Waiting on Wednesday 05/18/2022

Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that first originated at Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. Either way, this fun feature is a chance to showcase the upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick

Raven Unveiled by Grace Draven (November 8, 2022 by Ace)

I’ve been loving the fantasy romance stories in Grace Draven’s The Fallen Empire world and I have no doubt in my mind that I’ll love this third one too. So excited!

“A woman with the gift to speak to the dead—and the assassin pursuing her—may be the only chance a crumbling empire has of holding back true evil, in this electrifying fantasy romance from the USA Today bestselling author of Radiance.

Siora has been on the run for longer than she cares to remember, from her past and her gift. Born with the ability to see and speak to ghosts, she has heard their desperate pleas as an otherworldly predator stalks the dead amid the fertile killing fields of the collapsing Krael Empire. The creature’s power and reach are growing with every soul it consumes, but Siora is preoccupied with her own troubles: namely an assassin who has sworn an oath of vengeance against her.

Gharek of Cabast was once the right-hand man of the reviled empress but is now a wanted fugitive. Although his reasons for hunting Siora are viscerally personal, what Gharek can’t anticipate is that when he finally does find her, she will hold the key to saving his world, or what’s left of it. To make good on old debts and protect the vulnerable dead from a malevolent force, Gharek and Siora will both need to make an ally out of an enemy—and trust that will be enough to save each other.”

#WyrdandWonder Review: Book of Night by Holly Black

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Book of Night by Holly Black

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 1

Publisher: Tor Books | Macmillan Audio (May 3, 2022)

Length: 320 pages | 12 hrs and 33 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator (Audiobook): Sara Amini

Wow, a lot to unpack with this one! I wish I could say I loved Book of Night because I’m a big fan of Holly Black’s The Folk of the Air series, but somehow the magic in her YA simply did not translate as well to her first go at a fantasy novel for adults. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy this book, but not going to lie, there were times where it was a real struggle to keep my focus.

As the story opens, we meet our protagonist Charlie Hall, a former thief who specializes in stealing for and from gloamists, the term for individuals with magical abilities. In this world, shadows can come to life and be controlled by these magic users, who fuel this shadowy power with their own blood. Needless to say, it can be a nasty and cutthroat business, and there’s always treachery afoot with gloamists trying to get at each other’s secrets.

Enter Charlie, who used make a living being hired to acquire rare and magical documents prized by gloamists. Now though, all she wants is to turn over a new leaf and leave her dark past behind, but unfortunately, walking the honest path isn’t exactly paying the bills and when a lucrative job suddenly lands in her lap, she can hardly bring herself to say no. Before she knows it, Charlie is dragged back into her old life, trying to survive in the underworld of dangerous magic and shadow trading.

First, the good: Holly Black is a world-building expert, whether she is trying to put together a fae society in The Folk of the Air or, in this case, a world where shadows can quicken and manifest into being—which, by the way, is as creepy as it sounds. Gloamists with these magical shadows can cause them to shift and manipulate them to do their bidding, which could include killing or even possessing another person. Of course, there are magical defenses that gloamists can employ, but these will only stop other gloamists and magical attacks, and so that’s where non-magical people like Charlie come in.

Speaking of Charlie though, that’s where the novel’s self-assuredness begins to crumble. Our protagonist is a fascinating character, with a well-written and engaging background which made me want to keep reading. However, in the process of writing a badass and more mature character, Black had apparently neglected in giving her much of a personality. If that sounds harsh, it’s not meant to be; Charlie was interesting enough, but overall there was an underwhelming “flatness” to her I couldn’t shake. Put it another way, I didn’t find her to be a very memorable or inspiring.

Perhaps that’s why I had to struggle through certain parts of the story. The plot was serviceable, but not even the amazing world-building could elevate it much more beyond that. The middle section of the book dragged a little, which resulted in me taking longer than usual to finish. Things are steady, but there’s just no drive.

And that’s pretty much it in a nutshell. I love how lately so many well-known YA authors have been stepping out of their comfort zones and trying their hand at adult fantasy, but there’s clearly adjustments to be made—in tone, style, pacing, level of detail and depth…in pretty much everything.

Hate it say it, but Book of Night just wasn’t quite there. Yet. I am optimistic though, because it does show a lot of promise, and the ending strongly points to there being a sequel. Even with all the elements that could have been improved, I very much want to continue the series.

