The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave | Book review

Hello There

As I am beyond excited for autumn and Halloween, I started on my Halloween reading… In August. One of the books I was eyeing the most for Halloween was The Deathless Girls, which is a f/f reimagining of the brides of Dracula. I was lucky enough to be approved for an e-ARC of it and read it as soon as I could (I was so excited!). It’s coming out next week in the UK, so I thought I’d share my review of it with you all today!

the-deathless-girls

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Published on September 19th 2019 by Orion Children’s Books

Summary:  Gothic, intoxicating, feminist and romantic – this is the breathtakingly imagined untold story of the brides of Dracula, by bestselling author Kiran Millwood Hargrave in her much-anticipated YA debut.

They say the thirst of blood is like a madness – they must sate it. Even with their own kin.

On the eve of her divining, the day she’ll discover her fate, seventeen-year-old Lil and her twin sister Kizzy are captured and enslaved by the cruel Boyar Valcar, taken far away from their beloved traveller community.

Forced to work in the harsh and unwelcoming castle kitchens, Lil is comforted when she meets Mira, a fellow slave who she feels drawn to in a way she doesn’t understand. But she also learns about the Dragon, a mysterious and terrifying figure of myth and legend who takes girls as gifts.

They may not have had their divining day, but the girls will still discover their fate…

flower

MY THOUGHTS ON THE DEATHLESS GIRLS

I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Deathless Girls sounded like such a promising read, perfect for autumn: who wouldn’t want to read a f/f reimagining of Dracula, which gives a voice to the voiceless? In Dracula, it is mentioned that the vampire has three brides, two dark, one fair. The Deathless Girls is the story of two of them.

From the first few words, The Deathless Girls is a brutal story and doesn’t shy away from the realities of history. It follows Lil and her twin sister Kizzy, which see their family and community slaughtered and burned to the ground on the eve of their seventeenth birthday, before they are enslaved by the cruel Boyar Valcar, ruler of the land. They are then taken away to his castle, where they become serving girls and eventually cross paths with Dracula.

As expected, this novel is full of gothic elements and I really enjoyed reading about them. It goes from the darkness in humans’ hearts, which can be filled with hate and prejudice without any reason, to the more supernatural gothic elements, exploring the myth of the vampire. All in all, the setting was believable and was great for a book you’d read during autumn or near Halloween.

the-deathless-girls-aesthetic.jpg

At its core, The Deathless Girls is a character-driven story, but I unfortunately didn’t connect much with the main character, Lil. I liked reading about her enough, but it never went beyond that, which is a shame. I was also really looking forward to reading about her relationship with her twin sister Kizzy, but their relationship was more told than showed, so I couldn’t understand the love they had for each other. Speaking of Kizzy, I didn’t like that she was depicted as the almost perfect, always right, almost superior to everyone else,prettier twin that everyone has to follow! It was really cliché and didn’t help me to connect with the characters either.

I have to be honest though, as this book is about the brides of Dracula, I had huge expectations on how the author would deal with the vampire myth. I think she did a great job… for the little bits we got. I expected most of the book to focus on the vampire myth and to pick up on Dracula’s story soon enough, but it wasn’t the case. The Deathless Girls is a slow-paced book and sure, it focuses on the backstory of two of Dracula’s brides, but you have to wait about two thirds of the way through before the vampires are mentioned. That being said, the last hundred pages of the book were amazing, as they were gripping and finally focused on the myth of the vampire. It was chilling and exactly what I expected from this book, but I’d have liked to read about that before.

post-divider-2

The Deathless Girls is much more of a backstory book that doesn’t involve vampires that much, and while I didn’t expect that, there are some parts of that I enjoyed. Indeed, Lil and Kizzy came from a traveller community, I really liked how it was explored. I find it to be a very interesting topic, as it is rarely touched upon and the author discussed the prejudice people from settled communities can have towards the traveller ones. The novel also mentions folklore of the travelling communities, which was great to read about, but I’d have liked to know more about that. I understand that in part, as the girls are ripped away from their homes and in a way of their identity, but it’s only a very small part of the story when you consider the summary, and that was a shame for me.

To be honest, most of the book felt abrupt and rushed to me. I found the romance really sweet and I really liked Mira, but would have liked more build-up for some scenes to make it believable. Like I said, the vampire elements come into play only in the last third of the book, and so do The Deathless Girls themselves. This novel felt like such an interesting idea, but I didn’t really like its execution: I found the final decision of the main character to be barely explained and anticlimactic, plus the final bride of Dracula was barely mentioned in the epilogue, getting two lines and not even a real name, which I found a bit ironic.

Overall, I liked this book, but am a little frustrated. I wish this book had been longer, so it had gotten more build-up, because it ended up being underwhelming. This story was such a great idea, had a diverse cast of characters, but I felt like everything was rushed to go to the end, but because of that, I didn’t have time to get invested into the characters, the story or what was at stake for them. Still, I think readers will enjoy it more than I did and that it works well as a Halloween read.

3 stars.jpg

Are you planning on reading this book or have you read it already? Do you have recommendations for books with vampires?

lots of love

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier | Book Review

daughter-of-the-forest.jpg

Hello There

Last night, I finished reading Daughter of the Forest *quite late* and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. For the first time in a while, it motivated me to write an entire review, because there was so much I wanted to say, there is so much I loved about it and I thought it would be the occasion to start sharing my book reviews here as well! I read this book as part of #MythTakeReads, which is hosted by Ashleigh @ A Frolic Through Fiction and Charlotte @ Bookmarks and Vlogging.

🌸 What is Daughter of the Forest about?

This novel follows Sorcha, the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Bereft of a mother, she is comforted by her six brothers who love and protect her. Sorcha is the light in their lives, but her joy is shattered when her father is bewitched by his new wife, an evil enchantress who binds her brothers with a terrible spell, which only Sorcha can lift-by staying silent.

If she speaks before she completes the quest set to her by the Fair Folk and their queen, the Lady of the Forest, she will lose her brothers forever. When Sorcha is kidnapped by the enemies of Sevenwaters and taken to a foreign land, she is torn between the desire to save her beloved brothers, and a love that comes only once. Sorcha despairs at ever being able to complete her task, but the magic of the Fair Folk knows no boundaries, and love is the strongest magic of them all…

🌸 My thoughts on the book

I’ve been so curious about Juliet Marillier’s works for years now, because I feel like everyone adores them, Daughter of the Forest being their favourite, so I was really looking forward to finally reading it! Before I really get into the review, this book has a trigger warning for a graphic r*pe scene, so be cautious if you decide to read it.

