Book Review – ‘The Killing Code’ by Ellie Marney

TITLE: The Killing Code
AUTHOR: Ellie Marney
GENRE: YA Historical Fiction, LGBT, Thriller
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 384 pages (hardcover)
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Allen & Unwin on September 20th, 2022
RRP$41.99 AUD (hardcover)

Blurb from Goodreads:

Virginia, 1943: World War II is raging in Europe and on the Pacific front when Kit Sutherland is recruited to help the war effort as a codebreaker at Arlington Hall, a former girls’ college now serving as the site of a secret US Signals Intelligence facility in Virginia. But Kit is soon involved in another kind of fight: Government girls are being brutally murdered in Washington DC, and when Kit stumbles onto a bloody homicide scene, she is drawn into the hunt for the killer.
 
To find the man responsible for the gruesome murders and bring him to justice, Kit joins forces with other female codebreakers at Arlington Hall—gossip queen Dottie Crockford, sharp-tongued intelligence maven Moya Kershaw, and cleverly resourceful Violet DuLac from the segregated codebreaking unit. But as the girls begin to work together and develop friendships—and romance—that they never expected, two things begin to come clear: the murderer they’re hunting is closing in on them…and Kit is hiding a dangerous secret.

THE KILLING CODE is the latest thriller by Ellie Marney focusing on a group of female codebreakers at Arlington Hall who join together to catch the man responsible for the death of their friends. 

I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, but as a fan of this author’s previous book NONE SHALL SLEEP, I had to check it out and was hooked immediately. To be clear, it’s not similar to NSS which had a laser-sharp focus on the criminal investigation and serial killer profiling without any romance, but the characters we meet here are just as well-written, endearing and easy to invest in. I enjoyed how the criminal profiling element was brought up again in a relevant context as the girls apply their skills at code-breaking to identify the murderer. They weren’t twisted into pretzels to act like FBI profilers which would’ve been unrealistic, but used their innate intelligence, training and connections in their investigation.

It blows my mind how much research the author put into writing this book and incorporating historical details, I particularly loved the quotes at the start of each chapter from one of the real-life World War II Code Girls which made it feel more immersive. I admit I did have to google victory rolls and why Kit was drawing on stocking seams, which others will probably be more familiar with, but I enjoyed picking up these little tidbits of life in their day. The fashion was very on-point and helped the characters pop off the page! 

My favorite element was the romance between Kit and Moya which was very sweet and wholesome. In the middle of all the tension with the war, murders and Kit concealing her real identity, it was a lovely shining arc and I’m relieved they had a happy ending so have no fear on that front! Aside from the sapphic romance, the book developed wonderful strong friendships between the core four ladies who were each other’s biggest supporters and cheerleaders. 

Fun, empowering and fascinating – a delight to read!

Book Review – ‘The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches’ by Sangu Mandanna

TITLE: The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches
AUTHOR: Sangu Mandanna
GENRE: Paranormal Fantasy
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 336 pages (paperback)
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Penguin Random House on August 23rd, 2022
RRP$41.57 AUD (hardcover)

Blurb from Goodreads:

A warm and uplifting novel about an isolated witch whose opportunity to embrace a quirky new family–and a new love–changes the course of her life.

As one of the few witches in Britain, Mika Moon knows she has to hide her magic, keep her head down, and stay away from other witches so their powers don’t mingle and draw attention. And as an orphan who lost her parents at a young age and was raised by strangers, she’s used to being alone and she follows the rules…with one exception: an online account, where she posts videos pretending to be a witch. She thinks no one will take it seriously.

But someone does. An unexpected message arrives, begging her to travel to the remote and mysterious Nowhere House to teach three young witches how to control their magic. It breaks all of the rules, but Mika goes anyway, and is immediately tangled up in the lives and secrets of not only her three charges, but also an absent archaeologist, a retired actor, two long-suffering caretakers, and…Jamie. The handsome and prickly librarian of Nowhere House would do anything to protect the children, and as far as he’s concerned, a stranger like Mika is a threat. An irritatingly appealing threat.

