The Great Library: Ink and Bone

In an exhilarating new series, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time.…

Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.

Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.

When his friend inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn…

WHY did it take me so long to pick up this series? Also…WHY HAS NO ONE PHYSICALLY THROWN THIS BOOK AT MY HEAD?

I mean, seriously, the third book is getting ready to come out and not a single person has said HALEY WHY HAVE YOU NOT READ THIS AMAZING SERIES LITERALLY CALLED THE GREAT LIBRARY.

*deep breath*

I could do this entire post in capital letters, not even kidding. I’ll spare you. Or at least I’ll try.

I had a really hard time putting this book down, and since I took it home for my grandfather’s funeral, it was kind of a problem. I had ZERO time to read it!

Even though the story is very much action driven–and there is definitely no shortage of it–the characters are extremely well fleshed out. Each of the postulants have swirling dramatic back stories which could merit spin offs of their own, and there is one pair off in the book that I won’t spoil but just…I NEED MORE OF IT.

Also, can we talk about how Wolfe is the dreamy Snape that we all actually wanted? Because this is how you do a Dark Mysterious Teacher Figure With A Dark Mysterious Past Who Also Cares About His Students. He’s so swoopy in his librarian clothes, with the hair and the looks.

OH and the diversity! The world building is fabulous, and it takes people from all walks of life–multiple races, religions, genders, and sexualities are included in her first book.

I actually had this book on hold at the library when it came available from Blogging for Books, so I even have a paperback copy in the mail. I am SO excited to have this on my shelf. Now I just need to get the second book too. And…AND! I have the third book as an ARC–which is the whole reason I started reading this series right now (again, WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME EARLIER??), so prepare yourself for the next two coming up soon!

Blogging for Books and Penguin Random House provided a copy of this book for unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.

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The Vampire Chronicles: The Queen of the Damned

Make sure to see what I thought about The Vampire Chronicles:  Interview with a Vampire, and The Vampire Lestat.

In 1976, a uniquely seductive world of vampires was unveiled in the now-classic Interview with the Vampire . . . in 1985, a wild and voluptous voice spoke to us, telling the story of The Vampire Lestat.  In The Queen of the Damned, Anne Rice continues her extraordinary “Vampire Chronicles” in a feat of mesmeric storytelling, a chillingly hypnotic entertainment in which the oldest and most powerful forces of the night are unleashed on an unsuspecting world.

Three brilliantly colored narrative threads intertwine as the story unfolds:

– The rock star known as Vampire Lestat, worshipped by millions of spellbound fans, prepares for a concert in San Francisco.  Among the audience–pilgrims in a blind swoon of adoration–are hundreds of vampires, creatures who see Lestat as a “greedy fiend risking the secret prosperity of all his kind just to be loved and seen by mortals,” fiends themselves who hate Lestat’s power and who are determined to destroy him . . .

– The sleep of certain men and women–vampires and mortals scattered around the world–is haunted by a vivid, mysterious dream: of twins with fiery red hair and piercing green eyes who suffer an unspeakable tragedy.  It is a dream that slowly, tauntingly reveals its meaning to the dreamers as they make their way toward each other–some to be destroyed on the journey, some to face an even more terrifying fate at journey’s end . . .

– Akasha–Queen of the Damned, mother of all vampires, rises after a 6,000 year sleep and puts into motion a heinous plan to “save” mankind from itself and make “all myths of the world real” by elevating herself and her chosen son/lover to the level of the gods: “I am the fulfillment and I shall from this moment be the cause” . . .

These narrative threads wind sinuously across a vast, richly detailed tapestry of the violent, sensual world of vampirism, taking us back 6,000 years to its beginnings.  As the stories of the “first brood” of blood drinkers are revealed, we are swept across the ages, from Egypt to South America to the Himalayas to all the shrouded corners of the globe where vampires have left their mark. Vampires are created–mortals succumbing to the sensation of “being emptied, of being devoured, of being nothing.” Vampires are destroyed.  Dark rituals are performed–the rituals of ancient creatures prowling the modern world.  And, finally, we are brought to a moment in the twentieth century when, in an astonishing climax, the fate of the living dead–and perhaps of the living, all the living–will be decided.

