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 An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard
  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 384 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: September 26, 2017
  • PUBLISHER: Saga Press
  • WHAT SERIES? The Unseen World
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? An Unkindness of Magicians
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Violence, Murder, Child abuse, Gore, Torture
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo or The Magicians by Lev Grossman


There is a dark secret that is hiding at the heart of New York City and diminishing the city’s magicians’ power in this fantasy thriller by acclaimed author Kat Howard.

In New York City, magic controls everything. But the power of magic is fading. No one knows what is happening, except for Sydney—a new, rare magician with incredible power that has been unmatched in decades, and she may be the only person who is able to stop the darkness that is weakening the magic. But Sydney doesn’t want to help the system, she wants to destroy it.

Sydney comes from the House of Shadows, which controls the magic with the help of sacrifices from magicians.

I read this book for the first time during the height of quarantine, and I absolutely loved it then, and even after a reread I love it now. I was lucky enough to be granted access to an e-ARC of the next book in the duology, so a reread was definitely in order. I am so glad that this book stands up even after reading it a second time. (Though, to be fair, I had forgotten a great deal of it. Oops.) ANYWAY — if you like urban fantasies with heavy magic use, you’ll probably like this one. There’s a slight mystery involved, too, but it’s very obvious, in my opinion, what the solution to the mystery is.

The world at the heart of this book is a harsh, cruel one. Magicians have magic, but they aren’t nice or helpful with magic. In order to pick the next leader of the magical world, there’s a ruthless competition of duels. At first, they’re non-mortal, but past a certain point it’s expected that one person in the duel won’t walk away. The magic that Kat Howard weaves in these duels is so unique and interesting. Nothing was what I expected it to be, and I really loved watching our main character fight in these duels. Speaking of our main character, Sydney has magic. A lot of magic. She’s overpowered compared to everyone else in the book, but there is an in-world reason for it, thankfully. The characters she chooses to align herself with are all interesting — Ian, who has chosen to step away from his House, Laurent, who Sydney is fighting for, and Madison, her barely magical lawyer-best-friend. There are some nasties, too, but I don’t want to spoil any of those reveals for you!

My one beef with this book is that the end comes up way too suddenly. You think you’ve got another couple hundred pages before things start to resolve, but nope. It just hits you over the head with it. Things are resolved, but it’s a sudden shift. There’s no emotional breaking point. Sydney makes a decision off page and just goes with it. I wish we had seen more of her emotional trauma, honestly. I wish we had seen her hit that tipping point. But ultimately, even that doesn’t hurt my enjoyment of this book. I think An Unkindness of Magicians was really overlooked for a long time. I hope that changes with the release of A Sleight of Shadows. Please check this series out!

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the book cover for Love at First by Kate Clayborn
  • STAR RATING:  3.5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 309 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: February 23, 2021
  • PUBLISHER: Kensington
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Grief, Death of parent, Medical content, Abandonment
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  Beach Read by Emily Henry


Sixteen years ago, a teenaged Will Sterling saw—or rather, heard—the girl of his dreams. Standing beneath an apartment building balcony, he shared a perfect moment with a lovely, warm-voiced stranger. It’s a memory that’s never faded, though he’s put so much of his past behind him. Now an unexpected inheritance has brought Will back to that same address, where he plans to offload his new property and get back to his regular life as an overworked doctor. Instead, he encounters a woman, two balconies above, who’s uncannily familiar…

No matter how surprised Nora Clarke is by her reaction to handsome, curious Will, or the whispered pre-dawn conversations they share, she won’t let his plans ruin her quirky, close-knit building. Bound by her loyalty to her adored grandmother, she sets out to foil his efforts with a little light sabotage. But beneath the surface of their feud is an undeniable connection. A balcony, a star-crossed couple, a fateful meeting—maybe it’s the kind of story that can’t work out in the end. Or maybe, it’s the perfect second chance…

A sparkling and tender novel from the acclaimed author of Love Lettering, full of bickering neighbors, surprise reunions, and the mysterious power of love that fans of Christina Lauren, Sarah Hogle, and Emily Henry will adore.

