A kingdom, or this?: Reviewing Captive Prince (Book 1 in the Captive Prince trilogy) by C.S. Pascat

Hello everybody! I’m back and in an incredibly pessimistic mood, which is why I needed to escape into fiction again. I have read this book previously, but in the form of an e-book so I feel like I couldn’t properly absorb what was happening. I don’t know if anyone else feels that way about e-books, or if it just me. The Barnes and Nobles by me re-opened recently and this was my celebratory purchase. Time to talk about the Captive Prince.

Damen had everything as the legendary warrior prince, until his brother took the throne. He strips Damen of his identity and sends him off to Vere to be a pleasure slave, which has long been an enemy to his home country of Akeilos. While there, Damen learns that he will serve Prince Laurent, who is just as beautiful as he is deadly and cunning. Damen quickly learns of the danger that lies beneath the glamor of the Veretian court, meaning he has to hide his identity and make unlikely allies, or he faces a deadly end.

I realize that this book is rather controversial in its subject matter and not because of the Male/Male romance. For those of you who are not familiar with this novel, it does contain graphic sexual violence within the context of a society where slavery is commonplace. Maybe this does not shock me as much because I studied Rome and this reminded me quite a bit of Rome. Obviously, this isn’t to justify it and we have a main character, Damen, who is in the same mindset of the reader. This book is more about politics than anything, which I thought was the most interesting aspect. It actually has a very Game of Thrones feel to it where every character is trying to navigate through complicated politics in which they are trapped. Nothing can be done simply and that is what makes the novel so interesting. Again, I understand any reservations anyone else might have about the subject matter, but I personally enjoyed it. It was just steamy enough without being gratuitous and it leaves you wanting more. It felt like a reworking of some of the worst tropes that tend to pop up in erotic fiction. It certainly doesn’t feel like mom fiction or fan fiction. Pascat is very mature in the way she handles touchier subjects, while also bringing in some inclusivity in the LGBTQ+ genre of literature. Captive Prince is a unique take on a genre that has often been disregarded for so long.

Warning: The novel does contain moments of torture, graphic sexual violence (including assaults on underage characters), and mentions of blood and gore.

One Embraces One’s Enemy: Reviewing Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

Hello everybody! Again, I hope you are all doing well and still holding together as we all start to realize that quarantine isn’t nearly as fun as it sounds. (Not that anything about this situation is fun. I’m just hoping my sarcasm is clear in text). I am officially done with my semester and my brain is fried. Thankfully, I have time to get to my TBR list. I’m also planning on posting a “boredom” list of random things I have found to keep myself occupied. Before I get that, let’s talk about Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James.

Tracker was well-known for his ability to hunt down anyone or anything with his remarkable sense of smell. When he’s hired to track down a nameless boy, he must team up with a shape shifting man only known as Leopard and other misfits. The more Tracker searches for the boy, the more creatures and enemies he runs into who are also after the boy. Now, Tracker is in over his head and he must find the boy and the truth behind his search.

It took me longer than I would like to admit to get through this novel but I was thoroughly immersed the whole time. The narrative voice is so authentic and layered with different characters overlapping each other. The world of the book is so rich and detailed. Some of you might enjoy that this novel has several maps in it. This book is also so infused with mythology that it gives the novel an almost hallucinatory quality (in the best way). It is a truly unique experience reading Black Leopard, Red Wolf. It is definitely a novel you might need to re-read in order to fully absorb the world. I would recommend this if you are a fan of either The Children of Blood and Bone or Game of Thrones. It delivers that epic element that all fantasy novels should.

Warning: The book does contain graphic violence and sexual violence. Please be aware if you are uncomfortable with either of those subjects.

Whatever I am, Let it be enough: Reviewing A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab

Hello everyone! I’m coming at you with (probably) my last book review of the year. I’m planning on doing my annual favorites list after Christmas. I have a stack of books that has grown considerably over the past couple of months. At the university I go to, we have a table where people can put books they want to give away. Obviously, I checked it every day and will continue to do so. All the while, I am hooked on V.E. Schwab’s series, Shades of Magic. Now, let’s talk about the second book, A Gathering of Shadows.