As Mika begins to find her place at Nowhere House, the thought of belonging somewhere begins to feel like a real possibility. But magic isn’t the only danger in the world, and when a threat comes knocking at their door, Mika will need to decide whether to risk everything to protect a found family she didn’t know she was looking for….

From the moment you read its title, The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches gives off a particular vibe—quirky, wry, humorous. Its first page cements this impression as we take in Mika Moon’s musings about the titular secret society of witches without a name, for whom she decides to create a series of improbable names in order to irritate the prim and proper head witch Primrose. It perfectly encapsulates the overall atmosphere of this book featuring a charming witty heroine who is part of an ancient order with traditions that she bucks against in a low-stakes feelgood paranormal fantasy.

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ARC Review – ‘Belladonna’ by Adalyn Grace

TITLE: Belladonna
AUTHOR: Adalyn Grace
GENRE: YA Fantasy
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 416 pages (hardcover)
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Little Brown and Company on August 30th, 2022
RRP$28.56 AUD (hardcover)

Blurb from Goodreads:

New York Times bestselling author Adalyn Grace brings to life a highly romantic, Gothic-infused world of wealth, desire, and betrayal.

Orphaned as a baby, nineteen-year-old Signa has been raised by a string of guardians, each more interested in her wealth than her well-being—and each has met an untimely end. Her remaining relatives are the elusive Hawthornes, an eccentric family living at Thorn Grove, an estate both glittering and gloomy. Its patriarch mourns his late wife through wild parties, while his son grapples for control of the family’s waning reputation and his daughter suffers from a mysterious illness. But when their mother’s restless spirit appears claiming she was poisoned, Signa realizes that the family she depends on could be in grave danger and enlists the help of a surly stable boy to hunt down the killer.

However, Signa’s best chance of uncovering the murderer is an alliance with Death himself, a fascinating, dangerous shadow who has never been far from her side. Though he’s made her life a living hell, Death shows Signa that their growing connection may be more powerful—and more irresistible—than she ever dared imagine. 

Belladonna is the first in a new series by New York Times bestselling author Adalyn Grace, who is well-known for her duology All the Stars and Teeth. Her previous series was set in a fantasy world with intricate magic, mermaids, and pirates, but Belladonna positions itself in a more down-to-earth Victorian-inspired setting. However don’t make the mistake of picturing Bridgerton as this Gothic-inspired murder mystery with paranormal romantic fantasy elements is more along the lines of Crimson Peak meets Stalking Jack The Ripper.

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Book Review – ‘The Thousand Eyes’ by A.K. Larkwood

TITLE: The Thousand Eyes
AUTHOR: A.K. Larkwood
GENRE: Fantasy, LGBT+
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 385 pages (hardcover)
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Macmillan Publishers on February 15th, 2022
RRP$39.99 AUD (paperback)

Blurb from Goodreads:

The sequel to A. K. Larkwood’s stunning debut fantasy, The Unspoken NameThe Thousand Eyes continues The Serpent Gates series–perfect for fans of Jenn Lyons, Joe Abercrombie, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

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…

The Unspoken Name was a delightfully mesmerising 2020 debut that combined epic fantasy and space opera to offer an outstanding and original tale focused on an Orc priestess-turned-mercenary who is taken under the wing of a powerful sorcerer. It’s a densely packed tome of action-adventure, complex mythology and murky politics with ever-shifting dynamics as characters alternately ally with and betray one another. You won’t be able to pick up The Thousand Eyes without having read the first book!

