I am so grateful to be a part of the #MatatagAtMatapangTour for Dauntless by Elisa A. Bonnin, hosted by Kate @ Your Tita Kate (https://yourtitakate.com/blog-tour-dauntless/)! Ever since I got into reading more, I’ve been looking for books by Filipino authors. Now, I’m happy to say that Dauntless will be joining my collection of books by Filipino authors.
Dauntless starts out as an adventure novel. Seri is a valiant, and is a part of a group of warriors that hunt beasts and explore the unknown part of their world. I felt that the story increased in action and my anticipation increased with every (virtual) page I turned. I was excited when Seri met Tsana, a mysterious girl, in a market. By this point, the pacing of Dauntless really drew me in to the story.
One aspect that surprised me was that Tsana narrates some chapters! I love it when the two main characters narrate a novel – I like seeing how they see each other. Both Tsana and Seri challenge each other. Tsana challenges Seri to see the world differently than what Seri thought she knew. Elisa A. Bonnin has done a great job of seamlessly crafting the history of the world into the overarching story, and Seri and Tsana’s romantic relationship. I also liked Eshai and Lavit’s relationship. They had a great dynamic.
As Dauntless progresses, it becomes so much more than an adventure story – it’s a story of the powerful bonds between living beings and how the unknown can be challenging to face at first, but it becomes easier when you have people beside you. The characters battle supposed beasts, the truth, and fight to understand their own paths. This sapphic fantasy novel is one of my favorites of 2022, and I hope there is a sequel; however, the ending makes this a great standalone too!
“Be dauntless, for the hopes of the People rest in you.”
Seri’s world is defined by very clear rules: The beasts prowl the forest paths and hunt the People. The valiant explore the unknown world, kill the beasts, and gain strength from the armor they make from them. As an assistant to Eshai Unbroken, a young valor commander with a near-mythical reputation, Seri has seen first-hand the struggle to keep the beasts at bay and ensure the safety of the spreading trees where the People make their homes. That was how it always had been, and how it always would be. Until the day Seri encounters Tsana.
Tsana is, impossibly, a stranger from the unknown world who can communicate with the beasts – a fact that makes Seri begin to doubt everything she’s ever been taught. As Seri and Tsana grow closer, their worlds begin to collide, with deadly consequences. Somehow, with the world on the brink of war, Seri will have to find a way to make peace.
Elisa A. Bonnin was born and raised in the Philippines, after which she moved to the United States to study chemistry and later oceanography. After completing her doctorate, she moved to Germany to work as a postdoctoral scientist. A lifelong learner, Elisa is always convinced that she should “maybe take a class in something” and as a result, has amassed an eclectic collection of hobbies. But writing will always be her true love. Publishing a book has been her dream since she was eight years old, and she is thrilled to finally be able to share her stories. Dauntless is her first novel.
*I received an e-ARC from Netgalley as a part of the tour. This did not influence my opinion of the book.
I’m so excited that I’m a part of the book tour for Beauty and the Besharam by Lillie Vale. This is a contemporary version of Beauty and the Beast, and so much more. I read it once, and then I immediately read it again. Thanks to Colored Pages Book Tours and Penguin Teen for the finished copy. This did not influence my rating/review of the book.
Beauty and the Besharam is my new favorite contemporary novel. It’s so relatable and yes, there is romance, and I also like how there were other side plots that were well balanced with the narrative. Kavya Joshi, who is Indian American, is at the end of her junior year of high school. All year, she’s been competing with Ian Jun, who is her rival. So, Kavya’s friends decide to try to help end their rivalry by setting up competitions for Kavya and Ian throughout the summer. However, Kavya and Ian start to realize that maybe there’s more to their relationship than just being competitors.
This is a book I wish I’d had when I was starting high school. Kavya is confident and unafraid to speak her mind. She also loves reading (like me), and works as a princess for children’s birthdays during the summer and on weekends. Throughout the book, we see Kavya’s identity as a teenage girl, sister, Indian American, reader, friend – Lillie Vale’s characters jump off the page and truly come to life in what’s an immersive romance AND a coming of age. She doesn’t have to lessen herself to be seen and be loved. I felt very empowered.
I really felt like the romance was organic. When I’m reading a rivals to lovers romance, I’m looking for a romance where both characters respect each other. I also loved that Beauty and the Besharam was set during summertime – seeing Kavya and Ian’s relationship outside of school helped me get to know the characters outside of their school environment. There’s so many fun summer activities in the book: going to the library, going to a riverwalk, canoeing. Kavya and Ian start to understand that there’s more to each other than what they’ve thought of each other in school, and it felt like I was on their journey right alongside them.
