Review: One Dark Window by Rachel Gillig

One Dark Window rests on a yellow scarf next to a cashmere candle and an oil perfume rollerball called Dusty Manuscripts.

Alexis:

One Dark Window is a new adult fantasy that follows Elspeth, who lives in the mist-locked kingdom of Blunder. Elspeth has a secret—after she contracted the infection that gave her illegal magic, she accidentally let a monster called the Nightmare into her head. Now, it lives in the back of her mind and protects her.

But when Elspeth runs into a group of highwaymen, she unexpectedly ends up joining a quest to rid Blunder of its dark magic: a deck of cards called the Providence Cards.

The first topic I want to discuss is the magic system. The idea of a magical deck of cards is very unique, and I really enjoyed how it shaped the worldbuilding and the story. The cards are the only legal way to do magic; each card temporarily gives the user a magical ability. 

Now for the worldbuilding. In the beginning of each chapter is a passage or two from a text called the Book of Adlers. This really helped give insight into the culture of Blunder and helped shape the world, as well.

As for the pacing, the beginning is really slow, and it takes a while for everything to be set up before Elspeth can actually go on her quest. But once the quest began, I really enjoyed being on the journey with her.

There’s a romantic subplot, as well. I’m a huge fan of a romantic subplot, and while I did enjoy it, I was hoping for a little more depth. (It’s worth noting that there’s also the fake-dating trope in this book, which I haven’t seen anyone mention!) But I’m hoping the romance doesn’t feel as surface-level in the sequel.

Speaking of sequels, the ending of One Dark Window sets up for a killer second book. 

Overall, One Dark Window is a great choice if you’re looking for an atmospheric and gothic read with a unique, dark magic system. 

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

Review: Daughter of the Drowned Empire by Frankie Diane Mallis

Alexis:

Daughter of the Drowned Empire is a NA fantasy that follows Lyriana, who is third in line to the Seat of Power in Bamaria. She hopes to be a mage after her ceremony, when her magic will be announced and unleashed, but she has a secret—her two older sisters both have illegal magic.⁣

⁣It took me a little while to get into the beginning of this, so I highly recommend checking out the glossary in the back first to get a handle on the worldbuilding. There’s also a love triangle that I was feeling iffy about. But once the plot got rolling, I was hooked!

This was a fun book that ended up being fairly complex. I liked the themes of love, sisterhood, and staying true to yourself. I enjoyed Lyriana’s character arc, and I can’t wait to see where Mallis takes her next.

⁣Overall, the character development was well done and this was a fun read. I can’t wait for the sequel!

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 ⁣

Review: Edgewood by Kristen Ciccarelli

Alexis holds a copy of Edgewood- green with a girl wearing a purple dress and holding a dagger- in front of a bookshelf.

Alexis:

Another 5 ⭐ review!

Edgewood is a new adult fantasy that has everything I love in a book: atmospheric writing, creepy woods, and a dynamic love interest. 

There were two really great themes woven throughout this book. The first is music. Emeline, the main character, is a nineteen-year-old singer, trying to tour and get her foot in the door of the music world. I loved how music played a magical role in this book.

The second is memory. Emeline’s grandfather, who she calls Pa, is suffering from dementia. Ciccarelli bases his character on her own grandfather who suffered from dementia, and so she writes Pa with care, and her grief comes through in her writing. The themes of forgetting and remembering play a critical role in the story.

There’s also a Wood King, a city deep in the woods, a curse, and interesting creatures that appear in the story. And I found Hawthorne, the love interest, to be a well-rounded and mysterious yet warmhearted character. 

My only critique is that there were a couple of minor storylines that I think could’ve been explored further. However, I enjoyed this story immensely and definitely recommend it if you’re looking for something atmospheric and full of forest imagery and magical music.

(And it doesn’t hurt that the whole book is beautiful!)

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