• Hype!

    August Hype Post!

    And another month is almost over so it’s time for more books I can’t wait to get my grabby hands on featuring A LOT of dark academia…

    The Devil Makes Three by Tori Bovalino will be published by Page Street Kids on the 10th of August (the UK edition is coming out from Titan in September). This is a YA dark academia fantasy and it sounds amazing. Set in a library, full of banter, enemies to lovers dynamics, insane chemistry, demons and witchcraft this ticks all my boxes. I look forward to getting stuck into the world and disappearing for a while – I think it’ll be great escapism. It does sound like it’ll be m/f, but I think the premise is awesome enough that I can forgive it that. And have I mentioned book-bound demon?! Get your copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).

    Victoria Lee’s A Lesson in Vengeance is one of my most anticipated books of the year. Out from Delacorte Press on the 3rd, this is dark academia of the most delicious sort. I loved their first duology and I expect this to be even better – this is sapphic and witchy and everything I like about a book. There is no way I’m not going to absolutely love this one. From the blurb: “Witchcraft is woven into Dalloway’s history. The school doesn’t talk about it, but the students do. In secret rooms and shadowy corners, girls convene. And before her girlfriend died, Felicity was drawn to the dark. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; all Felicity wants is to focus on her senior thesis and graduate. But it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget.” Order a copy from Amazon here.

    Redemptor by Jordan Ifueko is the sequel to last year’s Raybearer, one of my favourite YA fantasy novels. This continues Tarisai’s story and concludes the duology and to say that I’m excited for it is an understatement. I’m planning on rereading Raybearer this week so you know… This is African-set fantasy at its best, unashamedly not adhering to western ideas of story-telling, and featuring some of the most wonderful characters out there. A true delight. Oh, and the writing is wonderful too. Out on the 17th from Hot Key, and you can order your copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).

    It’s no secret that I’ve been really into retellings of classical mythology, so it should not surprise anyone that The Women of Troy by Pat Barker is on this list. Out on the 19th from Doubleday, this follows The Silence of the Girls, which is the story of Briseis in the Greek camp during the Trojan war. This one starts as the war ends and the Greek warriors are desperate to return – but the good winds just won’t come and they have to wait to be able to sail home. I really enjoyed the first one, so I’m sure I’ll love this one too. It’s always great to be able to read a story from a perspective so different to the one it’s always told from. Order it from Bookshop here (affiliate link)

  • Minis

    Monday Minis

    I have been remiss and missed last Monday to do a full review… I haven’t been reading as much as I would like so I had to skip one to have enough content – shame on me! Three very different books today, a YA fantasy, a horror novel and a queer historical story!

    Thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for sending me eARCs of these titles. As usual, all opinions are my own.

    The Gilded Cage is the second book in Lynette Noni’s The Prison Healer trilogy. The series follows Kiva as she navigates life outside of the prison that she has spent most of her childhood and youth in. After the cliffhanger revelations at the end of the first book, she has to grapple with the tensions between her rescuer prince and her revolutionary family. This series is textbook YA fantasy – fun, easy to read, entertaining, with a sprinkle of romance and betrayal. But it isn’t necessarily a series with a TON of substance (which isn’t only negative! It’s great escapism). Kiva is a survivor and used to relying only on herself, which leads to interesting issues in her relationships. I thought that this second book had leveled up from the first one, and it’s definitely an enjoyable series that I will finish when the last book is released. It also ends with a huge bang, so I am quite upset about the wait now… Good thing they’re coming in close succession.

    Devolution by Max Brooks is an odd one. It is a collection of diary entries, interviews and snippets about a fictional Sasquatch massacre. It follows Kate and her small community as they are first cut off from the outside world and then fighting the Sasquatch tribe. While this is a fast paced story with an exciting premise, I have to admit that I was rather bored by it. I struggled to connect with the characters and ultimately didn’t care what happened to them. This was the kind of book I had to make myself read a few chapters every day, and it sadly didn’t work for me. This may be more due to who I am as a reader, so do check out a sample if you’re intrigued by the concept.