Bottom line, fans of Holly Black will probably find this to feel quite different. It’s not a “great” different, but at the same time, it’s not a bad kind of different either. If this is going to be a series, it’s going to need some time to grow and develop, but I have a feeling it’ll get there, and after that punch-in-the-face of an ending, I’m interested to see where things will go.

Bookshelf Roundup: 05/14/22: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads

Bookshelf Roundup is a feature I do every weekend which fills the role of several blog memes, like Stacking the Shelves where I talk about the new books I’ve added to my library or received for review, as well as It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? where I summarize what I’ve finished reading in the last week and what I’m planning to read soon. Mostly it also serves as a recap post, so sometimes I’ll throw in stuff like reading challenge progress reports, book lists, and other random bookish thoughts or announcements.

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Received for Review

My thanks to the publishers and authors for the following review copies received, and be sure to click the links to their Goodreads pages for more details and full descriptions!

Thank you to William Morrow for a review copy of the new thriller Blood Will Tell by Heather Chavez. I absolutely adored her debut No Bad Deed, so the arrival of this was very exciting!

With thanks also to the amazing team at Orbit Books for the following pretties! August Kitko and the Mechas from Space by Alex White was a new one to me, but I’ve enjoyed the author’s work before, and hey, I’m up for anything with mecha. I’m also intrigued by the delightful synopsis of Half A Soul by Olivia Atwater, the first book of a new series called Regency Faerie Tales. Sounds like the perfect mood read! And last but not least is For The Throne by Hannah Whitten, the second novel of Wilderwood. The first book For The Wolf was very promising, and I’m looking forward to see how the series will develop in this sequel.

With thanks to Hachette Audio, I received a trio of listening copies this week. I’m going to have plenty to keep me busy with Child Zero by Chris Holm, Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel, and The Beloved Girls by Harriet Evans.

Reviews

Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough (4.5 of 5 stars)
Amongst Our Weapons by Ben Aaronovitch (4 of 5 stars)

Roundup Highlights:

What I’ve Been Reading

Have you heard of or read any of the books featured this week? What caught your eye? Any new discoveries? I hope you found something interesting for a future read!

Thursday Thriller Audio: Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Thriller, Suspense

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: HarperAudio (April 12, 2022)

Length: 10 hrs and 9 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Sarah Durham

Sarah Pinborough has certainly found her niche when it comes to twisty, blow-your-mind thrillers. Speaking as someone who often struggles with trouble sleeping and knowing how much it messes with your brain, I admit the premise of the author’s latest novel Insomnia intrigued me. From the synopsis, it’s clear she’s taken the concept to a whole other level—a frightening one.

In Insomnia, we follow protagonist Emma Averall, an ambitious working mom of two busy making her way up the corporate ladder at a high-powered law firm while her husband stays at home and raises the kids. It’s an arrangement everyone has been happy with, that is until recently, as Emma’s fortieth birthday approaches. That was the same age when her mother lost her mind, and something so heinous happened that Emma and her older sister Phoebe had to go into foster care. Emma was only five at the time.

Now Emma is terrified that what afflicted her mother will come for her as well. And the fact that lately she can’t sleep is adding to her worries. As the insomnia worsens, Emma also starts losing time during the day, putting her career and all that she’s worked so hard for at risk. Above all, she’s done everything in her power to put the past behind her, but try as she might, she just can’t keep her childhood horrors from coming back.

And that’s all I’ll say, because Sarah Pinborough’s books are always best enjoyed the less you know going in. As usual, she’s brilliant at writing unreliable narrators, and Emma is a testament to that. Anyone with a busy lifestyle will find her sympathetic; a successful lawyer trying to juggle long hours at work and still spend quality time at home with her husband and children, what our protagonist is doing is the very definition of burning the candle at both ends. She loves her family and cares for those around her, which just worsens her fear. It was disconcerting to watch this successful, well put together woman just start coming apart at the seams. Slowly going insane. Or is she? It was such a trip, not knowing which way this story was going to go.

That’s where things get fun. Because the truth is, it’s hard to see anything in this book coming. Every time I thought I knew what was going on, something else would happen to blow all my theories apart. It was overwhelming, but at the same time, it wasn’t. I was simply having a great time watching and anticipating what came next. It was the perfect combination of suspense and strangeness—and this being a Pinborough novel, you know there will be strangeness. If this is your first rodeo with her thrillers, just hang on tight and go with it. In the end, it’s easy to get sucked in.