It’s been four months since Kell, Delilah Bard, and Rhy faced off against the Danes in White London. Since then, Delilah had run off with the handsome sea captain, Alucard Emery. Now, Kell and Rhy prepare for the Essen Tasch, a magical tournament created to unite the kingdoms. All the while, something dark stirs in White London and can only return to life by destroying another London.

I absolutely adored the first book in this series and this second one was still enjoyable. The pacing was a little slow in the beginning, as it went back and forth between Delilah and Kell. There was some great world building, along with plenty of action when it was needed. Schwab does an excellent job fleshing out the other cultures without just making them “others.” The plot is still very grounded in Kell’s story, which is endlessly enjoyable. Like I said, the novel was slow for a bit but once it got going, I couldn’t put it down. I am incredibly excited to keep reading this series. I still recommend Shades of Magic if you want a “new adult” series that keeps the balance between entertaining magic and an intriguing storyline.

I Have Built a You in Me: Reviewing This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Hey everybody! Well, it has been a decent chunk of time since I’ve been on here. Fortunately, I am reaching the end of fall semester so I will be doing a lot of catching up during the winter break. Next semester I will be teaching a class so I will definitely be blogging about that. Thankfully, I was able to get a hold of this novel as I had seen it everywhere and was ever so curious. So, let’s talk about This Is How You Lose the Time War.

Red is deadly, resourceful, and relentless on the battlefield. She comes from a future ruled by the Agency, a post-singularity technotopia. Blue is strategic, cunning, and just as deadly. She belongs to Garden, an omnipotent and omniscient consciousness contained within all organic matter. The two agents are sent by their respective societies to stop the other from changing the future. Red and Blue, however, begin a correspondence that transcends time and space. Soon, they will have to choose between the future of their worlds and their own futures.

I was incredibly intrigued by this novel upon seeing it online and I am so glad I was able to get my hands on it because I loved it. This novel combines the abstracts and language of poetry and the thrill and action of science fiction. It is a fairly short novel at just under 200 pages. I became emotionally invested quickly in the characters. The language of their letters is fascinating. They feel like real people in a sense, the way that Blue and Red express their emotions through humor or angst. I don’t plan on making this review too long as I don’t want to give away too much. I do recommend this novel if you are looking for a quick read that will captivate you with its world building and poetic structure. You don’t have be a huge sci-fi fan either to enjoy this book. Also, bonus points if you wants a book that features LGBTQ+ characters.

To Travel, To Dispel, To Heal: Reviewing A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Hello everyone! I’m coming back at you with another book review sooner than I anticipated. In truth, it is because I had a really hard time putting this book down. I have reviewed two other novels by Schwab, so feel free to check out those. Now, we are starting a new series and I’m going to tell you all about A Darker Shade of Magic.

Four Londons exist along side each other and only few can travel between them. Kell is an Antari, one of the few who possess the magic needed to travel between these Londons. Officially, he works as a royal ambassador between the kingdoms. On the side, he smuggles magical artifacts across the worlds. When an item from Black London, the fallen London, comes into his possession, he finds himself in much more trouble than he anticipated. While trying to hide this item, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a professional thief and pirate, who forces him to take her to his London. The two must return the artifact to Black London and keep it out of the hands of those who mean to use it to destroy the boundaries between the Londons.

It has been a minute since I have gotten so invested in a novel from the very first chapter. Schwab excels at world building and this novel is no exception. The action and pacing are steady and suspenseful. The characters are charmingly imperfect. The magic rules in the world are well thought out. This book certainly is violent but not in a gratuitous way. It has the kind of exciting magical duels I’ve only really seen in the likes of Harry Potter. This novel is for the more mature fantasy seeker who is ready to move beyond the magic of YA novels. I highly (highly!) recommend this novel if you are looking for an awesome fantasy and adventure novel with a nice dose of magic. A Darker Shade of Magic delivered on all fronts for me.

