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Review: Bright Ruin (Vic James)


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51H+Nan8LZLBlurb:

A shattered country
A world-changing magic

Magically gifted aristocrats rule Britain, and the people must serve them. But rebellion now strikes at the heart of the old order. Abi has escaped public execution, thanks to an unexpected ally. Her brother Luke is on the run with Silyen Jardine, the most mysterious aristocrat of all. And as political and magical conflicts escalate, each must decide how far they’ll go for their beliefs.

Dragons clash in the skies, as two powerful women duel for the soul of Britain. A symbol of government will blaze as it dies, and doors between worlds will open – and close forever. But the battle within human hearts will be the fiercest of all.

Review:

Do you have a series that you consider perfect? Like whoah-how-is-this-even-possible-perfect?

That’s the Dark Gifts trilogy for me.

Let me start off this review with a brief anecdote. When my pre-ordered copy of Bright Ruin arrived on Monday, I literally dropped what I was doing (sorry, Shadow World edits), snatched up the book, and said “Screw work.”

I read it from start to finish that day.

Then needed a full day and a half to recover.

Yes, it was that good.

It’s a sad fact that, more often than not, I’m let down by the series finales. Usually it’s either the storyline itself or the very ending that just isn’t quite on par with the previous books or (which I know is utterly personal) doesn’t meet my own (probably too high) expectations. That wasn’t the case here.

Vic James downright excels with Bright Ruin.

By the time I was done with it (or it was done with me), the book left me a massive fangirling mess.

I honestly can’t review BR without commenting on the trilogy as a whole, because that’s precisely what it is. An impeccable story broken into three utterly fulfilling parts. James never drops the ball, never wavers. Her characters are distinct and true to themselves even as they grow or change paths/views, the writing flawless, and the world opening up (as well as bringing to light more details) with every passing page.

The way James weaves politics and social issues into a modern fantasy world that resonates ours, yet is undoubtedly its own entity, is a feat all on its own. Coming from someone who isn’t big on politics in real life or fiction, I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed this aspect right from the very start. It’s rich, well-developed, and inexplicably tied to the individual storylines. Organic, without once becoming overwhelming or dry. I devoured the politics with the same enthusiasm as I cared for the characters’ fates.

Perhaps to sum everything up before my love goes out of hand:

Bright Ruin is the pinnacle where everything, every little crumb we had been given throughout the story, converges. A spectacular, fulfilling ending that crowns the brilliance that is James’s world.

From the first page to the very last, the Dark Gifts trilogy is an exceptional work of fiction that I hope will inspire, entertain, and touch readers for decades (better yet, centuries) to come.

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Review: The Devil’s Thief (Lisa Maxwell)


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510vWhbS5aL.jpgBlurb:

Hunt the Stones.
Beware the Thief.
Avenge the Past.

Esta’s parents were murdered. Her life was stolen. And everything she knew about magic was a lie. She thought the Book of Mysteries held the key to freeing the Mageus from the Order’s grasp, but the danger within its pages was greater than she ever imagined.

Now the Book’s furious power lives inside Harte. If he can’t control it, it will rip apart the world to get its revenge, and it will use Esta to do it.

To bind the power, Esta and Harte must track down four elemental stones scattered across the continent. But the world outside the city is like nothing they expected. There are Mageus beyond the Brink not willing to live in the shadows—and the Order isn’t alone in its mission to crush them.

In St. Louis, the extravagant World’s Fair hides the first stone, but an old enemy is out for revenge and a new enemy is emerging. And back in New York, Viola and Jianyu must defeat a traitor in a city on the verge of chaos.

As past and future collide, time is running out to rewrite history—even for a time-traveling thief.

Review:

There are some books you just can’t stop thinking about, no matter how much time goes by. The Last Magician was one of those for me.

Right when I thought I’d moved on, my mind would offer up a snippet, an emotion, a taste of the amazing atmospheres Maxwell created… It was a struggle to keep myself from reading the book over and over again. So, naturally, it made me wonder how could anything possibly be better than The Last Magician? How could anything ensnare me as much as This. Damn. Book?

Apparently, I only needed to wait long enough to get my hands on The Devil’s Thief.

First of all, let me say that it was a dream to spend time with all my faves again, as well as meet the newbies (love the newbies!). The cast was one of those aspects that played a crucial role in making me fall heads over heels with TLM, and let me tell you, the ball just keeps on rolling. The blend of queer, POC, as well as white cishet characters builds a believable reality that is only further augmented by the layered complexity of every individual we meet. They all have their own struggles, some tied to the story, some to their own emotions, but also to society and its perception of what is acceptable and what is not. Their voices are clear and distinct, so even though I have my personal sweethearts, I thoroughly enjoyed every single perspective The Devil’s Thief offered.

I won’t go into the story itself because it would be super hard to avoid spoilers, but I can say that the book didn’t disappoint. The prose is stunning, and Maxwell ingeniously weaves the numerous storylines into a seamless, spellbinding whole that spans across time.