While you might benefit from a re-read before delving into the sequel, I didn’t find it a hindrance to jump in unprepared—these beloved characters basically walk off the page with the familiarity of old friends and you’ll find yourself effortlessly sinking back into the lives of Csorwe, Shuthmili and Tal like the last two years passed in a mere instant. It really is an absolute joy to start the story off with the trio living together in peace and harmony—well, Csorwe and Shuthmili are sappily blissful together, but Csorwe and Tal get on best when they’re bickering and getting on each other’s nerves, which provides no end of entertainment. Of course this can’t last forever and after we’re caught up with the status quo, it’s not long before they’re getting into trouble and way in over their heads once more.

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Book Review – ‘Killer Content’ by Kiley Roache

TITLE: Killer Content
AUTHOR: Kiley Roache
GENRE: YA Thriller
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 336 pages (paperback)
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Penguin Books Australia on November 30th, 2021
RRP$16.99 AUD (paperback)

Blurb from Goodreads:

Knives Out meets One of Us is Lying! In this paperback original thriller a group of famous TikTokers find themselves turning on each other when one member of the group turns up dead at their beachfront Malibu mansion.

35 million followers. One dead body.

The six teenagers who make up the Hype House seem to have it all. A beach front Malibu mansion, millions of TikTok followers, model good looks, and sponsorship deals up to $30,000 per post. Everything’s pretty much a Gen-Z paradise. Except that one member of the house has just turned up dead in the infinity pool. And the rest of them are suspects.

When the group TikTok account starts posting cryptic messages about the murder, the police limit their investigation to the members of the house. Now old joke videos are filed as evidence and past rivalries start to look like motives.

As investigators dig into these influencers’ lives beyond their glossy internet personalities, they discover all five had reasons their lives would’ve been easier with Sydney Reynolds dead. But only one of them killed her.

Underlined is a line of totally addictive romance, thriller, and horror paperback original titles coming to you fast and furious each month. Enjoy everything you want to read the way you want to read it. 

KILLER CONTENT is an entertaining YA thriller primarily set in a Malibu mansion where a teenager ends up dead, putting her fellow teen housemates under suspicion. 

The premise is unique and timely as it follows a group of TikTok famous teens who move into a glamorous location together to boost their collective fame and fortune. I’m not into TikTok myself (I’m old-school, okay, I can’t learn another platform), but given how much money can be made if a TikToker has a large enough following and can hook the right sponsors, it makes sense that the teens in this book are so obsessed with curating the perfect image to appeal to their fanbase. Love it or loathe it, social media has a massive, inescapable impact and I’m enjoying how fiction has gone from using teens hooked on apps as an easy punchline to developing them as legitimate three-dimensional characters with nuance and narrative arcs. 

Kat is the most relatable as a girl who got into the lifestyle by accident when her account blew up and she decided to explore where this could take her, but I also enjoyed Gwen who is allowed to be a shallow, girly-girl who likes nice things and uses her good looks climb the social ladder and acquire that rich cushy lifestyle she’s always dreamed of; plus I have a soft spot for Cami, the uptight type-A curvy girl who didn’t fit into the image prized by society and became driven to make a name for herself regardless so that she could be seen and validated. Of the two boys, Tucker is the stereotypical frat-boy douchey character and Beau is the sweet cinnamon roll too pure and precious. 

Chapters alternate between the different characters and different time periods, flitting from before and after the discovery of the dead body, fleshing out various social dynamics and revealing the secrets concealed by different group members. I do wish that the writing for the different chapters was tweaked to make it more distinctive so I didn’t have to double-check whose POV I was reading from as the girls’ voices blended together at times. And you’ll need a strong ability to suspend disbelief during the police investigation scenes because that wasn’t realistic at all (surely the kids would be allowed to return home, not remain confined in the mansion with a killer among them)!

An enjoyable and compelling teen thriller that delves into the shiny idealized world of social media influencers and explores the fallout when a desire for fame pushes someone to do the unthinkable. 