    The Dangerous Kingdom of Love by Neil Blackmore follows Francis Bacon during the reign of James I. It presents both Bacon and James as gay men, and takes quite a bit of liberty with history as it is known. I really enjoyed Bacon’s dry wit – the story is told from his perspective, and loved the atmosphere of seventeenth century England. What I didn’t enjoy as much is the very modern tone the story took at times, which broke immersion for me. I feel like this might have worked better as a secondary world story rather than one rooted in history, where liberties with characters and language are easier to accept for me. It did feel at times as if the strong focus on Bacon was to the detriment of all the other character’s depth. It’s a fun read (and the audio is well done) but not one that is a must-read.

  • Reviews

    Iron Widow – Xiran Jay Zhao

    Some books you can tell immediately that you will love them. Iron Widow was one of those for me. Within a couple of chapters I was so engrossed in the beautiful writing and in love with the characters that I knew that I would love the book – and I was right. This is a book that will capture your heart. I know quite a few (reviewer) friends who have read it and all of them feel similarly – so do give this one a try!

    Many thanks to Penguin Teen and NetGalley for the eARC, all opinions are my own.

    RELEASE DATE: 07/09/2021 (UK) / 21/09/2021 (US/CAN)

    STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶

    SUMMARY: The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.
    When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​
    To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed. (from Penguin Teen)

    OPINIONS: Friends, this is SO GOOD. Everything just fits together so damn well. It is a brilliant book in every way – I started telling everyone around me to read this because I was sure I was going to love it as soon as I was just a few chapters in. Zetian is such a badass bitch who doesn’t take no shit from anyone. And silly me was originally not even going to pick up Iron Widow because I thought, eww, mechas, not for me. But I would have missed out. I’m so glad that I had friends who were raving about it and made me want to read it.

    Think of this as anime vibes in smart and compelling book format. And with the most gorgeous cover art. Iron Widow plays with so many YA tropes and just turns them upside down and it’s glorious. Zetian goes out, seeking revenge. Gets revenge, and instead of being punished, she proves herself invaluable. Oops. A love triangle starts blossoming. Oops, a poly triad forms instead. It is one of the best YA novels I have ever read. And it’s a DEBUT. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next and I can assure you that I will be getting myself a shiny hardcover or special edition the moment it is available.

    Seriously, this is so good that I don’t even know how to coherently write about it. Just, get it for yourself. It’s brilliant and you need it. If you’re intrigued, you can add Iron Widow to your Goodreads here, and pre-order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).

  • Reviews

    A Universe of Wishes – ed. Dhonielle Clayton

    I love short stories. I love fairy tales. So it was a no-brainer that I picked up this wonderful collection from the folks over at WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS and Titan – edited by Dhonielle Clayton. This is a wonderful collection of diverse reinterpretations of classic tales.

    Many thanks to Lydia Gittins and Titan Books for sending me a review copy. All opinions are my own.

    RELEASE DATE: 06/07/2021

    STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶

    SUMMARY: Anything is possible.

    From We Need Diverse Books fifteen award-winning and celebrated diverse authors deliver stories about a princess without need of a prince, a monster long misunderstood, memories that vanish with a spell, and voices that refuse to stay silent in the face of injustice.

    Alucard and Prince Rhy’s relationship in V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series is finally revealed, Anna-Marie McLemore gives “Cinderella” a trans retelling, while letters supernaturally cross borders between Gaza and California
    in Tochi Onyebuchi’s “Habibi”.

    Close your eyes. Make a wish. The universe is yours for the taking. (from Titan)

    OPINIONS: A Universe of Wishes includes fifteen wonderful stories based on fairy tales. As a whole, I really enjoyed the collection and would love to read more stories in this vein – I am a huge fan of YA anthologies so this is exactly my thing. There are a couple of stories that are set within the author’s existing universes – “The Scarlet Woman” by Libba Bray, “A Royal Affair” by V.E. Schwab and “Longer Than the Threads of Time” by Zoraida Córdova. But while they are in a familiar world, they are entirely new stories, and some of my favourites in the collection. I loved reading about Rhy and Alucard’s back story in “A Royal Affair” (hi, yes, I’m a Schwab superfan) and “Longer Than the Threads of Time” with its dark twist on Rapunzel set in Central Park’s Belvedere Castle was brilliant.

