Favourite Books of 2017

2017 was a brilliant year for me in reading terms, with only a few books that I didn’t give four or five stars. Still, there were a few that still shone out from the rest, so these are my Top 10 favourite books I read in 2017. First of all though, honourable mentions go to The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson, A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas, and Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. All three fantasy books were definitely some of my favourites read this year, two of which were final instalments of trilogies I adored.

Moving on to the top 10, this ordering of the list is subject to change many times due to my inability to be decisive when it comes to things I love and choosing between them, as really there’s no comparing a few of them. Can anyone truly say that their adoration of an epic fantasy book is in any way comparable to a piece of emotive literary fiction that had their heart clenched within its grip from start to finish? I get very different versions of enjoyment and entertainment from different genres, so as much as I want to list my top three fantasy, top three fiction, top three non-fiction and so on, I’m just going to stick them in an order that works for me at this moment in time.

Who knew a top 10 needed such a preamble. ONTO THE LIST.

10. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

I loved reading this book, but I’ve grown to love it even more since finishing it and discussing it with others. There was a lot of ‘hype’ and anticipation going into it, which is probably why I was so conflicted about my feelings of it, as although I thought it a brilliant piece of fiction it didn’t change my whole world. Yet, I admit, since discussing its nuances and clever points with friends, I can say that it deserves all of the praise it receives.

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9. A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

Perhaps one of my favourite fantasy authors, the Darker Shades of Magic trilogy was the first book of Schwab’s that I picked up. I finished the first two in as many days, and before the third was released I read several of her other books and equally adored them, so to finish the trilogy that started my love for this author was bittersweet. I’m so happy with how it ended, and can’t wait for what this author will bring in 2018.

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8. The Northern Lights series by Philip Pullman

Maybe cheating a little, but I’m listing the whole Northern Lights series as my number 8 for 2017. I read the whole series last year, a feat I’m rather proud of, and plan to read The Book of Dust sometime this year. The first instalment was my first read of 2017, and definitely set the standard for the books that I read afterwards. A brilliant series, one that took me by complete surprise, and I’m so grateful that I finally got a chance to read it for myself.

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7. Hold Your Own by Kate Tempest

I’ve been thinking about reading more poetry since finishing university, and after a friend highly recommended Kate Tempest I was so glad that a) my friend has good taste and b) Kate Tempest exists. A beautiful collection, one that is inspiring me to read more and more poetry (recommendations are more than welcome please and thank you).

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6. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Damn, it’s hard to pick between your favourite reads – as if they’re all children who have fulfilled your every wish. The Secret History is a book that everyone and their mothers have been badgering at me to read and, finally, I can say that I fully understand why. Prose so eloquent and rich that I felt like I had to reread sentences, because I was pretty certain that just reading  them once wouldn’t be enough to fully appreciate the complexity of graceful talent that exists within every one.

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5. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Ah, Pachinko, you still make my heart ache. Whilst it wasn’t as gutting and soul-destroying as A Little Life (in a good way), it was still emotive enough to have me texting friends at all hours with updates of where I was for emotional support. A beautiful piece of fiction, and a family-saga the likes of which I’ve never enjoyed more.

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4. This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

Perhaps one of the most important pieces of non-fiction to read in 2017, and I hope that it’s one that everyone does read. Charming, hilarious, and moving, this has you crying from laughter one moment and just all out crying from despair the next. Brilliantly told, and its message is unmistakable; we need to help our NHS, and we need to do it now.

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3. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Ah, the top three. What a wonderful place to be – and in third Laini Taylor has more than earned her spot, her Strange the Dreamer winning my heart within mere pages. It was fantasy the likes of which I can’t ever remember reading before, the type that would make your heart feel full and send your spirit soaring. Strange the Dreamer felt like it was written just for me, for all those dreamers and book-lovers in the world who find solace within the written word and see stories and adventures where other people would see lines on pages. After reading this book, I bought the whole of her previously written trilogy without even reading the blurb of it, knowing that this author would not fail me – and having just finished the second in the series this afternoon, I’m pleased to say that this statement holds true.

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2. Insomniac City by Bill Hayes

I don’t think I’ve stopped talking about this book since I finished it. I also have continued to recycle the same sentences when trying to describe it, telling everyone that it is a love letter to New York and captures Hayes’ life with partner Oliver Sacks. It’s filled with stories of his work as a photographer and the people he meets, and the love story between him and Sacks pretty much had me in a constant state of vulnerability and warring emotions as I tried not to descend into sobs. Truly beautiful, and it’s a book that has sparked a need inside me to read more and more non-fiction – I honestly feel like I owe so much to this one book. An incredible writer without doubt, and there is no reason that I could think of as to why someone wouldn’t like this book.