To devour what they left behind…:Reviewing The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Hi everybody! I know, I know. It’s taken me an embarrassingly long time to finish this novel, but I’m super excited to share this with you. Lately, I’ve been on a historical mystery kick. I feel the genre is very under appreciated. Despite this book taking me forever to read (not because of length, but because I’m lazy), it was absolutely worth my time. Now let’s talk about The Shadow of the Wind.

Daniel Sempere was just a young boy when his father took him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. He immediately found himself drawn to The Shadow of the Wind, written by the enigmatic Julian Carax. Being the son of a bookseller, Daniel uses his father’s connections to find more books by Carax. Soon, he finds out that all of Carax’s books have been destroyed and he may have the only remaining book of Carax. Daniel’s search for the truth reveals the dark and tangled web of Barcelona, full of murder, lies, and forbidden love.

Zafon’s twisted and intricate novel is worth the deep dive that requires to read it. Admittedly, it can be a bit of the struggle to keep up with the plot as so many characters are being introduced at every turn, but it all ties together in the end. There are points in this book that made me audibly gasp. Some people might say I’m spoiling the book by saying it has plot twists, but they are amazing plot twists. It is a mystery, after all. That is part of the genre. This novel is immersive, suspenseful, and thoughtful all at once. The atmosphere of Zafon’s depiction of Barcelona in 1945 is enough to pull the reader into the story. The novel has bits and pieces of many other genres, which is what makes it so interesting to read. I highly recommend The Shadow of the Wind to just anyone at all as it has something to satisfy every reader and will keep you hanging on until the very end.

Big Gods Don’t Cry: Reviewing The Tyrant’s Tomb (Book Four of the Trials of Apollo) by Rick Riordan

Hey everybody! I haven’t completely fallen off the face of the Earth yet. Granted, I’m still super busy but I have my weekends back for some relaxation, which includes catching up on my books. In case you have forgotten, I am still a fan of Rick Riordan and all of his series. I actually saw The Lightning Thief: The Musical earlier this year and loved the hell out of it. Now, it’s time to talk about the latest book in The Trials of Apollo series, The Tyrant’s Tomb.

Yes, Apollo is still teenaged boy with unfortunate name of Lester. Yes, he is still miserable. Thanks for asking. To make things worst, it turns out his mortal birthday also happens to be the day that Caligula and Commodus are planning to attack Camp Jupiter, home of the Roman demigods. On top of all of that, an evil undead king is planning on attacking once the blood moon rises. And if you think it couldn’t get worse, Apollo also must figure out how to cure the poison inflicted on him by ghoul. With all of that being said, he must team up with Meg, Frank, Hazel, and Reyna (and a few other unlikely friends) to save Camp Jupiter or (hopefully not) die trying.

I’m still surprised by how much I am enjoying this series. I really didn’t think that I would be delving back into the world of YA novels. Riordan has proven to have staying power, though. I guess the connection I make with this novel is the fact the main character (Apollo/Lester) is technically an adult who then has to deal with the struggles of teen angst as well as deal with adult issues. He still makes for an enjoyable main character to follow. This novel had a slightly more emotional angle to it as we have Apollo facing his past actions and coping with that guilt, which is kind of a heavy topic for a YA novel. I did enjoy that aspect of it, though. Riordan still keeps a nice sarcastic tone throughout the novel that never feels like it is too much or inappropriate. There was plenty of action and adventure to be had that every Riordan novel gives you. Go ahead and read The Trials of Apollo. I’m looking forward to the next novel. Also, I might go see The Lightning Thief on Broadway in the near future.

This Is My Design: Reviewing Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

Hi everyone! I hope you forgive my absences. I am bogged down with academic reading now that (obviously) has to be a priority. Thank you all so much for 400 subscribers! Wow, I still can’t believe any of you are interested in what I have to say. Since I have your attention, I will be giving you my review of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon, which is the novel that first introduced the world to Hannibal Lecter. I am a huge fan of the television show, “Hannibal,” so I had to read one of these novels. Also, since we are creeping towards October, it felt appropriate to do a horror/thriller novel.

