[Book Review] The Witch’s Heart

Book Cover for The Witch’s Heart

Title: The Witch’s Heart
Author: Genevieve Gornichec
Genre: fantasy; mythology retelling (Norse); romance; paranormal (witches); LGBT
Synopsis: (from goodreads) When a banished witch falls in love with the legendary trickster Loki, she risks the wrath of the gods in this moving, subversive debut novel that reimagines Norse mythology.

Angrboda’s story begins where most witches’ tales end: with a burning. A punishment from Odin for refusing to provide him with knowledge of the future, the fire leaves Angrboda injured and powerless, and she flees into the farthest reaches of a remote forest. There she is found by a man who reveals himself to be Loki, and her initial distrust of him transforms into a deep and abiding love.

Their union produces three unusual children, each with a secret destiny, who Angrboda is keen to raise at the edge of the world, safely hidden from Odin’s all-seeing eye. But as Angrboda slowly recovers her prophetic powers, she learns that her blissful life—and possibly all of existence—is in danger.

With help from the fierce huntress Skadi, with whom she shares a growing bond, Angrboda must choose whether she’ll accept the fate that she’s foreseen for her beloved family…or rise to remake their future. From the most ancient of tales this novel forges a story of love, loss, and hope for the modern age.

Review: 5/5 stars

** spoiler alert **

 The way the author weaves this modern retelling around the saga inspired Norse myth is fantastic. I love the way it starts and then begins again so many times. Ever since watching The Haunting of Hill House, I think of the line Nel says at the end, “Time is like confetti” a LOT. This book brought me back to this idea so often as we learned more and more about Angrboda’s saga.

On her own, Angrboda seems to have this amazing arc of humanity in her own right, she’s the one Odin couldn’t kill, the one who heals, the fierce mother, the independent woman, and the Mother Witch. It takes her a while to figure out who she is, but being on that journey with her is wonderful.

Having read this after growing up with Norse myth and the Marvel Universe, this is a refreshing take. In all versions of her story, she is a fierce mother. I love Angrboda’s relationships with Hel, Fenrir, and Jormundgandr. She may be the “mother of monsters” in myth, but in this story, she is just their mother, and wants nothing more than to fiercely protect. The betrayal and hurt is palpable when her children are taken. The writing is so strong and so vivid, it was excruciating to read.

In more recent Norse retellings, it’s Thor the hero, or Loki, the love ale trickster, or Odin, the benevolent. In this, they are not how they’ve been portrayed in the MCU. Thor is a a menace at best, a villain at worst; Loki has many faces, and the hurt and betrayal he is capable of shocked me. Odin seemed to be the most straightforward.

One of my favorite dynamics was between the women— Skadi, Sigyn, Freyja, Gerd, Angrboda, Hel, the she-wolf. There are so many instances of strong women being at odds with one another, but in the end, coming together anyway. Skadi helps Angrboda even though she doesn’t know her, Gerd teaches Hel nailbinding, Freyja helps Angrboda figure out seid again even though they are absolutely on opposite sides, and Angrboda and Sigyn come together in understanding before Ragnarok.

I appreciated that not everyone got a full blown ending too, just pieces of story as told by someone else. Like Gerd, she wasn’t given a redemption, just a final sentence or two from Skadi to help Angrboda come to a decision about understanding and forgiveness and where she stands. Sigyn too, after Loki’s punishment doesn’t really get any final ending either, just an unspoken second chance after Loki is killed in Ragnarok.

I think my favorite scene in the novel is when the bonds are broken and Angrboda is reunited with her sons. It was so touching and sweet. The notion that the brothers stayed in contact with one another, and that they did not hold anything against their mother — in fact calling her, “Mama” to start, was so comforting.


Overall, I think the cyclical nature of this book is what kept me so intrigued. The language and storytelling was just plain beautiful.

[Book Review] Unearthed: A Jessica Cruz Story

Book Cover for UNEARTHED

Title: Unearthed: A Jessica Cruz Story
Author: Lilliam Rivera
Illustrator: Steph C
Genre: YA; graphic novel; superhero
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Jessica Cruz has done everything right. She’s a dedicated student, popular among her classmates, and has a loving family that has done everything they can to give her a better life in the United States. While Jessica is a part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, allowing her to go to school and live in the U.S., her parents are undocumented. Jessica usually worries for her parents, but her fears and anxiety escalate as a mayoral candidate with a strong anti-immigration stance runs for office.

As the xenophobia in Coast City increases, Jessica begins to debate whether it’s worth renewing her status to stay in the U.S., or if her family would be safer and better off moving back to Mexico. And despite her attempts to lean on her friends and family, she finds herself constantly visited by visions of Aztec gods, one pulling her towards hope and the other towards anger.