Family and Friendships
The frienships in this book!! Yes! I love supportive female friendships! I wish I could be a part of Kavya’s friend group. I also enjoyed Kavya’s relationship with her sister and how they both learned from each other.
This is my new favorite contemporary, YA romance book. I’m going to re-read it again soon because it came out quite close to when my school year ends (and includes empowering characters, messing up, making mistakes, and learning from those mistakes, female friendships, and summertime fun). I highly recommend Beauty and the Besharam!
Book Recommendations based on Beauty and the Besharam
The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala
The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala is an enemies to lovers/rivals to lovers romance set in a world where the gods have disappeared and magic is banned. Esha and Kunal’s competition in a game of outwitting each other and hiding who they truly are reminds me of Kavya and Ian’s competition of learning who they really are.
The Jasmine Project by Meredith Ireland
The Jasmine Project by Meredith Ireland includes a main character who’s romantic life is also being meddled in. In this book, Jasmine’s family (her siblings, cousins, etc.) try to set her up with three boys over the summer after she breaks up with her cheating boyfriend. Another contemporary romance novel I highly recommend!
The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo
The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo stars Clara Shin, a high school junior who has to work at her dad’s food truck with her enemy after Clara’s prank at her dance goes wrong. Both Kavya and Clara are confident and unafraid to be themselves.
Beauty and the Besharam: Synopsis
Heated competition leads to even hotter romance in this YA summer rom-com for fans of Sandhya Menon, Emma Lord, and Wibbroka.
Seventeen-year-old, high-achieving Kavya Joshi has always been told she’s a little too ambitious, a little too mouthy, and overall just a little too much. In one word: besharam.
So, when her nemesis, Ian Jun, witnesses Kavya’s very public breakup with her loser boyfriend on the last day of junior year, she decides to lay low and spend the summer doing what she loves best–working part time playing princess roles for childrens’ birthday parties. But her plan is shot when she’s cast as Ariel instead of her beloved Belle, and learns that Ian will be her Prince Eric for the summer. [Cue the combative banter.]
Exhausted by Kavya and Ian’s years-long feud, their friends hatch a plan to end their rivalry by convincing them to participate in a series of challenges throughout the summer. Kavya is only too eager to finally be declared the winner. But as the competition heats up, so too does the romantic tension, until it escalates from a simmer to a full-on burn.
Lillie Vale is the author of books for both teens and adults, including The Decoy Girlfriend, Beauty and the Besharam, The Shaadi Set-Up, and Small Town Hearts, an American Library Association’s 2020 Rainbow Books List selection. She writes about secrets and yearning, complicated and ambitious girls who know what they want, the places we call home and people we find our way back to, and the magic we make. Born in Mumbai, she grew up in Mississippi, Texas, and North Dakota, and now lives in an Indiana college town. Find her on Twitter @LillieLabyrinth and Instagram @labyrinthspine, or visit her website lillielabyrinth.com.
I’m teaming up with ColoredPages and PenguinTeen to give away 5 (FIVE) finished copies of Beauty and the Besharam by Lillie Vale! Follow the link in the bio to enter this US ONLY giveaway! You must be 18 years or older, or have parental permission to share your address if you win. The giveaway ends on 30th May at 11:59 EST.
Over the past year, I’ve really gotten into romance novels! My favorite romance novels are ones where in addition to a love story, there’s also side plots that are about the careers and interests outside, and sometimes including, each other. While the Modern Love Series by Alisha Rai is an engaging and cute series, I felt kind of disengaged because I wasn’t in the right mood.
Each book is told from dual perspectives. The first book, The Right Swipe, centers Rhiannon Hunter and Samson Lima. Rhiannon Hunter is the CEO of her feminist dating app company, Crush. Samson is man who Rhiannon shared one day with, but then, Samson disappears. When he comes back into her life, Rhiannon is unsure what to do when Samson comes back into her life, and the two end up having to work together. One of the elements I liked was that Rhiannon doesn’t apologize for what she wants and is willing to listen to other perspectives (namely, Samson’s). I also like how this book calls out the sexism that can come with dating apps.
