Review | Oshun Rising (Trinity Forest #2) by Jennifer Alsever

OSHUN has everything a young pop star could ever want—fame, fortune, and beauty to spare. But there’s something dark inside of her, rising like the tide, fighting to be heard. Something that terrifies her. Because once she lets it out, she knows there’s no going back.

EMBER is drowning. Fighting for consciousness, struggling to make sense of the strange dreams she’s been having—prophecies of murder, deception, and blackmail. But once she begins to untangle them, she realizes that they might not be dreams at all…and if she doesn’t find a way to stop what she’s seeing, more people will die.

MADDIE is barely staying afloat. How can she be expected to care about school when her best friend Ember is still missing, presumed dead? So when Ember’s brother calls and tells her about his theory about a pop star who may be involved in Ember’s disappearance, she rallies him to take a road trip to check it out.

Title: Oshun Rising

Author: Jennifer Alsever

Genre: YA Paranormal/Mystery

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 (3.5)

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book was a bit of a happy surprise for me; I liked it more than the first book in the series (Ember Burning), and that book was a pretty easy and fun read in itself.

There were some iffy parts, which I’ll describe now so I can get on to the nice stuff.

Dialogue:

This was still a little stilted occasionally, some things the characters said I wasn’t really sure if they sounded how people actually speak. I think if this book was made into a TV show or film, some of the dialogue would have to be edited to sound more realistic.

For example, some of the character voices were made to be a little bit stereotypical, or what I assume the author thinks of as ‘teen speak’. Things like ‘smokin’ hot chick’ etc.

These took me out of the story a little, and made them sound a little less genuine to me.

Showing vs Telling:

There was a little bit too much telling rather than showing in exposition. For example: ‘You read that diary on us that Ember had that used to be her mom’s.” Usually people don’t put that much information in if they think that the other person will get what they mean if they just say “the diary”.

This happened a few times in the book, sometimes I think just to forward the plot, as there was already a big ominous unexplained ‘dark day’ thing that was mentioned a LOT for something that we were clearly never going to get an explanation for. Therefore maybe the exposition was needed just so not everything was kept a mystery.

But even so, I would have still liked a lot more ‘show’ in the writing. It would have made it feel more like I was in the story and less like I was having someone explain the plot to me in a reasonably descriptive way.

Anyway, now onto the things I did enjoy.

Multiple POV:

Sometimes with a mystery based plot, a multiple POV can just be frustrating when some plot points are revealed in one but then are painfully slow to be revealed in another. This just makes me want to skip a bunch of pages until it’s finally revealed, so I don’t enjoy reading it as much.

Oshun Rising didn’t have that problem for me. It allowed some snippets of plot in one POV, while keeping the others close enough to figuring it out that I was happy to stay in suspense. It was also nice to see Ember’s best friend’s point of view, since we barely got to see her in the first book in this series.

We actually get to see her bond with Ember and Ember’s brother’s love for her, making her disappearance in the first book finally have the jolt of sadness to it that it was missing the first time around.

Evil side of things:

I still didn’t quite understand what was happening during the ‘rebirth’ process, but this time it had more of an external viewpoint and a bit more detail, so it really felt like a ritual as opposed to a confusing event.

Also the antagonist of the series had her own viewpoint, which added to the horror feel of things by allowing us to actually see how unfeeling and remorseless she is in regards to our characters wellbeing.

Overall, the plot was more interesting, complicated, and mysterious, there was a little more risk involved, and I was more hooked with this book than I had been with the previous. The only way is up!

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Guest Review | Solitaire by Alice Oseman

[A new thing this week! Enjoy a guest review by my sister!]

So first let me take the opportunity to introduce myself as Guest reviewer this week – I’m Sarah (sarah-n-dippity on Tumblr), I’m a Hufflepuff (Did you know we’re extremely good finders?) and I look remarkably similar to the original ‘one-and-only’ Always Bookish Becka (but only in like…the face area, and the everything else area)

Nice to meet you all – and I hope you don’t mind me taking over for one quick review of the lovely and amazing book Solitaire by Alice Oseman.

