Marit Weisenberg: Select

Select Cover

I received a free digital copy of the book from the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

“It had always been a fact of life that we were biologically different—better—and that it had to be kept secret.”

Seventeen-year-old Julia Jaynes has the perfect life. She’s beautiful, freakishly athletic, and extremely smart. That’s because she comes from a race of highly-evolved humans living in the heart of Austin, Texas.

In order to protect their anonymity and preserve their elite society, Julia’s powerful father forces her to suppress her abilities. When she accidentally demonstrates her super human prowess in public, she’s banished to the one place meant to make her feel inferior: public high school. Thrust into the confusion and humiliation of a normal high school, Julia is just trying to keep her head down when John Ford strolls into her life. An outsider and tennis jock, John is immediately attractive to Julia as a curiosity. She can even read his mind. But as Julia’s newfound powers over John grow, so do her feelings.

When she discovers her father has been hiding dangerous secrets, for the first time in her life, Julia begins to question her restrictive upbringing. Caught between the prejudices of her manipulative father and the allure of an outsider’s life, Julia must decide how she will define herself—and who she will betray.

Julia Jaynes is the oldest daughter of Novak, a man wealthy beyond belief and the leader of a small group of people who possess abilities far superior to the average human being. As the opportunity for the group to Relocate comes ever closer, Julia finds herself banished from her group of friends in order to maintain the anonymity of their people, and told to suppress her powers when living amongst those without. But as Julia becomes deeply involved with a human at her new school, she begins to question her life and upbringing believing it possible to live amongst humans and must decide who she will choose: her people, or the boy she loves.

Select is a novel that highlights themes surrounding individuality and how being different is not a bad thing, but can be construed as being in that way. Julia comes from a species that, should knowledge get out about their abilities and superior nature, would insight fear and misunderstanding into those living in the area. They would be shunned and outcast due to their very nature. However, when Julia and John become friends and things begin to develop further, it becomes clear that John has accepted Julia’s differences from the moment he met her and sees her differences – not just in who she is, but how she looks – as being unique and making her who she is. He does not feel fear towards who and what she is, but appreciates that she looks different – not just to him, but to her own people. It is a novel about acceptance and understanding your differences.

You can also see themes arise in the way in which Julia, and her sister Liv, are brought up within the same household. Though it is clear that Julia possesses more abilities and is far stronger and the best candidate to be the future leader, she is suppressed by being segregated with a group of boys and told that they must not train their abilities and dampen them down. On the other hand, Liv is put in a group where they are taught their abilities and encouraged to use them whilst also being told information that is not provided to Julia’s group. All of this comes about due to a series of future insights Novak has, where he predicts that Liv will be the next leader though it becomes clear that Julia should be the most likely candidate. As well as this, both sisters are treated differently in due to Julia’s parentage which is kept as a deep secret until towards the end of the novel, similarly making Julia feel different and not part of the group.

Select definitely falls into that category of almost insta-love with Julia and John. As soon as they have their first encounter towards the beginning of the novel she becomes hyper-aware of him and can feel it when he is staring at her. It is a cliche of young adult novels for this sort of relationship to sprout and it really set the genre in stone. Theirs is definitely a relationship that you ship, and you can see the struggles between the two as Julia fights what is natural, and what goes against her people’s beliefs. It is evident that her conflict is rubbing against them, and that her other life will always get in the way of them being able to live a happy life. Julia, though she holds a rebellious nature and isn’t truly sure of her position within her group, understands that she cannot stand out too much without giving herself away, but allows herself this one indiscretion believing that she can allow herself some happiness before she leaves for good. John, you begin to see, brings out the good side of Julia which becomes evident in the way in which her appears seems to change the more time she spends away from her group. She begins to look more natural as her hair lightens, freckles appear on her skin, and she gains weight suggesting that she is happy in herself.

I really enjoyed this novel. It was a quick and easy read that provided some mystery towards the beginning of the novel surrounding who and what Julia and her group were. I was both intrigued but also annoyed by this lack of information but it did make me keep reading as I was interested to find out the truth. I am looking forward to seeing where the rest of the series goes.


The Future


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Scott Reintgen: Nyxia

Nyxia Cover

I received a free digital copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.
Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.
But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.

