book reviews, spoiler free

The Wicked King by Holly Black

26032887The Wicked King by Holly Black

Rating: XXXX

Published January 8th by Hot Key Books

Kiss me until I am sick of it”

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her, even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

(Also this review will contain no spoilers for The Wicked King, I cannot guarantee any non spoiler content for the first book in the series, The Cruel Prince.)

I read the first book in this series, The Cruel Prince on release last year after being super excited for when Holly Black herself told us all about it at the event with her and Cassandra Clare the year before and for those who have seen the review I did for it on YouTube last year you’ll know how much I loved it and it really heightened my love for the Hate/Love troupe and for potentially morally ambiguous murder girls like Jude. So suffice to say I’ve been pretty excited for this sequel since the moment I read the last page of The Cruel Prince and although I wasn’t able to get this one dead on release day this time, I did get it a week later and absolutely devour it the moment I got it and at every available opportunity afterwards until I finished it.

The Wicked King has a similar tone to The Cruel Prince but with much higher stakes, the way Jude is treated as Seneschal to the High King is obviously different to how she was treated as a mortal child, weather “daughter” of the high general or not but she still faces the same kind of degradation and mocking, it’s just a lot more underhanded but no less impactful. What does change the way a lot of these moments play out is Jude’s reaction to these occurrences and how her actions in retaliation can have a larger ripple affect in all of her plans and potentially the future of Elfhame. I enjoyed the new dynamic as I always used to read a lot of Historical Fiction with a large amount of under handed court scheming and the like so this felt like very familiar territory and done especially well i that style that Holly Black has where she can make everything seem beautiful and mesmerising yet deadly and terrifying all at once.

We got to see a lot more of the inner workings of the High Kings court in The Wicked King then we did via the Court of Shadows previously which I found interesting but occasionally they were sandwiched in between some other really tantalising part of the story and I found myself racing through those parts to get back to it, a little like most of the Sansa Stark chapters in the Game of Thrones books (unrelated note – Sansa is so much more awesome in the show). This wasn’t a huge problem by any means but I think it might have affected my rating a little because it sticks out in my mind as making the middle feel a little slow or frustrating which is crazy because they were still written well and fairly interesting they just had the misfortune to be placed between parts I was desperate to get back to. That being this may have a just been a great tension building technique that may have gone over my head.

Locke, Cardan and Jude were all brilliantly terrible as they were originally, by terrible I mean I like that everyone is morally grey and for want of a better term to describe them “chaotic neutral” in that they are just as much likely to stab you in the face as help you depending on their mood and thanks to Holly this is easily becoming one of my favourite types of characters. I love that Cardan is so hard to read, for Jude and for me as the reader, there’s just something about feeling like you can never truly trust any of these characters that I adore and Cardan is one hundred percent the best example of that. Taryn was another character I think excelled in The Wicked King, especially in the latter half of the book, I found her quite irritating in The Cruel Prince and although we see less of her in the sequel, what we do see of her is brilliant.

I won’t speak too much on the ‘relationship’ between Jude and Cardan but although I know the “I hate you because I love/want you” is not a healthy basis for a real life relationship in any way shape or form, especially with the lengths of cruelty and manipulation these two can take it too but that is the beauty of Fiction because for these characters especially it suits so well and I’m so very here for it, especially with it being a very two way thing between them both. Also the quote “Kiss me until I’m sick of it” is probably one of my top ten favourite quotes of all time.

As expected I was completely blown away by the last one hundred pages and made the mistake of staying up late to finish it as I couldn’t put it down and then being unable to sleep for thinking “well, what comes next” for the next two hours. If you loved or enjoyed The Cruel Prince I definitely recommend picking up its sequel for more of the same great content but with higher stakes, more Jude murdering, more Jude and Cardan, more fae scheming and back stabbing – lots of my favourite things.

Events

YALC Day Two Recap

38033533_10155377690551581_3846537689134268416_n

Day Two of my YALC recap is here (yes two weeks later I’m aware). The Saturday of YALC was a great one but easily the most grueling. I had a lot of signings I wanted to get to, three of which were straight after a panel and with very popular authors but I’ll go into more detail about that later.