Eventually, you’ll get to the big reveal. The big twist, or the WTF ending. You may need to suspend your disbelief, but again that’s par for the course. I’ve read crazier from the author (Behind Her Eyes, anyone?) but this one was pretty wild too in its own way. I liked it, though I can also understand why it wouldn’t work for everyone, because it’s a bit over-the-top.

At the end of the day though, I had a blast with Insomnia, as I knew I would because Sarah Pinborough’s thrillers never fail to disappoint. If I need to read something entertaining, fast-moving and addictive, her books always deliver, and in audio format, they are even better. Sarah Durham was fantastic as narrator for the audiobook edition of Insomnia, impressing me with a performance that kept me riveted from beginning to end.

Waiting on Wednesday 05/11/2022

Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that first originated at Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. Either way, this fun feature is a chance to showcase the upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick

Notorious Sorcerer by Davinia Evans (September 13, 2022 by Orbit)

It’s Wyrd & Wonder month, so Waiting on Wednesdays in May are all about the fantasy releases I’m looking forward to. I just found out about Notorious Sorcerer recently, but the fact that it’s a debut releasing from Orbit is enough to get me interested, and publisher description sounds promising.

“Since the city of Bezim was shaken half into the sea by a magical earthquake, the Inquisitors have policed alchemy with brutal efficiency. Nothing too powerful, too complicated, too much like real magic is allowed–and the careful science that’s left is kept too expensive for any but the rich and indolent to tinker with. Siyon Velo, a glorified errand boy scraping together lesson money from a little inter-planar fetch and carry, doesn’t qualify.

But when Siyon accidentally commits a public act of impossible magic, he’s catapulted into the limelight. Except the limelight is a bad place to be when the planes themselves start lurching out of alignment, threatening to send the rest of the city into the sea.

Now Siyon, a dockside brat who clawed his way up and proved himself on rooftops with saber in hand, might be Bezim’s only hope. Because if they don’t fix the cascading failures of magic in their plane, the Powers and their armies in the other three will do it for them.”

#WyrdandWonder Audiobook Review: Amongst Our Weapons by Ben Aaronovitch

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Amongst Our Weapons by Ben Aaronovitch

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Series: Book 9 of Peter Grant/Rivers of London

Publisher: Penguin Audio (April 12, 2022)

Length: 10 hrs and 35 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

Every time I come to a Rivers of London book, it’s like putting on a cozy sweater or snuggling under a warm blanket. Part of it is the comfort of returning to a series I love, and another part of it is knowing that I’m pretty much guaranteed a good story. That’s because Detective Constable and wizard apprentice Peter Grant is always on an interesting case.

Amongst Our Weapons is the ninth volume of the series by Ben Aaronovitch, and picks up not long after the previous book. Peter is about to be a father to twins, with Beverly’s due date coming up fast. The hidden world of magic isn’t going to rest though, and as the story opens, our protagonist is investigating a murder at the London Silver Vaults with his partner Sahra Guleed. As usual, nothing is as it seems. The victim, who had been in the middle of trying to rob the place, was apparently interrupted by a flash of blinding light. The next moment, he was dead on the floor with a hole in his chest. All witnesses to the scene have also seemed to develop memory loss, unable to provide the police with anything useful.

Gradually, Peter works out some of the details. The dead man had been after a ring—and it’s a very special ring by the sounds of it. Peter has no doubt it was magical, based on the descriptions of its markings and symbols. The problem though, is that no record of it exists at the Vaults, and that’s not the strangest part. Peter is finding it difficult to read the vestigia surrounding the entire crime scene, and not even his mentor DCI Thomas Nightingale can make much sense of it.

Traveling around London and beyond, Amongst Our Weapons takes us on another whirlwind paranormal journey that should be a real treat to fans of the author and series. Is it the best book of the bunch? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun. In fact, this is probably one of the better installments, with a solid mystery at its core. The plot is well-paced and entertaining, introducing even more new elements into the world of Rivers of London, which is impressive and pretty damn cool considering we’re nine books deep at this point. There’s still absolutely plenty to keep longtime readers entertained, and as always, there’s something to learn at every turn—especially if those little nuggets of architectural history are something you enjoy.