Nyxia is the first in a new three-book sci-fi young adult series that sees main character, Emmett Atwater, pitted against a number of other contestants in a bid to see who will make it onto the new planet of Eden thus creating a new life for themselves, and their families back home on Earth. Emmett and his fellow rivals must fight against, and work together in a series of tasks that score them points based on wins and losses. They must each prove themselves in some way, whether this be leadership or tactics. At the end of it though, a few of them will not make it onto this new and exciting planet and Emmett will face more than he bargained for, questioning his own development every step of the way.

Young adult science fiction is a genre that is slowly getting better with time. As our generation grows up and teenagers/young adults become more mature, the genre is having to grow with them providing scenarios where younger characters must face the truth of the situation and become more than what they are, taking on burdens and challenges that you would expect of someone older. Nyxia is one of those novels that brings this forward, posing similarities to The Illuminae Files whilst also bringing its own originality in the form of tasks and challenges that pits the contestants on a scoreboard to see who will make it to the end. Nyxia was definitely unique in what it brought to the table and I found myself drawn in almost instantly, questioning everything alongside Emmett in trying to understand why each person was chosen and what they could bring to their future on Eden.

Reintgen brings each character to life with their different cultures, mannerisms, and beliefs. I enjoyed that this novel was multi-racial and that each individual had an interesting backstory and a solid reason for putting themselves at risk in order to help others – it helped to bring a lot more emotion to the story when faced with each character slowly hardening and almost losing all emotion as the challenges progress. Reingten’s writing in bringing these characters to life is simple yet vivid, with no floweriness in description. What you see is what you get. Emmett’s character is by far the most developed come the end of the novel, as he has faced experiences that have hit him harder than anyone else. Throughout the novel there is the question of what is right and wrong, and whether Emmett – in these situations – is just as bad as everyone else. However, it is thanks to communication with his family (though few and far between) that helps him to remain grounded and understand why he is doing this, and what it would mean to those surrounding him. You can also see his changes in the way Emmett sees the competition, at first telling himself that he cannot make friends and looking out for number one, to finding himself concerned for the well-being of others who may have helped him. The majority of the other characters stay resolutely the same throughout, only showing the occasional compassionate or varied emotion at a time when it is least expected.

Though the general arc of the storyline was relatively straightforward and predictable: it was almost guaranteed that Emmett would struggle with his position on the scoreboard – Reintgen did provide a series of twists throughout the novel, particularly towards the end which helped to make the novel more interesting and thrilling. A lot of questions were provided surrounding the company of Babel Communications, moreso towards the end with a lot of these questions left open-ended following the novels finish. With that in mind, I cannot wait for the next in the series and to see how Emmett progresses and changes in Eden considering the way the situation has changed.

Elly Blake: Fireblood

Relevant posts: Frostblood

Fireblood Cover

I received a free digital copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Ice and fire are still at war.

Ruby has defeated the tyrannous Frost King, and Arcus, the exiled warrior who captured her heart, has taken his rightful place as ruler of the Frostblood kingdom.

But Ruby is the only Fireblood in a castle of frost and ice, and the courtiers will not accept her. Even worse, the dark threat released from the Frost King’s melted throne is stalking the land, bent on destruction – and as the one who set it free, only Ruby can stop it.

To find the knowledge she needs, she must leave Arcus and journey south to the land of the Firebloods. But the homeland Ruby’s never seen is treacherous, and friend and enemy wear the same face.

If she’s to save both kingdoms, Ruby must figure out who she can trust – and unleash a fire powerful enough to do battle with darkness .

The second in the Frostblood Saga, Fireblood sees Ruby having defeated the Frost King whilst Arcus has taken his rightful place as the ruler of his kingdom. However, Ruby is plagued by fears that the Minax she released is never far away – but that isn’t all she must worry about. Regardless of her heroic endeavours in saving the kingdom, the royal Frostbloods of Arcus’s court still do not hold her in high regard so, when the opportunity arises to go to her homeland and understand who she is and where she came from, Ruby jumps at the chance not realising what lies she has been told or what sacrifices she must make.