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And, finally, my number one.

1. Circe by Madeline Miller

This book hasn’t even been published yet, but it still remains as my favourite read of 2017. The Song of Achilles holds its spot at the top of my all-time favourite reads, and Circe joins it in the ranks. It’s everything I want from a book, with classical inspiration, beautiful prose, and characters that make me want to fling myself into the narrative just so I can spend some time in their company. Miller’s use of language is skilled and seemingly effortless, and the Classicist within me is so grateful and overjoyed to have her writing such excellent fiction based off of myths. She manages to rewrite them in ways that make them seem fresh and new, without changing anything fixed – she merely adds elements that, if you didn’t know any better, Homer must have just left out. She brings new life to these old characters, and even though you know how their stories end she still manages to keep you hooked, and also cruelly gives you a glimmer of hope that tragedy will not come their way. Just superb.

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And that, reader, is my list of my top 10 reads of 2017. Let me know your favourites and what you’ve read, or if you agree with any of my favourites. Go forth, read widely and diversely, and report back. I personally hope to gain even more from what I read in 2018, from reading more non-fiction to reading more from POC authors. It’s very apparent that I have hardly any POC authors near the top of my list, which definitely means that I’m not reading enough by them. If anything, reading opens up the world in a way that nothing else can, and it’s very clear that if I only read white authors, that’s the only view from which I’ll be able to understand the world around me – and I’m a girl who likes her varied vantage points.

So, once again, let’s smash 2018.

 

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Ban Reading Shame

There are certain genres of books that people just don’t want to admit that they like, usually because of the people they’re around or their own crippling self-doubt and anxiety about being liked (ahem, go read my post about this here on my other blog). It ties in with the concept of the ‘guilty pleasure’, the books/music/films that you have to label as something you’re not proud of, often due to the fact that others don’t deem it as high brow or intellectual enough to worthy being acceptable pieces of content to enjoy.

I, for one, admit that I have often lied, or more often haven’t admitted, what it is that I really like to read – in the real world, at least. And it varies depending on where I am. For the most part in university, I felt ashamed to admit that I could never really get into the ‘classics’ canon like Dickens or Bronte, so usually I’d just smile and nod. Almost everyone uses the line ‘But you’re an English student, how can you not like ___’ and let me tell you, it pisses me off every single time. Just because my degree is Classics with English does not mean that in my free time I read War and Peace for fun, or during parties I debate the use of pathetic fallacy within Little Dorrit. The stigma that is attached to certain books is sometimes just too high, and it’s a lot of pressure to be under. I am happy to admit with no trace of lie or sarcasm that there are a few ‘classics’ that I have enjoyed, such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. I’m currently listening to Bleak House on audible to change up how I receive these types of texts, and I’m hoping to slowly plug away at them – but not because other people think I should read them, and instead only because I have an interest to. It seems the more you feel like you have to read a book, be it for school/work/social pressures, the more likely you won’t enjoy it as much.

The same thing happened to me at work when I first started as a bookseller. I felt the need to say that I read popular literary fiction, and all the upcoming ‘high brow’ titles some customers would ask for with their cuttings from the Sunday Times. Though for some reason, and it’s only just come to me, nobody really cares – or, at least, nobody that matters at least. Especially in an environment like a bookshop, it’s so important to have people who are passionate about all kinds of books. Sure, one colleague could be a huge fan of reading biographies and the other devours one thriller after the next, but if a customer comes in asking for something romantic that includes people turning into animals, they’re going to be a bit stumped. The same as I am when someone comes in asking for a certain poet’s work, when I don’t really have a clue about poetry in the slightest (something I’m trying to change). Whilst I want to be a bookseller who reads diversely, which is what I’m aiming to do with my reading challenge that includes reading from genres I don’t normally pick up, it’s important to embrace what I enjoy reading – and it will come to no surprise to you if you’ve read this blog before, that I am a hardcore fantasy fanatic. Add in a dragon, and it’ll be tricky for you to make me dislike it.