Blurb:

In case you’re wondering, this is not a love story.

My name is Tori Spring. I like to sleep and I like to blog. Last year – before all that stuff with Charlie and before I had to face the harsh realities of A-Levels and university applications and the fact that one day I really will have to start talking to people – I had friends. Things were very different, I guess, but that’s all over now.

Now there’s Solitaire. And Michael Holden.

I don’t know what Solitaire are trying to do, and I don’t care about Michael Holden.

I really don’t.

Now I don’t tend to give things star ratings, but if I were to put a couple of shiny ones on this I would probably chuck about 4 on out of a total of 5. It was a very gripping read with good character building and a captivating (if a little frustrating) MC.

What I liked about it:

1. The author really got what it’s like to be in a period of depression, especially when there’s someone close to you who is seemingly ‘worse’ or with a ‘more urgent issue’. The main character was second guessing the opinions of the other characters all the time (she couldn’t be broken, this was just who she was!) but at the same time she knew something was off, she just couldn’t put her finger on what it was. Also you could tell she didn’t want to overshadow the other people in her life who had their own difficulties – or burden them with her own.

2. Alice Oseman really understands teen voices – the slang, the speed and cadence of the phrasing, the way that most of the time no-one actually says what they’re thinking, they just heavily imply it. It really (and sometimes scarily…) made me remember just what it was like going through that period of school and how sometimes even in the biggest of crowds you can still feel entirely alone.

3. She doesn’t forget about the side characters – and fleshes a lot of them out with issues of their own, sometimes using this to show how inside her own head Tori has gotten, and how much external stuff she misses.

What I didn’t like:

1. (This may be because I have read her other books more recently) The diversity in this book is severely lacking, and although there are some LGBT characters it’s all in a setting of ‘whiteness’ that can date this book a bit considering the huge number of racial and sexually diverse YA books out there. It doesn’t pull from the amazing story but it is a little fluffy grey cloud hanging over it.

2. A lot of the storylines are left hanging – for example we never really have Tori confront her friend Becky (outside her depressive state) about who she is dating, and how that person has negatively affected her brother. We also never see Ben Hope again after the time Tori yells at Becky, which seems a little anti-climactic, and we don’t fully see Charlie’s reaction to the whole thing other than brief mentions of his injuries. It all feels a little like the last chapter of the book is missing – despite the rest of it being so powerful. Also the parents seem like cardboard cut-outs compared to the rest of the characters, nipping in to tell Tori to ‘cheer up’ before heading off to…something. I’m still not sure what either of her parents do for a living.

And those are the reasons I just couldn’t give this book a full 5 star rating – although for a debut book written by someone who was a teenager herself when she was writing it, it’s shockingly deep and mature with an innate understanding of how people work and interact with each other.

I think if you’ve ever felt out of place – or struggled with depression yourself – then this is a good book to read. It’s interesting, and thoughtful, and it’ll definitely stick with you (I should know, I’ve read it multiple times, which is huge for me!) and with enough mystery to keep you going till the final shocking – yet satisfying – pages.

Anyway, give it a go, and I hope you enjoy it. I’m off to ‘find’ a nice cup of tea to warm my little frozen finger-cicles after being blasted by the super strong air-con in this office.

Lots of hugs

Sarah-n-dippity

Review | Ash Princess (Ash Princess Trilogy #1) by Laura Sebastian

Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. On that day, the Kaiser took Theodosia’s family, her land, and her name. Theo was crowned Ash Princess–a title of shame to bear in her new life as a prisoner.

For ten years Theo has been a captive in her own palace. She’s endured the relentless abuse and ridicule of the Kaiser and his court. She is powerless, surviving in her new world only by burying the girl she was deep inside.