I have been eagerly anticipating this novel since I finished Frostblood last year. I had no clue in what direction Blake was going to take this narrative, only understanding that Ruby would face more challenges and inevitably come face-to-face with the Minax once again. Blake did not disappoint in this second novel! Ruby travels to her homeland of Sudesia where, similar to Forsia, Firebloods are revered and all Frostbloods are put into servitude or else killed. Ruby can see that the Queen must in some way be controlled by another Minax locked away in the Sudesian throne but cannot find any proof and so must gain the Queen, and those around her’s, trust in order to find out all the information she can. And, in amongst that, she must master the skills needed to become a Fireblood master – involving a series of trials that will test skills such as obediance and control of emotions; something we all know she has trouble with.

As with the first novel, Ruby develops yet again thanks to these trials and the people that she meets in Sudesia. It becomes apparent that, at times, she can be too trusting when it comes to what she wants as she soon realises when she arrives in Sudesia and finds out the true reason Kai came to find her. However, were it not for this journey and the trials she must face to become a powerful Fireblood master, Ruby would not be able to develop as she does and push herself further than she ever has before. Not only does Ruby develop, but her relationship with Arcus does as well. We don’t see a lot of Arcus in this novel, being presented with another potential interest in the form of Prince Kai who is a constant source of flirtation, annoyance, and stubbornness for Ruby in Sudesia. Arcus and Ruby have always had trouble explaining their emotions, both of them holding them back for fear of what they might do. However, in the Fireblood novel, we finally begin to understand how deep their emotions run for each other as they face difficult challenges, separation, jealousy, and so much more.

There was never a dull moment within Fireblood. Any slow scenes almost always involved Ruby communicating with Kai who, as mentioned, provided endless entertainment through flirtatious actions and dialogue suggesting a potential love interest between the two and thus creating more issues for Ruby, and Arcus. As Arcus brings out the good in Ruby, so does Kai. His lightheartedness (when not handling fire and trying to train Ruby to become a master) brings joy at a time when she is unsure who she is or what she hopes to achieve and the connection between them, as it develops, really draws you into the story.

The way that the narrative progressed within Fireblood was definitely not one I was expecting. I was hoping that she would go to Sudesia eventually, but I wasn’t expecting it so soon. But, not only was I pleasantly surprised by the plot, but I was surprised by the simple twists and turns that appeared, seemingly, out of nowhere. Fireblood was a novel full of surprises that both hindered and helped Ruby in her journey, and her task. Though we are given subtle hints as to how these have come about or what is about to come, it still almost comes as a shock when it does happen as you do not wish for it to be true.

I absolutely adored Fireblood and it was a perfect follow-up to Frostblood. Blake’s writing is seamless and provides a beauty to her description that does not require flowery, poetic writing. It is simple and gets to the point without embellishing – especially in the more crucial scenes where you know full well you want to get to the juicy bits! Bring on Nightblood!

Lucy Hounsom: Starborn

Starborn and Heartland Covers

I received free copies of these books from the publishers in exchange for honest reviews.

Death and destruction will bar her way. . . Kyndra’s fate holds betrayal and salvation, but the journey starts in her small village. On the day she comes of age, she accidentally disrupts an ancient ceremony, ending centuries of tradition. So when an unnatural storm targets her superstitious community, Kyndra is blamed. She fears for her life until two strangers save her, by wielding powers not seen for an age – powers fuelled by the sun and the moon. Together, they flee to the hidden citadel of Naris. And here, Kyndra experiences disturbing visions of the past, showing war and one man’s terrifying response. She’ll learn more in the city’s subterranean chambers, amongst fanatics and rebels. But first Kyndra will be brutally tested in a bid to unlock her own magic. If she survives the ordeal, she’ll discover a force greater than she could ever have imagined. But could it create as well as destroy? And can she control it, to right an ancient wrong?

Starborn is the first in the Worldmaker fantasy series that sees Kyndra’s life turned upside down within a matter of days. Upon her Inheritance Ceremony, she begins to understand that she is different to everyone around her as things go from bad to worse resulting in her having to leave the safety and comfort of her hometown in order to save herself, and those around her. As she follows the two Wielders, Bregenne and Nediah, Kyndra begins to understand more about her inheritance and who she is.