But when her father is detained by I.C.E., Jessica finds herself being pulled into an abyss of fear. With her father gone and feeling helpless, Jessica must find her way out of her fears and ultimately become a voice for her community.

Review: 4/5 stars

I loved reading this, but honestly it was difficult to read on a kindle – and I think I lost some of the nuances of the comic nature of it. I’ll admit up front that I am not a DC enthusiast, so I don’t know much about the Green Lantern aspects that I might have otherwise looked for if I was a big fan before reading.

Getting the “unearthed” story of Jessica Cruz was so cool. I love Lilliam Rivera and have read a lot of her previous work – so I had a feeling already that the storyline would be pretty spectacular. I was not led astray. Her storytelling was out of this world.

I thought it was a good story for our time. Jessica being a DACA student, worried about immigration for her parents and others, is definitely a current worry for many. I think superhero stories are more than just fighting the big bad guys or aliens and all that, but also about fighting the big fight – the current big ideas like racism, xenophobia, and hate too.

[Book Review] A Spell of Rowans

Book Cover for A SPELL OF ROWANS

Title: A Spell of Rowans
Author: Byrd Nash
Genre: fiction; fantasy; paranormal mystery; contemporary romance;
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Raised by a narcissistic mother, the Rowan children’s magical talents were twisted to fit her needs. When Rachel dies, her children must confront the past to have a future.

Rachel Rowan could sniff out secrets and her antique shop, Rosemary Thyme, was a front to torment the residents of Grimsby. When she dies, her children are faced with the deadly fallout of blackmail, murder, and magic.

Victoria, whose empathic talent knows everyone’s hidden feelings; Philippa, whose glamour can bewitch; and Liam, the brother who touches objects to reveal their secrets, all find themselves in danger.

When her autistic brother is arrested, Vic needs to discover the truth to set him free.

A successful art restorer in the big city, Vic’s made a career of ignoring her past and hiding her strange powers. But with Rachel’s death, she must gamble away her secrets to face down forces determined to destroy her and her siblings.

And that hometown boy she dumped way back? He’s in Grimsby, and knows the truth about her.

Review: 5/5 stars

Content warnings: childhood abuse, neglect, violence, and trauma; rehashed childhood trauma as an adult; assault; attempted rape.

Nash has created one of my favorite books of 2021. This book is an exciting magical mystery that could easily be turned into the next Netflix series. I enjoyed the characters, the sibling dynamic, and the plot development from page 1 all the way until the end. Even the short epilogue was great!

The Rowan family story is told through a first person perspective, so we get Vic, the middle daughter’s account of the goings on after her mother’s death— but there’s so much more to it than an old woman dying.

Death is only the beginning of this entire plot line. It just gets better as mysteries are unraveled and new characters are introduced. Vic as two siblings, Pip and Liam, who are also trying to survive after their mother’s legacy. Enter Hunter, a big city lawyer, and Reed, an FBI agent / Vic’s high school boyfriend and then things get interesting.

There always seems to be a few characters that can’t get past an old grudge, like a decade’s old grudge right? Well, that’s Reed’s dad— the town’s old chief of police.

Everyone knows everyone, but no one knows anyone’s truth, and that’s what makes this book so, so good. There’s mystery, murder, betrayal, love, and intrigue until the very end.

I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

[Book Review] Cemetery Boys

Book Cover for Cemetery Boys

Title: Cemetery Boys
Author: Aiden Thomas
Genre: ya fantasy; paranormal romance; brujos; ghosts; LGBT
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave. 

Review: 5/5 stars

I loved this book! Thomas creates some really sweet characters in Yadriel and Julian. I loved the dynamic they had together so much. I love Yadriel and his quest to prove himself to his family. I love that Lady Death recognizes Yadriel and shows his family what’s what.

The character development for the three main characters (Yadriel, Maritza, and Julian) is really well done. I think Maritza’s personality is so clutch in a story like this. She doesn’t take anyone’s crap, loves her friends fiercely, and wants to do everything she can to be supportive. The BFF dynamic is on point in this story.

This adventure-mystery is so fast-paced and exciting. The murder, the intrigue, and the love story all develop so quickly, but in a way that seems so right. You’ll probably cry if you’re anything like me, but it will make you smile so hard too.

[Book Review] Nimona

Book Cover of NIMONA by Noelle Stevenson

Title: Nimona
Author: Noelle Stevenson
Genre: graphic novel; fantasy; LGBT; found family; humor; adventure
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) The graphic novel debut from rising star Noelle Stevenson, based on her beloved and critically acclaimed web comic, which Slate awarded its Cartoonist Studio Prize, calling it “a deadpan epic.”

