Fantasy, Young Adult

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

Amazon.com: The Shadows Between Us (9781250189967): Levenseller, Tricia:  Books

Pages: 326

Publisher: Feiwel and Friends

Release Date: February 25, 2020

Genre(s): Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

“Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:

1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.

But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?”

What Did I Think?

The social season of Bridgerton meets the wickedly fierce characters of Throne of Glass in Tricia Levenseller’s The Shadows Between Us, and I am HERE for it!

My first Tricia Levenseller book was Daughter of the Pirate King, and while it was enjoyable, I could totally see how far the author’s writing has come since its publication. I was hooked on The Shadows Between Us after reading the very first chapter, and that feeling continued for a long time after I finished it. The overall concept of the book was wholly centered on enemies-to-lovers (err… kind of a twisty friends-to-lovers vibe too!), and while I usually don’t love that trope, it was perfectly suited in this context and very well executed. I quickly fell in love with the royal court atmosphere that was full of political intrigue, and I found the romantic elements to be perfectly woven into the fast-paced plotline. I don’t think there is one negative thing I can say about the overall concept and plot construction – it was dark, captivating, and purely MAGICAL!

I haven’t come across many books in which the protagonist is established as a “villain” from the very first page, but I LOVED Alessandra’s character. YA fantasy novels often give lead characters like Alessandra tragic backgrounds that explain where their evil side comes from, and it was so refreshing to have that not be the case in The Shadows Between Us. Alessandra was just 100 percent her authentically wicked self from the start, and while she did face some hardships in her life, she was never apologetic about the darker side of her personality. She’s never afraid of what other people with think when it comes to her ambition and intellect, and her fierce advocacy for women having the same opportunities as the men had me thinking “yass girl, you tell’em!” on numerous occasions. By book’s end, Alessandra was still so authentically her but had some major development when it comes to her feelings about romance, and while I normally would have liked to have seen a character grow leaps and bounds, seeing her remain true to herself was so much more powerful in this case. I seriously would give this book 5 stars just because Alessandra was that awesome, but there is plenty of more awesome to talk about yet to come!

Moving right along to our good ol’ friend, the Shadow King. I can honestly say that he really wasn’t anything I would consider overly special, but I still couldn’t help but love him. Like Alessandra, the Shadow King certainly had his dark side, but I appreciated the fact that he seemed so human, even with so much responsibility (and like five million literal shadows) on his shoulders. His humor was contagious, and I found myself smiling right along with him and rooting for him when times got tough. I think his calmer personality balanced out Alessandra’s wildness in the best of ways, and I was shipping them both from the moment they met at the ball!

The Shadows Between Us went above and beyond my expectations for a standalone fantasy novel. The plotline moved quickly, there were twists and turns galore, and the breadcrumbs of romance sprinkled in were honestly to die for! I seriously cannot rave enough about this book, and The Shadows Between Us will certainly go down as one of my favorite fantasy reads to date!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

If you’re on the hunt for a wickedly addictive fantasy standalone full of political intrigue amidst a court full of people who may not be as they seem, I highly recommend you give this book a read!

Fans of Sarah J. Maas, Jennifer L. Armentrout, Alexandra Christo, and Holly Black will also fall head over heels in love with this magnificent read by Tricia Levenseller.

Fantasy, Young Adult

Fable by Adrienne Young

Amazon.com: Fable: A Novel (Fable, 1) (9781250254368): Young, Adrienne:  Books

Pages: 357

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Release Date: September 1, 2020

Genre(s): Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

“For seventeen-year-old Fable, the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home she has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one, and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father, and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him, and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.

Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men. Fable takes you on a spectacular journey filled with romance, intrigue, and adventure.

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What Did I Think?

Just want to start by saying I FREAKING LOVED THIS BOOK! I know that I am only giving it four stars (will explain later!), but Fable was seriously like no other book I have ever read. Somebody ship me off to the Narrows, would ya?

The overall concept of Fable had me hooked almost instantly. The world in which the story takes place was immediately established as cutthroat yet whimsical (yes, apparently it is possible to be both!). I quickly fell in love with the vivid detail Young used to describe each individual location the characters traveled to, as well as the way in which we were able to see how the various characters viewed the places they traveled to through her strong use of dialogue. It took me a couple of chapters to get hooked on the story, but that didn’t bother me too much since there was a lot about its setting that needed to be expained early on. The plotline moved at a brisk pace while still making sure that each of the plot points meshed together in a logical way. I seriously have nothing I can complain about when it comes to the concept and plotline of this book – it is AMAZEBALLS!