My first stop of the morning was to the Hot Key Books stand where I signed up for a Siren makeover and grabbed a copy of To Kill a Kingdom to get signed by author Alexandra Christi, I had a digital ARC of the book and loved it so knew I had to get a hard copy. The lovely ladies at the stall also made an easy extra two book sales by informing me that M.A Bennett would be around to sign books later too so I grabbed a copy of The Island and then also telling me that their books were 3 for £10 and I nabbed a copy of Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray after loving her work on Star Wars: Bloodline and Leia, plus I was in a very spacey kind of mood.

38000400_10155377689611581_991614361309020160_n

37971802_10155377689871581_2064893016035819520_n

On the way to get my Siren make up done I also paid a quick visit to the Ink Road Stall after having a lovely chat with the ladies there the day before. I figured I’d pop over and say hi, see how they were doing etc and I also wanted to pick up a sampler for Summer Bird Blue when I spot Akemi Dawn Bowman just sitting behind the stand  – which is fine she’s an actual human being who is allowed to sit etc but I just hadn’t expected it as she wasn’t signing until Sunday. I mumbled about how much I loved Starfish and then got super nervous and kind of ran away. I’m an idiot but plucked up the courage after a quick sit down and a drink to head back and say hi properly. She was SO lovely and signed my sampler for me as I wouldn’t have my copy of Starfish with me until the next day and we took a picture together, it was lovely and was a super awesome start to the day. Apart from the running away bit obviously.

37979847_10155377689696581_6838901022698504192_n

Next up were the signings for the Floored authors! For some reason I assumed that all of the authors would perhaps be at a table together and we’d all queue in one line then when we got to the front we would work our way across each of the authors and DONE. Alas it was not to be! I think I got this idea from the fact that all of the authors were represented on the timetable by a picture of the Floored book cover whereas when they’d been shown on other days they had different pictures, i.e Non’s was Giant days (and I’m an idiot and didn’t take Floored for her to sign with me when I met her then!). The way it was shown said to me that it was a special signing session for Floored but I was horrified to discover when I got to the signing area that we actually had to queue individually for almost every one of the authors and they were NOT small queues by any stretch of the imagination. I managed to only miss Melinda Sailsbury and Non Pratt in the end telling myself I was likely to see them at more events and possibly YALC next year thankfully as I absolutely had to sit down for a but and have something to drink etc. I’d brought a big bottle of juice squash I’d left in the freezer over night and it was an absolute live saver each day so I’ll definitely be doing that again next year.

38746724_2149667351729905_1261963865189515264_n

As you can see I managed to bump into Melinda Sailsbury later on and she was more than happy to sign my copy of Floored for me as she was a bit miffed that the Showmasters staff cut her queue off and didn’t tell her when she was more than happy to keep on signing. As much as I liked the extra space we have on the YALC floor I wonder if it’s time for a bit more of a move around so we have more space for signing queues or a better application of the virtual queue ticketing which I think is a great idea when used right.

Before heading off to the “Among the Stars” panel I met up with a load of the girls from the SundayYA group and got a few group pictures taken (one of which is the header for this post). Again it was lovely seeing everyone and OH MY GOSH Layla’s Kaz cosplay was STUNNING.

38008785_10155377689996581_1271387495883341824_n

I was SO excited for the Among the Stars panel that I can’t even explain. I literally wore a spacey outfit for the occasion. The panel featured Becky Chambers, Lauren James, Lindsay Cummings, Sasha Alsberg and was chaired by Samantha Shannon. The panel was to discuss space and creating worlds that none of us have had the chance to go to except in our authors wonderful books and it did NOT disappoint. I was lucky enough to even be able to ask a question (who would you chose to take to space with you?). Not to mention at the end of the talk Lauren James revealed the cover for her new book “The Quiet at the End of the World which I am SO SO ready for already. Also look at this cover it’s gorgeous!!

