The Girl King by Mimi Yu | Sister Review

The Girl King by Mimi Yu | Sister Review

The Girl King by Mimi Yu

Sister Review
 This review is a combined effort between me and my sister. We read a book and review it by asking each other questions related to the title we are reviewing. The idea is to provide you with two different perspectives.

 This review might contain spoilers! We might discuss any part of the story (sometimes the questions we ask each other might be general, while other times they might touch upon something specific about the ending, etc). If you have not read the book and do not wish for the story to be spoiled you might want to avoid this post!

The Girl King by Mimi Yu | Sister ReviewThe Girl King by Mimi Yu
Series: The Girl King #1
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing on January 8th 2019
Genres: Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 518
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three-stars

Two sisters become unwitting rivals in a war to claim the title of Emperor in this sweeping tale of ambition, sacrifice and betrayal for readers of Sabaa Tahir and Alwyn Hamilton.

All hail the Girl King.

Sisters Lu and Min have always understood their places as princesses of the Empire. Lu knows she is destined to become the dynasty's first female ruler, while Min is resigned to a life in her shadow. Then their father declares their male cousin Set the heir instead—a betrayal that sends the sisters down two very different paths.

Determined to reclaim her birthright, Lu goes on the run. She needs an ally—and an army—if she is to succeed. Her quest leads her to Nokhai, the last surviving wolf shapeshifter. Nok wants to keep his identity secret, but finds himself forced into an uneasy alliance with the girl whose family killed everyone he ever loved…

Alone in the volatile court, Min's hidden power awakens—a forbidden, deadly magic that could secure Set's reign…or allow Min to claim the throne herself. But there can only be one Emperor, and the sisters' greatest enemy could turn out to be each other.

 Iris asks Merel:

As pumped as I was for this book, it took me quite some time to get into the story. Did you experience the same? 

Yes, I did! I thought the book had a lot of potential, but I had quite a hard time getting into the story, so that was too bad. It also took me a lot time to get invested in the story. When I put the book down because I had something else to do, I never really felt the urge to pick up the book again.  

The Girl King has three main characters, characters that I found hard to connect with. Part of it might have to do with the fact that it’s written in third person POV. What are your thoughts on this? 

I also had a hard time connecting with the main characters. They felt distant to me, and reading about their stories made me feel rather detached. However, I don’t think it was the third person perspective, since many authors use it. Sarah J. Maas wrote her books in 3rd person POV and I most certainly did not have any trouble getting in to her books, or relating to her characters. I think for The Girl King  it had more to do with the writing style, which wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

What did you think of the Asian elements in the story? Did any stand out to you and/or what’s your favourite element? 

I really liked the idea of it, since there are a lot of myths and legends in Asian culture/history that I’m not familiar with, so an Asian inspired fantasy sounded really interesting! I liked the elements that could be found throughout the novel, and I think it’s cool that she used those. I really liked the concept of the Kith in the story, and how there were all these different tribes. I loved finding out that the empire of the first flame used to have gifted Kith as well, namely the tiger, but that  they lost the ability somehow. I think the storyline of the Kith made the book quite interesting.  

The Girl King is another book in a (pretty long) line up of strong female heroine centred YA books. I think we can agree we both love a kickass heroine, where does this book rate in this line up? 

Oh, I suck at these questions!  For this one, I’ll be going with Lu, since I didn’t like Min very much to be honest… She annoyed me quite a lot. Lu is a badass! Not only is she good with a sword, she also has a sense of responsibility and loyalty. Moreover, I loved how she learned from her mistakes and the encounters she had. She did not blindly stick to her beliefs that her kingdom had been blameless in some of the darker, more ruthless events in the past. Once she learned the truth, she accepted it and learned to live with it, instead of denying it and insisting that the others were wrong.  

In my opinion, Lu is pretty cool. Not just a badass, but also  genuinely a good person. So, she ranks pretty high as a person! It’s just a bit harder to think of her when people ask me for some great heroines, since the book did not capture my full attention.  

I liked how impulsive actions had consequences in the story, which leads to Lu to learn from her mistakes and confront her biases. What do you think about this?  

It always feels good when you read about a character that learns from her mistakes and past, and Lu certainly learned a lot about herself during her journey. Not just Lu though, Nokhai also discovered a whole lot more about himself. I liked how they both developed throughout the story and became bigger than when they started. They learned truths about themselves, the other and the world. 