I have such mad respect for the protagonist, Fable. She was left to her own devices on a brutal island as a young girl, and really took the challeneges she faced in stride rather than cowering to the HUGE amounts of fear she must have felt while being on Jeval. I was so intrigued by Fable’s work as a dredger and totally found myself GEEKING each time she went diving because I love things that sparkle almost as much as the gem merchants in this series! I appreciated Fable’s tenacity, willingness to take risks to benefit the greater good of those around her, and that even though she has had a hard life so far, she managed to continue to be compassionate towards others who (questionably) don’t deserve it. Fable’s character developed slowly in this book, and I look foward to seeing how much farther she comes in Namesake.

Even though I doubt I would make it long at sea for the stints of time the Marigold’s crew manages to, I kind of wish I got to be an honorary member of their crew! West, Paj, Auster, Hamish, and Willa were such a tight-knit group that they were more like family than just a ship crew. I really enjoyed reading about each of these characters’ individual lives and how those experiences led each of them to the Marigold. Young provided so much background on each of these characters that is was almost like they were all protagonists in the story. I loved watching each of their personalities shine through just as much as Fable’s did, and I can’t wait to see more of the whole crew in the next book!

There is only one big thing that is preventing me from giving this book a full five stars: The main romance. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good slow burn as much as the next person, but the way this one is established comes across as a little unnatural. I’m hoping that this aspect of the storyline grows on me in the second book because I really want to love it, but can’t quite yet.

Fable was seriously so much more than I expected in all the right ways. The worldbuilding was absolutely breathtaking, the plot progression was smooth as butter, and I finished the book wishing I got to be a part of the Marigold’s crew myself, even though they did manage to get themselves in quite a bit of trouble! Fable was my very first Adrienne Young book and it totally solidified the fact that she will now be an auto-buy author of mine from here out. Now onto reading Namesake!

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Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

If you’re all about nautical-themed fantasy novels, such as Daughter of the Pirate King or Passenger, I highly recommend you give Fable a read.

I would also strongly encourage anyone looking for a book with an enemies-to-lovers trope and who wants to be swept away on a whirlwind of an adventure filled to the brim with plot twists to definitely check this book out!

Fantasy, New Adult/Adult

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

Pages: 705

Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #3

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Release Date: May 2, 2017

Genre(s): Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

***NOTE: If you have not read the first two books in the ACOTAR series, A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist and Fury, please stop reading this review! You will be spoiled and this series is so good that you totally don’t want that!***

Goodreads Synopsis

“FEYRE WILL BRING VENGEANCE.

She has left the Night Court – and her High Lord – and is playing a deadly game of deceit. In the Spring Court, Tamlin is making deals with the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees, and Feyre is determined to uncover his plans. But to do so she must weave a web of lies, and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As mighty armies grapple for power, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords – and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

BUT WHILE WAR RAGES, IT IS HER HEART THAT WILL FACE THE GREATEST BATTLE.

THE THRILLING THIRD BOOK IN #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING FANTASY SERIES FROM SARAH J. MAAS.”

What Did I Think?

My oh my. A Court of Wings and Ruin sure does take its readers on one wild ride. I HATE rollercoasters, but this is one that I never wanted to get off of!

Before we jump into my review of this book, let’s do a quick recap of what went down in A Court of Mist and Fury. The book kicks off with Feyre and Tamlin returning back to the Spring Court following their time under the mountain. Understandably, Feyre has undergone a lot of trauma and is having issues coping with it, while Tamlin basically ignores the fact that the person he supposedly loves is wasting away right before his eyes. Tamlin and Feyre’s wedding day finally arrives, and just as Feyre is about to sprint down the aisle AWAY from her hubby-to-be, Rhysand, the High Lord of the Night Court, saves the day by whisking Feyre away to the Night Court to hold up her end of the deal they brokered while Under the Mountain. Though skeptical at first, Feyre starts to enjoy the company of Rhys and his Inner Circle, and quickly learns that Tamlin hasn’t been very forthcoming with her about many *very important* things. The closer Feyre grows to her companions in the Night Court, the more she loathes returning to Tamlin and the Spring Court, especially after the High Lord of Spring traps her in his manor. Luckily, Mor arrives to rescue her and Feyre opts to reside in Velaris on a more permanent basis. Hybern has begun his hunt for the Cauldron, and the members of the Night Court are determined to not let him succeed in his mission. Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned after good ol’ pain in the butt Tamlin sells Feyre, Rhys, and crew out, and Elain and Nesta are Made into High Fae with the Cauldron. And oh, yeah. Did I mention that Rhys and Feyre are MATES? Well, the mating bond sure does come in handy when Feyre pretends to want to return home to the Spring Court with Tamlin out of her “love” for him, when really she’s going to spy on him for Rhys and the Inner Circle as the newly appointed High Lady of the Night Court. I could talk about that ending FOREVER because it was so good, but instead, I think I’ll just move right on in to my review of A Court of Wings and Ruin!

