I had a feeling this book would be a 5-star read for me, and I was right!
A Song of Silver, Flame Like Night follows two main characters. Lan lives under the rule of the Elantian colonizers who invaded her kingdom and killed her mother. She has a mysterious mark on her arm that only she can see, and when she’s not working as a songgirl, she spends her time trying to figure out what it means.
Zen is a practitioner—one of the fabled magicians of the Last Kingdom. When Zen runs into Lan, he can see the mark on her arm and knows she has hidden power. Together, they try to outrun the Elantians while unraveling the mystery of Lan’s mark.
Well, where to begin?
Zhao’s writing is beautiful. The way she writes her imagery really brings her world to life.
The worldbuilding is intense but very well crafted. The story takes the time to set up the worldbuilding, plot, and characters. However, I think Zhao wrote it in a way that doesn’t make you feel like you’re plodding through the story. The stakes are really high and adds a thread of tension throughout the story.
I loved both of the main characters—and how dramatic they are. Lan doesn’t put up with anyone’s crap, and Zen is like a stoic emo boy. They’re both well-rounded characters with plenty of flaws and tragic backstories, and I like how they complimented each other.
My one critique that I have to mention is that there was a specific line that was straight out of Star Wars, as in it immediately conjured up a specific scene with Anakin in my brain 😅
A Song of Silver, Flame Like Night tackles a lot of hard topics: colonization, genocide, experimentation. It has practitioners and magicians, a magic school, demons, and Chinese mythology. It’s an intense book that I really enjoyed and left me devastated in the end. I’m looking forward to the sequel!
I adored Divine Rivals...and yes, it did emotionally destroy me.
Divine Rivals is an upper YA/NA historical fantasy novel that follows two main characters. Iris Winnow is a new journalist at a newspaper called the Oath Gazette. Roman Kitt is her rival—a fellow journalist who is competing against her for a promotion as a columnist.
But after centuries of sleep, the gods are warring again, and Iris’ own brother, Forest, has joined the armed forces of one of the gods. Iris, who is worried sick about him, writes him letters. But Iris doesn’t know where her brother is. All she knows is that her letters magically disappear when she slips them underneath her wardrobe door.
What she also doesn’t know is that Roman is the one receiving them, and then he begins anonymously answering her letters.
THIS BOOK. I’ve always loved Ross’ writing style. I’ve read both A River Enchanted and Dreams Lie Beneath and enjoyed both of them, but Divine Rivals hits differently; I connected with the characters on another level.
This book is a masterpiece. I love Ross’ lyrical, beautiful, and emotional writing. The book is so atmospheric, and layered with tension that you can feel on every page.
I adore both Iris and Roman. They have so much chemistry, and I love their banter and rivalry.
Divine Rivals reads like a fantasy version of a World War I/World War II story. Ross writes about the horrors of war in such an effective way. The story is about grief, both Iris’ and Roman’s. It’s about being trapped in a life where you can’t make your own decisions. It’s about loneliness and connection. It’s about finding love, but also about the messiness of loving your flawed family. It’s about the power of writing and letters. Throw some mythology about the world’s gods in the mix and you have this perfect book.
Divine Rivals comes out on April 4, 2023.
Of course that means I have to wait even longer for the sequel. Please pray for my impatient reading brain. (Cliffhangers should be illegal.)
Thanks so much to Netgalley and Wednesday Books for the e-ARC!
The Bone Shard Emperor is the sequel to The Bone Shard Daughter, one of my favorite reads from earlier this year.
Like the first book, it follows 5 POVs: Lin, Jovis, Phalue, Ranami, and Sand/Nisong. Jovis is still my favorite, as well as his talking, bonded otter-like creature named Mephi. But I felt like I got to know Lin’s character better, as well.
I love how Stewart began to reveal more of the world’s history, as well as the mystery surrounding Mephi and some other characters.
Also like the first book, this was a 5-star read for me. However, I don’t think it was quite as well done as the first. Phalue and Ranami get even less page time in the book, so I found myself not caring about their characters as much as I wanted to.
But my biggest critique is that there was also a romantic storyline that, while had potential and made sense from a logical viewpoint, didn’t quite work for me. The characters just didn’t have any chemistry on the page.
Despite moving at a slow pace, I love Stewart’s writing, and I love her worldbuilding, and I never felt bored; I was always drawn into the story.
