‘Fourth Wing’ – Rebecca Yarros

A 4.5 rating, and while there are elements that I’d have liked to see developed this definitely did live up to the hype.

The story is fairly straightforward. Violet is the daughter of General Sorrengail. The family are riders, and though Violet has trained to be a Scribe – definitely influenced by her father – her mother is determined that her third child will also learn to ride dragons. Violet is not a likely candidate, and from the reaction every one she meets has it is painfully clear that nobody expects her to survive the experience.

Naturally, Violet surprises them all.

From the opening pages, as we see Violet start her trial, I found myself desperate to see how this would pan out. It reads like a lot of books of the genre and relies heavily on the elements you often expect. There’s the old friend/love interest who’s not quite what we think, the brooding lust interest, the plucky friends and the relentless need to show our main character has reserves hitherto untapped. While this felt like an opportunity missed, it keeps you turning the pages and definitely doesn’t hurt in terms of delivering a cracking story.

With it clearly being the opening of a series we know there’s more going on. There were twists here aplenty, some of which you could predict and others that were more subtle. I don’t mind admitting that I was left stunned by the closing section.
YA or New Adult…it’s categorised as both, and this does seem to suffer from trying to appeal to a very broad range of readers. Some of the dialogue had me cringing, but it didn’t stop me enjoying what was taking place. I loved the dragons and want more of them! The closing twist definitely sets up a very intriguing premise and I’m keen to see exactly how Violet’s father features in this tale.

I’ve already pre-ordered book two and think there’ll be more than one or two recommendations of this book taking place!

‘The House in the Cerulean Sea’ -T.J. Klune

I’ve heard so much about this book over the last few years, but never quite felt like picking it up. What a fool! There may be an element of preaching to the converted, but this was such a beautiful story about finding your place and learning to accept difference.

Linus Barker is a rather uninspiring character. He lives alone with his cat, spends his days working for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth reviewing cases and monitoring the work of orphanages under their remit, and he has started eating salads in an attempt to shift his growing spare tire. When he is called to the upper floor by Extremely Upper Management nobody knows what to expect, but it begins a new chapter in Linus’s life.

He is charged with visiting Marsyas Island and reviewing the work taking place under the tutelage of Arthur Parnassus. Linus is taken aback by his first meeting with the six dangerous children, but comes to see them as individuals with their own redeeming qualities. 

While I found myself taken in by the messages about acceptance and desperately wanting everyone to read this so they can see the dangers of prejudice, I was completely entranced by the six children – all highly entertaining – and the adults surrounding them. A love story, a reminder to be strong and fight for those who need our protection and a plea to have the courage to love those who accept you for who you are and to enjoy family where you find it.

‘Lost in the Moment and Found’ (Wayward Children #8) – Seanan McGuire

This time round the story focuses on Antoinette, known as Antsy because she’s always moving. When we first meet her she is only five and suffers the tragic loss of her father while they are shopping. From that moment on, her life is changed.
When Antsy’s mum finds a new boyfriend, Tyler, she has a visceral reaction to him. She can’t explain why, but feels there is something very wrong with him. To begin with he claims to want to fit in with her mother’s life, but we quickly see his true colours.

The first part of the book illustrates why Antsy was right to trust her instincts. Tyler’s manipulation of the situation and the gaslighting was triggering…all too believable, and every instinct had me wanting Antsy to find a way out before it was too late. On the evening that he visits her alone in her room at night, Antsy makes the decision to leave.

A petite eight year old walking along the streets at night should be cause for concern. Antsy is alone…until she finds a door saying ‘Be Sure’. In her head, she is sure. She cannot go home, so takes the option available to her.

Inside this door is a talking magpie and a room of lost things. Antsy feels comfortable here, and is tempted by the wonderful worlds and experiences offered to her. Unfortunately, they come at a price and Antsy eventually learns the true cost to these travels.

Eventually, Antsy finds her way back and I liked the fact that she got some closure before making the decision to return to the world she felt indebted to.

