[The Girl King] Mimi Yu

This novel follows Min and Lu, two sisters whose paths are spread out before them. Lu is destined to become the first female Emperor, and all of her lessons are preparing her to take over from her father when he deems her ready. Min is her younger sister, seemingly destined to be forever in Min’s shadow. But when their father betrays Lu and passes the throne to a male cousin, suddenly Min has the potential to have more power that her sister. As Lu flees her home and becomes a fugitive, Min discovers something inside of herself that she begins to nurture. Power comes in many forms.

The Girl King starts with a prologue, something I both love and hate in equal turn. Prologues can work to set the tone of the book, but I don’t think that the prologue in The Girl King did it any favors. It actually made it very hard to get into the story. It starts with characters we don’t see in the next chapter, so I was left wondering what the point of the prologue was and who the people were. Eventually it ties into the rest of the book, but when the main plot of the book involves Lu and Min, I really felt like the novel should have started with them.

The three main characters of The Girl King were Lu, Min, and Nokhai. Lu and Nokhai traveled together through most of the book, while Min was on her own. I thought they were all well-developed, with my favorite being Nokhai. I wish that more of this story had been spent on his past and shapeshifting Continue reading


[Empress of All Seasons] Emiko Jean

This is another novel that is inspired by Japan and by yokai. I recently read Shadow of the Fox, and was a bit worried I’d compare Empress of All Seasons to it. Empress is a completely different novel. When Mari is born into the Animal Wives––the beautiful beast yokai ––and is an average beauty, her mother knows that her path in life will need to be different. Instead of training to become a wife who will steal the fortune of her husband and then return to the Animal Wives, Mari’s mother begins to train her to become the greatest Animal Wife of all: The Empress of All Seasons. For every generation, a competition is held to find the next empress of Honoko. And Mari has been training for this her whole life.

There’s two main parts of this novel. The competition to become empress is one of them. Young women from across Honoko come to the palace to compete in seasonal rooms, where perpetual spring, summer, autumn, and winter––and their own dangers––wait for them. The rooms were interesting and I thought it was unique to have the woman fight the season. If they conquer the room, they’re one step closer to becoming empress. Continue reading

[Truthwitch: The Witchlands I] Susan Dennard

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Truthwitch is my official first read of the year! I read it last year in three days and I read it in three days this year. It’s one of those books that sucks you in and suddenly it’s three in the morning.

Truthwitch follows two witches who have a knack for getting into trouble. But when they get into a bit more than they can handle, Safiya and Iseult have to flee everything they’ve ever known. And as a rare Truthwitch––her powers the kind that people would kill for––Safi must keep one step ahead of everyone who is after her. The Threadsisters will do anything they can to keep out of the hands for those who would do them harm.

This is one of my favorite fantasy books! I love this immense world so so much. It’s set in the Witchlands, a series of lands with different rulers that are just coming out of a Twenty Year Truce. There’s a lot of bureaucracy that surrounds the Truce, which means that there’s rules that each country are bound by. But there are ways around the rules. As Safi and Iseult navigate through this world, they begin to discover just how much they need each other––and how much their world may need them.

It’s not only the world that I’m really impressed by, it’s the magic system. Safi is a Truthwitch and she can tell if people are telling the truth or not. Iseult is a Threadwitch, someone who can read the Threads that make up a person. It’s very handy for knowing if they’re in danger or not. There’s also Windwitches, Earthwitches, Waterwitches, Airwitches, Aetherwitches, and Voidwitches. Each witchery is connected to an element, and each witchery is further broken down into different elements of control over the element. It is so unique. The magic system alone is a reason to read Truthwitch, but another thing is the great characters. Continue reading

[Rule] Ellen Goodlett

Akeylah. Ren. Zofi. Three young women with terrible secrets that spell death if they’re found out. They think they’ve managed to get away with it, living quietly with their guilty conscience. In a moment, that changes. Suddenly the heirs to a dying king, they are moved to the court where they need to learn how to become a ruler. Navigating a court where their every move is watched is difficult for three women who are used to going unnoticed in the world. Only one of them will take the throne. Unless their blackmailer reveals their secrets first.

These secrets and the mystery of who is blackmailing them is the focus of the novel. While the book is also about the three sisters suddenly becoming heirs to an empire that for some of them has caused them nothing but harm, this mystery underlies everything that occurs. Supposedly the king wants to train Akeylah, Zofi, and Ren to be the next ruler. However, I felt like there wasn’t enough of this in Rule. It seemed to have been forgotten in the wake of the mystery. I would have liked to learn more about the world. There’s hints of a growing rebellion and of the way different countries have merged in the past, but it doesn’t really go in depth.

