Mini Reviews

Hello!

I have been terrible at keeping up with my reviews for the last few months, returning to work and various other things have left me scrambling to keep up so over the next few days I’ll be posting batches of mini reviews as I catch up.

Disclaimer – I received an e-arc of these books via netgalley in exchange for an honest review, all thoughts are my own.

Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars #1) – Elizabeth Lim

Book Summary:

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

The Review:

Unfortunately, I ended up not enjoying this one as much as I’d hoped. I will start with the positives – one is that stunning cover, it’s one I could never get fed up of looking at. Secondly, I really enjoyed Lim’s writing style, and it went really well with the almost fairy-tale esque feeling to parts of the book, and in the places where the worldbuilding was more developed it really shone through with the writing. However, I did find the worldbuilding rather too light for my liking, especially as what we were shone was fascinating and could have added so much more to the story – although I did prefer the latter part of the book, when the journey aspect gave us more insight into the world. The characters were the main reason this one didn’t work for me, because I just couldn’t connect with them, and while they’re not badly written in the sightest it was just hard to care and become invested in their romance and story, and it was this paired, with a plot that felt as though it lost steam later in the book and some uneven pacing had me putting this one several times. However, I can absolutely see why so many people love it – and I think that had the characters won me over, as they clearly have so many others then it would have elevated the book. It was just a case of wrong reader.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Bookshop.org | Topping & Company | Waterstones

***** *****

I’m Waiting for You – Kim Bo-Young

57524953

Book Summary:

Two worlds, four stories, infinite possibilities 

In this mind-expanding work of speculative fiction, available in English for the first time, one of South Korea’s most treasured writers explores the driving forces of humanity—love, hope, creation, destruction, and the very meaning of existence—in two pairs of thematically interconnected stories.

In “I’m Waiting for You” and “On My Way,” an engaged couple coordinate their separate missions to distant corners of the galaxy to ensure—through relativity—they can arrive back on Earth simultaneously to make it down the aisle. But small incidents wreak havoc on space and time, driving their wedding date further away. As centuries on Earth pass and the land and climate change, one thing is constant: the desire of the lovers to be together. In two separate yet linked stories, Kim Bo-Young cleverly demonstrate the idea love that is timeless and hope springs eternal, despite seemingly insurmountable challenges and the deepest despair.

In “The Prophet of Corruption” and “That One Life,” humanity is viewed through the eyes of its creators: godlike beings for which everything on Earth—from the richest woman to a speck of dirt—is an extension of their will. When one of the creations questions the righteousness of this arrangement, it is deemed a perversion—a disease—that must be excised and cured. Yet the Prophet Naban, whose “child” is rebelling, isn’t sure the rebellion is bad. What if that which is considered criminal is instead the natural order—and those who condemn it corrupt? Exploring the dichotomy between the philosophical and the corporeal, Kim ponders the fate of free-will, as she considers the most basic of questions: who am I?

The Review:

This was a fascinating collection of stories, and was a fascinating insight into Korean SF. I found myself enjoying the first and fourth stories the most – ‘I’m Waiting for You’ and ‘On My Way to You’ which were connected, and was a beautiful, and heart-wrenching exploration of love, seperation and isolation. The middle two stories, were more intellectual, and while incredibly thought-provoking and certainly stories that will be interesting to return to, they felt a little dry in comparison to the other two and didn’t hit home in the same way. That said, the entire collection is one that makes you think about big ideas, whether from an emotional or intellectual point of view, and are certainly stories that will linger afterwards.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Bookshop.org | Topping & Company | Waterstones

***** *****

Assassin’s Creed: The Ming Storm – Yan Lei Sheng

56695152

Book Summary:

The Ming dynasty becomes a battleground for the Brotherhood of Assassins and the Order of the Templars in this blockbuster action novel from a previously unexplored part of the beloved Assassin’s Creed universe.

China, 16th century. The Assassins are gone. Zhang Yong, the relentless leader of the Eight Tigers, took advantage of the emperor’s death to eliminate all his opponents, and now the Templars hold all the power. Shao Jun, the last representative of her clan, barely escapes death and has no choice but to flee her homeland. Vowing to avenge her former brothers in arms, she travels to Europe to train with the legendary Ezio Auditore. When she returns to the Middle Kingdom, her saber and her determination alone will not be enough to eliminate Zhang Yong: she will have to surround herself with allies and walk in the shadows to defeat the Eight Tigers.