    Other favourites include “Cristal y Ceniza” by Anna-Marie McLemore, predictably. This is a trans take on Cinderella, where the prince is non-passing and the narrator falls in love with him and his confidence. As always with their writing, this is beautiful and haunting and DAMN I WANT A WHOLE BOOK. I also really liked Tara Sim’s titular “A Universe of Wishes”, in which a boy commits grave robbery for the bodies innate magic. It is a stunning story of grief and falling in love featuring two soft boys. In “Dream and Dare”, Nic Stone sets up a wonderful world in which Princess Dare has gone missing. Dream, a femme-presenting tomboy (I identified with her fancy dresses while running through the forest so much) is the only one who can track down the missing princess… A beginning to a wonderful romance.

    I can’t write about all the individual stories here, but every single one is unique and compelling, a collection full of hits. I definitely recommend! Get sucked into the magical world of stories by adding A Universe of Wishes to your Goodreads here, or ordering a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).

  • Reviews

    The Tsarina’s Daughter – Ellen Alpsten

    I’ve really been getting into historical fiction lately, and damn, is The Tsarina’s Daughter a good one. It is compelling, addictive and about as twisted and dark as you might expect it to be. Centering a woman with ambition, who refuses to back down even if it would be easier, this shines light on eighteenth century Russia and its politics. More please!

    Many thanks to Becky Hunter at Midas PR and Bloomsbury for sending me an ARC. All opinions are my own.

    RELEASE DATE: 08/07/2021

    STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶


    OPINIONS: So I couldn’t put this down. I kept telling myself, oh I’ll just read a couple chapters and bam, it was a hundred pages later. I raced through this and really enjoyed it – think the political machinations of A Song of Ice and Fire combined with a strong and stubborn main character, minus most of the sexual violence. And oh, it’s actually based on history so you learn some interesting things while reading. I hadn’t read Tsarina (yet), but The Tsarina’s Daughter works just as well as a standalone. I really do need to get me a copy now though, as I enjoyed this one so much.

    Set in the eighteenth century, at the Tsarist court, The Tsarina’s Daughter really goes into all the politics and manipulation that go into ruling an empire, into determining what happens when there is not a clear line of succession. The story revolves around Elizabeth, younger daughter of Peter the Great, and her long journey to eventually become Tsarina herself. While rooted in history – and giving the reader a great insight into eighteenth century Russia, I have had a deep dive into the Romanovs myself inspired by the book – it is a thoroughly modern book. It is of course fiction, and an excellent one at that. I really liked that it didn’t take many easy ways out, there is very little sexual violence (though abuse happening off-page in different ways), which I always find is something that crops up too much in these sorts of political novels.

    Elizabeth is charismatic, ambitious and so damn stubborn, which makes her a great character to follow. She doesn’t give up even when facing overwhelming odds, and is portrayed as smart and caring. Many of the characters in the story are not neccessarily likeable, but all of them are interesting and nuanced.

    This is definitely one I would recommend if you like twisty books full of manipulation and politics, told through the eyes of a wonderful main character. Add The Tsarina’s Daughter to your Goodreads here, and order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).

  • Reviews

    Six Crimson Cranes – Elizabeth Lim

    Look at this pretty shiny cover! Isn’t it stunning? I love Hodder’s editions of Elizabeth Lim’s books so much, their pastel glory manages to even capture my goth-y black heart. And it fits the story inside so well – a comforting fairy tale, adapted for modern sensibilities. Both sweet and sad, intense and fluffy.

    Thanks to Hodder and Netgalley for sending me an eARC for review. All opinions are my own.

    RELEASE DATE: 08/07/2021

    STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶

    SUMMARY: Shiori’anma, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs in her veins. And on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

    A sorceress in her own right, Raikama banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

    Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and uncovers a dark conspiracy to seize the throne. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in a paper bird, a mercurial dragon, and the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain – no matter what it costs. (from Hodder)

    OPINIONS: I really enjoyed reading Six Crimson Cranes – I would say, probably more so than Lim’s debut. Based on the Grimm fairy tale of the Goose Girl, she takes this source material and weaves it into a new story inspired by Lim’s Asian heritage. This is a beautifully written, compelling fantasy. For me, the fairy tale atmosphere has something insanely comforting, so I had a great time reading this (I kept sneaking chapters on my phone).

