Book review: The Dark Tide by Alicia Jasinska

Title: The Dark Tide by Alicia Jasinska

Publisher: Penguin Random House Australia

Publication date: 2 June 2020

Genre: Young Adult | Fantasy | Witches

Page extent: 304 pages


Goodreads blurb: Every year on St. Walpurga’s Eve, Caldella’s Witch Queen lures a boy back to her palace. An innocent life to be sacrificed on the full moon to keep the island city from sinking.

Convinced her handsome brother is going to be taken this year, Lina Kirk enlists the help of the mysterious Thomas Lin, her secret crush, and the only boy to ever escape from the palace after winning the love of a queen. Working together they protect her brother but draw the queen’s attention.

Queen Eva cast away her heart when her sister died to save the boy she loved. Now as queen, she won’t make the same mistake. With the tide rising higher than ever before and the islander’s whispering that Eva’s magic is failing, she’s willing to sacrifice anyone if it means saving herself and her city.

When Thomas is chosen as sacrifice, Lina takes his place and the two girls are forced to spend time together as they wait for the full moon. But Lina is not at all what Eva expected, and the queen is nothing like Lina envisioned. Against their will, the two girls find themselves falling for each other. As water floods Caldella’s streets and the dark tide demands its sacrifice, they must choose who to save: themselves, each other, or the island city relying on them both.

The Dark Tide was a fun, sapphic, enemies to lovers romp of a book. I absolutely flew through it, and whilst I think every single man in this book was complete trash, the two main women were so great and their romance was lovely.

The Dark Tide is set on a small island town, Caldella, ruled by witches. Each year, the Witch Queen must sacrifice a man she loves to the Dark Tide, in order to prevent the ocean from flooding the entire island. This year, Lina thinks her brother, Finlay, will be chosen and she will do anything to stop that. She enlists the help of Thomas, the only person who has ever survived the Dark Tide, because he made the previous queen fall in love with him and she sacrificed herself instead. But when Lina and Thomas attempt to save Finlay, Thomas is chosen instead. Filled with quilt and the naivety of first love, Lina bargains herself to save Thomas and she becomes this year’s sacrifice.

The Dark Tide was such a fun read. The pacing was great and I really flew through the book because I couldn’t stop reading. There’s lots of fast paced action which really keeps the plot moving quickly. I thought the exploration of sacrifice, and the darkness brought to the story from the emphasis on love (because a sacrifice isn’t a sacrifice unless a person is losing something – or in this case, someone) was terrific. It was exactly the kind of dark fantasy I love to read, there’s a constant pull between Eva’s feelings for Lina and her duty to drown Lina to save all her family and the citizens of the island under her protection. Sheer perfection thank you very much.

One of the best things about The Dark Tide were the two main characters: Lina, this year’s sacrifice and Eva, the Witch Queen. We get POV sections from both of them and whilst I loved Eva the most (hello fellow introvert who gets exhausted around people), Lina’s POV is just as good. Lina does feel very naive at times and very young, she is so obsessed with being a hero and having an epic love story that could rival the ones told in books and tales and she lives in this completely fairytale world. I really loved that slice of desire and danger she had, it took what could have been a fairly standard, bland, naive girl into someone who was much more interesting. The way she was almost happy and gleeful at times was so great and gave a touch of darkness to her POV, as she almost seemed to enjoy throwing her life away as a sacrifice because it meant she was living in one of her fairytales.

But Eva, our Witch Queen who detests people, how I love you. I love how cold and distant she is (she cut out her heart!). This contrasted with the way she is slowly fascinated and irritated by Lina in turn, it’s so fun to watch Lina get a rise out of this seemingly heartless witch. And their romance! Wow. It was so fierce and I can’t even really put into words how much I loved their relationship. The only downside was that because it is a little more of a slowburn, I didn’t get enough of the two of them together!