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

Review: 4 stars

I loved the humor and the humanity in this graphic novel. Mimosa and Blackheart are the ultimate dynamic duo that everyone needs to read about. In the end, this is just a great story. End stop.

I loved the characterizations, the pacing, the flashbacks. I wanted a little bit more of the Nimona backstory, and a little more depth from the Institution— but honestly— would 100% recommend this story so much.

[Book Review] The Greenhollow Duology

Book Cover for The Greenhollow Duology

Titles: Silver in the Wood (#1) and Drowned Country (#2)
Author: Emily Tesh
Genre: fantasy; short stories / novella; LGBTQ; romance; fiction
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) There is a Wild Man who lives in the deep quiet of Greenhollow, and he listens to the wood. Tobias, tethered to the forest, does not dwell on his past life, but he lives a perfectly unremarkable existence with his cottage, his cat, and his dryads.

When Greenhollow Hall acquires a handsome, intensely curious new owner in Henry Silver, everything changes. Old secrets better left buried are dug up, and Tobias is forced to reckon with his troubled past—both the green magic of the woods, and the dark things that rest in its heart. 

The second volume of the Greenhollow duology once again invites readers to lose themselves in the story of Henry and Tobias, and the magic of a myth they’ve always known.

Even the Wild Man of Greenhollow can’t ignore a summons from his mother, when that mother is the indomitable Adela Silver, practical folklorist. Henry Silver does not relish what he’ll find in the grimy seaside town of Rothport, where once the ancient wood extended before it was drowned beneath the sea—a missing girl, a monster on the loose, or, worst of all, Tobias Finch, who loves him. 

Review: 5 Stars

This duology was 1. sweet 2. kind 3. engaging 4. magical 5. the embodiment of green magic 6. a little bit wicked. I loved it. Book 1 (Silver in the Wood) started with this amazing legend of the Wild Man in the forest, who we learn to be real, and a man named Henry Silver who has absolutely no business being in the woods at all. A story of is built on their dynamic and it is a beautiful thing. Their companionship is fantastic and the lengths the two go to for each other in book one is so, so good.

In book two (Drowned Country), we meet two more characters who are, without a doubt, such a fantastic addition to Henry and Tobias’ dynamic. ADELA is the GOAT. She’s got so much spirit and life and all things badass. And when the story continues, and the myth of the Wild Man and his domain is explained and evolves — it is so believable.

Tesh’s world and her work is so good. This duology was a fast read — I wish there was more of, honestly. It was so beautiful and so fresh. I would pick up anything else she writes in a heartbeat.

[Book Review] The Singing Hills Cycle Series (2)

Book Covers for The Singing Hills Cycle Series

Titles: The Empress of Salt and Fortune (#1) & When the Tiger Came Down from the Mountain (#2)
Author: Nghi Vo
Genre: fantasy; novella/short stories; LGBTQ; women’s fiction; romance; feminism
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) #1 – A young royal from the far north is sent south for a political marriage. Alone and sometimes reviled, she has only her servants on her side. This evocative debut chronicles her rise to power through the eyes of her handmaiden, at once feminist high fantasy and a thrilling indictment of monarchy. 

#2 – The cleric Chih finds themself and their companions at the mercy of a band of fierce tigers who ache with hunger. To stay alive until the mammoths can save them, Chih must unwind the intricate, layered story of the tiger and her scholar lover—a woman of courage, intelligence, and beauty—and discover how truth can survive becoming history.

Review: 5 Stars

I truly enjoyed these two books. I’m unsure if there will be more, but so far there are only two. Both were wonderful. They were well-crafted, intricate stories about women, about families, about life, and about love. Both of the Singing Hills Cycle books featured Chih, a cleric who wants to record history as it was. On their journey, Chih finds that what they think they know isn’t exactly real, but a version that has been warped by others. They aim to correct it and write the narratives of those they run into.

In The Empress of Salt and Fortune, Chih is told this beautiful, tragic, and powerful tale about the exiled empress who is cunning, wild, and lovely through the eyes of a former maid, who is also cunning and wild. Chih learns from her that history isn’t always what was written from Rabbit, the maid. As the story continues, there are moments of the supernatural blended in so beautifully with the realistic. Animals, humans, spirits — it’s all so perfectly woven together so that Chih can write the the true history of empress of salt and fortune.

In book 2, Chih is hoping to get to their destination on the back of a mammoth, but ends up getting caught up in a storm and detained by tigers threatening to eat them. It’s here that they learn again that the history they have written back at the temple isn’t quite the truth. This time, the tigers tell Chih the truth, a beautiful love story where once there was just a history of violence and gore that painted the tigers like vicious monsters.