When I decided to set out on this Series…urm…Series. I wondered what would happen if I decided not to finish one. I did not anticipate getting to that point in my first go round. I loved the first two books in The Vampire ChroniclesInterview was fantastic, and Lestat blew that one away!

Maybe because the first two were so brilliant, the third book just couldn’t keep up the pace. I had pretty high expectations. From the title, I expected it to be either about Akasha–written in the same first person narrative style, with age and period-appropriate voice, that Rice had used for Louis and Lestat.

However, she flipped writing styles completely. Lestat gives an introduction, and forewarns us that he is handing over the book to all the other vampires. Right away, my inner reader went “OH NO.” This book is SO disjointed compared to the first two. It must also be leading to the concert at the end of The Vampire Lestat–running sort of parallel. Unfortunately, it’s just so hard to follow. There’s barely any direction, and aside from the weird dreams about “red-headed twins” and out of context mentions of Lestat, there are hardly any connections between the narrators.

I feel like most of these vampires have nothing to do with Lestat, and that the thought of him is just thrust in randomly. They will be having conversations or streams of consciousness and suddenly “la de da blah blah VAMPIRE LESTAT blah blah la de da.” Every single time I was so confused about where he came from. Lestat swears in his introduction that he DID NOT write these narratives, that this is how they were given to him but it sure seems like either his vanity is shining through with abundance, or I am missing something completely.

Either way, I hit page 150 and just could not make one more. I could not stand the idea of 433 pages of this disjointed nonsense. Have you read The Queen of the DamnedCare to shed some light on this confusing book?

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Creative Aces Publishing: Unburied Fables

This collection enlisted talent around the world. From students to seasoned professionals, these writers came together to raise awareness and reinvent classic stories. While they showcase a wide variety of origins, styles, and endings, all the tales in this
anthology have one classic element in common: a happily ever after.

Fifty percent of this collection’s proceeds will be donated to the Trevor Project, a non-profit focused on suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, asexual and other queer youth.

I kicked off Pride Month with one of the most accepting collections of stories I’ve ever read. This was the very first book I read for June (actually I read it on May 31, but I’m totally counting it for Pride), and oh man was it ever fitting.

These are the fairy tales we should have all grown up with–where we a prince might climb a tower to save the princess, but then she is given the choice to go with him…or the daring woman who swoops in to maybe save them both. And maybe that prince just stays and hangs out with all those books that princess left because HECK YES I WANT TO STAY IN THE TOWER BY MYSELF! HEAVEN!

Ok, that might have been a spoiler for one of the stories. Oops. But you catch on pretty quick to the theme once you get going. All of them are pretty delightful. These are worlds where the bad guys are those who hate and try to stomp on people for who they are. Wouldn’t that be nice if that were true in real life, too?

And even though this is a book written by some super Creative Aces–don’t think there isn’t love. There is all kinds of romantic acceptance in this book–just not the sexy stuff we see so much of these days. Every story is full of whimsy and happiness, but also the morals that are the intended purpose of fairy tales, after all. You’ll recognize a lot of them, and maybe find a few new ones along the way. I think my favorite was the one about Matchstick Girl. Come back and let me know your fave, after you read these.

Go buy the book, it supports a fantastic cause!

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The Vampire Chronicles: The Vampire Lestat

Make sure to see what I thought about The Vampire Chronicles:  Interview with a Vampire.

Once an aristocrat in the heady days of pre-revolutionary France, now Lestat is a rockstar in the demonic, shimmering 1980s. He rushes through the centuries in search of others like him, seeking answers to the mystery of his terrifying existence. His story, the second volume in Anne Rice’s best-selling Vampire Chronicles, is mesmerizing, passionate, and thrilling.

