• STAR RATING:  4 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 304 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: June 15, 2023
  • PUBLISHER:  Penguin Random House
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Domestic abuse, Emotional abuse, Physical abuse, Death of parent, Sexual assault
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Dark Earth by Rebecca Stott, or Sistersong by Lucy Holland

Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


An atmospheric, feminist retelling of the early life of famed villainess Morgan le Fay, set against the colourful chivalric backdrop of Arthurian legend.

When King Uther Pendragon murders her father and tricks her mother into marriage, Morgan refuses to be crushed. Trapped amid the machinations of men in a world of isolated castles and gossiping courts, she discovers secret powers. Vengeful and brilliant, it’s not long before Morgan becomes a worthy adversary to Merlin, influential sorcerer to the king. But fighting for her freedom, she risks losing everything – her reputation, her loved ones and her life.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of all retellings with a female lead being proclaimed to be ‘feminist’ retellings. It’s not necessarily true, for one — you can have a retelling with a female lead and the book be almost misogynistic. Having a female lead doesn’t mean you’re feminist. Luckily, Morgan is My Name does have feminism coming off of it in waves — but don’t expect a woman to lead a queendom or anything inside it’s pages. This is Dark Ages Britain we’re talking about here. There’s only so much Keetch could get away with here without losing the historical accuracy that she was so clearly going for.

Because yes, while this book does have magic in it, there is very much a layer of historical realness here that isn’t usually present in these sorts of books. It truly feels like we’re right beside Morgan in these cold and drafty castles, watching as war after war is started. Morgan is My Name reminded me very much of Lucy Holland’s Dark Earth that I read last year and loved. These are both dark books with a heavy dose of female companionship and love. The Arthurian legend is here, but it’s very much in the background at first. Arthur isn’t even born until maybe halfway through the book. What we start with, and where we’re based is in Morgan’s childhood.

The aforementioned Morgan is, of course, Morgan le Fay or Morgana of the Arthurian legend. While she’s usually painted as something of a villain, in this particular book she’s just a wild-at-heart girl eager to learn everything she possibly can about healing. We see her heal someone miraculously with just her hands, and we see her dip into what we are supposed to assume is dark magic to bring someone else back from the brink of death. Morgan has magic, and she’s desperate to use it. Unfortunately for her, her brute of a husband all but forbids her. (She ends up going behind his back and doing it anyway.) We see all sorts of familiar names and places in this book, but a great deal of it seems to be pulled from either history or made up. It’s fine! It works wonderfully.

I really enjoyed Morgan is My Name — I love the Arthurian legend and always have. This was a fresh new look at a character that is most often shoved to the side or painted in rather broad strokes. I loved getting a look at what her childhood must have been like, at what forced her to become what she does.

I truly thought this was a standalone novel, but the end of the book proves that to be absolutely false. I am very much looking forward to where Keetch is going with this. Right now, I can’t see this Morgan doing what Morgana does in the original legends, but I guess we’ll see how she gets there! Four stars!


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the book cover for The Road to Roswell by Connie Willis
  • STAR RATING:  4 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 416 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: June 27, 2023
  • PUBLISHER:  Del Rey
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Kidnapping
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Thank you to Netgalley and Del Rey for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


A delightful romantic comedy about love, alien invasions, and the incredibly silly things people are willing to believe in—some of which may actually be true—from the Nebula and Hugo Award–winning author of Blackout.

When Francie arrives in Roswell, New Mexico, for her college roommate’s UFO-themed wedding—complete with a true-believer groom—she can’t help but roll her eyes at all the talk of aliens, which patently don’t exist. Imagine her surprise, then, when she gets abducted by one.

Her abductor is not your typical alien—not gray, or a reptilian, or anything else the popular media might have led her to expect. Instead, the creature is more like an animate tumbleweed—a mass of lightning-fast tentacles and unexpected charm, given that it has no apparent ability to communicate beyond pointing.

Worse, the alien’s second abductee—an endearing con man named Wade—only compounds the problem, for Francie was supposed to spend the weekend talking her roommate out of the wedding, not falling in love herself. How can a guy who sells anti-abduction insurance for a living still manage to be the most sensible, decent man she has ever met?

The more Francie gets to know her abductor, however, the more certain she becomes that the alien is in trouble and needs her help—though she has no idea what the problem is, or how to solve it. Especially as the alien’s abduction spree seems far from over.

But with Wade’s assistance, Francie is determined to get their new friend to its destination—wherever that might be. Because who knows what could be at risk should they fail?