    Shiori works really well as a main character – she undergoes such a growth arc over the course of the story that the girl at the end is almost unrecognisable from the girl at the start of the events. She starts out as a spirited, rebellious princess, spoiled and concerned mainly for herself and her future. But the events of the story change that. She grows up, and realises the impact her behaviour and actions have on the people around her. Nevertheless, she doesn’t lose any of her spunk and wit, which means it’s a joy to follow her.

    TL:DR super addictive fairy tale retelling that I’d recommend. Also look at how pretty it is… Add Six Crimson Cranes to your Goodreads here, or order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).

  • Something Special

    Readalong for The Age of Madness Series by Joe Abercrombie

    Joe Abercrombie’s The Age of Madness series is a lot of fun. Grimdark, but fun. So I couldn’t resist when Will at Gollancz reached out with the idea of a massive readalong. This is WEEK 4 so we’re going from the Sinking Ships to The New Monument chapters of A Little Hatred today. Check out the previous posts in the series here (WEEK 1 Grimdark Magazine; WEEK 2Novel Notions; WEEK 3Alhambra Book Reviews). But without further ado, let’s dive into the story. These chapters really take us into the meat of the revolution breaking out which means there’s a lot of action – and especially a lot of re-action from the various factions introduced earlier in the story.

    Sinking Ships brings Vick and Tallow to Valbeck, where they join the Breakers, one of the factions planning the looming rebellion. This chapter does well showing the discontent spreading through the lower classes of the city and how there isn’t much tinder needed to set them aflame. Vick and Tallow find out that the Weaver, their leader, is in fact Superior Risinau, one of the members of the Inquisition that the Breakers (and their more violent cousins, the Burners) are rising against.

    Welcome to the Future – oh the joys of capitalism and industrialisation! Vallimir shows Savine the budding factory which is teeming with child labour and exploitation. Not like they care though, it makes them money. But this is where things start to go really sour for the rich: they are attacked when the rebellion and its accompanying riots break out. Savine almost dies, and manages to rescue herself with the help of a handy river.

    The Little People is the kind of chapter in which Abercrombie shines. I think he’s at his best in these mood-setting atmospheric snapshots. This chapter shows the impact of the beginning rebellion and riots on the population of Valbeck through a series of vignettes showing minor characters and what happens to them as the violence breaks out. I really loved this chapter in particular.

    In Something of Ours, Savine is reeling from the heinous attack that she just survived. She is desperate to find shelter, though it is no easy feat. Eventually, May, a maid, recognises her as someone of importance due to the expensive clothes she wears (which are in rags by now) and takes her in.

    The Man of Action takes us to the court of the Royal Family, where everyone is in uproar after news of the rebellion in Valbeck has reached them. The Crown Prince Orso is dispatched to help combat the rebellion – and of course ensure the safety of the story’s darling, Savine dan Glotka. (Hi, yes, can you tell she’s my fave) This, of course, means that he can’t follow his plans of going North to fight there…

    Ugly Business brings us to Rikke and Leo dan Brock. We meet them again, tangled in bed, discussing royalty and war, when the army camp they’re in gets news of the events in Valbeck. As Rikke says “Reckon we’ll have to save ourselves.”

    In the Mirror – the chaotic events in Valbeck are mirrored in the chaos at the court of the King of the Northmen. King Scale is holding a feast, when his nephew Stour returns, late, disappointing the king. Nevertheless, Scale officially names Stour heir – to the dismay of his advisors but much raucous feasting.

    A Deal. Savine is recuperating with May and her family. They are simple people, and Savine is exceedingly grateful. May gets her to enter a deal: in return for taking care of Savine and rescuing her, Savine will use her influence to gain immunity for the family, so exchanging protection for protection.

    The New Monument takes these chapters full circle. We’re back with Vick and Risinau, overlooking the destruction that happened during the course of the riots. Monuments have fallen, but what new ones will arise? Or will they all perish?