Disclaimer: physical copy provided free from the publisher for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Book Review – ‘Luminous’ by Mara Rutherford

TITLE: Luminous
AUTHORS: Mara Rutherford
GENRE: YA Fantasy
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 384 pages (paperback)
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Harlequin Australia on January 5th, 2022
RRP$19.99 AUD (paperback)

Blurb from Goodreads:

Liora has spent her life in hiding, knowing discovery could mean falling prey to the king’s warlock, Darius, who uses mages’ magic to grow his own power. But when her worst nightmare comes to pass, Darius doesn’t take her. Instead, he demands that her younger sister return to the capital with him. To make matters worse, Evran, Liora’s childhood friend and the only one who knows her secret, goes missing following Darius’s visit, leaving her without anyone to turn to.

To find Evran and to save her sister, Liora must embrace the power she has always feared. But the greatest danger she’ll face is yet to come, for Darius has plans in motion that will cause the world to fall into chaos–and Liora and Evran may be the only ones who can stop him.

A witch who must learn to harness her power–or risk losing her loved ones forever.

If you’ve read Mara Rutherford’s Crown of Coral and Pearl duology, you know she has a knack for charismatic scene-stealing villains and her newest book LUMINOUS is no different. We’re introduced to Darius, a powerful mage and the king’s right hand who rules the land by proxy, who is super compelling and I have to admit I was rooting for him throughout the book. Sure, he’s the bad guy, but I really enjoy when an author makes them understandable (not by trying to justify what they’re doing, but giving them believable motives than just ‘born evil’) plus I’m a sucker for the ‘Friendly Enemy’ trope. 

Our heroine Liora has spent her life hidden away in a small village in the middle of nowhere to keep her safe from Darius, who collects magic-users for his own purposes. Liora’s repressed her magic as much as possible, but after she’s revealed to be a witch, she’s drawn into danger as a diabolical plan unfolds that threatens everyone she loves and the only way out is to rely on her magic. 

In a lot of ways, I found her to be a pretty typical YA fantasy lead – sheltered and naive, in love with her best friend, low on self-esteem yet recklessly overconfident. However I did like her self-awareness in recognizing her selfish tendencies at times when she wanted to be special, hoped to be noticed and prioritized her magic over a quiet dull life because that felt relatable. 

I also liked Liora’s dynamic with her sisters and that she stood up to her father when he tried to stifle her, but the romance with Evran fell flat for me. His lack of communication and unwillingness to trust her even when he knew that she was hurting because of his abandonment made it seem toxic. PSA: don’t ghost people for their own good, that’s nonsense! There are two minor female characters introduced that I enjoyed and wished played a bigger role, but the major focus is on Liora’s coming-of-age arc. 

This fast-paced standalone fantasy is a fun read with a bunch of entertaining plot twists. It had enough material to fill a duology and felt a bit too easily resolved at the end, but it kept me engaged all the way through. 

Disclaimer: physical copy provided free from the publisher for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Book Review – ‘The Coldest Touch’ by Isabel Sterling

TITLE: The Coldest Touch
AUTHOR: Isabel Sterling
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 384 pages (hardcover)
PUBLISHED: on December 7th, 2021

Blurb from Goodreads:

Elise Beaumont is cursed. With every touch, she experiences exactly how her loved ones will die. And after her brother’s death—a death she predicted but was unable to prevent—Elise is desperate to get rid of her terrible gift, no matter the cost.

Claire Montgomery also has a unique relationship with death, mostly because she’s already dead. Technically, anyway. Claire is a vampire, and she’s been assigned by the Veil to help Elise master her rare Death Oracle powers.

At first, Elise is reluctant to work with a vampire, but when she predicts a teacher’s imminent murder, she’s determined to stop the violent death, even if it means sacrificing her own future to secure Claire’s help.

The trouble is, Claire and Elise aren’t the only paranormals in town—a killer is stalking the streets, and Claire can’t seem to shake the pull she feels toward Elise, a romance that could upend the Veil’s mission. But as Elise and Claire grow closer, Elise begins to wonder—can she really trust someone tasked with securing her loyalty? Someone who could so easily kill her? Someone who might hold the key to unraveling her brother’s mysterious death? 