From my favourite characters to my least favourites: litrally every single man. God they were all complete trash and unfortunately, I did think this hindered the success of this book. For so much of this book, Lina is head over heels for Thomas….but there’s literally not a single reason why?! He’s so so bland and his only trait is he’s willing to give up women so he can live. Seems like a catch, right?

Finlay, Lina’s brother, is unfortunately just as one note. But even worse in my mind, his one note is aggression: he’s an aggressive angry person who Lina is actually scared of because he rages at the slightest thing and actually seriously injured her once in his rage….and yet Lina’s family is trying to force her to forgive him? Sorry but you do not have to forgive and love folks just because they’re family. If they’re abusive, gtfo. I detested Finlay the whole way through. But somehow Lina is willing to do everything for this person she’s scared of?

Lina’s feelings towards these two main male characters just didn’t make sense and I think the book would have been strengthened if more work had gone these two so they weren’t so one note. I think this bothered me more with Finlay than Thomas. With Thomas, I get that Lina is portrayed as this young and naive girl who wants a fairytale romance, so it makes sense that she’s drawn to the quiet, brooding boy with so much history and story behind him. I could forgive that. But I really needed to see more of her brother, see why on earth he was worth saving? He needed to be more than this awful, angry person. The way his actions were always framed as trying to make it up to Lina for breaking her ankle, when he continued to lose his temper and scare her, felt very manipulative and reminiscent of domestic abuse relationships and it’s not ever really addressed.

All in all I really enjoyed this dark YA fantasy! The sapphic romance is wonderful, I adored Eva, and found the book very easy and fun to read. Whilst the boys are very one note and I struggled with understanding why Lina was willing to give up everything for them, it just made me appreciate Eva and Lina’s relationship more because it really highlighted how full of emotion and fierce they were together.

30 Days of Pride: Enemies to lovers

Hi everyone,

Enemies (and rivals) to lovers is most definitely my favourite trope. There’s just something about hate to love which just SOARS above the rest: the intensity, the passion, I just love it!! I did plan to do one post featuring all of my favourite tropes. But there were so many enemies to lovers favourites that I decided to split the post. So today you get my favourite enemies to lovers, and tomorrow you get all my other favourite tropes! (And a further update at the time of scheduling: I actually ended up having to break these down even further because I have too many books and too many favourite tropes so prepare for three days of tropey fun!)

Crier’s War by Nina Varela

What could I start with but the epic sapphic enemies-to-lovers fantasy that is Crier’s War?! (With the additional trope of ‘there’s only one bed’ to really make this the best book it can be!) Blending science fiction and fantasy in a Made versus Human post-war world, where Made rule over the human population, and the heir to the Made empire falls in love with a human servant. This is full of action and drama and tension which is everything we want in an enemies-to-lovers ship.

The Fever King by Victoria Lee

Pretty much my favourite book ever, it’s no surprise The Fever King has my favourite trope ever. On one side, Noam, son to immigrant parents who wakes up with magic after a virus outbreak. On the other side, Dara, the adopted son to the most powerful man in Carolinia, Calix Leher. Noam and Dara are full of mistrust and anger at each other, their positions and just how exactly they want to overthrow the government, but that results in such an intense and powerful romance that it literally breaks my heart every time I read.

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

I think I hear much less noise about this book than I do Crier’s War, which makes me rather upset because this is just as amazing a sapphic enemies-to-lovers (in fact I think I prefer We Set the Dark on Fire). In We Set the Dark on Fire, two wives fall in lover with each other instead of the husband they’re supposed to serve. There’s also lots of discussion about immigration, it’s a very relevant book that compares to situations on the US-Mexico border today which makes it so poweful a book and one I really wish I heard more people scream about.

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Sterling

If The Fever King is my favourite enemies-to-lovers then this is a close second! This is an absolutely terrifying, claustraphoic read about a caver who gets trapped in a caving system. She’s trying to find a way to escape, with only the help of the woman on the other end of her headset who’s monitoring her caving suit. It’s so tense and panic-inducing with just two characters and one, very tight setting, with a character who begins to lose control of reality, no longer sure what is real and what isn’t.