I’ve read seven books by Connie Willis and have enjoyed almost all of them. When I saw The Road to Roswell come up on Netgalley, I clicked REQUEST without even reading the synopsis. I didn’t need to. I’ll read anything she writes. (Though to be honest, I had no idea she was still writing!) When I finally did get around to reading the synopsis I was a tiny bit unsure. I’m not huge on alien books, but I had enough trust in the author to give it a go. See the thing about Connie Willis books is that they have a lot of humor in them, but they’re usually about huge big concepts too. My favorite books by her are about time travel. BUT THAT’S NEITHER HERE NOR THERE, WE’RE HERE TO TALK ABOUT THE ROAD TO ROSWELL.

All that I mentioned above is accurate for this book too — Our heroine, Francie, gets abducted by an alien the weekend of her best friend’s wedding. She’s not taken off planet. She’s being forced to drive said alien to a undisclosed location. Undisclosed because neither one of them can understand each other. A lot more happens, but I don’t want to spoil you! There’s a small romance side-plot. A gambling card-shark granny. An older gentleman obsessed with Westerns. A great deal of it is quite funny, and there’s some extremely frustrating parts, too. Basically, The Road to Roswell is about first contact and what can go so, so wrong. But I can promise you this — none of the aliens are evil.

The Road to Roswell is cute, but the ending leaves quite a lot to be desired. It sort of ends in the middle of a scene, and I was left feeling like I missed out on a paragraph or three. Despite that, I really did enjoy this book. Connie Willis’s writing reminds me a lot of T. Kingfisher, if that gets any of your gears going, but Willis is much more sci-fi than fantasy. Either way, it’s a funny book, and if you’re looking for something lighthearted, I fully recommend The Road to Roswell.


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the book cover for Perilous Times by Thomas D. Lee
  • STAR RATING:  4.5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 496 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: May 25, 2023
  • PUBLISHER:  Ballantine Books
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Violence, Animal death, Body horror, Gore, Mental illness, Misogyny

Thank you to Netgalley and Ballantine for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


An immortal Knight of the Round Table faces his greatest challenge yet—saving the politically polarized, rapidly warming world from itself—in this slyly funny contemporary take on Arthurian legend.

Being reborn as an immortal defender of the realm gets awfully damn tiring over the years—or at least that’s what Sir Kay’s thinking as he claws his way up from beneath the earth, yet again.

Kay fought at Hastings, and at Waterloo, and in both World Wars. After a thousand years, he thought he was used to dealing with a crisis. But now he finds himself in a strange new world where oceans have risen, armies have been privatized, and half of Britain’s been sold to the Chinese. The dragon that’s running amok, that he can handle. The rest? He’s not so sure.

Mariam’s devoted her life to fighting what’s wrong with her country. But she’s just one ordinary person, up against a hopelessly broken system. So when she meets Kay, a figure straight out of legend, she dares to hope that the world’s finally found the savior it needs.

As the two quest through this strange land swarming with gangs, mercenaries, and talking squirrels, they realize that other ancient evils are afoot. Lancelot is back too–at the beck and call of immortal beings with a sinister agenda. And if their plans can’t be stopped, a dragon will be the least of the planet’s worries.

In perilous times like these, the realm doesn’t just need a knight. It needs a true leader.

Luckily, Excalibur lies within reach–and Kay’s starting to suspect that the hero fit to carry it is close at hand.

I love the Arthurian Legend. I have since I was little and first watched the miniseries with Sam Neill as Merlin. I gobbled that show up, and then Camelot the musical, then Disney’s Sword in the Stone, then Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and well, you see where I’m going with this. Any opportunity to dive into a different version of this tale, and I’m all in. Perilous Times seemed like it would be right up my alley, and yep. It totally was.

Perilous Times borrows familiar characters from the Arthurian legend, but definitely isn’t a retelling or spinoff or anything like that. You see, a long, long time ago, the original Arthurian Legend happened. And then Merlin did some magicy-things, and made them all immortal. All the knights would never permanently die — instead, they would sleep under their trees, and awaken when the realm was in peril. This means, of course, that they’ve been woken up quite a lot over the course of their thousand plus years of existing. But this time, this time something is seriously different.

Our three main characters are Sir Kay, Sir Lancelot, and Mariam, an eco-terrorist. That sounds scary, but really what she’s trying to do is save the environment. And if that means blowing up a few oil rigs, than dammit she’s going to do it. Mariam was willing to do what needed to be done, and she was really tired of all the talking, organizing, and meetings. You will spend most of this book frustrated because it feels so real. It’s not a bad frustration — it’s one that will remind you of how the real world is. How irritated you get when you see your government actively working against moving forward, against changing for the better. Lee did a fantastic job weaving in the reality of our world with the fantastic of this world.