    So, much that happened in those chapters, especially in terms of setting the scene and worldbuilding. There was a big focus on atmosphere, which I really enjoyed. On to the next nine chapters now!

  • Minis

    Monday Minis

    Welcome back to anther round of Monday Minis, where I try to reduce my stack of books to read and review. This has been a bit of an odd week as I’ve been stuck at home self-isolating, dealing with migraines as well. But hey, I got myself some work, and a lovely new guest blogger! Be prepared to read her first review later this summer – I’m very excited to welcome the lovely Anna – give her a follow on Twitter here.

    Thanks to the publishers for sending me review copies/eARCs of these books. All opinions are my own.

    The Forevers by Chris Whitaker is a YA published last week from Hot Key Books. The central hook of the story is that an asteroid will be destroying life on Earth in a month’s time. Mae and her friends, teens in a world where consequences seemingly don’t matter are trying to figure out how to navigate their lives while actions and consequences are disassociated. Be aware that this means that this book contains potentially triggering content – off the top of my head, there is mention of past self-harm, suicide (on and off page) and sexual assault (off page). While this all creates an intriguing scenario and high-stakes tension, the story itself leaves much to be desired. I did not feel emotionally invested and found that the pacing felt inconsistent – this book should have been a page-turner, but I struggled to get through it because it did not manage to hit the sweet spot of balance between plot, characterisation and stakes. I think the closest I can describe it as aimless – it never felt like the characters were trying to achieve anything other than manipulate each other. So I think this one was just not for me, even if it had its good moments.

    Reaper of Souls by Rena Barron is the second in her trilogy (which began with Kingdom of Souls in 2019 – check out my review of the first book here) and is out from Harper Voyager in the UK. This continues the story of Arrah and her friends after the events of the first book, and is a true middle book. It relies heavily on details from the first one (some of which I’d forgotten despite recently rereading it) and while there was some resolution of story threads in Reaper, it feels very temporary. This second book adds to the background lore of the world, with a strong focus on the Orisha and their politics and the way they influence the characters. While I did really enjoy reading it, I didn’t love this as much as I did Kingdom. Due to the added dimensions to the storytelling in this, the character relationships that had been one of my favourite elements of the first book did not get as much space as I would have liked. It is a very solid follow-up, and I’m still looking forward to the third book in the series.

    The Breach by M.T. Hill has been out for a while – it came out from Titan Books last year (big shame on me for taking this long to getting around to reading it! I’m sorry!). This story revolves around Freya, a journalist investigating a young climber’s death and Shep, a trainee steeplejack. As they follow leads, they discover something that will affect more than just their investigation. This really is an odd one. Partially investigative mystery, partly science fiction and partially a thriller. But these various elements really didn’t slot together for me. It read very disjointed – and on finishing the book I still hadn’t really figured out what the initial hook of the story was. The book relies on tenuous connections and I honestly found the lack of continuous logic very frustrating. I didn’t think that any questions really were answered by the end and I was left unsatisfied. This is one I would not recommend.

  • Reviews

    Artifact Space – Miles Cameron

    An author known for his historical fiction (as Christian Cameron) and historically inspired epic fantasy goes and ventures into Science Fiction. What to expect from a book like that? Artifact Space is classic space opera as it should be, drawing from Cameron’s expertise in assorted genres when it comes to pacing and story structure, presenting a fun and gripping adventure.

    Many thanks to Will O’Mullane and Gollancz for sending me a review copy. All opinions are my own.

    RELEASE DATE: 24/06/2021

    STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶

    SUMMARY: Out in the darkness of space, something is targeting the Greatships.

    With their vast cargo holds and a crew that could fill a city, the Greatships are the lifeblood of human occupied space, transporting an unimaginable volume – and value – of goods from City, the greatest human orbital, all the way to Tradepoint at the other, to trade for xenoglas with an unknowable alien species.

    It has always been Marca Nbaro’s dream to achieve the near-impossible: escape her upbringing and venture into space.

    All it took, to make her way onto the crew of the Greatship Athens was thousands of hours in simulators, dedication, and pawning or selling every scrap of her old life in order to forge a new one. But though she’s made her way onboard with faked papers, leaving her old life – and scandals – behind isn’t so easy.

