Dreamer of Briarfell – Lucy Tempest

A CURSED PRINCESS. A LEGENDARY OUTLAW. A LITERAL DEADLINE.

Her soul will be lost forever, unless she wins the love of the noblest of men.

Cursed in her cradle by a vengeful fairy queen, Princess Fairuza of Arbore thought her fate was secure in the hands of her betrothed — until he chose another as his bride.

After the last attempt to find another prince to save her fails, Fairuza’s world fades to black, and she awakens in a castle, unseen and unheard by all—then a thief breaks in, and sees her.

But Robin Hood is no prince charming, and he’s leaving for Faerie, to save Maid Marian from the Wild Hunt. Seizing her last chance to find royals who can break her curse, she joins him and his Merry Men.

Once in Faerie, the Summer King puts them through deadly trials, in exchange for his hand and help. But as they struggle to survive, Fairuza begins to fade. The longer her soul remains detached from her body, the sooner their tie will be severed.

As her time runs out, she finds herself falling in love with Robin, despite knowing that this would doom her forever…

Goodreads

Star Rating: 5/5

Review

“Makes you question what was fate, and what was fairies.”

When I didn’t think I could get more impressed or in love with this series, Lucy Tempest goes and absolutely knocks it out of the park. If you’ve been following my reviews for a while, you’ll know that Fairytales of Folkshore have been a consistent 5 star series for me, and that the way that the stories are interwoven and entangled bring such joy that it’s easy to get lost in this world.

Brief spoilers for previous books can be found below

Dreamer of Briarfell, the seventh installation, did not disappoint and in fact surpassed all of my expectations. Fairuza was not introduced as a likeable character during Ada’s story. This stood to reason as they were both vying for the hand of the Prince, so rivalry is to be expected and if we’re seeing it from Ada’s side, the opponent won’t be shown in the greatest light. The further we delve into Ada’s trilogy, the more we see her as a morally grey character who, whilst her main concern is herself, proves herself to not be entirely selfish or ‘villainistic’.

“We do this together, Fairuza – or not at all!

Fairuza is our Sleeping Beauty in this retelling, and as we all know how the disney version goes, I was incredibly curious as to who our Prince Phillip would be and who Fairuza would walk with Once Upon A Dream – and let me tell you that when I found out who it was I was absolutely SHOCKED. I, if I’m being honest, wasn’t exactly sure how Lucy was going to pull this off as our ‘Prince Phillip’ had his own Maid prior to this retelling and I didn’t know how it would work. All of my concerns were for naught as it worked perfectly.

I don’t want to go into too much of what happened within the book, so as to not spoil anything, so I will just talk about what I loved about this book.

The way that Fairuza is represented and the twist on the sleep until she is awakened by True Love’s Kiss curse was beautiful. The fact that Fairuza would grow to be one of my favourite characters within this series has blown my mind and was not something I was expecting, she has such strength and courage within her that was just waiting to be brought to the surface. The way that the relationships were able to be developed, through the twist, was absolutely perfect and not something I would have thought of.

“I’ve had such a grey view of the world for so long, I kept hoping someone would come and paint over it for me. Any color would have done, really. But with your opinions, and the hope they give me, you’re painting it every bright color I’ve forgotten exists.”

One of the things that I really enjoy about these series are the allusions to future retellings and the insight into other characters lives, so you get a feeling for where the future books may be heading. There is a lot of foresight within these books and it is wonderful to see guesses come true in each new edition. The budding relationships between other characters within the stories is also lovely to see, it’s like we have several mini storylines interwoven throughout the main one, with no conclusion left untouched.

I have really enjoyed seeing Lucy grow as an author and bring her stories to life in such a humourous, heartfelt and beautiful way. I eagerly await her further works and will immediately preorder them as they become available.

Where Dreams Descend – Janella Angeles

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Goodreads

Star Rating: 4/5

Review

“It’s also an undeniable truth that the more others try to extinguish a flame, the greater its power must be. Why else destroy light if not envious of its radiance?”

Where Dreams Descend is a beautifully sensuous debut. The writing style flowed so richly and magically that it was like you were being enthralled by the events that were happening, like your own personal magical show.

