This week my random pick has one of the prettiest covers I’ve seen this year – Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim!
Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.
Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.
Peniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.
I’m always a sucker for retellings of the Wild Swans fairy tale, and this version mixes it up with East Asian mythology for a new spin on things. I actually haven’t yet read Lim’s earlier duology, though it’s also on my TBR, but I’ve heard really good things about how lyrical her writing is, so I’m thinking this will be a great winter read. Have you read this one? I’d love to see more reviews!
This book has only recently arrived, but that’s how the numbers shake out sometimes – it’s #293, Terciel and Elinor by Garth Nix!
A thrilling, atmospheric dive into the history of the Abhorsen, featuring Sabriel’s parents, Terciel and Elinor.
In the Old Kingdom, a land of ancient and often terrible magics, eighteen year-old orphan Terciel is learning the art of necromancy – but not to raise the Dead, rather to lay them to rest. He is the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, the latest in a long line of people whose task it is to make sure the Dead do not return to Life.
Across the Wall in Ancelstierre, a steam-age country where magic usually does not work, nineteen year-old Elinor lives a secluded life, her only friends an old governess and an even older groom who was once a famous circus performer. Her mother is a tyrant, feared by all despite her sickness and impending death . . .
Elinor does not know she is deeply connected to the Old Kingdom, until a plot by an ancient enemy of the Abhorsens brings Terciel to Ancelstierre. In a single day of fire and death and loss, Elinor finds herself set on a path which will take her into the Old Kingdom, into Terciel’s life, and will embroil her in the struggle of the Abhorsens against the Dead who will not stay dead.
I fell in love with Sabriel and its sequels when I was younger, with their mix of magic, horror, adventure, and practical young women getting stuff done, so I was delighted when this popped through my letterbox unexpectedly from Hot Key Books! I actually missed reading Goldenhand, the most recently published book before this one, but as Terciel and Elinor is set well before everything that’s happened so far,I think I should be okay to start this soon, and I’m really looking forward to returning to the Old Kingdom world. Hopefully it will capture the magic that enthralled me as a kid!
Is this on your TBR, or have you read it? I’d love to see your reviews!
Mondays are coming around so fast – after today, there are only six left in the year! This time around the random number generator picked #178, Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire.
It was only supposed to be one little job – a simple curse-breaking for Mennik Thorn to pay back a favour to his oldest friend. But then it all blew up in his face. Now he’s been framed for a murder he didn’t commit.
So how is a second-rate mage, broke, traumatized, and with a habit of annoying the wrong people, supposed to prove his innocence when everyone believes he’s guilty?
Mennik has no choice if he wants to get out of this: he is going to have to throw himself into the corrupt world of the city’s high mages, a world he fled years ago. Faced by supernatural beasts, the mage-killing Ash Guard, and a ruthless, unknown adversary, it’s going to take every trick Mennik can summon just to keep him and his friend alive.
But a new, dark power is rising in Agatos, and all that stands in its way is one damaged mage…
I’ve read most of Patrick Samphire’s other work, and really enjoyed it, especially his two series set on a Regency Mars, so it was a no-brainer for me to preorder this. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet, even though everyone I know who’s read it thinks it’s great! After loving The Last Smile in Sunder City, I’m definitely up for more noir-ish, secondary world urban fantasy, and it sounds like there’s a good balance of humour and mystery here. I’m really looking forward to it.
This week the random number generator gave me #252, A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine!
An alien armada lurks on the edges of Teixcalaanli space. No one can communicate with it, no one can destroy it, and Fleet Captain Nine Hibiscus is running out of options.
In a desperate attempt at diplomacy with the mysterious invaders, the fleet captain has sent for a diplomatic envoy. Now Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass—still reeling from the recent upheaval in the Empire—face the impossible task of trying to communicate with a hostile entity.
Whether they succeed or fail could change the fate of Teixcalaan forever.
I found A Memory Called Empire utterly fascinating – it’s a dense slowburn of a book, but one with such clever worldbuilding and gorgeously woven culture. It’s sci fi that feels like a lush historical drama. The only reason I haven’t yet picked up its sequel, A Desolation Called Peace, is because I wanted to go back first and reread A Memory Called Empire to make sure I remembered everything I needed to before diving in, as I didn’t want to be confused. I think this is going to be great, though. A lot of people whose opinions I trust have said it’s as good as, if not better than the first book, so I’m very much looking forward to the day I do get to pick this up.
Is this on your list, or have you read it already? I’d love to know your thoughts!
This week the random number generator picked a very recent addition to my TBR, #348, Girls of Fate and Fury!
“Don’t struggle, Lei-zhi. It’s time to take you back to the Hidden Palace. You’re going home.”
