‘The Queen of Nothing’ – Holly Black

Jude is, rightly so based on previous experience, uncertain where she stands with Cardan. Exiled, she can only dream of what might have been.

This time round we see Jude forced into a situation over which she has very little control. She feels indebted to her twin, and finds herself taking a huge risk to try and help.

Inevitably, nothing is quite what you’re led to believe and we quickly see Jude caught up in the political machinations facing the land of Faerie.

Once I’d started reading this I found time slipped by remarkably quickly. There was plenty of action, and I couldn’t wait to see how things would resolve themselves.

Not everything goes smoothly (as you’d expect), but this is definitely a good way to round things off. Of course, a little more of some elements would have been nice – what is it about bloodthirsty hags that is so appealing? – but I’m pretty happy with how things turned out.

 

‘The Night Country’ – Melissa Albert

Plunged back into the world of The Hazel Wood, it was a real experience to follow Alice once she’s been saved from her story.

The characters who’ve escaped from the Hinterland are all marked in some way, and they can see when they look at each other some of these marks. It could, theoretically, be possible for these ex-stories to live on earth peacefully. Unfortunately, someone has other ideas.

In the opening chapter Alice talks about their changed circumstances when she refers to them being prey rather than predators. Their vulnerability is evident, and when ex-Hinterlanders start appearing with body parts missing it is evident that someone is trying to recreate their own story.

Alongside this focus on Alice and just who/what she is, we also get to see Finch travelling through worlds to try and salvage his own story.

The stories are interleaved and I was left guessing exactly how they’d link until quite late on. My sympathy for Alice definitely grew as the book progressed and I loved the ending.

Though I’ve pre-ordered my copy – and can’t wait to read it again – I’m grateful to the publishers and NetGalley for allowing me to read this prior to publication.

 

‘Tower of Dawn’ – Sarah J. Maas

There’s no excuse for having taken so long to get round to reading this, and now I’ve finished it I can say it seems a fitting interlude.

Chaol may not be a character many feel much investment in, but in this we can see a most intriguing man. For so much of the series he’s been there, in the thick of things, but we never really see beneath the surface. Tower of Dawn allows Maas to really show us the man.

We follow Chaol and Nesryn as they journey to try and garner support for Aelin. We hear rumours of what is happening elsewhere (which I’m hoping will be the focus of Kingdom of Ashes), and there’s a clear sense of a people teetering on the edge of destruction.

Much of the story centres on Chaol and the attempts by the healer Yren to cure his paralysis. A number of stories merge here, and nothing happens smoothly.
Learning a little more of the Valg and just what horrors might be to come didn’t make for a book full of excitement. It wasn’t dull, but it felt like a necessary story to develop our understanding and shape things in anticipation of what is to come. The inevitable romances kept things entertaining, and it certainly got me back in the mood for tackling the last instalment.

 

‘A World Without Princes’ – Woman Chainani

 

 

Having changed their ‘happy ever after’ Sophie and Agatha have returned home. They don’t need a prince, but neither of them is happy and we have to wonder what this means.

In book two the girls are returned to this world, but an unspoken wish has changed things. It’s no longer a school of good and evil, but boys and girls are pitted against one another. The only way the girls can return home is if they find the means to end their story.

This book focuses on quite a drawn-out scenario. Both Sophie and Agatha are tested, and their greatest battle comes from within. Someone is trying to prevent them from getting their heart’s desire, but when they don’t really know what they want what chance do they have?

The whole thing felt a bit pointless at times. It got a little more exciting towards the end, but I’m pretty sure a bit of a chat between the characters could have resolved a good number of their issues.

‘With the Fire on High’ – Elizabeth Acevedo

Emoni is a character that you can’t help but admire, root for and sit back with a huge grin on your face for how things work out for her.

A teen mum, she’s used to working hard and making sacrifices that so many of her peers wouldn’t even consider. Heading into her senior year she’s worried about how things are changing and what this will mean for her and her daughter. When she gets the chance to take a new course – a cooking elective – it sets up things she couldn’t expect.

Alongside the potential for studying something she loves, there’s a new boy in school who seems determined to show Emoni that not everyone assumes things about her because she has a child. Though the romance was quite a large part of this, it was part of a much bigger picture and this kept it interesting.

Emoni has a passion for food. The way she talks about food and the relationship she has with it was so intimate that it was hard not to fall a little in love. Even though the events may have been quite fortuitous I didn’t begrudge anything – from the off I wanted the happy ending, or at least the opportunity for it to be so.

I can’t wait to see what Acevedo comes up with next.

‘Mix Tape’ – Jane Sanderson

 

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an unexpectedly entertaining read.
Alison Connor has a pretty miserable life as a student in Sheffield. She finds herself a boyfriend, Dan Lawrence, and their shared love of music is just one thing they have in common.