Then, one night, the Kaiser forces her to do the unthinkable. With blood on her hands and all hope of reclaiming her throne lost, she realizes that surviving is no longer enough. But she does have a weapon: her mind is sharper than any sword. And power isn’t always won on the battlefield.

For ten years, the Ash Princess has seen her land pillaged and her people enslaved. That all ends here.

Title: Ash Princess

Author: Laura Sebastian

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

[SPOILER WARNING]

So this book had an unfair advantage right from the start with me.

I’m a person who likes certain plot points in books, so much that if they’re in a book that was fairly mediocre, it automatically makes me like it a heck of a lot more. Here are some examples:

Boarding school settings

Court intrigue and drama

Magical chosen ones (I know, I know! But only if they’re done well)

Main character either realising they’re part of a different species or becoming one during the book

Badass women who take down the patriarchy (I’m a bit of an SJW so this is a duh one)

Things like that. I would say they’re guilty pleasures, but I don’t feel guilty about them.

Ash Princess has: court intrigue and badass women so already it’s two points ahead before even being opened. (Also I think there are hints about ‘magical chosen one’ stuff in the book but maybe that’ll be explained more in the second book.)

So taking this into consideration, I’ll start with the thing I wasn’t a fan of:

Hidden tunnels:

There were hidden tunnels all throughout the castle, all of which had secret openings and had never been discovered by the invaders.

Would it have been so bad for the rebels to have helped the Princess escape through one of these at any point throughout her abusive childhood? She could have been raised as a rebel princess, working on strategy and maybe even some powers, building up to take back her country eventually.

I just thought that leaving a young girl to get systematically abused and emotionally broken for years when there is a way out was a pretty harsh thing to do. Sure, there were some good reasons why it could be hard: her shadows following her every move, the rebels being quite a small group until later on in the invasion years, and she was technically ‘safer’ in terms of purely being alive in the castle I suppose. But it gave the book a bit of a bad undertone for me.

Also, is Theo knew about them herself, I have a hard time believing a young girl wouldn’t think to even attempt to escape through them once. Maybe just a blocked up tunnel to show how she tried to do this in her youth would have helped me believe it a bit more?

So yeah, that was pretty much my main gripe about this book. The rest was pretty good!

Things I liked:

Worldbuilding:

Though we didn’t get to hear or see a huge amount about the other cultures in this world, considering we’re stuck inside a castle with no outside communication for a lot of it, we did get a map and some descriptions of the places that the invaders took over on their way to Theo’s country.

I liked how the main exports of the countries were mentioned, and how the invaders jumped from country to country using up all of the resources and taking any valuable exports for themselves. I’m looking forward to seeing more of this developed, maybe some more history thrown in to give us a solid grasp on the cultures and traditions of each place, in the future books.

Theo’s Character:

Theo starts out extremely downtrodden and broken from an entire childhood of whippings, beatings, and psychological abuse from the same people who killed her mother. This makes complete sense, especially considering a more strong-minded person in her situation would have probably done something to get themselves killed by her age.

The slow build of her confidence from beginning to end of the book was good, if a smidge fast in some places. I put that down to her mum’s influence and memory, so it’s understandable, and I look forward to even more character development in the next books in the series.

Love triangle:

I’m not a huge fan of these usually, preferring a slow build romance with one person to a ‘who shall I choose’ scenario. I swear, I don’t know anyone who’s ever had that dilemma in real life, so I’m not sure how it got so prominent really.

Saying that, this one was handled nicely I think. No insta-love for either guy, just a few butterflies and some guilt. I assume this will come to a head in the later books, but I’m glad it held off for the first book. It would have felt too crammed in if the author had also tried to cover a realistic romance alongside her emotional development and the court scheming. That, or it would have been a much longer book!

Overall, I really liked this book and enjoyed it, it stuck in my head long after I’d read it. I liked the flawed main character, and her loyalty to her country, and look forward to seeing more of her growth and adventures in the future.