I really enjoyed watching Feyre’s character evolve in the first two books in this series, and that trend definitely continues in A Court of Wings and Ruin. In ACOTAR and ACOMAF, Feyre spends a lot of time overcoming the traumas she has experienced in life, but this shifts a little bit in ACOWAR. I was captivated during the moments when Feyre would just be totally content with simply living, and seeing her actually enjoy her life at times was honestly so awesome because those moments had been very rare up until this point. I also loved that Feyre was just as fierce and strong-willed as she was in the first two books, and that she used that fire within her self to serve the people of Velaris (and beyond!) over and over again. It would have been so much simpler for her to just turn a blind eye to their needs, and I honestly found her generosity to be one of my favorite characteristics about her. Overall, I still love Feyre (even though I will admit that I did get a little annoyed with her at times as I was reading this book!) and I’m excited to see where else she’ll go in the next book.

Though I’m convinced he was already stealing my heart in the other two books, Rhysand has officially been deemed the love of my life by the end of A Court of Wings and Ruin. I loved that even though this book was really serious at times, Rhys maintained his swagger, playful attitude, and kick butt magical/Illyrian vibes I loved so much in the first two books. However, there was also a major shift in his character that I really appreciated – the fact that was willing to finally let himself feel true joy without being bogged down with haunting memories of his past. The mix of exposing his vulnerabilities and soaking in the happiness those around him bring him was beautifully balanced. As usual, I need more of the High Lord of the Night Court in my life. Thank the Cauldron there are more books in the series!

One of the most exciting parts of A Court of Wings and Ruin for me was all of the supporting characters getting more page time. Mor, Cassian, Az, and Amren literally give me LIFE, you guys! I found myself always slowing down my reading pace when everyone was together because I didn’t want to see them all go their separate ways again. Dare I say it, but I think this is one of those rare times when I like the supporting characters equally as much (if not more!) than the main protagonists! Nesta, Elain, and Lucian are also starting to grow on me after giving this book a read. I wasn’t sold on them to begin with, but as more of their personalities come through on the page, the more I am rooting for them to find their happy endings. Each and every one of these characters and their stories were so well developed, and I am so excited to see more of them as the series continues!

While it wasn’t my favorite book in the ACOTAR series so far, that honestly isn’t saying much because I was completely entranced from beginning to end by A Court of Wings and Ruin. The smoldering romance, endless action, witty humor, ALL the drama… ughh! It was all there and flowed so nicely together in a well laid out plotline. If I had to pick a highlight, it would have to be seeing how far each of the characters have come and seeing the supporting characters’ stories be filled in more substantially. Just like the other books in the series, A Court of Wings and Ruin will draw you in from the very first page, and you won’t ever want it to come to an end.

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Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

*** This book contains some mature elements (romance and violence) that may not be suitable for younger readers. I would only recommend this to readers ages 17+***

If you’ve read the first two books in the ACOTAR series and fallen in love with (almost) everything about them like I have, I highly recommend continuing the series with A Court of Wings and Ruin!

Fantasy, New Adult/Adult

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Pages: 626

Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #2

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Release Date: May 3, 2016

Genre(s): Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

***NOTE: If you have not read the first book in the ACOTAR series, A Court of Thorns and Roses, please stop reading this review! You will be spoiled and this series is so good that you totally don’t want that!***

Goodreads Synopsis

“Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

With more than a million copies sold of her beloved Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas’s masterful storytelling brings this second book in her seductive and action-packed series to new heights.”

What Did I Think?

.It’s rare that I get chills when I read a book the first time. It’s near impossible for the same work of literature to accomplishing this TWICE, but A Court of Mist and Fury was that book for me. I honestly think I could read it a million times and still be moved by its awesomeness!

