• Fireborne – Rosaria Munda

    As you might be able to tell, I love dragons. If the name of the blog Libri Draconis didn’t already give it away, this picture taken in front of my dragon wall should clarify that once and for all. So I couldn’t wait to read Fireborne after I managed to snag an ARC at Bookcon in the chillest ARC drop I have ever seen (Kudos to PenguinTeen for that!).

    I actually read this one a while ago but I’m only now managing to catch up on all the reviews that are on my to-do list. I had my last official (paid) day at work today, though I’ll still be finishing up my project for the next few weeks. Together with the move to London coming up, this has made my last couple of months super stressful, and it’s not going to get better for a while. But I’m still trying to make sure I post a review every week or so.

    PUBLICATION DATE: 15/10/2019

    STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶

    SUMMARY: Lee and Annie, young orphans, have grown up to become dragon riders in the wake of a brutal revolution in Callipolis. However, their respective pasts haunt them both, and they will have to figure out who to trust and who to become when the enemy nation of New Pythos attacks them with their own dragons…

    OPINIONS: I really enjoyed Fireborne! The concept of different kinds of dragons was amazing, I loved learning about all the different types that the Callipolians had access to. It also meant a lot to me that the dragons were the ones to choose the riders, rather than the other way around. This ensured a clear bond between them, which ended up playing a central role in the story and character development.

    The world building too was detailed and poignant, at its heart a revolution in the recent past, influencing the present. I’m a sucker for politics in YA novels, as you might have noticed in my reviews for State of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury or The Fever King by Victoria Lee. Fireborne follows in their footsteps, and creates a nuanced society dealing with the aftermath of a massive upheaval. Society changed immensely, not the least when it comes to dragon riders. I mentioned above that it was important to me that the dragons chose their own riders – while that might not have changed, the candidates did. Now, after a long tradition of important families being the only ones allowed to become dragon riders, every child is a candidate, independent of their background. However, many people still have issues with such changes, and it is an uphill battle for the heroes of Fireborne to find their place in society.

    Both Lee and Annie have their own reasons for chafing against these tensions. While they may come from very different places, they both have to negotiate the ties of their pasts with who they want to become, facing strong opposition. The characters are extremely well written and their struggles elaborated perfectly. They are faced with many morally gray issues, and deal with those in a realistic way, making the reader feel for them. Fireborne is definitely one of those books that I will be recommending over and over again, and if my review has whet your appetite, find it on Goodreads and pre-order it here or from your favourite source of books.

  • Serpent & Dove – Shelby Mahurin

    Many highly anticipated books have a hard time living up to the hype – and then there are the few gems that are worth every drop of attention that they get. Serpent & Dove was one of those books for me. I hadn’t really been aware of it before I managed to snag an ARC at BookCon (thank you, Fierce Reads!) and it ended up being worth every second of that two hour line.

    Funny story, actually, I was super early for that line, and it wasn’t allowed to start until a specific time. I ended up meeting a lovely girl (Shoutout to Monica!), and we decided to stick together. While the lady from the booth was constantly yelling at anyone who looked like they were queuing, we loitered around and looked at the ARC choices, and somehow ended up in the exact right spot when the lady allowed the line to start, making us the first to choose!

    But anyway, you’re not here to hear about my BookCon anecdotes, so have a review!

    PUBLICATION DATE: 03/09/2019

    STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶

    SUMMARY: Lou is a witch on the run, Reid a witch hunter. Circumstance has them meet and marry immediately to avoid scandal. Forced together they get to know each other, with Lou desperate to keep her true identity a secret, ultimately thrown into a quest to save the royal family and society as they know it. 

    OPINIONS: Oh, how I fell in love with this book! Shelby Mahurin’s writing is gorgeous and the story had a way of sucking you in (same thing happened to my friend who was visiting, she couldn’t stop reading). Lou is a witty, morally gray character, who makes many, many questionable choices, but still manages to charm the reader to her side. Reid is adorable, and his struggles with his beliefs over the course of the story allow for immense character growth.

