Book review: The Library of the Dead by T.L. Huchu

Title: The Library of the Dead by T.L. Huchu

Publisher: Tor Books

Publication date: 4 February 2021

Genre: Adult | Fantasy

Rep: Scottish Zimbabwean mc/side characters, Scottish Indian main side character, wheelchair user

Page extent: 336 pages

Rating:

Sixth Sense meets Stranger Things in T. L. Huchu’s The Library of the Dead, a sharp contemporary fantasy following a precocious and cynical teen as she explores the shadowy magical underside of modern Edinburgh.

When a child goes missing in Edinburgh’s darkest streets, young Ropa investigates. She’ll need to call on Zimbabwean magic as well as her Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. But as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunted?

When ghosts talk, she will listen…

Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker. Now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to the living. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children–leaving them husks, empty of joy and life. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honor-bound to investigate. But what she learns will change her world.

She’ll dice with death (not part of her life plan…), discovering an occult library and a taste for hidden magic. She’ll also experience dark times. For Edinburgh hides a wealth of secrets, and Ropa’s gonna hunt them all down.

The Library of the Dead is the start of a fascinating new fantasy series set in a dystopian Edinburgh (my home city, kind of…) and inspired by Zimbabwean magic. It has a really interesting world, but there just wasn’t enough time spent with the most interesting parts for me to love this one.

The Library of the Dead follows Ropa, a teen living in a caravan village with her grandmother and sister. Ropa earns money for rent by ghosttalking: she delivers messages from ghosts to living people. But when one ghost asks her to find her missing son, Ropa is drawn into a huge conspiracy that is kidnapping children and milking them for youth.

The book is definitely on the stranger side. It’s written in a very young (young as in teen/hip/cool) style, and is absolutely full of Scottish slang, Scottish idioms, Scottish ways of saying things. It is set in Edinburgh which is the closest city to where I grew up (I lived in the middle of nowhere) so I loved getting to see all this Scottish history, speech and places. Huchu has done an absolutely brilliant job of writing from the POV of a young Scottish teen: it was hugely reminiscent of my childhood, and of pretty much every single conversation I have with everyone back home whenever I talk to them. Unfortunately, I have come to the realisation that the way we Scottish people talk is INFURIATING. How do people put up with us using the word like every two sentences?! Look, Huchu did such a great job getting it sound so realistic, but I just didn’t really get on board with it because it kept annoying me. I think a lot of the annoyance possibly came from the stream of consciousness style first person POV. This is obviously just not a style I jig with, it felt like so much unecessary and random commentary on events. But whether it was the Scottish style of talk or the stream of consciousness that annoyed me most, I now plan to change literally everything about the way I talk because I don’t know how people put up with me if this is what I talk like (and it definitely is, I recognised so many things I say!!)

In saying this, I think this POV/style really helps you discover more about Ropa, who is one of the best things about this book. She is such a brilliant person: so full of spunk and quirkiness and fierceness and anger at the injustice in the world. She’s so full of energy that she really burns off the page and eclipses what’s actually happening. You kind of just want to keep reading just to know what ridiculous thing she’s going to think next – I was snorting with laughter the whole way through. But this did also have the downside of really taking you out of what should be a horrific, gruesome, dark world. Nothing ever felt really serious because of how Ropa reacted to situations. I do also think Priya was written very well (and I love seeing a disabled character in a wheelchair in such an action packed fantasy!!) She was so much fun (hello green hair?! She is definitely my people) and I loved her energy for life and danger.

What I also loved was this world. There are so many fantastic elements. For starters, the magic! Ropa’s ghosttalking uses a mbira (a Zimbabwean musical instrument used for communing with the dead) to help tether ghosts to the human world where she can talk with them. Some of the passages describing the music/mbira as Ropa used it were absolutely beautiful and were some of my favourite passages in the book. I also really liked the magic that requires training aspect: it’s involved lots of science and philosophy as Ropa tried to learn magic, that put a different spin on magic than a lot of other fantasy novels do. But there just wasn’t enough of this! The mbira disappears after the first 20% of the book and I just longed for it to return because that magic was so cool. Some of my favourite scenes are Ropa’s ghosttalking deliveries (particularly the gay baking scene!!) But they also just disappesred fairly early because of the main quest of finding the missing children.

I also loved the very interesting The Library of the Dead, the book’s namesake, a library for Scottish magic built in a tomb! The worlds of the ghosts, such as the EveryThere, were also really fascinating, with the terrifying creatures stalking anyone alive who reaches the place. But as with above, these excellent worldbuilding details barely featured. I would have thought The Library of the Dead especially would have had a more important role in the story, given it’s what the book is named after.

The later half of the book kind of goes back and forth between some really interesting, almost-creepy moments that are weird and darker and you don’t really know what the fuck is going on which is great (like the house with the Brounie!) Or they go slightly too far and verge more into this-doesn’t-make-huge-amounts-of-sense and has come out of nowhere (e.g. Who the actual villain is. A person named only once is the villain? What?!)

So all in all this book was a very conflicting read for me! There are things I absolutely loved and things I really didn’t. But I definitely encourage you to read this one, particularly if you enjoy the stream of consciousness style of writing/first person POV, as I think that was the main thing I struggled with. The world is fascinating and Ropa is such a fierce and gutsy character, so full of life she leaps of the pages.

Find me on Twinkl’s Library Lover’s Campaign, to take part, visit their Library Lover’s Day 2021 blog!

Book review: The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Title: The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Publisher: Usbourne Publishing

Publication date: 4 February 2021

Genre: Young Adult | Fantasy

Rep: Black/African characters

Page extent: 432 pages

Rating:

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.

Content warnings: torture, murder, blood/gore, rape (mention)

The Gilded Ones has one of the most stunning covers of the year, and after reading it, I think it’s going to be one of the biggest YA fantasy books of the year! It’s a very fast paced, action heavy fantasy with some really excellent worldbuilding and a fascinating patriarchal society built on a religion. I do think the pace was at times detrimental, but this was still a very fun read and it was great to see some grimdark fantasy make the move to YA!

The Gilded Ones opens brutally: Deka is going through a rite of passage that will prove whether she is a pure woman, or if she is a demon. When her blood runs gold, she is proven to be demon and tortured by those she once called friends. Until, rescue comes from the most unlikely of places: the emperor, who wishes her to fight for his army. What follows is a bloody and brutal journey as Deka is trained to fight deathshrieks, unnatural creatures who are viciously murdering hoards of people across the empire. But not everything is quite as it seems, and the more Deka trains and her demon powers grow, the less convinced she is that she’s even a demon.

The worldbuilding is one of the best things about this book. Forna has built this West African inspired society, a place where religion has built a society based on the suffering of women for the will of men. The religion and history of the nation, the history of The Gilded Ones, demons who terrorised the nation before they were imprisoned, and the whole process of women forced to go through the violent rite of passage to prove they are not demon, are all detailed excellently. There is such a sense of history that really put fear behind the power of men. The way Forna writes about the way women have been trained to fear themselves, to fear their power, and to make themselves small for the sake of men, was absolutely brilliant and the parallels to our world were so clearly rendered.

I also thought the plot was absolutely fantastic. The way the mystery of the deathshrieks, the alaki and the Gilded Ones play out was so interesting. I absolutely sped through the book whenever I picked it up because the mystery really drives you forward, it’s so fast paced. There are lots of unexpected twists to the story that I really enjoyed because I was always kept on my toes!

In saying that, the speed of the book is also often it’s downfall. There are so many times, particularly the more emotional behaviours, decisions, feelings etc, that just happen far too fast and it really dragged me out of the story. From how quickly Deka seemed to get over the horrific torture she goes through, to the romance that kinda hits you out of nowhere with almost no time on page with the two characters together, it’s just very jarring in what is an otherwise pretty excellent YA. There’s also a couple of rather annoying plotholes that I couldn’t stop thinking about – where did the awful sense of fear and control at the barracks disappear to after the first scene? I mean, for example, Deka is even allowed to keep a pet?! In the place where they flay you if you don’t kill enough deathshrieks?! It doesn’t really make a lot of sense.

(Please note the next para has minor spoilers.)

The plot between White Hands and the emperor also really annoyed me. How the fuck does White Hands have so much power if the emperor knows exactly who she is? Why would he trust her? It makes absolutely no sense.

(Spoilers over!)

But despite these issues, I think teens are going to absolutely love this book. It has such an impactful and interesting plot that you can get over the few issues with it. It was a very enjoyable read and I’ll definitely pick up the sequel when released!

Book review: A Dowry of Blood by S.T Gibson

Title: A Dowry of Blood by S.T Gibson

Publisher: Nyx Publishing

Publication date: 31 January 2021

Genre: Adult | Horror | Fantasy

Rep: All bi cast, polyamorous (m/f/f/m)

Page extent: 248 pages

Rating:

A lyrical and dreamy reimagining of Dracula’s brides, A DOWRY OF BLOOD is a story of desire, obsession, and emancipation.

Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things. Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets.

With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death.

Content warnings from the author: emotional, verbal, and physical intimate partner abuse, gaslighting, war, famine, and plague, blood and gore, consensual sexual content, sadomasochism, self harm, body horror, violence and murder, alcohol use, depression and mania, sexual assault (not directed at any named character), drug use, drowning

Some books just leave you a shuddering, incomplete creature, unsure of how to go on in the world after you read them. This is A Dowry of Blood. There is such beauty and reverence in this prose that, sitting here after immediately finishing and trying to write this review, I find myself unsure of how the world works anymore, unsure of what to do next, longing to just sit and contemplate the words I just read.

A Dowry of Blood is a reimagining of Dracula’s brides, written from the point of view of Constanta, one of his brides, through the form of letters written to Dracula. She tells of their life together, how they came to be joined with his other brides, Magdalena and Alexi, and how they began to discover his dark secrets.

Blood has never been sexier. From the very first pages, this book just oozes with lust and desire, the prose so sumptuous and rich and decadent. It is like drowning in chocolate or wine, pleasure mixing with pain so intimately that you can’t separate one from the other. The fire with which desire floods this book is uncontrollable and obsessive: the way Gibson has written desire as something so deeply embedded in religious worship is so stunning that nothing I can say in this review will ever do it justice. Reading it feels like an awakening: you are as enraptured in the desire as Constanta, Magdalena and Alexi are. This book is a work of art, one that could not more perfectly explore the darkness and danger in desire. The way desire is represented through this sense of worship and faith is unlike anything I’ve read before, and yet so powerful and so beautiful that it feels like nothing will compare to it ever again.

These characters were just as perfectly rendered as the prose. The constant sense of foreboding, that sharp inhale of breath you and his brides take whenever Dracula, unnamed throughout the book but so breathlessly there in every sentence, walks into a room. The power he breathes into this book to have such presence in a world where he is not even named, where Constanta purposefully leaves him nameless to remove his power from her story. Constanta herself, the first of his brides, begins her story in these letters with her guilt and fear of him, but she gathers such strength as she writes her story. She gathers the love he brought into their lives in the form of Magdalena and Alexi and uses them against him. It is her love and pure, protective ferocity that brings about his downfall, that reveals his dark secrets, her fear of seeing them hurt anymore that seals his fate.

Then there’s Magdalena, a glowing, shining light of energy and passion and cleverness, subtly manipulating the room from her very first pages. Her change across the book feels most noticeable, as it leaves the most vivid hole in its wake, as her shining desire for life and freedom is brutally torn apart. And finally, the last of the brides, Alexi. He is the fire and brimstone, the terror who won’t go down without fighting, who will tear away from Dracula’s grasp even as he is strangled by it. These characters are so intricately woven together, their horrors shared together in Dracula’s control as he exerts his manipulation over them, elaborately ensuring they see that no matter what he does, they will shatter into even more pieces without him there. It digs so deeply and hauntingly into that slow journey from love to brutality in abusive relationships that the book feels as raw and bruised as anything I’ve ever read.