Before jumping into the fun of this book, let’s recap the ending of the first book in the series, A Court of Thorns and Roses. Amarantha is FINALLY long gone (may she NOT rest in peace), and though Feyre ended up dead at her hands in the process of freeing Tamlin and breaking the curse, each of the High Lords of the various courts brought her back to life, but in High Fae form. Tamlin and Feyre return home at the very end of the book, but there seems to be a lot of tension between them because of Tamlin’s lack of a backbone and Feyre’s need for independence. And oh, yeah. Did I mention the very mysterious yet eerily handsome High Lord of the Night Court brokered a deal with Feyre, requiring her to stay with him at his home a week out of every month? Ahh… a very important detail to remember as we jump into my through on this beauty! The reader is left with the vibe that war is still on the horizon, and Feyre’s going to have to figure out where her loyalties lie to save those she cares about most.

Anndddd that brings me to my thoughts on A Court of Mist and Fury. While I was super impressed with the worldbuilding in ACOTAR, it was even better in this book! The first book stayed mostly to the human realm, Spring Court, and Under the Mountain, and it left me wanting to explore more of what Prythian. Boy did Maas deliver on that one! I had so much fun getting to take a closer look at more of the fae courts in this book, as well as seeing how each of them were adjusting to life post-Amarantha’s reign. With so much of this world left to sift through, I’m really looking forward to seeing how Maas’ worldbuilding continues to evolve. I hope it involves visiting more courts because I am here for it (though I think the Night Court may have stolen my heart forever!).

I honestly cannot express how much I loved watching Feyre’s character grow in this book. After her experiences Under the Mountain, it comes as no shock that she felt completely insecure in her own skin and wasn’t happy with who she was made to be. Not only that, but she now has to come to terms with the fact that she is now immortal while still having mortal thoughts and feelings. I absolutely loved the way Maas portrays Feyre’s ways of coping in this book following the aftermath of the trauma she experiences. There are moments of vulnerability that broke my heart, but other moments where Feyre’s independent nature comes to the forefront that kept me rooting for her to find her own sense of happiness in the world. In just 600 short pages, Feyre “Cursebreaker” Archeron grew leaps, bounds, and then some, and I can’t wait to see more of this fast-moving yet oh-so-believable character development in the next book in the series.

Moving right along to my Fae Baes: Rhysand and his entire Inner Circle. In short, I LOVED their characters with literally every ounce of my being. Maas crushed giving each of them their own unique backstories, and I loved learning how Cassian, Azriel, Mor, Amren, and Rhys all ended up knowing each other. Sometimes friends become your family, and though they’re hella dysfunctional at times, I loved the fact that these guys were always there for each other through thick and thin. I am HYPEEEE to see what this gang gets up to in the next book in the series because when the Rhys and the Inner Circle are in the house, it’s bound to be a good time!

In case you were wondering, yes, Tamlin and Lucian are still doing their thing in this book, but my love for Rhysand and his crew is just much stronger than what I have for the Spring Court buds. You guys will all just have to read the book and pick your team, but #sorrynotsorry for being super vague about what these two are getting up to in the Spring Court!  

A Court of Mist and Fury had everything I wanted to see in this second book and more, and my expectations were super high to begin with! “Second Book Slump” is a real thing, but there wasn’t one piece of this book that I wasn’t obsessed with. The characters continued to grow, but did so in a way that felt very real, and the plotline was paced so nicely with plot twists thrown in that caught me off guard time and time again. The second I set A Court of Mist and Fury down, I immediately began the next book because that ending was EVERYTHING! ACOMAF was so amazeballs that I don’t even know how Maas can make this third book any better, but I am so ready to find out what tricks she has up her sleeve next!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

*** This book contains some mature elements (romance and violence) that may not be suitable for younger readers. I would only recommend this to readers ages 17+***

As obvious as this may be, I highly recommend you continue reading the ACOTAR series if you loved the first book as much as I did! You ain’t seen nothin’ yet until you’ve read ACOMAF, trust me!

Fantasy, New Adult/Adult

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Pages: 432

Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #1

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Release Date: May 5, 2015

Genre(s): Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

.“Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price…

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.”

What Did I Think?

I first read A Court of Thorns and Roses back when it first released in 2015, but decided to give it a re-read to prepare for newest book in the series releasing this year. I can honestly say that I am so so happy I decided to pick this book up again because I had totally forgotten how much I enjoyed it the first time!

