Shadow of the Fox (Shadow of the Fox #1) by Julie Kagawa

Shadow of the Fox Cover

A single wish will spark a new dawn. Every millennium, one age ends and another age dawns and whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers holds the power to call the great Kami Dragon from the sea and ask for any one wish. The time is near and the missing pieces of the scroll will be sought throughout the land of Iwagoto.

The holder of the first piece is a humble, unknown peasant girl with a dangerous secret. Demons have burned the temple Yumeko was raised in to the ground, killing everyone within, including the master who trained her to both use and hide her kitsune powers.

Yumeko escapes with the temple’s greatest treasure – one part of the ancient scroll. Fate thrusts her into the path of a mysterious samurai, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan. Yumeko knows he seeks what she has and is under orders to kill anything and anyone who stands between him and the scroll.

My Thoughts

The start was very slow and jumped about between different characters a lot so it took me a while to get going with it. I didn’t like Yumenko or Tatsumi at all at first and I felt like it was going to be another formulaic young adult fantasy book. There was also too much of the characters internal thoughts with not much action going on. But once I managed to get past the first few chapters and really got into it I actually liked this a lot!

I liked that there was a lot of little almost side quests thrown into the story along the way. Tatsumi and Yumeko fight a few demons, help some villages and pick up an assortment of fellow travellers that become part of the story. It reminded me of some of the manga series I’ve read and I thought it made what could have been a dry journey where all that happens is the two of them start falling for each other into something more interesting and unusual. Plus, the sidekicks they picked up were funny and all brought something to the team!

Both Tatsumi and Yumenko grew on me along the way and I liked the way they were together. Tatsumi particularly has to try and fight his attraction and it’s cute how confused and frustrated he gets – he’s had very little positive interaction with other humans so it’s like he is seeing the world for the first time, Yumenko is bringing him slowly to life.

Yumenko I liked a lot more when we were seeing her from Tatsumi’s point of view. In his eyes, she seems a little odd, a bit daft but super funny and sweet. From Yumenko’s own viewpoint though she comes across a lot more serious and thoughtful. It’s a difference I found hard to reconcile to get a real feel for her character and left me feeling strangely disconnected from her. I’m hoping in the next book her personality becomes clearer, I also hope she gets to use more of her magic! I suspect she could be fierce if she wanted to be.

I do think it suffers from the characters and the plot being stereotypical of young adult fantasy at the moment but where this really stands out is in the world it is set in and the atmosphere that is created. The Japanese setting gives this something special and the author has done a great job of making the journey of the characters feel real and full of vibrant life. It feels like there is a lot of Japanese folklore and mythology weaved into the story but it never becomes confusing – it always just felt real to me.

Give this a chance, get past the first few chapters and it’s an exciting story with enough of its own personality to stand out in a sea of young adult fantasies with similar plots. I enjoyed reading this one and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on the sequel.

I received a free copy in return for an honest review.

Shadow of the Fox
Shadow of the Fox
Julie Kagawa
Young Adult Fantasy
November 1st 2018
Kindle
454

The Masked City (The Invisible Library #2) by Genevieve Cogman

masked city cover

Librarian-spy Irene is working undercover in an alternative London when her assistant Kai goes missing. She discovers he’s been kidnapped by the fae faction and the repercussions could be fatal. Not just for Kai, but for whole worlds.

Kai’s dragon heritage means he has powerful allies, but also powerful enemies in the form of the fae. With this act of aggression, the fae are determined to trigger a war between their people – and the forces of order and chaos themselves.

Irene’s mission to save Kai and avert Armageddon will take her to a dark, alternate Venice where it’s always Carnival. Here Irene will be forced to blackmail, fast talk, and fight. Or face death.

The Masked City (The Invisible Library, #2)The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved the first book, I liked this one even more!

The plot is very clever, this one is all about stories within stories as Irene has to travel into a chaos infected alternative version of Venice. Here, the fae can manipulate reality to make themselves the main characters in whatever story they see themselves in. Irene has to go along with it and play her part in such a way that she can manipulate the storyline.

I enjoyed watching Irene work everything out, often in books like this the characters are reactive, solutions fall easily at their feet and all they have to do is follow along. Irene has to reason and be clever about it, thinking her way through and finding her own solutions.