Will Graham risked everything in order catch the ingenious and dangerous Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Graham was ready to start a normal life when he was called upon to catch a killer called the Tooth Fairy, who has murdered entire families. In order to find him, Graham must first understand him. Only Hannibal can help him enter the killer’s mind. Will Graham must risk it all, once again, in order to catch this new monster

I had read this novel previously and, upon revisiting it, forgot how genuinely uncomfortable it made me. I mean that in the best way, though. Any good murder mystery novel should give the reader visceral feelings and Harris succeeds at that. Even though Lecter isn’t technically a threat, he still looms over every page of this novel. It feels as though we are watching Will Graham outrun him while still trying to catch the “Tooth Fairy.” Graham and the other “good guys” are relatable and sympathetic while still being morally grey. The novel is wonderfully suspenseful. It is not afraid to reveal the gruesome details. Even in a clinical language, the descriptions of the crimes still give you chills. The cat-and-mouse game keeps you hanging on until the end. I would then recommend Red Dragon as a good fall read for anyone looking for a thrilling and complex mystery.

If you want me to talk more about “Hannibal,” the television show, I will happily create a post about that where we can have a discussion.

At Night, We Shine: Reviewing Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Hi everyone! I’m glad to be back and to have finally finished another book. Along with all of my important adult jobs, I’ve also been busy in the world of ebooks. I have finally caved and started using my Kindle. I’ve been one of “those” stubborn people who have adamantly refused to use any sort of electronic book, but I have a hard time saying no to cheap books. Let’s get on to reviewing yet another book by one of my all time favorite authors.

Tristran Thorn is a young man who will do anything for the love of his life, Victoria Forester. When they see a star fall to Earth, he promises her to retrieve the star in exchange for her love. Tristran then embarks on a perilous journey through lands far beyond the Wall. He must race against unknown dangers to save the star and learn that his world was not what he once thought it was.

I can best describe this novel as a fairy tale for adults. Gaiman combines the classic language and structure of a childhood fairy tale and his signature fantastical writing. It is a more upbeat story with a nice, romantic ending. The story definitely reminds me quite a lot of The Princess Bride, with its quirky characters and how it embraces many fairy tale tropes. The story is nicely paced, as well as straightforward. It has some “adult” moments, but nothing extreme or overly graphic. The novel is a fun mix of romance, magic, and adventure. I would definitely recommend it if you are feeling nostalgic. I am biased when I say this but, I love Gaiman’s Stardust.

On another note, if any of you think that this novel sounds familiar, it is because a movie of the same name based on the novel came out a while ago. I saw it in the theaters as a kid and loved it then. It’s available on Netflix, if you are interested. It’s not a great movie, but it is a fun movie. It has a great cast that includes: Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Robert De Niro, and Michelle Pfeiffer. I hope some of you remember this because I’ll be disappointed if no one else remembers this movie.

To Be, Rather than to Seem: Reviewing The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Hi everyone! This review took a while because I’m easily distracted. I had actually read this book a while back, but had since forgotten the details of the novel. In fact, most of the books I review for this blog are books that I have read previously, but I wanted to share them with you all. With that being said, here is my review of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

The circus arrives without warning. It is a magical experience for all those who enter through its gates. They call it Le Cirque des Reves and it appears at random and opens only at night. Little do the guests know of the fierce competition behind the scenes. Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair have been training their whole lives for a mysterious game of magic with only one winner. When the two young illusionists fall in love with each other, it leads to dangerous consequences that leave the circus and its performers in peril.

Morgentern’s novel is an elaborate and magical read. The writing is layered and atmospheric. It is certainly an immersive read as it alternates between perspectives, even sometimes shifting the writing style a little to accommodate the characters in the scene. The story can be a bit vague at times, but it is part of the experience. It does pay off at the end of the novel. I particularly enjoyed how the rich details and symbolism tie into the themes of the story, such as the elaborate clocks or the various circus tents that Morgenstern puts great care into describing. The novel has an overall romantic feel, and I don’t just mean that in the sense of there is a love story. I remembered why I enjoyed this novel in the first place. If you want something with magic, romance, and danger, then I would go ahead and recommend picking up The Night Circus.