The second book, Girl Gone Viral, tells the story of Katrina King (a partner of Crush) and Jas Singh. I love the bodyguard x love interest trope, and also how Katrina and Jas were both equal players in their relationship. Katrina is kind and loving. After an encounter with a handsome man, Katrina goes viral because of a fabricated, Twitter romance story. Jas invites her to his family’s farm until the media excitement is dampened. I love how Jas is always there for Katrina. Additionally, Katrina’s love of cooking is inspiring – she uses a starter that was passed down from her mother.
Katrina also has a panic disorder and goes to therapy. I like how Rai talks about mental health in this book, and how it’s ok to get help.
The final book, First Comes Like, focuses on Jia Ahmed and Dev Dixit. Jia is a leader of the online beauty community who thinks that she’s been corresponding with Dev Dixit, a famous soap opera actor. However, when they meet at a party, Dev doesn’t recognize Jia, much to Jia’s disappointment. Dev and Jia eventually end up fake dating because they’ve been spotted by the media. I love how Dev is open to hearing why Jia thought she was talking to him, rather than insulting her, and both characters are drawn to each other because they’re both involved in some form of visual media.
I wish the characters had spent more time with each other in the beginning (for example, I personally would’ve liked to see Dev perhaps talk to Jia in the hotel lobby), and I think I wanted to see Dev interact with Samson and Jas. These are just my personal thoughts.
While I wasn’t in the right mood for this romantic series, others may enjoy it more than I did. I was hoping for these books to break me out a reading slump, but I just wasn’t as attached to the plots as I would’ve liked. I honestly struggled with writing this review, but these novels are ones that captured my attention, as I finished them in one day. Rhiannon’s ambition, Katrina’s compassion, and Jia’s confidence make them enjoyable main characters to read about.
What’s a book that broke you out of a reading slump? Or have you ever taken a break from reading?
I can’t believe Christmas has already passed. In some ways, I like the anticipation before Christmas more than the day itself. It’s exciting seeing all of the different holiday decorations around the city, making chocolate mousse pie, and spending time away from school.
Therefore, The Holiday Switch is an excellent Young Adult romance centered around Christmastime in Holly, New York. It felt refreshing to me because I don’t read many holiday themed romances. In The Holiday Switch, Lila Santos, high school senior, is working at the Bookworm Inn, and trying to figure out how she can earn more money to go to her number one college, Syracuse University. Lila’s winter break plans are changed when she’s assigned to train Teddy Rivera, her boss’ nephew.
Lila Santos is a relatable main character. Like me, she loves reading, has a book blog, and is Filipino American. I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to read more books by Filipino American authors centered around Filipino Americans. Beyond these traits, though, Lila and I both desire for control over our lives where there are so many changes occuring. Applying for college and moving beyond the place we’ve lived all our lives requires help, sometimes from unexpected people.
Enter Teddy. Lila sees Teddy as an unfriendly coworker at first, as he is assigned the hours Lila was hoping for to raise more money for her college fund. This isn’t exactly the enemies to lovers trope because both Lila and Teddy want to see the Bookworm Inn succeed, but they have different ways of trying to draw people to the Bookworm Inn. Lila’s had an organized system for her library section of the Bookworm Inn, for a few years, while Teddy is a newcomer who has a fresh perspective on how Lila’s library should be organized.
This isn’t a spoiler because it’s on the back cover: Lila and Teddy end up accidentally switching phones. Here’s an area where I was a bit skeptical: sometimes when phones get switched, characters lie to each other and try to solve the other’s problems without asking. This is not the case for The Holiday Switch – I love the fact that Lila and Teddy communicate what their problems are. They know that they have different ways of organizing things, but in the end, they both respect and try to understand the other’s opinions.
I also like that the other people in the town are fleshed out. There’s an emphasis on community in The Holiday Switch, which is nice, as the romance and the plot nicely entwine. Ms. Velasco, Teddy’s aunt, runs the Inn, Carmela Ferreira (Lila’s best friend), is an artist who aspires to go to RISD, Pratt, or VCUarts. The town itself is like a character in the book: its fame comes because of the book turned movie “Holiday by the Lake” (which ends up playing a large role later on).
What I love most about holiday romances is that they’re all about love. Yes, The Holiday Switch is a romance novel, but there’s also signficant friend and family relationships. Lila learns more about the relationship with herself, and learns to recognize that moving out of one’s comfort zone may be easier with the support of family and friends. The Holiday Switch asks us to reconsider our first impressions of people, and to think about how love can be unexpected. This is a calming and bright read for Christmas, and I can’t wait to re-read it.