Unfortunately Alison’s life is far from good, and on the day some of the worst things you could imagine happening take place she leaves Sheffield.

Years later she’s married, a successful author and living in Australia. Dan is a music journalist and happy. Then they get in touch…and their fondness for sharing music reawakens something they thought was lost.

I don’t begin to understand why they act as they do, but in the context of the novel it’s plausible. The love of music was a definite bonus, and it certainly gets you wondering what if.

‘The Bone Houses’ – Emily Lloyd-Jones

A wonderfully atmospheric and, above all, hopeful read.

Ryn has always felt herself to be a little different to her neighbours. As one of the daughters of a gravedigger she doesn’t fear death, but her people are superstitious and when things start to change around the village it causes fear.

There have long been stories of the need to keep others happy, of the need to make offerings to those that dwell in the woods in exchange for peace. It would be easy to dismiss this as nonsense – as many do – but Ryn has seen the bone houses. She has killed them, doing her best to protect those she loves.

As with so many mysterious quests, one day an unknown visitor arrives in their village. The mapmaker Ellis seems harmless, but some fear he’s a spy. Ryn is asked to help take him to the mountains to plot his maps. She hopes that this trip will give her answers as to what happened to her father.

What follows is a slow journey as we discover a little more about the world Ryn inhabits, and a developing relationship.

I got drawn into this, and found the latter part quite moving. It was definitely a read that encourages you to reflect on yourself and your interactions with others. At times this felt like a read better suited to the younger end of the market, but I think there’s plenty here to keep readers happy.

 

‘Ninth House’ – Leigh Bardugo

Having seen so many comments about trigger warnings for this book, and people upset at the leap into adult fiction, I was nervous about reading this. I also have to admit that it took a while to get into the rhythm of things. Both these factors make it difficult to give a 5 star rating, though I enjoyed the book a lot and can’t wait to see what comes up in part two.

Our main character is Galaxy ‘Alex’ Stern, a young woman who has not lived the easiest of lives. She’s always been able to see what are known as Grays, the spirits of the deceased. At times these have caused real upset to Alex, and nobody can see them so she’s always been regarded as a little odd. Having then got into drugs Alex is used to finding her own way/being regarded as a problem.

It takes a while for her back story to come out, and this made it difficult to really empathise with her initially. Our focus to start is on her current status as a student at New Haven, assigned to investigate and maintain order over the eight different societies that operate within Yale. Full of high profile students, potentially powerful people, Alex is shocked to learn of their dabbling in the occult and quickly begins to feel out of her depth.

Alongside the mystery of her missing mentor, there’s the issue of a number of unsolved murders and some very dubious goings-on amongst certain groups.
While I was intrigued by the details of the House activity, and was curious to see to what extent we’d see magic at play, I did find it difficult to work out exactly what was going on and really identify with Alex.

There was a point at which things clicked and then I was gripped. A very intriguing ending which bodes well for book two, but I do wish this step-up a gear had come a little sooner.

 

‘A Shiver of Snow and Sky’ – Lisa Lueddecke

Having finished this, I’m surprised not to have heard more of a buzz about this.

The book is set on the remote island of Skane, a place of superstition and folklore. Osa, our main character, has always felt alienated by her family. She feels blamed for her mother’s death, and knows that she doesn’t have the support she should expect. However, she does have close friend Ivar who believes in her.
Our story begins with an evocative description of a land filled with lights. Red lights. Everyone knows that the last time this happened, plague came to their village and many died. Also facing invasion from a group of vicious fighters, the villagers have to decide whether to flee or fight.

Osa struggles to accept the sentiments of many. She vows to do whatever is possible to protect her people and sets out on a dangerous quest to speak to the goddess.

Switching between what happens to Osa and the villagers left behind, this was a fairly standard fantasy quest. There were trials faced throughout, and there’s a plethora of new and unusual characters. However, the writing style was evocative and the description given to key moments was not standard stuff. I enjoyed some of the more magical elements, and this certainly looks like one to continue with.

 

‘Wayward Son’ – Rainbow Rowell

For fans of ‘Carry On’, this is long over-due.

Baz and Simon still don’t seem to have things sorted. Now they’re not needing to save the world, it’s a bit harder to work out your feelings.

One thing we know for certain is that Simon is depressed. So, his best friend decides a road trip through America will be the perfect thing.

As you’d expect, nothing quite goes to plan. We watch somewhat taken aback as one awful event after another befalls the group. From Micah dumping the girl who’s travelled to the US to see him, to being attacked by vampires, before taking on a group who are determined to change the way we see the world, you’re never quite sure what is going to be thrown at this group next. But it’s okay, because Baz can let his vampire self out, and Simon has wings!

This was a rather crazy scenario. It hinted at further potential for problems but had so many comic moments that I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.