Review: Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross

A Kindle rests on a white marble table. A white pumpkin is to its left. A package of pumpkin chai tea sits to its right. A lit Sweater Weather candle sits above it.

Alexis:

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.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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!

Review: Into the Heartless Wood by Joanna Ruth Meyer

A pink gloved hand holds up the bright green cover of Into the Heartless Wood in front of a snowy backyard and fenceline.

Alexis:

I finished my first book of the year on the first snow day!

Into the Heartless Wood follows Owen, a 17-year-old burgeoning astronomer who lives with his father and baby sister. They live by the edge of the woods, where a witch and her tree siren daughters, who lure humans to their deaths, live…and where Owen lost his own mother. 

But when the witch’s youngest siren daughter, who calls herself Seren, finds herself saving Owen’s life instead of ending it, their lives become intertwined. 

Everyone knows I’m a sucker for a book that focuses on creepy woods. And this book had all of the elements I was looking for: atmospheric vibes, lyrical writing, and dual POVs.

The story is both beautiful and brutal. Happy and sorrowful. The ending was tragic, yet I loved it! It’s slow-paced, and the writing is dreamy and full of beautiful forest imagery. Seren’s POV is written in verse, and I thought it worked really well for her character.

My only main critique is that I wish Owen and Seren had a bit more chemistry on the page. It’s also worth noting that even though I tend to gravitate towards slower-paced novels, the main plot didn’t appear until halfway through.

Despite this, I really enjoyed this one, and it was the perfect read for a snow day paired with a mug of hot chocolate.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

Review: Kingdom of the Cursed by Kerri Maniscalco

Alexis, wearing a black jumpsuit, stands in front of a fence, holding a hardcover copy of Kingdom of the Cursed.

Alexis:

I knew this series would be New Adult! I kept hearing other readers call Kingdom of the Wicked YA, and I was confused because I definitely thought it was NA. But this one…it definitely has steamy scenes and adult themes. 

What I didn’t know was that this wasn’t a duology…but a trilogy, I believe. So now I have to wait for a third book?!

I liked this one much more than the first one! Both Emilio and Wrath had great character arcs. Emilia is still a little naive; however, I found her character development was much better, and I enjoyed reading from her perspective. I also enjoyed learning more about Wrath, his identity, and his role.

I liked the plot more than the first book, too. There was one main plot point that I guessed, but also two great plot twists! Even Maniscalco’s writing and imagery are better in this sequel, even more atmospheric than the first, and I devoured this book while reading it. 

While this was a five-star read for me, there was one scene that made me uncomfortable to read, and it takes a lot to make me feel uncomfortable when I’m reading. It involved a strange questionable consent/mind control scene, and while yes, it did technically make sense with the plot, and yes, this book is full of morally grey characters, I think it could have easily been avoided, and the point would’ve still come across.

This book is not for the faint of heart, and deals with some heavy themes; the point of the story is Emilia going down the path of vengeance and accepting her anger and sexuality.

If you’re looking for a good series to read this October, with plenty of sexual tension/romance, dark fantasy elements, and themes of vengeance and love, then you might like this!

VERDICT: 💀💀💀💀💀

TW: Blood, gore, violence, murder, sexual themes, mind control/questionable consent

Alexis’ September Wrap Up

An orange basket full of books sits on the forest floor.

Alexis: September wrap up time!

Once again, I had a great reading month. And I actually managed to read 3 5-star books!

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten

Forestborn by Elayne Audrey Becker

Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer

I loved all of these! For the Wolf is a slow-moving, atmospheric new adult fantasy read with plenty of creepy woods, earthy magic, and romance.

Forestborn is about a shifter named Rora, who goes on a quest with her brother and her best friend, Finley’s, brother in order to cure Finley from a magical illness. Rora is a fantastic main character, and Becker’s writing is lovely. I loved the worldbuilding and the quest storyline.

Defy the Night has dual POVs: Tessa, an apothecary who is illegally distributing medicine to cure the poor from a ravaging sickness, and Corrick, the crowned prince and King’s Justice. It’s a classic fantasy with great pacing, well-rounded characters you want to root for, and a well-written romance.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone

ACOWAR (re-read) by Sarah J. Maas 

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, Lakesedge is a lyrical, atmospheric fantasy with dark magic, a run-down estate, and creepy, atmospheric vibes.

A Court of Wings and Ruin is the third book in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series. I already own the other two, and figured I was due for a re-read (plus it was nice to have 700 pages to read to distract me from the fact that I was in the hospital).

⭐⭐⭐.5

Small Favors by Erin A. Craig

Small Favors is a hodgepodge of YA fantasy, historical fantasy, and thriller. When monsters are rumored to have returned to the woods outside of Amity Falls, Ellerie struggles to help her family survive. This is a well-written, chaotic thriller, but ultimately the story is too drawn-out to be a 4-star read.

⭐⭐:

Much Ado About You by Samantha Young

What We Devour by Linsey Miller

Much Ado About You is a rom-com that follows Evie, a thirty-something who spontaneously decides to work in a bookshop in England. While I liked all of the Shakespeare references, the writing was just way too cheesy for me.

What We Devour is a unique book with a grim, bloody magic system in a corrupt world. While I loved the beginning, I had a hard time connecting with the characters, and I often had no clue what was going on with the repetitive plot. There is some great ace rep, as Lorena, the main character, is asexual. But unfortunately, I couldn’t connect with this book as much as I wanted to. 

I’m looking forward to some great fall and Halloween themed reads in October!