After rereading InterviewI was really looking forward to moving on with the series. Anne Rice has such a mesmerizing writing style and and I couldn’t wait to peel back the curtain on the Lestat.

I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, The Vampire Lestat was even better than I imagined. This book is a unique sort of “time travel” story. We get to see across different centuries, without a time machine. Vampires are an ancient people, and that makes their stories so layered. Sometimes when we think of “period fiction” we forget that there are SO MANY PERIODS–and Anne Rice does such a fantastic job of separating them–not only crossing time borders, but continental ones as well.

At first I thought Lestat as a rock god was sort of weird. Why are we starting with an 80s hair band? But then, as we dove down into his days in the Paris theatre, it started to unwind and make a little more sense. I’m not saying I don’t still find that part of the book a little disjointed…but I can understand why Rice made that choice.

Rice’s vampirism is sexy–she took the metaphor she started in Interview all the way to actual sexual attraction and fulfillment in Lestat. And it was pretty freaking hot. I do not understand why incest is necessary–Rice’s fascination with perversion is probably the only thing I do not like about her books. I know becoming a vampire changes your relationship…but that is still is a no for me.

Lestats tone is incredibly poetic–much more than Interview–probably owing to the difference in the vampires’ eras. Also, Lestat was originally French, Louis American. That they are so different shows Rice’s skill as a writer. I can’t wait to move on to Queen of the Damned to find out the unique perspective that one will bring!

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The Vampire Chronicles: Interview With the Vampire

Series. The bain of my existence. Don’t get me wrong, I love a great series…but they are SUCH a commitment. And as a blogger, they are so hard to review, because do I a) read them as the books come out individually or b) wait until the full series is out? 

I almost never read a series when it is first out…but then I procrastinate reading the full thing in one go because then I have to forgo everything else I am reading. 

It’s such a challenge to fit everything in. TOO MANY BOOKS.

So, we are going to try something new here on ILR. I’m going to read full series, and review them, all in a row. I’ll post these on Mondays, and you can follow along with me as I read each book!

Up first:  The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice. I have the big silver Omnibus from Barnes & Noble, so it’s a great place to start. I read Interview with the Vampire in 2015, so the below is an updated version of that review.

Here are the confessions of a vampire. Hypnotic, shocking, and chillingly erotic, this is a novel of mesmerizing beauty and astonishing force—a story of danger and flight, of love and loss, of suspense and resolution, and of the extraordinary power of the senses. It is a novel only Anne Rice could write.

Vampires have never held much interest for me in the supernatural world. I’ve always been much more interested in magic–witches and dragons and elves. The whole blood-sucking thing…not for me. It could be regional, I’m much more interested in old British lore than Germanic and Eastern European, which is where vampires reign supreme, so the ancient legends never made it into my repertoire. And the modern retellings…well…I’ll pass on Edward and Bella, thanks.

However, one can hardly be up to par on their literature lists without at least reading Anne Rice. Besides DraculaInterview with the Vampire is probably the most famous work on the subject. Rice’s lead character Louis gives an elaborate narrative to a young boy, detailing his life as an 18th century vampire in New Orleans and Paris. He tells how Lestat turned him in order to try and gain access to his property, and how they then took a child as their daughter. Lestat’s motives are always sinister, and Louis determines to get Claudia away as soon as possible. Thus begins a constant struggle for their eternal lives.

On my second readthrough, I picked up a lot more on the pedophilic undertones of the book. When I read Interview the first time, I thought Claudia’s age and relationship with Louis was weird–but it made sense in vampire-land, that she’d stay young. However, Lestat’s obsession with boys really creeps me out. I mean, Lestat is creepy all around, but why must he always “take” young boys? It would be one thing if it were just sucking their blood as food–but Rice clearly draws a relationship between the vampire lust for blood and human lust for sex–and so an older vampire taking children really messed with me.

By writing about these doomful creatures, Rice not only weaves an entertaining and dramatic novel. Louis has been written with quite they philosopher’s mind, and so the narrative thread weaves a tapestry rich with conversations about God versus Satan, morals and motives, and even a little creation theory. There’s no ignoring the depth in this one, and perhaps because you are encased in the world of vampires, it’s very hard to find the light.