A Dowry of Blood is a book full of worship, telling a story about the way pain and pleasure, abuse and desire, can be so intricately wrapped that the unravelling can take centuries and break you in the process. It is a work of art, a book that has prose so beautiful that you come out of the book in a haze, wondering how you can return to the beauty beholden in its pages.

Book review: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Title: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Publisher: Del Rey

Publication date: 23 July 2019

Genre: Adult | Fantasy

Rep: All Mexican cast

Page extent: 338 pages

Rating:

The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.

It’s my first review of 2021, and it’s for a really spectacular book! It is no surprise I went into Gods of Jade and Shadow with extremely high expectations. Mexican Gothic was my favourite book of 2020 and I wanted to fall in love this as much as I did with Mexican Gothic. Suffice to say: I definitely did. Silvia Moreno-Garcia is one of the most exciting authors writing today. Her ability to write across so many different genres is outstanding, and with another THREE book releases coming in 2021, I can’t wait to explore more of her work.

Gods of Jade and Shadow follows Cassiopeia, a young, rural woman in 1920s Mexico who lives with her grandfather and is pretty much treated as the household servant, bullied by her cousin and aunts. But then she accidentally awakens the Mayan God of Death, Hun-Kamè, and she finds herself caught up in an adventure. She and Hun-Kamè must race against time to collect the pieces of himself lost across Mexico before he sucks dry her energy, killing her and turning himself mortal in the process.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia has some of the best worldbuilding in fantasy. She has such a fantastic ability to perfectly describe a scene so that you can almost hear, smell and see the scenes yourself. From the bustle of Mexico City, to the desert city of El Paso, each place Cassiopeia and Hun-Kamè visit is so perfectly rendered in my mind thanks to her beautiful writing. It was such a wonderful world to be caught up in, full of pieces of Mayan history and lore. The creatures, demons, witches, gods, that Cassiopeia and Hun-Kamè meet on their journey are also pulled from Mayan culture. It was just so fun to learn about all these creatures, to hear about the mythology behind Xibala, the land of the dead and which Hun-Kamè is trying to win back from the brother who betrayed him.

Cassiopeia is such a brilliantly written character. She is so clear and certain as to who she is: at times she is a little naive and young, as you would expect given her upbringing. But she’s also so full of curiosity, has such a strong sense of adventure and desire for more, and she has such a lovely heart. I do love a villain, I love a good morally grey character, but I found Cassiopeia such a breath of fresh air. She has such a sense of goodness about her that I really loved, she is so kind – she does, after all, fight for Hun-Kamè the entire novel, and even though she is dying the longer she stays bonded with him, her death is not the reason why she is fighting for him.

I also was a huge fan of their slow burn romance. I mean, come on, falling for the god of death is exactly the kind of fantasy romance I love! I really appreciated the way we saw Hun-Kamè’s descent to humanity through his interactions with Cassiopeia. The longer they stay bonded, the closer Cassiopeia comes to death, but the closer Hun-Kamè comes to being mortal. And his journey to mortality is clearest when we see him with Cassiopeia. We see him turn from this distant, grateful but stilted newly awoken God, to someone who is as overwhelmed by Cassiopeia’s kindness as I am. The two fall beautifully for each other, and as a reader who NEVER CRIES AT BOOKS, I was close to tears at several moments near the end of this book when the two of them have some really beautiful, touching moments together. And speaking of endings, THAT ENDING!! Oh my god, I loved it. It was so perfect for this book, bittersweet but hopeful.

Also, I have a completely personal pet peeve about fantasy novels. Some authors spend too much time focussing on showing basic necessities being met during a journey (food, bathroom, sleep etc) in order to make it feel realistic, but of course, that is often very boring. But then others do it too little and it just feels rushed and unrealistic because like…when do people eat on this adventure?! But Silvia Moreno-Garcia struck the absolute perfect balance between showing realistic necessities of a journey (they even carry suitcases with clothes!) but without dwelling on it too much to make the book boring. So that just added to my love for this book. I know it’s such a weird pet peeve but it makes me so happy when I see authors do it well!

So basically this book is brilliant. It is dark at times, exploring love and sacrifice and gods hellbent on destroying Cassiopeia and Hun-Kamè. But it is also really hopeful, led by this kind and beautiful person in Cassiopeia and I think Silvia Moreno-Garcia really wrote such a brilliant relationship between her and Hun-Kamè. I’m going to be reading absolutely everything Silvia Moreno-Garcia writes forevermore.

49 must read fantasy of 2021!

Hi everyone,

I started writing this post about all the fantasy I’m looking forward to this year, and oh my god, there are so many?! How am I going to possibly manage to read all of these?! But writing this just made me so excited for the state of fantasy right now, the brilliance on this list is unparalleled and I’m so happy I exist in a time where I get to read them. So without further ado, I have for you today a post with the 28 adult fantasy books and the 21 YA fantasy books that I want to read in 2021! Please cry with me in horror that there’s no way I can possibly buy this many books.

Adult

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

We all know this is my most anticipated book of the year, and I can now say, IT IS NO LONGER ANTICIPATED BECAUSE I’VE READ IT. I am deceased, and writing this post from beyond the grave. Holy fuck. All I can say is the hype is so worth it, I was already planning a quote tattoo before I reached the midway point. I would die for Ouyang. I would die for Zhu. There is so much pain and suffering all bound up in the most beautiful prose. My heart felt like it was being slowly ripped out the whole way through. So in summary: GO PRE-ORDER THIS BOOK.

Mulan meets The Song of Achilles in Shelley Parker-Chan’s She Who Became the Sun, a bold, queer, and lyrical reimagining of the rise of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty from an amazing new voice in literary fantasy.

To possess the Mandate of Heaven, the female monk Zhu will do anything
.

“I refuse to be nothing…”

In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness…

In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected.

When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.

After her sanctuary is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu takes the chance to claim another future altogether: her brother’s abandoned greatness.

The Route of Ice and Salt by José Luis Zárat (translated by David Bowles)

Dracula is my favourite classic and so I immediately want to buy any and all retellings. Particularly when they’re written by a Mexican author and are explictly queer. This is a reimagining of Dracula’s journey to England, published by the legendary Silvia Moreno-Garcia at her own mini-publishing company and I am eagerly awaiting my copy to arrive!!

A reimagining of Dracula’s voyage to England, filled with Gothic imagery and queer desire.

It’s an ordinary assignment, nothing more. The cargo? Fifty boxes filled with Transylvanian soil. The route? From Varna to Whitby. The Demeter has made many trips like this. The captain has handled dozens of crews.

He dreams familiar dreams: to taste the salt on the skin of his men, to run his hands across their chests. He longs for the warmth of a lover he cannot have, fantasizes about flesh and frenzied embraces. All this he’s done before, it’s routine, a constant, like the tides.

Yet there’s something different, something wrong. There are odd nightmares, unsettling omens and fear. For there is something in the air, something in the night, someone stalking the ship.

The cult vampire novella by Mexican author José Luis Zárate is available for the first time in English. Translated by David Bowles and with an accompanying essay by noted horror author Poppy Z. Brite, it reveals an unknown corner of Latin American literature.

We Could Be Heroes by Mike Chen

This is one of my most anticipated releases of the year and I am so ecstatic it’s publishing in January because I do not have to wait long until I can read it. This is a superhero novel where a superhero and supervillain have lost their memories and must work together to reveal their pasts. It also has ON PAGE PAN REP yes this is amazing.

An extraordinary and emotional adventure about unlikely friends and the power of choosing who you want to be.

Jamie woke up in an empty apartment with no memory and only a few clues to his identity, but with the ability to read and erase other people’s memories—a power he uses to hold up banks to buy coffee, cat food and books.

Zoe is also searching for her past, and using her abilities of speed and strength…to deliver fast food. And she’ll occasionally put on a cool suit and beat up bad guys, if she feels like it.

When the archrivals meet in a memory-loss support group, they realize the only way to reveal their hidden pasts might be through each other. As they uncover an ongoing threat, suddenly much more is at stake than their fragile friendship. With countless people at risk, Zoe and Jamie will have to recognize that sometimes being a hero starts with trusting someone else—and yourself.

Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Check! Out! That! Cover! What a stunner. Son of the Storm is about a scholar who discovers an injured warrior in his barn, claiming she comes from a place which shouldn’t exist, and is brought on a adventure with her that will reveal the hidden truth of his city.

A young scholar’s ambition threatens to reshape an empire determined to retain its might in this epic tale of violent conquest, buried histories, and forbidden magic.

In the thriving city of Bassa, Danso is a clever but disillusioned scholar who longs for a life beyond the rigid family and political obligations expected of the city’s elite. A way out presents itself when Lilong, a skin-changing warrior, shows up wounded in his barn. She comes from the Nameless Islands–which, according to Bassa lore, don’t exist–and neither should the mythical magic of ibor she wields. Now swept into a conspiracy far beyond his understanding, Danso will have to set out on a journey that reveals histories violently suppressed and magic only found in lore.

A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson

Blessed are we with Dracula retellings!! A Dowry of Blood is a novella reimagining of Dracula’s Brides, but with a MOTHERFUCKING POLY RELATIONSHIP YES! And all four of the main characters are bi (my little bi heart is literally screaming out in love). I am so excited to read this gothic book, I will never get tired of Dracula retellings!

A lyrical and dreamy reimagining of Dracula’s brides, A DOWRY OF BLOOD is a story of desire, obsession, and emancipation.

Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things. Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets.

With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death. 

The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec

Loki is getting a lot of love this year with a TV show AND a wonderful retelling from Genevieve Gornichec about a banished witch who falls in love with him. And obviously I will consume as much Loki media as possible.

When a banished witch falls in love with the legendary trickster Loki, she risks the wrath of the gods in this moving, subversive debut novel that reimagines Norse mythology.

Angrboda’s story begins where most witches’ tales end: with a burning. A punishment from Odin for refusing to provide him with knowledge of the future, the fire leaves Angrboda injured and powerless, and she flees into the farthest reaches of a remote forest. There she is found by a man who reveals himself to be Loki, and her initial distrust of him transforms into a deep and abiding love.

Their union produces three unusual children, each with a secret destiny, who Angrboda is keen to raise at the edge of the world, safely hidden from Odin’s all-seeing eye. But as Angrboda slowly recovers her prophetic powers, she learns that her blissful life—and possibly all of existence—is in danger.

With help from the fierce huntress Skadi, with whom she shares a growing bond, Angrboda must choose whether she’ll accept the fate that she’s foreseen for her beloved family…or rise to remake their future. From the most ancient of tales this novel forges a story of love, loss, and hope for the modern age.

Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee

I read the first two books in Fonda Lee’s Green Bone Saga at the start of 2020 and have spent the entire last year longing for the finale, which is coming in September!! This is a series that will definitely break your heart, and Jade Legacy is a finale that I know will destroy me. So obviously, I can’t wait! Please destroy me, Fonda Lee.

Jade, the mysterious and magical substance once exclusive to the Green Bone warriors of Kekon, is now known and coveted throughout the world. Everyone wants access to the supernatural abilities it provides, from traditional forces such as governments, mercenaries, and criminal kingpins, to modern players, including doctors, athletes, and movie studios. As the struggle over the control of jade grows ever larger and more deadly, the Kaul family, and the ancient ways of the Kekonese Green Bones, will never be the same.