Gideon the Ninth by Tasmyn Muir

We all know Gideon the Ninth is one of the highlights of the enemies-to-lovers trope. In Gideon, we have pretty much mortal enemies: Gideon, a cavalier, and Harrowhark, bone witch necromancer who wears a corset of bones and skull facepaint. The two must work together to help Harrowhark be chosen as the Emperor’s necromancer with a series of challenges and mysteries that require a mastermind to solve. Enter Harrowhark’s clever brilliance and Gideon’s brash ‘charge into battle without a thought’ness.

The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow

Not much could get more enemies to lovers than ‘human and the robot alien who’s overtaken Earth’. But that’s what we get in The Sound of Stars! This is a YA science fiction dystopia about an alien race called the Ilori who overtake Earth and outlaw any form of human expression (including books and music). When Ellie is caught with a private library, she and her captor must work together to save Earth.

Beyond the Black Door by A.M Strickland

Beyond the Black Door is a lush and gorgeous fantasy with a villain romance and asexual heroine. It’s a beautiful world where Soulwalkers exist, people who can travel into people’s souls whilst they sleep. Kamai is a soulwalker, but in everyone’s soul she walks, a black door follows her. And Kamai wants to know what’s behind the black door.

Amelia Westlake by Erin Gough

Amelia Westlake is such a funny, feminist, and sapphic Aussie YA about rivals Will, the school bad girl, and Harriet, the golden girl and prefect of Rosemead Grammar. The two join forces to try expose the blatantly misogynistic practices at the school. And obv, fall in love, because this is a list about enemies (or in this case, rivals) to lovers.

Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi

Another excellent sapphic rivals to lovers YA contemporary! This one features a budding film director and the school’s cheerleader captain (YESSS QUEER CHEERLEADERS) who are forced to work together to create a film even though they hate each other.

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

If you want epic time travel + spies + sapphic enemies to lovers, then this is the book for you. Blue and Red are spies on opposite sides of a war across time. The two write letters to each other growing from battlefield taunts to a love that will cross time and space itself to survive. (God that was cheesy. But it’s so true).

Peter Darling by Austin Chant

I don’t think you can get much more enemies-to-lovers than a Captain Hook x Peter Pan romance. In Peter Darling, Peter Pan is returning to Neverland years later, now all grown up. But when he gets back, things have changes, the Lost Boys have grown up too and now their tricks are more like war, and Peter’s old rival is suddenly like super hot?!

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

Pirates and monsters and boats oh my. This enemies-to-lovers sapphic adventure follows Cassandra, who has spent her whole life breeding and training monsters to protect ships. But then she’s kidnapped and forced to raise a monster pup for a pirate ship, and kinda-also-sorta has feelings for one of the pirates.

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

With a book that opens with the two main characters having a fight and knocking over a very expensive cake at a wedding, you know it’s going to be a brilliant rivals to lovers book. Especially when the two characters are the Prince of England and the son of the President of the United States.

The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar

A recent 2020 release, The Henna Wars published in May this year. It’s a YA contemporary with two girls who set up rival henna businesses for a school project, but one is appropriating the others culture. But when the competition is sabataged, the two’s lives are further entwined and one just can’t quite get over her crush. I’m planning on reading this one this and am so excited as it’s one of my most anticipated releases of the year!

The Dark Tide by Alicia Jasinska

Yes this list is heavily sapphic and I do not apologise for it, especially when they all sound this fucking good. The Dark Tide is a soon to be released (already released in Australia, August 4 US release!) sapphic enemies-to-lovers featuring a Witch Queen who must kill one innocent life every year to stop her island from sinking, and the girl who sacrifices herself to the Witch Queen in exchange for her friend’s life. As the two fall for each other and the dark tide floods the streets of the island, the two must decide whether to save each other, themselves, or the island residents.