As for characters, I found Akeylah, Zofi, and Ren to be interesting protagonists. Coming from three distinct backgrounds, they allow the reader to navigate the world of the court with them. They each had unique voices and I found their fears and motivations to be well-developed. I liked reading how they went from working individually to working together. Continue reading

[Shadow of the Fox] Julie Kagawa

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In a world where yokai are reviled and hunted down, Yumeko has been raised in an isolated temple for her own safety. Or so she thinks. When the peace of the temple is shattered by an attack that leaves her family dead and Yumeko alone, Yumeko realizes that the stories her mentor has been telling her are true. Setting off on a quest that is full of adventure and potential allies––and enemies––Yumeko must protect her temple’s greatest treasure: an ancient scroll that holds the key to saving her world.

While Yumeko’s naiivity annoyed me a bit at first, her character began to grow on me as she proved that she was not just a mischievous half-kitsune out on an adventure. As she matured, she became a protagonist whose perspective I looked forward to reading. Instead of using fox magic to trick others, she began to find other ways to use her magic in order to protect those around her. Yumeko’s growth was on a trajectory that made sense to me; she didn’t suddenly become wise to the ways of the world, she had to fight her way there.

Nekomata, a cat yokai.

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[This Savage Song: Monsters of Verity I] Victoria Schwab

I’m going to be honest: I’m glad I read this author’s adult fiction works before I read her young adult fiction. It’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy This Savage Song, but it was considerably tamer than I expected, especially coming off of the Shades of Magic series. I expected to be more captivated by the characters and world than I ultimately was, which is okay. It just means that I enjoy V.E. Schwab’s grittier and darker worlds, despite this one also having those qualities.

This Savage Song is a story of a divided city and the heirs that live inside of it. The divided city is reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, but with a lot more monsters and no distracting qualities of romance. I LOVED that there was no romance in this novel. Too often the plot of dystopians get overtaken by the romantic ramblings of teenagers in love, but not so in this book. Kate and August were their own characters with their own agendas. When they were pushed together, they had to deal with the tension of technically being each others’ enemy on top of running for their lives. That made the book far more interesting than a romantic-dystopian novel.

It’s rare, I think, to read a dystopian novel that doesn’t have a romantic sub (or main) plot. That’s why This Savage Song was such a refreshing read. The plot didn’t focus on it, which allowed the world to be fleshed out more and the focus to be on everything happening instead of the two characters catching feelings. Their friendship grew tentatively and I loved seeing how their feelings about each other changed into an understanding that only they could create. There needs to be more great friendships in young adult literature that doesn’t become a relationship. I love reading those stories too, but there doesn’t always need to be a romance. I love that Schwab didn’t go the route that now seems the norm in young adult literature.

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[Furyborn] Claire Legrand

The premise of Furyborn is the legend of two queens: one of light and one of blood. Legrand takes the legend of these two queens and sets them miles––and years––apart. As the story spans across centuries, the legend of the two queens becomes just that––a legend. But when a girl who can’t be injured comes along, people begin to believe that perhaps it’s not just a legend.

To start off, I think that the premise for this book is amazing. I love the idea of things that don’t seem connected at first, especially when they involve the falls of kingdoms and of powerful women who don’t downplay their talents. It’s something that I love seeing in books, because I feel like there’s a ton of female characters who write off their talents. This was not the case for Rielle and Eliana. They both know that they’re talented––one with the elements and one with knives––and they’re both really unapologetic about it. There need to be more women like this in fiction. Having the book focused on the two of them made it really enjoyable, and I liked how both of their perspectives were super different. Their lives were so different too and seeing that contrast showed more of the world than if they’d both come from the same background.

The worldbuilding in this novel was great! The world was easily my favorite part about this novel. It was really interesting to see how Legrand built up the world by subtly putting in information as Rielle was going through the elemental trials. It was just enough that I really wanted to know more––or perhaps I could read some prequels about the Saints?? please and thank you––without taking away from the rest of the story. This novel kind of has two different settings and worlds, too; even though both Rielle and Eliana technically exist in the same world, they exist a thousand years apart. That means that Rielle’s reality, the one that we’re shown with angels and magic, is not Eliana’s reality. In fact, so many years have passed that people don’t really believe that magic ever existed. They think that they’re just stories. I loved that we could see these two settings side by side because of the dual perspective. I also really appreciated that Legrand showed negatives and positives to both times and didn’t make one better than the other.

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