The fact that this book is basically a very loose, fae-themed Beauty and the Beast story made my fairytale retelling-loving heart so happy! I quickly started falling for the stunning descriptions of Prythian and the different creatures roaming the mystical lands of the Spring Court that sharply contrast with the simplistic (and poverty-stricken) mortal realm of the novel. Maas quickly but thoroughly establishes the history between the fae and humans, which allows the reader to sympathize almost immediately with why the humans are so fearful of their faerie neighbors. Overall, the overall set-up and concept of this beauty was right up my alley!

Our main protagonist, Feyre, is so very human – both biologically and psychologically – and it’s one of my favorite things about her because it makes her experiences so relatable and understandable to the reader. The dedication she has to her family throughout the entire novel was so admirable, especially given the fact that they have undergone a lot of hardship that has created rifts in their bonds with one another. Through everything, Feyre continually cares for her family and ensures their safety, regardless of the way she’s been treated since her mother’s passing and the pain these efforts cause her. I really enjoyed the fact that while she is fiercely independent to the core, she begins to appreciate being cared for herself when she arrives in the Spring Court. Sometimes we all need some help, and seeing Feyre come around to that and to find joy in a life that could just be hers is something she wholeheartedly deserved. I also appreciated the moments when Feyre’s bravery shined through her fears – fears that fae wouldn’t have, but that any human in fae territory totally would have felt. Lord knows I would have been terrified to face half of the things Feyre did, but she took it all in stride to save herself and those she loves. I had a blast getting to know Feyre in this book, and I can’t wait to see how her character evolves in A Court of Mist and Fury.

Moving on to our Spring Court friends, Lucian and Tamlin. I am hands-down obsessed with Lucian. I found his bluntness extremely funny, even when his comments were not exactly the kindest by any stretch of the imagination. I also loved that he was always quick to admit when he’d made a mistake and try to make up for it however he could. Though he uses Tamlin as an excuse, I think he secretly has a soft spot for Feyre himself. Speaking of Tamlin… I also really enjoyed his character! While he not be my favorite male supporting lead of all time, his character certainly had a lot of depth. The moments when his true self managed to shine through the “beast” in him were some of my favorites to see, as well as those when he started to see Feyre as more than just a murderer/useless human. As a whole, Lucian and Tamlin were both very dynamic characters, and I’m excited to see how their viewpoints shift in the next book.

A Court of Thorns and Roses was just as fun to read this time as it was when I first picked it up. Maas’ world-building was beautifully done and had just enough detail for the reader to begin getting a feel for Prythian while leaving us wanting more of these mystical lands. All of the characters were nicely developed while leaving room for them to continue to grow as the series progresses, and the plotline was action-packed and well-paced. While this was a re-read, diving into A Court and Thorns and Roses once more felt like I was reading it for the first time. I am so excited to continue my re-read, and I have a sneaking suspicion that my love of these books will only grow as I keep flying through this series!        

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

If you love a good fae-filled fantasy novel that’s more on the mature side, A Court of Thorns and Roses may just be your next great read! I’d also recommend this book to readers who are suckers for loose fairytale retellings (like me!).

Fans of Holly Black, Jennifer L. Armentrout,  and Leigh Bardugo will also likely fall in love with the worldbuilding and characters in A Court of Thorns and Roses.

Fantasy, Young Adult

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Pages: 344

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Release Date: March 6, 2018

Genre(s): Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

“Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?”

What Did I Think?

For the past four months, I have been trying and epically failing to find a young adult novel that would keep my attention – until I found To Kill a Kingdom. I picked this beauty up because its overall concept isn’t something I traditionally find myself reading. The novel follows the story of Lira, a royal siren known as the Prince’s Bane, who gets turned into a human by her mother in an attempt to get rid of the humanity left in her so she can become the ruthless leader her people “need” her to be. Prince Elian, the prince/pirate/world-renowned siren killer, is her target. Though I’m not one for the enemies-to-lovers trope, I thought it worked very well here and fit the dynamic between Lira and Elian to a tea. This being said, though, the romance didn’t steal the show, which I found so refreshing! I also really enjoyed that the reader is taken into this fantastical world where there are various folktale-esque rumors spreading about traits only the royal lines of each kingdom possess (i.e. like Elian bleeds gold instead of red). This novel is written from dual perspectives, which I though was a really good call, as it helped me to see that while Lira and Elian may be different species, their lives are much more alike than either of them really wants to believe. As a whole, I found the overall concept of the novel both intriguing and compelling, just like a siren’s song to a sailor (ha… I knew you’d get the joke!).