I had originally given this 4 Book Dragons, but I’m going to drop it down to 3. I liked it, but not as much on the second read. Perhaps I went a little too far down into the dark. The next book is all about Lestat so…I have a feeling it’s about to get darker.

 

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Rosalyn Eves: Blood Rose Rebellion

The thrilling first book in a YA fantasy trilogy for fans of Red Queen. In a world where social prestige derives from a trifecta of blood, money, and magic, one girl has the ability to break the spell that holds the social order in place.

Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.

As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romanies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.

I’ve been waiting for a series to spark my interest for sometime and finally Rosalyn Eves has come along to capture it. She blends historical fiction with magical fantasy and brings a revolution I’d never heard of to life.

At first, I thought I was going to have to put this book down, or at least do a hate read. I was side-eying it SO hard because she was using the derogatory term “Gypsy” over and over again. However, that turned out to be the point, and it was challenged multiple times later on–especially by the main character, after she was corrected and informed on it’s nasty connotation by her Romani friend.

Blood Rose Rebellion turned out to not only be a book about the Hungarian Rebellion in the 1800s, but also an outstanding look at privilege and the difference in hiding behind it, or using it to help those who do not have it. Anna took her Luminate privilege and made hard choices to fight for the rights of others to have a level playing field, instead of taking the easier path.

“I could not ignore the external factors–the threats to me and to those I loved. But stripped of those externals, the question was a simple one:  should every individual (man, woman, creature) be free to decide their own course?”

Ok, enough serious stuff–I fell IN LOVE with so many people in this book. The characters were so well fleshed out, I just couldn’t help it. I related to Anna quite a bit:  she didn’t fit in with her family because of differences in herself she could not change; she had an advocate’s heart and wanted to help people but didn’t always seem to know where to start–but once she got going, it was impossible to stop her or change her mind; and Anna felt deeply things that she felt she had an effect on–intentionally or unintentionally.

One of my favorite things about the story is the interesting relationship Anna has with the men. There is a whole fleet of ships:  Freddy, Gábor, Mátyás…even a character named Hunger is around for awhile. I can’t go into them because, spoilers. But jealousy never enters the picture, and it never feels like a love triangle situation.

The world building is also very strong. I fell right into the magical world of the Luminates. It almost feels Steampunkish to me–maybe it was just the time period, but that’s what I was imagining.

I need to stop going on and on and just let you read this book. And you should read it. The reviews on Goodreads haven’t been stellar, which makes me sad. I almost didn’t request it because of them. But give this a shot, seriously. I cannot wait for the second installment. I tend to go against popular opinion on big series, and this is just one of those–I loved it.

Blogging for Books and Alfred A Knopf provided a copy of this book for unbiased review.

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Patrick Ness: The Rest of Us Just Live Here

What if you aren’t the Chosen One?

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions…

So much of YA is the dramatic story about murder and tragedy among the popular kids. Vampires and werewolves and magic trolls in dungeons. This isn’t that story. This is something else, running parallel. This is the story of Emily the Background Slytherin and her friends (OMG KEVIN RUN). Those kids in the background who might actually do the assignments for graduation, whose lives go on no matter what might roam the halls or blow up the school.

But most importantly, this story is about a boy with OCD, a girl with an eating disorder, and  has both racial and LGBTQIA+ representation. Friends of mine who also have similar anxiety to mine insisted that I read this book ASAP because of the discussions that take place and I’m so glad they did. From start to finish, the OCD rep is just so incredible.

Mikey (I sort of cringe at this name because of those old cereal commercials) has severe anxiety/OCD–he gets into obsessive loops where if he doesn’t do a task exactly “right” something horrible will happen. Life becomes catastrophic inside those loops, getting worse and worse, and he becomes stuck.