I’ve  wanted a book with a sapphic vampire/human relationship for YEARS which is why I’m so thrilled Isabel Sterling came through with THE COLDEST TOUCH! It’s my first read of 2022 and what a way to start the year. ❤

Claire wants nothing more than to get rid of her strange new ability to see how people die – it’s ruined her life as she’s isolated herself from everyone she loves to escape the pain of seeing and experiencing their deaths. When the mysterious new girl at school (love that trope being genderswapped!) says she can explain what’s happening, Claire seizes at this last chance to get her life back. What she doesn’t know is that Elise represents the Veil, a group that governs the paranormal world, and they need her ability to maintain order whether she likes it or not. 

This book was EXCELLENT, it hooked me in from the first page and didn’t let me go, it was a one-sitting read! The fast-paced plot, intriguing world-building and lovable characters made it super enjoyable. I loved that Claire’s friends played a big role (including her ex-boyfriend, which I thought would be awkward, but turned out so sweet) and the focus on her fractured family dealing with grief over losing her brother and how they come together by the end.

And it was great how Elise had important goals outside of the growing romance with Claire that she never lost sight of, plus her relationship with her boss Wyn who treated her like a kid sister was fantastic. My favorite character has to be the adorable cat Richie who stole every scene she was in!

As a standalone, there was no nasty cliffhanger and it felt so satisfying to reach the last page and sigh sappily at our couple getting their happy ending. I would love to read any further books about Claire and Elise, there are plot threads set up that can be explored, but this feels complete and fulfilling as is. 

Disclaimer: digital copy provided free from publisher via Netgalley for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Book Review – ‘Aurora’s End’ by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

TITLE: Aurora’s End
AUTHORS: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
GENRE: YA Sci-fi
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 512 pages (paperwback)
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Allen & Unwin on November 2nd, 2021
RRP: $19.99 AUD (paperback)

Blurb from Goodreads:

The squad you love is out of time. Prepare for the thrilling finale in the epic, best-selling Aurora Cycle series about a band of unlikely heroes who just might be the galaxy’s last hope for survival.

Is this the end?

What happens when you ask a bunch of losers, discipline cases, and misfits to save the galaxy from an ancient evil? The ancient evil wins, of course.

Wait. . . . Not. So. Fast.

When we last saw Squad 312, they working together seamlessly (aka, freaking out) as an intergalactic battle raged and an ancient superweapon threatened to obliterate Earth. Everything went horribly wrong, naturally.

But as it turns out, not all endings are endings, and the te4am has one last chance to rewrite thirs. Maybe two. It’s complicated.

Cue Zila, Fin, and Scarlett (and MAGELLAN!): making friends, making enemies, and making history? Sure, no problem

Cue Tyler, Kal, and Auri: uniting with two of the galaxy’s most hated villains? Um, okay. That, too.

Actually saving the galaxy, though?

Now that will take a miracle. 

AURORA’S END is out in Australia! If you’ve read the previous two books and somehow missed that the final installment in this trilogy was releasing this week, GO GRAB IT ASAP, your torment is at an end! (if you’re located elsewhere, it may not be available yet, but your time is coming next week)

This writing duo is in fine form – if you feel like a clever cookie for working out how Squad 312 gets out of the impossible cliffhanger from book 2, that won’t last long before the authors throws another dastardly curveball at you. It was hilarious how quickly everything went wrong again for our heroes even after extricating themselves from certain death, and they just keep careening from one disaster to another throughout this breathlessly manic and fun-filled series of perilous adventures. 

The highlight for me is that Zila goes from being more of a background character to featuring quite prominently in the finale and gets ample time in the spotlight! Her arc in this book is my favorite, it felt like it was written just to cater to me personally, I’m so happy!

And if you fell in love with Saedii in book 2, you’ll definitely be thrilled with how much she features here. I enjoyed her acerbic remarks and haughty, ferocious personality, she livens up every scene she’s in and has such a great dynamic with Tyler.