*Note: I thought all of the holiday puns were very amusing!!
Do you like reading books centered around holidays? Do you have any recommendations for holiday-themed books?
I’m the lead editor for my school’s student led newspaper this year, and this month, I wrote three book reviews for the newspaper! It’s exciting because my reviews were part of our first issue this school year. I hope you all are inspired to read these books, as they’re some of my favorites I’ve read this year.
Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron – Cinderella is Dead is an adventurous fairy tale with a f/f relationship at the center by Kalynn Bayron, who takes the original elements of Cindrella and turns them into a new world where the story of Cinderella is a part of history. The main character, Sophia, wants to marry her best friend, Erin, but has to attend a ball where she’ll be forced into marriage. This ball is meant to pay homage to the tale of Cindrella, but is instead a lie meant to conceal the true story of Cindrella. While escaping the ball, and her seemingly inevitable unwanted marriage, Sophia meets Constance, Cinderella’s last living descendant. Sophia finds herself embroiled in a mission to upend the patriarchal structure of her world. Overall, I loved this feminist take on the Cinderella story.
The Jasmine Project by Meredith Ireland – As an adoptee, The Jasmine Project stands out to me because it’s by an Asian adoptee and is about an Asian adoptee living her everyday life. Jasmine, the main character, finds her carefully planned summer upended when she finds out that her boyfriend, Paul, is cheating on her. Jasmine has no idea what she’s going to do for the rest of her summer before she starts college – until she meets three guys. Unbeknownst to Jasmine, her meddlesome family is trying to help her by setting her up with three guys to show Jasmine that she should be with someone who truly appreciates her. Throughout the book, Jasmine’s journey to love proves that love cannot be planned. The Jasmine Project is for fans of YA rom-coms and stories about self love, familial love, and all types of love.
Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists by Mikki Kendall, illustrated by A. D’Amico – Everyone should read this book because the movement for women’s rights impacts everyone. Women’s advocacy has existed for as long as human civilization, so I appreciate the fact that Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists is about the intersectionality of the women’s rights movement. For example, Fatima bint Muhammad Al-Fihriya Al-Qurashiya “a Muslim woman, founded a mosque and library that become the University of Al Quaraouiyine. . .the world’s oldest continually operating educational institution” (Kendall and A. D’Amico 22). Kendall’s motivating writing and D’Amico’s captivating illustrations bring the stories of women to life and illuminate the fact that the women’s rights movement is ongoing.
If you’ve read these books, what did you think of them?
I think I’ve written this multiple times: I struggle with writing reviews. However, the only way to get better is to keep practicing. Here are three mini reviews of books that I received ARCs of in 2020. The fact that I received these books from Netgalley/the publishers did not impact my opinions.
Heiress Apparently by Diana Ma
This is the first book in a series called Daughters of the Dynasty. The main character, Gemma Huang, defers her college acceptance at UCLA to follow her dream of becoming an actress. She ends up going to Beijing for her movie. Admittedly, I don’t really remember the storyline because I read this in September 2020, but I do remember the social commentary was a nice element in addition to the main storyline about Gemma and her family.
Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant
I think this was the first 2021 book I read, and I absolutely loved it! Tessa Johnson loves writing and reading about romance, so when she’s accepted into a creative writing program at an arts school, she accepts. However, she’s unable to find the words she needs to write. Her friend, Caroline, suggests she try to live out the romance that she wants to write about. If you’re looking for a book with a fun and introspective plot, then read Happily Ever Afters.
Overall, I read this book in September of 2020, so I do need to re-read it. I greatly enjoyed the fact that this book is about all types of love: romantic, friend, and self all play a role in this novel.
American Betiya by Anuradha D. Rajurkar
This is the very first book I read this year, and it was another read I loved. Recently, I’ve gotten into books that take place during senior year of high school. Rani, who is South Asian American, is going through her senior year of high school. Rani starts to date Oliver, who is white. As a teen, I definitely related to Rani’s journey of learning who she is. This book needs to be read, as I also am learning about my own identity. Please note that this book deals with toxic relationships and fetishization.
What have you recently read? What review advice do you have for me?
This review of The Burning God by R.F. Kuang is spoiler free, however, I will be sharing how I felt about the book (ex. my emotions). If you consider that a spoiler, please do not continue reading. There will be spoilers for The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic!!! If you have not read those books, do not continue reading. I will be writing a spoilery review in 2021 once I know more people have read it.