I really enjoyed the premise of the novel and the overall story arc and how it progressed. However, I did feel that it was a novel that was a bit drawn out in some respects – mainly in regards to her blatant skills as a Starborn. There were definitely, and always will be, a few scenes that slowed down the pace of the novel as characters travelled from one place to another but, in regards to Kyndra being a Starborn. . . I found this to be drawn out and long-winded. I felt that the “confusion” surrounding who and what she was by the Naris Council to be of no use as, it later turns out, they had an inclination as to what she was. It was drawn out way past the point that I, myself, understood her to be truly a Starborn and was only fully recognised within the last 100 pages or so. I feel that, had this been acknowledged more beforehand, some of the more trivial scenes where she is put to task reading books to help her understand could easily have been cut out and the novel would have had a faster pace.

The characters themselves I did enjoy, and loved the different personalities and relationships that appeared throughout. I enjoyed the nature of Kyndra – her stubbornness in particular being a trait that I thoroughly like in female protagonists of power. Bregenne and Nediah were also firm favourites in the way that they were connected and how they worked together in all aspects of their life. It was particularly interesting to see the way in which these three characters developed together throughout the novel and how their relationship changed as they began to understand more about each other. There were also the more corrupt antagonists that brought more conflict for Kyndra within her future and understanding herself and they brought another quality to the novel in understanding how the council and the wielders perceived certain people and events.

Overall I did enjoy the novel but found that it could have been a bit shorter with some scenes cut out and important information divulged sooner rather than later as it dragged the novel and really slowed it down. The characters were well fleshed out with individual personalities that clashed or complimented each other in a variety of ways and I enjoyed the conflict within the council and with the wielders and the central characters themselves.

Genevieve Cogman: The Invisible Library

The Invisible Library Cover

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.

Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own. And soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.

The Invisible Library is the first in a series by Genevieve Cogman that centres around a society of Librarians who travel to alternate worlds in order to obtain rare and valuable copies of works of fiction. Irene has been sent on a missing to an alternate London that is chaos-ridden: filled with fae, vampires, werewolves and more. Her job – to acquire a rare copy of the Grimm tales that features stories entirely different to any other London. With the help of her assistant Kai, they become involved in far more than a simple task to find a book, making new friends and enemies that will never forget her involvement.

I have a strong interest in any work of fiction that centres around books, and The Invisible Library fits perfectly into that category. As I was progressing through the book and more about the Library and the worlds in which Irene travels to were unveiled, I found myself making similarities to Mark Latham’s The Apollonian Case Files. As with ACF, The Invisible Library provides alternate worlds that possess supernatural beings or scientific/technological advancements not available in a normal world. I also felt the similarities more strongly due to the alternate that Irene and Kai were sent to which required them to wear more Victorian garb and adjust their position and status accordingly based on how men and women are perceived within that world.

There was never a dull moment in The Invisible Library, with Cogman providing slower scenes that dished out important information about the main and side-characters. Something is always going on even in the more mundane scenes that allowed for the pacing to stay consistent throughout and for me to never lose interest in the story and where it was heading. Cogman provides a lot of distractions within the novel such as her supernatural creatures, or the variety of advancements that have taken place within this alternate London such as zeppelins and robotic creatures. At times, the more faster paced scenes with the action did seem a bit out of place and confusing however, as the novel progressed all the questions regarding those moments are answered and you begin to realise that strange is normal in this world.

I adored the characters of Irene and Kai and really enjoyed how their friendship progressed. Each character holds back information from the other in different ways adding a bit of mystery. As the novel progresses, Irene’s character begins to show her devotion to the Library in her need to complete the task at almost any cost. Though I would not call her ruthless or hard-hearted per se, Irene is definitely a character that will use what she can, when she can. It is this way of working that defines her relationship with Vale who questions why she is really after the book and feels almost confused and shocked whenever Irene does something new. Kai appears as if he is a ruffian and someone who is only along for the ride because he has been told to, but very quickly shrugs off that demeanour to appear cultured and gentlemanly. Kai holds the most secrets out of the two and it is one you begin to understand through Irene’s questioning thoughts. The way that he develops towards Irene made me adore his character all the more as he grows protective towards her as things get worse.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel with its perfectly balanced pacing, array of fantastical elements and its plot-line. I felt like Cogman provided a story that didn’t leave any confusion as to what had happened and, when you were confused, it was answered by the end of the novel. I do still possess some question regarding certain characters and information that was provided, but I believe that this will be answered as the series progresses. The characters developed really well as they faced friends and foes and came to terms with their position and what they wanted out of the mission.