Review | Swarm (Zeroes, #2) by Scott Westerfeld

X-Men meets Heroes when New York Times bestselling author Scott Westerfeld teams up with award-winning authors Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti in the second book of an explosive new trilogy about a group of teens with amazing abilities.

They thought they’d already faced their toughest fight. But there’s no relaxing for the reunited Zeroes.

These six teens with unique abilities have taken on bank robbers, drug dealers and mobsters. Now they’re trying to lay low so they can get their new illegal nightclub off the ground.

But the quiet doesn’t last long when two strangers come to town, bringing with them a whole different kind of crowd-based chaos. And hot on their tails is a crowd-power even more dangerous and sinister.

Up against these new enemies, every Zero is under threat. Mob is crippled by the killing-crowd buzz—is she really evil at her core? Flicker is forced to watch the worst things a crowd can do. Crash’s conscience—and her heart—get a workout. Anon and Scam must both put family loyalties on the line for the sake of survival. And Bellwether’s glorious-leader mojo deserts him.

Who’s left to lead the Zeroes into battle against a new, murderous army?

Title: Swarm

Author: Scott Westerfeld

Genre: Paranormal

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

SPOILER WARNING: Obviously if you haven’t read Zeroes (the first in this series) then this will probably be a spoiler for that, but there will probably be some spoilers for people who haven’t read Swarm too so tread lightly.

I think I’m going to sum this book up like this: A fun comfort read that still manages to leave me a tiny bit heartbroken waiting for the next book.

Confused? Don’t worry, it’ll make sense in a bit… or if you read the book yourself!

I’m going to start with the things I wasn’t so sure about with this book, because it’s a fairly short list considering I still gave it four stars and I may as well get this part over with.

*cracks knuckles*

I remember quite a few times in this book feeling confused as to what character chapter I was in. I think this wasn’t helped by the swap over happening at the same time as a scene that includes the whole team, but I kept having to check the chapter heading and it broke me out of the flow of a book a little.

Also this book suffers from the issue of:

Minor character needs to tell the major character some information, but for some reason chooses to say it cryptically with only half of the information necessary to actually help them. This therefore leads to the obvious scene of “I told you this would happen!” “No, you said (vague description here), that wasn’t helpful!” which could have so easily been avoided. It’s not a big thing, but it’s something that really bugs me.

It would make more sense if someone was trying to be obtuse on purpose, or actually can’t say the information, but it felt held back in this case purely for plot convenience.

And done! There really wasn’t much for me to get annoyed about in this book, hence the high rating.

On to the good stuff then!

I liked the different insecurities of all the main characters, following on from the first book:

Crash is still feeling guilty whenever she crashes anything, and worries both about being in civilisation and away from it because both have bad effects on her.

Thibault is still struggling whenever anyone forgets him and still doesn’t quite believe that Flicker really does recognise him and remember. The scenes highlighting this pain with his family are especially hard to read, in a good way.

And Mob is trying to figure out who she is, in or out of a crowd, and deal with her dad’s death in the previous book.

I really liked seeing the teamwork in this book, especially now it includes Mob, and how they deal with the threats of new Zeroes in their territory and the big evil Swarm.

It was a nice change to have a plot that revolved around Zeroes fighting other Zeroes and the regular people caught in the crossfire. It reminds me of the recent films tackling Superheroes and their effects on the world around them: Superman having to pay for all the damage he causes to buildings etc during his fights, the Avengers having to account for large numbers of deaths that happened on their watch even if they did manage to save the day.

It’s a nice side of saving the world that didn’t get talked about much until recently, how the people left actually are after being ‘saved’.

I mean, it wasn’t done hugely in-depth in Swarm, but it was included, and I liked that.

The build up to the final battle was done very well too: I wasn’t able to guess what was going to happen, and even though it was a little short for my tastes it really ended the book with a bang.

And THAT ENDING. Seriously, you may need tissues for this one if you’re a crier. I know I’m fairly used to characters I like dying or leaving or just not being seen again in books, but this just felt like a stab to my heart when I read it. A good stab though… if that’s a thing?