The Britain that the book is set in is dying. It’s a wasteland, a polluted, horrible mess. People are dying, starving, sick, and tempers are now hair-trigger. It’s not a nice place Lee has set his novel in, but wow does he put this to the best possible use. He does an absolutely excellent job describing how awful everything has become, and putting us in Kay’s eyes as he sees how the world has changed is just perfect. Kay is tired. He’s over a thousand years old at this point, and he’s damn tired of having to wake up and kill people again. He doesn’t want to. He wants to sleep his eternal rest, and see his wife again. Mariam gets frustrated with Kay, because he’s so wishy washy about wanting to help. Understandable, but really what is a Knight of the Round Table supposed to do against global warming?

Lancelot was fascinating. Lee writes him as a gay man who would rather follow orders than question them. He’s a bit smarmy, a bit egotistical, and a lot totally over his head. While I really disliked him almost the entire novel — I think you’re supposed to — I enjoyed reading his chapters because they were always interesting. He was always doing something that you didn’t want him to do. It felt like watching a car crash.

And then there’s Arthur. Whatever preconceived notion you have of the King just gets thrown out the window. I wasn’t the biggest fan of his characterization in Perilous Times, but it really worked for the book. I prefer my Arthurs Good with a capital G, but this one wasn’t. He was a brute. A cruel, brute who thought he was better than everyone else. Not my preference, but again, it really worked here. We also see Morgana, Nimue, and Merlin, but I’m not spoiling when they show up.

I don’t want to spoil the main plot, because it’s more interesting to just sort of fall into it. But it’s done well, and it’s rather easy to follow. Perilous Times would have ranked a full 5 stars for me, but the ending felt a little rushed, and not in a good way. It just felt short — I would have liked a little more explanation of what exactly was going on, but instead it was extremely vague. Overall, though, Perilous Times was fantastic.

Extra huge thanks to Becky, who buddy read this with me. It was a lot of fun reading this with you!!


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the book cover for Thornhedge by T. Kingfisher
  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 128 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: August 15, 2023
  • PUBLISHER:  Tor Books
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, Animal cruelty, Child death, Confinement, Suicide
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher, The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Thank you to Netgalley and Tor for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


From USA Today bestselling author T. Kingfisher, Thornhedge is the tale of a kind-hearted, toad-shaped heroine, a gentle knight, and a mission gone completely sideways.

There’s a princess trapped in a tower. This isn’t her story.

Meet Toadling. On the day of her birth, she was stolen from her family by the fairies, but she grew up safe and loved in the warm waters of faerieland. Once an adult though, the fae ask a favor of return to the human world and offer a blessing of protection to a newborn child. Simple, right?

But nothing with fairies is ever simple.

Centuries later, a knight approaches a towering wall of brambles, where the thorns are as thick as your arm and as sharp as swords. He’s heard there’s a curse here that needs breaking, but it’s a curse Toadling will do anything to uphold…

“The way Thornhedge turns all the fairy tales inside out is a sharp-edged delight.”
―Katherine Addison, author of The Goblin Emperor

It’s no secret that I am, in fact, a ginormous fan of Ursula Vernon, aka T. Kingfisher. I’ve read almost everything she’s put out at this point, and I’m clambering for more. PLEASE GIVE ME MORE. When I saw that her latest novella was on Netgalley, you can safely imagine me literally leaping at my mouse to request an ARC. Thankfully, Tor seems to like me, and they very generously allowed me a copy.

Needless to say, I loved Thornhedge. I would have gladly read an entire novel with these characters, in this world, but honestly? An entire novel wasn’t needed! Thornhedge is very short, but Kingfisher is a master at working in the short form. You don’t miss anything. There’s nothing absent from the story for the sake of shortness. It is, in fact, wrapped up rather neatly by the end.

Kingfisher, as always, has sprinkled a little horror inside her fairytale retelling, and we see it in the form of Fayette. Fayette is a changeling, and she’s a horror from the moment she’s born. She tortures animals. She tortures the servants. She hurts everyone she comes in contact with, and very quickly people who are around her turn up dead. Toadling, our heroine, is a fairy. She’s not a pretty fairy, she doesn’t have wings, or sparkle. She turns into a toad. She’s a sweetheart. She does what she must — she puts Fayette in an enchanted sleep.