Kallia is the main character of Where Dreams Descend and she is so gloriously feminine and has such strength in her femininity that it was lovey to see. She challenged the status quo and was not afraid to be confident in herself and her abilities, even if others (read: men) would disparage her for believing in herself and her abilities.

“Magician or not, we’ve always lived in a series of boys’ clubs we’re not allowed to enter” … “We’re told we’re simply lucky to be in the room, as long as we stay quiet. Make even a little murmur, and it’s like we’ve disturbed the order of life itself.”

There was a bit of romance in this novel, however it was like an undercurrent just ebbing and flowing, never quite emerging from the shadows. 2020 is making me a fan of slow-burn romances, so I felt like this perfectly fit the novel and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. The romance wasn’t the relationship that had me clasping my hands with tiny bouts of joy whenever they interacted. I absolutely adored the friendship that blossomed with Kallia and Aaros. They were an unlikely pair but they were perfectly matched, I also appreciated how Aaros’ sexuality (bisexual) was never questioned and was just accepted that he was a heartbreaker regardless of gender.

The intrigue and mystery throughout this book will have you questioning and unfortunately with the cliffhanger that it left on, you will still be questioning but will be eagerly awaiting the sequel.

WWW Wednesday ~ 26 August 2020

I thought I’d jump on the WWW Wednesday bandwagon that is currently being run by Taking on a World of Worlds. Perhaps this may incentivise me out of my prolonged book slump that is seeing me taking WAY too long to read a singular book and my current NetGalley shelf is looking at me with utter contempt and despair …

The premise of WWW Wednesday is:

  • What are you reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you will read next?

What am I reading?

I’m currently trying to slog through two books, Where Dreams Descend and Dreamer of Briarfell. Both of which I’m 100% sure I’ll love so I’m kicking myself for not being able to get through them as quickly as I usually do, but I’m TRYING not to be hard on myself and just let it flow.

What did I recently finish reading?

Oh goodness it feels like it’s been years since I finished a book, I had to take a moment to remember what it was.

My last read was The Year of the Witching and you can read my 5 star review here.

What do I think I’ll read next?

I have a few on my radar that I really want to get to (and hopefully within the next week), as I want to work through my backlog on NetGalley and tackle a few of my physical TBR (namely the entirety of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s catalog that I’m slowly acquiring and have yet to read). My friend Janel is also planning to do a Starless Sea readalong with me when I get to it. I’m also in a perpetual state of wanting to reread The Reader series by Traci Chee.

The ones on my definite list are The Book of Hidden Wonders and The Gilded Wolves (so I can start on The Silvered Serpent)

Have you read any of these? What were your thoughts on them?

The Year of the Witching – Alexis Henderson

In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy.

The daughter of a union with an outsider that cast her once-proud family into disgrace, Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol and lead a life of submission, devotion and absolute conformity, like all the women in the settlement.

But a chance mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood that surrounds Bethel – a place where the first prophet once pursued and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still walking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the diary of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.

Fascinated by secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realises the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her . . .

Goodreads

Star Rating: 5/5

Review

“Isn’t it strange how reading a book is a sin, but locking a girl in the stocks and leaving her to the dogs is another day of the Good Father’s work?”

The Year of the Witching is a stand out social commentary book of 2020, wrapped in beautiful fantasy horror casing. It touches on many themes within its beautifully written pages, including, but not limited to: sexism, racism, classism and religious ostracism.

TW: Parent Death, Death during Childbirth, Animal Sacrifice, Body Horror, Mutilation, Self Harm, Rape, Paedophilia, Plagues, Religion

We’re set in a secluded town called Bethel, where the ruling class are the devout believers of the Father, in particular the Prophet who is the spokesman of the Father. This is a dystopian nightmare for anyone who is not devout, white or male. Women are taught that they serve one purpose: to serve their husbands and their family. If they were lucky they were chosen to serve the Prophet amongst his numerous wives. Women are property and are marked as such, with the Prophet cutting his mark into their forehead so everyone knows that they belong to him.