The evolution of Peter Grant is also amazing to witness. He’s come a long way since the first book, becoming a skilled wizard in his own right, even though Nightingale is still the magical heavyweight. As Peter’s career continues to flourish though, so too does his personal life. I like that Beverly has become a steady presence in his inner circle, and that they are now a family. Guleed is also a great supporting character and I’m happy to be seeing more of her with each book.

As for the negatives, I feel the fact that Aaronovitch keeps bringing back elements from earlier on can be a sticking point for some. Don’t get me wrong, I generally don’t mind when subsequent books build on what came before, because that’s how great series are made, especially in the urban fantasy genre. Plus, there are certain things that I’m glad have stuck around, like the foxes. That said though, as much as I understand the need for an arch nemesis for Peter, it still bugs me a little that Lesley is like a canker sore that keeps coming back. I suppose it’d help if I found her more interesting, but I don’t. A completely fresh story arc with a new villain—new everything—might be something this series needs in the near future, but on the positive side, at least we’ve mostly moved on from the Faceless Man which is a huge relief.

On the whole, Amongst Our Weapons might not have been the best book of the series, but it was still a strong entry. Having read all the previous books in print, this was also my first experience with a Rivers of London audiobook, and holy crap guys, the hype is real. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith is a fantastic narrator and now I understand why his Peter Grant has so many fans. For the next book, I’m definitely coming back to the audio.

Review of Whispers Underground (Book 3)
Review of Broken Homes (Book 4)
Review of Foxglove Summer (Book 5)
Review of What Abigail Did That Summer (Book 5.3)
Review of The Furthest Station (Book 5.7)
Review of The Hanging Tree (Book 6)
Review of Lies Sleeping (Book 7)
Review of False Value (Book 8)

Bookshelf Roundup: 05/07/22: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads

Bookshelf Roundup is a feature I do every weekend which fills the role of several blog memes, like Stacking the Shelves where I talk about the new books I’ve added to my library or received for review, as well as It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? where I summarize what I’ve finished reading in the last week and what I’m planning to read soon. Mostly it also serves as a recap post, so sometimes I’ll throw in stuff like reading challenge progress reports, book lists, and other random bookish thoughts or announcements.

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Received for Review

My thanks to the publishers and authors for the following review copies received, and be sure to click the links to their Goodreads pages for more details and full descriptions!

Thank you to G.P. Putnam’s Sons for a review copy of horror/noir mashup Friend of the Devil by Stephen Lloyd. I can’t wait to start this one! Anyone who knows me knows I can’t resist any story set in elite boarding schools, though I’ve been seeing some mixed reviews and now I’m getting a little nervous.

With thanks to the amazing folks at Del Rey, I also received an ARC of The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez, who also authored the splendid novel The Vanished Birds. I hope this one will be as unique and fun to read.

Courtesy of the awesome team at Pyr, I also received The Hourglass Throne by K.D. Edwards. It feels like I’ve been waiting forever for this third book of the Tarot Sequence, even though it’s only been a few years since the last book The Hanged Man. I’m looking forward to continuing the series.

Huge thanks also to Tordotcom for sending me a review copy of Rosebud by Paul Cornell, a sci-fi locked room mystery. Enough said.

And finally, with thanks to Grand Central Publishing for The Night They Vanished by Vanessa Savage, which will satisfy my psychological thriller fix for the week. The story has a “dark tourism” element, a type of tourism that involves traveling to and visiting sites associated with death, suffering, and other macabre events.

Just one book in the digital haul, if you can believe it. Thank you to Penguin Audio for Darling Girl by Liz Michalski, because how can I say no to anything Peter Pan related?

Wyrd & Wonder 2022

The big news around the blogosphere this week is of course Wyrd & Wonder 2022, which is now live! You can check out my announcement post for my plans and what I’m hoping to read this month.

Reviews

Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher (5 of 5 stars)
Tear Down the Throne by Jennifer Estep (4 of 5 stars)

Roundup Highlights:

What I’ve Been Reading

  

Have you heard of or read any of the books featured this week? What caught your eye? Any new discoveries? I hope you found something interesting for a future read!

#WyrdandWonder Book Review: Tear Down the Throne by Jennifer Estep

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Tear Down the Throne by Jennifer Estep

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 2 of Gargoyle Queen

Publisher: Harper Voyager (May 3, 2022)

Length: 464 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I’m so glad I discovered Jennifer Estep through her Crown of Shards series. For accessible epic fantasy with a strong dose of magic and just dash of romance, and books that are just plain fun to read, you really can’t ask for more. And with her new series Gargoyle Queen which is set in the same world, Estep continues to bring more of that same goodness.