A lot of thought has gone into the characters and their personality, their motivations and feelings, how they would react in all the situations. Irene is brilliant, clever and resourceful and even though she is often unsure she is also confident without being arrogant. Kai isn’t in the story very much, Irene has to act on her own this time and rely on her own wits and reasoning. When she decides to act she doesn’t second guess herself and sees it through.

The train was my most favourite character in this book, and that says something about the talent of the author that she can give something like a train so much personality.

The world of Venice and Carnival is brought to life quite effectively but I would have liked to have seen more of the celebrations and the partying! Obviously, Irene has other things on her mind, she skips through parties but we don’t get much chance to enjoy them. I loved the scenes set in the theatre though.

Suspenseful, exciting, clever and original, this is one I highly recommend to fans of fantasy or steampunk.

The Masked City
The Invisible Library
Genevieve Cogman
Fantasy
Paperback
369

Nocturna (A Forgery of Magic #1) by Maya Motayne

nocturna book cover

Set in a Latinx-inspired world, a face-changing thief and a risk-taking prince must team up to defeat a powerful evil they accidentally unleashed.

To Finn Voy, magic is two things: a knife to hold under the chin of anyone who crosses her…and a disguise she shrugs on as easily as others pull on cloaks.

As a talented faceshifter, it’s been years since Finn has seen her own face, and that’s exactly how she likes it. But when Finn gets caught by a powerful mobster, she’s forced into an impossible mission: steal a legendary treasure from Castallan’s royal palace or be stripped of her magic forever.

After the murder of his older brother, Prince Alfehr is first in line for the Castallan throne. But Alfie can’t help but feel that he will never live up to his brother’s legacy. Riddled with grief, Alfie is obsessed with finding a way to bring his brother back, even if it means dabbling in forbidden magic.

But when Finn and Alfie’s fates collide, they accidentally unlock a terrible, ancient power—which, if not contained, will devour the world. And with Castallan’s fate in their hands, Alfie and Finn must race to vanquish what they have unleashed, even if it means facing the deepest darkness in their pasts.

My Thoughts

Nocturna (A Forgery of Magic, #1)Nocturna by Maya Motayne
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I requested Nocturna for review because it’s a fantasy with a thief and a prince accidentally unleashing an evil power, set in a Latinx inspired world – it just sounds amazing.

In reality, it’s ok. Not brilliant but it’s not trash either. It’s lacking in world building and the story and characters are kind childishly done but the writing is ok and there’s a lot of fun ideas. My attention drifted though, I couldn’t focus on it and I put it down about halfway through and read about 6 other books before I found my way back to it.

I liked the idea of the clock tower prison but when it came down to it the intimidation factor it should have had, it wasn’t there. Finn and Alfie got in and out with no issues and the prison feel just wasn’t there. I couldn’t picture it at all.

A lot of the things written into the plot felt like they were there for convenience instead of world building. The duenos in the clock tower for example, they had no real role or place in the story – the rules around their existence weren’t solid enough to be able to understand them. I feel like the author only added them so that Alfie had someone to impersonate.

I love some of the ideas around how the magic works and the way Alfie can see magic as coloured auras. But again, these things didn’t seem consistent. What the characters could do and the way their magic worked changed as the story needed it to.

For what is actually a very dark story a lot of the plot and the characters felt quite childish. The story just wasn’t exciting or real enough and the banter was cringey instead of funny with Alfie, Finn and Luka often sounding like they were all 12 instead of older teenagers.

I appreciate having main characters in the story that aren’t perfect, both of them here are a long way from being the sort of saintly saviours I can’t relate to, but I just can’t stand Finn. She’s not nearly as funny and not half as smart as she thinks she is. Wisecracking smartarses I can deal with but they have to be amusing to read and Finn’s not, she comes across as childish and irritating and for an amazing thief everything she did was a disaster. If I’m supposed to believe she’s a master thief I need to see her being awesome, her character doesn’t work if she has to suddenly start being crap at everything for plot reasons.

Another thing that really annoyed me was the way everyone in it was either full of darkness or full of light. People aren’t that basic; there are shades of grey in everyone and more of that ambivalence would have made this book feel less flat than it does. The dark magician doesn’t seem to have any motivations either, he is just full of darkness and that’s it, he does bad things. I like books where you can get right into the minds of the villains and if not sympathise then at least understand them. They are often more interesting than the good guys and can bring a book like this to life.

