Review: Song of Silver, Flame Like Night by Amélie Wen Zhao

A Kindle with Song of Silver, Flame Like Night rests on an outdoor table surrounded by tea.


I had a feeling this book would be a 5-star read for me, and I was right!

Adapted Synopsis:

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!

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Review: Dreams Lie Beneath by Rebecca Ross

Alexis holds the naked spine of the book Dreams Lie Beneath next to a candle and Starbucks cup, while her dilute calico cat looks on.


Dreams Lie Beneath follows Clementine, or Clem, who is her father’s apprentice magician in a small town. Each new moon, people’s nightmares come to life, and it’s Clem and her father’s job to not only record the townspeople’s dreams, but to fight any that come to life.

But then two strange magicians come to town, challenging Clem’s father for his position. When he loses, Clem seeks revenge on the two men who upended her life.

I absolutely loved the beginning of this book. Ross’ writing style is lovely, and I enjoyed the worldbuilding. Clem is a great main character, and even when she makes some questionable decisions, I found myself always rooting for her. 

I enjoyed the magic system, and how Ross describes the nightmares coming to life. I also enjoyed the history of this world and the book’s plot.

This easily could have been a 5-star read for me. However, after the beginning of the book, some of the side characters begin to feel a little too flat for my liking. Phelan, the magician Clem ends up working with, was intriguing in the beginning, but as the story moved along, his character was just too flat. Despite his copious amount of page time, I felt like I knew Imonie, Clem’s family cook, and Mazarine, an old lady from Clem’s hometown, better than I knew Phelan. 

Despite this, I really enjoyed this book. If you’re looking for a book full of dreams and nightmares, with a cool magic system and a dynamic main character, then you might enjoy this!

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Alexis: Read 12/16/18

I feel like I’ve been saying this a lot lately, but this is a really hard book for me to rate. Is it 3 ½ stars? 4? 4 and ½? I had a hard time deciding. I will confess, I skimmed a lot of Goodreads reviews and was relieved to find that a lot of other people felt the same way.

I loved aspects of this book; I was confused by aspects of this book; I disliked aspects of this book. I understand the major hype surrounding it, and maybe I went in with too-high expectations.

Morgenstern’s writing is beautiful and lyrical. The best part of this book is how her descriptions of the circus launch you into a wonderful, atmospheric world. She uses all four senses to describe the circus, and I loved the recurring descriptions of how the circus smelled: like popcorn, caramel, and bonfire smoke. I loved the black and white theme of the circus, the intricate clock, and the minute details Morgenstern includes about each tent.

The circus itself is almost the main character as much as it is the setting, which actually fits perfectly when you reach the ending.

As for the characters, both Celia and Marco’s characters start out strong, but seem to flatline as the book progresses. It doesn’t help that the book switches perspectives every chapter. This creates a snapshot effect. Each chapter almost feels like a character study, interspersed with short circus-character studies. Not only does the book jump back and forth in perspectives, but it jumps back and forth in time. Because of this, the first hundred pages or so were a bit of a drag for me. Not much is revealed, and the book’s plot progresses slowly.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that this book doesn’t have much of a plot. Whenever the perspective deviates from Celia and Marco, I found myself feeling annoyed. I wanted them to be more present characters than they were, and I wanted them to do more actions than they did. I found myself gravitating more towards Bailey, Poppet, and Widgets’ storylines, as their characters felt more lively and real.

Despite the skimpy plot, my other issue with the book is the romance. I’m not a fan of the love at first sight storyline unless it serves a good purpose. It would make sense that Celia and Marco would have an outright connection, due to their similarities. However, for a 500 page book, there was definitely room for more of a romantic build up so the reader could actually see them falling in love instead of just being told that they fell in love. Their relationship didn’t feel as deep and real as I wanted it to, and a certain speech by Marco (on pages 419 and 420) didn’t help; Marco and Celia’s dialogue with each other often felt too flat.

Thankfully, I was pleased with the direction the ending went, and I’m glad that it tied up some of the many loose knots tied throughout the book. I just wished there was more of a plot. 

VERDICT: 3 ½ out of 5 books


Anna: Read 12/25/18

Like Alexis, this book was so hyped that I expected a lot of it. Also like Alexis, I loved the descriptions of the circus and its different tents and inhabitants. I was also intrigued by the magic in the beginning, as well as the mystery of the circus, and the competition, and think I lost some interest as more of the rules of the competition are revealed (even though the reader never really gets a fully satisfactory explanation of the competition, which frustrated me.)

Honestly, I would have rated this four stars if not for the love story, which I found both cliche and tedious. Though the romance between Marco and Celia added more tension to the competition, I felt that there are more interesting and imaginative ways to raise the stakes. There is also the troubling fact that Marco and Celia’s relationship is shallow, which makes it hard to root for or even believe. I enjoyed reading from Bailey’s perspective more so that any of the others, and I liked that his storyline grounded the circus in reality. I also agree with Alexis that there are WAY too many unnecessary perspectives in this, which bogs down the pace. Perhaps with the perspectives Morgenstern is trying to show that there are many moving parts to the circus, but I think she relayed this with the sheer amount of characters.

Can I also point out that the way that Marco treats Isobel is that of a misogynist pig? I had a big problem with that.

The melodramatic romance automatically knocked it down one star, as did the resolution of the competition, which I found wishy-washy. Despite the fantastic and magical circus scenes, I’m honestly disappointed!

VERDICT: 3 out of 5 books


Hopefully in future dual reviews we have more varied opinions from each other!