The Review:

This one left me with mixed feelings, but largely didn’t work for me. I did enjoy the historical aspect as well as how that was merged with the speculative elements, but unfortunately that ended up lost to a large extent beneath a vast cast of characters that I struggled to keep track of and in the technical details. Had there been a little more focus on the adventure/action aspect, which were interesting, and less of the names of moves, and technical aspects which while necessary in the game, lose a lot when translated into fiction then it would flowed a lot more easily and been a gripping read, rather than one I kept taking breaks from.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Bookshop.org | Waterstones

***** *****

Boys Run the Riot Vol 1. – Keito Gaku

55995929

Book Summary:

A transgender teen named Ryuu finds an escape from the expectations and anxieties of his daily life in the world of street fashion. This personal, heartfelt, fictional story from a Japanese transgender manga creator made waves in Japan and will inspire readers all over the world!

High schooler Ryuu knows he’s transgender. But he doesn’t have anyone to confide in about the confusion he feels. He can’t tell his best friend, who he’s secretly got a crush on, and he can’t tell his mom, who’s constantly asking why Ryuu is always dressing like a boy. He certainly can’t tell Jin, the new transfer student who looks like just another bully. The only time Ryuu feels at ease is when he’s wearing his favorite clothes. Then, and only then, the world melts away, and he can be his true self. One day, while out shopping, Ryuu sees an unexpected sight: Jin. The kid who looked so tough in class is shopping for the same clothes that Ryuu loves. And Jin offers Ryuu a proposal: to start their own brand and create apparel to help everyone feel comfortable in their skin. At last, Ryuu has someone he can open up to–and the journey ahead might finally give him a way to express himself to everyone else.

The Review:

This was an absolutely fantastic read, and I really liked the art style – the slightly edgier approach worked so well with the story and the characters, and I don’t think the story would have felt right in any other style. The story itself is not always easy to read, but the journey of the characters, and the search for identity and acceptance were so beautifully done, and Ryuu and Jin are great characters that you can’t help but be invested in.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Bookshop.org | Topping & Company | Waterstones

***** *****

The Blacktongue Thief – Christopher Buehlman

55077697

Book Summary:

Kinch Na Shannack owes the Takers Guild a small fortune for his education as a thief, which includes (but is not limited to) lock-picking, knife-fighting, wall-scaling, fall-breaking, lie-weaving, trap-making, plus a few small magics. His debt has driven him to lie in wait by the old forest road, planning to rob the next traveler that crosses his path.

But today, Kinch Na Shannack has picked the wrong mark.

Galva is a knight, a survivor of the brutal goblin wars, and handmaiden of the goddess of death. She is searching for her queen, missing since a distant northern city fell to giants.

Unsuccessful in his robbery and lucky to escape with his life, Kinch now finds his fate entangled with Galva’s. Common enemies and uncommon dangers force thief and knight on an epic journey where goblins hunger for human flesh, krakens hunt in dark waters, and honor is a luxury few can afford.

The Review:

This was unfortunately the case of wrong reader. I always struggle with humour – it either has to catch me in the mood, or be a certain style, and I just didn’t mesh with the humour in this book, and that combined with first person pov just wasn’t for me. That said, I really enjoyed the worldbuilding in this book, especially as it was a lot more in depth than I had initially expected, and there were a lot of layers to the world and that plus the creatures and beasts, allowed me to keep with this book – and while it wasn’t my cup of tea in the end, it was still a good read and I can absolutely see why if it appeals to your sense of humour then this will be an amazing read.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Bookshop.org | The Broken Binding | Topping & Company | Waterstones

***** *****

For the Wolf (Wilderwood #1) – Hannah F. Whitten

53418394

Book Summary:

The first daughter is for the Throne.
The second daughter is for the Wolf.

As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods.

Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.

But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole.

The Review:

I really wanted to love this one, but for me it fell into the overly familiar/overdone aspects of fairytale retellings, and while the writing itself was beautiful and certainly the highlight of the book for me, the author knew how to pull you into the story they were weaving with their words alone, it just didn’t manage to capture my interest enough to make me invested. It also didn’t have quite the vibes or rather inspiration that I was expecting from the summary and cover, and I would definitely say it fell more into beauty and the beast than little red riding hood, which left me a little adrift. There was so much potential here, and I think that perhaps for those less familiar with retellings or with more of an interest in them, then this will be a fantastic book, it just fell a little short for me.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Bookshop.org | The Broken Binding | Topping & Company | Waterstones

***** *****

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