The final pages of Girls of Storm and Shadow brought a jaw-dropping conclusion that had the fates of Lei and Wren hanging in uncertainty. But one thing was certain – the Hidden Palace was the last place that Lei would ever consider home. The trauma and tragedy she suffered behind those opulent walls would plague her forever. She could not be trapped there with the sadistic king again, especially without Wren.
The last Lei saw of the girl she loved, Wren was fighting an army of soldiers in a furious battle to the death. With the two girls torn apart and each in terrorizing peril, will they find each other again or have their destinies diverged forever?
This is the third and final book in the trilogy that started with Girls of Paper and Fire, the book so good I reviewed it twice! Find my first and second reviews here, and my review of book two here, if you want to catch up on my thoughts about the series so far. This is one of my favourite YA fantasy series, and I’m quite apprehensive to read the finale – my expectations are high, for one thing, but I also know it’s going to be an emotional read. I’ve deliberately steered clear of too much info to avoid spoilers, so I’m going to have to read this one soon!
This week the random number generator picked #217, Slippery Creatures by KJ Charles!
Will Darling came back from the Great War with a few scars, a lot of medals, and no idea what to do next. Inheriting his uncle’s chaotic second-hand bookshop is a blessing…until strange visitors start making threats. First a criminal gang, then the War Office, both telling Will to give them the information they want, or else.
Will has no idea what that information is, and nobody to turn to, until Kim Secretan—charming, cultured, oddly attractive—steps in to offer help. As Kim and Will try to find answers and outrun trouble, mutual desire grows along with the danger.
And then Will discovers the truth about Kim. His identity, his past, his real intentions. Enraged and betrayed, Will never wants to see him again.
But Will possesses knowledge that could cost thousands of lives. Enemies are closing in on him from all sides—and Kim is the only man who can help.
I love KJ Charles’s writing, but for some reason I just missed getting started with her latest trilogy, the Will Darling Adventures. I’ve never read a book of hers I haven’t liked, so I’m sure Slippery Creatures won’t be the exception – it’s bound to be a great emotional romance full of darkness and danger and beautifully sketched characters, plus all the promo material makes it sound like the wit and banter is going to be better than ever. I have the whole series waiting on my Kindle, I just need to find the time to read them!
Have you read this series, or anything else by KJ Charles? I’d love to get to know more of her fans!
Monday again, so it’s time for another peek into the depths of the TBR… And this week, we have another Kindle book, By Sea and Sky by Antoine Bandele.
The sickness was severe…
…and there was one known potion that could save him.
Was piracy the only chance they had?
Zala wasn’t skilled with a sword. She wasn’t blessed with magic. But she knew the Sapphire Seas well. Plundering and raiding was an art of its own, and she got by on her wits.
Yet she was running out of time. She needed the big score to save her husband.
What was her next move?
Before she even knew it…
…the game changed.
High above them, off the coast of the Ibabi Isles, a strange airship was headed their way. Zala had never seen anything like it. The battle was imminent.
And she was going to need more than her bag of tricks.
You’ll love this adventure inspired by the West Indies, The Swahili Coast, and Arabia, because Zala will encounter ruthless raiders, arrogant aristocrats, and imperial secrets. It will keep you turning the pages.
The cover of this one is so tempting – it instantly speaks of swashbuckling, interesting worldbuilding, and a kickass heroine. The writing in the blurb isn’t quite my cup of tea, but the premise is so good I picked it up anyway! I always love a good fantasy pirate, and I’m really intrigued by the idea of a slightly older heroine in an estabished relationship leading an adventure – I’m hopeful that this will be a fast-paced, fun read.
Have you read this one, or is it on your TBR? I’d love to know your thoughts on it if so!
Back to the regularly scheduled TBR Spotlight this week, and I’ve rolled book #49, The Trouble With Kings by Sherwood Smith.
Princess Flian finds herself the unwilling object of desire of three royals. Is the one she wants a villain–or a hero?
Waking up in a strange place, Flian Elandersi at first doesn’t know who she is. One wicked prince tells her she is secretly engaged to an even more wicked king who wants to marry her right away. But before that happens, yet another wicked prince crashes through a window on horseback to sweep her off her feet.
Memory returns, and Flian realizes that all any of them seem to want is her considerable wealth, not her pleasant-but-ordinary self. She longs to escape the barracks-like, military atmosphere and return to civilization and her musical studies.
Flian endures another abduction, this time in the middle of a poetry reading. Who is the villain? Prince Garian Herlester–languid, elegant, sarcastic? Prince Jaim–he of the dashing horsemanship? Or King Jason Szinzar, whose ambiguous warning might be a threat?
Flian decides it’s time to throw off civilization and take action. The problem with action is that duels of wit turn into duels of steel–and love can’t be grabbed and galloped away.