Daughter of the Forest starts off when Sorcha is young and follows her from childhood into womanhood. It is quite dense and slow-paced, but I found that it was so worth it! I even devoured the second half of it, for I had to know what would happen to Sorcha, and I finished reading at 1:30 a.m., which rarely ever happens to me. This book was so immersive, beautifully written, felt like a fairy tale and I couldn’t get enough of it (which makes sense, considering it is a fairy tale retelling of The Six Swans)! I also really liked how it discussed the way sorcery was perceived and prejudiced opinions you can have on your (supposed) ennemies.

I adored reading from Sorcha’s point of view and felt close to her. I almost felt like her emotions and reactions were mine in some situations, and I admired her so much, she was such a quietly strong character. Moreover, her love for her brothers shone throughout and while there were six of them (which can be hard to keep track off), they all had a different voice and it was easy for me to remember them. One of my favourite things to read about in fiction is sibling dynamics in a big family; Daughter of the Forest totally delivered in that regard, I loved these siblings so much! I also came to care for so many of the secondary characters of the novel and I would love to see them again.

i-miss-you

I had read somewhere that Juliet Marillier was amazing at world-building and weaving folklore into her stories and I totally agree with that! This book is set in a medieval-inspired Ireland, where the Fair Folk meddles in mortal’s stories and magic and curses exist. The world-building was phenomenal, I felt like I was walking alongside Sorcha through the different landscapes and everything was so well-researched! I’m really excited to read more of Marillier’s works to get immersed in her magical worlds again.

Because it is set in a medieval world, Daughter of the Forest was really brutal. Truly, I understand some situations and how women’s choices were assumed without asking them, because that’s what was happening at the time and it was discussed and challenged in regards of the modern audience of the book, but it wasn’t the case for every situation. Indeed, I had some issues on the topic of age difference in the romance (I wish it had been developped more, the transition from Sorcha being considered a child to a woman felt rushed) and the way consensual and loving sex was glossed over when r*pe had been described at length. I’d probably have rated this book five stars if it weren’t for that.

so-close

I really loved that a few storylines were left hanging open, I have a feeling some of them will be really important in the later books and I cannot wait to read about that. While I was finishing the book, I spent I don’t know how much time trying to find matching editions of the next two books, because I need to read them NOW.

If you can’t tell, I fell in love with this novel and while I have a few criticisms about it, I couldn’t stop reading it, I adored Sorcha and the other characters and I only want one thing: to go back to that world already. Daughter of the Forest was such a beautiful, heartbreaking and immersive story and I totally understand why people adore Juliet Marillier’s writing, I can see myself becoming a fan as well.

4-5-stars.jpg

lots of love

The Familiars by Stacey Halls | Book review

You probably know by now how much I adore history, considering I used to be a history major and find any excuse I can get to watch period dramas or read historical fiction (by a big plot twist, I even miss historical research a lot these days). So of course, I always browse the historical fiction section of Netgalley and that’s how I stumbled upon The Familiars, which I added on Goodreads really quickly: I mean, 17th century England and witch trials? I’ll read that, thank you very much. I got really excited when I was approved to read an e-ARC of it and as it’s releasing today, it’s time I talk about it some more!
 
 Published on: February 19th 2019 by MIRA
Genres: historical fiction, paranormal
Number of pages: 352
 
Goodreads summary: Young Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a noblewoman, is with child again. None of her previous pregnancies have borne fruit, and her husband, Richard, is anxious for an heir. Then Fleetwood discovers a hidden doctor’s letter that carries a dire prediction: she will not survive another birth. By chance she meets a midwife named Alice Grey, who promises to help her deliver a healthy baby. But Alice soon stands accused of witchcraft.
 
Is there more to Alice than meets the eye? Fleetwood must risk everything to prove her innocence. As the two women’s lives become intertwined, the Witch Trials of 1612 loom. Time is running out; both their lives are at stake. Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.
 
Rich and compelling, set against the frenzy of the real Pendle Hill Witch Trials, this novel explores the rights of 17th-century women and raises the question: Was witch-hunting really women-hunting? Fleetwood Shuttleworth, Alice Grey and the other characters are actual historical figures. King James I was obsessed with asserting power over the lawless countryside (even woodland creatures, or “familiars,” were suspected of dark magic) by capturing “witches”—in reality mostly poor and illiterate women.
 
MY THOUGHTS
 
Disclaimer : I received this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.  All quotes I used in this review might have been changed in the final copy.

“She certainly looks like a witch. She is very thin and rough-looking, with black hair and a sullen face. My mother says never trust someone with black hair because they usually have a black soul to match.”

I have black hair.” (p. 26)

 
I have to admit that going into this, I didn’t know much about the Pendle Hill Witch Trials, I only knew Pendle because of Joseph Delaney’s Wardstone Chronicles (he got inspired from history so much for his Pendle, and my favourite book of the series is the fourth one, set there, what a surprise). Reading about those events was both frightening and fascinating, because of the awful fate these women were to know and it became even scarier when I read the author’s note and that Stacey Halls explained that all her characters had actually existed. In any case, I felt like I was in early 17th century Lancashire, Stacey Halls did a great job at recreating its atmosphere.

The names of the Lancashire Witches

 

Moreover, as said in the summary, The Familiars explored the rights of women in different ways, from gentry-born women to the poorer ones, who didn’t have wealth or status to protect them and it was really interesting. It showed how little choice, on their different scales, women had at that time. For Fleetwood, our gentry-born main character, it was about making a good marriage, then having to produce an heir for her husband, whereas for Alice, it was about keeping a job and surviving, when no one really cared about her: in a way, both only could count on themselves, and later on each other. On another hand, The Familiars explored the way men had power over women, whether it was through their marriages or even when it came to the law: they barely were held accountable for their actions, which the author discussed through the main character’s point of view.
 
“I remembered Alice’s words: I am afraid of lies. Now I knew what she meant: lies had the power to destroy lives but also create them.” (p. 198)

I adored the main character, Fleetwood, because I could relate to her so much. While she felt helpless, she never gave up and tried to do all she could to stay alive, then to save Alice, when she could have stayed in her comfortable, but imperfect, life. Her friendship with Alice was so heartwarming, because it was portrayed in a healthy way: the both of them had been brought together by Alice’s job as a midwife, but came to mean so much more to each other and to always be there for the other.

 
The Familiars started with exciting chapters before slowing down, then I wondered where the author was going and thought I knew, until it took me by surprise several times, which I loved. It had such a gloomy atmosphere as the story progressed, to the point that I could be as tense as Fleetwood. From the moment this novel first took me by surprise, I couldn’t stop reading, because I had to know what would happen next. It might have been a bit slow in the beginning, but it was all worth it as I kept thinking about the story, even when I wasn’t reading this novel.
 