37984079_10155377690291581_1599672350490492928_n

Next were the dreaded signings. I had been anxious all day about getting to all three authors in their two-hour signing slots because they’re so very popular. I joined the Sasha Alsberg queue first and was super pleased to have managed to get in quite near the front. We (me and Mel) were in fact in the first thirty which meant we won a Geeky Clean Zenith Bath Bomb (which I had inadvertently helped design while wicking candles for a super secret NPC thing). Meeting Sasha was AMAZING. I could talk and talk about Zenith and my copy is FULL of tabs as it was my very first ARC/review copy I had ever had and I’d read it twice so I mean it when I say it is FULL of these little tabs. Sasha loved going through asking me what each colour meant and I was a little embarrassed as a few were frustrated or annoyed bits but she told me it means so much to see a copy of her book like that and I thought I was going to cry which is totally lame. Sasha’s channel was the very first booktube chanel I ever watched and she got me hooked on Shadowhunters so I’m so glad I got to meet someone who had already had such an impact on me. It was also so lovely that she had brought bookplates signed by Lindsay along with her too as Lindsay couldn’t make it as she’s getting ready to have her baby soon and it was such a nice little touch. P.S Don’t ask about the picture we had taken together because I made a face at Steph and that was the picture I got so I’ll include one of us talking while she went though my tabs instead!

38057383_10155377690121581_7633402584421629952_n

37989692_10155377690546581_3564645585199824896_n

While I was in the queue for Sasha I started to feel a bit dismayed about getting through the other queues as they were building fast. Thankfully the lovely Jenn and her boyfriend were next to us in the Becky Chambers queue and her boyfriend offered to take mine to get it signed which I am super grateful for as I don’t think I would have been able to make it through all of them. I do wonder whether YALC need to consider the types of authors they’re all having signing at the same time and weather or not these are authors people are going to want to meet all of and perhaps stagger them a bit more?

Thankfully I did manage to make it through the queue to meet Lauren James! I absolutely LOVED her book that released early at YALC last year “The Loneliest Girl In The Universe” and was that weekend actually reading her debut book “The Next Together” (which I reviewed on Tuesday if you want to check it out) so it was even more fantastic than normal to meet her. Being one of my top favourite authors and an instabuy for me I was so happy to get this chance to talk to her and get excited about her new book etc.

37958119_10155377690391581_456887303709655040_n

The day was coming to an end fast and I had one more signing to get to and that was for Laura Steven, the author of The Exact Opposite of Okay which is another book that really resonated with me and my teenage years. It was lovely to have a nice chat with her and let her know how grateful I am for this fantastic, funny and important book she’s written as well as telling her much I couldn’t wait to get hold of the sequel coming next year!

37985298_10155377690531581_5791889486010908672_n

It was a long old day and my only real problem were the way some of the signings were done to be honest. The overground wasn’t running that weekend so I had to get the district line back to Liverpool Street, I ended up on a wrong tube but it all worked out pretty good in the end. Mainly because I met a super adorable Dog who wanted to sit with me have strokes and share my fan. Win/win situation. I’ll be back tomorrow for my Day Three recap and my all round sum up!

38071725_10155377692786581_979330217971548160_n

I couldn’t not post the picture of this good boy!

book reviews, spoiler free

To Kill a Kingdom – Review

36120821

To Kill A Kingdom by Alexandra Christo 

Rating: XXXXX

Published: March 6th 2018 by Hot Key Books
(I received an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review)

“I have a heart for every year I’ve been alive.”

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

I’d heard of “To Kill A Kingdom” in passing a few times on Instagram, a few online friends and other bloggers had received hard copies from the publisher etc but I hadn’t paid it much mind, seeing the tentacles on the cover and assuming sea monster story. WRONG. It caught my eye again while browsing for a new read on Net Galley and after finally reading the synopsis for myself knew that I needed to get hold of this book. I like swimming, I like mermaids but I also like kick ass female characters and not too much silly romance (not all romance is silly but some can feel a little gag inducing). Mermaids weren’t often the center of much ass kicking but sirens however…now we’re talking! Reading this synopsis I imagine a much more blood soaked retelling of The Little mermaid and smoosh that request button so hard. Suffice to say the moment my request was approved I squeaked, did a little dance and shut myself in my room with my kindle and a packet of biscuits.