Sherwood Smith is one of my favourite fantasy authors, but I think she’s very underrated as I rarely see anyone else talking about her. She writes exactly the kind of romantic, adventurous, slightly humorous court fantasy I adore, full of practical princesses, dashing-but-bookish heroes, and a smidgen of magic to liven it all up. They’re just the perfect antidote to the grimdark kick the fantasy genre’s been on recently, and though they aren’t necessarily low stakes or fluffy, they’re always kind of comforting to me. I think they hit the Tamora Pierce button in my brain very nicely. This particular book, The Trouble with Kings, has been sitting on my Kindle for absolutely ages – in fact, it’s the oldest Kindle book on my TBR. Flian sounds like a really enjoyable heroine and I love the sound of the plot. I think I’m going to make the effort to get to this very soon as it’s just what I’m in the mood for.
Have you read this one, or any other Sherwood Smith? I’d love to find some more fans!
Two TBRs in a week?! I know, it’s unheard of! But this weekend is the third round of #SweepUpYourSmols, my mini-readathon where the goal is to read as many books under 300 pages as you can. So, do you want to see the books I’m choosing from? There’s no way I’ll get to all of these, but I’ve got a nice selection!
I actually found myself really having to search for small books to include! I think I’ve been picking them off and leaving the longer chonks to wait, which is not ideal… Still, there’s an eclectic mix of things so I feel like I’ll be fine for some mood reading.
The Game by Diana Wynne Jones
I’m working my way through the few books on Diana Wynne Jones’s backlist that I didn’t read as a child, and this sounds like an interesting one – I’m in the perfect mood for one of her magical, fun stories.
Beauty and the Beast stories edited by Maria Tatar
This is a collection of different animal spouse fairytales from around the world – Maria Tatar’s name on it makes me sure it’s going to be interesting, and I always love adding new variations of fairytales to my repertoire!
Wood Angel by Erin Bow
I’ve seen lots of warnings that this is a pretty grim book for middle grade, violent and quite sad, but I was still tempted into it by its talking cat and witchy vibes, so I’ll give it a go, and if I’m not feeling the darker side of it, I’ll DNF.
Grayling’s Song by Karen Cushman
More witchy middle grade! This sounds like the kind of charming adventure I really love, with a girl out to stop a curse and rescue her mother. I think this would make a good bath read.
A True Princess by Diane Zahler
Diane Zahler’s fairy tale retellings are always great – a little dark, but really beautiful takes on their original stories. I’ve actually just finished writing my own take on The Princess and the Pea, so this might be a good time to read A True Princess!
Dark Breaks the Dawn by Sara B Larson
These next three were in my TBR during the last round of Sweep Up Your Smols – maybe this is the right time to get to this YA retelling of Swan Lake?
The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie
I don’t know too much about this one other than that it has a fantastic cover and queer female pirates, which honestly was enough to sell me on it!
Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells
This actually popped up in my TBR Spotlight a few weeks ago, so head there for more of my thoughts on it!
Hawk of May by Gillian Bradshaw
This Arthurian retelling has been on my shelf for longer than I can remember. I’m actually a lot pickier now with Arthurian stories than I used to be, so I’m not sure if I’ll get on with this one, but it’s a high priority for me to at least try it and see if it’s a keeper, or if I can have some more space!
As You Wish by Cary Elwes
I love The Princess Bride movie – who doesn’t? And I also love love love behind the scenes books, so I’m really looking forward to this look back at its filming, from the horse’s mouth. I read the introduction when I got this book and decided to save it for a rainy day, as it was just so charming.
Will you be joining in with #SweepUpYourSmols? I’d love to see your short book picks!
This week the random number generator has reminded me of a book I really need to get around to: #266, A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking.
Fourteen-year-old Mona isn’t like the wizards charged with defending the city. She can’t control lightning or speak to water. Her familiar is a sourdough starter and her magic only works on bread. She has a comfortable life in her aunt’s bakery making gingerbread men dance.
But Mona’s life is turned upside down when she finds a dead body on the bakery floor. An assassin is stalking the streets of Mona’s city, preying on magic folk, and it appears that Mona is his next target. And in an embattled city suddenly bereft of wizards, the assassin may be the least of Mona’s worries…
I’m a huge fan of T Kingfisher’s fairy tale and fantasy work. The way she plays with the well-worn tropes, mixes humour and darkness, and creates genre-savvy, practical characters, just really appeals to me. I preordered the ebook of this, but I’m now at the point where “saving for a rainy day” has pretty much turned into “don’t know when I’m going to get to”, so I need to move this up the TBR stat. I know it’s going to be great.
Is this on your TBR, or have you read it? I’d love to know what you thought!