If I had to pick one phrase to describe Lira, it would be “a force to be reckoned with.” At first, I wasn’t exactly sure how I felt about Lira’s iciness towards basically everyone, but quickly realized that she was simply a product of the environment in which she was living – the next pawn in the perpetual cycle of ruthless Sea Queens. I absolutely loved watching her perspective shift as she learned more about what it was like to be human and starts to see the flaws in her own upbringing. I feel like this is something we all experience as we live more of life, and to see this represented so well in Lira’s character was lovely. Other than her fiery temper and sass for days, the only constant in her character was her love for her cousin, Khalia. I think the relationship these two had with one another was what helped me to get over Lira’s lack of empathy at the beginning of the novel. Overall, I found Lira’s character very dynamic, the overall lessons from her journey as a human relatable, and, for the most part, generally likeable!

Onto our princely pirate, Elian. From the very first chapter told from his perspective, I knew I was going to love him. He’s got sass, he’s got class, and he’s always ready to kick some… err… you can fill in the blank for where I was going with that one. While his risk-taking often stressed me out to high heaven, his purpose behind brokering such extreme deals made my heart so happy. Though a prince, Elian is the first to think of the betterment of humanity as a whole rather than his own personal and/or princely interests. In addition to enjoying his very dark but super funny interactions with Lira, the relationship Elian has with his crew was so much fun to read about. Any time he was around them after attending to his royal duties, I could totally visualize Elian letting go of the deep breath he’d been holding in and just letting loose with his most loyal friends. While I am sure Elian is not hard on the eyes (I mean, come on. Even Lira was intrigued and she’s COLD sometimes!), I mostly enjoyed the fact that Elian, deep down, had a good heart and a willingness to risk everything for those he cares about.

Christo’s writing style is what made reading To Kill a Kingdom such a treat. I found myself reading along, completely absorbed in the plot, and then BAM! She would hit me with a line that cut deep and encourages the reader to stop and reflect on its meaning in our own lives. There were also moments that were so beautifully worded that I had no choice but to stop in my tracks and take it all in. Though I thought some lines were a little bit clunky to read through at times, that in no way overshadows how magnificently written the vast majority of novel is.

I could not have asked for a better book to help me move past my (very lengthy) reading slump. To Kill a Kingdom was full of both loveable and complex characters that were constantly keeping me on my toes. I thought the plotline flowed nicely, and though the world had to be established rather quickly, it was executed very well. The only major critique I can think of is that the ending felt very abrupt, given that the few chapters before novel’s end were very detailed – overly so, for my liking. While To Kill a Kingdom is a standalone novel, I could totally see it having spin-off stories in the future with an ending like that, and you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be reading them all should they surface!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

If you are a fan of YA novels that are ultimate examples of a well-constructed enemies-to-lovers trope, pirate-y adventures, and (on the outside) coldhearted characters who aren’t afraid to throw down to get what they want, To Kill a Kingdom is totally for you!

I would also wholeheartedly recommend this book to those of you who thoroughly enjoyed the overall theme and plotline of Tricia Levenseller’s Daughter of the Pirate King duology. And, if you loved the wickedly loveable characters of Holly Black’s Folk of Air trilogy and Brigid Kemmerer’s Cursebreakers series, you’re sure to enjoy the characters Christo has created for To Kill a Kingdom.

Fantasy, Young Adult

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince (Folk of the Air Series #1) by Holly Black ...

Pages: 370

Series: The Folk of the Air #1

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Release Date: January 2, 2018

Genre(s): Fantasy with Romantic Elements

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.”

What Did I Think?

I was totally down for some fey folktale reading when I hit this book up, and it did not disappoint. Other readers have said that Holly Black’s fey worlds are virtually unmatched, and after reading this book, I can see why! I love how Black’s writing style matches the whimsical setting she’s writing about, as well as all the beautiful world-building she manages to do in just a few short chapters. I was totally entranced when learning about the grandiose lifestyles of the fey, which made up for my lack of love towards a good many of those that lived there (sorry not sorry to say, because some of them are JERKS). I also thought the family tree situation was intriguing (and slightly depressing), particularly when we learn how Jude and her sisters ended up with Madoc in the first place. As a whole, I thought the overall concept of The Cruel Prince was unique and well constructed.