Again, Vo creates these beautiful characters, this compelling story, and this amazing moral where we’re sitting right there with Chih – remembering that we have to think critically about the histories we learn.

I loved these stories and sincerely hope there are more.

[Book Review] Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas

Lost in the Never Woods Cover Image

Title: Lost in the Never Woods
Author: Aiden Thomas
Genre: YA; fantasy; retellings; mystery; thriller; fiction; fairy tale
Synopsis: [from Goodreads]

It’s been five years since Wendy and her two brothers went missing in the woods, but when the town’s children start to disappear, the questions surrounding her brothers’ mysterious circumstances are brought back into light. Attempting to flee her past, Wendy almost runs over an unconscious boy lying in the middle of the road, and gets pulled into the mystery haunting the town.

Peter, a boy she thought lived only in her stories, claims that if they don’t do something, the missing children will meet the same fate as her brothers. In order to find them and rescue the missing kids, Wendy must confront what’s waiting for her in the woods.

Review: 5 Stars

This was one of the coolest fairy tale retellings I’ve read in a long time. It reminded me a lot of The Hazel Wood, in that it wasn’t just a happy go lucky retelling with a fun loving character on a journey everything turns out fine.

This is told from the perspective of Wendy and it is not all fun and games and Neverland hijinks. The way Thomas tells and creates this narrative is both gripping and heart warming.

I love the depth to Wendy and Peter for sure, but all of the little interactions with the side characters too. In the hospital’s children ward where the children all want to be the shark, getting to know Jordan’s boyfriend, learning the effects of trauma on the family through their shared interactions. It’s so well written… but honestly I would expect nothing less from the author of Cemetery Boys.

Read this if you loved the original, read this if you loved Hook. It’s spooky, it’s mysteries, and I couldn’t put it down.

[Book Review] The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

Book Cover for The Fifth Season

Title: The Fifth Season (Book 1/3)
Author: N. K. Jemisin
Genre: fantasy; science fiction; ya; dystopia
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

Review: 4 stars 

The learning curve for this novel / series was really steep, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this novel in the least. Jemisin has, in this series, created a world, and along with it, a complicated mythology, history, and vocabulary. There is a class system, a series of working pieces, and a natural order of things that from the beginning feels like it needs disrupting. 

Readers walk into this book en media res and it feels like jumping into an eight foot pool without really knowing much more than a doggy paddle. She provides a strong warning at the beginning though, so if we decide to keep reading, it’s really our choice. I decided to keep reading and was not disappointed. 

I love the characters in this novel. Jemisin creates strong voices in each of them. She also uniquely presents the second point of view for Essun, one of the narrators of the novel. Throughout her chapters, instead of getting an understanding of what’s going on around Essun, we see what’s happening through her. 

This is made clear in the very beginning of the text when Jemisin writes, “You’re the mother of two children, but now one of them is dead and the other is missing. Maybe she’s dead, too… And you… you shut down. You don’t mean to. It’s just a bit much, it’s the it? Too much. You’ve been through a lot, you’re very strong, but there are limits to what even you can bear” (Jemisin, 16). 

This truly and intrinsically places the reader squarely within the narrative framework of the text. I’ve never felt more a part of a novel before this. It was almost like I was going to have to stay with her, suffer with her, survive with her. Whatever this character had to face, so would I, as the reader. 

The interwoven tapestry of the Stillness is so creatively designed in this novel. There are so many connections and characters that are, in the end, all tied to this stonelore. 

I still have to many questions about the stonelore. 

Okay. I’ve been trying to figure out how to write this review for a minute and here’s what I got:

Sexuality and sex is really well written in this book. It’s so nonchalant and like, normalized that it isn’t even a big deal in this world, but that’s why it’s cool to say something about in this review. 

This book really has a lot to say about systems of power and corruption. It does so in really, really overt, horrifying ways (Damaya’s hand, Syen’s first assignment, the node worker, etc.).  There are so many ways, through this first book in the series, that Jemisin really talks about the struggle of power, and it is really cool when Syenite and Alabaster have their discussions about this. 

I love the dynamics between Alabaster and Syenite. There’s this deep respect, but also utter annoyance. I’m here for it. It was really interesting to watch this relationship grow this book. It was clear right away that Alabaster had this very different ideology, right? And that he could really teach someone like Syenite, if she was open to it. I have so many thoughts about this. I almost wish there was more of this.

One thing I didn’t like at the very when he told her he understood why she did something, but would never forgive her for it. He was the one who told her to do whatever it took to make sure it never happened. She did what she had to. So. That pissed me off. 