All and all this book was a bit ‘meh’ for me. Tell me what was your favourite thing about The Girl King and what was your least favourite thing? 

I know what you feel, since I pretty much felt the same. I was really excited for this release, and it felt a bit like a let-down. Which is too bad, because the concept wasn’t bad! And while answering your questions, I also realised that both Lu and Nokhai’s characters were quite well developed, yet still it wasn’t what I had hoped for.  

As I already mentioned above, I loved the concepted of the gifted Kith with it’s different tribes and how she spun this part of the story. I thought it was really interesting and original! (Which is probably why I liked reading about Nokhai most haha.)

My least favourite thing… Honestly, I really disliked how Min evolved in the story. I get that she and Lu were totally different people, and that that was the reason for their strained relationship, but I felt like Min didn’t try a lot. She acted self-absorbed, constantly felt sorry for herself and everything she had to endure, and remained ignorant of everything else. And look at the consequences of her actions… I think I had a hard time accepting that in the end, she dropped her sister ruthlessly, just so she could get what she thought she wanted. She did not think about her sister, or the rest of the world.  So yeah, I didn’t enjoy reading about Min, even though I was quite interested to read about her learning to use her powers. Even when her magic had awakened, she still let other people use her (and her powers). 

Merel asks Iris:

What did you think about the setting? 

I thought the setting was really interesting. When I first heard about this book and found out it was high-fantasy, revolved around two sisters, and Asian inspired I was instantly hooked. In fact, the setting was one of the things about The Girl King that I did really enjoy. I think the Asian setting was really cool and the magic system was really interesting.

Which storyline did you enjoy the most? Which did you like the least? 

I think this was my biggest struggle in The Girl King. There are three third-person perspectives, that of Lu, her sister Min, and Nok. I found about halfway through that I didn’t particularly love any of them. I liked Nok and thought his storyline was interesting, but he felt a bit interchangable with most YA fantasy love interests. Lu was badass, yes, but she too felt really similar to many other YA fantasy heroines. And Min… she annoyed me to no end with her endless naivete and self-pity.

All in all, I definitely enjoyed Lu and Nok’s storylines the most. Min’s story line was without a doubt my least favourite.

What did you think about character development in The Girl King? 

(I am not going to talk about Min here, sorry, but she frustrated me too much).

Similar to what you mentioned previously I really liked how Lu and Nok grew and learned from their mistakes. They discovered who they were as a person, what they stood for, and faced truths about themselves and the world they lived in. I might not have loved the characters, but I do see that they underwent change and defintely came out for the better!

What did you think about the writing style of the book? 

I don’t know. I felt disconnected from the story from the very beginning. It might have had to do with the characters, whom I didn’t really love, or the writing style. Or it might be a combination of the two. What I do know is that the writing didn’t suck me into the story and, especially in the beginning, had to force myself to keep reading.

Usually the male character is the strong and protective one. In Lu and Nokhai’s case the roles were reversed: Lu was the protective one. She was good with a sword and saved Nokhai multiple times. What’s your opinion on this? 

This was quite interesting and quite a nice contrast between the two. Nok was’t a warrior, at all. I think this had to do with the destruction and trauma in his past that left him scarred. Especially compared to Lu, he was quite unsure of all that was to come.

It’s quite an interesting contrast, really. (I hadn’t actually thought about it until you mentioned it).

I don’t tend to have a hard time getting into a new world when reading a fantasy book, as I mostly seem to fall right in. However, this time it took me longer, and I really had to make an effort. Can you relate to this? 

Unfortunately, yes… It took about a 100 pages for me to get invested into the story. If it hadn’t been a Sister Review book I might have actually put it down and stopped reading. I don’t think it had to do with the fact The Girl King is a fantasy book. As I mentioned before, I think it largely had to do with my inability to connect with the characters and the writing style.

Finally, will you read the next instalment in this series, which comes out February 2020? 

I have to think about this. I might pick it up to see if it grabs my attention and to find out whether the sequel is better than the first book. However, right now I’m not really interested in reading the sequel.