On top of that, I really liked that the author always made me doubt whether the “witches” had magical powers or not. I found the theme of the familiars really interesting, as it had to do with natural magic and the way Fleetwood encountered magic was really well-written, as she was an outside point of view on the topic of magic. 
 
Last but not least, I can’t say much because it would be a spoiler, but I adored the very last chapter! I am often disappointed by endings, but it wasn’t the case at all here, I thought it was a perfect way to conclude!
 
Overall, if you love historical fiction and are intrigued by witch trials stories, I would totally recommend you this one! It portrayed a friendship between two women from different parts of society in a healthy way, had a gloomy atmosphere like I love and discussed the rights of women at the time. It was Stacey Halls’ debut, so I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for more of her works, because this one sure was amazing.
 
 
Do you like historical fiction? 
What is your favourite time period to read about?
 
 
 

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

Hello There
Ever since I heard about The Gilded Wolves, I was so curious about it: Roshani Chokshi’s writing and I hadn’t gotten to a great start, but so many readers kept praising her works and I wanted to know what the hype was all about. Besides, this book is set in 19th century, which is right up my alley. Of course, when I saw the book up on Netgalley, I didn’t hesitate and I’m so glad I got approved for it! I didn’t love this book as much as everyone else, but I flew through it and it was really entertaining. So, without further ado, happy publication day to The Gilded Wolves and here’s my review of it!

 

Published: January 15th 2019 by Wednesday Books
Genres: young adult, historical fiction, fantasy
Number of pages: 464
 
Goodreads summary: Set in a darkly glamorous world, The Gilded Wolves is full of mystery, decadence, and dangerous but thrilling adventure.
Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.
To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much.
Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.

MY THOUGHTS

Disclaimer : I received this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. The quotes I used might have changed in the final copy.
My favourite element of The Gilded Wolves was its characters. This novel had such a diverse cast of six main characters, whom I adored. They were so complex and had rich backstories, which made me get to know them pretty well and I’m a bit sad to leave them behind now that I’ve finished the novel. I have to admit that I’m a bit disappointed that we didn’t get every main character’s point of view: I feel like I didn’t care as much for one of them, I *almost even* forgot about them at times and so I didn’t really care about this character’s storyline or ending? That’s too bad because I cared about everyone else; at this character, I am really sorry. Moreover, they all had amazing group dynamics and I loved every little interaction they had together. My favourite character was for sure Zofia, because I related to her in so many ways, but I also have a soft spot for Hypnos!

I had high expectations when it comes to the world-building of this novel, especially the parts about late 19th century Paris, as I’m French and a history major, but I can tell you that Roshani Chokshi did her job splendidly! You could tell how much research she put into her book and I loved that she didn’t only show an idealistic Paris: she also showed France’s ugly colonialist past, how unaccepting and racist society could be. As she said in her author’s note:

“History is a myth shaped by the tongues of conquerors.”

Shameful events can often be glossed over and this shouldn’t be. This past needs to be acknowledged, discussed and I’m glad that voices that have been ignored for so long can finally be heard. So many important topics were talked about in this novel and Chokshi did a good job at that. The Gilded Wolves was also full of historical, philosophical and scientific references, which I adored!

While I was impressed by the way Chokshi portrayed Paris, I wasn’t as convinced when she presented the novel’s magic system. It was complex and a bit confusing at times, especially when paragraphs upon paragraphs were explaining the world: it felt a bit like info-dumping to me. Still, it was a bit more interesting once I understood everything.

To talk about the elephant in the room, that many reviewers have discussed: in many things, The Gilded Wolves is quite similar to Six of Crows for some aspects of it. I am not saying that this is a bad thing: The Gilded Wolves has amazing characters no matter what and a different world building, but because of those similarities, the plot didn’t take me by surprise, because it wasn’t anything I hadn’t read before. It could be thrilling at times, but overall I was left being unimpressed by it. Besides, I wasn’t too convinced by the villain: I would have liked to know their motivations more; it has to be more than “I want to take over the world” to me, I need more explanations and very morally gray characters. Despite that, I adored the fact that it was all about a secret society!

I had tried reading Chokshi’s debut in the past without success, but I really liked her writing style in this one, it flowed nicely and I got through this book really quickly. While I don’t really want to pick The Star-Touched Queen again at this point, I’d be interested in reading more of her works.

To conclude, I thought that while being a bit too similar to Six of Crows for my taste, The Gilded Wolves is a novel with amazing characters and a compelling setting that many readers will adore. Some aspects of the novel, such as a confusing magic system at first and a plot that didn’t take me by surprise didn’t convince me as much, but maybe that’s just me? I’m always super picky, haha.

Have you read The Gilded Wolves or are you interested in it?
lots of love

Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley | Book review

Hello, beautiful people!

When I saw that I could request Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley on Netgalley, I didn’t hesitate one second, as it was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, considering how much I adore her other works. Of course, I was over the moon to get approved and to discover another era, another mystery and another love story. Bellewetherwas released this Tuesday, so today, I thought I would share my review of it with you!

Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley

Published: August 7th 2018 by Sourcebooks Landmark

Genres: historical fiction, romance
Number of pages: 512

Summary: “The house, when I first saw it, seemed intent on guarding what it knew; but we all learned, by the end of it, that secrets aren’t such easy things to keep.”

It’s late summer, war is raging, and families are torn apart by divided loyalties and deadly secrets. In this complex and dangerous time, a young French Canadian lieutenant is captured and billeted with a Long Island family, an unwilling and unwelcome guest. As he begins to pitch in with the never-ending household tasks and farm chores, Jean-Philippe de Sabran finds himself drawn to the daughter of the house. Slowly, Lydia Wilde comes to lean on Jean-Philippe, true soldier and gentleman, until their lives become inextricably intertwined. Legend has it that the forbidden love between Jean-Philippe and Lydia ended tragically, but centuries later, the clues they left behind slowly unveil the true story.
Part history, part romance, and all kinds of magic, Susanna Kearsley’s latest masterpiece will draw you in and never let you go, even long after you’ve closed the last page.

MY THOUGHTS

Disclaimer : I received this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. The quotes I used might have changed in the final copy.

“You’ll find most people, when you get to know them, are not what you were afraid they’d be. They’re only people.”


Susanna Kearsley’s novels are in part known for their dual historical perspectives: they usually follow a character in our own time, trying to understand what happened to historical figures, with a touch of supernatural. This time around, our protagonist was Charley, who had just been appointed as a curator to the Wilde House Museum and discovered the legend of Lydia and her French soldier, which made her curious to understand what really happened, to potentially include it into the museography of the museum.