Two hundred or something years pass, and Toadling has spent it all in the shadow of Fayette’s tower, keeping watch Then, Halim comes to try and rescue ‘the fair maiden’ in the tower. I loved Halim. Halim is a sweetheart knight who always apologizes when he curses, who tries his best to help Toadling, and most importantly of all, listens and believes Toadling. Halim was a welcome change from the usual hero. He is also thoroughly Muslim, and talks about his religion on page.

I loved how Kingfisher wrote this, but that’s not new for me and my experience with her writing. As I said on Goodreads, I will literally read anything that Kingfisher writes. Her water bill. Her grocery list. Whatever. She’s a genius, and i love her. Thornhedge is a solid five stars. I know you will love it.


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  • STAR RATING:  4 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 384 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: May 16, 2023
  • PUBLISHER:  Mobius
  • WHAT SERIES? Not sure this one has a series name yet.
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH?  The Malevolent Sevent
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? Unclear as of right now.
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, Body Horror, Kidnapping, References to Rape
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, and Notorious Sorcerer by Davinia Evans

Thank you to Netgalley and Mobius for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


‘Seven powerful mages want to make the world a better place. We’re going to kill them first.’

Picture a wizard. Go ahead, close your eyes. There he is, see? Skinny old guy with a long straggly beard. No doubt he’s wearing iridescent silk robes that couldn’t protect his frail body from a light breeze. The hat’s a must, too, right? Big, floppy thing, covered in esoteric symbols that would instantly show every other mage where this one gets his magic? Wouldn’t want a simple steel helmet or something that might, you know, protect the part of him most needed for conjuring magical forces from being bashed in with a mace (or pretty much any household object).

Now open your eyes and let me show you what a real war mage looks like . . . but be warned: you’re probably not going to like it, because we’re violent, angry, dangerously broken people who sell our skills to the highest bidder and be damned to any moral or ethical considerations.

At least, until such irritating concepts as friendship and the end of the world get in the way.

My name is Cade Ombra, and though I currently make my living as a mercenary wonderist, I used to have a far more noble-sounding job title – until I discovered the people I worked for weren’t quite as noble as I’d believed. Now I’m on the run and my only friend, a homicidal thunder mage, has invited me to join him on a suicide mission against the seven deadliest mages on the continent.  

Time to recruit some very bad people to help us on this job . . .

I love a good wizard, but The Malevolent Seven has almost no good wizards. Instead, we’re treated to mage after mage with rather horrible temperaments. No one sides on the ‘good’ side here, because there is no good side. The Malevolent Seven is about as grimdark as I can take before throwing in the towel. There were no brutal murders for brutal murder’s sake here — everything that happened really did happen for a good reason. And the main character, Cade, while he has some moral issues he probably needs to work out eventually, is actually a pretty decent person. He just hides under sarcasm and literally being a mage for hire. Those are probably the two reasons I kept going – you all know how much I’m not a fan of grimdark. But despite that, de Castell really made the book interesting enough that I wanted to keep reading. Plus, I really sort of loved de Castell’s writing. It’s quirky, sarcastic, and generally not really the tone you’re used to in this sort of setting.

The Malevolent Seven is a short book, in my personal opinion. Most fantasies that I read usually clock in around 450 pages or more. The Malevolent Seven only tips the scales at 384 — and it is a rather quick read. There’s no wasted action in those few pages, thankfully. The pace is lightning quick, and the plot decently easy to follow. I had a hard time with all the explanations of the different magical planes, but once I sort of…let it glide over me…I realized it didn’t matter in terms of the plot all that much. There’s not a ton of world building here, but that’s probably because the pace of the book is just go, go, go. Either way, it didn’t hurt my enjoyment of the novel. There’s enough here to go on, but I do wish we had seen perhaps more of the regular people? Instead, we get mages, demons, angels, etc. And while cool, they don’t really help pad out the world too much. The characters we do see, we know very little about, again, thanks to that short page count. The one we know most about is Cade’s best ‘friend’, and even then we really don’t’ know much at all.

The plot includes a couple betrayals you don’t see coming, and a pretty neat twist at the end. If you like wizards, morally grey characters, and a fast pace, you’ll love this one. Four stars.


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the book cover for The Sword Defiant by Gareth Hanrahan
  • STAR RATING:  4.5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 632 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: May 2, 2023
  • PUBLISHER: Orbit Books
  • WHAT SERIES? The Lands of the Firstborn
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH?  The Sword Defiant
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? Unclear as of right now.
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, Body Horror, Kidnapping
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne

Thank you to Netgalley and Orbit Books for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


Set in a world of dark myth and dangerous prophecy, The Sword Defiant launches an epic tale of daring warriors, living weapons, and bloodthirsty vengeance.