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I love pure escapism, and fantasy is the genre that delivers that to me every single time. In between studying and work, I want to consume something completely different, and if it’s got wizards or dragons or flying purple squirrels what should it matter? There’s a stigma attached to genres like fantasy, dictating who should enjoy them and who should be ashamed about enjoying them, and there’s a similar attitude with genres such as Young Adult. Some seem to think that you can only be a certain age to be allowed to read YA, and that age is usually confined to teenagers not yet out of school, despite the fact that YA is usually aimed generally at 16-25 year olds, but is more than happy to appeal to everyone. So what if you find pleasure in reading something that isn’t specifically within your ‘age range’? Reading is about enjoyment, and if you don’t find it in one genre then you might as well go find it in another. Don’t let others stop you from doing what you love and, hey, you’re reading. You’re already a lot better off than most people.

So, just enjoy what you love and don’t think about everyone else. You do you, that’s all any of us can really do. Whether you love romances that are so cheesy you almost feel cheesed out, or whether you like to read children’s books because they’re fun. After all, Harry Potter is technically classed as 5-8, yet hundreds of thousands of people read it all the time – often there’s more shame if you haven’t read them. So don’t worry about what everyone else thinks, and just go forth and read whatever you damn please.

Magic Monday: Caraval, The Night Circus, and The Crown’s Game

I recently finished Caraval by Stephanie Garber, and since finishing I keep describing it by relating to other books – in particular, The Night Circus and The Crown’s Game, the first of which I’ve reviewed previously. The clear correlation between all of them is magic, but with the added element of spectacle and ties to the circus. Clearly something works with the format, and instead of doing a standard review for Caraval I’d rather look at all three books and see what it is about their magic and setting that makes them great reads.

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So let’s look at a brief overview of each book, starting off with one of my all-time favourites The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This enchanting book is based on a circus which arrives with no warning, opening at sunset and closing at dawn. The circus is no ordinary one however, filled with secret magic and mystery. In case any of you haven’t read it and don’t want too many spoilers, I’ll be brief in saying that there is another huge plot line in the book which follows two people, both with their own kind of ‘magic’, who must compete against one another. There’s love, there’s adventure, there’s beautiful descriptions and imagery, and of course a ton of magic. You read this book for the ‘aesthetic’ I think. You read it for those incredible descriptions of the various spectacles at the circus, for the beautiful imagination the author has and the world she weaves. This book definitely stands out as an all time favourite just because of it – and after all, circus’ are meant to enrapture you.

The next book that I read out of the three was The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye, which had me completely hooked for days on end. The heart of this story follows that of Vika and Nikolai, both somehow born with magic that should only be granted to one. The Russian tsar needs an enchanter at his side, and so the two compete for the position in what is known as ‘The Crown’s Game’, a magic duel to the death that spans across several days where each enchanter must create some kind of illusion or spectacle, putting on a show for their large audience. There’s incredible imagination, brilliant characters that make you want to jump straight into the pages with them, and once again brilliant magic. This one left me with a serious book hangover that I’m still feeling today.

And finally, we have Caraval by Stephanie Garber which I finished in just a few days, reading late into the night to finish it. We meet two sisters, Scarlett and Tella, who are desperate to escape out from under their father’s thumb and go to the mysterious Caraval, a legendary game where the audience participates in the show. Tella manages to get Scarlett to the grand location of the game, but is soon taken by the master organiser Legend – if Scarlett wants her sister back, she has to find her in order to win the game. Fast plot, a dark element, a love interest and plenty of twists to finish it all off, and once again, you got it, magic.

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So at the centre of all of these books, there is that element of competition. With NC and CG, two individuals are competing against each other with magical duels, whereas Caraval is about a competition with many participants. Something about this plot line adds a layer of excitement and anticipation, but also gives the novels a structure that is easy enough to follow. Yet in my reading experience of all of them, the pacing was very very different. NC was like a slow-burning candle, with the same intensity imagination and awe throughout, but one that you take your time with to let it all soak in. CG and Caraval however were like quick bursts of flame, ones that I had to finish as soon as possible before the fire went out. I think out of all of them, I enjoyed CG the most in terms of the actual reading of it, finishing it in a few days and absolutely loving it. For long term however, NC is one that I always think back to just because of it’s amazing descriptions and I always use it as an example of how to create a beautiful book which although has a great plot, it has a slow pace which works for it. Comparing CG and Caraval, both of which are different to NC as they are part of a series, I feel far more inclined to read the sequel of CG because I still think about that ending that had me screaming along with my adoration of the characters.