I truly enjoyed reading about Charley, especially because I knew how accurately Kearsley described what it meant to be a curator, talked about their daily duties and the opposition they could encounter by an administration board or local historical societies. Susanna Kearsley actually used to be a museum curator – so she’s trained in history and that’s why she’s amazing with historical details! – and I felt like it showed, so it made me really happy, considering all the knowledge I have of that world. Charley’s narrative also was quite interesting, because it was about reconnecting with your family, as well as grief, which was splendidly done. Bellewether also had references to some of Kearsley’s previous novels, I didn’t catch those she mentioned in her author’s note, but she mentioned Sebastian from The Firebird, I wasn’t quite sure until I double checked, but it made me so proud to recognise that as a fan of her works!

Moreover, while all of Kearsley’s novels (that I have read, at least?) are set in Europe, this one was set in America and I was so curious, because I don’t know that much about the Seven Years War from an American perspective. Once again, Kearsley astonished me with the accuracy of her research, how she wrote about some historical figures, how I time-traveled and was walking alongside Lydia and Jean-Philippe. As I’m French, I also was fascinated to learn about French people in America at that time, whether it was the Acadians or the Canadians, for we don’t learn about them that much at school. Bellewether also was, in part, about slavery; the author wrote about people who owned slaves and people who were against it, about running away and staying, about how we, in our modern societies, could hide from that past.

“Lara told her, “That’s true. You know, back when I went to school we never learned about us having slaves in the north. It was all just the Underground Railroad and Lincoln, and how we were good and the south was so bad, and then I read this article on slavery in Brroklyn and it said at one time New York had more slaves than any city except Charleston. And it blew my mind. I mean,” she said, “it shouldn’t have. I should have known of course we had slaves, too. The history wa
s all right there, if I’d just looked for it.” 
“You liked the ‘nice’ story better.” Malaika was matter-of-fact. “Most folks do. It makes them feel good.” (p. 125)


Bellewether confronted racism several times, when it talked about slavery, of course, but also about Native Americans. In the 18thcentury narrative, it approached the topic with a dual perspective from two soldiers, one talking about how they were ‘savages’ (that character was truly awfull), the second one trying to show him how wrong he was and how those societies that called themselves ‘civilised’ could be prejudiced and in the wrong. It also approached that topic in the contemporary narrative, as an important character was Native American. It also talked about respectful terminology, I don’t know how accurate it was and it felt a bit forced at first, but then it got better.

The plot of this novel was really enjoyable, even though I had to confess that I struggled a bit to get into it and thought the second half was so much better than the first one. The first half of the novel was about setting the mystery and the characters, whereas the second half was about getting all the answers and it became gripping. I adored the atmosphere created around the Wilde House, with the supernatural element (a ghost this time), it was almost a bit scary considering the legend, which was so much fun in a way. I also have the feeling that the ending was a little bit abrupt: I did have the closure I wanted, but it all happened so fast, like the author realised that she had to finish her book. I truly hope this was resolved in the final copy, because it was a tad frustrating.

“She’d fought those feelings all the could, while standing in that doorway. She had told heself the trembling was from fear, and nothing else. But it had been an unconvincing explanation, and her heart had not believed it.Hearts were stubborn things, and often inconvenient.” (p. 280)


Now, about the romance. There is always a point in Susanna Kearsley’s novels when the romance takes a big step on the plot and unfortunately, they usually are my least favourite part of the novel, because there are one in the contemporary era, one in the historical one, it kind of feels too much. I quite liked the one involving Charley, in the 21th century, even though a certain scene didn’t feel natural. However, I wasn’t that convinced about Lydia and Jean-Philippe. I agree that they liked each other, I do. I agree that Kearsley can write romance scenes that make me smile, I do. But how am I supposed to believe that two characters are in love and want to spend the rest of their lives togetherwhen they didn’t really speak the same language and had known each other only for a few months? I can understand attraction in this situation, but I thought that the love bit was a little too much. I know I’m not big on romance most of the time, but still.

Overall, Bellewether was a good historical novel, although it wasn’t my favourite of Kearsley’s works. While I adored the mystery, the setting and Charley’s storyline, I had a suspension of disbelief problem with the romance between Lydia and Jean-Philippe. Still, if you’re interested to read a historical novel set during the Seven Years War in America, you should give it a go! Otherwise, you should still try some of Susanna Kearsley’s other works, such as The Winter Sea(my personal favourite), The Shadowy Horsesor The Firebird(also that’s the chronological order if you want to get all the references).



Thank you for reading,


Lots of love,
Lucie

All of This Is True by Lygia Day Peñaflor // Review


Hello, beautiful people!

A few months ago, Marie @ Drizzle and Hurricane Books contacted me and other French bloggers to know if we would be interested in doing a blog tour for All of This Is True by Lygia Day Peñaflor, where we would send each other the ARC week after week, until it got back to Marie, and of course, as I’m typing this today, I said yes. It’s been a wonderful experience and I can’t thank you enough for this, Marie. Anyway, today is my turn to share my review on this book and let me tell you: I adored it. There are so many exciting reviews coming up in the next few days, so go and check out all of these lovely ladies’ reviews while you’re at it!


All of This Is True by Lygia Day Peñaflor

Published: May 15th 2018 by HarperTeen
Genres: young adult, contemporary
Number of pages: 432

Goodreads summary: Miri Tan loved the book Undertow like it was a living being. So when she and her friends went to a book signing to meet the author, Fatima Ro, they concocted a plan to get close to her, even if her friends won’t admit it now. As for Jonah, well—Miri knows none of that was Fatima’s fault.

Soleil Johnston wanted to be a writer herself one day. When she and her friends started hanging out with her favorite author, Fatima Ro, she couldn’t believe their luck—especially when Jonah Nicholls started hanging out with them, too. Now, looking back, Soleil can’t believe she let Fatima manipulate her and Jonah like that. She can’t believe that she got used for a book.


Penny Panzarella was more than the materialistic party girl everyone at the Graham School thought she was. She desperately wanted Fatima Ro to see that, and she saw her chance when Fatima asked the girls to be transparent with her. If only she’d known what would happen when Fatima learned Jonah’s secret. If only she’d known that the line between fiction and truth was more complicated than any of them imagined. . . .

MY THOUGHTS 

That’s what Fatima said about her novel: you hope that you can reach a few readers here and there, that your message will speak personally to somebody. But you can never know the true impact. 

I received an Advance Reader Copy as part of a French ARC Tour of All Of This Is True organised by Marie @ Drizzle and Hurricane Books in exchange for an honest review. 

I hadn’t heard about All Of This Is True until Marie started to organise this ARC tour, but when I saw a glowing review by Adam Silvera and that it was about “Four YA-obsessed teens befriend their favourite novelist. What happens next will shock you.”, I knew I needed to add this book to my TBR, because it seemed like quite a different contemporary novel and it intrigued me. 