    She may have just combined all the dangers of her former life, with all the perils of the new… (from Gollancz)

    OPINIONS: This is a fun, fast-paced space opera. Ultimately, it follows the beats of the genre to deliver a satisfying read without reinventing the wheel. I enjoyed Marca Nbaro as a leading character, her rigidness combined with a heavy dash of naiveté in many regards and a sprinkle of curiosity worked very well for me. She is a strong character, but not a flawless one, and her story is intriguing. I found her a great vessel to tell this story of exploration and danger.

    I did feel a bit uncomfortable reading a story with the only PoV character being a Black women in a book written by a middle-aged white man. While the character in herself was one that ended up working for me, I am no judge of the representation more generally – which means I want to note it but not discuss in detail.

    In terms of plot, this isn’t anything too special. It’s interesting throughout and it’s a fast read, and it’s compelling. I found it entertaining and I’m curious to read on in the series. I think this is very much a book to pick up if you tend to like space opera, and are on the hunt for a good book to take on holiday with you or spend a lazy weekend reading – it’s perfect for that. It’s not a literary masterwork, but it delivers exactly what it says on the tin, and that is perfect for what I wanted it for.

    Add Artifact Space to your Goodreads here, and join the crew of the Athens by ordering a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).

  • Minis

    Monday Minis

    Today’s Monday Minis bring you supernatural crime, a real-life serial killer and a Spanish inspired magical murder-mystery. Very bloody week, I must say! I received eARCs of all of these via NetGalley, many thanks to the respective publishers. All opinions are my own.

    Shadow Service by Cavan Scott and Corin Howell (Colourist Triona Farrell, Letterer Andworld) is a new ongoing comic series – the first bind up volume was released in April. It centres on wirch Gina Meyers, a private investigator in London, and her encounters with London’s supernatural criminal underworld and the policing agency referred to as MI666. There is some interesting stuff in here, though it is grittier than I expected going in. It’s more of a Grimdark story than a cute witchy urban fantasy. To be entirely honest, I wasn’t blown away by this first volume, but the ending left me intrigued enough to pick up the second one and give the series another chance. I feel that the characters haven’t really had too much of a chance to develop yet as it’s very action focused and I would prefer to get a bit more down time and get deep and personal with Gina and the peeps from MI666 – and yes, even with Gideon…

    Triflers Need Not Apply by Camilla Bruce is an odd one. I’m not sure how much I actually liked the book, but I couldn’t put it down at all. This is the story of Belle Gunness, one of the few female serial killers in history. And to clear up any confusion, this same book was published earlier this year in the US as In The Garden of Spite – I was a bit confused myself there. While based on a historical tale, this is fiction. The story follows Belle/Bella from her childhood in Norway through to her supposedly faked death in a fire in middle age. It is an utterly compelling story, but also an uncomfortable one. Bella is an absolute sociopath and I kept waiting for someone to pick up on what she was doing and to actually do something about it – and it felt like people were so close so many times, but it just never happened. I hated her and pretty much every other character in the book so damn much and that makes writing about the book kind of hard. But if you’re into true crime and villains, do check this out!

    Oculta by Maya Motayne is the second book in the Forgery of Magic Trilogy. Following up on 2019’s Nocturna, this continues the story of Alfie and Finn as they grapple with the consequences of what happened in the first book. Finn finds herself reluctantly leading a gang of thieves as she is thrust into the position of thief lord, while Alfie has to thread his way through court politics and diplomacy as the Englassen royals come to visit the Castellan court for peace negotiations. Together they are once again drawn into a huge conspiracy… I didn’t enjoy this sequel quite as much as I did the first book, I found it dragged at times and I struggled to keep myself focussed. There are parts that I loved – the introduction of tattoo magic was brilliant, but others that were a bit too on the nose for my taste – some new characters were introduced only to betray the main characters in ways that were rather predictable. It also felt like the twists the book took were either entirely forseeable or not foreshadowed at all. I prefer revelations that are unexpected but make sense in retrospect, and I felt like that wasn’t the case with this. I’ll probably still pick up the last book in the trilogy, even if Oculta suffered from middle-book-syndrome.