(Rant over)

Okay. 

So. 

I loved this book. I loved the relationship between characters and time and the world and the earth. I’m so intrigued to see where this is going. 

[Review] House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1)

image0Title: House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1)
Author: Sarah J Maas
Genre: fantasy; new adult; adult; romance; mystery; series
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.


Review
: 3 Stars

Spoiler content warning! Proceed with caution!

Like many others, I preordered this book and waited with bated breath. Then tore into it the moment it arrived. And then. I wasn’t dazzled? Like, it took over 100 pages for me to get into it and even then, the only reason I kept reading at all was because it was an SJM book. Here’s the good news— it got better over time!

While I never truly fell in love with any of her characters (maybe a few side characters) I did really enjoy the plot by the middle. I loved the bare bones of it: a murder mystery whodunit. I liked that SJM gave us little pieces that kept coming back up throughout the book (Bryce going to the Istros and seeing something creepy, Danika and Bryce getting caught up in something scary when Danika says she loves Bryce, Hunt’s backstory with Shahar, Jesiba’s whole character in general, Fury) that kept the plot moving.

There were a few plot twists that I definitely expected:

  • Micah — duh.
  • Hypaxia, obviously.
  • “What blinds an Oracle?” (471)

But I found that I didn’t care too much that I saw them coming because it kept the story going, just like the little clues. It was well done.

I really liked the world building in this book. SJM wrote unique and distinct subsets of Lunathion and it was brilliant.  SJM’s writing style changed depending on where we were in Crescent City. I really loved that. My heart raced when they were in the Meat Market. Sentences seemed shorter. When Bryce and Hunt were at the shooting range, there was a carefree feel to the writing that made me feel like the characters.  The energy and time put into this element of the book is clear. Moonwood, FiRo, the Gallery — each territory is its own space, and it’s so wonderfully done.

Another thing I love about SJM is how she goes about creating a new mythos in each book series. It’s clear she’s setting her readers up for a new series too. Before even jumping into the book, readers are given a preview on the “Houses of Midgard” so we’re aware that we’ll be diving right in. At the very bottom of this page, it says, “Sprites were kicked out of their House as a result of their participation in the Fall, and are now considered Lowers, though many of them refuse to accept this.” This preview lets us all know that we’re in for something bigger, but I for one, didn’t expect the amount of the Fall storyline that we got in this book too.

Overall, in terms of worldbuilding, I felt like I was thrown into the deep end — (literally every mythical beast will appear, any animal can be a shifter — can we talk about the magpie shifter at the market? omggg — every scary creature you’ve ever heard of is in there too, and angels, fae, and mermaids will be in here also) but I knew how to swim, so… I dealt with it.

That being said, her characters were not fun. Like. From Bryce to Hunt to all of them, it was tough to care about literally any of them. I get that SJM wanted to write an adult fantasy book but having her main heroine be the jaded party girl was not easy to read. I think I understood the intention — hide who you truly are and watch people show you their true colors — right?  But in my opinion, that went on too long. Bryce’s grief was palpable and parts of that felt so real and so raw, and I truly go that. Those pages were tense and hard to read for the right reasons. But so much of Bryce was hard to read for the wrong reasons.

And don’t get me started on Hunt. With his brooding “tortured soul” thing? It was just really rough to read for SO MANY pages.

Bryce is very anti- alphahole the whole book, but then, on a DIME, she turns around and attempts to give up everything for Hunt. Her entire character is built on this idea of not giving up herself for a man, and then she sells herself to Jesiba for him? Tries to sell herself to Sandriel for him? After everything he did to her — it’s like antithetical to her character. I still don’t understand it as a plot point.

Some of the other characters were also like… kind of like character cliché shells to me. Like Ruhn, Bryce’s overbearing-yet-essential-skill-having parents, the friends who just give up on her when everything with Danika goes down.

It was almost like the plot took all of SJM’s attention and then she just pulled character cards that she started working on but hadn’t finished yet. It’s almost like she plans on filling out the character traits in the subsequent books in the series.

At the end of the day, I still:

  • read all 800+ pages

still enjoyed:

  • the banter between Bryce and Tharion
  • Bryce telling off Ithan and the wolves
  • Hunt telling off Amelie
  • Bryce’s dynamic with Lehabah and Syrinx

still cried when:

  • “My friends are behind me, and I will protect them” (702) and “My friends are with me and I am not afraid” (703).
  • “I forgave him a long time ago… I just didn’t know how to tell him” (735).
  • “Light it up, Bryce” (764).

and will still buy the next one.