All of This Is True is told through different formats, such as interviews, novel excerpts or diary entries, Lygia Day Peñaflor did a fantastic job at switching between thoseWhen I read novels that use this type of narrative, it often takes me some time to get used to it and that was the case once again, but once I got passed through, I couldn’t stop reading this novel, I was completely engrossed and had to know what would happen next. Writing in different formats doesn’t always work, but in this case, everything flowed together so nicely, it made the book even more addictive and I was so impressed, because it must be quite complicated to write all those layers. 

I can’t say much about the plot, considering it has this huge mystery aspect to it and you won’t have all the pieces of the puzzle until the very end, but it was so gripping and thrilling. This novel relied a lot on psychology, even talking about scientific papers on the subject at some point, and it was utterly fascinating to me, as I think figuring out the psychology of a character is quite complicated, but the author did it in such a clever way. It kept me on the edge of my seat and I read it in under 24 hours, because I needed to know the truth. I had guessed some of it, but when I realised everything, I was a bit shocked considering I had
no idea, at first, that the author would go this way.
 

As the book is told in different formats, we get the points of view of several characters. At first, it was a bit hard for me to distinguish them all, but once I did, it was very interesting because I didn’t know which one I could “trust”. There are different sides to a story and All Of This Is True showed that: it was up to the reader’s interpretation to figure out what he thought of the characters. I really understood all their points of view and related to all of them at different levels. They were all way more than met the eye at first, complex and so flawed. Some things they did were very disturbing at times, but it made sense considering their different situations, so that was realistic. 

Moreover, this novel had a big focus on toxic relationships. For a few months now, I’ve been thinking about the messages I wanted to be passed through YA literature and talking about toxic relationships was something I really wanted to read about. In All Of This Is True, you find such dynamics, considering it’s about teenagers who befriend their favourite author, who is six years older than them. Before I talk about their relationship with this author, I have to say that even them didn’t have great relationships with each other, their friendship felt a bit shallow and they were ready to give up on each other so easily, but what happened also brought some of them a bit closer, in the end. It really showed that friendship isn’t easy, neither is finding people who will understand you. 

Because the characters admire Fatima and she’s older than them, they would do anything to please her and they believe she is superior to them. It was a very interesting aspect of “stan-culture*” and how you could be ready to do anything to please one of the persons you admire the most and that had always seemed unreachable. You don’t know this person, you could totally be wrong about them, and yet.. When you get the chance to be close to someone who means a lot to you, who somehow changed your life without you knowing their true selves, you can behave differently than with someone you would mean in class, or in a café, or something. 

Throughout the whole book, Fatima becomes more and more important into the lives of those teenagers, without them realising how toxic she is for them. I don’t want to reveal too much, but Lygia Day Peñaflor used a phrase that resonated with me to explain those types of relationships, for I’ve had such a relationship in the past and I would have wanted to realise sooner what it really was. Because of that, I think that All Of This Is True depicts toxic relationships in a realistic way and shows the reader all the negative aspects of that, because while you get the points of view of the teenagers, you see them realising the flaws of this relationships and I hope it could help some people recognize the signs of such relationships in the future. 
*According to the top definition in the Urban Dictionary, the word “stan is Based on the central character in the Eminem song of the same name, it is an overzealous maniacal fan for any celebrity or athlete. 

I also made an aesthetic for this novel, as I’ve been doing for all the books I read this year, so I thought it would be the best time to share it!
Overall, I adored All Of This Is True: it is told in interesting formats, has fleshed-out characters and is trying to get through such important messages. I really want to read more contemporary novels that talk about such things and I will be sure to keep an eye on what Lygia Day Peñaflor will write next. I tried not to say too much about the plot, but there were some aspects I really wanted to talk about it and I’m glad I got to do so.

Are you planning on reading this one? 
What was the last contemporary novel that really impressed you?


Lots of love,
Lucie

The Radical Element, an anthology edited by Jessica Spotswood // Book review

Hello, beautiful people!

In 2016, I discovered my favourite YA anthology, A Tyranny of Petticoats, a historical fiction and fantasy anthology, which focused on telling the stories of a diverse array of heroines. When I heard that a follow-up project was in the works, I couldn’t be more excited about that and had to get my hands on it as soon as possible. Lucky for all of you, The Radical Element is coming out today, and I’m sharing my review with you all to (maybe) convince you to read it. While I’m at it, I have to say that you do not need to read A Tyranny of Petticoats first, it’s an amazing anthology, but the two of them are independent (and complementary) and different authors contributed to them.

The Radical Element, an anthology edited by Jessica Spotswood

Authors included: Dahlia Adler, Erin Bowman, Dhonielle Clayton, Sarah Farizan, Mackenzi Lee, Stacey Lee, Anna-Marie McLemore, Meg Medina, Marieke Nijkamp, Megan Sheperd, Jessica Spotswood, Sarvena Tash
Published: March 13th 2018 by Candlewick Press
Genres: short stories, young adult, historical fiction
Number of pages: 320

Goodreads summary: In an anthology of revolution and resistance, a sisterhood of YA writers shines a light on a century and a half of heroines on the margins and in the intersections.


To respect yourself, to love yourself—should not have to be a radical decision. And yet it remains as challenging for an American girl to make today as it was in 1927 on the steps of the Supreme Court. It’s a decision that must be faced whether you’re balancing on the tightrope of neurodivergence, finding your way as a second-generation immigrant, or facing down American racism even while loving America. And it’s the only decision when you’ve weighed society’s expectations and found them wanting. In The Radical Element, twelve of the most talented writers working in young adult literature today tell the stories of the girls of all colors and creeds standing up for themselves and their beliefs—whether that means secretly learning Hebrew in early Savannah, using the family magic to pass as white in 1920s Hollywood, or singing in a feminist punk band in 1980s Boston. And they’re asking you to join them.


MY THOUGHTS

Disclaimer: I received this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


Reviewing and rating anthologies is usually tricky, because you can’t always love all of the short stories they are made of; yet, for The Radical Element, I can say that I enjoyed all of them and that the messages the anthology was trying to get through were executed well.The Radical Element is an empowering read that focuses on young women who didn’t fit within the norms of society, who were marginalized and learnt to respect and step up for themselves. 


The short stories manage to make you learn historical details you might not have suspected, especially since the stories of those young women would be stories erased from the records of history. In a way, it puts the stress that history was made as much by women than by men, even though so many of them had to work in the shadows (for that, I’m considering Lady Firebrand, which was one of my favourite stories) and thanks to some of the authors’ notes, you might even get recommendations for non-fiction history books on women. 