Alice Burnett: Ideal Love

Ideal Love Cover

I received a free physical copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Venus Rees is left devastated by the sudden death of her husband, Gilles. But when she discovers that he died of a treatable genetic condition she knew nothing about, she is haunted by the thought that he didn’t love her enough to save himself.

As time passes, the emptiness of Venus’s life becomes apparent, no more so than when she meets the handsome and sensitive Alex. Her attraction to him eclipses even her preoccupation with her dead husband as she embarks on an unusual love triangle. But what she doesn’t reckon on is Alex’s past link with Gilles.

Ideal Love is a work of women’s fiction that focuses on the concept of love throughout its many stages. When Venus’s husband dies, she begins to question her own beliefs on love due to the very nature in which he died, warring with the idea that he knew all along and put herself and their daughter at risk. However, when she meets Alex, the meaning of love begins to change as they hold deep and meaningful conversations not just about love in itself, but Venus’s relationship with her late husband.

This novel was definitely a slow read, and sometimes I did find it hard to concentrate due to the chapters that were coming from Gilles’ point of view. His voice seemed a bit all over the place and flighty, like he couldn’t hold onto one train of thought for a very long time and so, whenever I was reading his narrative, I felt a little bit disjointed. However, the rest of the novel I found thought-provoking and insightful as you see how Venus’s thoughts on love change and alter based on the experiences in her life before and after Gilles’s death.

I liked that Burnett provided scenes from their life prior to her husband’s death, as it helped to understand how deeply in love they were and give more clarity to the feelings of betrayal and mistrust that Venus now holds following his death. Through this, you got to see how their love started off almost as an obsession on Gilles’ part, to contentment, to arguing about mundane things like working all the time and not having enough time for others. It shows the arc of love from budding romance to companionship. With Venus’s later connection with Alex, she is finally able to accept and move on from these feelings that have developed since finding out about Gilles’ genetic condition. Venus talks through all of her feelings and emotions with Alex in a bid for them both to understand what they are getting into and it is clear that Venus has come full circle with Alex. Now it is her turn to have a love obsession as she cannot get Alex out of her head. Though, in the beginning, these new feelings confuse her and make her feel like she is betraying the one person she has truly love, she eventually begins to understand that Gilles would be far happier if she moved on and made herself happy and, through her developing feelings towards Alex, she begins to understand that she will never know the truth about what Gilles knew but that she must move on.

As Venus comes out of one love and into another, you can’t help but find yourself falling for Alex as well. He’s handsome, understanding, sensitive, and possesses a small amount of innocence in his inexperience with women. You can see how Venus has fallen for him and end up slipping into the love triangle of the book with ease. I loved the concept of this novel and what it represents. Though it was a bit slow at times, it picked up far more towards the last half of the novel as Venus and Alex come to terms with their relationship and all that it entails.

Deborah Dunn: The Coffins

The Coffins Cover

I received a free digital copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Andrea Warren, a young archaeologist with Native American roots, sets out on a journey to the Outer Banks of North Carolina hoping to unearth the truth about why her father committed suicide when she was a child. All she knows about him is that he was looking for old coffins made from dugout canoes believed by many locals to belong to remnants of the 118 men, women, and children who mysteriously vanished from Roanoke Island in 1590 and have never been found again. When she inherits an old trunk containing his field notes, strange things begin to happen. Dreams, visions, and apparitions seem to be warning her that her life is in danger.  Events turn deadly the closer she gets to the truth: What happened to the Lost Colony? Where did Virginia Dare go?

The Coffins is a suspense, mystery/thriller that sees Andrea Warren attempt to find out the truth behind her father’s supposed suicide. Made aware by his old field notes and journals that he was investigating the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island, Andrea follows in his footsteps in order to find out if his findings ever paid off, and why his interest in these coffins would result in his untimely death. As she falls deeper into the mystery, Andrea begins to uncover the truth and finds herself in deep.

I’d find it hard to believe that anyone wasn’t, in some way, aware of Roanoke and the Lost Colony. Even American Horror Story dedicated an entire series to the mystery – and this is why I was intrigued. I love to read different theories as to what happened in these circumstances and, though I haven’t particularly delved deep, I hadn’t heard anything about coffins before. I was looking forward to a novel that was full of twists and turns, unexpected happenings, and a mystery that was shocking. I didn’t get any of this. . . The twists and turns I did encounter, though I clearly wasn’t expecting them as Dunn does not leave any sort of paper trail to suggest such occurrences, did not in any way shock me. I read through these scenes as if they happened everyday and they didn’t add anything to the novel for me. Any unexpected happenings just seemed a bit out there too me with Andrea experiencing strange dreams and premonitions. I felt like they were just there to try and add something different to her character and enhance the character in regards to her ancestry.

