A Darkness at the Door review

ReviewADarkness

Note: I received an ARC and am voluntarily leaving an honest review. Triggers for this book include child abduction, violence, execution and torture.

What a ride this book takes you on, and what an amazing arc for Rae! Better still, the outstanding plot points from Thorn return in A Darkness at the Door, in a way that isn’t forced and that I found very satisfying.

I didn’t get the whole “book boyfriends” thing until I read this book and Bren came along. In the early chapters of The Theft of Sunlight, we’re assured Rae will never get a match because of her turned foot and mobility issues. In A Darkness at the Door, Bren frequently laments that Rae is hard to keep up with. She’s a force for sure, because of both her determination and her goodness, and it is fantastic to see a person who sees that falling for her, and vice versa.

Slowly, Rae recaptures every scrap of dignity she lost in The Theft of Sunlight, redefining what it means to be a country girl in the city (hint: it means being more capable and grounded, now that she’s free from the pretenses of palace life). We also see her practice self-acceptance and body positivity, and coming to terms with the benefits of using a cane. In one scene, Rae thanks her body for how far it carries her, including the foot so often referred to as a limitation. She even uses opponents’ ableism against them. The disability representation is exceptional here.

This is an action-packed book with plenty of heart to balance its darkness. I can’t help but rave about the entire series, and the wonderful heights its heroine reaches in this last installment. Because I have the sense of there being so many more stories to tell in Rae’s world, I can only hope we’ll return to Menaiya again someday–or at the very least to wherever Bean is.

My rating:
5/5

To learn more about this author, visit booksbyintisar.com.

Trivia: How well do you know the Six of Crows duology characters?

How well do you know the Six of Crows characters?

Love Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology? (Of course you do! You’re here!) Test your knowledge of the unforgettable characters below!

  1. What kind of Grisha is Kuwei Yul-Bo?

    A. Heartrender
    B. Fabrikator
    C. Inferni
    D. Tailor

    2. Which of these Grisha skills does Nina have at the beginning of Six of Crows?

    A. Tailor
    B. Heartrender
    C. Healer
    D. All of the above

    3. Where does Pekka Rollins keep his office?

    A. The Kaelish Prince
    B. The Emerald Palace
    C. The Black Veil
    D. Sweet Reef

    4. Which of these characters is NOT a Grisha?

    A. Zoya
    B. Genya
    C. Jesper
    D. Colm

    5. Which one of these characters join a consortium of jurda traders according to Kaz’s plan?

    A. Jarl Brum
    B. Karl Dryden
    C. Mister Crimson
    D. Cornelius Smeet

    6. Which of these roles or disguises does Jesper NOT assume as part of a plan?

    A. Zemeni delegate
    B. Mister Crimson
    C. Jurda farmer
    D. Gambler

  1. C. Inferni

  2. D. All of the above (these are all Corporalki skills)
  3. B. The Emerald Palace
  4. D. Colm (Fahey)
  5. B. Karl Dryden
  6. C. Jurda farmer

Less than 4 questions right: You’re a Six of Crows novice! Maybe it’s time for a re-read!

4 questions right: You’re familiar with the duology, but the details have gotten fuzzy!

5 questions right: You’re almost an expert!

6 questions right: Are you Leigh Bardugo? No? Just a really huge fan? My friend, you are in the right place!

So how did you do?

9 Fantastic Quotes from the Six of Crows Duology

9 Fantastic Quotes from the Six of Crows Duology

Crooked Kingdom is my favorite of the two books in Leigh Bardugo’s brilliant Six of Crows Duology. I had so many highlights! In all fairness to Six of Crows, I’ve plucked out some of my favorites from that book to include in this list, too.

Here they are: Nine fantastic quotes from the Six of Crows Duology.

  1. What about the nobodies and the nothings, the invisible girls? We learn to ring magic from the ordinary. – Crooked Kingdom

2. She’d laughed, and if he could have bottled the sound and gotten drunk on it every night, he would have. It terrified him. – Six of Crows

3. He felt free, dangerous, like lightning rolling over the prairie. – Crooked Kingdom

4. “I would come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together–knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.” – Crooked Kingdom

5. I’m a business man,” he’d told her. “No more, no less.”
“You’re a thief, Kaz.”
“Isn’t that what I just said?” – Six of Crows

6. “That was how you survived when you weren’t chosen, when there was no royal blood in your veins. When the world owed you nothing, you demanded something of it anyway.” – Crooked Kingdom

The Six of Crows Duology

7. “Nina glanced from Inej to Kaz and saw they both wore the same expression. Nina knew that look. It came after the shipwreck, when the tide moved against you and the sky had gone dark. It was the first sight of land, the hope of shelter and even salvation that might await you on a distant shore.” – Crooked Kingdom

8. He needed to tell her…what? That she was lovely and brave and better than anything he deserved. That he was twisted, crooked, wrong, but not so broken that he couldn’t pull himself together into some semblance of a man for her. That without meaning to, he’d begun to lean on her, to look for her, to need her near. – Six of Crows

9. “Stop treating your pain like it’s something you imagined. If you see the wound is real, then you can heal it.” – Crooked Kingdom

Kaz Brekker and my Fjerdan heist level character hangover

Caution: This post contains spoilers for Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom.