The Kauls have been battered by war and tragedy. They are plagued by resentments and old wounds as their adversaries are on the ascent and their country is riven by dangerous factions and foreign interference that could destroy the Green Bone way of life altogether. As a new generation arises, the clan’s growing empire is in danger of coming apart.

The clan must discern allies from enemies, set aside aside bloody rivalries, and make terrible sacrifices… but even the unbreakable bonds of blood and loyalty may not be enough to ensure the survival of the Green Bone clans and the nation they are sworn to protect.

The Unbroken by C.L Clark

TIME TO TALK ABOUT THE SEXY ARM BOOK. Look, if you don’t want to buy this book simply from looking at that cover, I don’t know what’s wrong with you. ‘Cause those arms are something else. But if you need more information, The Unbroken is a military fantasy about a soldier who is sent back to her homeland to stop a rebellion but also, it’s really really gay according to the author.

Touraine is a soldier. Stolen as a child and raised to kill and die for the empire, her only loyalty is to her fellow conscripts. But now, her company has been sent back to her homeland to stop a rebellion, and the ties of blood may be stronger than she thought.

Luca needs a turncoat. Someone desperate enough to tiptoe the bayonet’s edge between treason and orders. Someone who can sway the rebels toward peace, while Luca focuses on what really matters: getting her uncle off her throne.

Through assassinations and massacres, in bedrooms and war rooms, Touraine and Luca will haggle over the price of a nation. But some things aren’t for sale. 

The Library of the Dead by T.L Huchu

Edinburgh is one of the best settings for ghost stories and I’m so happy we’re getting an adult fantasy set there!! (I grew up near there and am very excited to recognise all the places the author mentions). But even better, The Library of the Dead is inspired by Zimbabwean magic and has a girl who talks to ghosts and a monster who drains children of joy.

Sixth Sense meets Stranger Things in T. L. Huchu’s The Library of the Dead, a sharp contemporary fantasy following a precocious and cynical teen as she explores the shadowy magical underside of modern Edinburgh.

When a child goes missing in Edinburgh’s darkest streets, young Ropa investigates. She’ll need to call on Zimbabwean magic as well as her Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. But as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunted?

When ghosts talk, she will listen…

Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker. Now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to the living. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children–leaving them husks, empty of joy and life. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honor-bound to investigate. But what she learns will change her world.

She’ll dice with death (not part of her life plan…), discovering an occult library and a taste for hidden magic. She’ll also experience dark times. For Edinburgh hides a wealth of secrets, and Ropa’s gonna hunt them all down.

Star Eater by Kerstin Hall

Not much can get me more excited about a book than “government nuns who partake in ritualistic cannibalism”. Like seriously, what a fucking pitch point for a book. And according to a review on Goodreads this also has sexually transmitted zombieism?!?! Whhhhaaaaat. I’m ready to be fucked up by this book.

All martyrdoms are difficult.

Elfreda Raughn will avoid pregnancy if it kills her, and one way or another, it will kill her. Though she’s able to stomach her gruesome day-to-day duties, the reality of preserving the Sisterhood of Aytrium’s magical bloodline horrifies her. She wants out, whatever the cost.

So when a shadowy cabal approaches Elfreda with an offer of escape, she leaps at the opportunity. As their spy, she gains access to the highest reaches of the Sisterhood, and enters a glittering world of opulent parties, subtle deceptions, and unexpected bloodshed.

A phantasmagorical indictment of hereditary power, Star Eater takes readers deep into a perilous and uncanny world where even the most powerful women are forced to choose what sacrifices they will make, so that they might have any choice at all.

Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard

Aliette de Bodard is one of the most legendary novella writers around right now, and Fireheart Tiger sounds just as amazing as her others! It’s set in a Vietnamese inspired world, and follows a princess sent away as a hostage as she returns to her home, haunted by memories of her first love and a dangerous fire.

Award-winning author Aliette de Bodard returns with a powerful romantic fantasy that reads like The Goblin Emperor meets Howl’s Moving Castle in a pre-colonial Vietnamese-esque world.

Fire burns bright and has a long memory….

Quiet, thoughtful princess Thanh was sent away as a hostage to the powerful faraway country of Ephteria as a child. Now she’s returned to her mother’s imperial court, haunted not only by memories of her first romance, but by worrying magical echoes of a fire that devastated Ephteria’s royal palace.

Thanh’s new role as a diplomat places her once again in the path of her first love, the powerful and magnetic Eldris of Ephteria, who knows exactly what she wants: romance from Thanh and much more from Thanh’s home. Eldris won’t take no for an answer, on either front. But the fire that burned down one palace is tempting Thanh with the possibility of making her own dangerous decisions.

Can Thanh find the freedom to shape her country’s fate—and her own?

Under the Whispering Door by T.J Klune

T.J Klune is fast becoming one of my favourite authors, I have cried at every book of his I’ve read so far (and I rarely cry at books so this is quite a feat). And by the blurb alone, it looks like Under the Whispering Door will be much the same! This is about a ghost who doesn’t want to cross over into the afterwold, so sticks around in a small village on the ouskirts of the afterworld. There, he falls in love with the owner of a local tea shop, and is given just 7 days spend together until he must cross over. I CAN FEEL THE TEARS ALREADY.

Under the Whispering Door is a contemporary fantasy with TJ Klune’s signature “quirk and charm” (PW) about a ghost who refuses to cross over and the ferryman he falls in love with

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.

Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.

But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.

When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

By turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, this absorbing tale of grief and hope is told with TJ Klune’s signature warmth, humor, and extraordinary empathy.

On Fragile Waves by E. Lily Hu

On Fragile Waves, or ‘book with the most gorgeous cover of 2021’ is a magical realism novel about a pair of siblings who are children of fire, who are trying to travel from Afghanistan to Australia, which they see as a fantasy land of hope and opportunities. It sounds like such a moving portrayal of war and immigration and it is one of my most anticipated books of the year!

Firuzeh and her brother Nour are children of fire, born in an Afghanistan fractured by war. When their parents, their Atay and Abay, decide to leave, they spin fairy tales of their destination, the mythical land and opportunities of Australia.

As the family journeys from Pakistan to Indonesia to Nauru, heading toward a hope of home, they must rely on fragile and temporary shelters, strangers both mercenary and kind, and friends who vanish as quickly as they’re found.

When they arrive in Australia, what seemed like a stable shore gives way to treacherous currents. Neighbors, classmates, and the government seek their own ends, indifferent to the family’s fate. For Firuzeh, her fantasy worlds provide some relief, but as her family and home splinter, she must surface from these imaginings and find a new way.

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

Another one of the most gorgeous covers of 2021 is Rivers Solomon’s Sorrowland! This genre-bending gothic novel addresses the violence of America’s history and follows a pregnant woman escaping from a cult, whose body starts to change to perform incredible feats of brutality that shouldn’t be possible.

A triumphant, genre-bending breakout novel from one of the boldest new voices in contemporary fiction

Vern – seven months pregnant and desperate to escape the strict religious compound where she was raised – flees for the shelter of the woods. There, she gives birth to twins, and plans to raise them far from the influence of the outside world.

But even in the forest, Vern is a hunted woman. Forced to fight back against the community that refuses to let her go, she unleashes incredible brutality far beyond what a person should be capable of, her body wracked by inexplicable and uncanny changes.

To understand her metamorphosis and to protect her small family, Vern has to face the past, and more troublingly, the future – outside the woods. Finding the truth will mean uncovering the secrets of the compound she fled but also the violent history in America that produced it.

Rivers Solomon’s Sorrowland is a genre-bending work of Gothic fiction. Here, monsters aren’t just individuals, but entire nations. It is a searing, seminal book that marks the arrival of a bold, unignorable voice in American fiction.

The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri

Sapphic fantasy is going to make 2021 worth living. And this is one of them!! The Jasmine Throne is an Indian inspired fantasy about a princess and a maidervant trying to save their empire from the princess’s brother. It also has: enemies to lovers (well, ‘reluctant allies to lovers’), it’s all about the yearning™, wet sari scene, secret identities, tragic pasts, ReVENGE, the imperialist patriarchy is bad actually, burn it all down, the enemy of my enemy is my girlfriend, long lost siblings (from the author’s Twitter!)

Author of Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash Tasha Suri’s The Jasmine Throne, beginning a new trilogy set in a world inspired by the history and epics of India, in which a captive princess and a maidservant in possession of forbidden magic become unlikely allies on a dark journey to save their empire from the princess’s traitor brother.

Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of the powerful, magical deathless waters — but is now little more than a decaying ruin.

Priya is a maidservant, one among several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, so long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides.

But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled. One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne. The other is a priestess seeking to find her family. Together, they will change the fate of an empire.

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten

I loved Uprooted so I have very high hopes for this book which is compared to it! This wolfy adult fantasy is about a woman who is due to be sacrificed to the Wolf of the Wood to save her kingdom, and she’s kinda happy about it because she has a terrible power she can’t control and doesn’t want to hurt her loved ones. But not everything in the woods is as it seems… Dun dun duuuuuuun. I hope that sounded ominous.

The first daughter is for the Throne.
The second daughter is for the Wolf.


For fans of Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale comes a dark, sweeping debut fantasy novel about a young woman who must be sacrificed to the legendary Wolf of the Wood to save her kingdom. But not all legends are true, and the Wolf isn’t the only danger lurking in the Wilderwood.

As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods.

Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.

But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole.

A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark

Set in the same world as P. Djèlí Clark’s short story, A Dead Djinn in Cairo, A Master of Djinn follows a woman working at the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities who is tasked with hunting down the murderer of a secret brotherhood who is claiming to be the very person the secret brotherhood was dedicated to.

Nebula, Locus, and Alex Award-winner P. Djèlí Clark returns to his popular alternate Cairo universe for his fantasy novel debut, A Master of Djinn

Cairo, 1912: Though Fatma el-Sha’arawi is the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, she’s certainly not a rookie, especially after preventing the destruction of the universe last summer.

So when someone murders a secret brotherhood dedicated to one of the most famous men in history, al-Jahiz, Agent Fatma is called onto the case. Al-Jahiz transformed the world 50 years ago when he opened up the veil between the magical and mundane realms, before vanishing into the unknown. This murderer claims to be al-Jahiz, returned to condemn the modern age for its social oppressions. His dangerous magical abilities instigate unrest in the streets of Cairo that threaten to spill over onto the global stage.

Alongside her Ministry colleagues and her clever girlfriend Siti, Agent Fatma must unravel the mystery behind this imposter to restore peace to the city – or face the possibility he could be exactly who he seems….

The Conductors by Nicole Glover

2021 is the year of historical fantasy!! Every single one sounds absolutely incredible and I don’t know how I’m going to find time to read them all. The Conductors is set in post-Civil War Philadephia and follows a magic user and former conductor on the Underground Railroad who now solves murders that the white authorities refuse to touch.

A compelling debut by a new voice in fantasy fiction, The Conductors features the magic and mystery of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files written with the sensibility and historical setting of Octavia Butler’s Kindred: Introducing Hetty Rhodes, a magic-user and former conductor on the Underground Railroad who now solves crimes in post–Civil War Philadelphia.

As a conductor on the Underground Railroad, Hetty Rhodes helped usher dozens of people north with her wits and magic. Now that the Civil War is over, Hetty and her husband Benjy have settled in Philadelphia, solving murders and mysteries that the white authorities won’t touch. When they find one of their friends slain in an alley, Hetty and Benjy bury the body and set off to find answers. But the secrets and intricate lies of the elites of Black Philadelphia only serve to dredge up more questions. To solve this mystery, they will have to face ugly truths all around them, including the ones about each other.