It’s no secret that I fell completely head-over-heels in love with Clayborn’s Georgie, All Along. So it really should be no surprise that I’ve committed to trying to read her entire backlist. Georgie was so good, that surely it wasn’t a one off, right? Some of her other books have to reach the same level of absolute perfection. At least, I hope so. I started off my journey through Clayborn’s backlist with Love at First, and while I did like it, it definitely was no Georgie, All Along.

I think the biggest issue I had was that the main characters weren’t enough. Nora and Will were interesting, but they were very ordinary. Nothing really pushed them forward into that romance character sphere, if anyone understands what I mean. They just seemed like people, which I’m sure some people out there will appreciate. A romance book about normal people! Normal, but with a dash of mental health issues, and parental abandonment. (Which woof did I want to grab both of their sets of parents and just shake them. How dare you??) Anyway, I really did like Will — he was trying his hardest not to repeat his parent’s issues, to the point of almost pushing everyone else away. I understood his trauma, and I’m pleased with how Clayborn helps him overcome it. Nora didn’t seem to realize she had a problem until it pretty much smacked her in the face, and then she sort of forced herself to get over it.

Nora and Will fit together, but it took a while for them both to be on board with each other. I loved their scheme of coming up with excuses to be around one another — that made me laugh. The steamy scenes were average, nothing particularly stood out as extremely hot or anything. They were cute together, but again, the relationship was just…there?

When it comes to the other characters, they were all interesting, and mostly stood out. (Will’s boss/best friend stood out the most to me? He reminded me a lot of a doctor I used to go to!) I did love the idea of an entire apartment building being a found family, which is sort of the basis of the entire story. It was semi-unbelievable, but we’re in a romance novel, and Clayborn made it work!

I was a little disappointed by Love at First, but I’m not giving up on Clayborn! Not at all. I think I’ll read Love Lettering next, and see where that gets me. Three and a half stars for this one, as much as it hurts to say!

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The book cover for For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten
  • STAR RATING:  3 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 437 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: June 1, 2021
  • PUBLISHER: Orbit Books
  • WHAT SERIES? Wilderwood
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Self harm, Emotional abuse (parental), Death of parent, Gore, Religious bigotry
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Honestly, not sure. Perhaps Curse of the Wolf King by Tessonja Odette?


The first daughter is for the Throne.
The second daughter is for the Wolf.

As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods.

Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.

But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole.

Reader, I am sad. You all know how much I flat out adored The Foxglove King. I went into Hannah Whitten’s debut novel with high hopes after reading her third book. It did not live up to the hype or my hopes. Ultimately, your opinions my differ from mine, but I thought For the Wolf was kind of a mess. Upon first glance at the book, you might think that it’s a Little Red Riding Hood retelling, but you’d be completely wrong. There is absolutely nothing of that story here, which makes the cover choice almost baffling. Instead, For the Wolf is almost a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but not really. Sure, the main romantic lead has a sort-of curse on him, but that’s about where that comparison ends. There are no roses, no enchanted castles, nothing else familiar from that tale. For the Wolf wants to be a fairy tale quite badly, but there was just too much going on for that feel to really sink in.

I will give you this, though, I really enjoyed the parts of the novel where we were focused on Red and Eammon. They were so much fun to watch together. Red was stubborn, protective, and wanted to be helpful so badly. Eammon was more stubborn, and determined to do everything by himself. Of course, they clash because of this, but ultimately end up falling in love. I mean, what’s not to love about that story? It’s great. When it came to literally everything else I lost focus, and interest. There was too much happening. The forest was weakening, magic was becoming harder to use, Red and Eammon were falling in love, the priestesses were maybe evil maybe not, the queen was dying, the gods might be real, and Neve wanted her sister back. Too much. I think if some of this had been pared down, if we had had the bare basics of this plot, perhaps things would have been able to breathe more. As it is, things feel rushed and confusing. (My biggest questions that I’m not sure we got answers for — where did the wildwood come from? Why is it there? Where does magic come from?)