The start of this book is blood thirsty, dark and is certainly not pulling any punches, I love a good book that can get my adrenaline going from the start and reel me in. From the beginning the Siren’s side of things is often blood soaked and raw, even the way they treat each other, these scenes are often so tense with the promise of savagery and violence that I devoured them up with reckless abandon, hungry for more.  We see this story from the Prince’s point of view as well which provided a good insight and needed information as well as another interesting perspective and dynamic. That and he, his pirate crew and his ship “The Saad” are absolutely brilliant and just as important characters as Lira herself.  The Over all the plot is good, fun and mostly exciting, even if some of the excitement comes from intrigue instead of purely action (there is plenty of both though!). It did however feel a little short to me and that everything at the end happened so fast that I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on. I think this might possibly  be because of the fact it’s a standalone book which is sadly a rare commodity these days. That and I devoured the last half of this book in a day or so which made it felt like the end appeared rather quickly – this is purely my own fault though.

The writing felt easy flowing and kept the pace going at the right moments and then beautiful and descriptive when needed. There’s nothing I hate more then a tense or action filled scene caught up with too many words that aren’t needed, thankfully that isn’t the case here. I will say I found the POV changes a little jarring and they probably could have done with being labelled so I knew who I was reading as sometimes I would get a paragraph or so into a chapter before realising who’s side of the story I’m reading. It wasn’t the end of the world though and after a while I reasoned it was a good example of how similar Lira and Elain  really are if I can’t tell at first glance who’s narrative I’m reading.

I really enjoyed Lira’s character progression, although it takes a fairly obvious route there’s much more to it, the same could be said for Elain, although his is a little more standard both character arc’s feel fairly natural as do the connections they make and conclusions they come to which is a breath of fresh air from some of the books I’ve been reading lately. It’s not until after when I tried to list their characteristics that I truly realise how similar Lira and Elain mirror each other, they’re both sassy as hell and this means that a lot of their banter is brilliant and quick witted. If nothing else had sold me on this book that alone would have kept me reading, it was done so well.

“They’re insane and wonderful.” Elain himself finds the best way to describe his crew. Although the crew is fairly big we get a few main characters and personalities to focus on, I particularly loved the relationship between Kye and Madrid who are a couple and click so well while not being too much, they give me serious Zoe and Wash vibes (Firefly) and are total relationship goals. Each named character feels genuine and fleshed out, whether that be by description, dialogue or inferred from the environment. It makes them easy to read and imagine.

There is a romance in this which like the character progression I feel is fairly obvious but in the same way is different from a lot of the standard romance troupes we see in YA at the moment. Lira never loses sight of the end game and her goals. I’m so pleased to see a heroine not completely lose her head (or fins) for a love interest. Not once does this fierce, passionate creature become overly simpery or compromised in an uncharacteristic way and I’m all about that. There is one little scene that felt a bit strange and out of nowhere which I wasn’t keen on but it was fast rectified with a similar and much better connected moment later on so I can forgive it.

Overall this book was super enjoyable and covered a lot of bases for me. It was fast paced, fantasy based, just the right amount of romance and some of my favorite types of characters. Also pirates…did I mention pirates? I couldn’t put my finger on an exact rating for this, torn between XXXX and XXXXX as I enjoyed the heck out of this book and will certainly be recommending it to everyone I can as well as buying the finished edition when it releases but the XXXXX rating is often reserved for feels destroyers which this wasn’t quite for me but is nether the less a great book. Therefore I shall award my first XXXX/X rating to “Kill a Kingdom” it was well earned.

You can pre-order this book at Book Depository, Amazon or Waterstones and you can add it to your Goodreads here.