Which brings me to my next point: characters. It seems each book sacrifices something out of pacing, characters, and world. NC of course has the best world out of all of them but slow pacing, CG has the best characters with a less imaginative world, and Caraval doesn’t have the best character development. CG for sure has the best balance between the three, as it is a fantasy novel based on Russia and the Ottoman empire, imagining if magic was present in the time. Caraval, although having brilliant pacing and a great setting, didn’t have the characters to back it up. It starts off great – we have two sisters, a ruthless father, and a charming sailor. Yet there isn’t much development, and starts off as slightly stereotypical; one sister is the responsible ‘boring’ one who just wants to save her sister, whereas the other is more adventurous, flirtatious and reckless. A pretty classic format that the author doesn’t really try to deviate from until the very end, so hopefully that means the sequel will have some serious character development. I’ll admit, the ending puts a new spin to what has happened throughout the book which adds to the overall effect, but I wish there had been something more sooner.

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I gave all books 4 stars and above, as let’s face it: the competitive magic format just works. I loved all three and each of them has shown me different ways a great book can be – and all three have stunning covers. NC with it’s great colour way and character detail, CG with its dramatic crown, and Caraval with it’s secretive design underneath the dust jacket, of which there are four different designs that you can get. I’d recommend them all to anyone who is a fan or who wants to try a new fantasy, depending on what you love. For fast pace, magical fun with plenty of twists, go with Caraval. For a slower and more imaginative read, with stunning descriptions and characters that will take your heart, go with Night Circus. And finally, for a plot that will make you scream at the ending and and characters that make you lose your mind, go with The Crown’s Game.

 

Finishing a series

When someone talks about not finishing a series, normally I think ‘but how?!’. How can you invest so much time in characters and stories and their lives for book after book only to give up? I suppose I have that mentality because I’ve read so many fantastic series, but there have been a few instances where I haven’t managed to finish – and one of these instances is very recent.

In the past, there have been very few series I haven’t finished. The City of Bones series, for example, is one that I adored – but unfortunately as I grew older, they didn’t interest me as much. I even bought the final book of the series, as it was the only one I hadn’t read, but I never found a moment where I wanted to pick it up. It was in the same generation as the series of books such as Hush, hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, and Fallen by Lauren Kate. Both of these books I absolutely adored, and for the most part liked the second book in the series, but I grew to dislike them. I had to force myself to read the following sequels, which for me weren’t as great as the first – quite possibly due to the fact that, by the time they came out, I was older and interested in different things.

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Earlier on this year, I read a book called Uprooted by Naomi Novik. It has definitely been a favourite of mine, and if you want more on that then you can read my review. Then, wonder of wonders, I discover that she has a series on dragons. I mean, come on, of course I flipped out and bought the first one. If there’s one thing I love in a great fantasy book, it’s the rare appearance of dragons that seem to make it better. Temeraire became a new favourite – again because, hello, dragons – with it’s diverse characters, brilliant detail, the alternate history of the Napoleonic wars with dragons, and my favourite relationship of all time of Captain Laurence and his dragon, Temeraire. The way he called him ‘my dear’, how he starts off like a father to him, the way that he was at first disgruntled about having to leave the navy because of a dragon – oh, it’s just magical.

So of course I pick up the second book, knowing there are currently nine in the series, ready for more. As expected, I still love the characters and their interactions, but it took me weeks to read it. Partly due to the amount of university work I had, and partly due to the fact that I wasn’t as eager to read it. Although the books are wonderful in my eyes, they aren’t particularly speedy in pace. There are beautiful moments, and scenes of action and battles, but for the most part not so much.

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Bad Books, Good Times

And so I came to the realisation that I would not be finishing this series. I admit, when I reached the end of the book, I did love it with all the wonderful secondary characters, Laurence and Temeraire (of course), the weird but perfect happenings, and the incredible imagination of Naomi Novik. Yet, I wasn’t fired up to keep reading the series. I felt like I knew the characters, and although I loved them I didn’t need to read more about them. I was happy as I was, and I’m still not sure if my final decision is a good or bad thing. To not finish a series almost feels like a waste, but again it also gives me the chance to read something new, by someone else.

Who knows, maybe at some point next year I’ll need a serious dragon fix and pick up the third. I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if that happened.