In Tear Down the Throne, which is the second volume, we once again join protagonist Gemma Ripley of Andvari on her quest to save her kingdom and discover the mystery behind why their rivals are collecting large amounts of tearstone, a material that can be used to make powerful weapons. While Gemma maybe the crown princess, there is also more to her than meets the eye. Being a mind magier, she is able to sense magic and read people’s thoughts, making her the perfect spy. However, all her plans are about to be derailed when Queen Maeven of Morta suddenly declares a challenge during the Summit, when all the leaders of the world are gathered.

Enter the Gauntlet, an old and obscure tradition which would require a contender to overcome a series of difficult and sometimes deadly tasks to win the grand prize. The only problem? Gemma’s hand in marriage is the grand prize. And Queen Maeven has arranged for her own son and Gemma’s sworn nemesis Prince Leonidas to compete in the Gauntlet, no doubt as part of her grand scheme to one day to take Andvari for herself. Furious at this turn of events, Gemma knows she must not let Maeven’s plan come to fruition, yet at the same time, she’s dealing with some very conflicted emotions where the diabolical queen’s youngest son is concerned. The worst part is, Leo seems truly sincere when he vows that he will conquer the Gauntlet and win Gemma’s heart, and in spite of herself, our protagonist can’t deny her growing feelings for him either.

I mean, how do resist such a tantalizing premise? If you’re a fantasy reader who enjoys some romance in your stories but aren’t really a fan of the romance genre itself, the Gargoyle Queen series would be perfect. The hate-turns-to-love romance between Gemma and Leo is a good example of one that strikes a good balance, giving prominent focus to their relationship development yet being careful not to overdo the cloying or cheesy elements. It was also paced exactly right, and the novel was a compelling and addictive read all around, thanks to a solid plotline which acted as a foundation for everything else to be built upon it.

In fact, I feel Tear Down the Throne was a huge improvement over its predecessor, Capture the Crown. Being the second book has its advantages, of course, since the groundwork has already been laid and we’re able to jump right into things without preamble. Capture the Crown was also heavy on the court intrigue, whereas this one had a lot more action, though many highlights from the first book returned as well, including the magical aspects and Grimley the gargoyle. World-building remains a strong point for this series and it’s further developed in this sequel, revealing more details behind the inner workings of Gemma’s abilities.

Speaking of which, Gemma as a protagonist really came into her own in Tear Down the Throne. I felt she didn’t really have much of a personality when we first met her in Capture the Crown, yet here she has a lot more agency and we’re starting to see what she’s capable of. Her voice has also abandoned that younger, “YA tone” which was such a distraction in the first book, as she’s no longer trying to cultivate the “pampered, inexperienced princess” reputation. This gave the book an overall more mature vibe. As a result, I was also able to take her romance with Leonidas a lot more seriously, and so the change is definitely a win any way you look at it.

My takeaway? No middle book syndrome here. For all the reasons discussed above, Tear Down the Throne improved upon the weaknesses from Capture the Crown while taking everything that worked and made them even better. The ending also wrapped up the novel’s main story arc nicely while leaving plenty of look forward to in the next book, which I shall now await with great enthusiasm and impatience!

Waiting on Wednesday 05/04/2022

Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that first originated at Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. Either way, this fun feature is a chance to showcase the upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick

How to Sell A Haunted House by Grady Hendrix (January 17, 2023 by Berkley)

Sometimes the fantastical can come in the form of paranormal thrills, and as a fan of Horrorstör I am so pleased Grady Hendrix will be back with another “haunted” story!

“Your past and your family can haunt you like nothing else… A hilarious and terrifying new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Final Girl Support Group.

Every childhood home is haunted, and each of us are possessed by our parents.

When their parents die at the tail end of the coronavirus pandemic, Louise and Mark Joyner are devastated but nothing can prepare them for how bad things are about to get. The two siblings are almost totally estranged, and couldn’t be more different. Now, however, they don’t have a choice but to get along. The virus has passed, and both of them are facing bank accounts ravaged by the economic meltdown. Their one asset? Their childhood home. They need to get it on the market as soon as possible because they need the money. Yet before her parents died they taped newspaper over the mirrors and nailed shut the attic door.