I began reading this series a while ago, and really must catch up with the others. Every journey offers something different.

‘Weyward’ – Emilia Hart

Three Weyward women: Altha, Violet and Kate. Separated by time, but linked by blood. Both victims and survivors, these women share a bond.

Altha, a healer, was on trial for witchcraft. Violet, raped at sixteen by a family cousin and disowned by her father. Her only solace the insects that so fascinate her. Kate, in the present, escaping an abusive relationship. She flees to Crows Beck, a remote Cumbrian cottage left to her by her eccentric great-aunt Violet. Upon her arrival she starts to unearth her family history.

Multiple points of view can be distracting, but these blended almost seamlessly. With interwoven elements it was fascinating to read about each woman and to see their growing personalities as they each challenge the expectations of their time.

While it’s infuriating to see the ongoing issues women who do not conform to society’s expectations face, I feel that the author focuses on the developing strength of each woman and growing courage to stand firm in her own identity. I adored the way nature was presented here, in each time period.

This is part of a growing trend in books focusing on witches and exploring womens’ identity. While the character of Kate is presented as the one who is uncovering the family history and the one who may be seen by a contemporary audience as most sympathetically presented, I found Violet and Altha the characters who most caught my interest. Their stories, sadly, may have been common and I – like Kate – was eager to learn more about the two women who took on the patriarchy in their own ways.

Thanks to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review this prior to publication.

‘The Sunbearer Trials’ – Aiden Thomas

I’m hugely grateful to NetGalley for giving me the chance to read this in advance of publication, and am now excited to read the next instalment.

In what is being touted as a mix of Percy Jackson and The Hunger Games, Thomas creates an action-packed magical competition. We are in a well-established world, where the Gods need to be kept happy. Every decade a competition is held in order to find the winner of the Sunbearer Trials. Their win means that the Obsidian gods can be kept at bay, and the power of the Sol stone can be replenished in order to protect the people of Reino del Sol.

Our focus is the year that proves to be something of an anomaly. For the first time in a century not only Golds – who train for this event – are chosen. Two of the Jades – the lowest in the semidios rankings – are selected, and we see Xia, Teo and his best friend, Niya, collaborate to keep alive and try to be in with a chance of avoiding their intended role as the sacrifice.

Teo is a trans boy, son of Quetzal, the Goddess of Birds, and a large part of the story is about Teo learning to accept his identity and to consider the role he might play in his country’s future. The relationships between the characters were interesting, and I was rather taken aback by the unexpected shift in allegiances towards the end – however, it sets things nicely in place for a most entertaining story in book two.


‘Cackle’ – Rachel Harrison

Thanks to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review this in advance of publication. Cackle is not necessarily what I would deem horror (and I’m unsure why someone might regard it as such) but it does use witchcraft to explore the theme of friendship and it has plenty of good-humoured moments.

Our main character has been dumped by her boyfriend. She moves to a new town, where she knows nobody, and is befriended by Sophie. Sophie is beautiful, glamorous and everyone in the town seems in thrall to her (though some are happier about this than others).

As Annie settles into her new routine, she starts to feel more and more indebted to Sophie. She heard rumours about her new friend, and when she is gifted a spider as a housewarming gift we know there’s something odd about her.

The question soon becomes about how quickly Annie is prepared to accept these changes to her life. She veers between desperate to salvage her previous existence and determined to forge a bright new path. Ultimately something of a middle ground has to be found, but Annie learns what is important to her and what boundaries she is prepared to put in place to live her life.

‘Skin of the Sea’ – Natasha Bowen

Skin of the Sea is a story that grabs you from the outset, with its blend of African mythology and links to The Little Mermaid. Evocative and enchanting, with an ending that had me very relieved to have a copy of book two on hand to find out what comes next.

Our main character, Simi, is a mermaid; someone who was human but rescued on the condition that she played her role in saving the souls of the dead.

