definitely read books that stared the combination of Simms and Fetch or Fetch and Linda ( the werecat who sets herself up as Fetch’s rival).
The post Coda world of Archetellos remains fascinating and magical even in the absence of magic and the introduction of man-made technology introduces tension between the old world and the new.
The book is darker in tone compared to Last Smile in Sunder city although this is tempered by Fetch’s humour and the relative kindness of some of the minor characters. Unlike the last book, there are no grey areas when it comes to its antagonist-the Niles brother and the wizard Tippity. Even Daemar’s motivations and actions were two dimensional.
Unless humans in Archetellos are biologically different, there is no way Fetch could survive all the violence inflicted on him, in this book and the past without any permanent physical or mental damage.
I found it hard going reading the scene in the fire pits with a tortured magical animal.
No, The book resolves the main storyline but neatly sets up the next book ( I really hope there is a next book).
Fans of the Rivers of London ( Ben Aaronovitch) and Dresden Files (Jim Butcher).
I’m Fetch Phillips, just like it says on the window. There are three things you should know before you hire me: 1. Sobriety costs extra. 2. My services are confidential. 3. I don’t work for humans.
It’s nothing personal – I’m human myself. But after what happened, it’s not the humans who need my help. I just want one real case. One chance to do something good. Because it’s my fault the magic is never coming back.
Fetch Phillips, a human private investigator of sorts, who is trying to make a living in Sunder city. He is hired by the headteacher of a school for magical young ones, to find a teacher a former vampire who has gone missing. The teacher like all non-humans is struggling to come to terms with a new way of life since the Coda, a sudden event that led to magic disappearing from the world. Fetch takes the case but faces challenges from all directions, well, because he caused the Coda in the first place. Throw in a missing young siren, corrupt builders and a doomed love story and you have an urban fantasy with a unique take on a familiar story.
I was hooked on this book from the first page with lines such as “I was still pulling complaints out of my ears with tweezers”.
The world of Archetellos is well described with a consistent feel to the magical creatures who have now lost their magic after an event called the Coda which was caused by humans who destroyed the source of magic. The Coda in the book is a major event that leads to seismic changes to the lives of magical creatures and how they have to learn to live as beings with no magic. The feelings of despair and anxiety have parallels in our world as we have to deal with life-changing events in the last century and more recently covid-19.
There are many magical beings that are familiar to all readers of fantasy but we see a different side to them such as ageing elves, vampires are no longer nourished by blood and werewolves stuck between their human and wolves. I really enjoyed the fact that humans and magical creatures were neither good nor bad but a mix of both.
The plot races along without a dull moment and Fetch does grow as a character but remains realistic. His actions are questionable and although he wants to redeem himself, he can’t help but put his needs first when it comes to Amari., the love of his life.
Fetch is the main character and the book revolves around him, but a few of the secondary characters such as Hendricks and Baxter interesting with varoius shades of grey.
Fetch is a fascinating character, with the usual sarky tone of voice you would expect in a first-person urban fantasy but Fetch is not the usual hero. He is flawed and as is his decision making but you do empathise with him as a character trying to redeem himself but not doing a very good job of this. Flashbacks to his backstory are woven into the story and I like the fact these snippets just appeared instead of long, artificial conversations, I have seen in some other books.
Amari, Fetch’s lover is boring and a bit too perfect and while Fetch’s description of how much he loves her is touching, it doesn’t ring true given his actions in the past.
Some people might find the plot thread around the missing child difficult.
No, The book resolves the main storyline with no unresolved subplots
Fans of the Rivers of London ( Ben Aaronovitch) and Dresden Files (Jim Butcher).
I can’t wait till to read the next book in the series Dead man in a ditch.