Ever had a book hangover? How about a character hangover?

I’ve got one, and it’s because of Kaz Brekker.

Kaz Brekker and my Fjerda heist-level character hangover

Six of Crows introduces readers to the gritty underworld of Ketterdam, from scheming merchants to the gambling empires of the Barrel. As a top underling in a gang called the Dregs, Kaz Brekker is a half mythical figure–which is exactly how he designed his image. There aren’t many anti-heroes that intentional.

Throughout the Six of Crows duology, the story slowly prizes up Kaz’s carefully crafted mask. He’s only a marginally likeable character, his intellectual feats pulling off impossible victories like magic. He’s vicious, living up to his nicknames: Dirtyhands and the Bastard of the Barrel.

So why am I so weirdly obsessed with this character?

Kaz Brekker has a leg injury that leaves him with mobility issues. It’s a little odd in terms of representation because 1) it causes pain but doesn’t seem to hinder him in critical moments and 2) he actually could rid himself of it with a skilled Grisha tailor’s help. He considers it such a part of himself, though, that he doesn’t think of it when he has the chance.

Stock photo of an alley at night
A stock photo by Nicolas Postiglioni with serious Ketterdam vibes

There’s also something fiercely endearing about the moments he fails: when he finally reveals some of his feelings to Inej and when he passes out in the truck in Fjerda. Kaz has his painful backstory to be sure, but I don’t think that’s what makes him an unforgettable character.

It’s the way others view him that does it. From Inej’s challenge that makes him face his flaws, to the way they brighten when they spot his “scheming face.” He’s loyal to those loyal to him, the dark knight sweeping in for the rescue in a merciless city. He’s a super hero with a soft spot, clever and not at all charming, especially with a character like Jesper on the scene. Kaz even gives out second chances.

At the same time, he’s not all that complex: Kaz is totally driven by revenge and ambition. His most lovable moments come when he tries to do normal human things. For all his faults and miraculous heists, it’s this quality I love most about his character: the boy who knows he isn’t ordinary, but for others’ sake, makes the attempt anyway.

And that’s why I won’t forget Kaz Brekker anytime soon.

16 awesome Asian-inspired fantasy worlds

Books with Asian-inspired faNtasy worlds 2

I should’ve called this 16 plus books, since so many of these are series…es?! In any event, I’m here with some bookish representation for those always in search of more. These 16 books represent places throughout Asia and Polynesia through fresh takes on mythology, settings and retellings. Check them out below!

The Chanter’s Blade, by A.A. Lee – When I found this Philippines-inspired fantasy, it went on my TBR list. So far, the writing has grabbed me.
 

Sunbolt, by Intisar Khanani – The intersection of cultures (and monsters) features prominently in this book. Set in a West Asian-inspired country with a feisty FMC whose mother came from an East Asian-inspured country, Hitomi is sure to steal readers’ hearts. (My review here.)

Six Crimson Cranes, by Elizabeth Lim – A coming of age story for the ages–or maybe just a few days for a dragon. (My review.)
 
The Singing Hills Cycle, by Nghi Vo (The Empress of Salt and Fortune; When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain) – Literary, whimsical and inventive, Vo’s stories get me every time. (Read my review of book one and two.)
 
The Jasmine Throne, by Tasha Suri – This India-inspired world is as haunting as its characters.
 
The Priory of the Orange Tree, by  Samantha Shannon – Part of this story is set in an East Asian-inspired country. I thought the plentiful storylines thin in this novel, but it’s a favorite for others.
 
Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses, by Anastasis Blythe – Blythe’s first book outside of Vella is a magic academy homerun, filled with sweet romance and convincing martial arts action. As of writing this, it’s free for her newsletter subscribers. (Check out my review here.)
 
The Pler Series, by Anna Velfman (Snowblind; Icedancer; Avalanche) – A fused East-Asian setting is the last great civilization in Velfman’s exciting, science-fantasy-leaning novels with a protagonist from the “uncivilized” south. (My review of Snowblind, Icedancer and Avalanche.)
 
Gunpowder Alchemy, by Jeannie Lin – Another novel on my TBR list! This one promises steampunk and I can’t wait to read it.
 
The Poppy War, by R.F. Kuang – Steeped in World War II history (chapters on city warfare are rooted in an actual battle), this one can be hard to stomach, but is undeniably a true fantasy epic. (My review.)
 
Black Water Sister, by Zen Cho – Okay, so this one is urban fantasy, but its expert fusion of myth, tradition and modern Malaysia are not to be missed. (My review here.)
 
The Daevabad Trilogy, by S.A. Chakraborty – I haven’t had time to read The Empire of Gold yet (each of these books is LONG) but this series just gets better as it goes. I highly recommend it. (Read my review of The City of Brass.)
 