There is a lot of good stuff here but it wasn’t enough to hold my attention. I found that I didn’t want to keep reading it and I was picking up other books instead of going back to this one. Altogether it feels rushed like the characters haven’t been fully worked out and the setting isn’t rich and lush or developed enough. It has potential though because the ideas are good and the writing is decent I feel it just needs more time spent on the basics.

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

Nocturna
A Forgery of Magic
Maya Motayne
Young Adult Fantasy
May 7th 2019
Kindle
480

The Secret City (The Alchemist Chronicles #2) by C.J. Daugherty, Carina Rozenfeld

the secret city cover

Locked away inside the fortified walls of Oxford’s St Wilfred’s College, surrounded by alchemists sworn to protect them, Taylor and Sacha are safe from the Darkness. For now.

But time is short. In seven days Sacha will turn 18, and the ancient curse that once made him invincible will kill him, unleashing unimaginable demonic horror upon the world.

There is one way to stop it.

Taylor and Sacha must go to where the curse was first cast – the medieval French city of Carcassonne – and face the demons.

The journey will be dangerous. And monsters are waiting for them.

But as Darkness descends on Oxford, their choice is stark. They must face everything that scares them or lose everything they love.

My Thoughts

The Secret City (The Alchemist Chronicles #2)The Secret City by C.J. Daugherty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Secret City picks right up where The Secret Fire left off, with Taylor learning how to control her magic while she and Sascha and the alchemists of St Winifred’s are searching for the key to breaking Sascha’s curse.

There’s a lot more action in this one when Taylor and Sascha have to race through France to Carcassone to beat a villain who is trying to raise a demon. It felt like the ending was rushed – they found the solution all at once and then it seemed to be over very quickly but the rest of the book was exciting without moving too fast. There was time to get to know the characters and I loved following them on their journey through France. Their relationship is sweet, they don’t fall in love at first sight, and they are very likeable both separately and together.

The villain though was cartoonish and underwhelming. He wasn’t fleshed out enough, and if I don’t know the villain’s motivations it’s difficult for me to see them as actual people or to find them threatening. He was just something and nothing that popped up every so often to leer at them a bit.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this. It’s interesting and a bit different and exciting enough to hold it’s own against the more obvious series in this genre. I want to know more about the alchemist society though and life at St Winifred’s!

The Secret City
The Alchemist Chronicles
C.J. Daugherty, Carina Rozenfeld
Young Adult Fantasy
September 1st 2016
Paperback
368

The Rules of Magic (Practical Magic #2) by Alice Hoffman

the rules of magic cover

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.

Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start, Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City, each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy.

My Thoughts

The Rules of Magic (Practical Magic)The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s beautifully written and so easy to read. I got drawn in straight away and caught up in their world. But, I felt like it didn’t go anywhere and it was a bit depressing. I expected the aunts to have some wild stories to tell but they didn’t do much at all, had bad luck in their love lives and gave up living in their twenties.

I got the feeling with all the painful things that happened that it set out not to tell the story of the aunts but to make the reader cry.

It didn’t help that I already kinda knew how it ended – we know where the aunts end up this is really just the story of how they got there.

It’s still a beautifully written book I just wanted more out of it.

The Rules of Magic
Practical Magic
Alice Hoffman
Fantasy
October 10th 2017
Paperback
369

The Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan

The Drowning GIrl Cover

India Morgan Phelps–Imp to her friends–is schizophrenic. She can no longer trust her own mind because she is convinced that her memories have somehow betrayed her, forcing her to question her very identity.

Struggling with her perception of reality, Imp must uncover the truth about an encounter with a vicious siren, or a helpless wolf that came to her as a feral girl, or neither of these things but something far, far stranger.

My Thoughts

The Drowning GirlThe Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Drowning Girl is confused, messy, full of lies, and takes a full third of the book to get past the first event.

But I loved it. I was sucked in straight away and couldn’t stop reading it. India’s voice is compelling. By her own admission, she is an unreliable narrator, not able to choose between two different versions of the same events she is holding in her own head. But I’d quite happily listen to this girl spin tales for as long as she wants

It’s probably not going to be for everyone. It was odd and rambling and it took ages to get going – the first third of the book was spent going back and forth over the same ground. I think the author has taken the idea that books should have a beginning, middle and end, of plot structure altogether, and thrown it straight out of the window. Though saying that, it worked very well and added to the atmosphere of the book and everyone in my book club that read it loved it.