The Burning God by R.F. Kuang is one of my top 5 books of 2020. I first read The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic in August and loved them both. Kuang creates a world that is vibrant and draws you in. For being 500+ page books, I found myself easily lost in them.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect from The Burning God. I went in with no expectations, which I think helped because I didn’t want to set myself up for disappoinment. The Dragon Republic had one of the most shocking cliffhangers ever: Nezha stabs Rin in the back and Rin vows to have her revenge by using the southern provinces of the Nikara Empire. To be honest, I forgot the exact details of TDR, but it was pretty easy to connect the dots as I read TBG.
What I found most compelling was the relationship between Rin and Kitay. They’ve been through so much together, and seeing them work together in TBG is one of the best parts of this book. I also loved seeing Venka, and even started to understand Nezha (I still don’t like him). Seeing them grapple with the meaning of humanity and what it means to be a leader really impacted me emotionally because, again, they’ve been through a lot.
Again, the world building is so incredible. I can see characters journey throughout this vast world, a mark of Kuang’s amazing writing. I felt like I was right alongside them as Rin experiences a lot throughout this book. Additionally, the action scenes in this book are so well written: the pacing is pretty much perfect, so it’s possible to get through this book in one sitting.
As for the ending, I loved it while also feeling so many emotions. I’ve re-read it about three times already and Kuang is able to satisfy the readers (or at least, this reader). I cannot wait to see what Kuang writes in the future because I know I will 100% be reading it.
Have you read The Burning God? If so, what did you think? Please keep the comments spoiler free!!
THERE WILL BE MAJOR SPOILERS THROUGHOUT THIS REVIEW OF A SKY BEYOND THE STORM. I AM TELLING YOU NOW TO NOT LOOK IF YOU HAVE NOT READ A SKY BEYOND THE STORM. DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW UNTIL YOU HAVE READ IT. IF YOU READ MY REVIEW AND GET SPOILED, YOU WILL BE SAD. . . . . . . . SPOILERS!!!!!!!!! . . . . . . .
If you are here, I am assuming you’ve read the entirity of A Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir. If so, here is another warning: my style of writing reviews is VERY incoherent after I’ve read a really great book that is amazing and makes me want to cry and also just stare at the ceiling for a few hours contemplating my life choices.
Listen, I only checked my laptop and phone twice when reading this book from 8:15 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. today. I audibly gasped at some moments. I 100% stand by this statement: THIS IS HOW YOU END A SERIES.
I first read An Ember In The Ashes in January 2018. I then read A Torch Against the Night and A Reaper at the Gates in September 2018 in the span of three days (I honestly don’t remember doing this but I am proud and also wonder how I managed to do that). I read A Thief Among the Trees in October of this year and now I’ve finally done it!! I finished a series this year!!!
Sabaa Tahir is an excellent writer. I feel like the series can be divided up into two parts: AEITA and ATATN and then ARATG and ASBTS. The first two books seem more political fantasy focused while the last two books have this element as well as containing a lot of action and magic. This magic system is so unique and I agree with another review I read: THERE IS NO DEUS EX MACHINA. In fact, I love that Laia defeated/gets rid of the Nightbringer with the power of love and stories. I love endings like that.
I never felt bored while reading this. I definitely raced through some parts, but those were the action parts (like when Dex sacrificed himself, or the battle between Helene and the Commandment). I don’t remember the name of the Commandment’s mom, but OMG!! Commandment = lovey. I was not expecting that at all.
I also didn’t mind Helene’s point of view. Yes, she is still my least favorite character for being for colonization and how she treated Laila, and I do like seeing how she grew throughout the story. Her ending made sense. I was very sad when Harper died. I would love to see a novella about Harper’s childhood and maybe of interactions he had with Elias at Blackcliff.
Also, Darin’s journey!!!!!! This death made me the most sad because for a while, he was the only family Laia had left. I would like to see a novella about Laia dealing with the aftermath of the war. I also need to re-read a physical copy of ARATG because I didn’t comprehend why that other country was attacking. I also want to know how the government will work now that Helene is empress?! Like I was almost expecting there to be debates on having a representative government (or maybe I forgot this part).