However, I especially loved the last quarter of the book. A lot of interesting developments are happening, and based on the great ending, I’m excited to see where the third and final book takes the story!
2020 was a year for the books (ha). This year, I read a total of 84 books. I’ve heard many other readers say that living through a pandemic has helped one thing-their reading life. I read the same amount of books annually that I normally do, but being forced to stay home for the majority of the year helped me focus on reading a little more slowly and perhaps a little more intentionally.
A year in reading: Like usual, the majority of the books that I read were literary fiction by women authors. Like in 2019, I read a mixture of audiobooks and physical books. I’ve significantly trimmed down my physical TBR, and I’ve gotten in the habit of selling or donating all books I rate under 4 stars. I didn’t read nearly as much fantasy as I normally do, and I liked even less of what I read in the genre. I re-read some old favorites, like Princess Academy (still amazing) and the Harry Potter books (I re-read the entire series before J.K. Rowling and her Trans-bashing). I was lucky enough to land on Algonquin’s mailing list, and I reviewed their most popular book of the year, His Only Wife. I also rediscovered a love for middle grade fiction. I continued fostering my love for contemporary Irish literary fiction in Exciting Times, Marlena, and Tana French’s newest, The Searchers. Perhaps most surprisingly, a thriller even made it onto my favorites list for the year, something I never thought possible!
Writers & Lovers by Lily King
2. Long Bright River by Liz Moore
3. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
4. Small Spaces by Katherine Arden
5. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
6. The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
7. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
8. Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolf
9. In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Marchad
10. The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donaghue
My 2021 reading goals are to:
Read more books from diverse perspectives. As I mentioned, I read a lot of women authors. Some of my favorite reads from this year featured LGBTQ+ authors. This coming year, I’d love to read books by more people of color as well as more translated works.
Read more nonfiction besides memoir. Will I ever read as much nonfiction as I read fiction? Probably not. But I want to make an effort to reach nonfiction that expands my worldview and knowledge in valuable ways as Just Mercy did this year for me.
Read more classics that I actually enjoy. For me, this means Victorian novels. I’m still making my way through the only one I started this year, The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. There are books in this category that, embarrassingly, I’ve never read, including Wuthering Heights or any Dickens.
Here’s to a year of healing, another great year of reading!
I’m loving my re-read of the Harry Potter series! I’d forgotten just how intricate the world is, and it’s been a welcome break from the current 94 degree weather outside. Whew!
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban remains one of my favorite in the series. (I may also be a little biased because it’s my absolute favorite movie adaptation in the series. I still swear that if Alfonso Cuarón had directed all of the movies with John William’s scores, they would’ve all been *chef’s kiss*).
The Golden Trio’s characterization continues to deepen, and we learn more information about Harry’s parents.
Lupin is one of my favorite characters, and I loved being introduced to him. We also get introduced to Sirius and his relationship with Lupin, Wormtail, and Harry. And the way the plot unfurls throughout the book is just perfect.
Before Coronavirus and JK Rowling’s (yet another) transphobic comment, I planned on re-reading the Harry Potter series this summer. My goal was to browse used bookstores to finish my own collection of the series. But now, I’m going to be reading my family’s copies, as well as my own copies of the 5th and 7th books.
I finished re-reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and it was so much fun! I haven’t read the entire series in such a long time; it’s definitely been over 10 years.
The first book is chock-full of subtext and foreshadowing. Harry learns at the end of the first book, from Quirrell, no less, that the reason Snapes hates him is because he and James went to school together, and James saved his life. There’s even a paragraph at the end where Harry muses that it seems like Dumbledore wanted him to face Voldemort. I enjoyed re-experiencing all of the plot points and the side characters that the movie missed. But that being said, it was also nice to be reminded that the first movie took so many direct quotes from the book.
Even characters that come into play later, like Sirius and Lavender Brown, are mentioned in this book.
I loved immersing myself in the Wizarding World again, and I’m looking forward to re-reading the rest of the series!
In honor of Black History Month, I wanted to take some time to talk about an important writer.
Last year, I read Kindred by Octavia Butler, the pioneer of African-American women science fiction writers.
Kindred deals with a smorgasbord of hard topics: slavery, racism, rape, and death. Butler utilizes time travel in order to explore the ancestors of Dana, the main character, who were slaves in the American South. The result is a harrowing read that explores the horrors of slavery and the interconnection of past and present.
If you’re looking for a good read to finish out the month of February, check it out!