Even though this is sort of a parody of YA fantasy, Ness does a wonderful job of blending his “Indie Kid” parallel with Mikey’s. The build up to the climax is so subtle that you hardly know it is coming–I sort of skimmed the chapter headings, but I thought they detracted from the actual story line, so I mostly just followed it through the main book.

I loved that Ness gives Mikey such a strong support system–his chosen family–instead of using the “hero comes to save him from his anxiety” trope. There’s a lot of talk about how one of his fears is that he is the least needed person, or no one would miss him if he were gone–I feel that SO HARD. And even though Mikey acknowledges at one point that he KNOWS he is lucky to have so many people who love him, to someone with anxiety, it’s so hard to convince ourselves that this is reality most of the time.

I could go on and on about everything that was amazing about the anxiety/OCD rep in this story. I want to quote the entire psychiatrist appointment to you. But, then you wouldn’t have to read the book, and I really think you probably should go read it. It’s going on my MUST READS list for sure, guys. So, yeah. Do it.

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Anne Bishop: Etched in Bone

New York Times bestselling author Anne Bishop returns to her world of the Others, as humans struggle to survive in the shadow of shapeshifters and vampires far more powerful than themselves…

After a human uprising was brutally put down by the Elders—a primitive and lethal form of the Others—the few cities left under human control are far-flung. And the people within them now know to fear the no-man’s-land beyond their borders—and the darkness…

As some communities struggle to rebuild, Lakeside Courtyard has emerged relatively unscathed, though Simon Wolfgard, its wolf shifter leader, and blood prophet Meg Corbyn must work with the human pack to maintain the fragile peace. But all their efforts are threatened when Lieutenant Montgomery’s shady brother arrives, looking for a free ride and easy pickings.

With the humans on guard against one of their own, tensions rise, drawing the attention of the Elders, who are curious about the effect such an insignificant predator can have on a pack. But Meg knows the dangers, for she has seen in the cards how it will all end—with her standing beside a grave.

I’ve been waiting a year for the fifth and final book in The Others series to come out. And I’ve had the ARC in my collection for months–I had to have been one of the first to be approved for it. My willpower is SO STRONG, guys. Sometimes I don’t know how I manage to wait until the release month to read these. Probably because I just have way too many books in line.

Anyway, the anticipation was strong with this one. I’ve loved the first four, and the last one teased some mega romance. My body was ready.

But maybe my brain wasn’t? Or maybe it’s because I’m halfway through marathoning ASOIAF for trivia next week. THIS FELT LIKE SUCH A CHORE. I couldn’t make it halfway.

Something about Etched in Bone just didn’t measure up to the rest of the series. Slow doesn’t begin to describe it. It also barely focuses on Meg and Simon at all, which is what I was really looking forward to in this last edition.

One thing I noticed, in the slowness, is that Bishop is continually reintroducing characters to us, even though this is the fifth book. Really, if you’ve made it this far, you should know her world by now–how packs operate, why Meg is special, etc. A little bit of that is fine, but it shouldn’t still be happening more than 25% into the book. it makes the story/series seem very choppy and ruins the flow of it.

The plot also focuses around domestic abuse, and there is a LOT of victim blaming. For a series that unpacks mental illness and addiction, I was pretty grossed out by how this topic was being handled. Maybe it resolves itself later–but it wasn’t looking good.

I hated to DNF this, but I hated to finish it more. When a book becomes a chore, it just is not worth it, no matter how much I loved the rest of the series. I’m so disappointed.

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Malinda Lo: Huntress

Nature is out of balance in the human world. The sun hasn’t shone in years, and crops are failing. Worse yet, strange and hostile creatures have begun to appear. The people’s survival hangs in the balance.

To solve the crisis, the oracle stones are cast, and Kaede and Taisin, two seventeen-year-old girls, are picked to go on a dangerous and unheard-of journey to Tanlili, the city of the Fairy Queen. Taisin is a sage, thrumming with magic, and Kaede is of the earth, without a speck of the otherworldly. And yet the two girls’ destinies are drawn together during the mission. As members of their party succumb to unearthly attacks and fairy tricks, the two come to rely on each other and even begin to fall in love. But the Kingdom needs only one huntress to save it, and what it takes could tear Kaede and Taisin apart forever.