Let’s talk about Laia. Laia is my favorite character AND YET that moment when she played into the Nightbringer’s hands made sense while also irritating me. However, I feel like this pushed her to see how she fights and I know that Tahir doesn’t favor certain characters/doesn’t allow Laia to be the perfect main character: to quote Rose Tico, “We win by saving what we love, not killing what we hate.” Yes, the Nightbringer went away, but again, Laia defeated him with love. Laia’s love for Elias is so strong, and that scene where Elias repeats Always Victorious almost made me cry, or at least I was sobbing in my mind. Elias went through so much and I truly believe he and Laia deserved the happy ending they got.
See, I absolutely despise it when authors kill off the main characters or make them die and come back. No resurrections allowed!!! They’re the main characters for a reason. This is why A Sky Beyond the Storm has the perfect ending. I love the character arcs of Laia and Elias and to see them rise beyond who they were in An Ember in the Ashes is so beautiful. Tahir is an excellent writer and every page made me want to keep reading.
Basically, I’m happy because Laia finally gets to be free and live on her own terms. In the other books, she was attached to her past and now in ASBTS, she knows how to work past her fears and tap into her powers. The legends/stories in this novel are so beautifully interwoven.
Finally, I cannot wait to see what Tahir writes in the future. This is the most perfect fantasy series I’ve ever read (besides The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco and The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang – no I have not read The Burning God yet oops), and I’m not just saying that because so many of my friends love this series. This is what fantasy should be: a world that expands as you read the series with characters who will live in your minds forever.
Last thoughts: I would love a wedding novella about Laia and Elias!!!! Or them going on dates or something because I want to see them together!!!! Most of this book was Elias acting super grouchy (haha) and being all like, “let me tend to my ghosts,” and yes I know that’s not him but I just want to see more of them!!! Also, I definitely think this series is in the upper YA category because I could definitely analyze some of the darker themes in this book/moments like when Helene crosses that pit of bones. I hope Tahir writes an adult fantasy series, and I’ll be happy with anything she writes. Again, I would love that Harper novella and maybe one about Musa. As well as a textbook of the history of this world.
Hello, everyone! I am so excited to be a part of the Spell Starter Tour for Elsie Chapman. Chapman is one of my favorite authors ever since I read her short story in the Hungry Hearts anthology (which she helped edit) and the first novel of her duology, Caster.
This year, I actually haven’t read many sequels. Some were pushed back and I’d started a lot of series last year because I read a lot of books. I had to prioritize which series/duologies/trilogies I would continue. At the top of my TBR? Spell Starter by Elsie Chapman. SPOILER FREE; SPOILERS FROM CASTER.
Let me just say that every single sentence in this book is captivating. I’m re-reading it right now and decided to annotate this time because I have a physical ARC (thank you, Shealea and Caffeine Tours!!!), and I already have so many pages marked despite being only a fifth of the way in.
First of all, I love seeing Aza’s point of view. While she’s been able to gain her magic back, the reader can see that she is still uncertain about who she is. She’s pulled into a situation she does not want to be in with Saint Willow.
Aza’s relationship with Saint Willow really captivated me. You can clearly see that Aza is afraid but also wants to exert some sort of control over situation, and recognizes Saint Willow for who she really is. Instead of joining magical fights on her own, Aza is forced into them because of Saint Willow. This power imbalance is striking to me, and the entire time I felt the same negative emotions Aza felt around Saint Willow.
Sometimes, sequels end up focusing on romance or a slow build up to a strong finish. Spell Starter is not like that at all: The writing in Spell Starter is strong the entire way through. I can honestly say that the ending of this book has me wanting to write fanfiction about [redacted] and [redacted] because the world Chapman creates feels so real. The atmosphere of Spell Starter pulls you in, and made me forget about my own life while reading. And that’s what my favorite books do: they make me feel a little less alone and more like I am walking or running on a journey with these characters.
Finally, as a teen girl myself, I relate to the fact that Aza so strongly wants control over her own life and powers. The outside world loves telling us what to do, how to act, and where we should go. However, this book made me think about how while it’s important to not walk alone, it’s also important to realize what we are truly capable of ourselves, and that in the end, our choices need to be our own.
Title: Spell Starter Author: Elsie Chapman Publisher: Scholastic Publication date: 06 October 2020 Age group: Young Adult Genre: Fantasy
The Sting meets Fight Club in this magical, action-packed sequel to Caster by Elsie Chapman.