    One of my favourite parts of the book was the magic system. Just like the characters, magic is complex and twisted, a mix of traditional witchcraft and rituals. The hunters have a very set opinion of witches, not allowing for the possibility of good magic, but through Lou, they start learning more about what they hunt and their minds start opening up.

    I am actually having a really hard time reviewing this book, because I loved it so much that I’m likely not impartial enough any more! Witches and complex characters, especially in a historical setting to me are like light to moths. I get sucked in, and lose myself completely. This was truly one of the top 5 books I’ve read this year (out of 115ish). You should check it out for yourself – add it on Goodreads or preorder it from your dealer of choice (here’s a link to Book Depository).

  • Kingdom of Souls – Rena Barron

    — DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC of this book from Harper Voyager through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. Many thanks for this opportunity! —

    2019 is an amazing year for diverse fantasy, and Rena Barron’s debut novel, Kingdom of Souls is one of it’s gems. Not only is it beautifully written and unique, it also has a amazing cover (and ARCS even feature the 2019 Fantasy Snake, a trend which seems to be a marker of excellence – Serpent and Dove, one of my favourite books this year, of which you’ll get a review in a few days, and Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House, which I haven’t got to read yet, but have heard amazing things of, are just two of the many examples. Although I only gave Kingdom of Souls 4 stars, I loved it, and will definitely be rereading it as soon as I receive my finished copy! For me, 5 stars are reserved for the very rare books that immediately join my all-time favourites, and stick with me, and have me thinking about for ages – I think I’ve only given out four or five 5 star ratings this year on over a hundred books. What I’m trying to say is that for me, 4 stars is likely what others would see as 5 stars!

    PUBLICATION DATE: 10/09/2019

    STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶

    SUMMARY: In a world where her mother is a powerful priestess with magical powers and her grandmother leads a clan of witch doctors, Arrah is powerless. Struggling with her lack of Magic, she becomes desperate when children start vanishing and decides to cast a ritual giving her power in return for years of her life. Her path to try and contain the looming darkness is perilous and unexpected, and she will have to go against family and friends to save them all.

    OPINIONS: For me, Kingdom of Souls top feature was the beautiful writing, especially the descriptions of magic. Passages such as “Magic of all colors flutters in the air as gentle as wingbeats. I can’t be still when it dances on my father’s dark skin like lightning bugs. It flits out along his jaw and leaps onto his nose. My hand shoots out to catch an ember of gold, but it slips through my fingers. I giggle, and he laughs too.” or “Magic clings to the air, so thick that it stings my skin. It dances in the night sky above endless rows of tents quilted in vibrant colors.” are haunting and lyrical, and made me fall in love with the book. I can’t wait for Rena to become an established author – if her debut writing is this good, just imagine what years to come will bring!

    I’ve you’ve been following my reviews, you might have noticed that character depth and development are something that is like catnip for me. And Arrah does not disappoint. She grows into herself over the course of the novel, and actively tries to overcome her issues. She is a deeply flawed character, but she is real and human, makes mistakes and fixes them, and we see her struggling with the things she is confronted with over the course of the story. This depth is not lacking when it comes to the more minor characters, who shine just as much.

    I could rave on and on, but I’d likely end up spoiling the magic for you. So go and add Kingdom of Souls on Goodreads, and pre-order it from your favourite source of books. Pro-tip, Goldsboro has a special signed edition with sprayed edges which you can find here (this is the version I preordered). And in the meantime, I will have to think about my rating again, and see if the book does not deserve the full 5 stars after all…

  • The Beautiful – Renée Ahdieh

    Before we start on to the review, I need to fangirl a little bit. I got to meet Renée at BookCon (see the pictorial evidence below!) and she is just the sweetest. I was super excited to snag an ARC of the Beautiful in a giveaway later at BookCon – the cover is absolutely amazing and plays right into my personal aesthetic. In my excitement to meet Renée, I accidentally ended up in the middle of the line for the Starless Sea ARC drop, and idiot me left to be the first in line for Renée (hindsight is a bitch!).