It really left me wanting to read the next book, which is as much of a good review as most books need anyway!

I would absolutely recommend this series, and honestly anything Scott Westerfeld writes too. Go check his stuff out!

Review | Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicles #1) by Jay Kristoff

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.

Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?

Title: Nevernight

Author: Jay Kristoff

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I knew barely twenty pages in that I was going to love this book.

I’d already loved The Illuminae files, by both Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufmann, but that’s never a guarantee that you’ll like an individual author’s work. So I took a gamble, based on so many great reviews of Jay Kristoff’s own work, and dived in. And wow am I glad I did.

This book had so much! Fantasy, murder, a world with three suns, a shadow cat, a school for assassins… and that isn’t even all of it!

Let’s start with the main character:

Now, you’d think someone whose main drive is killing the people who destroyed her family would be quite heroic, fairly good on the moral compass right? But then!!

In the first chapter she murders someone.

So then she’s this extremely morally grey character, and I love her even more for it. All through the book she’s looking out for herself and those she loves extremely dearly, all with the goal of avenging her family. And it makes her just as awesome as she sounds.

She’s clever without being amazing at everything, has a fringe (as a fringe-bearer myself this was an extremely important thing – book characters NEVER have fringes!), and is extremely headstrong and determined. In short, I love her.

In terms of plot, this book has so much crammed into it. For effectively being a book about succeeding at a school of assassins, it doesn’t feel at all one-dimensional, or linear. Lots of stuff happens, and lots of intriguing side plots are examined to potentially lead on to future books in the trilogy.

The writing style felt tinged with a sort of Terry Pratchett-esque magic, in the shadow that was shaped like a cat, and the little sub-notes in the margins, and the very interesting perspective, it was lovely to read.

The dialogue is so sarcastic and realistic… seriously, Kristoff can write dialogue with the best of them! There were phrases that made me laugh out loud, tear up, any emotion you can name I’m sure I had it while reading this book.

And the worldbuilding! He managed to add rises and falls of civilisations, how three suns would affect a world and a religion, and even completely believable cultures in other parts of the world. I seriously couldn’t find anything I didn’t like about this worldbuilding. Even the mystery surrounding Mia’s shadow-cat and abilities was dealt with slowly and complete enough that I didn’t feel like the plot-line was dangling at the end of the book.

One teency bit… just the tiniest thing really… but there was a sub-note mention of the trope of a guy getting into trouble sleeping with twins. *deadpan face* Now, it may just be because I’m an identical twin myself, but those sorts of things just stand out like neon signs to me. The NUMBER of times you and your sister get propositioned throughout your life when your a twin is almost uncountable, so it begins to seriously grate. I mean… does anyone else relish the thought of sleeping with their own sibling?? I always thought it was unappetising at the very least, and seeing it in a book unchallenged was a little black mark for this book. If homophobia or racism goes into a book and is unchallenged by any character morally, it gets pointed out as immoral or potentially dangerous, but incest is a-okay? *shrugs*

Okay, rant over. *brushes self off*

Anywhoo, it didn’t lower the star marks of this book for me, so it still gets a glowing 5 stars. (Just maybe the teenciest of black dots on one of the stars… right there, you can just about see it.)

I mean, you can tell I loved the book considering I pre-ordered the paperback of Godsgrave before the book was even properly shut! It gets a minor warning for particularly adult scenes and as many thumbs up as I can possibly give.

Review | The Craftsman by Sharon J. Bolton

Catching him will make her career – and change her forever.

August, 1999

On the hottest day of the year, Assistant Commissioner Florence Lovelady attends the funeral of Larry Glassbrook, the convicted murderer she arrested thirty years earlier. A master carpenter and funeral director, Larry imprisoned his victims, alive, in the caskets he made himself. Clay effigies found entombed with their bodies suggested a motive beyond the worst human depravity.