As I’m more interested in the 19th century than in the 20th century, I have to confess that I loved the short stories set from 1838 to 1927 more, because those are set in time periods that compel me, but that’s personal preference and they all were pretty good. My personal favourites were Lady Firebrand by Megan Sheperd, Glamour by Anna-Marie McLemore and Better for all the world by Marieke Nijkamp. Some of them include fantasy elements, which I really loved, considering mixing history and fantasy is one of my favourite things. I discovered several new authors through this anthology and will make sure to check some of their novels out. 


Another thing I loved was that it didn’t have a lot of romance, it was sometimes hinted, it was sometimes shown, but it wasn’t the focus of the story, it was more about growing on your own. I would have liked to see more f/f romances though, it was hinted once in Step Right Upand there was a f/f romance between secondary characters in Take Me With U, but I wanted a bit more. 


Now, I have to say that if you read the stories one after the other without reading anything else on the side, the endings of most of them must feel a bit repetitive, but it goes alon
g with the main message of this anthology: it’s about getting through obstacles that prevent you to be who you are and embracing your difference and that’s such an important idea. I believe that this anthology should be read by as many young women as possible, to show them that they got this and that they can dare dreaming and fighting for what they want. 


The representation in this book is fantastic – or that’s what I felt, but for that, it’s important to check out what #ownvoices reviewers have to say – and quite a few of those short stories were #ownvoices. This anthology is an accurate representation of what it is to be American when you feel like you’re not wanted, when you’re different from what the norm wants you to be: it tells the stories of women of colour, disabled women, women from different religions. It is an amazing example of the diversity young adult literature has been getting and what it deserves. 


OverallThe Radical Element is one of the best YA anthologies I got to read, alongside A Tyranny of Petticoats which is its close second (it makes sense, considering A Tyranny of Petticoats was edited by Jessica Spotswood and focused on similar themes). It delivers such important messages and might have a lasting impact on young adults who will read it, as its heroines were relatable and might make you want to fight harder to defend what you believe in. 


Individual ratings of the stories: 

  • 1838, Savannah, Georgia – Daughter of the Book by Dahlia Adler 4/5 stars 
  • 1844, Nauvoo, Illinois – You’re a Stranger Here by Mackenzi Lee 3/5 stars 
  • 1858, Colorado River, New Mexico Territory – The Magician by Erin Bowman 3.5/5 stars 
  • 1863, Charleston, South Caroline – Lady Firebrand by Megan Sheperd5/5 stars 
  • 1905, Tulsa, Indian Territory – Step Right Up by Jessica Spotswood 4/5 stars 
  • 1923, Los Angeles and the Central Valley, California – Glamour by Anna-Marie McLemore 5/5 stars 
  • 1927, Washington, D.C. – Better for all the world by Marieke Nijkamp5/5 stars 
  • 1943, Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts – When the moonlight isn’t enough by Dhonielle Clayton 3/5 stars 
  • 1952, Brooklyn, New York – The Belle of the Ball by Sarvena Tash3.5/5 stars 
  • 1955, Oakland, California – Land of the Sweet, Home of the Brave by Stacey Lee 3/5 stars 
  • 1972, Queens, New York – The Birth of Susi Go-Go by Meg Medina3.5/5 stars 
  • 1984, Boston, Massachusetts – Take Me With U by Sarah Farizan 3.5/5 stars

Are you planning on picking up The Radical Element
Which anthologies are your favourites?

Thank you for reading,
Lots of love,
Lucie

Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones // Book review

Hello, beautiful people!

Last week, I received an e-ARC of Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones, the sequel to Wintersong and of course, I had to drop everything to read it. It only comes out in two weeks, but I decided to share my review with you today, so it might motivate you to pick up Wintersong if you haven’t yet and then to read that one when it’ll be released.


Shadowsong (Wintersong #2) by S. Jae-Jones

Published: February 6th 2018 by Wednesday Books
Genres: young adult, historical fiction, fantasy
Number of pages: 384

Goodreads summary: Six months after the end of Wintersong, Liesl is working toward furthering both her brother’s and her own musical careers. Although she is determined to look forward and not behind, life in the world above is not as easy as Liesl had hoped. Her younger brother Josef is cold, distant, and withdrawn, while Liesl can’t forget the austere young man she left beneath the earth, and the music he inspired in her. 

When troubling signs arise that the barrier between worlds is crumbling, Liesl must return to the Underground to unravel the mystery of life, death, and the Goblin King—who he was, who he is, and who he will be. What will it take to break the old laws once and for all? What is the true meaning of sacrifice when the fate of the world—or the ones Liesl loves—is in her hands?

You can read an excerpt for Shadowsong here.


MY THOUGHTS

Contents warnings for Shadowsong (included in the author’s note at the beginning of the novel) // self-harm, addiction, reckless behaviourssuicidal ideation, bipolar disorder 
Disclaimer: I received this e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All the quotes used in this review might have changed in the finished copy. 

When I started reading Wintersong last year, I had no idea it would end up being one of my favourite reads of 2017 and yetit was exactly the book for me. Like I told you a few weeks agoShadowsongits sequelwas one of my most anticipated releases of 2018 and I was over the moon when I got to read it early. I was a bit scared it wouldn’t live up to Wintersong, but it truly was amazing. 

“You didn’t tell me living would be one decision after another, some easy, some difficult. You didn’t tell me living wasn’t a battle, but a war. You didn’t tell me that living was a choice, and that every day I choose to continue was another victory, another triumph.” (p.96)


I’ll say this straight away: Shadowsong is quite different from Wintersong, but it is still an amazing novel. I also have to say that this review will never do the book justice, but I had to stop writing at some point, or it would have been way too long. I just hope I will be able to make you eager to read this book and if you haven’t read Wintersong yet, you should check out my review of it. 

From the very first lines, I fell in love with S. Jae-Jones’ beautiful and poetic writing once again. I absolutely loved that she used quotes from Beethoven to introduce the different parts of the novel, as well as the use of musical terms for some chapters. I felt like I was reading a fairy tale that had gone completely wrong. Some aspects of Shadowsong actually reminded me of Hades and Persephone, which is such an interesting arc to develop in fiction and that’s pretty much one of my weaknesses. Once again, the author incorporated elements of folklore into her story easily, even showing that some elements of folklore were common to different cultures and that this story, that was set in Austria, could have repercussions in the rest of the world, which was somehow quite realistic. Her world-building was once again compelling and I always needed more of it. This time, the novel wasn’t set much in the Underground, but I really loved seeing the world-building in our world. 
Shadowsong picks up six months after the ending of Wintersong and from the very beginning, the author shows that her characters are in a completely different state of mind, that they’re completely lost within their own lives. In the background, we have glimpses of the upcoming plot, but some readers might feel like it will be a bit slow to start, because this story is as much about the consequences of the events of Wintersong as the characters finding themselves again. I didn’t mind at all, but I know it might bother some readers, so now you know. Shadowsong is a dark and twisted novel, plays with the boundaries between reality and delusion. In my opinion, Shadowsong was a slow-paced, atmospheric read I had no choice but to devour, because I couldn’t get enough of it. I read it in less than 24 hours, for I simply couldn’t stop myself. 
While Wintersong explored Liesl and the Goblin King’s relationship, Shadowsong focused on her dynamics with her brother, Josef. [Warning for the Goblin King’s fans: you won’t see much of it in the novel, but I loved that the author went that way.] I have a weakness for family dynamics and S. Jae-Jones explored this one in a very realistic way: the characters don’t know each other anymore, they can’t get through the other and yet, they would do anything for each other. Liesl and Josef were far from perfect with each other, but their relationship rang true and this sibling relationship is something I definitely want to see more of in YA fiction. 