The sword cares not who it cuts.

Many years ago, Sir Aelfric and his nine companions saved the world, seizing the Dark Lord’s cursed weapons, along with his dread city of Necrad. That was the easy part.

Now, when Aelfric – keeper of the cursed sword Spellbreaker – learns of a new and terrifying threat, he seeks the nine heroes once again. But they are wandering adventurers no longer. Yesterday’s eager heroes are today’s weary leaders – and some have turned to the darkness, becoming monsters themselves.

If there’s one thing Aelfric knows, it’s slaying monsters. Even if they used to be his friends.

If you’ve been looking for a classic take on the fantasy genre with maybe just a few tweaks, I highly recommend that you pick up The Sword Defiant. While there is a lot that’s familiar here, there is just enough uniqueness to this story to make it really shine amongst all the other fantasy books out there. What I loved best, however, was the fact that our hero really wanted to do what was best for the every day people. He wanted to uphold his oath, when it felt like everyone else threw theirs away. Alf is a knight, an old, tired, worn-around-the-edges knight, who has an evil talking magic sword. He’s tired of fighting, but he just does it anyway. And he will not allow anyone else to take the sword from him. The sword is his duty, and Alf doesn’t want to give it up.

Anyway, the gist of the story is that a fellowship of barbarians, knights, paladins, dwarves, elves, etc, knocked down the old evil necromancer/lord. Twenty years later, one of them gets a vision that an evil is rising again. Alf is given a task to do, and while attempting to do said task, he tries to track down the old fellowship again. Unfortunately, they’re all old, or jaded, or crazy, or just plain absent. It’s this tweak to the classic fantasy tale that really makes this book standout. We’re not fighting with young men here. Everyone’s old. Everyone’s frustrated and ready to be done with fighting evil. Alf tries to get them to see his side, but he’s unfortunately left sort of…almost on his own.

The other main character is Alf’s sister. Her son has run away/been kidnapped and she’s doing everything in her power to get him back. As a mother should. She didn’t back down once when someone told her to go home. She wasn’t going home without her son, thank you. She wasn’t a warrior, or a paladin, or anything. She was just a mom. I loved her. (Though I really would have loved to find out what she thought about something that happens at the very tail end of the book. We don’t really get a reaction from her. Maybe in the next book?)

The world building here is insane. I don’t want to give too much away because it’s really neat to see it all unfold in the novel. There’s the city that the Nine overthrew, and are now occupying — Necrad. It’s seemingly evil, but everyone who lives there is just trying to get on with their lives. The magic is interesting, but it’s pretty vague on how it works. There’s sigils and spells, wands and staffs. Nothing’s hammered out, but for this world it works. The villains are stand out, and pretty phenomenally powerful.

All in all, this is a fantastic fantasy, one that really feels like a grittier Lord of the Rings. Not necessarily darker, just grittier. Four and a half stars.


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  • STAR RATING:  4 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 416 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: April 27, 2023
  • PUBLISHER: Magpie — Harper 360
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, Forced institutionalization, Alcohol
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, just for the nasty Fae

Thank you to Netgalley and Magpie for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


A dance with the fae will change everything

1919. In a highland village forgotten by the world, harvest season is over and the young who remain after war and flu have ravaged the village will soon head south to make something of themselves.

Moira Jean and her friends head to the forest for a last night of laughter before parting ways. Moira Jean is being left behind. She had plans to leave once – but her lover died in France and with him, her future. The friends light a fire, sing and dance. But with every twirl about the flames, strange new dancers thread between them, music streaming from the trees.

The fae are here.

Suddenly Moira Jean finds herself all alone, her friends spirited away. The iron medal of her lost love, pinned to her dress, protected her from magic.

For the Fae feel forgotten too. Lead by the darkly handsome Lord of the Fae, they are out to make themselves known once more. Moira Jean must enter into a bargain with the Lord to save her friends – and fast, for the longer one spends with the Fae, the less like themselves they are upon return. If Moira Jean cannot save her friends before Beltane, they will be lost forever…

Completely bewitching, threaded with Highland charm and sparkling with dark romance, this is a fairytale that will carry you away.

You all know how much I love stories involving the Fae. You’ve seen me shout about it enough that it should be obvious at this point. But regardless — The Thorns Remain wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. At this point, almost all the Fae stories I’ve read leaves the main character thoroughly in love with a member of the Fae. To be honest, those stories have been getting a little stale. Thankfully, The Thorns Remain takes a new approach — one that I haven’t personally seen yet in a book like this — the Fae are actually the villains. Now, not all of the fae we see are evil, but…most of them aren’t exactly friendly. If we take it way back to old school stories like these, the Fae are usually not something to mess with. It is so refreshing to actually have that be the case here.