June, 1969

13-year- old Patsy Wood has been missing for two days, the third teenager to disappear in as many months. New to the Lancashire police force and struggling to fit in, WPC Lovelady is sent to investigate an unlikely report from school children claiming to have heard a voice calling for help. A voice from deep within a recent grave.

August, 1999

As she tries to lay her ghosts to rest, Florence is drawn back to the Glassbrooks’ old house, in the shadow of Pendle Hill, where she once lodged with the family. She is chilled by the discovery of another effigy – one bearing a remarkable resemblance to herself. Is the killer still at large? Is Florence once again in terrible danger? Or, this time, could the fate in store be worse than even her darkest imaginings?

Title: The Craftsman

Author: Sharon Bolton

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Disclaimer: I was sent this book to review but my opinions are all my own and genuine.

So I haven’t read a good murder mystery in a while… maybe since Far From You, so this was a nice genre to get back into!

I’m the sort of person who tries to guess the killer within the first few minutes of a Poirot or Grantchester type show, so obviously I tried to guess the killer early on in this book too. I told my dad I knew who the killer was maybe… four times? All different killers! So clearly this method did not work on this occasion!

I liked the flip from the present to the past early on, it was really interesting to see how Florence came to the conclusion that Larry was the killer, and all the while keeping my eyes out for other suspicious characters. And there were a lot of those too, many shifty people and possible motives.

But it was also cool to read from a fairly suspicious narrator perspective because she overthinks every look and smile, and so then I also overthink every look and smile and start pointing my finger at everyone in the town.

This isn’t a book where you can guess the killer right from the start, and that’s high praise from me when it comes to mystery books.

I also loved the undertone of witchcraft blending with the history of Pendle. It didn’t stick out from the story and gave it a magical realism tone which I really liked.

I mean, there were some times where I couldn’t quite settle in to the book and fall into the story like a film inside my head, but I’m putting that down to the writing style. It was sort of like the main character was being interviewed? Or at least, that’s how it felt to me, so I felt a bit like I was hearing only half of a full conversation on occasion. A minor niggle, but one that drops a star for me.

Another reason for the dropped star was the number of names thrown at me early on. I couldn’t remember who was married to who, or who had which children, and sometimes it was just assumed you’d remember all of this via Florence mentioning one name. I started to think that my mum has the right idea when she reads murder mysteries: she writes all the character names down with a short description of who they are as she reads for reference later on. I got used to some of the major characters later on, but it meant some flipping back and forth to remind me.

On the other hand, there were some very good subtle and not-so-subtle in places examples of sexism. Even Florence being expected to make the tea for other equally as qualified police officers. I know a lot of this book was set in the sixties, but even knowing it was more normal then didn’t stop me from getting angry on behalf of Florence. It felt incredibly real, and had the frustration that goes alongside that too.

Also the general theme of being the odd one out was really well done, reminded me and I’m sure a lot of other people of that time in school when you feel like you’re never going to fit in. It made me really identify with Florence.

Oh! Another smidge of praise for the little bit of lgbt rep in a book that could have so easily hidden behind the time it was set with something like that. To me, every time it was brought up it was dealt with very nicely and any homophobia was contradicted enough for me to be happy. This book gets some extra thumbs up for that!

Overall it was a really nice comfort read. I’d definitely recommend it to other people, and it’s totally a good book to read in one sitting if you have the time.

Four happy stars here!

[SPOILER WARNING] Review | A Court of Frost and Starlight (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3.1) by Sarah J. Maas

Feyre, Rhys, and their close-knit circle of friends are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly-changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it, a hard-earned reprieve. Yet even the festive atmosphere can’t keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated–scars that will have far-reaching impact on the future of their Court.

Title: A Court of Frost and Starlight

Author: Sarah J Maas

Genre: Paranormal

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I really enjoyed this book! (You can tell because it only took me two days to finish it!) Also, please don’t read further if you haven’t already read the book or others in this series, I don’t want to spoil it for you!