In this vibrant and original novel, Nicole Glover joins a roster of contemporary writers within fantasy, such as Victor LaValle and Zen Cho, who use speculative fiction to delve into important historical and cultural threads.

No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turner

This book sounds absolutely monstrorous and we’re all going to love it. It follows a woman whose brother is killed by police. But the killing reveals something strange underneath: monsters are real. And they are ready to come out of the shadows and show themselves to humanity. But what are they running from?

One October morning, Laina gets the news that her brother was shot and killed by Boston cops. But what looks like a case of police brutality soon reveals something much stranger. Monsters are real. And they want everyone to know it.

As creatures from myth and legend come out of the shadows, seeking safety through visibility, their emergence sets off a chain of seemingly unrelated events. Members of a local werewolf pack are threatened into silence. A professor follows a missing friend’s trail of bread crumbs to a mysterious secret society. And a young boy with unique abilities seeks refuge in a pro-monster organization with secrets of its own. Meanwhile, more people start disappearing, suicides and hate crimes increase, and protests erupt globally, both for and against the monsters.

At the center is a mystery no one thinks to ask: Why now? What has frightened the monsters out of the dark?

The world will soon find out.

Folklorn by Angela Mi Young Hur

Another gorgeous cover is here! Folklorn is a genre-bending novel about Korean myth and science, following a particle physicist running from her family ghosts, but is followed by her childhood imaginary friend – a spectral woman in the snow who has come to claim her, as warned in the myths of her family.

A genre-defying, continent-spanning saga of Korean myth, scientific discovery, and the abiding love that binds even the most broken of families.

Elsa Park is a particle physicist at the top of her game, stationed at a neutrino observatory in the Antarctic, confident she’s put enough distance between her ambitions and the family ghosts she’s run from all her life. But it isn’t long before her childhood imaginary friend—an achingly familiar, spectral woman in the snow—comes to claim her at last.

Years ago, Elsa’s now-catatonic mother had warned her that the women of their line were doomed to repeat the narrative lives of their ancestors from Korean myth and legend. But beyond these ghosts, Elsa also faces a more earthly fate: the mental illness and generational trauma that run in her immigrant family, a sickness no less ravenous than the ancestral curse hunting her.

When her mother breaks her decade-long silence and tragedy strikes, Elsa must return to her childhood home in California. There, among family wrestling with their own demons, she unravels the secrets hidden in the handwritten pages of her mother’s dark stories: of women’s desire and fury; of magic suppressed, stolen, or punished; of the hunger for vengeance.

From Sparks Fellow, Tin House alumna, and Harvard graduate Angela Mi Young Hur, Folklorn is a wondrous and necessary exploration of the myths we inherit and those we fashion for ourselves.

Black Water Sister by Zen Cho

ANOTHER STUNNING COVER!! It is so so beautiful!! Black Water Sister is a Malaysian contemporary fantasy from fantasy legend Zen Cho and follows a medium who begins to hear the voice of her dead grandmother, who demands help to settle a score against a gang boss.

A reluctant medium discovers the ties that bind can unleash a dangerous power in this compelling Malaysian-set contemporary fantasy.

Jessamyn Teoh is closeted, broke and moving back to Malaysia, a country she left when she was a toddler. So when Jess starts hearing voices, she chalks it up to stress. But there’s only one voice in her head, and it claims to be the ghost of her estranged grandmother, Ah Ma. In life Ah Ma was a spirit medium, the avatar of a mysterious deity called the Black Water Sister. Now she’s determined to settle a score against a gang boss who has offended the god–and she’s decided Jess is going to help her do it.

Drawn into a world of gods, ghosts, and family secrets, Jess finds that making deals with capricious spirits is a dangerous business. As Jess fights for retribution for Ah Ma, she’ll also need to regain control of her body and destiny. If she fails, the Black Water Sister may finish her off for good.

The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley

I’m yet to read a Natasha Pulley book but I’ve heard so many people absolutely rave about her books. I have a copy of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street and I’ll be getting a copy of The Kingdoms as soon as it’s released!! The Kingdoms is a historical fantasy in a nineteenth-century French colony of England following a man with amnesia whose only clue to his identity is a century-old postcard of a Scottish lighthouse.

For fans of The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle and David Mitchell, a genre bending, time twisting alternative history that asks whether it’s worth changing the past to save the future, even if it costs you everyone you’ve ever loved.

Joe Tournier has a bad case of amnesia. His first memory is of stepping off a train in the nineteenth-century French colony of England. The only clue Joe has about his identity is a century-old postcard of a Scottish lighthouse that arrives in London the same month he does. Written in illegal English-instead of French-the postcard is signed only with the letter “M,” but Joe is certain whoever wrote it knows him far better than he currently knows himself, and he’s determined to find the writer. The search for M, though, will drive Joe from French-ruled London to rebel-owned Scotland and finally onto the battle ships of a lost empire’s Royal Navy. In the process, Joe will remake history, and himself.

From bestselling author Natasha Pulley, The Kingdoms is an epic, wildly original novel that bends genre as easily as it twists time.

Malice by Heather Walter

A dark sapphic retelling of Sleeping Beauty where the princess falls in love with the evil sorceress?! Sign me the fuck up. I have been loving the dark sapphic fantasy retellings we’ve been getting recently, and I am sure I will love this one because this sounds perfect!!

A princess isn’t supposed to fall for an evil sorceress. But in this darkly magical retelling of “Sleeping Beauty,” true love is more than a simple fairy tale.

Once upon a time, there was a wicked fairy who, in an act of vengeance, cursed a line of princesses to die. A curse that could only be broken by true love’s kiss.

You’ve heard this before, haven’t you? The handsome prince. The happily-ever-after.

Utter nonsense.

Let me tell you, no one in Briar actually cares about what happens to its princesses. Not the way they care about their jewels and elaborate parties and charm-granting elixirs. I thought I didn’t care, either.

Until I met her.

Princess Aurora. The last heir to Briar’s throne. Kind. Gracious. The future queen her realm needs. One who isn’t bothered that I am Alyce, the Dark Grace, abhorred and feared for the mysterious dark magic that runs in my veins. Humiliated and shamed by the same nobles who pay me to bottle hexes and then brand me a monster. Aurora says I should be proud of my gifts. That she . . . cares for me. Even though it was a power like mine that was responsible for her curse.

But with less than a year until that curse will kill her, any future I might see with Aurora is swiftly disintegrating—and she can’t stand to kiss yet another insipid prince. I want to help her. If my power began her curse, perhaps it’s what can lift it. Perhaps, together, we could forge a new world.

Nonsense again.

Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I—

I am the villain.

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

Not much can make me more excited than a queer, sapphic, Asian-American, fantasy retelling of a white man’s classic, in this case: The Great Gatsby!! The Chosen and the Beautiful follows Jordan Baker, immigrant, socialite and magician in the most exclusive circle in 1920s America.

Immigrant. Socialite. Magician.

Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society―she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer, Asian, adopted, and treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her.

But the world is full of wonders: infernal pacts and dazzling illusions, lost ghosts and elemental mysteries. In all paper is fire, and Jordan can burn the cut paper heart out of a man. She just has to learn how.

Nghi Vo’s debut novel reinvents this classic of the American canon as a coming-of-age story full of magic, mystery, and glittering excess, and introduces a major new literary voice. 

The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid

The Wolf and the Woodsman is a book inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology and follows a young pagan woman who teams up with a one-eyed captain to overthrow a tyrant. It also has a magic system based on body horror which sounds incredible! And sexy kneeling! There can never be enough sexy kneeling in the world!! And in case you still need a reason to pick up this book, read this quote from Shelley Parker-Chan, author of sexy kneeling book She Who Became the Sun: “Do you maybe like beautiful, mutilated enemy love interests who look good on their knees? DO YOU?” As matter of fact, I DO like beautiful, mutilated enemy love interests who look good on their knees!!

In the vein of Naomi Novik’s New York Times bestseller Spinning Silver and Katherine Arden’s national bestseller The Bear and the Nightingale, this unforgettable debut— inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology—follows a young pagan woman with hidden powers and a one-eyed captain of the Woodsmen as they form an unlikely alliance to thwart a tyrant.

In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. The villagers blame her corrupted bloodline—her father was a Yehuli man, one of the much-loathed servants of the fanatical king. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.

But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman—he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.

As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all.

The Thousand Eyes by A K Larkwood

Another sequel, The Thousand Eyes is the sequel to one of my favourite books of 2020, The Unspoken Name. The characters are some of my favourite characters in fantasy, and I cannot wait to see what happens to them next! Especially Shuthmili, powerful sapphic goddess CLINGING TO HUMANITY!

Two years ago, Csorwe and Shuthmili defied the wizard Belthandros Sethennai and stole his gauntlets. The gauntlets have made Shuthmili extraordinarily powerful, but they’re beginning to take a sinister toll on her. She and Csorwe travel to a distant world to discover how to use the gauntlets safely, but when an old enemy arrives on the scene, Shuthmili finds herself torn between clinging to her humanity and embracing eldritch power.

Meanwhile, Tal Charossa returns to Tlaanthothe to find that Sethennai has gone missing. As well as being a wizard of unimaginable power, Sethennai is Tal’s old boss and former lover, and Tal wants nothing to do with him. When a magical catastrophe befalls the city, Tal tries to run rather than face his past, but soon learns that something even worse may lurk in the future. Throughout the worlds of the Echo Maze, fragments of an undead goddess begin to awaken, and not all confrontations can be put off forever…

A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske

QUEER SCHOLARS ALERT! This should be a genre and I would like to read every book in it please. A Marvellous Light follows a civil service liason assigned to a hidden magical society. There’s also a murder mystery, it’s set in Edwardian England and it sounds VERY GOOD. From the publisher, this has: overthinking under-powered spiteful librarian/genial jock with surprising layers, UST (unresolved sexual tension), VRST (very resolved sexual tension), fantasy of very bad manners, hurt/comfort, Houses That Love You, bound by blood, bound by sexy magical restraints, gratuitous library porn, homicidal hedge maze, sleeves rolled up forearms, and Messing About In Boats.

Robin Blyth has more than enough bother in his life. He’s struggling to be a good older brother, a responsible employer, and the harried baronet of a seat gutted by his late parents’ excesses. When an administrative mistake sees him named the civil service liaison to a hidden magical society, he discovers what’s been operating beneath the unextraordinary reality he’s always known.

Now Robin must contend with the beauty and danger of magic, an excruciating deadly curse, and the alarming visions of the future that come with it—not to mention Edwin Courcey, his cold and prickly counterpart in the magical bureaucracy, who clearly wishes Robin were anyone and anywhere else.

Robin’s predecessor has disappeared, and the mystery of what happened to him reveals unsettling truths about the very oldest stories they’ve been told about the land they live on and what binds it. Thrown together and facing unexpected dangers, Robin and Edwin discover a plot that threatens every magician in the British Isles—and a secret that more than one person has already died to keep.

The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng by K.S. Villoso

Imagine me emitting just a high pitched screaming noise right now. The first two books in the Chronicles of the Bitch Queen trilogy are incredible, and were two of my favourite books of 2020. They are SOUL-DESTROYINGLY good and I am scared about what K.S. Villoso is going to put these characters through in the finale!!

The stunning finale to the Chronicles of the Bitch Queen trilogy where the queen of a divided land must unite her people against the enemies who threaten to tear her country apart. K. S. Villoso is a “powerful new voice in fantasy.” (Kameron Hurley)

Queen Talyien is finally home, but dangers she never imagined await her in the shadowed halls of her father’s castle.