An issue that I found throughout the novel and quickly got very repetitive and boring, was Dunn frequently reintroducing the character of Andrea to every person she seemed to meet. A good couple of times you read about Andrea’s history as an archaeology student and why she was in town, divulging her life story to anyone that she suddenly became friends with and I couldn’t understand why she would do that when, as is clearly evident by the narrative, dialogue, and Andrea’s actions, she is wary around men trying to hit on her or believing them not to have good intentions. Why then, would she tell multiple men all this information about herself within a few seconds/minutes of meeting them?! With that being said, though Andrea is a character that questions a lot, she never follows through. She questions whether she should trust someone as she doesn’t feel comfortable – let’s divulge my life story. She questions whether she should go through with something as it might be dangerous – let’s do it anyway. It felt like Andrea didn’t really possess any common sense as I could sense from side-characters actions and dialogue whether they were legitimately trying to help her or not, but she questioned it but still continued to trust. In this respect I couldn’t really relate to Andrea or get along with her very well as she did not feel complex and human.

With all of these issues, it really made the novel mediocre. If Andrea had been more three-dimensional and a bit more aware, I think she would have been someone I could interact with more. I also felt like, though the narrative plot was also a good concept, with everything else going on around it it just failed to be anything brilliant. Towards the end of the novel I started to question whether I was actually going to find out about these coffins properly, only to be given journal entries and a media outlet where Andrea had found them and was running tests. I didn’t feel like it really gave me all the information I could’ve had but was finding a quick get out of having to write anything more coherent.


Laini Taylor: Strange The Dreamer

Strange The Dreamer Cover

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around – and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of God? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries – including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Strange the Dreamer is a new fantasy series by author Laini Taylor, more popularly known for her Daughters of Smoke and Bone series. Strange the Dreamer is about Lazlo Strange, a young boy who was orphaned into the protection of monks where his imagination and mischievousness ran wild. As he grew older and took on the role of Librarian, Lazlo was able to fulfill his need to learn as much as possible about the mysterious city Weep and why it’s name became lost to him fifteen years ago. When a convoy of Tizerkane from Weep come to his city, Lazlo cannot help but beg to go with them on their adventure to defeat whatever threatens Weep and bars it from the rest of the world.

I’ve never read anything by Laini Taylor before but, with Strange the Dreamer receiving a lot of hype over the past few months, I became intrigued. And, with a title like that, I didn’t think it literally portrayed what the novel was about: a young man called Lazlo Strange who dreamed…

Strange the Dreamer was a fascinating novel with a unique plot-line, unique characters, and a brilliant writing style that was full of vivid imagery. I found the plot-line to be fast-paced, intelligent, and original without any boring, slow scenes that leave your mind wandering. I was pulled in from the first page and spat back out right at the end with a cliffhanger that was unexpected and left my reeling. Only once before have I finished a book without thinking it was about to end, believing there to be far more to the story to tell and hoping I would get it all in one big, juicy novel. Boy, was I wrong!

The characters were entirely unique to the story-line and so full of emotion and humanity. Lazlo reminded me of every young child with a vivid imagination and a fascination with history. His obsession with Weep really connected with me and my fondness for reading about the past and finding out new and interesting facts. I enjoyed that this fascination continued into his adult life and that he didn’t let anyone deter him from his dreams. Lazlo is a big developer throughout this novel, finding the answers to two of the biggest questions of his life: who is Lazlo Strange, and what happened to Weep? Both questions progress him to where he is at the end of the novel and his part within the adventure, though seemingly minuscule, helps him to find his place in the world. Similarly, Sarai – who helps to provide the missing puzzle pieces of Weep through her narrative strand – also develops as a person as she begins to understand the plight that her people have put the citizens of Weep through. It is thanks to Lazlo that she gains more humanity and compassion for those she does not know in a bid to gain the life that she wants as opposed to the one forced upon her by those long passed.