I did think some of the romantic scenes were a bit overdone and often ill-timed (when you’re battling your mortal enemy, don’t drop your guard to goggle at your boyfriend!) and if you were tired of hearing Scar talk about her spectacular ass or her ta-tas, well, there’s a lot more of that. Your mileage may vary on how effective you find the conclusion to the Ra’haam plotline; I was super excited at where I thought it was leading, but the ultimate approach in the final pages to dealing with this galaxy-threatening ancient evil left me deflated. Still, the journey to that ending was enjoyable overall.

Packed with entertaining characters, wildly unpredictable plot twists and a unique, chilling villain, the Aurora Cycle is a riveting and addictive sci-fi series. If you haven’t read the first book, check out AURORA RISING. If you’ve read the previous books, you’ll need AURORA’S END in your life. 

Disclaimer: physical copy provided free from the publisher for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

ARC Review – ‘Vespertine’ by Margaret Rogerson

TITLE: Vespertine
AUTHOR: Margaret Rogerson
GENRE: YA Fantasy
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 400 pages (hardcover)
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by on October 5th, 2021

Blurb from Goodreads:

The dead of Loraille do not rest.

Artemisia is training to be a Gray Sister, a nun who cleanses the bodies of the deceased so that their souls can pass on; otherwise, they will rise as spirits with a ravenous hunger for the living. She would rather deal with the dead than the living, who trade whispers about her scarred hands and troubled past.

When her convent is attacked by possessed soldiers, Artemisia defends it by awakening an ancient spirit bound to a saint’s relic. It is a revenant, a malevolent being that threatens to possess her the moment she drops her guard. Wielding its extraordinary power almost consumes her—but death has come to Loraille, and only a vespertine, a priestess trained to wield a high relic, has any chance of stopping it. With all knowledge of vespertines lost to time, Artemisia turns to the last remaining expert for help: the revenant itself.

As she unravels a sinister mystery of saints, secrets, and dark magic, her bond with the revenant grows. And when a hidden evil begins to surface, she discovers that facing this enemy might require her to betray everything she has been taught to believe—if the revenant doesn’t betray her first.

I absolutely adored Vespertine, it’s a must-read for fantasy lovers! This is the first in a series and I’m so thrilled that we have more to come in this universe because I’m in love with the characters, world-building, plot and EVERYTHING ABOUT IT TBH.

Artemisia is a very unusual nun, having been the victim of a traumatic prolonged possession by a malevolent spirit throughout her childhood and growing up without any social skills as her frightened family locks her up out of human contact for their safety. This could have created a tragic, self-pitying main character, but instead Artemisia out of self-preservation regards her upbringing as nothing out of the ordinary and represses all notion that what happened to her is something to brood over and her matter-of-fact attitude about quite horrific suffering infuses the book with a great deal of black humor.

It also leads to funny moments where she has absolutely no idea of how to make small talk and is more afraid of socializing than mortal danger or when she recalls trying to make friends with a fellow nun by throwing a spider at her to help her stop being afraid of them! It made sense at the time…just like lurking under the bed as though she were a demonic entity when she first encountered her roommate…

When Artemesia winds up becoming host to a revenant in a desperate attempt to protect her convent from attack, it leads to the most delightful dynamic I’ve ever read in the history of fantasy. The revenant is typically bloodthirsty and intent on causing chaos and destruction, but it’s also hilariously snarky, grouchily protective and reluctantly allies itself with Artemisia in the hopes of wearing her down long enough to possess her completely. 

The bond that grows between them as they come to understand and care for each other is just so beautifully and believably written with a helping of angst and conflict over their differing motivations. Artemisia is utterly unheeding of her own personal safety and wellbeing, putting the revenant in the odd position of being a mother hen, nagging her to look after herself while insisting it doesn’t care at all, and then there are times when she will give it the respect and consideration that no other human would in her position, leaving it flustered and out of sorts. I loved their banter and their arguments and every moment of interaction is pure gold. The funniest thing is how the revenant is better at pretending to be human and relating to humans than Artemisia, which is such an unusual and intriguing dynamic to explore!