  • Plot 60% 60%
  • Setting 80% 80%
  • Writing style 50% 50%
  • Characters 40% 40%
Reign the Earth by A. C. Gaughen | Book Review

Reign the Earth by A. C. Gaughen | Book Review

Reign the Earth by A.C. Gaughen

Book Review
Reign the Earth by A. C. Gaughen | Book ReviewReign the Earth by A.C. Gaughen
Series: The Elementae #1
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing on January 30th 2018
Genres: Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 438
Format: Hardcover
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five-stars

Shalia is a proud daughter of the desert, but after years of devastating war with the adjoining kingdom, her people are desperate for peace. Willing to trade her freedom to ensure the safety of her family, Shalia becomes Queen of the Bonelands.

But she soon learns that her husband, Calix, is motivated only by his desire to exterminate the Elementae—mystical people who can control earth, wind, air, and fire. Even more unsettling are Shalia’s feelings for her husband’s brother, which unleash a power over the earth she never knew she possessed—a power that could get her killed. As rumors of a rebellion against Calix spread, Shalia must choose between the last chance for peace and her own future as an Elementae.

“True power does not force others to make themselves smaller.”

Reign the Earth is such a richly spun tale full of amazingness that I am having trouble forming cohesive sentences about it, let alone write a full review. However, I decided that I am going to try because I want nothing more than to persuade you to read this book as well. I want to see this book on your shelves, your TBRs, and in your lives, period.

The main character, Shalia, is fiercely loyal and brave. She is such a selfless individual who, when faced with tough decisions, isn’t above doing everything in her powers to do the right thing. I loved getting to know her and seeing how she tackled the struggles that came her way (and believe me, there are plenty). Her story isn’t always easy to take. Especially her marriage with Callix and their relationship was very hard to read about. There is a very thin line that Shalia is walking and the smallest mishap could destroy all that she’d sacrificed.

The very best thing about Reign the Earth though is its setting and the variety of cultures. The worldbuilding was so well executed and an absolute joy to read about!

And if that isn’t enough, it all builds up to a finale that will give you feels aplenty! It’s devastating, it’s powerful, and it’s everything you want from such a powerhouse of a book.

Reign the Earth is a well-crafted and BEAUTIFUL book! If all things mentioned above won’t sway you to read it, then I have one last trick up my sleeve:  the cover alone is enough reason to pick Reign the Earth up. I am not above saying that if you occasionally fall prey to buying books for the cover, let Reign the Earth be one of them. I promise you that you will not regret it.

  • Characters 90% 90%
  • World Building 70% 70%
  • Plot 50% 50%
  • Romance 80% 80%

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson | Book Review

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson | Book Review

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson | Book ReviewAn Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on September 26th 2017
Genres: Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 300
Format: Hardcover
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four-half-stars




A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.

Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

Hello precious, and welcome to my top ten of favorite books this year! An Enchantment of Ravens was SUCH a beautiful book to read: gorgeous writing, wonderful characters, and a great plot. Honestly, I felt kinda desperate when I finished the book and realized it was a standalone novel because if there was more I would have jumped at the chance to dive into this world again.

If you’re a fan of fairy folklore, An Enchantment of Ravens is THE book for you. The story reminds me so much of traditional folklore and holds true to traditional aspects. At the same time, it is so incredibly unique and unlike anything I’ve read before. The various aspects of the story just work so well together; there’s humor, adventure, and lots of traveling. It’s wonderful!

The writing, guys… Margaret Rogerson is BORN to write. Her prose is so expertly crafted. It is creative and imaginative and I can’t wait to read more of her work. The world-building might have been a little on the underdeveloped side, but I found that I didn’t really care as much because the story was just so well-done.

One of my favorite (and main) aspects of the book is the whole concept of crafts; cooking, writing, painting, and so on. Isobel, our protagonist, paints for the faerie folk, who obsessively collect any crafts because they are unable to create any themselves. Then one day, out of the blue, a faerie prince shows up to have his portrait done and THE REST YOU’LL HAVE TO READ FOR YOURSELF. The whole concept is just so freaking awesome and well thought out.

You want to read An Enchantment of Ravens! It is such a gem to read and if you love faerie folklore or fantasy you won’t want to miss this. It is beautifully written and is so original you won’t want to stop reading until it’s finished -and then you’ll want more!