Taylor’s writing is exquisite to read, with vivid metaphors and setting imagery. I was drawn into the world of Weep as well as the world of dreams that both Sarai and Lazlo inhabit, painting a picture that was right before my eyes and left know room for error. It was clear what kind of scene she was trying to depict and what these scenes meant in the grand scheme of things. Taylor is able to string together a novel that seems confusing and hard to define what path it is taking and, only when you have reached that path, do you begin to understand exactly where she is coming from. The narratives flow smoothly with brilliant continuity and context and draws you in from the get go.

I am upset that the novel ended so abruptly and at such a crucial point within the novel where change is and was imminent. I was immersed so deeply within the novel that I felt like I had been snapped back into existence from a world of dreams where magic, myths and legend come true. I seriously cannot wait for the next novel and to see where and how Lazlo’s life changes in the future.

Emily R. King: The Hundredth Queen

The Hundredth Queen Cover


As an orphan ward of the Sisterhood in the ancient Tarachand Empire, eighteen-year-old Kalinda is destined for nothing more than a life of seclusion and prayer. Plagued by fevers, she’s an unlikely candidate for even a servant’s position, let alone a courtesan or wife. Her sole dream is to continue living in peace in the Sisterhood’s mountain temple.

But a visit from the tyrant Rajah Tarek disrupts Kalinda’s life. Within hours, she is ripped from the comfort of her home, set on a desert trek, and ordered to fight for her place among the rajah’s ninety-nine wives and numerous courtesans. Her only solace comes in the company of her guard, the stoic but kind Captain Deven Naik.

Faced with the danger of a tournament to the death—and her growing affection for Deven—Kalinda has only one hope for escape, and it lies in an arcane, forbidden power buried within her.

King’s debut novel, The Hundredth Queen is a fantasy tale based off of Sumerian mythology that focuses upon the ideology of sisterhood and women working together as Kalinda must fight for her place amongst the King’s one-hundred wives, and to prove to those around her that, despite her sickly past, she is stronger than she appears. The Hundredth Queen is a novel full of action, romance, and magic as Kalinda attempts to save herself, those around her, and live the life she has always wanted.

I absolutely adored the way that King implemented Sumerian culture and mythology into the novel, and how it became the groundwork for pushing the narrative forward. I felt like I learnt a lot about their culture through the stories told to help flesh out the importance of Kalinda being the one-hundredth wife whilst also still understanding that this was a work of fantasy where some elements could be twisted. It was a brilliant blend of culture, society, class, gender, and magic as Kalinda is brought into this world entirely new for her, and for us.

The magic within this novel is almost akin to that of Ruby in Fireblood through the Burners. I only lightly put this similarity forward as I still felt like the Bhutas and their ability to wield the elements was a concept that I found original and unique to this story and really helped to bring the narrative to life by presenting Kalinda with her own personal conflict, as well as that of the rani’s and courtesans around her. Though I feel that there is a lot we could still learn about the group called Bhutas, I believe that this is something King will, and should, develop further in the next novel within the series given the events that have taken place.

Kalinda is a strong feminine lead for this fantasy novel, paving the way – alongside other woman in fantasy – for heroines and strong female leads. I would put her up there with Kelsea from the Tearling series, as well as Ruby from Fireblood (being the two more prominent characters that currently come to mind). In the beginning she appears weak, fragile, and the underdog within the Sisterhood and the many wives of the king. She has suffered from an illness that leaves her with burning fevers that can only be staved off by a special tonic brewed by the temples healer. However, as the novel progresses and Kalinda begins to realise the path that her God has put her on, and the changes within herself, Kalinda starts to show her true strength and her determination to right the wrongs that have festered over her country.

Though the love interest was definitely one of insta-love, I still found myself shipping Kalinda and Deven from the get go. It was clear that there as an attraction to the two and it really came alive upon the page. King really knows how to write characters that are fleshed out to a degree that they appear real and truly bring the narrative to life by how vividly they have been depicted.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and was one that I couldn’t put down. I enjoyed the thematic concerns surrounding sisterhood and women being second-rate to men and felt that this was definitely one of those stories that needed to be told in order to understand the culture and society within this world. I felt that these issues helped to bolster Kalinda as a character and to make her stronger, portraying her as a modern-day woman in a fantasy world set in the past.