Although she has the best intentions and demonstrates this by protecting innocents around her with the newfound abilities granted by the revenant, her perceived possession leads to the Clerisy determining she is the number one most wanted on their list and pursue her at all costs. There is a breathless tension as Artemisia struggles to retain control of the revenant, save the lives of humans at risk from other deadly spirits and also protect herself from the relentless pursuit of those determined to capture and exorcise her.

This book will effortlessly transport you to a world of magic, wonder and danger with complex, amazingly written characters and intricate mythology, easily digestible fantasy politics and a thrilling race against time to avert a grave danger to the entire realm. It’s so good you will finish this and immediately want to re-read it!

Disclaimer: digital copy provided free from publisher via Netgalley for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Book Review – ‘Dark Rise’ by C.S. Pacat

TITLE: Dark Rise
AUTHOR: C.S. Pacat
GENRE: YA Fantasy
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 464 pages (paperback)
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Allen & Unwin on September 28th, 2021
RRP: $19.99 AUD (paperback)

Blurb from Goodreads:

The ancient world of magic is no more. Its heroes are dead, its halls are ruins, and its great battles between Light and Dark are forgotten. Only the Stewards remember, and they keep their centuries-long vigil, sworn to protect humanity if the Dark King ever returns.

Sixteen-year-old dock boy Will is on the run, pursued by the men who killed his mother. When an old servant tells him of his destiny to fight beside the Stewards, Will is ushered into a world of magic, where he must train to play a vital role in the oncoming battle against the Dark.

As London is threatened by the Dark King’s return, the reborn heroes and villains of a long-forgotten war begin to draw battle lines. But as the young descendants of Light and Dark step into their destined roles, old allegiances, old enmities and old flames are awakened. Will must stand with the last heroes of the Light to prevent the fate that destroyed their world from returning to destroy his own. 

First in a new trilogy, DARK RISE is a phenomenal YA fantasy novel which proves to be effortlessly immersive and wholly addictive. 

The cold open sets us in the middle of a conflict we have no context for, but immediately grips the reader with the mystery of what the prisoner fears so much that he begs for death and what his relationship was with his tormentor before his betrayal. It fades into the background as the author introduces the protagonist, but this plot thread is woven throughout the story and sets up epic reveals which blew my mind! The genre savvy may predict a plot twist or two, but I believe it’s the journey that matters, not the destination, and we’re treated to a phenomenal voyage of excitement, heartbreak and nail-biting suspense.  

Our hero Will embodies the typical Chosen One stereotype and with a Dark King and clashes between the forces of Light and Dark, it sounds derivative and uninspired, but don’t be fooled! This standard fantasy set-up exists solely to be knocked down and our understanding of these characters and the nature of their struggle is reshaped and re-contextualized a number of times. The author skillfully subverts classic tropes and gives this gang of misfits so much heart and depth and nuance, it will overwhelm you with emotion. 

Will and Violet’s friendship was so beautifully unexpected when I thought they were poised to be enemies; while this is Will’s coming-of-age story, I loved how important Violet was and the care given to fleshing out her background and ambitions. It’s rare to see a ride-or-die platonic friendship between male and female characters, I was thrilled by that dynamic! For those hoping for on-page queer romance, I’m afraid it’s not present in this book, but slow-burn fans will love the glancing touches, unnecessarily close proximity and delicious tension. The last few pages will leave you SCREECHING. 

I can’t recommend this book highly enough! It features complex, well-written characters, cool mythology and fascinating world-building plus a bunch of genius twists that have me beyond excited for the next book. Read this and flail with me!

Disclaimer: physical copy provided free from the publisher for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.