I am so disappointed that For the Wolf did not work for me. I don’t think I’ll be picking up For the Throne, because I don’t see the point if it’s going to continue to be like this book. Despite everything about For the Wolf, I still really love Whitten’s writing. I’ll still be eagerly awaiting The Foxglove King‘s sequel. Overall, I’d give this one barely three stars.

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  • STAR RATING:  4 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 766 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: June 11, 2020
  • PUBLISHER: Harper Voyager
  • WHAT SERIES? The Daevabad Trilogy
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? City of Brass
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Violence, Death, Genocide, Torture
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah


The final chapter in the Daevabad Trilogy, in which a con-woman and an idealistic djinn prince join forces to save a magical kingdom from a devastating civil war.

Daevabad has fallen.

After a brutal conquest stripped the city of its magic, Nahid leader Banu Manizheh and her resurrected commander, Dara, must try to repair their fraying alliance and stabilize a fractious, warring people.

But the bloodletting and loss of his beloved Nahri have unleashed the worst demons of Dara’s dark past. To vanquish them, he must face some ugly truths about his history and put himself at the mercy of those he once considered enemies.

Having narrowly escaped their murderous families and Daevabad’s deadly politics, Nahri and Ali, now safe in Cairo, face difficult choices of their own. While Nahri finds peace in the old rhythms and familiar comforts of her human home, she is haunted by the knowledge that the loved ones she left behind and the people who considered her a savior are at the mercy of a new tyrant. Ali, too, cannot help but look back, and is determined to return to rescue his city and the family that remains. Seeking support in his mother’s homeland, he discovers that his connection to the marid goes far deeper than expected and threatens not only his relationship with Nahri, but his very faith.

As peace grows more elusive and old players return, Nahri, Ali, and Dara come to understand that in order to remake the world, they may need to fight those they once loved . . . and take a stand for those they once hurt.

Everything that was built up in the first two novels all comes to a boiling point in The Empire of Gold. It is a wild ride from start to finish, with a handful of new characters, and many terrifying older ones. Overall, I enjoyed this series, but it isn’t a new favorite or anything. Unfortunately, the ending of all the fighting and violence was at about 80% of the way through the book, and the last 20% was just…almost epilogue-y things. It made the ending of the book feel rather unnecessarily drawn out, and that’s coming from someone who really likes epilogues. Throughout the book things would ramp up, and then plateau, over and over. I kept waiting for things to finally get to that tipping point, and when they did, it was almost disappointing how smoothly things went.

Nahri learns more about her past, and that was fascinating. I loved learning more about who she really was, and why everything about her life went the way that it did. She makes some decisions throughout this book, and I mostly agreed with them. There were a few I questioned, but ultimately she made the right choices, I think. Ali learns more about himself, too, and becomes even less irritating. Things like mortal peril and your friends dying will do that to you, I think. Dara finally grows a backbone, and while I loved how that played out, there was so much death and violence by his hand that it was hard to continue liking his character. (I did like how Chakraborty chose to end his storyline, though. Very fitting.) Manizheh was flat out terrifying, a picture of insanity brought on by decades (and generations) of abuse and enslavement. I understand why she did the things that she did, but holy cow does that not excuse any of it. Wow. Way to make everything worse.

I do wish we could have seen how things played out far into the future for Daevabad. The ending of the book was already looooong enough, but I do want to know what happened to the great city. Do they work it out? Does it fall again? But alas, it was not to be since we don’t learn anything about the future. Oh well. Final rating for this one sits at four stars. I enjoyed it. Overall for the whole series, I think I’d rate it at barely 4 stars. I loved the first book, the second was mediocre, and the third book I just liked. But despite saying that, I would definitely recommend it, especially if you’re looking for something Non-Western culture inspired!

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  • STAR RATING:  3.5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 625 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: January 22, 2019
  • PUBLISHER: Harper Voyager
  • WHAT SERIES? The Daevabad Trilogy
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? City of Brass
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Violence, Death, Child death, Death of parent, Alcoholism
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah


S. A. Chakraborty continues the sweeping adventure begun in  The City of Brass conjuring a world where djinn summon flames with the snap of a finger and waters run deep with old magic; where blood can be dangerous as any spell, and a clever con artist from Cairo will alter the fate of a kingdom.

Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad—and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.

Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of a devastating battle, Nahri must forge a new path for herself. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her family—and one misstep will doom her tribe..

Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the marid—the unpredictable water spirits—have gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried.

And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad’s towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates . . . and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve.

Everything that I liked about the first book is still here — the sweeping beautiful descriptions of the city, the magic that awes, and the stellar cast. But compared to the first book, this one just didn’t hit quite as well for me. I’m not entirely sure why — The Kingdom of Copper moves at a remarkably quick pace, and everything really comes to a head right at the end — but I found myself not enjoying it at as much as The City of Brass. It’s possible its just a me thing, but who knows. Perhaps I just missed Nahri being amazed and shocked at how most of the djinn and daevas live, and in awe of the city around her. In The Kingdom of Copper, Nahri is seemingly done with being amazed, and has circled back around at being annoyed at the lack of progress and the amount of bigotry present.

Poor Nahri has been through a lot in her relatively short life, and everything just seems to be getting worse for her. She’s handles it all admirably though, so she continues to be one of my favorite characters in the bunch. Dara, on the other hand, I want to shake silly. I can’t really get into it too much without spoilling anything, but he makes some really crappy decisions here, and doesn’t fight hard enough, in my opinion. Instead of fighting to break the circle of war, he just…goes along with it. It was frustrating to the extreme. And Ali, oh Ali. Yes, to all of those who said he grows on you, he definitely does. But that doesn’t mean I still don’t want to slap him sometimes. He’s remarkably short sighted, and makes some really stupid decisions, but he’s infinitely more likeable in this book than the first.

I think a lot of the conflict in this particular book could have been avoided (obviously) if anyone ever, actually bothered to explain to Nahri what was going on, and what was being planned around her. Instead, everyone just assumes that she’ll go along with whatever they’re concocting. I really loved that she didn’t just fall into line. She remained herself, and kept who she was in spite of everything.

Overall, still enjoyable! I’m giving it 3.5 stars. I’m barely into the next book, but keep your eyes peeled for my review of The Empire of Gold soon!

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  • STAR RATING:  4.5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 544 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: November 14, 2017
  • PUBLISHER: Harper Voyager
  • WHAT SERIES? The Daevabad Trilogy
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? City of Brass
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Violence, Death, Slavery, Religious bigotry
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah


Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by — palm readings, zars, healings — are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.

After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for…

So, for as long as I’ve known about the Daevabad series — years — I thought it was a young adult fantasy series. I’ve mostly out grown the idea of young adult fantasy series. After reading so many of them, they really do all start to feel similar. That’s really the only reason I haven’t picked up The City of Brass before. Bad excuse? Oh definitely. But when I finally went digging through Goodreads in search of something to read, I looked a little closer at it this time. And lo and behold, it is not a young adult fantasy. Goodreads places it solidly in the adult category, so I snapped it right up, and gobbled it down in a little less than two days. So what I’m saying is, whoops I regret not picking this up earlier.

The world Chakraborty paints in this novel is a stunningly painted. It’s a world that mirrors our own — Cairo is a main setting at the beginning of the book — but vastly differs in other ways. Djinn and other such creatures/peoples exist, and their magic is littered throughout the pages of The City of Brass. Chakraborty does a fantastic job of making Daevabad feel tangible. The descriptions are just enough for the world to unfold in your mind, without making it seem tediously detailed.

Nahiri is our main character, and she starts the novel as something of a con woman. She’s got magic that no one else does in the city — she can see when people ailing, and heal them and herself (seemingly) with a touch of her hands. I liked her right away — she’s competent, and willing to do what she needs to in order to survive. She’s a woman in a world where it is absolutely not easy to be a woman. You get the sense she’s tired of this life, and of course, things happen and suddenly she’s thrown out of it, and into a new world entirely — Daevabad. She’s resistant to the new culture she has to live in, and fights every new thing she’s got to do.