*Let me just preface this section of my review by saying that these characters weren’t exactly my cup of tea. Sure, I enjoyed some elements of a good many of them, but overall, I struggled to connect and appreciate their personalities (I know, I’m terrible, but bear with me and hear me out, kayy kayy?).*

Let’s start with Jude. One of the things I really admired about Jude was the fact that she was quick to stand up for herself and her family when the fey would talk smack about them, as well as her willingness to fight for those in a place she wasn’t even born in (and, at times, doesn’t even particularly like). Even though Jude is a human living in Faerie, she fiercely tries to make it the best place it can be when push comes to shove. I found myself appreciating the fact that she was a total spitfire and was quick to follow her instincts, even when others tried to dissuade her from what she believed to be true. However, I have to say that the biggest issue I had with Jude was her jealously of the fey. At first I thought, “Okay, this makes sense. They have a lot of things she never will,” but this point came up so much that it made her seem immature, when for the rest of the book, I thought her characterization made her more mature than most people her age would have been. This was more of an issue of moderation for me, rather than just not understanding or liking the fact that Jude was jealous of the Fae. Other than that, I found Jude’s character appealing, and I look forward to seeing how her character evolves in the next book.

Oh, Cardan. One of my least favorite tropes in YA basically sums up (almost) the entirety of his character: the misunderstood male character. Ughh. While I think the goal was to show that Cardan isn’t as cruel as he appears at face-value, the damage was already kind of done by the time I realized this was the point of his character. I didn’t find myself wanting to know all that much about him because he just seemed to be a terrible dude. However, a trait I did find myself appreciating was the fact that he would secretly perform acts of kindness for other people — at least then I knew he really did have a heart in there, which was questionable for a good chunk of the book. I also have to point out that he has a pretty dope fashion sense that I couldn’t help but admire, so here’s to hope that saving grace continues to be around in the next book! I’m also hoping (begging, really) for some development and more background on Cardan so then I can sympathize and, heck, maybe even like the guy by the end of the series.

While I had some issues with the main characters, I thought the supporting characters were awesome! Madoc has so many layers to him, and I look forward to seeing how his character keeps progressing as the series goes on, particularly when it comes to his relationship with Jude. I also found myself really enjoying learning more about Jude’s sisters, Vivi and Taryn and seeing how they react so differently to each of the events that took place.

One of the major issues I had with this book were the romances. I didn’t feel invested in who was with who, and in some cases, I found the partnerships completely unhealthy for both individuals involved. I’m definitely looking for more development here in the other books in the Folk of the Air series because I’m always look for more couple to make ship names for, but at this point in time, the romance is a no-go for me.

Overall, I had a lot of fun reading The Cruel Prince. I’m a sucker for books about fey, and this book totally fulfilled my dream of learning more about them and the super magical lives they live. The plot was fast-paced, and the plot twists were very well positioned — I never knew when they were coming! With the exception of a few (somewhat large, now that I reflect?) issues, I really enjoyed The Cruel Prince and I’m looking forward to continuing this highly-loved series!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

If you’re like me and looking for a book that takes place in a magical world full of fey, I’d highly recommend this book to you!

I’d also suggest fans of Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series and Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series give The Cruel Prince a shot.

All the Recs, Bonus Content

8 Books Sure to Put You in the Summer Spirit

There’s nothing I find more relaxing than sitting in the sunshine with my nose in a good book. With summer quickly approaching, I couldn’t think of a better time than now to throw some summery book recommendations your way! Regardless of if you’re about to head out on an island getaway or just enjoying the warmer days from your own backyard, here are some books that are sure to make the perfect companion for your summer adventures!

1) Moonglass by Jessi Kirby

Amazon.com: Moonglass (9781442416956): Kirby, Jessi: Books

I chose Moonglass for this list because it’s an emotional, raw, hit-you-in-the-feels contemporary with a stunning beach setting– a setting that provides so much comfort to our main character, Anna. While moving to the area was hard on her, I love that Anna starts to embrace her new home as she learns more about how important the area was to her mother, who she lost unexpectedly ten years earlier. While a super sweet romance was also blossoming in the background, I appreciated that the majority of the book focused on the importance of remaining connected to loved ones who have passed and rekindling relationships with those you’ve drifted away from. Overall, I really enjoyed all this book had to offer, and it just seems fitting that it be read in the summer months!