War is on the horizon. Her son has been stolen from her, her warlords despise her, and across the sea, a cursed prince threatens her nation with invasion in order to win her hand.

Worse yet, her father’s ancient secrets are dangerous enough to bring Jin Sayeng to ruin. Dark magic tears rifts in the sky, preparing to rain down madness, chaos, and the possibility of setting her nation aflame.

Bearing the brunt of the past and uncertain about her future, Talyien will need to decide between fleeing her shadows or embracing them before the whole world becomes an inferno.

Blackheart Knights by Laura Evie

This is the Camelot retelling but if Aruthrian legend was very queer and very violent. The author describes it as:

• it’s Camelot but in Gotham City.
• Knights ride around on motorbikes instead of horses, in leather, with swords, because that is a world I’d like to live in.
• There’s magic but also electric trains and television and urban wastelands and dive bars.
• It’s sexy, and violent, and queer, and did I mention swords

So yes I want to read it.

Power always wins.

Imagine Camelot but in Gotham: a city where knights are the celebrities of the day, riding on motorbikes instead of horses and competing in televised fights for fame and money.

Imagine a city where a young, magic-touched bastard astonishes everyone by becoming king – albeit with extreme reluctance – and a girl with a secret past trains to become a knight for the sole purpose of vengeance.

Imagine a city where magic is illegal but everywhere, in its underground bars, its back-alley soothsayers – and in the people who have to hide what they are for fear of being tattooed and persecuted.

Imagine a city where electricity is money, power the only game worth playing, and violence the most fervently worshipped religion.

Welcome to a dark, chaotic, alluring place with a tumultuous history, where dreams come true if you want them hard enough – and are prepared to do some very, very bad things to get them

YA

The Scratch Daughters by Hannah Abigail Clarke

Yes, first up for YA is the sequel to one of the best YA novels of 2020, The Scapegracers. The Scapegracers was a fantasy novel about a group of teen witches that had one of the best portrayals of female friendship I’ve ever read in YA, so I am extremely excited to see where the sequel takes this coven!! Particularly given the title… (Mr Scratch is the BEST).

Blurb taken from the cover reveal on Tor.com.

It’s been a wild year for Sideways Pike. She formed a coven with the three most popular girls in school, fell for a mysterious stranger, and threw a massive Halloween party with said coven to impress said stranger, only for her to literally rip Sideways’ specter out—a soul-like organ that gives witches the ability to perform magic. For Madeline, stealing Sideways’ specter was a necessary evil: after her witchfinder ex-boyfriend robbed her of her own, Madeline’s been hellbent on getting it back and exacting vengeance on the whole Chantry family, even if that means hurting another witch in the process. Sideways can have her specter back when Madeline’s done with it. She’ll be fine until then, right?

Except Winter break is looming and specter-less Sideways is feeling rotten. She can’t do magic on her own, parts of her mind are tangled with Madeline’s, and if it weren’t for Mr. Scratch, the inky book devil consensually possessing her, she’d probably be dead. Sideways and her fellow (much merrier) Scapegracers have set up shop as curse crafters for girls in their school who’ve been done wrong by guys, following dead-end trails in pursuit of Madeline where they can. But when Sideways comes up with a reckless plan to get her specter back, she finds the other Scapegracers think it’s too dangerous to proceed.

Well, Sideways is used to going it alone, and she’s desperate. She’s not going to let an ex-crush and six unhinged witchfinders stand between herself and her magic. But she, Mr. Scratch, and her trusty stolen bike are in for a bumpy ride…

Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart

This book sounds absolutely amazing, it’s a Jamaican-inspired fantasy all about a fight between mother and daughter – because the daughter of the queen has no intention of dying like sister, to strengthen her mother’s power.

Divided by their castes. United by their vengeance.

Iraya has spent her life in a cell, but every day brings her closer to freedom—and vengeance.

Jazmyne is the queen’s daughter, but unlike her sister before her, she has no intention of dying to strengthen her mother’s power.

Sworn enemies, these two witches enter a precarious alliance to take down a mutual threat. But revenge is a bloody pursuit, and nothing is certain—except the lengths they will go to win this game.

Deadly, fierce, magnetically addictive: this Jamaican-inspired fantasy debut is a thrilling journey where dangerous magic reigns supreme and betrayal lurks beneath every word.

The Witch King by H.E. Edgmon

The angry trans book of your dreams is here!! The Witch King is one of my most anticipated books of the year. It has a trans witch, his fae ex-fiancé prince who is hunting him down to make him marry him, a grumpy/sunshine duo and one of the best tropes in the world, friends to enemies to lovers.

To save a fae kingdom, a trans witch must face his traumatic past and the royal fiancé he left behind. This debut YA fantasy will leave you spellbound.

Wyatt would give anything to forget where he came from—but a kingdom demands its king.

In Asalin, fae rule and witches like Wyatt Croft…don’t. Wyatt’s betrothal to his best friend, fae prince Emyr North, was supposed to change that. But when Wyatt lost control of his magic one devastating night, he fled to the human world.

Now a coldly distant Emyr has hunted him down. Despite transgender Wyatt’s newfound identity and troubling past, Emyr has no intention of dissolving their engagement. In fact, he claims they must marry now or risk losing the throne. Jaded, Wyatt strikes a deal with the enemy, hoping to escape Asalin forever. But as he gets to know Emyr, Wyatt realizes the boy he once loved may still exist. And as the witches face worsening conditions, he must decide once and for all what’s more important—his people or his freedom.

Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft

This is a book I’m going to be reading very soon, because I was lucky enough to get an ARC!! I’m heard so many amazing things about this gothic fantasy, it sounds to be lush and dark and I think it has lots of yearning?! Which is all anyone can want in a book right?!

He saw the darkness in her magic. She saw the magic in his darkness.

Wren Southerland’s reckless use of magic has cost her everything: she’s been dismissed from the Queen’s Guard and separated from her best friend—the girl she loves. So when a letter arrives from a reclusive lord, asking Wren to come to his estate, Colwick Hall, to cure his servant from a mysterious illness, she seizes her chance to redeem herself.

The mansion is crumbling, icy winds haunt the caved-in halls, and her eccentric host forbids her from leaving her room after dark. Worse, Wren’s patient isn’t a servant at all but Hal Cavendish, the infamous Reaper of Vesria and her kingdom’s sworn enemy. Hal also came to Colwick Hall for redemption, but the secrets in the estate may lead to both of their deaths.

With sinister forces at work, Wren and Hal realize they’ll have to join together if they have any hope of saving their kingdoms. But as Wren circles closer to the nefarious truth behind Hal’s illness, they realize they have no escape from the monsters within the mansion. All they have is each other, and a startling desire that could be their downfall.

Allison Saft’s Down Comes the Night is a snow-drenched romantic fantasy that keeps you racing through the pages long into the night.

Love makes monsters of us all. 

Jade Fire Gold by June CL Tan

I feel like I’ve been waiting on this one for years, because I think it got pushed back to 2021. But that doesn’t make my excitement any less than it was a year and a half ago when I first heard about it! It’s an East Asian inspired fantasy about a peasant who must save her grandmother from a cult of priests, and the exiled prince she allies with.

Told in a dual POV narrative reminiscent of EMBER IN THE ASHES, JADE FIRE GOLD is a YA fantasy is inspired by East Asian mythology and folk tales. Epic in scope but intimate in characterization, fans of classic fantasies by Tamora Pierce and the magical Asiatic setting of AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER will enjoy this cinematic tale of family, revenge, and forgiveness.

Her Destiny. His Revenge.

In order to save her grandmother from a cult of dangerous priests, a peasant girl cursed with the power to steal souls enters a tenuous alliance with an exiled prince bent on taking back the Dragon Throne. The pair must learn to trust each other but are haunted by their pasts—and the true nature of her dark magic.

Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis

Check out that cover?!?! It is incredible?!? I love it so much!? This witch book is about a girl who can summon the dead, and is warned by the dead to stop doing what she does or they’ll “burn everything down”. And then she accidentally raises someone from the dead…

For fans of Us and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comes a witchy story full of black girl magic as one girl’s dark ability to summon the dead offers her a chance at a new life, while revealing to her an even darker future.

Katrell doesn’t mind talking to the dead; she just wishes it made more money. Clients pay her to talk to their deceased loved ones, but it isn’t enough to support her unemployed mother and Mom’s deadbeat boyfriend-of-the-week. Things get worse, when a ghost warns her to stop the summonings or she’ll “burn everything down.” Katrell is willing to call them on their bluff, though. She has no choice. What do ghosts know about eating peanut butter for dinner?

However, when her next summoning accidentally raises someone from the dead, Katrell realizes that a live body is worth a lot more than a dead apparition. And, warning or not, she has no intention of letting this lucrative new business go.

But magic doesn’t come for free, and soon dark forces are closing in on Katrell. The further she goes, the more she risks the lives of not only herself, but those she loves. Katrell faces a choice: resign herself to poverty, or confront the darkness before it’s too late.

The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore

I finally read my first Anna-Marie McLemore book in 2020! Whilst I didn’t love it as much as expected after all the hype, I’ve heard that I started with the wrong one – so I will definitely still be picking up their newest book when it releases this year. The Mirror Season is a magical realist tale about two teens who were sexually assaulted at the same party.

When two teens discover that they were both sexually assaulted at the same party, they develop a cautious friendship through her family’s possibly-magical pastelería, his secret forest of otherworldly trees, and the swallows returning to their hometown, in Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Mirror Season

Graciela Cristales’ whole world changes after she and a boy she barely knows are assaulted at the same party. She loses her gift for making enchanted pan dulce. Neighborhood trees vanish overnight, while mirrored glass appears, bringing reckless magic with it. And Ciela is haunted by what happened to her, and what happened to the boy whose name she never learned.

But when the boy, Lock, shows up at Ciela’s school, he has no memory of that night, and no clue that a single piece of mirrored glass is taking his life apart. Ciela decides to help him, which means hiding the truth about that night. Because Ciela knows who assaulted her, and him. And she knows that her survival, and his, depend on no one finding out what really happened.

Wings of Ebony by J Elle

Another glorious cover!! There is such a trend of purples and pinks and golds in 2021 covers and I am LOVING it. This fantasy is about a teen whose mother is murdered and then finds out she’s actually part god when her never-seen-before-father turns up to take her away to an island of magic wielders. But when she breaks the rules and leaves the island to visit her sister, she finds out that Black kids are being forced into crime by an evil that lurks in the magic world as well as the human one.

In this riveting, keenly emotional debut fantasy, a Black teen from Houston has her world upended when she learns about her godly ancestry–and with evil sinking its claws into humans and gods alike, she’ll have to unearth the magic of her true identity to save both her worlds.

Perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Tomi Adeyemi, and The Hunger Games.


“Make a way out of no way” is just the way of life for Rue. But when her mother is shot dead on her doorstep, life for her and her younger sister changes forever. Rue’s taken from her neighborhood by the father she never knew, forced to leave her little sister behind, and whisked away to Ghizon—a hidden island of magic wielders.

Rue is the only half-god, half-human there, where leaders protect their magical powers at all costs and thrive on human suffering. Miserable and desperate to see her sister on the anniversary of their mother’s death, Rue breaks Ghizon’s sacred Do Not Leave Law and returns to Houston, only to discover that Black kids are being forced into crime and violence. And her sister, Tasha, is in danger of falling sway to the very forces that claimed their mother’s life.