Persevere though and it’s a rewarding read. The writing is magical and dreamy and the world sprang into life in my head. I need to read more by this author.

The Drowning Girl
Caitlín R. Kiernan
Fantasy
March 6th 2012
Paperback
332

Sabriel (The Old Kingdom #1) by Garth Nix

Sabriel Cover

Sabriel is the daughter of the Mage Abhorsen. Ever since she was a tiny child, she has lived outside the Wall of the Old Kingdom–far away from the uncontrolled power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who won’t stay dead.

But now, her father is missing and Sabriel is called upon to cross into the world to find him, Leaving the safety of the school she has known as home, Sabriel embarks upon a quest fraught with supernatural dangers, with companions she is unsure of–for nothing is as it seems within the boundary of the Old Kingdom. There, she confronts an evil that threatens much more than her life, and comes face to face with her hidden destiny.

My Thoughts

Sabriel (Abhorsen, #1)Sabriel by Garth Nix
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really didn’t think that I was going to like this. I don’t know why but I fully expected to hate it. Just shows that I shouldn’t be too quick to judge because I ended up really enjoying it!

There were a couple of things that did disappoint me. I didn’t feel like the old kingdom was fully realised, the author skirted around the edges of it and I never felt fully immersed. I liked what I did see, the author did world building well when he bothered with it which is why I was disappointed that there wasn’t more of it.

Sabriel was a bit too out of touch for someone that was supposed to have come from there – how could she know so little? Surely she would have asked for more from her father? Or seen a bit of the world when she went back to visit? I get hung up on details sometimes and this just bugged me.

It was some of the little touches that made the book for me. I loved the paper aeroplanes and the villain and his minions manage to be genuinely scary. Characters were done so well they almost leapt off the pages. Even those that were only in for a couple of pages I felt like I knew and I became very attached to Mogget.

Sabriel was a strong lead character and I loved her magic! She has an affinity for death and can pass through the gates to travel into the land of the dead. A skill that comes in very handy more than once in her quest to find what has happened to her father.

I very much enjoyed reading this, it’s nothing new in terms of plot but it has excitement and enough about it to put its own stamp on a common story. I would definitely read the sequel.

Sabriel
The Old Kingdom
Garth Nix
Young Adult Fantasy
May 6th 2003
Paperback
367

Enchantée by Gita Trelease

echantee cover

Paris in 1789 is a labyrinth of twisted streets, filled with beggars, thieves, revolutionaries—and magicians…

When smallpox kills her parents, Camille Durbonne must find a way to provide for her frail, naive sister while managing her volatile brother. Relying on petty magic—la magie ordinaire—Camille painstakingly transforms scraps of metal into money to buy the food and medicine they need. But when the coins won’t hold their shape and her brother disappears with the family’s savings, Camille must pursue a richer, more dangerous mark: the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

With dark magic forbidden by her mother, Camille transforms herself into the ‘Baroness de la Fontaine’ and is swept up into life at the Palace of Versailles, where aristocrats both fear and hunger for la magie. There, she gambles at cards, desperate to have enough to keep herself and her sister safe. Yet the longer she stays at court, the more difficult it becomes to reconcile her resentment of the nobles with the enchantments of Versailles. And when she returns to Paris, Camille meets a handsome young balloonist—who dares her to hope that love and liberty may both be possible.

But la magie has its costs. And when Camille loses control of her secrets, the game she’s playing turns deadly. Then revolution erupts, and she must choose—love or loyalty, democracy or aristocracy, freedom or magic—before Paris burns.

My Thoughts

EnchantéeEnchantée by Gita Trelease
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Enchantée is about magic, gambling, deception and hot air ballooning, and it has the best love triangle that’s not really a love triangle since the days of Jem and the Holograms.

It’s Paris, 1789, and Camille has lost both her parents to smallpox. She and her sister are struggling to survive, the only way she can earn money is to use her short-lived magic – la magie – to change iron nails into coins for long enough to buy bread. When she finds that she can also use her magic to change the numbers on playing cards she starts gambling to make money to pay the rent. But the glamour of la magie is addictive and it takes a toll on her health as she starts to get sucked into the glittering world of Versailles.