Unfortunately, her memories of her human life make it harder for her to fully accept her instructions. When she finds Kola he is injured and she cannot let him die. At risk to herself, she rescues him…and sets in motion a chain of events that could have grave repercussions.

The pair journey to his home as he needs to find his twin siblings. Along the way both are challenged and forced to think about what is important to them. We see a journey fraught with danger, and though we sense things are not going to go quite according to plan there were moments that really took me by surprise.

Though I didn’t quite predict the ending, Simi’s decision makes sense…though I hope she’ll be afforded a better deal in book two.


‘The Last Graduate’ – Naomi Novak

I feel it’s fitting to have closed the pages on this instalment with only a week or two left until book three comes…because I would be going mad if I had to wait ages to find out what on earth happens after that.

El is in her final year at The Scholomance, and from the outset it seems things are being made tough for her. The school has given her more classes than anyone else, she’s being taught in rooms susceptible to attack and she quickly comes to realise that her lack of planning for the future could be problematic.

Every student knows just how hard it is to graduate. With so many students killed every year, El starts to wonder whether there might be something behind the punishing schedule. Could the school be trying to ask for help?

There’s no doubt El has power that could be very dangerous. She seems to want to use it to benefit others, and I’m curious to see if this remains the case.

Her relationship with Orion seems an distraction, and I did wonder quite what the point was. However, by the time we get to the end – and I really didn’t see that coming – it sets up a very interesting dilemma for what El does next.

So, now the clock is ticking for book three…


‘Belladonna’ – Adalyn Grace

Belladonna is a story which works perfectly well on its own, though I’m intrigued by the prospect of a sequel.

The story opens with us being introduced to Signa, a young girl who has the ability to see Death. Throughout her early years she finds herself in increasingly difficult situations, facing death but never being taken. Guardian after guardian dies, leaving Signa in a vulnerable position, and though people fear her we are not sure why.

When another guardian dies, Signa is taken to live with the family of an aunt. She finds herself communing with Death, and trying to investigate the death of her aunt Lillian with the help of the mysterious Sylas. Happy to finally be somewhere she feels welcomed, Signa does what she can to work out who was responsible and who might want her cousin Blythe dead.

A strange relationship between Signa and Death, and I liked the way that Signa was given the opportunity to escape some of the expectations for a young woman in her position.

Thanks to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this prior to publication in exchange for my honest review, and now to find out when part two can be expected.

‘The Book Eaters’ – Sunyi Dean

The Book Eaters takes a fascinating premise – people who can survive by eating books, each with their own distinctive taste – and evolves it into a dark urban fantasy. We see the depths people will go to in order to protect those they love, and there’s no escaping the dangers inherent in people’s obsessive need for power over others.

Devon is a member of one of the old Book Eater families. Raised on a diet of fairy tales her life is, as she recognises, one of constraint. A princess, but one who cannot escape. Destined to be wed twice, for the sole purpose of creating and raising an heir, Devon hates how the expectations of others challenges her own primal bond.

The story opens by plunging us into a world that makes little sense. Devon is in Newcastle with her son, Cai, who needs to feed regularly to survive. No ordinary child, he needs to eat minds to live. She spends her days hunting for good people to let her son feed, and the talk of knights and dragons following them is confusing.

As the story unfolds we switch back to the past and so get the details that explain the current situation. Forced into a dangerous predicament, there’s no disguising Devon’s determination to get the best for those she loves. Necessity dictates that only one child is focused on during this time, but I like the fact that her daughter was still very much in her thoughts.

The mind-eating element of this story really was quite unpleasant. However, it was interesting to see how those who were regarded as different were treated by those in control. Challenges were made, and it clearly doesn’t offer much hope for change overnight, but I wonder whether this concept was meant to get us thinking about events/attitudes in our present.

Thanks to NetGalley for giving me the chance to read this before publication in exchange for my honest thoughts. I haven’t made mention of it yet, but that cover is a beauty!