Worse still, evidence mounts that the evil plaguing East Row is the same one that lurks in Ghizon—an evil that will stop at nothing until it has stolen everything from her and everyone she loves. Rue must embrace her true identity and wield the full magnitude of her ancestors’ power to save her neighborhood before the gods burn it to the ground.

A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth

There’s just something about girls with sharp knives on covers that make me immediately need to buy a book. Especially when they’re sapphic. In A Dark and Hollow Star, a fae prince, a half-fae outcast, a Fury, and a bodyguard must work together to hunt down a murderer who threatens to expose faeries to the human world.

The Cruel Prince meets City of Bones in this thrilling urban fantasy set in the magical underworld of Toronto that follows a queer cast of characters racing to stop a serial killer whose crimes could expose the hidden world of faeries to humans.

Choose your player.

The “ironborn” half-fae outcast of her royal fae family.
A tempestuous Fury, exiled to earth from the Immortal Realm and hellbent on revenge.
A dutiful fae prince, determined to earn his place on the throne.
The prince’s brooding guardian, burdened with a terrible secret.

For centuries, the Eight Courts of Folk have lived among us, concealed by magic and bound by law to do no harm to humans. This arrangement has long kept peace in the Courts—until a series of gruesome and ritualistic murders rocks the city of Toronto and threatens to expose faeries to the human world.

Four queer teens, each who hold a key piece of the truth behind these murders, must form a tenuous alliance in their effort to track down the mysterious killer behind these crimes. If they fail, they risk the destruction of the faerie and human worlds alike. If that’s not bad enough, there’s a war brewing between the Mortal and Immortal Realms, and one of these teens is destined to tip the scales. The only question is: which way?

Wish them luck. They’re going to need it.

Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury

Yes I love tragic fantasies, I just like PAIN okay?!? Which means I’m going to adore Blood Like Magic, a book where a teen witch must save her family’s magic by sacrificing her first love. But since she hasn’t ever been in love, she has to first find the poor soul she’ll need to sacrifice, which she does through a new matchmaking program! Bring on the blood…

A rich, dark urban fantasy debut following a teen witch who is given a horrifying task: sacrificing her first love to save her family’s magic. The problem is, she’s never been in love—she’ll have to find the perfect guy before she can kill him.

After years of waiting for her Calling—a trial every witch must pass in order to come into their powers—the one thing Voya Thomas didn’t expect was to fail. When Voya’s ancestor gives her an unprecedented second chance to complete her Calling, she agrees—and then is horrified when her task is to kill her first love. And this time, failure means every Thomas witch will be stripped of their magic.

Voya is determined to save her family’s magic no matter the cost. The problem is, Voya has never been in love, so for her to succeed, she’ll first have to find the perfect guy—and fast. Fortunately, a genetic matchmaking program has just hit the market. Her plan is to join the program, fall in love, and complete her task before the deadline. What she doesn’t count on is being paired with the infuriating Luc—how can she fall in love with a guy who seemingly wants nothing to do with her?

With mounting pressure from her family, Voya is caught between her morality and her duty to her bloodline. If she wants to save their heritage and Luc, she’ll have to find something her ancestor wants more than blood. And in witchcraft, blood is everything.

In Deeper Waters by F.T Lukens

I love pirates. Or maybe I love the pirate aesthetic? They just always have such great coats and eyeliner. Either way, it means I’m excited for In Deeper Waters, a book about a prince who is kidnapped by pirates on his coming-of-age tour and must appeal to one of his captors to help set him free and stop a war.

A young prince must rely on a mysterious stranger to save him when he is kidnapped during his coming-of-age tour in this swoony adventure that is The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue meets Pirates of the Caribbean.

Prince Tal has long awaited his coming-of-age tour. After spending most of his life cloistered behind palace walls as he learns to keep his forbidden magic secret, he can finally see his family’s kingdom for the first time. His first taste of adventure comes just two days into the journey, when their crew discovers a mysterious prisoner on a burning derelict vessel.

Tasked with watching over the prisoner, Tal is surprised to feel an intense connection with the roguish Athlen. So when Athlen leaps overboard and disappears, Tal feels responsible and heartbroken, knowing Athlen could not have survived in the open ocean.

That is, until Tal runs into Athlen days later on dry land, very much alive, and as charming—and secretive—as ever. But before they can pursue anything further, Tal is kidnapped by pirates and held ransom in a plot to reveal his rumored powers and instigate a war. Tal must escape if he hopes to save his family and the kingdom. And Athlen might just be his only hope…

We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal

The long-awaited sequel and conclusion to Faizal’s debut We Hunt the Flame is finally here!!! And there is one question on everyone’s mind: IS ALTAIR OKAY AND ALIVE PLEASE GOD!?

The battle on Sharr is over. The dark forest has fallen. Altair may be captive, but Zafira, Nasir, and Kifah are bound for Sultan’s Keep, determined to finish the plan he set in motion: restoring the hearts of the Sisters of Old to the minarets of each caliphate, and finally returning magic to all of Arawiya. But they are low on resources and allies alike, and the kingdom teems with fear of the Lion of the Night’s return.

As the zumra plots to overthrow the kingdom’s darkest threat, Nasir fights to command the magic in his blood. He must learn to hone his power into a weapon, to wield not only against the Lion but against his father, trapped under the Lion’s control. Zafira battles a very different darkness festering in her through her bond with the Jawarat—a darkness that hums with voices, pushing her to the brink of her sanity and to the edge of a chaos she dare not unleash. In spite of the darkness enclosing ever faster, Nasir and Zafira find themselves falling into a love they can’t stand to lose…but time is running out to achieve their ends, and if order is to be restored, drastic sacrifices will have to be made.

Lush and striking, hopeful and devastating, We Free the Stars is the masterful conclusion to the Sands of Arawiya duology by New York Times–bestselling author Hafsah Faizal.

Blood Scion by Deobrah Falaye

This sounds like it will be one of the best YA of the year. Military fantasy is a genre less seen in YA than adult, so I’m really excited to see how Blood Scion adds to the genre. This is a West African fantasy inspired by the child soldier crisis and follows a descendant of the ancient Orisha gods when she is drafted into the military that hunts her kind.

Inspired by Africa’s child soldier crisis and set in a West African fantasy world, the novel follows a young Scion—the all but extinct descendants of the ancient Orisha gods—who is drafted into the very military that has hunted her kind for centuries. Stealing the opportunity to uncover what happened the night her mother disappeared, she will do anything to learn the truth —even if it means becoming the killer the army demands.

Sweet and Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley

We really are blessed with a surge of sapphic fantasy in 2021 and I am so excited to read every single one. Sweet and Bitter Magic is about a witch who is cursed with the inability to love, who can only feel love by stealing it from others. She makes a bargain with a girl whose father is dying to try find the source of a magical plague!

In this charming debut fantasy perfect for fans of Sorcery of Thorns and Girls of Paper and Fire, a witch cursed to never love meets a girl hiding her own dangerous magic, and the two strike a dangerous bargain to save their queendom.

Tamsin is the most powerful witch of her generation. But after committing the worst magical sin, she’s exiled by the ruling Coven and cursed with the inability to love. The only way she can get those feelings back—even for just a little while—is to steal love from others.

Wren is a source—a rare kind of person who is made of magic, despite being unable to use it herself. Sources are required to train with the Coven as soon as they discover their abilities, but Wren—the only caretaker to her ailing father—has spent her life hiding her secret.

When a magical plague ravages the queendom, Wren’s father falls victim. To save him, Wren proposes a bargain: if Tamsin will help her catch the dark witch responsible for creating the plague, then Wren will give Tamsin her love for her father.

Of course, love bargains are a tricky thing, and these two have a long, perilous journey ahead of them—that is, if they don’t kill each other first..

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas

This has one of the most beautiful covers of 2021!! It’s so stunning, the covers are just so gorgeous I love it! And after the success of Cemetery Boys, this is sure to be one of the most talked about books of the year. Lost in the Never Woods is a Peter Pan retelling following Wendy and her brothers several years after they went missing in the woods, when more children begin to disappear.

When children go missing, people want answers. When children go missing in the small coastal town of Astoria, people look to Wendy for answers.

It’s been five years since Wendy and her two brothers went missing in the woods, but when the town’s children start to disappear, the questions surrounding her brothers’ mysterious circumstances are brought back into light. Attempting to flee her past, Wendy almost runs over an unconscious boy lying in the middle of the road, and gets pulled into the mystery haunting the town.

Peter, a boy she thought lived only in her stories, claims that if they don’t do something, the missing children will meet the same fate as her brothers. In order to find them and rescue the missing kids, Wendy must confront what’s waiting for her in the woods.

Afterlove by Tanya Byrne

The publisher describes this as “the lesbian love story you’ve been dying to read” and I definitely believe them!! Ash is dead. In the afterlife, she becomes a reaper, someone who takes souls to their afterlife fate. But Ash is also determined to see her first love again, and will do anything to make it happen.

Ash Persaud is about to become a reaper in the afterlife, but she is determined to see her first love Poppy Morgan again, the only thing that separates them is death.

Car headlights.

The last thing Ash hears is the snap of breaking glass as the windscreen hits her and breaks into a million pieces like stars.

But she made it, she’s still here. Or is she?

This New Year’s Eve, Ash is gets an RSVP from the afterlife she can’t decline: to join a clan of fierce girl reapers who take the souls of the city’s dead to await their fate.

But Ash can’t forget her first love, Poppy, and she will do anything to see her again … even if it means they only get a few more days together. Dead or alive…

NOT EVEN DEATH CAN TEAR THEM APART.

Second Coming by André-Naquian Wheeler

Look, I’ve always wanted a queer Jesus retelling (I’m a queer teen who was brought up Christian, the Jesus/Judus story is literally made for a queer retelling). But I might finally be getting it! Second Coming is about a teen who falls in love with an immigrant who might also be the son of God.

Set in the near future, Second Coming follows Ebb, a teen with a traumatic romantic past; that is, until he meets Manny, an immigrant from Nicaragua who loves him openly⁠—and might also be the son of God.

From Dust, a Flame by Rebecca Podos

From Dust, a Flame (previously The Dust Alphabet) is a sapphic Jewish fantasy about a teen cursed by a Jewish demon!! They have to hunt back through their family history to the Golem of Prague to find a way to break the curse.

A contemporary YA fantasy about identity, faith, and fate. On her 17th birthday, Hannah is cursed by a sheyd (a Jewish demon) as the price for a desperate bargain that her mother made long ago. To break the spell, she and her brother must track down their mother’s estranged family and discover a legacy they never dreamed of—one that traces back to the famous Golem of Prague.

The Coldest Touch by Isobel Sterling

Look, I adore vampires. It is my dream to write (and sell) a vampire book one day! So I’m super excited for Isobel Sterling’s sapphic vampire book (especially since her witchy debut, These Witches Don’t Burn, was so much fun!)

The contemporary fantasy follows Elise, a mortal girl who feels the death of anyone she touches, and Claire, the vampire assigned to recruit her for the Order, as they team up to stop a paranormal killer and realise they might be falling in love.

Briar Girls by Rebcecca Kim Wells

Sapphic girl who is poisonous to the touch? Yes please!! I am a big fan of this trend (can you call it a trend if it’s only two books that I know of so far?!) I’m loving it either way!

Catherine Laudone at Simon & Schuster has bought Briar Girls, a queer YA fantasy by Rebecca Kim Wells (Shatter the Sky). Cursed to kill all those she touches, Lena endures an isolated life on the run from her fellow humans. But when an enigmatic stranger offers to help her break the curse in exchange for her aid in waking a princess hidden in an enchanted forest, Lena embarks on a quest to win her freedom, no matter the cost.