    PUBLICATION DATE: 08/10/2019

    STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶

    SUMMARY:  Fleeing from her past, young Celine lands in New Orleans in the midst of a mysterious murder spree. When people start being killed around her, she seeks refuge with a mysterious lady benefactor at the Cour des Lions, and gets pulled deeper and deeper into the supernatural mysteries of 1800s New Orleans.

    OPINIONS: Sadly, this one did not quite live up to my expectations – that is not to say that I did not like it, but I was so hyped for it that my expectations went through the roof, and very hard to actually meet. As with Renée’s earlier books, the writing in The Beautiful is amazing, which is a large part why I decided to still give this book 4 ✶ despite its flaws. She has a talent for magical storytelling that pulls you right in and barely lets you leave her worlds.

    I read the first half of the book in one sitting, staying up past my bedtime because I couldn’t bear to put it away. Mysterious characters in beautiful historical costumes, a mystery, and a feisty heroine are all catnip to me. I also loved the recurring references to Shakespeare, who I might slightly be in love with, blame my English degree! Celine is everything I love in a main character, flawed, struggling, but smart, rebellious and confident. She and most of the other central characters were fleshed out really well. There are some exceptions in the Cour des Lions, but that is likely due to to the extreme secrecy these characters stick to.

    However, the plot starts to drag in the second half, leading to a extremely fast-paced climax/info-dump in the last 50 or so pages of the book, which ends up asking many more questions than it answers. To me, it would have made much more sense to slow down the end and instead have more resolution. I felt like the supposed vampires at the centre of The Beautiful did not come through enough, which might have to do with the above mentioned secrecy. I am very excited for book two, hoping that it will clear up much of the mess of the end of the first, and that it will work better as a complete story.

  • The Storm Crow – Kalyn Josephson

    There is something more magical about reading a story before it is out for the world to see. Many thanks to Sourcebooks Fire for providing me with an advance copy of this novel via Fairyloot!

    The Storm Crow, like many books published recently, has a wonderfully designed cover, which I immediately fell in love with. I read this one a while ago, but never got around to actually writing the review, so it’s a short one today.

    There is still time to pre-order (the first run has an amazing hidden cover with lightning!) from your preferred source, and add it on goodreads before it’s out.

    PUBLICATION DATE: 09/07/2019

    STAR RATING: 3/5 ✶

    SUMMARY: One fateful night, Thia’s world was shattered. Their kingdom, Rhodaire, was attacked, she lost her mother, the queen, and the magical crows that had shaped her life and society were all killed. Thia lingers in a deep depression afterwards, until her sister Caliza, the new queen, is forced to send her to the enemy kingdom of Illucia to marry their prince. However, the sisters stumble upon a last, unhatched, egg and come up with a dangerous plan to try and win their freedom back…

    OPINIONS: I was super excited to read this book when I received an ARC in a Fairyloot box earlier this year, and quickly got stuck into the story – the idea of magical storm crows as riding animals was thrilling, and the plot gripping. However, the book ultimately felt like the YA fantasy novel I had read a million times already, exhibiting flaws that are likely due to being a debut novel. That is not to say that I did not like it, I found The Storm Crow to be a solid, fun read and am curious to see how the author’s style and story will develop in the future.

    I loved Razel, the queen of Illucia and the villain of the story, so much. She is cunning and brilliant and ruthless, fiercely independent and controlling. She knows much more than Thia thinks, and successfully makes her life in Illucia very difficult. She is one of the few well-developed, multi-dimensional characters in the story, as sadly, most of them fall fairly flat. Maybe I am being a bit too harsh on Thia, but she frustrated me to no end. I found her to be excessively naive and self-focused, oblivious to anything not in her immediate trajectory. She wallows in self-pity and is blind to her surroundings, unsurprisingly leading to her ending up in the middle of a love triangle. It never occurred to her to question what she was told or be suspicious, while living in the enemy’s territory – which surprised me a lot, given that she had been raised in a court! Thinking about it now, I believe that my frustrations are due to Thia being the kind of character that things happen to, instead of a character who drives the story, which is very much my personal preference.