Do you love this trope as much as me? What’s your favourite enemies to lovers book?

Book review: We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Title: We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Publication date: 26 February 2019

Genre: Fantasy | Dystopian | Young Adult

Page extent: 384 pages

Rating: 4/5 stars

Goodreads blurb: At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children, but both are promised a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class. Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her bright future depends upon no one discovering her darkest secret—that her pedigree is a lie. Her parents sacrificed everything to obtain forged identification papers so Dani could rise above her station. Now that her marriage to an important politico’s son is fast approaching, she must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society, where famine and poverty rule supreme.

On her graduation night, Dani seems to be in the clear, despite the surprises that unfold. But nothing prepares her for all the difficult choices she must make, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio. Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or to give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?


We have been truly blessed in 2019 with sapphic enemies-to-lovers YA and We Set the Dark on Fire is no different!! This was a thrilling and touching tale about borders and immigration, fighting for justice and falling in love when you least expect it. 

Dani is top of her class at the Medio School for Girls. There she and other girls train to be Primera and Segunda wives to the top men in Medio. Primeras look after the household, Segundas take care of the children. Dani is the top Primera in her class. She is awaiting graduation day where she will be married to one of the most powerful sons on the island, Mateo Garcia. But Dani has a secret. Years ago, her parents took her on a perilous journey, forging identification papers and climbing over the wall that separates the outer islanders with Medio’s citizens. Those on the outside starve and beg, and Dani’s parents risked everything to escape that life. She has kept this secret for years, but now on the eve of her graduation, it threatens to come to light. To keep it secret, she accepts help from the resistance group La Voz, and finds herself blackmailed into helping them spy on her new husband. But with the Segunda wife, Carmen, watching her every move, Dani needs to use all her intelligence to stay safe.

The characters really shine is this fast paced, tense novel. Dani, our MC, is so brilliant. She is incredibly smart and driven, so observant and really uses her skills throughout the book. Her internal thoughts felt so real and I loved seeing her slowly embrace her emotions, going against all of her training to do so, as she fell further into both love and the resistance. Carmen was equally enthralling. She seemed to shine on every page, a reflection of Dani’s wonder at her, and I just love the mystery about her. Every moment these two are on page together is magical, and I think the writing of the book really felt amplified when they were together. There are some really beautiful passages. The entire romance was drawn out exceptionally well, and the progression itself from their hatred to love felt real and not rushed at all. These two are possibly one of my favourite f/f couples I’ve ever read. They each complement the other so well, and their feelings are so obvious and beautiful, I love them!! 

“On the outside, she was frozen, but inside her, whole cities were being razed to the ground. Explosions were shaking the walls of her stomach. People were screaming in her throat.”

I equally loved some of the side characters. Senora Garcia struck me as particularly strong and well written. She really intrigued me and I loved how she used her role to be as powerful as her husband. I did feel the women were all more well rounded and well written than the men. The Garcia men were understandably power hungry, angry and controlling. You could feel their power through the page and it felt very familiar of our current world, but they did feel a little one dimensional. I wasn’t hugely keen on Sota either, who again felt a little one dimensional and less well developed.

Equally familiar was the world building, which made this novel very successful. It is immediately reminiscent of current political ideologies regarding immigration and the privilege being on one side of a boundary (or in a certain country) brings. The lead up from peaceful protest to violence, the way the powerful military faked events to retain control, were all extremely realistic and brought a very current atmosphere to the book.

“Think about all the crimes your precious government condones, not just the ones they punish. Then you can talk to me about who the real criminals are. If we’re not all free, none of us are free. You remember that.”

We Set the Dark on Fire was tense and thrilling with lots of action and mystery, and on top of all that it had a fantastic and very realistic enemies-to-lovers f/f romance play out. I am so excited for February when the sequel is released, which will be written from CARMEN’s POV and I can’t wait!

Paws out,
Rach + Draco