Our main character is Moira Jean. She’s sassy, stubborn, and soooo sad. Mourning her lost fiancee is just soaked in her bones, and throughout the whole book she never really turns away from him. She doesn’t forget him and move on, she mourns, and mourns, and mourns and I was happy, honestly, that she doesn’t just suddenly get over him. It wouldn’t have made sense for her character, and I’m really happy that Harwood didn’t shoe-horn in some half-done romance here. (That’s right, there’s no romance in this book, IDC what the promotional material says. Moira Jean never really comes close to falling in love.) Moira Jean’s friends get taken by the Fae, and it is up to her to bargain for them back. She does everything in her power to get her friends back, but in doing so, she messes with The Dreamer.

The Dreamer is the big bad Fae at the heart of this story. Everything that happens to Moira Jean is ultimately his fault. The nice Fae that she meets end up being either sent to her by The Dreamer, or are acting on his orders. The Dreamer wants to know more about Moira Jean, and about humanity in general. He bargains with Moira Jean, but twists and turns those bargains around to mess with her. He’s cruel, but he’s trying to be kind. He does not really succeed. He’s terrifying because you really don’t know what he’s going to do next, or how he’s going to mess with everyone back in the village. You really feel for Moira Jean, because she is truly stuck between a rock and a hard place. She has no help. Everything is really up to her, and it was so hard watching her try everything she could while literally everyone and everything worked against her.

I do have a few complaints, unfortunately. There are no chapters in this book — it is simply broken up into four parts. It made it hard to find a good place to stop reading, and I hate that. Next, the villagers turn against Moira Jean like…on a switch. They’ve known her literally her entire life, and they turn on her at the drop of a hat. It felt maybe unrealistic? Maybe? IDK, it bothered me more than a little. Unfortunately, the confrontation towards the end of the book felt a little rushed. It could have really been stretched out a bit longer, so we could have learned more about The Queen. Instead, she’s a shadowy, vague figure and that’s it. Still, I really did enjoy this. It was a nice refreshing take on a Fae story. Four stars.

THE THORNS REMAIN comes out APRIL 27, 2023.

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the cover for In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune
  • STAR RATING:  4.5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 432 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: April 25, 2023
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Genocide, Dementia, Grief, Death
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

Thank you to Netgalley and Tor Books for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


In a strange little home built into the branches of a grove of trees, live three robots–fatherly inventor android Giovanni Lawson, a pleasantly sadistic nurse machine, and a small vacuum desperate for love and attention. Victor Lawson, a human, lives there too. They’re a family, hidden and safe.

The day Vic salvages and repairs an unfamiliar android labelled “HAP,” he learns of a shared dark past between Hap and Gio-a past spent hunting humans.

When Hap unwittingly alerts robots from Gio’s former life to their whereabouts, the family is no longer hidden and safe. Gio is captured and taken back to his old laboratory in the City of Electric Dreams. So together, the rest of Vic’s assembled family must journey across an unforgiving and otherworldly country to rescue Gio from decommission, or worse, reprogramming.

Along the way to save Gio, amid conflicted feelings of betrayal and affection for Hap, Vic must decide for himself: Can he accept love with strings attached?

Author TJ Klune invites you deep into the heart of a peculiar forest and on the extraordinary journey of a family assembled from spare parts.

I truly was not sure if I should request this book when I saw it pop up on Netgalley. I absolutely adore Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea, and his Green Creek series, but the last book I read by him — Under the Whispering Door — just did not click with me. I was worried that I had outgrown Klune’s work, and that I would never like another book by him. But I decided to chance it, and clicked REQUEST TITLE. Tor has always been nice to me, so they accepted my request, and here I am to tell you that (drum roll please) I absolutely loved In the Lives of Puppets. Klune has an absolutely dreamy way of talking about life, death, love, and grief that just really resonates (most of the time). Thankfully, all of the characters in In the Lives of Puppets were easy to like. There were no Wallaces here. (He was my main problem with Under the Whispering Door, but that’s neither here nor there.) Klune’s character work really shines here, and I am so happy to say that I just really loved this book.

In fact, the characters were really what brought this book to life. Our main character is Vic, a young man — a human in a world taken over by robots/machines. He is seemingly the only human left on earth, and his humanity really wears off on the machines around him. Said machines were all hilarious, heart-warming, and ah. I just adored them. Especially Nurse Ratched — she was laugh out loud funny a lot of the time. Same with Rambo, who I pictured as a roomba. What a little cinnamon roll. Victor’s father, Gio, was a human-shaped machine, and he had a heart of gold, despite his past. And lastly, but not leastly, there’s Hap. I won’t spoil what he is, but oh. He ends up breaking your heart, and putting it back together. Klune once again wins at the found-family game with this cast. Like, he just knocks it out of the park.