The Lost Girls by Sonia Hartl

Yes, there are MORE sapphic vampires coming in 2021 which is exactly what I needed this year! The Lost Girls follows a girl who is turned into a vampire by the boyfriend who immediately breaks up with her once she’s turned. She joins up with two of his previous exes (also vamps) to try kill him before he can change anyone else. YES this sounds INCREDIBLE.

When the vampire who turned Holly into the undead in 1987 (leaving her as a 16-year-old with badly crimped hair for all eternity) breaks up with her, she’s approached by two girls he also claimed to love, turned, then ditched. But their plan to kill him before he can strike again grows complicated when Holly starts to fall for the mortal girl they’re trying to protect.

Dark Rise by C.S Pacat

Dark Rise comes from the author behind the Captive Prince trilogy, and is her first foray into YA! We really know next to nothing about what this series might be about, but that doesn’t make me any less excited!

C.S. Pacat’s first YA series is set in an alternate London, and follow “the heroes and villains of a long-forgotten war who are being reborn, ushering in a dangerous new age of magic”.

And there you have it, my extremely long list of fantasy I want to read this year. I’m going to ignore the fact that there’s no way I can possible read this many books on top of all the other books I want to read for as long as humanly possible. But of course, I always love to hear about more! Are there any fantasy novels I’ve missed that you’re looking forward to? Or what fantasy novel are you most excited to read this year? Let me know in the comments!

Book review: Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee

Title: Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee

Publisher: Solaris

Publication date: 20 October 2020

Genre: Adult | Fantasy | Steampunk

Page extent: 416 pages

Rating:

Synopsis: Dragons. Art. Revolution.

Gyen Jebi isn’t a fighter or a subversive. They just want to paint.

One day they’re jobless and desperate; the next, Jebi finds themself recruited by the Ministry of Armor to paint the mystical sigils that animate the occupying government’s automaton soldiers.

But when Jebi discovers the depths of the Razanei government’s horrifying crimes—and the awful source of the magical pigments they use—they find they can no longer stay out of politics.

What they can do is steal Arazi, the ministry’s mighty dragon automaton, and find a way to fight…

This was my first foray into Yoon Ha Lee’s work and all I can say is I can’t wait to explore more of his work because I really loved this! It is so very different to much of the other fantasy I’ve read, but because of that it felt so refreshing and new. And the nonbinary/female enemies to lovers relationship at the core of this story SPARKED SO MUCH JOY OMG I LOVE TO SEE IT.

Phoenix Extravagant is not your usual fantasy. We don’t follow a hero: instead, we follow an artist, slightly naive, oblivious to the world outside their art, and really just wanting to get on with their life outside of war. This passivity isn’t usually something you see in fantasy, particularly in a fantasy book about colonisation and rebellion. The book follows this artist, Gyen Jebi, as they are hired by the ruling Razanei Ministry of Armour to paint sigils that power their army of automaton. But after they discover how the paint is created, they feel forced to act, by stealing the Ministry of Armour’s automaton dragon of course!

This is a book full of very contrasting elements, and it made for a very unusual read, but one that felt so new and unique, fun and fresh. We see the book from the perspective of someone who doesn’t want to get involved in a rebellion, who doesn’t want to fight or kill and kind of just wants to get on with their life, so they get a job with the enemy to pay their bills. This is contrasted with the exploration of identity, colonisation and war, bringing us the unusual story of someone from the conquered class who doesn’t want to fight back themselves to get their country back. We see in Jebi the way the conquering nation are able to assimilate, manipulating the Hwaguk into giving up their names and their culture. The horrific nature of the magic system really exemplifies this, using cultural erasure to create the very weapon used to enforce the rule over Hwaguk is just horrific on so many different levels. So instead of in the main character, it is in Jebi’s sister, Bongsunga, that we see the rebel fighter who is willing to die to her country back. This makes for a very interesting and complex sibling relationship at the heart of this book, one that involves betrayal on both sides.

Alongside Jebi, we have another pacifist at the centre of this novel, who is of course Arazi the automaton dragon. Arazi, a war machine built by the Razan to destroy their enemies, who wants nothing to do with it. Arazi is such a sweet dragon for a creature created for such monstrosities and I adored the emphasis put on his consent and choice, and Jebi’s efforts to allow the dragon choice and free will as much as possible.

I really loved the juxtaposition of the steampunky, scifi nature of this fantasy alongside this more mystical, fairytale sense of freedom in the story. The contrast of this automaton dragon, and the mystical way he can fly; this felt most especially freeing in the way this book ended. I won’t say anything for spoilers, but I loved that we ended on a more fairytale-esque note than other elements of the book would suggest.

I want to end with talking about the relationship between Jebi and the prime duelist, Vei, because I just loved it. I think I must’ve been smiling like a fool the whole way through at seeing such a brilliant nb/f relationship at the heart of a fantasy book, it just made me so full of joy!! These two start with a mainly physical relationship but then grow to trust each other and suddenly the fire with which they fight for the other, the lack of control when the other is in danger, I just love to see it. Lee writes with such a simple style of writing I feel, it’s not full of huge detailed paragraphs about worldbuilding, about magic, about politics, or about the relationship. And this more simple style of writing somehow felt more powerful than if we’d had pages and pages of relationship development. Instead, the simplest sentences held the most power. It makes you pay attention to actions and what’s actually happening to see what is most important, and this felt particularly well done when showing off the relationship between Jebi and Vei.

I really loved this book. It looks at colonisation and war from a very different perspective than you usually see in fantasy. Instead of following a hero, we follow one of the bystanders impacted by war. It felt so fresh and unique and it really emphasised some of the mechanisms colonisers use to control those they conquer.

Book review: The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

Title: The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

Publisher: Orbit

Publication date: 13 October 2020

Genre: Adult | Fantasy

Page extent: 528 pages

Rating:

Synopsis:

In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters–James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna–join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.

The Once and Future Witches was my first foray into Harrow’s lyrical, poetic prose, as I haven’t read her debut novel, The Ten Thousand Doors of January. I don’t always have the best time with this kind of prose, I tend to either love it or hate it. But in The Once and Future Witches, I loved it and I’m very excited to read Harrow’s debut now as well!

The Once and Futute Witches is set during 1893 suffragette America, where three sisters who have been seperated by time and betrayal, meet again when a spell that makes an old tower appear in the middle of New Salem pulls them together. The three sisters end up embroiled in a quest to bring back magic that will allow women to stand up to the world that has pushed them so far down.

It’s difficult to know where to start with this beautiful book. The prose was just wonderful: so haunting and so full of imagery, it just completely envelops you. Despite the heavy detail and poetic prose, which can sometimes really slow down a book, it didn’t feel slow at all. This prose just sucked me in and I wanted to stay reading this book for hours at a time. It’s very reminiscent of Erin Morgenstern’s work, who has the same ability to create this delicate, beautiful language that makes you never want to leave.

One of my favourite things about this world was the history regarding the magic. In order to stay hidden, magic is passed down through “women’s things”: children’s nursery rhymes, fairytale stories, sewn into fabric. Each chapter starts with a spell, many of which will be familiar, twists on different rhymes we may have heard. Alongside these spells, there are occasional breaks for short fairytales that really help add to the sense of beauty and magic in this book, alongside a sense of darkness that comes with the original fairytales.

Are the three main characters a little one dimensional? Yes. James, the youngest sister, is the wild, uncontrollable one; Beatrice, the old crone obsessed with books and knowledge; and Agnes the beautiful warrior mother. They are a little surface level, I felt like Agnes was the only one that really got to explore her personality a bit more. She has a bit more depth as the sister who isn’t fully on board with bringing back witches, as the one who is deep set in her bitterness at the betrayal years ago, and so I found her journey more interesting than the others.

What I loved most about the characters in this book is not therefore the three sisters. Instead, it’s the small, insightful moments we get with the host of secondary characters in this world. To me, this is where the emotion and heart of this book really sang. There was such a depth of emotion in such small moments that really touched me, and really emphasised this fight to defeat the darkness of men. There’s Jeannie, the trans woman too scared to tell her friends she’s trans until the end of the book when she reveals her shorn head inflicted on her by the prison system, who clenched her fists in meetings as the women talked about the uselessness of men’s magic, when it was the only kind she knew. There’s the moment when Mr Lee, his face radiant and fierce, stands as the only barrier between Agnes and men who seek to burn her. There’s Cleo Quinn, Beatrice’s love interest, a Black journalist who in a moment of absolute power stuns you with her sharp words that the Black people living in New Cairo, her people, are always the ones to suffer most for others’ fights. It is these small moments and glimpses into these other characters lives that felt the most powerful to me.

Incidentally, it is these secondary characters lives that felt the most inclusionary and diverse as well. Without them, this book is token white feminism trying to beat down the man, the three white women tearing down structures of society with no thought to who actually gets hurt most by their actions. Which is why I wish there had been more focus on these other characters. It’s like Harrow tried to make her feminism more open and inclusive but she didn’t quite go far enough: these characters did feel a little like side offerings to the main quest of these three sisters, used to help them reach their full power and take down the villain. I wish we’d seen more importance placed on those putting themselves at risk for the sisters because these characters really were the heart and soul of this book and gave this book its most powerful moments.

But overall, I did find this book very enchanting. There is no question that Alix E. Harrow writes absolutely beautifully, in a way that makes you completely entranced in a world. I appreciate her efforts to attempt a more inclusive fight for feminism but I do feel it could have gone a lot further. The best part of this book were the small moments with the characters around the sisters, the moments where other characters got to show their world and their hopes and their dreams and why they were fighting and I wish we’d had more importance and focus placed on these (at times infinitely more) interesting characters.

Book review: The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk

Title: The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk

Publisher: Erewhon

Publication date: 13 October 2020

Genre: Adult | Fantasy

Page extent: 384 pages

Rating:

Synopsis:

Beatrice Clayborn is a sorceress who practices magic in secret, terrified of the day she will be locked into a marital collar that will cut off her powers to protect her unborn children. She dreams of becoming a full-fledged Magus and pursuing magic as her calling as men do, but her family has staked everything to equip her for Bargaining Season, when young men and women of means descend upon the city to negotiate the best marriages. The Clayborns are in severe debt, and only she can save them, by securing an advantageous match before their creditors come calling.

In a stroke of luck, Beatrice finds a grimoire that contains the key to becoming a Magus, but before she can purchase it, a rival sorceress swindles the book right out of her hands. Beatrice summons a spirit to help her get it back, but her new ally exacts a price: Beatrice’s first kiss . . . with her adversary’s brother, the handsome, compassionate, and fabulously wealthy Ianthe Lavan.

The more Beatrice is entangled with the Lavan siblings, the harder her decision becomes: If she casts the spell to become a Magus, she will devastate her family and lose the only man to ever see her for who she is; but if she marries—even for love—she will sacrifice her magic, her identity, and her dreams. But how can she choose just one, knowing she will forever regret the path not taken?

C.L Polk is the author of one of the books, Witchmark, that got me back into reading and blogging after several years without it. So I was inordinately excited to read her new book, The Midnight Bargain. I was a little wary during the first 20%, but after that, the plot and characters really begin to shine and I couldn’t stop reading!

The Midnight Bargain follows Beatrice, a young ingenue in her first bargaining season, whereby gentlemen try to woo and win over women for marriage. Beatrice needs a good match, as her father’s fortunes were decimated by a bad investment and now the family is close to ruin. But if she marries, Beatrice is forced into a binding collar, which removes all her magic in order to protect any unborn child who might be possessed by a spirit. Beatrice is torn between wanting to help her family and wanting to pursue her dreams of freedom without a binding collar. It becomes an even harder decision when she falls in love with one of the gentlemen, Ianthe. But she has found someone who understands her desires in Ianthe’s sister, Ysbeta, who also does not want to marry. The two plan to help each other bind a greater spirit which will prevent anyone from marrying them.

