I’m sad to see the end of this fabulous trilogy, but Voidbreaker offers a thrilling and satisfying conclusion that has cemented The Keepers series as a new favourite for me!Continue reading “Review: Voidbreaker”
I’m so excited to be part of the blog tour for Malice, a fun fairytale-inspired fantasy that takes the well-known story of Sleeping Beauty and flips it on its head!Continue reading “Blog Tour: Malice”
You should probably know, if you’ve been here a while, that I love little more than a good fantasy of manners, and this fun novella is a great start to a new series that looks like it’ll be exactly my cup of tea!Continue reading “Review: The Selkie Scandal”
This stunning Norse-inspired fantasy has everything going for it: great cover, exciting plot, and amazing character development!
Book: Beneath Cruel Fathoms by Anela Deen
Read before: No
Release date: 17th May 2020
Ownership: Review copy sent free of charge by author. All opinions my own.
Content warnings: Violence and injury (including stitches); discussions of infertility; familial abuse, both emotional and physical; mentions of spousal abuse; scenes of near-drowning.
Beneath Cruel Fathoms is a gorgeous fantasy suffused with Norse mythology and full of phenomenal characters. When the story begins, healer Isaura is heading home to her father’s house, reeling from the break-up of her marriage, when the ship she’s traveling on is caught in a sudden storm and destroyed. There’s no hope of surviving the wreck – or there wouldn’t be if not for Leonel, the last of the merfolk, who saves her life. But Leonel doesn’t rescue her out of the goodness of his heart, and this is not the Little Mermaid retelling you’re imagining… Rather, he needs Isaura’s help to prove that there’s something sinister and unnatural behind these storms, and he’s willing to break all the rules of the sea to prove it and finally earn the respect of his divine parents and siblings. Their forbidden partnership could have dangerous consequences for both of them, but something else builds between them that may well prove to be just as valuable as the answers to Leonel’s investigations.
There’s a remarkable amount packed into these 350-odd pages, and it’s a real testament to the writing that I never felt like the different elements were fighting for attention; every part of the world bolsters something else. We have the mystery of the storms, and the dangerous magical war they herald, but even while I was thoroughly engrossed in the investigation, I was watching a sweet and rewarding love story develop. And every step of the romance was twined intimately with the character development of Leonel and Isaura – and every part of their personal journeys drew on the worlds they grew up in. I loved how fully realised this world feels, and how the mythological and magical aspects weave through everything – it’s a really vivid setting that will stick with me for a while. There’s also a good measure of humour, particularly when the book leans into the classic mermaid tropes and explores Leonel’s attempts to adjust to land habits like buttons and trousers!
The lover of court fantasy in me adored the scenes at the underwater palace of Leonel’s father, King Ægir. Ægir and Ran, in Norse mythology and here, are the parents of nine daughters who are the personifications of the waves, and I loved their vicious, formal family dynamic – it’s not a family I’d want to be in, for sure, but I loved reading about them. Leonel is not a figure from mythology, so it’s really interesting to see how he fits in (or doesn’t!) to the family and the world – he’s Ran’s son from another relationship, though he has been adopted by Ægir, and no one ever lets him forget his status as an outsider. This is of course compounded by the fact that he’s the last of the merfolk, and feels very disconnected from his heritage – I thought his struggles with wanting to be self-sufficient, but also battling intense loneliness, were very well depicted, and as much as I love a palace, I was immediately rooting for him to find something he could more accurately call home.
Where I think Deen really excels is in her characters, which is what tends to make or break a book for me. You can have all the clever world-building ideas you want, but a book won’t truly sing unless the characters feel like living, breathing people, and Beneath Cruel Fathoms is a fabulous example of this. Underneath all the adventure and romance is a really heartfelt message about finding a way to believe in yourself after years of thinking you’re worthless, and it’s beautifully done. Both Isaura and Leonel have a huge amount of self-loathing – him because of his mortal nature and his constant belittlement at the hands of his family, and her because of her broken marriage and struggles to have children – and their growth throughout the book feels realistically difficult, but also extremely satisfying. Isaura’s emotional journey in particular is beautifully nuanced, and will resonate with a lot of women who have felt their self-worth is tied in some way to their fertility – I’ll reiterate my content warning from above and say to watch out if this is a sensitive subject for you, as it can be intense. As I say, this is just such good character work – Isaura and Leonel both have to realise that they are so much more than single facets of their identity, which wouldn’t work at all if the reader didn’t also believe that! Though this is definitely more fantasy than romance, the attention to the subtleties of how two people can grow separately and together is worthy of the best romance novel.