2) This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

This Is What Happy Looks Like (This is What Happy Looks Like, #1)

Can we all just take a moment and appreciate how simple and sweet this cover it? In addition to the setting being a quaint little town in the summertime and the characters taking advantage of all the fun that comes along with the season, I specifically chose This Is What Happy Looks Like for this list because Smith’s writing is so captivating, poetic, and reads so beautifully. There’s just something about the fluidity of her words that blend in so well with the aspects of summer that are at the forefront of this book. In all honestly, I really can’t think of another book that better fits the description of “summer pick-me-up” than this gem!

3) The Beholder by Anna Bright

Amazon.com: The Beholder (9780062845429): Bright, Anna: Books

There’s something about loose fairytale retellings that draw me in during the summer months. The Beholder just might be my favorite to date, though, because it’s got a little bit of everything I look for to keep me enthralled in a fantasy: a strong female lead who, while understandably kind of a hot mess, always manages to find the strength to keep going, undertones of the Odyssey, and even a little romance thrown in. If you’re missing your weekly episodes of “The Bachelorette” while they’re in the off-season, this book may just be the perfect alternative to help you pass the time, as Selah is the star of her own version of the show, just in literary form and, well, ya know, there being a dash of magic thrown into the mix!

4) What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Amazon.com: What I Thought Was True (9780803739093): Fitzpatrick ...

I chose What I Thought Was True for this list because the overall theme of mending bridges is at the forefront. What better time than summer to take the opportunity to learn to forgive and rekindle a relationship with someone you were once close to? This is exactly what Gwen spends her summer doing on her homeland of Seashell Island, in addition to trying to figure out what she wants out of life after graduating from high school. A lot of big decisions are made in the summer, and this book would be the perfect read for high school and college seniors who are fixing to start new journeys of their own. Maybe they’ll even realize that they have some relationships mending to do themselves before they venture off to begin their new chapters of life!

5) An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Amazon.com: An Ember in the Ashes (9781432850340): Tahir, Sabaa: Books

I’m not really sure why this book screams “summer” to me, but somehow I just can’t imagine reading this fantasy novel in any other season! Maybe it’s because in a lot of ways, this book is the total opposite of what I would use to describe summertime– pretty dark, cold, gloomy, and slightly depressing, at times. But, the adventures these characters set out on are super action-packed and suspenseful, so even if you can’t go on one of your own this summer, you’ll be able to escape from the real world for awhile when reading An Ember in the Ashes!

6) The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

The Truth About Forever

I find that some of the most grand summertime adventures don’t have to take you someplace new. For some people, like Macy the Perfectionist, your not-so-fun but oh-so-important trials may take place right at home. I loved that this book was all about how taking advantage of new opportunities that are outside your comfort zone help you discover so many new things about yourself you never knew existed. It’s also a testament to how surrounding yourself with good people can help heal old wounds. The sweet romance that blossomed in this book was just the icing on the cake to make this one of my favorite summer reads to date!

7) Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Since You've Been Gone

While I could have picked literally any of Morgan Matson’s books for this list because she’s the QUEEN of summery contemporaries, I chose Since You’ve Been Gone because its premise is very different from those of her other books. This book has less emphasis on romance, and more on the importance of personal growth and independence from those we tend to use as a crutch to avoid challenging ourselves. I absolutely adored all of the summertime activities on the list Sloan left Emily to help push her out of her comfort zone and how Emily seemed to embrace the whole experience, even though I would have found quite a few of the activities listed terrifying myself! I was so engrossed in this compelling story that at times, I felt like I was accompanying Emily on her escapades, which was so much fun to experience! Overall, I just felt like all the working pieces of this book fit the mold of summer to a T, and I think a lot of readers will be able to relate to Emily’s journey of breaking out of her shell at a really critical time in her life.

8) Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welsh

Amazon.com: Love & Gelato (9781481432559): Welch, Jenna Evans: Books

Love and Gelato is the perfect summertime read, with is gorgeous Italian setting, whimsical descriptions of all the country has to offer, and the adorable bond that forms between Ren and Lina as they scramble to uncover a hidden secret about Lina’s family. This books stands out from other contemporaries in that it’s such a quick, fun, and enjoyable read and while it does have some emotional moments in it, the focus remains on all the good life has to offer! Not only will this book lift your spirits when you’re feeling down, but it will totally convince you to bite the bullet and take your own summer trip abroad!

I hope you all find this list helpful as we head into the summer months! What are some of your go-to summer reads? Let me know below!