“In the end, words had been insufficient. Music was the language my brother and I shared down to our bones. Melodies were our sentences, movements our paragraphs. We spoke best when we let our fingers do the talking – mine over my keyboard, his over the strings. It was in our playing, not my letters, that I could make Sepperl understand.” (p. 61)


One of my favourite aspects of the novel was definitely Liesl’s character development. At the beginning of Shadowsong, it might look like she finally has everything she ever wanted, yet she is completely lost within her own life, she doesn’t know who she is anymore, she even struggles to find motivation to get through every single day. It might not be easy to read at times, but as someone who has felt this way, I can tell you that the author did a fantastic job at putting those feelings into words and it made me relate to Liesl even more. For almost all of the novel, she was a broken character and I really loved that the author showed us that it’s okay not to be okay sometimes, but that we can still find ourselves, at some point. Liesl is such a strong character, loyal to her loved ones, trying to be someone and I really admire her for all of that. She might be one of the characters I relate to the most in YA literature. I will miss her so much, because following her journey truly was wonderful.

“As I turn to peer into each of the mirrors, I see a different facet of myself: the girl with music in her soul, the daughter, the friend, the sister. These are all parts of me, entire, yet, I did not know until this moment how I had fractured myself, unable to understand how to fit these pieces together into a whole.” (p. 354) 

The last few chapters of the novel were absolutely spectacular, I was on the edge of my seat for the entire time, devouring words after words to know how the author would wrap everything up. I obviously can’t tell you much about that, but it was a very satisfactory conclusion to an amazing duology. 
Overall, I absolutely adored Shadowsong. It was a dark, heart-wrenching story and I am so sad to say goodbye to those characters. This duology truly was made for me and I cannot wait to read what S. Jae-Jones will publish next. Sadly, I couldn’t write about all the aspects of the novel because it would be an essay and not a review, but I hope that what you just read convinced you to read Wintersong and Shadowsong.

Other quotes I adored: 

“People don’t disappear, but their stories become forgotten,” he said in a soft voice. “It is only the faithful who remember.” (p. 53)

“Perhaps I love the monstrous because I was a monster.” (p. 261)

“You allowed me to forgive myself for being imperfect. For being a sinner. For being me.” (p. 356) 



Thank you for reading,
Lots of love,
Lucie 

Zenith by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings // Book review

Hello, beautiful people!

It’s been quite a while since I last posted a review on this blog (*cough* November *cough*), but as I received an e-ARC of Zenith two months ago, I thought it would be the perfect time to share more reviews here. Now, I’ll tell you right away: Zenith wasn’t the book for me, but I have a feeling I wasn’t exactly the audience targeted. I’m going to be quite negative in this review, so be prepared.


Zenith (The Androma Saga #1) by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings

Publication date: January 16th 2018 by Harlequin Teen (US) // January 11th 2018 by HQ (UK)
Genres: young adult, science-fiction
Number of pages: 512

Goodreads summary: Most know Androma Racella as the Bloody Baroness, a powerful mercenary whose reign of terror stretches across the Mirabel Galaxy. To those aboard her glass starship, Marauder, however, she’s just Andi, their friend and fearless leader.
But when a routine mission goes awry, the Marauder‘s all-girl crew is tested as they find themselves in a treacherous situation and at the mercy of a sadistic bounty hunter from Andi’s past.


Meanwhile, across the galaxy, a ruthless ruler waits in the shadows of the planet Xen Ptera, biding her time to exact revenge for the destruction of her people. The pieces of her deadly plan are about to fall into place, unleashing a plot that will tear Mirabel in two.

Andi and her crew embark on a dangerous, soul-testing journey that could restore order to their shipor just as easily start a war that will devour worlds. As the Marauder hurtles toward the unknown, and Mirabel hangs in the balance, the only certainty is that in a galaxy run on lies and illusion, no one can be trusted.

MY THOUGHTS

I received this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Quotes used in this review might have changed in the final copy.

I requested Zenith through Netgalley out of curiosity. Like many people, I followed Sasha Alsberg’s BookTube channel for years and I was curious about her writing, but it didn’t influence me in any way. The truth is, I might have loved Zenith, had it come out four or five years ago. I just feel like it wasn’t for me, that I read so many YA fantasy and sci-fi novels and it was a little too similar to so many of them. Because of that, this review will be quite negative, unfortunately, for I couldn’t help myself, but the thing is : it isn’t a bad book. It’s just a book I’ve read a hundred times before and I’m quite over it.

The plot of this novel was very slow to start and for a long time, I was wondering where the authors were going with this. The pacing was a bit off, as the main plot was resolved halfway through the book, so I didn’t really understand the point of the rest of the book. It was quite predictable and similar to popular fantasy novels (I mean, retrieving someone who’s been kidnapped in a high security prison which wasn’t high security AT ALL?Doesn’t ring a bell), except that it was set in space. It had some clichés scenes just like… A ball. Wow we’ve never seen it before, I totally didn’t see coming that you were going to make the protagonists dance together. *sigh*


(I have no choice but to only use gifs from Guardians of the Galaxy for this post)


However, towards the end, the plot became a bit exciting and the action picked up, but alas, it abruptly ended, which made me a bit sad, because I would have wanted Zenith to be like that for 500 pages. Besides, the novel often lost itself in subplots that didn’t seem necessary, maybe they were there to set the next instalment in the duology up, but it was quite clumsy. Some of the violence also felt like it was there without any purpose and it was forced:

“When we bring the galaxy to its knees,” Nor said, a smile slowly appearing on her rouged lips, “I’d like to repaint this room. With the blood of every man, woman and child who has ever lifted a finger against my planet.” Darai swept across the tiled floor to stand at her side. “My dear.” His voice was slippery, as if drenche
d in oil. “When we bring the galaxy to its knees, you can paint the entire palace in blood, if you wish it.” Nor closed her eyes and smiles.
She could see it, taste it.
And it pleased her.”