Desert Nights series, by Helena Rookwood and Elm Vince – The fairytale retelling duo tackles the story of Aladdin in this fun series. (Read my review of Throne of Sand here.)
 
The Whale Rider, by Witi Ihimaera – One of my all-time favorite books is a quick a read as it is memorable. I’m including this because of its magical realism. Forget the movie and grab the heartwarming book!
 
Red Winter, by Annette Marie – Rooted in Japanese mythology, I picked up this book after multiple recommendations.
 
Tales of Akatsuki, by Nicolette Andrews (Kitsune; Yuki; Okami) – Fairytales are retold and blended with Japanese myth in this series I can’t wait to read.

Heir of Fire review

I’ve been reading the Throne of Glass series for the first time. You can find my reviews of Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight here…which means it’s time for my Heir of Fire review!

Heir of Fire review
This is by far the most emotional of the books in the Throne of Glass series, so get your tissues ready. It’s also the book that opens up the story for the grander fight against the evil king, without making many steps in that direction.
 
A lot of Heir of Fire is spent working through Celaena’s internal conflict. She has to face her past in order to move forward. It’s not the most riveting thing to read, but it’s tempered by her developing magical skills and the hunt for a murderer of demi-fae.
Heir of Fire cover
Heir of Fire also introduces the Ironteeth witch Manon and the wyverns. As readers get the answer to what’s happening in the mountains (partially), Manon provides a welcome bit of action. I instantly loved the wyvern Abraxos, but unfortunately nothing comes of their storyline in this book.
 
Will I keep reading? Of course. But I’m an impatient reader. I hope to find much more plot movement in book four, because, though I loved the world-building in Heir of Fire, it did put my patience to the test.

To learn more about this author, visit sarahjmaas.com.

Vow of the Shadow King cover reveal!

I’m fully sucked in to this romantic fantasy series by Sylvia Mercedes. Bride of the Shadow King (read my review here) took my breath away, and the cover was just as arresting. But I think the cover for Vow of the Shadow King is even better!

The Synopsis:

Warning: contains spoilers for book one!

A treacherous bride. A heartbroken groom. Is their marriage over before it’s begun?

Her deceit discovered, Faraine finds herself trapped in the Shadow Realm at the mercy of her new husband. She’s surrounded by enemies, far from any allies, and her best bet for survival is to convince Vor to send her home.

But to do so means to give up on the alliance. Which would spell disaster for her people.

With the tremors growing worse and poison spreading through his realm, Vor is more desperate than ever to find a solution. Only, it cannot involve his wife. Vor wants nothing to do with the woman he has inadvertently married. At one time, he thought he might love her, but now? How can love flourish where trust is broken?

When circumstances require them to spend more time together, however, Vor’s blood is stirred in ways he doesn’t like to acknowledge.

Can two lost hearts find healing and hope in one another? Or is their love already poisoned beyond recovery?

Book two of this epic romantasy trilogy, Vow of the Shadow King will sweep you away in a tale of betrayal, heartbreak, and forbidden love. Perfect for readers looking for their ideal “book husband” and a slow-burn romance ready to ignite!

Vow of the Shadow King is expected late summer 2022.

Without further eloquence…

Vow of the Shadow King cover

That’s all for now!

Cheers,

– CKB

To learn more about this author, visit www.sylviamercedesbooks.com.

The Theft of Sunlight review

Fans of Tamora Pierce won’t want to miss this one. Up next is my much belated The Theft of Sunlight review!

The Theft of Sunlight review graphic

The Theft of Sunlight is an issues book without compromising action and story, and I am there for it! Like in Thorn (Dauntless Path #1–find my review here), there are challenges relating to an abusive family members, corruption and class disparity. There’s also sweet romance—this time, between country girl turned lady-in-waiting Rae and a thief.

Rae’s story continues after The Bone Knife, which appeared at the end of Thorn. Cleverly, we haven’t  left Princess Alyrra behind, either, even with the protagonist switch. The Menaiyan palace is viewed with fresh eyes, we have disability rep and Rae becomes a crusader to stop human trafficking after her best friend’s sister is snatched. It’s a dark road to go down, yet the story is well-balanced and never hopelessly grim. Delving into the underbelly of the capital brings an array of colorful, dangerous and riveting thieves with it. Think Lila Bard in V.E. Schwabb’s A Darker Shade of Magic.
The Theft of Sunlight cover

This book reminded me a lot of Alanna: the First Adventure (my review here), with an altruistic but grittier version of George in Bren (it’s generally much darker than Alanna, even in the glittering palace). I also think of Vanessa Len’s Only a Monster (my review) as a good “if you liked that, read this” title. Rae is a great protagonist up against an almost hopelessly powerful enemy (enemies, really), and I felt like she was really coming into her own by the end of the book. I don’t think the cliffhanger was too bad, either. I do need that next book, though!

My rating:
5/5

To learn more about this author, visit booksbyintisar.com.