The first 20% of this book I did struggle. C.L Polk, along with V.E Schwab, is one of those authors that I really struggle to care about their female characters because they are just so annoying. I felt this in Witchmark with Grace, a character we’re supposed to care about when she wants to enslave her brother for her own power? Yeah no thanks (it’s why I haven’t ever read the sequel to Witchmark despite how much I adored that book). And I worried during the first 20% of the book because Beatrice, our main character, starts out a little bratty and whiny. It really isn’t clear why she wants to pursue magic, and thus the initial conflict between magic and marriage that will save her family doesn’t feel particularly strong. It seems like a whiny selfish girl not wanting to help her family. Which is fine if that was who Beatrice was! But she was portrayed as really wanting to save her family and give up her life for them, so it felt very contradictory when you can’t really see any strong reasons for why she wants magic at such great expense to her family. Add that to the insufferable Harriet, Beatrice’s sister who seems to care naught a single bit for her sister, doesn’t care what Beatrice might desire or more importantly, what Beatrice might suffer. So I did spend the first 20% thinking oh god not another book with insufferable female characters.

BUT! PUSH THROUGH! Because after about 20%, everything really changes. As Beatrice meets Ysbeta and Ianthe, we really see her personality blossom, along with her two desires: saving her family and being a mage. I really loved this exploration of individualistic vs collective goals in this society, and to see Beatrice’s struggle to reconcile her wish to save her family with her wish to not be shackled and sold off in a marriage contract, no matter how much she loved Ianthe. I really appreciated the emphasis on Beatrice’s family and the strength of her love for them throughout the book, no matter what happened. A lot of other books exploring this, the struggle never really feels fully real – you always kind of know of course the person is going to pick themselves. And I loved that that feeling wasn’t there. I had no idea what Beatrice would do and I think that’s down to the strength in the second half of portraying this sense of selfish, more individualistic style of living alongside the hopes of her family who have bankrupted themselves for her.

I adored the friendship with Ysbeta. The fire in these two as they try to find a way out of marriage really helps bring Beatrice’s desires into a much stronger and clearer light, and thus my initial problem with her characterisation in the first 20% disappears. They have such a strong friendship and I really appreciated Ysbeta’s character. In a book so focused on marriage and tying yourself away to someone, Ysbeta was a breath of fresh air as someone who knows she doesn’t ever want to get married. I very much read her as somewhere on the ace spectrum, though it isn’t on page rep, as her desires to not get married felt like they went beyond just her wishes to be a mage and travel the world.

I’m also a huge Ianthe fan. In a society such as this, he of course does not start off perfect. I loved that Beatrice was unafraid to stand up to him and the two had so many fierce discussions around the morals and ethics surrounding Chasland society and culture. The way she challenges him made the relationship feel so much more positive and really makes you root for them because Ianthe is so willing to change and grow for Beatrice.

I really enjoyed this book. Despite my intial concerns during the first 20%, they were completely blown away by the rest of the book. I loved the emphasis on friendship, Ysbeta is pretty much one of the best female characters I’ve read all year and the relationship was very sweet.

Book review: A Golden Fury by Samantha Cohoe

Title: A Golden Fury by Samantha Cohoe

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Publication date: 13 October 2020

Genre: Young Adult | Fantasy

Page extent: 320 pages

Rating:

Synopsis

Thea Hope longs to be an alchemist out of the shadow of her famous mother. The two of them are close to creating the legendary Philosopher’s Stone—whose properties include immortality and can turn any metal into gold—but just when the promise of the Stone’s riches is in their grasp, Thea’s mother destroys the Stone in a sudden fit of violent madness.

While combing through her mother’s notes, Thea learns that there’s a curse on the Stone that causes anyone who tries to make it to lose their sanity. With the threat of the French Revolution looming, Thea is sent to Oxford for her safety, to live with the father who doesn’t know she exists.

But in Oxford, there are alchemists after the Stone who don’t believe Thea’s warning about the curse—instead, they’ll stop at nothing to steal Thea’s knowledge of how to create the Stone. But Thea can only run for so long, and soon she will have to choose: create the Stone and sacrifice her sanity, or let the people she loves die.

Thank you to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for providing me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve spoken quite a few times on here that I’ve been really struggling with YA fantasy this year. But over the past few months, I’ve been going in with low expectations (or no expectations), and that actually seems to be boding well for me because I was pleasantly surprised by YA fantasy, A Golden Fury!

A Golden Fury is a science heavy fantasy all about alchemy, set in a time where female alchemists were very frowned upon. We follow a young alchemist, Thea, whose mother is the most famous female alchemist in the world. She’s also neglectful and abusive and when her mother seems to go mad, Thea is sent to live with the father who doesn’t even know she exists. Thea works out that the journey to create the Philosopher’s stone is what caused her mother’s madness, so when she gets to her father and finds him and his companions just as hungry for the stone, she must try to save the ones she loves from the madness. And the only way to do that is by creating the stone herself so she pays the price of madness and not them.

The first 40% or so of this novel is my favourite. It’s full of brilliant scenes all around alchemy. I loved how much detail has been put into this science, there is so much detail about the process of alchemy and I loved this! This heavy science is probably not for every reader, but it’s one of the things I love most about adult fantasy/scifi and a key thing missing in a lot of YA fantasy I read, so I just adored that we had so much information about the actual science behind the magic.

Despite my love for the science, and as much as I enjoyed this book, I did leave the book just feeling a little well, lack of any feeling. This book was fine, it was okay, but I didn’t leave the book with any overwhelming feeling of passion, either good or bad. I think one of the main reasons for this is that none of the characters felt very genuine in their actions. I never trusted Will from the second we first meet him, so the whole romance storyline and Thea willing to give up her mind for him just felt a little ridiculous. It could have been a really powerful story because I think Thea’s strength and determination were written really well, but because the romance was so central to her actions and the romance was the most lacklustre part of this book, it meant I struggled to believe how someone supposedly as smart as Thea could act like she does (much like how Rahel feels towards her actually!) Add that to her father’s actions, and the sudden forgiveness of him, it just didn’t feel hugely genuine to me. Unfortunately, the key driving plot of this book does surround the romance and Thea’s feelings for Will, so if that doesn’t hit right for you, this story will feel a little lacking.

It’s in no way a bad book! I enjoyed reading this, the science is very cool, I just didn’t leave it with any particularly strong feelings. I hope others have better luck with it!

Book review: The Ikessar Falcon by K. S. Villoso

Title: The Ikessar Falcon by K. S. Villoso

Publisher: Orbit

Publication date: 22 September 2020

Genre: Adult | Fantasy

Page extent: 640 pages

Rating:

Synopsis:

The Bitch Queen returns in The Ikessar Falcon, the action-packed sequel to K. S. Villoso’s acclaimed fantasy debut, The Wolf of Oren-Yaro.

Abandoned by her people, Queen Talyien’s quest takes a turn for the worse as she stumbles upon a plot deeper and more sinister than she could have ever imagined, one that will displace her king and see her son dead. The road home beckons, strewn with a tangled web of deceit and unimaginable horrors – creatures from the dark, mad dragons and men with hearts hungry for power.

To save her land, Talyien must confront the myth others have built around her: Warlord Yeshin’s daughter, symbol of peace, warrior and queen and everything she could never be.

The price for failure is steep. Her friends are few. And a nation carved by a murderer can only be destined for war.

WHAT JUST HAPPENED. This book is full of pain and I’m just jotting down all my thoughts immediately after finishing so prepare for a review which is basically just me screaming OH MY GOD the whole time. I love adult fantasy for many reasons, but there’s a few authors who I adore for one very simple reason: when you think everything is absolutely rock bottom for the characters you love, shit gets even worse. K. S. Villoso is one of those authors who does so exceptionally well that almost constantly throughout this book I was like okay this is it, we’re on the up, come on Talyien, I’m rooting for you! And a page later shit goes to absolute fuck. And I fucking love it.

The Ikessar Falcon is book 2 in the series that started with the incredible The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, which follows the Bitch Queen Talyien as she hunts down her husband who walked out of her life 5 years ago. We left Talyien in Zirano, where her husband Raayel had vowed to kill her son if he proved he wasn’t his. He has gone off to hunt down mages to assist him and Talyien is hot on his trail.

The Ikessar Falcon is one of those absolute masterpieces of fantasy, where the ridiculously tense and fast paced plot is just as brilliant as the deeply flawed characters keeping you hooked to the book. The four key players rile me so passionately whether I hate them or love them.

  • Talyien is just as powerful a character as we met in the first book, but in this sequel, she’s getting desperate. She is such a driven character, who makes deeply hurtful and flawed decisions in the path to save her son. There are moments I wanted to scream at her, dark moments where her actions got so low it’s so hard to stay on her side. But this is a desperate woman, one who will stop at anything to save her son who she loves more than anything in the world and even in her darkest hours, I still can’t help but admire her and the strength she has to do what’s needed, no matter the cost. (And fuck me, the cost is great).
  • Khine continues to be the most refreshing beacon of light in this book. In the midst of so much pain and darkenss, Khine shines with such hope and joy and love and his relationship with Talyien continues to be one of my favourite parts of this series.
  • Raayel continues to be on my list of most hated book characters, such is the fury he fills me with due to his hypocrisy. And I hated myself to see that I was kinda sorta maybe growing to like him by the end of this book. We get to spend a lot more time with him in this book, and so we see more of his motivations as well as see Talyien deal with her feelings and their history.
  • And Agos!! The new addition to my most hated book characters! I so adore books that can rile me up with such love and such hate towards the characters, because it shows me how exceptional that book truly is to cause such uncontrollable passion in me. Alongside Raayel, we also spent lot more time with Agos, we see the deep possessiveness he has of Talyien, the dark cloak of anger he wears and all of that dark violence and love comes to such an incredible climax at the end of the book.

Alongside the characters, we have a whole host of new elements to The Ikessar Falcon to intice us in. We spent a lot more time exploring the agan, with lots of new magical creature and creations for Talyien to run into. The highlight of these for me were the majestic, ferocious dragons who we meet. But I also loved just spending some more time around mages, finding out more about how the agan works. I really loved the blood magic element of this book, which we got more of at the start of the book. It was so dark and caused so much heartbreak. And it was so early in the book!! I was in awe at how Villoso has no fears about fucking up these characters, about putting them through hell and when they think they’re finally free, shit gets even worse. I was so shocked at some of the events in the first section of the book because so rarely do you see events THIS traumatic so early in a book. And as much pain as this causes me, I just absolutely love when authors don’t hold back and are willing to do the absolute worst to their characters.

Another, slightly more random thing I really noticed in this sequel was the fooooooood. I don’t know if I just missed it all in the first book or if it was genuinely more prominent in this one, but oh my god?! All of the food descriptions were incredible?! I was salivating the whole way through. I could not stop imagining this food, it just sounded so unbelievably delicious.

As you can probably tell, I adored this sequel! I love Villoso’s ability to completely destroy characters (and readers). I love that she isn’t afraid to play with pain, to make her characters really suffer, to take us to that edge of wow actually maybe these people that I love aren’t going to win. I love her way of writing such morally grey characters who fill you with either such love or hate (or both, hello Talyien from 80% through the book!!!) The Ikessar Falcon completely fulfilled all I hoped for and SO MUCH more. It also got me out of a reading slump so THANK YOU.