The plot was interesting enough to keep my attention, and I loved all the side characters, but I had one glaring issue with this book. Exactly how old was Victor supposed to be? He comes across as being very young, but I think that comes from being raised by literal machines, and being very naive. Throughout the whole book, I was thinking he was somewhere from like….16-19ish. Which would have been fine, if there hadn’t been a tiny little romance plot sprinkled in. As a whole, the romance didn’t bother me, but honestly? The book really didn’t need it. It would have been a fantastic example of a book strictly about familial love without it. But saying that, it didn’t hurt the book, either.

Either way, I really, really liked In the Lives of Puppets, and I am so so glad that I can go back to saying I like Klune’s work again! Four and a half glowing stars.

IN THE LIVES OF PUPPETS comes out APRIL 25, 2023.

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the book cover for A Sleight of Shadows by Kat Howard
  • STAR RATING:  3.5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 320 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: April 25, 2023
  • PUBLISHER: Saga Press
  • WHAT SERIES? The Unseen World
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH?  An Unkindness of Magicians
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? Two, seems like.
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, Body Horror, Attempted kidnapping (off-page)
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo, or The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Thank you to Netgalley and Saga Press for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


Return to Kat Howard’s Alex Award–winning world begun in An Unkindness of Magicians, a secret society of power-hungry magicians in New York City.

After taking down the source of the corruption of the Unseen World, Sydney is left with almost no magical ability. Feeling estranged from herself, she is determined to find a way back to her status as one of the world’s most dangerous magicians. Unfortunately, she needs to do this quickly: the House of Shadows, the hell on earth that shaped her into who she was, the place she sacrificed everything to destroy, is rebuilding itself.

“The House of shadows sits on bones. All of the sacrifices, all of the magicians who died in Shadows, they’re buried beneath the foundations. Bones hold magic.”

The magic of the Unseen World is acting strangely, faltering, bleeding out from the edges. Determined to keep the House of Shadows from returning to power and to defeat the magicians who want nothing more than to have it back, Sydney turns to extremes in a desperate attempt to regain her sacrificed magic. She is forced to decide what she will give up and what she will lose and whether what must be destroyed is not only the House of Shadows, but the Unseen World itself.

World Fantasy Award finalist Kat Howard has written a sequel that asks how you have a happily ever in a world that doesn’t want it, where the cost of that happiness may be too much to bear.


I’m not sure where to start with this one, because while I really loved the general gist of the story, there were some glaring missing pieces of it for me. I love the first book in this duology — An Unkindness of Magicians. I love love love that one. It felt new, original, and fresh when I read it for the first time. When it comes to A Sleight of Shadows, however, it feels like it’s missing something. It’s almost but not quite a whole story, unfortunately.

So what’s it missing? Emotion. There is very little emotional connection in this book. Hardly any of the characters show any other emotion other than rage or fear. Several characters die — I won’t say who — and no one…seems to care? We don’t see anyone really mourning them, we don’t see the loss truly felt on page. It’s just something that happens and suddenly everyone is okay with it and moves on. Now, this might be because The Unseen World is built on death and everyone is used to people just dying, but c’mon. That feels ridiculous. A cop-out answer if there ever was one. Now, how on earth do you write a book where the main character has major, extreme, PTSD about something in her past and never include emotion? How does that even happen?

The meat of the story, the action-y bits were just as good as the first book in this series. The magic used isn’t as spectacular or mind-blowing, but it’s there and it is at the very least interesting. But just like in An Unkindness of Magicians, I’m missing the connection. You want Sydney to succeed in what she’s set out to do, you want her to win, but my god couldn’t we see her feel something? The only loss we see her mourn over is the loss of her magic. How on earth could that be it? There’s a lot of telling going on, and not a lot of showing, unfortunately.

The other characters — especially the villain — are great. The rage and entitlement felt there was nausea inducing. The ending, once again, comes too quick and without much build up. I only knew I was getting close to the book ending by the percentage complete climbing higher towards 100% on my Kindle. Without that, I would have thought I had a lot more book coming. I’m slightly disappointed by this one. It could have been great, it could have been something really unique, but instead we have a half-complete story. Three-and-a-half stars.