How funny that I read Of Fire and Stars, and then IMMEDIATELY read another F/F book right after? That was not planned AT ALL! I had Huntress out from the library in an effort to read more POC authors, but I didn’t know it also had LGBTQIA+ characters. What a nice surprise!

I fell into this book right away. I was a little afraid that starting a fantasy right after fantasy would be redundant–sometimes I have to spread them out a bit–but no, this was wonderful. The world building in Huntress takes off right away, and it’s mystical and both lush and soft at the same time. I really appreciated the pronunciation guide at the beginning, too, and made sure to study it before diving in.

As for the romance, it is both steamy and modest. There are no explicit scenes, and certain things are left to the reader’s interpretation and imagination. I can’t really tell you why because, spoilers, but I sort of preferred it that way in this context. Also, if it allows this book to get into the hands of younger LGBTQIA+ teens, then I am ALL for it.

There were a few scenes that I felt were a tad rushed, or maybe should have been left for a next book. I kept thinking that the book would end and sequel time! …but then it kept going… Those hesitations/cliff drops were a little strange. But overall I loved this story and now I need to go pick up Ash as soon as possible.

DiversityBingo2017: LGBTQIA+ MC Of Color

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Audrey Coulthurst: Of Fire and Stars

This review is a tiny bit spoilery, but if you know anything about the book at all, then they aren’t anything you haven’t already heard.

Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden.

Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine—called Mare—the sister of her betrothed.

When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two become closer, Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. And soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.

But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.

December was my very first OwlCrate, and I was PUMPED. I’d been wanting to try it out for awhile, and not only did they run a Black Friday discount, they ALSO made December’s theme EPIC. It included all of our fave fantasy franchises:  Harry Potter, LOTR, Game of Thrones. I couldn’t pass it up. The box was made even MORE amazing by including a romance about two princesses who fall in love. FISTPUMP!

The story itself is beautiful:  Denna travels to her new country, expecting to meet the prince she has been contracted to marry. The two countries are preparing for war, and everything is unstable. There is a group of magical rebels trying to siphon the power from the land. Denna’s soon to be sister-in-law hatches a plan to obtain information about these rebels, and along the way they fall in love.

I have mixed feelings about this book, and from looking at the reviews, I wasn’t the only one. Many people were disappointed.

But first, the good. THIS IS A WORLD WHERE GAY PEOPLE ARE ACCEPTED. Duty, class–that is important–but F/F or M/M is not a problem. It is referred to without shame or judgment. Mare is even bisexual and that seems to be a normal thing. Cheating is unacceptable, betrayal is unacceptable, and you are expected to stick to your rank. But you can sleep with whatever gender you please.

I saw a few people commenting that the girls fought hard not to share their feelings with each other, but in my opinion, it seemed that had more to do with their duty than shame. Denna felt she couldn’t back down from her promise to Thandi, and Mare saw that and didn’t think Denna felt the same way about her.

It’s the first fantasy novel I have read where this is the case. I think it’s the first novel altogether with F/F main characters. We need more books like these, for certain, and I’m happy to see one in a popular book box like OwlCrate.

I do need to make one comment about worldbuilding in fantasy novels, Of Fire and Stars included. It always seems like the good guys/MCs live in lands with temperate climates and have allies with mountainous lands with snow, or visa versa. But the bad guys are almost always from the desert, and shady characters have some kind of vague accent. This is a very problematic trope because it mimics the prejudices in our real life. We make judgments about the characters based on actual stereotypes–and I am beginning to find that lazy.

For the most part, I would call this book delightful. I enjoyed reading it, and anyone who likes a love story about princesses probably will too. Just be aware that it’s a little problematic where worlds are concerned. I do hope Coulthurst writes more fantasy–I’m interested to see what she does next.

DiversityBingo2017: Free Choice

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