Sometimes we feel like puppets, controlled by our upbringing and our genes. Sometimes we feel like our parents treat us like toys, or playthings, or even dolls. The past can ground us, teach us, and keep us safe. It can also trap us, and bind us, and suffocate the life out of us. As disturbing events stack up in the house, Louise and Mark have to learn that sometimes the only way to break away from the past, sometimes the only way to sell a haunted house, is to burn it all down.”

#WyrdandWonder Book Review: Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher

Mogsy’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Tor Books (April 26, 2022)

Length: 256 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

If T. Kingfisher (AKA Ursula Vernon) wasn’t already becoming one of my favorite authors, Nettle & Bone just sealed the deal. Every time I pick up her books, I look forward to being whisked away to another one of her exquisitely imagined fantasy worlds and meeting the charming characters. Needless to say, this one did not disappoint.

In Nettle & Bone, we follow protagonist Marra who is the youngest daughter of the Queen of Harbor Kingdom. Her older sister Kania was married off to Prince Vorling of the Northern Kingdom in a political alliance, and by all accounts it is not going well. Marra knows that the prince is abusing her sister, and that Kania is treated as little more than a brood mare to give him the male heir he needs. Every time she miscarries or gives birth to a daughter, he becomes even more violently cruel and unstable. Horrified, Marra can only take steps to avoid the same fate, agreeing to join a convent so she will be safe from Vorling in case his eyes turn towards her, and also so she can bide her time.

For you see, Marra is carefully hatching a plan to rescue Kania, but that path will not be easy. First, Marra will need to gather some resources and allies, and she’ll also require further training in the magical arts. As soon as she is able to, Marra makes the journey to seek out the aid of a dust=wife, someone who can instruct her on how to acquire rare enchanted materials and to craft powerful items. Still, even that is only the beginning. In order to save Kania, Marra must also figure out a way to get Vorling out the picture—for good.

The author has so many talents, it’s hard to know where to begin with this review! But since her protagonists are always a highlight, I suppose it only makes sense to start with Marra. When Nettle & Bone begins, we are already in the middle of her quest, but through the brilliant and creative use of flashbacks, readers are quickly caught up with her backstory. So much about her personality, from her precociousness to her immense courage, could be gleaned from her experiences in the past, and I do so love character development like this that feels natural and authentic. Marra’s aversion to anything to do with marriage and childbirth is also understandable, given her early exposure to Kania’s abuse at the hands of her husband and the deep-rooted fear that all relationships inevitably lead to this, but getting glimpses of our protagonist as a young girl also helped solidify what we know of her as a caring person with a heart of gold who is also fiercely loyal to her family.

That said, this kind-hearted young woman also has a ruthless, vengeful side. She’s patient, calculating, and will go to great lengths to do what’s right, especially where her older sister is concerned. This duality is also reflected in the tone of the story, which at once possesses the darkness of a more mature epic fantasy (featuring abuse, murder, etc.) juxtaposed with the whimsy of a fairy tale, with dialogue and themes that occasionally skew more towards Young Adult. The effect was not unpleasant, and made Nettle & Bone a quick read—not too heavy, not too light.

Or course, the fast-moving, entertaining plot had a lot to do with this, and Kingfisher also flexes her creativity, wowing me with some of the best, most imaginative ideas I’ve ever seen from any of her novels. Particularly memorable to me was Bonedog, who was delightful and endearing despite his lack of flesh. The last scene of the book had me practically in tears, which is really saying something—only the most emotionally well-written and multilayered stories have ever managed that, and there was no doubt I cared deeply about Marra, the outcome of her quest, as well as what happened to those around her. In the end, there was even a sweet slow-burn romance to soften our protagonist’s long-held views on relationships, and though she may not have been looking for a lover, the chemistry between Marra and Fenris was undeniably there, and you can bet I was rooting for them all the way.

Bottom line, Nettle & Bone was most certainly a book that made me feel invested in it with all my heart. I loved everything about it, from the magical, riveting plot to the astoundingly imaginative world that practically leapt off the page. And most of all, I adored Marra, who was genuine, multi-dimensional, and inspiring—a T. Kingfisher protagonist through and through. As the author continues to make waves in the SFF world and gain recognition for her incredible work, I can only cheer because all the praise is well-deserved.

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