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the book cover for The Will of the Many by James Islington
  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 688 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: May 23, 2023
  • PUBLISHER: Saga Press
  • WHAT SERIES? The Hierarchy
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? The Will of the Many
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, Body Horror, Child death (off page)
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  Red Rising by Pierce Brown for the Roman feel, but try The Licanius Trilogy by James Islington if you’re looking for something equally impressively plotted

Thank you to Netgalley and Saga Press for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


At the elite Catenan Academy, a young fugitive uncovers layered mysteries and world-changing secrets in this new fantasy series by internationally bestselling author of The Licanius Trilogy, James Islington.


The Catenan Republic – the Hierarchy – may rule the world now, but they do not know everything.

I tell them my name is Vis Telimus. I tell them I was orphaned after a tragic accident three years ago, and that good fortune alone has led to my acceptance into their most prestigious school. I tell them that once I graduate, I will gladly join the rest of civilized society in allowing my strength, my drive and my focus – what they call Will – to be leeched away and added to the power of those above me, as millions already do. As all must eventually do.

I tell them that I belong, and they believe me.

But the truth is that I have been sent to the Academy to find answers. To solve a murder. To search for an ancient weapon. To uncover secrets that may tear the Republic apart.

And that I will never, ever cede my Will to the empire that executed my family.

To survive, though, I will still have to rise through the Academy’s ranks. I will have to smile, and make friends, and pretend to be one of them and win. Because if I cannot, then those who want to control me, who know my real name, will no longer have any use for me.

And if the Hierarchy finds out who I truly am, they will kill me.

Wow. This is going to be a hard one to review, I think. If you’ve never read James Islington’s work before, you’re really missing out. The man is a master at manipulating the characters, at plotting something so tightly that you really can’t see it coming, and dang is he good at twists. Like so much so that I didn’t see a particular one coming a mile away. I loved Islington’s Licanius Trilogy, and if you haven’t read that one, please go do so. You will not regret it. But we’re really not here to discuss his previous work, are we?

The Will of the Many is just as tightly plotted as the aforementioned series, and wow, is it a stunner of a plot. There are a million moving pieces and it’s almost impossible to keep track of them all in the best way. You think you see something coming, but then something else will rear its head and change direction of the plot. I honestly wasn’t sure about this book just going off of the first synopsis that was released. It sounded boring. It sounded like something that had been done to death. (I see you Red Rising comparisons. I see you.) I can promise you right here right now that not only is it not boring, it’s got some shine to it. However, the book starts extremely slowly. I wasn’t really hooked until we got to the Academy, and that’s around 30% of the way into the book. If you start reading, and find yourself slagging — push through. I promise you won’t regret it.

Our main character is a teenaged boy named Vis. Only that’s not his real name. Nor is that one. Or that one. Vis is in hiding, you see. He was one a prince of a small kingdom that was invaded and taken over by the Hierarchy. He’s hiding because the second the Hierarchy finds out he’s still alive, they’ll kill him. Or worse, put him in a Sapper (You’ll find out what those are quite quickly into the book, but they’re essentially worse than death or prison.) Vis is stubbornly good at everything. Seriously. I don’t think we see him really struggle with anything, and if we do, he masters it quickly enough. It was bordering on frustrating, but not enough that it detracted any stars from my rating. Because of his upraising as a prince, a lot of Vis’s mastery is hand-waved. Oh, he learned this growing up in the palace, or he was trained as a kid in sword fighting, etc etc. It’s a neat way of making him knowledgeable without making it seem ridiculous. I liked Vis, and I wanted him to succeed in his goals almost immediately.

The best part of The Will of the Many is that you can’t trust anyone. Because of Vis’s background, he has to lie to almost everyone he meets. You can’t trust any of them to help without wanting something else in return. It was fascinating, and you’ll be pulling your hair out trying to figure out if everyone is as dastardly as they seem, or if they really are trustworthy. In my opinion, the best characters are Callidus and Eidhin — Vis’s best friends. Their friendship doesn’t come easily, and is more than earned by the time the book wraps up. I was also strangely found of Veridius — he’s intensely charming, and honestly kind of hard to hate. You’ll see what I mean if you pick the book up.

I can’t talk enough about how mind-blowing the ending of this book was. The last few chapters! The epilogue! I can’t say anything without spoiling, but just know that if you read Licanius, and loved how that ended, you will not be disappointed here. Everything that was amazing from Licanius is echoed in new, fascinating ways. Islington’s prowess is showing here, and I am so glad. I was more than worried I was going to be disappointed after this one, but I am not. Oh my god, I am not. Five stars, and now I cannot wait to get my hands on the next one.


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