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Fairyloot June & July Review

If you don’t know that nothing else quite fills me with joy as book subscription boxes, you don’t know me too well. And now there are so many different ones to choose from, it’s like Christmas – except every month, which I think you’ll agree is a very good thing. I’ve tried (and loved) owlcrate and illumicrate, then my attention was brought to Fairyloot. I ordered the June box, because it sounded amazing, and experienced this rush of panic trying to secure a box because they run out so incredibly quickly. That was the first thing that made this subscription feel so different, this mad rush to order a box before they ran out – it felt far more tense that ordering from previous subscriptions, but it’s nice to see a company so in demand – because surely that means the product is good. Yet, before the June box even arrived, I discovered that the July box had two books and one would be signed and dedicated and the theme was pirates. So of course I immediately ordered one as soon as it went live, which brings us to now.

What I will say before I bombard you with all of the pictures and my ridiculous excitement, is that I am not sponsored and I bought these boxes with my own hard-earned money.

And so we begin with the June box, the theme of ‘Classic Twist’, and as a Classics and English student I couldn’t have been more excited.

Firstly we have three fantastic bookmarks with lovely quotes on them, my favourite being the one featured of C.S Lewis – tea and books just go together so well. Then we have a little wristband from Chapter 5 saying ‘proud to be bookish’. A candle that smells divine called ‘Bronte’s secret’, and these beautiful little sparrow (I think they’re sparrows, at least) earrings that I’ve worn so many times now and adore them.

Also within this June box was this beautiful print that I’m definitely putting on my wall and a Mr Darcy Pop Funko from the book/film Pride and Prejudice and Zombies! Honestly, everything in me just adores every single item in this box, and I’m not even onto the book yet.

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……which was Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh! I was almost convinced, after seeing some other book boxes doing similar themes feature the book My Lady Jane, that that would be the book I’d receive, so I was overjoyed to be surprised! The book sounds fantastic and I can’t wait to read it, a brilliant pick, also along with a lovely letter from the author.

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And that was the June Fairyloot box, which had to be my ideal box with all the English classic items and a brilliant book. I was over the moon with this box, and all of the items worked perfectly with the theme – a beautifully put together box!

Now, for July’s ‘pirate’ theme. I know, pirates.

The first items I see in the July box are the fantastic tote bag saying ‘I ship it’ and a bookmark that you can colour in. Not only is the tote bag just fantastic with the theme – I hadn’t even thought of something featuring ‘I ship it’, but it’s just perfection – but I’ve also never seen a bookmark that you can colour in before, so just a wonderful idea.

Then we have a lovely notebook with Treasure Island on the front, and a lip balm called ‘Pirate Bounty’ which I’ve already used and adored. The first book features, yes, the first, was Inherited by Freedom Matthews – and, can I just say, what a brilliant name for a book about pirates. Not only was there a letter, but this book was also signed and dedicated! Unfortunately my name was spelled wrong, but ‘Elanor’ is close enough for me.

The second book, a proof I believe, was ‘Frostblood’ by Elly Blake, and what was so great about this was that you either received an icy frostblood copy, or the flaming fireblood copy. I was so incredibly happy to get a fireblood copy, just because with that you had a Daenerys mini Pop Funko as opposed to a Jon Snow! Seeing as I aim to be the Mother of Dragons, this was simply wonderful and I couldn’t have been happier. To go with the book, there was a fire and ice bath bomb which I’m looking forward to trying as soon as possible.

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And so another brilliant box! The perfect fantasy box, in my opinion, with a real mix of things that are bound to appeal to different people. You can tell that the items were really thought about and carefully picked, and it was nice to see items that matched not only the theme, but linked to the books included as well.

So if you’re after a fantasy book subscription box, I couldn’t recommend Fairyloot enough – just make sure you order quickly, because they run out fast! One really nice feature about Fairyloot, which I haven’t seen before, is that you have a unique hashtag to connect with another subscriber online which is such a lovely idea. There are also group discussions every month about the previous box’s book, and the sense of a community from a subscription service is lovely to be a part of.

The Archived by Victoria Schwab

We all know about my love for Victoria/V.E Schwab (see here and here), but one of the first books of hers that I had heard about was The Archived. Surprisingly, I struggled to find a copy in the bookshops I visited in the UK, but after being gifted one for my birthday I immediately delved into it – and I’m glad I did.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was: a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost, Da’s death was hard enough, but now that her little brother is gone too, Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself may crumble and fall.

Schwab has, in my opinion, the ability to truly create something that is the closest to unique you can find. With so many books these days, especially those within the fantasy/sci-fi/supernatural genres, you can see exactly what they’ve been inspired from. You see the common tropes and themes, like that classic YA line ‘they let out a breath they didn’t know they were holding’. We’re all desperate to read something new, not something adapted, and it just so happens that every time I’ve read something by the marvellous Schwab, I feel like I’m reading something new.