The Devil’s Thief is definitely among my top 2018 releases, and the series itself is one of my favorites in general. I highly recommend it to all who enjoy losing themselves not only in an epic story, but an entire intricately designed world.

The next instalment can’t come out soon enough!

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Review: Grace & Fury (Tracy Banghart)


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51zOc9zWoiLBlurb: 

In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi Tessaro face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other in prison.

Serina has been groomed her whole life to become a Grace–someone to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining, subjugated example of the perfect woman. But when her headstrong and rebellious younger sister, Nomi, catches the heir’s eye, it’s Serina who takes the fall for the dangerous secret that Nomi has been hiding.

Now trapped in a life she never wanted, Nomi has only one way to save Serina: surrender to her role as a Grace until she can use her position to release her sister. This is easier said than done. A traitor walks the halls of the palace, and deception lurks in every corner. But Serina is running out of time, imprisoned on an island where she must fight to the death to survive and one wrong move could cost her everything.

Review:

Wow, this was one of those rare books that made me want to lift it towards the sky and just roar. Thank you, Tracy Banghart, for giving the world more girl love.

But that description really doesn’t do the book justice.

“It isn’t a choice if you don’t have the freedom to say no.”

I think it was this sentence that first unravelled me. This sentence that set the mood for the entire novel. In a world were there are no true choices, just the appearance of them, how much will it take for the dam to break and unleash all that glorious strength?

It’s hard to go into detail since I would hate to spoil even the smallest aspect of the story, so let me just say that if you’re looking for an inspirational, beautiful read that’s filled with injustices and horrors, but even more so, brimming with such light it actually brought tears to my eyes on several occasions, then do yourself a massive favor and pick up a copy of Grace & Fury.

One of the plot twists towards the end was, perhaps, a bit predictable, but in hindsight, it’s actually only a very small part of the grander structure that’s Banghart’s novel and in no way leeches away any of the enjoyment. That lies in the layered characters, the vines of hope existing even in hopeless situations, and, in my opinion, in the breaking of shackles society had tried to entrap its people in. I really look forward to the sequel.

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Review: Ace of Shades (Amanda Foody)


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51kDRtypyxLBlurb:

Welcome to the City of Sin, where casino families reign, gangs infest the streets…and secrets hide in every shadow

Enne Salta was raised as a proper young lady, and no lady would willingly visit New Reynes, the so-called City of Sin. But when her mother goes missing, Enne must leave her finishing school—and her reputation—behind to follow her mother’s trail to the city where no one survives uncorrupted.

Frightened and alone, Enne has only one lead: the name Levi Glaisyer. Unfortunately, Levi is notthe gentleman she expected—he’s a street lord and con man. Levi is also only one payment away from cleaning up a rapidly unraveling investment scam, so he doesn’t have time to investigate a woman leading a dangerous double life. Enne’s offer of compensation, however, could be the solution to all his problems.

Their search for clues leads them through glamorous casinos, illicit cabarets and into the clutches of a ruthless Mafia donna. As Enne unearths an impossible secret about her past, Levi’s enemies catch up to them, ensnaring him in a vicious execution game where the players always lose. To save him, Enne will need to surrender herself to the city…

And she’ll need to play.

Review:

Can I hear a massive Hell Yeah for a POC bisexual character who also happens to be one of the two protagonists? HELL YEAH.

(shouts from the rooftops)

Right, now that I got that out of the way, I can tackle this a bit more calmly. Emphasis on a bit.

Ace of Shades is definitely my kind of book. I enjoy a variety of genres, characters, setups, etc., but give me a layered bi character, an incredibly vivid setting, a not-exactly-straightforward magic system, and a fast paced plot, and I’m hooked. Amanda Foody delivers it all.

I also have to point out I thoroughly enjoyed that the characters actually felt their age. Is Levi a crime lord at the age of 17? Yes. But he isn’t invincible. He makes mistakes. He has weaknesses. And while, as a street kid, he had to grow up fast, he’s still a teenager. Needles to say, I wanted to smack him over his pretty bisexual head a number of times, but therein lies part of the charm.

Enne, the second POV character, fits the same “believable” category. Her world shatters when she arrives in New Reynes, and throughout the book, she reflects how the old and the new clash, who she becomes because of it. It might look like a staggering turn at first glance, but her growth is there, sometimes outright, sometimes visible between the lines. I have to say, while I might not have been her fan at first, she quickly won me over. By the end of the novel, I found that I really wasn’t ready to part ways with her just yet. The sequel can’t come into my hands fast enough 😉

Last but not least, the world building/magic system. Aces of Shades slowly plies apart the layers, offering glimpses that later connect into a comprehensive whole. The two-talent aspect of their powers is an intriguing concept, as is the political (and historical) premise that is irrevocably tied to the aforementioned abilities.

All in all, this is a novel that has definitely found its place among my favorite 2018 reads, and I highly recommend it to everyone looking for queer representation packed in slightly gritty, but even more so spellbinding, fantasy.