Immanuelle Moore is the young, brave MC of this novel who is judged by her parents sins. She has never had the chance to truly be herself out of the shadows of her mother, who left Bethel and entered the Darkwood, rebuked the Prophet and fell in love with an outsider, emerged from the Darkwood pregnant with Immanuelle, her love was burned at the pyre for their ‘sins’ and then she died giving birth to Immanuelle. Due to events out of her control, Immanuelle’s life was forever altered and no matter what she did, she was always prejudged and was starting off at a disadvantage. She tries not to let this get to her and lives an empathetic, compassionate life thinking of how events impacts others, often letting herself get in the way of trouble to help others.

The witches in the Darkwood gift her her mothers diary, when Immanuelle ends up in the Darkwood unwillingly, which then leads her down a path that she can never turn back from. Fighting for her life and for the people of Bethel’s lives, even if they would love to see her burned at the pyre. I loved the way that the witches were depicted, they were vengeful, they were strong, they were filled with ancient power and mysticism. There are no cookie cutter witches here.

There is a surprising romance in this novel, which I found to be quite heartwarming and added soul into the novel. I don’t want to say too much about it, other than I absolutely loved Ezra as a character, a friend, and a LI.

… complacency and complicity that were responsible for the deaths of generations of girls. It was the sickness that placed the pride of men before the innocents they were sworn to protect. It was a structure that exploited the weakest among them for the benefit of those born to power

The feminist writings within this novel were incredibly powerful. There are very strong points made about the way that men in power kneel on the necks of girls and women in order to keep their power. The strength of these messages come from the journey you go through whilst reading this novel, and so I don’t want to delve too deeply into it as I feel it’s something best experienced personally.

*thank you to Bantam Press and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.


If you’ve read this book, what did you think of it? Did you think that the social commentary was relevant in today’s society?

Mariana Zapata Masterpost

I’m an absolute sucker for a good romance where I can just lose myself in the characters and their relationship development. Prior to being introduced to Mariana Zapata by my good friends, I would have sworn up and down that I hated slow burn and I would purposefully avoid any books which had a slow burn relationship in it. That assumption was blown out of the water thanks to my first introduction, The Wall of Winnipeg and Me and I realised that I actually do love slow burn, but only when it’s done well. And let me tell you. Mariana Zapata can do it extremely well.

Kacey Musgraves Colbert GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

This year I’ve read seven books written by Zapata, absolutely loving all of them (with the exclusion of two, which unfortunately I just couldn’t recommend nor would I want to reread again – for sake of transparency, these two are Rhythm, Chord & Malykhin and Lingus, however I won’t be mentioning them again).

Rather than creating individual posts for the books that I loved, I thought I would start from the very beginning of my journey and share my thoughts of each book along the way. I’ll start from my very first (The Wall of Winnipeg and Me) and end on my most recent (Hands Down). Buckle on in, this could be a long post.

The Wall of Winnipeg and Me

The Wall of Winnipeg and Me cleared my skin, watered my crops and made me believe in love again. If I could rate this higher than 5 stars I absolutely would as I smashed through the 673 pages of this book in 12 hours.

One of my good friends said it best in that ”It’s cozy, humanizing, and like a warm fuzzy blanket”. I didn’t even think I’d enjoy a sports romance before but now I am hooked and I plan to read all of Mariana Zapatas books now and I cringe for the future effects of this on my wallet.

There is so much pure joy and honesty in this book that I loved seeing Van and Aiden break down their walls for each other throughout the book. The platonic friendship between Van and Zac was so pure and I loved how there was never any jealousy from Aiden in regards to how close Van and Zac were. Both are products of their past but they have such immense strength from all they’ve gone through and come out on the other side with such understanding for each other.

The amount you know about committing crimes is terrifying, Van.

From Lukov with Love

As if my expectations for romantic partners wasn’t already high enough, she had to go and introduce Ivan Lukov into the mix.

From Lukov with Love is the story of Jasmine Santos and her journey to self-discovery alongside being paired with her mortal enemy, Ivan Lukov. I love a good enemies-to-lovers and boy does Zapata know how to write them. The slow burn is beautiful, the banter is next level and the minimal angst is perfect.