The Archived has the very interesting premise of a library of the dead, of their memories and lives. Yet these bodies, known as ‘Histories’, often wake up and try to escape – which is why there are Keepers, tasked with stopping them. Our heroine, Mackenzie Bishop, is a Keeper with a very interesting history of her own, and she makes a very dynamic main character.

Throughout the book, there are flashbacks to conversations with her grandfather, Da, who passed on the role of being Keeper to her. It was this element, among many, that I really enjoyed reading. Learning about her relationship with Da, and how it separated her slightly from her family and hearing other people’s thoughts on that relationship, was just fantastic to read. There are constant themes of isolation linked to grief within this book, what with the death of Da and her brother before the book begins, and these various dark edges to the novel set it apart, making it more believable as a fantasy setting.

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The opening was particularly strong for me, really enticing and engaging with beautiful writing and nice detailing. Schwab again is an author who can support her fantastic ideas with fantastic writing, a style that makes putting the book down a somewhat impossibility. And the physical book itself has lovely details on the inside pages, which I especially appreciated.

So with consistent beautiful details and writing, it’s no surprise that I adored this book. Schwab introduced and maintained her world incredibly well, blending nicely the foreign with the natural. The lines between fantasy and reality for the reader link to the book’s lines between past and present, the unknown and the known.

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The secondary characters are also noteworthy, but I don’t want to say too much more for fear of spoiling anything. What I will say is that this is a fantastic book with great world-building, twists, character developments, and some great humour dotted throughout the darker reality of grief, loss, and pain. A top recommendation from me.

A Darker Shade of Magic/A Gathering of Shadows by V.E Schwab

An actual book review! Man it’s been a while – so to make up for that, I’m doing a two-for-one sort of deal. I had been meaning to pick up A Darker Shade of Magic for almost a year after all the brilliant reviews it received. Then, when I finally do pick it up, I finish it in under two days, head straight back out to buy the sequel A Gathering of Shadows, and finish that within 24 hours. It so shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that this is going to be a very positive review.

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Most people only know one London; but what if there were several? Kell is one of the last Travelers magicians with a rare ability to travel between parallel Londons. There is Grey London, dirty and crowded and without magic, home to the mad king George III. There is Red London, where life and magic are revered. Then, White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. But once upon a time, there was Black London…

For spoiler reasons, I won’t post a blurb of the second book.

The first book I read by V.E Schwab was Vicious (read review here) and I loved it, so it’s surprising it took me this long to pick up this series. The world Schwab has created is enchanting and, with no better word for it, magical. Set throughout parallel worlds, all in London, we meet Kell who can travel between all three of these Londons which he has nicknamed: Red London, White London, and Grey London. We know that there used to be a Black London, but that’s all you do know going in. Grey London is supposedly the London of our world, as in the reality, without magicians and abilities and all of those marvellous things.

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Schwab’s imagination knows no bounds, and the way she’s conjured up this world (or worlds) as well as weaving an intricate plot, not to mention the fantastic characters, is just incredible. She is definitely the kind of author I want to be one day, and not just because she writes fantastic fantasy.

Kell is one of those characters that you feel inclined to love, although it isn’t until about halfway when you realise that you do actually love and adore him. He’s the definite hero of the book, and his heroine/ally/antagonist/the best person ever is Delilah Bard, the magnificent (otherwise known as Lila). A cross-dressing thief with dreams of being a pirate, I’m not quite sure how you can’t like the guarded, wary Lila. She is everything you want in an heroine, from her stubbornness to her determination to tackle everything head on. She isn’t helpless, she isn’t vulnerable, and she most certainly doesn’t need saving.

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Then there comes the charming, wonderful Rhy that you can’t help but adore. Man, I just want to live in Red London and meet these people before setting sail with Lila. It’s just a book (well, both of them) that sucks you in until, before you know it, you’ve finished it and are going crazy on the internet trying to discover when the next one is coming out. My only critique might be the few Americanisms that pop out at you which, for an English reader expecting to be firmly grounded in parallel Londons, it’s distracting.

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So, if like me, you like fantasy and a book including cross-dressing, pirates, thieves, magicians, and parallel worlds sounds appealing, then this is the one for you. Also, if you know when the third one comes out, hit me up.

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