Yes, Aza Wu now has magic back. But like all things in her life, it has come at a great cost. After the tournament, Aza is able to pay off her parents’ debt to Saint Willow. Unfortunately, the cost of the gathering spell she used to strip Finch of his magic has put her permanently in the employ of the gang leader. Aza has been doing little errands using real magic — collecting debts, putting the squeeze on new businesses in the district. But that had never been the plan. Saint Willow is nothing if not ambitious and having Aza as a fighter is much more lucrative than as a fixer. Especially if she can control the outcome. Aza is going to have to put it all on the line again to get out of this situation!
Bio: Elsie Chapman grew up in Prince George, Canada, and has a degree in English literature from the University of British Columbia. She is the author of the YA novels Dualed, Divided, Along the Indigo, and Caster as well as the middle-grade novel All the Ways Home, and the coeditor of A Thousand Beginnings and Endings and Hungry Hearts. She currently lives in Tokyo, Japan, with her family.
DISCLAIMER: I received an e-ARC from Netgalley. This did not influence my opinion of the book in any way.
DISCLAIMER #2: I also received a free copy from Wednesday Books as well as a finished softcover of The Gilded Wolves. This did not influence my opinion of the book in any way.
SPOILERS: will CLEARLY BE MARKED AT THE END!!!!!!!!!
THANK YOU TO ROSHANI CHOKSHI because she literally made my 2020. I am not joking. This sequel blew me away and I will be waiting for Book 3. First of all, the plot is so tightly written that there are no plot holes, which is great! There is a lot more action compared to TGW, which I really enjoyed. I LOVE SEEING THAT IN A SEQUEL!!! The world is already set up, and I’ve read TGW multiple times, so I remember what happened.
I was slightly worried that the romance between the main cast would take over the book, however, this is not the case in the slightest. The romantic moments are sweet, heartbreaking, and at times, wow. Roshani, just let them be together. *sobs over blank and blank* Roshani excels at writing slow burn romances and ones that I actually care about.
As for the characters? I will say that a certain someone got on my nerves. I am still reeling from redacted’s actions and have not recovered. Enrique, my favorite, is still my favorite and he’s a historian awkward nerd bookworm like me, so I would love him even if his characterization was different. Zofia surprised me because she got a lot more page time in this one, and I love her because she’s so much more relevant than redacted. And LAILA!!!! Wow. I love her as well. Also Hypnos.
The villains? Honestly, I read this ARC in July in less than two hours, so I don’t really remember. I do remember that I felt very surprised where Roshani took the story, in a good way! I forgot the history of the Order, so I will definitely be looking for that during my re-read.
The worldbuilding just gets better. There is a lot more in Serpents than Wolves, which I again loved so much. I want to see more forging in Book 3. However, I read this two months ago, and I paid more attention to the plot and characters, so I don’t have many thoughts right now on this part of the book.
Overall, this is my favorite sequel of 2020 and will likely be in my top 5 if not top 10 books of 2020. Roshani solidifies herself as an age category bending author because this book gets pretty dark towards the end. I would love to see Roshani write an adult fantasy or adult romance in the future because she is definitely capable of it (I’d go as far to say that this series grows with the readers: I was a freshman when I first read TGW and I am now a junior, and I can say that reading this almost two years ago would have been pretty intense in terms of the action). Also, the setting is freaking gorgeous. This is a perfect book in terms of craft and how it made me feel and actually, everything about it is perfect. Highly recommend.
SPOILER SECTION: turn back now if you have NOT READ SERPENTS!!!!!!! TURN BACK!!!! YOU DO NOT WANT TO GET SPOILED!!!!!!!!
Seriously, go away and read it if you haven’t then you can read this section.
If you’re still here, get ready to be spoiled!
I am so mad at Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. WHAT THE —-!!! I swear that that ending and cliffhanger is the BEST. It’s better than the one in Mark of Athena, which I didn’t have to wait for HOH to release because the whole series had already released. BUT THIS? 2021?!!!!! Roshani, please take your time because I would wait five years for the last book. I need time to feel the things Serpents made me feel.
THE ROMANCE? Laila oh my gosh!!!!!!!!!!! Why do I suddenly ship her and Enrique or her and Zofia? COme on, does anyone see it? Just me? Also Enrique!!!! He needs to live. Hypnos? needs friends!!!!!! needs a good romance with someone who will also be there for him.
Yeah. I will never be over the perfection that is The Silvered Serpents. Roshani Chokshi, you are the best author and I am just so amazed that this book can impact me months later even though I forgot most of the plot.