Even understanding the bad reviews this is getting, I enjoy getting to go back to book-universes I’ve loved, even if there isn’t really a point to it or nothing much exciting happens, so it was a fairly good thing in my opinion.

However, I do get people’s reasoning behind disliking the fact they’ve spent the amount they usually would on a book and didn’t really get any plot with it. To be honest I think there was more shopping than anything else, so if you’re not here just for seeing the characters again then I can see why it would be disappointing.

There was also a lot of repetition in the writing itself. At least three times I saw this, but one stuck out: ‘It could have been me. It could have been Rhys.’ on one page and then ‘It could have been me. Or Rhys.’ on the opposite page… Not even a decent number of pages between that. It’s almost like Sarah J. Maas was writing it fairly quickly, had an idea for a bit of internal dialogue in her head, and then immediately forgot that she’d already used it.

I think an editor should have maybe picked up on how this sounded? Even if it was intentional, it came off sounding like an accident so kind of stopped me from falling properly into the world because I was a bit confused.

Another more personal thing: the characters seem to have an almost constantly on sex drive. Now, I know that Feyre and Rhys haven’t actually been together for that long in terms of in-book time, and I’m sure they’re still in the honeymoon phase, but for someone who isn’t too driven by sex itself it was quite a lot. Even the few conversations Feyre and Rhys have are always smattered with innuendo and throwing sexual memories at one another. It would have been nice to see them settle into other parts of their relationship and show that they work well together outside the bedroom as well as inside. Maybe have them go on one date, just the two of them, that doesn’t end in sex?

I’m really not a prude, honestly, I love a good sex scene as much as the next reader, but I also like the cute parts you see between two people. The thoughtful bits and the considerate parts; the running the other a bath or buying them something thoughtful or even just taking some work off the other’s plate. Those parts on top of everything make me really root for a couple and really see them as lasting a long time, long after even their sex drives have faded. (I assume this happens to Fae women as much as it does in human women eventually?)

Another point: Nesta.

*deep breath*

So Nesta… yeah. She wasn’t the nicest of people in the previous books either, to Feyre originally or to everyone after the cauldron, but even I didn’t think she’d be so mean to Elain! She was the one person Nesta wouldn’t even consider being rude to, let alone being as horrible as she was in this novella. I understand setting up for the next book and hopefully there’ll be some especially good character development for Nesta then, but in this novella she somehow went backwards even further!

The level of rudeness she gave off was so high I felt like punching her every time she was on the page. Even having a bit in her own perspective didn’t make me feel any sympathy for her. I mean, I get her being generally pissed off at everyone, but her sister went through exactly the same traumatic experience as her and she was horrible to her too! The others can take some hits, but Elain was so fragile in the previous book I hated Nesta for doing this and for possibly destroying any gain Elain had managed herself. It’ll take a lot for her to come back from this in the next book for me.

Anyway, onto things I loved about it!

I loved seeing everyone in the inner circle again. I’d missed them all, and I didn’t realise how much until I’d been able to read about them again. Their group dynamic is one I don’t get to see that foten in other books and it always makes me smile. It felt so nostalgic and comforting I couldn’t help but feel happy while reading.

Also, the parts about how Velaris and the Fae world has changed and is healing from the war that ended the previous book was a lovely addition. Many people die in wars and it felt satisfying that she showed this and showed how much people can hurt because of it, even lashing out at people they love. The paint studio being abandoned once its owner had been killed was a very good example of this and I was so touched by how Feyre used it afterwards, and how much she really wanted to help people affected by the war. It was a nice parallel of people coming together after World Wars 1 and 2 in the real world.

Overall I thought it was a nice and comfy read, the book equivalent of a comfy armchair. I can understand why people didn’t like it (notice how I didn’t care too much about the lack of plot) but I was pretty much all here for nostalgia and being in my favourite book-universe again. So for me, it ticked all the boxes and I enjoyed it!