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh | Book Review

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh | Book Review

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh | Book ReviewFlame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
Series: Flame in the Mist #1
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on May 16th 2017
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance
Pages: 393
Format: Hardcover
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three-half-stars




The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

Flame in the Mist was a very enjoyable read, albeit a bit confusing with a plot that was a bit all over the place. Before I start this review, I first need to get something off my chest… Because, honestly, calling it a Mulan retelling seems a bit of a stretch, as one of the few things the two tales have in common is that both protagonists grab a knife and cut off their hair in order to hide their feminity. This too doesn’t really hold, as the idea of genderbending isn’t really exclusive to Mulan… It has been used before by many other authors, one of the most prominent being Shakespeare in Twelfth Night (which is believed to be written in the early 1600s). That being said… I LOVE GENDERBENDING. I need more genderbending stories, so this book is a step in the right direction!

This review has been waiting to be written for such a long time, but somehow I just couldn’t bring myself to write it. My main problem is that I have such mixed feelings about Flame in the Mist. I enjoyed the story quite a bit and I know I want to read the sequel, but I’m just not blown away by the story and a part of me expected to be blown away by it.

The romance was good… but it wasn’t great. The thing is, though, it was a slow burn romance and I’m usually ALL over that. But I think my annoyance stemmed from the fact that the love interest was simply the only ‘available’ love interest in Flame in the Mist. That, and I didn’t feel like this story necessarily needed a love interest. I think instead of focusing on the romance the story should have focussed more on who tried to kill Mariko. That way the plot would have been a little less all over the place and kept some focus.

Another plot element that I wasn’t sure about was the fantastical part. More than anything, that part confused me. I realize that this can very easily be solved in the sequel, but it doesn’t change the fact that it was ‘just there,’ and none of it is explained. The end of the story was pretty damn awesome, but it felt rushed and as a result, it left me unsatisfied and I really didn’t know what to do with it all.

Flame in the Mist was enjoyable but confusing. The story was really interesting, but the plot was all over the place and it left me unsatisfied as a result. I need that sequel to find out what happens next and to explain the leftover vagueness its predecessor left! I guess what I am trying to say is: Flame in the Mist had some awesome bits and some unsatisfactory bits, but I am not giving up on the story!

 

The Shadow Queen by C. J. Redwine | Book Review

The Shadow Queen by C. J. Redwine | Book Review

The Shadow Queen by C. J. Redwine | Book ReviewThe Shadow Queen by C. J. Redwine
Series: Ravenspire #1
Published by Balzer & Bray on February 16th 2016
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance
Pages: 387
Format: Hardcover
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four-stars




Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.

But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.

If you know me at all, you know that I’m all for fairytale retellings, and The Shadow Queen was all that a fairytale should be! A fantasy story with magic and dragons. You can sign me up for that anytime.

I think what I loved most about The Shadow Queen was that while it was gory and hard at times it also had that classic fairytale feeling to it. Like most fairytales, the story was brutal and choices were made that had to be made. There were plenty of plot twists and turns that I didn’t see coming (and frankly… I’m quite good at figuring out plot twists before they happen).

The protagonist, Lorelei, is calculated and kickass. I like how she’s a planner and has carefully got herself to a point of challenging the antagonist. Together with her brother Leo and Gabriel, who sort of became a father figure to them, they form a great team and have a great dynamic going. Trow a recently crowned king and his entourage into the mix and you got what I deem a recipe for a solid story. Kol is a Draconia, which means he can shapeshift into a dragon (COOL!) and he meets Lorelei early on without knowing who she is which causes plenty of problems for the both of them later on.

Although it is quite obvious early on who is going to end up with whom, I love that there was no instalove to be found. They slowly get to know each other (and themselves) and their relationship slowly blooms into something more. The fact that they’re both trying to save their respective kingdoms give them that something important in common that is the beginning of so much awesomeness.

Even more awesome is the fact that the antagonist isn’t just a villain for the sake of needing a villain in the story. Irina actually has a lot of depth and I enjoyed the chapters from her perspective as they provided an insight behind her motivations. She’s very well-written and a part of me actually felt for her as her past was filled with pain. Her narrative was confusing, but this only added to the whole vibe she had going on.

The Shadow Queen might not be the most impressive fairytale retelling, but it was a VERY enjoyable read and a solid read. In fact, I love how Lorelei and Kol’s story got resolved within this story. It was a fun book, with tons of great fantasy elements and very enjoyable characters! If you, like me, love fairytale retellings I suggest you give this one a go.