I think this is the first time I’m featuring a sequel on the blog! But then, Natasha Ngan’s Girls series is just too good not to talk about. After really liking Girls of Paper and Fire last year, I was very keen to get my hands on an ARC of Girls of Storm and Shadow – which I finally managed at YALC a few weeks ago. Obviously, I immediately had to start reading it in order to finish it before the signing the next day. I didn’t quite finish and got my copy signed by Natasha while I was still about 30 pages out. And having to stop so shortly before the resolution is commonly known as torture. I survived though, finished it in my next break, and loved the ending.
PUBLICATION DATE: 05/11/2019
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: After the events of Girls of Paper and Fire, Lei and her girlfriend Wren are on the run. Trying to throw over the current government, they and their friends are trying to find allies to help them on their quest. But are things really what they seem? And who can Lei trust?
OPINIONS: As I mentioned above, I devoured Girls of Storm and Shadow! As this is a sequel I’ll be trying extra hard to avoid spoilers for those who might not have come across the series before. There are many aspects that positively surprised me. One of my absolute favourite things about it was that (permanent) consequences arrive from actions and decisions rather than the story working towards a happy resolution. Nothing is fully safe, and Natasha actually dares for the story to come full circle, starting again from square one and ending on an absolute cliffhanger. It is unpredictable and satisfying and darker than expected.
Every single one of the characters acts along their own moral compass, following their own private goals, which in turn leads to morally gray characters and helps with the unpredictability of the story. As the book is written from the point of view of Lei, she is not aware of many of her companions’ true intentions, so we, the readers, are not either. This is the case for one of my favourite additions to the sequel: Leva. She is mysterious, beautiful and interfering, and I cannot wait to find out more about her in the third book.
One caveat, the reason why I decided on four stars, is that emotional issues did not go as deep as I would have liked, both in the relationship between Wren and Lei, and at the death of a beloved character. It felt like much was left unstated, which pulled me out of the story a few times. Nevertheless, I highly recommend you add Girls of Storm and Shadow on Goodreads and/or pre-order it from Book Depository or your retailer of choice!
I’ve always wanted to read some of Adam Silvera’s writing. But his previous books all being contemporary YA, they kept sliding to the back of my TBR. So when Infinity Son was announced as a gay fantasy book, I immediately knew that I had to read it! I was very lucky to get an ARC from Simon & Schuster at YALC so it could slide right on top of my reading list.
PUBLICATION DATE: 14/01/2020
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: In a world where powers are rare and can be gotten two ways, either by birth or through murder of a magical creature, Emil suddenly develops magical abilities. This throws him and his family in the middle of a war between the two powered factions, all while he and his twin brother, Brighton, try and figure out who and what they are, and what their futures could be.
OPINIONS: I have a feeling that this will turn into the next great thing in YA fantasy. Think the next Folk of the Air or Caraval (two series that are extremely popular in the online YA community). Not only is it a very good book with lots of queer and diverse rep, it will likely also pull over lots of readers from Adam’s previous contemporary novels. That being said, I think I went into reading Infinity Son with expectations that were too high. While I enjoyed my reading experience, it did not blow me away or stick around in my head – though I do think it’s a very ME thing and not a book thing.
The magic system Adam uses in this series (yes, there will be more!) is unique: it features ‘Celestials’ (people who have been born with powers, usually inherited through the family line) and ‘Specters’ (people who have gained magical powers through stealing the blood of magical creatures). I loved the magic and creatures in the book, and my favourite part about reading it was learning about all the different types of phoenixes! While there is obviously a moral component to these powers and the way they were gained, this blurs with the actions and motivations of the individual characters.
The characters were well written and multidimensional; they have clear goals and motivations which they are true to throughout the book. In contrast to many recent YA fantasy books, they truly read like teenagers! They are often clueless and rash, stubborn and independent. The only memorable adult in the story is Emil and Brighton’s mom, who plays a very passive part. It is very much a story for teenagers, for today’s teens obsessed with social media in a way that is almost foreign to my generation of millennials (though perhaps part of that is my European upbringing). There have been many discussions about YA books and their audiences, with teenagers feeling that authors write for younger adults rather than the 13-18 demographic YA is intended for. I don’t want to go into detail about those debates here, but let it be said that this is a book that I feel is very much aimed at ‘actual teens’ rather than the older YA audience. This is likely why Infinity Son didn’t quite hit the sweet spot for me personally, but I see this as a great thing.
I’ve read quite a few fantastic five-star books this year, from The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon in Spring, to Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin (find my review here), or very recently, Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey. But Gideon beats them all. It is weird and confusing, non-sensical and dark, but it is amazing. I’ve been recommending this to my friends non-stop, and I’ve been thinking about it and wanting nothing more than a reread ever since I finished it! If only there were more hours in the day…
PUBLICATION DATE: 10/09/2019
STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Gideon Nav, 18, is so over it. Stuck in the Ninth House, with only the hated Harrow for age-appropriate company, all she wants is to be let go and join the army. But Harrow has different plans for Gideon, and drags her along to a sort of necromantic competition in a mysterious complex on a different planet as her cavalier (better known as an armed sidekick). And then people start to disappear and die, and the two women have to figure out how not to kill each other in the mean time.
OPINIONS: Well, I might be slightly in love with Gideon. She is a take-no-shit sassy badass and might be one of the greatest characters I’ve read. Her deadpan delivery of unexpected comments was one of my favourite parts about this book and a constant source of amusement. Standoffish Harrow and the rest of the Dramatis Personae of Gideon the Ninth did not lag far behind the titular characters. The necromancers and their cavaliers all had their own quirks and motivations, which shone through the story. Their fraught relationships built the heart of this story, if not the brain. In competition with each other, the couples had to navigate their own issues and goals with the events they were all confronted with together, which made for incredibly interesting reading and multi-dimensional characters and relationships. In Gideon and Harrow’s relationship in particular we get quite a bit of introspection on it, confronting Gideon’s thoughts with her actions.
These characters and relationships, together with the nine necromantic houses, set on individual planets, make for a unique concept, which does not lack in execution. I was unable to foresee anything that happened in this novel, which is incredibly rare and made me love it so much more. While the book is very dark, it hit the sweet spot of humour for me, and I found it highly entertaining. In short, Gideon the Ninth is weird and dark and delightful and you should all read it! I know I will be doing a reread as soon as I get my hands on a finished copy.
However, I do have to add the caveat that Gideon the Ninth is very much not for everyone, as it can also seem rather nonsensical and confusing, and I feel like the humour can be very hit or miss.