I loved reading Jasmine and found her personality to be so refreshing to read. She was brash, she was no-nonsense, she was strong and she was loving. I loved her path of self-love just as much as I loved her path with Lukov. There were definitely parts of her story that hit way too close to home and I wholly empathise and relate to her situation with her father.

From Lukov with Love has easily put itself in my favourites alongside The Wall of Winnipeg and Me, however I fear that my favourites shelf is soon to be overrun by all of her books, though I can’t wait to find out.

Mom: Then why are you going to the office?
Mom: Did you call someone’s mom a dirty whore again?

Under Locke

Under Locke is definitely the steamiest Zapata that I’ve read so far and I am 100% here for it. I’m not typically a fan of the “alpha, possessive, bikie male persona”, but Locke really worked for me. Sure he was an ass at times, but his genuine care and concern shook off any lingering doubts about him as a person.

Zapata has an incredible way of writing strong women that have overcome issues in their past, and may still be in the process of overcoming issues, that I think is so important to show that flaws exist, trauma exists, history exists – but it’s not the end of the world, you can work through it and if you’re kind to yourself and love and protect yourself then you’re going to be set.

Friendships are also another really strong point in all of the books that I’ve read so far, they truly are “chosen family” books and I love that. I love the platonic friendships that are written and developed, it’s just so heartwarming to read and you grow to love a whole bunch of characters in a short amount of time.

I’d forgotten that along the way somewhere. There was a difference between living and surviving. And this place, these people, reminded me of that.

Kulti

A good friend of mine asked me which of Zapata’s books that I’ve read is my favourite and my response was “they all have their own piece of magic”. I honestly can’t say which one I enjoy more because I enjoy all of them so much. I can honestly see them becoming regular rereads of mine.

Kulti is another fabulous sports romance (of which I never knew I’d be a fan of) being held in the world of soccerfootball. Sal Casillas has grown up idolising (and loving) Reiner Kulti, that is until life happens and his life trajectory doesn’t go in the way that Sal had planned out for him (of which he had no knowledge). Sal is now one of the worlds best football players, who has just been told that Kulti will be joining the team as Assistant Coach. Thus, shenanigans ensue.

Banter is such an integral part of a slow burn romance and boy does Zapata know how to write playful banter. This book had me smiling all throughout it and even audibly chuckling at some points. The male LI’s are always written as vulnerable tough guys, ones who have hidden depths and are as protective as anything over those they care about. They’re not misogynistic, sexist or alphaholes which I absolutely love because there’s nothing worse than gross ‘alphas’ in stories.

The father / daughter relationship within this book hit at the heartstrings and it was so well written, the family dynamics were excellent and Kulti truly made an effort to fit in with the family as he knew what as important to Sal and therefore it was important to him. Everything within this book was perfection and everyone should read it.

Eyes up here, Taco

Hands Down

As you could probably tell by now, I’m an absolute sucker for anything that Mariana Zapata writes, so when I found out we were getting a Zac book (one of my favourite characters from one of my favourite Zapata books, The Wall of Winnipeg and Me) I knew I was never going to emotionally recover from it.

Hands Down hit on so many of my top tropes in romance: ‘brothers’ best friend, there’s only one bed, friends-to-lovers. It was a beautiful balm to currently weary soul and it made me start to believe in love again (that may be a stretch, but it was absolutely incredible).

One of the things that I love about Zapata’s characters is the fact that she writes them as having flaws and allows them to be flawed. They’re human. They’re not treated badly because of their flaws, they’re written as complex characters and it really lets you get into the character and empathise with them. Bianca is a fiery little nutcracker who loves her friends and family fiercely, with a heart that has been bruised a lot of times in her past. Zac is just a pure ray of sunshine who is trying to get his life back on track and only ever wants to do the right thing.

The cameos from Ivan&Jasmine and the Graves clan were beautiful, I was so excited to see them again. I thoroughly enjoyed the family relationship that Bianca had with Connie and Boogie, it felt like how I would want a family to be. I hope we get to see more of CJ and Amari because ♥‿♥

“I needed to keep moving forward, because I sure wasn’t planning on moving backward.”

Thank you for sticking around until the end! Do you have any authors that once you’ve read one book you’ve immediately gone and added all of their books to your TBR? Have they lived up to your hype or was it a one-off?