Yes, okay, but WHY ? They wanted us to see her as a psychopath, 
but I wanted it to be shown to me by her actions, not told.


I don’t have a lot of positive things to say about the characters either, because they were either unmemorable or were pissing me off. The main character, Andi, was a rip-off of Celaena Sardothien and Kaz Brekker. She was supposed to have PTSD, but many reviewers pointed out that this attempt at representation wasn’t accurate at all and PTSD was only present when it suited the book better. I don’t know much about that, but as I’ve seen this in reviews, I felt like I needed to point it out. 


*Taylor Swift’s voice* You were all I wanted, but not like this.


I was very excited because I felt like the book would have a Guardians of the Galaxy vibe to it, as it had a crew and I live for these dynamics. It was good in that sense at first, but Zenith had too many points of view and it was very confusing. I couldn’t get a sense of who was who as the characters’ voices weren’t very distinctive, it was even worse because the book was made of very short chapters (there are 98 chapters when the book counts 512 pages); I was often lost and it prevented me to care about any of the characters. Now, for Dex, Andi’s ‘love interest’, I disliked him so much. I love antiheroes and villains, but I couldn’t with him. His story didn’t add up, his lines made me roll my eyes because they sometimes were cheesy or forced and didn’t make sense with how he was portrayed. I would have loved for the secondary characters to be more fleshed out, but as there were too many of them, it wasn’t possible.


Last but not least, I didn’t really like the writing style. Zenith was first released as a sixty page novella and you can tell, as there were so many changes towards that point, starting with the writing style. In the beginning, it was quite metaphoric, which didn’t work very well because it made the book even more complicated to understand. Afterwards, I’m not sure the writing styles of the two authors mixed very well together and it felt repetitive. Besides, the authors often told us things, instead of showing them to us. I was intrigued by the world it was set in though, and I would have loved to learn more about it.


Overall, I really didn’t like Zenith and I know I am very negative in this review, but it just wasn’t the book for me (which is why I’m not even harsher in my rating). Had I read it in 2013, I probably would have loved it, but it felt so repetitive as I have read many YA novels. I still think people might love it and it will have success and I do wish for it to work out, but it really wasn’t for me.


Thank you for reading,
Lots of love,
Lucie




Retribution Rails by Erin Bowman // Book review

Hello, beautiful people!

It’s been quite a while since I wrote any review on my blog, because let’s be honest, reviews are the types of posts which get the less views (I’m guilty of not reading that many blog reviews as well, oops). However, I read an ARC of Retribution Rails a few months ago and as I absolutely adored it and it comes out today, I really wanted to talk to you all about it! Besides, I wrote a review for Vengeance Road, the first book in this companion duology, two years ago (!!), so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to start writing reviews again.


Retribution Rails (Vengeance Road #2) by Erin Bowman

Publication date: November 7th 2017 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Genres: young adult, historical fiction, adventure
Number of pages: 384

Goodreads summary: REDEMPTION IS NEVER FREE

When Reece Murphy is forcibly dragged into the Rose Riders gang because of a mysterious gold coin in his possession, he vows to find the man who gave him the piece and turn him over to the gang in exchange for freedom. Never does he expect a lead to come from an aspiring female journalist. But when Reece’s path crosses with Charlotte Vaughn after a botched train robbery and she mentions a promising rumor about a gunslinger from Prescott, it becomes apparent that she will be his ticket to freedom—or a noose. As the two manipulate each other for their own ends, past secrets are unearthed, reviving a decade-old quest for revenge that may be impossible to settle.

In this thrilling companion to Vengeance Road, dangerous alliances are formed, old friends meet new enemies, and the West is wilder than ever.


MY THOUGHTS

“So you can either be scared yer whole life or you can try to enjoy it. I suggest the latter. Otherwise yer gonna blink and find yerself old and weary, talking yer last breath and regretting that you passed yer years tense and worrisome.”

I received this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All the quotes used in this review might have changed in the final copy.


Before I actually start this review, here is the quote that might be enough to convince you to read it:

“Reece Murphy was a boy who became a man while riding with the devil.” 


From the first few pages, I fell in love with Retribution Rails. Truth be told, I hadn’t read any summary of it, but as I loved Vengeance Road, I was confident I would enjoy it. What I hadn’t expected was to fall in love with the story, to the point that I loved this companion novel even more. Once again, Erin Bowman did a lot of research to recreate the setting of that time, and I was transported all the way there, alongside the characters. 


It’s been a long time since I read a book with two points of view, but I thought it was so well-done here. Sometimes, the characters take a long time to meet and you don’t understand how they’ll come together, but in this case, Charlotte and Reece’s paths were intertwined from the first few pages and I loved how Erin Bowman did it. Reece was that boy who had been given no choice, who seemed to be a villain from the outside, when the truth was so much more complicated than that and the lines between right and wrong were blurred. On the other side, Charlotte was this badass girl through her words, who wanted to be a journalist and to be independent. Their backgrounds were so interesting and I liked that we still got subplots involving Charlotte’s family, as the main plot drifted away from it. Their dynamics were so well-developed, because it started with prejudice, mistrust and fear, and it was so interesting to see them change their minds. Besides, old characters from Vengeance Road played an important role in Retribution Rails, I loved to see what they had become.


Now, when it comes
to the plot, I loved how it was linked to the events taking place in Vengeance Road. The novel started as Reece and Charlotte’s story, before the reader discover that the stakes are so much higher than that. Would I recommend you to read Vengeance Road before Retribution Rails? I do, because it’s awesome and it makes a lot more sense when you have that background, but you can understand without having read it. In short: it’s up to you. 


Anyhow, the plot was so gripping, I read this book in a few sittings and there weren’t any dull moments. Retributions Rails is a page-turner with amazing action scenes and such an interesting historical background. Moreover, my feelings got all over the place. “Why would you do that to me?” Is all I ask. I’m sorry, but I need to recover from everything that happened in the end. I just need more from these characters and I’m totally up for another companion book (but sadly it won’t happen)(please do it though), for I want to see everyone again.


Overall, this book was absolutely amazing and I loved it even more than Vengeance Road. I thought that the two points of view balanced the book perfectly, I was so attached to the characters that I don’t really want to let them go (I’m still in denial) and the plot was so gripping. If you think you don’t like historical fiction, please reconsider. Vengeance Road and Retribution Rails might change your mind.




That’s all for me today, folks. Please let me know if you’ve read Vengeance Road or anything else by Erin Bowman, or even if you’re planning on doing so!
Lots of love,
Lucie