I loved the story, and then to make it even better there was a bit of a side story about a group of hot air ballooning pioneers, one of whom catches Camille’s eye!

I liked Camille because she’s not perfect, she’s doing her best to provide for herself and her sister but she gets addicted to la magie and to the glamour it gives her. She finds that she can’t stop herself and even when she has all the money she needs to take them out of poverty she keeps going back. Camille also has a practical side to her – she wants to be a printer like her father was.

It’s super easy to read and the writing brings the sumptuous world of Versailles and the harsh reality of struggling to survive in Paris vividly to life. The author is a wonderful storyteller and it’s hard to believe this is her debut novel. I also love that it’s a stand-alone and not a series.

Utterly wonderful, I got completely wrapped up in it and I didn’t want it to finish.

I received a free copy in return for an honest review.

Enchantée
Gita Trelease
Young Adult Fantasy
February 5th 2019
Kindle
480

Brother’s Ruin (Industrial Magic #1) by Emma Newman

brothers ruin cover

The year is 1850 and Great Britain is flourishing, thanks to the Royal Society of the Esoteric Arts. When a new mage is discovered, Royal Society elites descend like buzzards to snatch up a new apprentice. Talented mages are bought from their families at a tremendous price, while weak mages are snapped up for a pittance. For a lower middle class family like the Gunns, the loss of a son can be disastrous, so when seemingly magical incidents begin cropping up at home, they fear for their Ben’s life and their own livelihoods.

But Benjamin Gunn isn’t a talented mage. His sister Charlotte is, and to prevent her brother from being imprisoned for false reporting she combines her powers with his to make him seem a better prospect.

When she discovers a nefarious plot by the sinister Doctor Ledbetter, Charlotte must use all her cunning and guile to protect her family, her secret and her city.

Brother’s Ruin is the first in a new gaslamp fantasy series by Emma Newman.

My Thoughts

Brother’s Ruin (Industrial Magic, #1)Brother’s Ruin by Emma Newman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“You are one of the very worst examples of a man given too much privilege,” she finally said. “You are one of the most dangerous young women in this city,” he replied calmly.

Utterly wonderful. Emma Newman gets everything about this just pitch perfect.

It’s a novella about a young woman in Victorian London trying to hide her illustration career and her magic abilities from her family and the Royal Society of mages. But she finds out that her father is in serious trouble with debtors and her leaky magic skills have been mistakenly attributed to her brother.

There’s a whole world created in this little novella, London is grim, dirty and dangerous and the Royal Society make sure that they own and control all mages – forcibly taking them away from their family if they don’t give themselves up. Charlotte has the difficult task of saving her father from the debtors whilst keeping herself out of the sights of the society and it makes for an exciting and action-packed short story.

I’m hopeful that this is just the first in a series of short stories about Charlotte’s adventures, there’s so much more of this word that I want to explore and Charlotte has the potential to be a fab character!

It was time for this rude young woman to make a difference.

Brother’s Ruin
Industrial Magic
Emma Newman
Steampunk
March 14th 2017
Kindle
190

The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library #1) by Genevieve Cogman

The Invisible Library Cover

Irene must be at the top of her game or she’ll be off the case – permanently…

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.

Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.

Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.

The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library, #1)The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, my 2018 reading came to a cracking finish with this one!

It was a bit heavy on the explanations at first – the stuff about the chaos worlds was overly complicated and didn’t really go in until I’d read the first third of the book. After that though it picks up and gets on with a fun, fast paced and action filled plot.

Irene was an interesting, complicated character, veering between confidence and self-doubt. Her sensibleness and her love of books, especially detective stories made her resonate with me and I found her easy to relate to.

Her assistant Kai was a good character too. Mysterious, attractive, open in his attraction to Irene and respectful of her experience and intelligence. A refreshing change for a romantic interest in this sort of book.

I loved the crazy world Genevieve Cogman has created, with dragons, airships and mind controlled alligators. She’s filled it with lively and interesting characters and it’s madcap but it works.

Altogether it’s just a lot of fun!

The Invisible Library
The Invisible Library
Genevieve Cogman
Steampunk
January 15th 2015
Paperback
329