Very quickly into the book Nahiri runs into Dara, who is a daeva — a proud djinn who used to be a slave. He’s a little arrogant, but a lot (eventually) in love with Nahiri. Dara is also extremely old, older than he should be, by daeva standards. He’s something of a berserker — Dara turns almost feral when it’s time to protect her. Since that’s one of my favorite romance tropes, I was totally in love with him. We learn more about his past at the very end of the book, and what he was made to do, and its rough. You feel bad for him, while also hating him a little bit.

The other characters are interesting, but most are highly irritating. Especially Alizayd, the second-born son of the King of Daevabad. It felt like every time he opened his mouth on page I was rolling my eyes. Dude is stubborn, and unwilling to look at something from any different angle other than his own. It’s his way or the highway, apparently. He’s judgemental, rude, arrogant, and just plain mean sometimes. I have been told he gets better, but right now he is firmly in my do not like list. Ali’s brother and sister are also a little annoying, but in vastly different ways.

The overall plot is a little thin on the ground at first, but once it settles it is easy to follow. I really enjoyed the world of the daeva, and will absolutely be heading right into the next book. Four and a half stars out of five, simply because Ali was really really irritating.

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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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  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 323 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: December 16, 2013
  • PUBLISHER: Smashwords
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Sexual content, Animal death, Body horror, Confinement
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  Beauty by Robin McKinley, Bryony and Roses by T. Kingfisher


Afflicted by a centuries-old curse, a warlord slowly surrenders his humanity and descends toward madness. Ballard of Ketach Tor holds no hope of escaping his fate until his son returns home one day, accompanied by a woman of incomparable beauty. His family believes her arrival may herald Ballard’s salvation.

…until they confront her elder sister.

Determined to rescue her sibling from ruin, Louvaen Duenda pursues her to a decrepit castle and discovers a household imprisoned in time. Dark magic, threatening sorcerers, and a malevolent climbing rose with a thirst for blood won’t deter her, but a proud man disfigured by an undying hatred might. Louvaen must decide if loving him will ultimately save him or destroy him.

A tale of vengeance and devotion.

Yes, to no one’s surprise, I read another Beauty and the Beast retelling. Unfortunately, this one doesn’t really feel like the Beauty and the Beast story to me. Yes, there’s a curse, and yes there are roses, but other than that, there is very little that calls back to the original tale. However, that does not mean I didn’t enjoy this book. On the contrary, I absolutely adored it. This is my new favorite Grace Draven, an author who previously I didn’t think worked for me. Maybe I just like her older work? I was granted access to an ARC of her latest last year, and unfortunately ended up DNFing it. BUT WE’RE NOT HERE TO TALK ABOUT THAT BOOK.

Entreat Me hit many of my favorite tropes when it comes to romance. Older man who never thought he would love again? Check. Curses? Check. Stubborn, sassy female lead? Check. I cannot tell you how much I loved watching Ballard and Louvaen dual each other with their words. She was ready to take on an entire army to protect her sister, and Ballard knew it. He also was very much in love with her, pretty much on sight. I would have happily read about eight hundred more words of these two! The chemistry between them practically melted my kindle, and very easily blew right off the (metaphorical) pages. Yes, this is the only retelling that I’ve read where there are actual sex scenes! (Ballard’s curse does not render him a beast all the time, for those of you that were curious.) I repeat, I loved getting to watch Louvaen and Ballard together, and I extra enjoyed watching them circle around each other at the beginning of the book.

Basically, if you’re looking for a fantasy romance with older characters, I recommend Entreat Me. (Their ages aren’t really given in the book, but it’s clear they are older — Ballard has a son in his mid-twenties, and Louvaen is widowed.) It’s got some familiar tropes inside, and the writing is just top notch. The peril that comes towards the end of the book feels genuinely real here, something that I really appreciated. Most of the time that sort of thing is washed over in the other retellings I’ve read. The epilogue was perfect, a nice little cherry on top of a beautiful book sundae. Five stars.

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