Overall, I suppose this is quite a dark book, full of the grim realities of humanity (and divinity) and with plenty of dramatic violence, but something about it feels very hopeful. Isaura and Leonel can make a difference to the world, and not just in the heroic sense, but in small, domestic ways too, creating happiness in each other and the people around them. It seems silly to call a book that’s so full of icy sea-spray and battle “cosy”, but it has that comforting, uplifting, optimistic quality that really makes me adore a book. I actually think it perfectly captures the vibe of Norse mythology – wild and dangerous but with a real sense of place and community.
This is the first book in a trilogy, but it looks like focus will switch to Isaura’s brother, Jurek, and Leonel’s sister, Ava, in the next book. Isaura and Leonel’s story wraps up in a very satisfying way, while still leaving the wider world open for the sequel – and wow, did that ending leave me excited for Between Savage Tides, which is coming out in August! Five out of five cats!
This is perhaps the most exciting thing I’ve ever been asked to do on the blog: a cover reveal for The Raven Heir, the new middle grade fantasy from one of my all-time favourite authors, Stephanie Burgis!
I’ve been lucky enough to read an early copy of this gorgeous new book and let me tell you, if you’re a fan of magical adventures, fabulously capable heroines, and wonderfully atmospheric magic, this is a book you need to know about! The blurb is just below, but first of all, let’s take a look at this stunning cover, with artwork by Petur Atli Antonsson and lettering by David Dean.
TRIPLETS. ONE OF THEM IS HEIR TO THE THRONE. BUT WHICH ONE?
Cordelia, Rosalind and Giles. They have lived in the tower all their lives, protected by their mother’s enchantments. Only Cordelia’s magic lets her steal moments of freedom – over the walls in the shape of a bird or beneath them as a scurrying mouse. The eldest of the three is heir to the Raven Throne of Corvenne – a land no one can rule for long and hope to live. Only their mother knows which is the true heir, and she will do anything to keep them hidden. But one day, thanks to Cordelia, destiny finds them.
The Raven Heir is an unbelievably epic new middle-grade fantasy. With incredible shapeshifting magic and unforgettable characters, readers will be hooked from the first page.
Doesn’t that just make you want to jump in right now? I know I would have absolutely fallen in love with this book as a child, and 100% would have begged my mum to make me a dress like Cordelia’s (to be honest, I still might!). If this stunning cover has tempted you, you can preorder The Raven Heir on the Bookshop.org site or from your local independent bookshop, and then it’s just a case of managing to wait until the 5th August to read it!
I was super excited for this book. Pirates, magical land ships, an f/f romance – it all sounded like it was going to be very much my cup of tea. But unfortunately, I really struggled to click with something about The Forever Sea, and I ended up coming out thinking it was just… okay.Continue reading “Review: The Forever Sea”
The first book in this series, Master of Sorrows, was a smart and entertainingly fresh take on academy fantasy – you can check out my review here for my thoughts on it as a whole, but I loved it! So when Justin offered me the chance to read an extra-early ARC, I almost snapped his hand off… but then I ended up having a bit of a brain-crash and it took me forever to have the energy to actually read it. Finally, though, I managed to get back to it, and it more than lived up to my expectations!Continue reading “Review: Master Artificer”
Relics, Wrecks, and Ruins is one of the most interesting SFF short story anthologies I’ve ever read, full of some wonderful authors and some really clever ideas.Continue reading “Review: Relics, Wrecks, and Ruins”
The first two books in this YA quest fantasy quartet are suffused with Scottish myth and magic!Continue reading “Review: The Stone of Destiny and The Cauldron of Life”
This is a review I’ve been meaning to write since I turned the last page of this fun piratical YA fantasy, but I’ve let myself get a little behind – it’s no fault of the book!