Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. It’s been three months since I posted my Spring TBR, and I’ve only managed to read two books out of the ten featured there. I am still intending to read the other eight books …
It’s been a few weeks since we uploaded our YA Book Prize 2021 shortlist reading vlog and discussion videos, so it’s about time I actually reviewed each of the ten shortlisted titles. I’m going to do these alphabetically, so feel free to scroll down if …
First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Hodder & Stoughton, for accepting my request to read and review this title via NetGalley.
In the Ravenous Dark is an ambitious standalone fantasy novel focused on life, death and love.
Rovan has always kept her blood magic a secret. Her father warned her that she needed to conceal her true identity, and after seeing him get killed in front of her the message couldn’t be any clearer to Rovan: if people discover her blood magic, she will die.
Unfortunately, she reveals her abilities and she’s left to deal with the consequences. Taken to the palace, Rovan is paired with a guardian called Ivrilos. Ivrilos is a shade: a spirit serving their country from the underworld. Rovan hates Ivrilos, as being paired gives him the power to control her actions and stop her from openly rebelling against the royal family. However, Rovan’s not the only one with a grudge against the powers in charge of Thanopolis, so rebellion might be possible after all…
A.M. Strickland combines blood and death magic in a luxurious Grecian-inspired setting. With characters wearing peplos, himation and chitons, and descriptions of marble buildings draped in greenery and flowers, Thanopolis is bound to stick in your mind for a long time.
As well as the setting, the cast of characters is superb. Ivrilos is a particular favourite of mine. It’s interesting when you meet a dead character, because there’s a lot of intrigue surrounding their back story. Finding out these answers from Ivrilos is a drawn out procedure which kept me engaged.
Two more characters who shone in this story are Japha and Lydea. Japha is non-binary, and they become Rovan’s first friend at the palace. Their on point fashion choices and sassy attitude make them a breath of fresh air in a fantasy book which isn’t afraid to dwell in darker moments. Meanwhile, Princess Lydea becomes (one of) Rovan’s love interests.
Rovan is troubled and acts childish at the start of the book, but that’s a powerful way of demonstrating the impact grief has on different people. Rovan was young when her father died and she was forced to grow up fast, using her blood magic to help her mother make enough money to keep their home. When we meet her, she drowns her sorrows in alcohol, spending as little time with her feelings as she possibly can. However, Rovan undergoes a dramatic amount of character development throughout this book. If you don’t like her at the start you will love her by the end. Rovan’s story has a lot of twists and turns which she has to learn to adapt to, and she’s very resilient.
Sadly, Rovan’s development felt rushed.
This is the only negative thing I have to say about In the Ravenous Dark: it shouldn’t have been a standalone. There is too much going on in this story – and this world – to cram it into 400 pages when it could have been fleshed out further and expanded upon. Rovan’s explanation of the sigil magic, the guardians and the bloodlines is compact, giving the reader all of the information that they need to understand this world in a remarkably short amount of pages.
I found it difficult to get my head around the magic system in this book when I first started it. That could have been my fault, as I read this at the same time as Ciannon Smart’s Witches Steeped in Gold. Unfortunately, there are similarities in the magic systems in both (one passed down from generation to generation after death, the other passed by transferring a bloodline – a literal line of bloody sigils – from one generation’s skin to the next). I hadn’t expected the two novels to have such similarities, but it does mean that if you have read and enjoyed either of these novels then you should pick up the other ASAP. That being said, I think the confusion would have been minimised if the information had shared a little less rapidly.
The short length also meant that I didn’t feel overly invested in Rovan’s relationships. Rovan being pansexual was a refreshing inclusion, and I enjoyed the discussions of polyamory (particularly the following quote).
“Even if they hadn’t been forced to be with anyone, and they wanted to be with more than one person… I wouldn’t blame them, either. We each have different gifts to offer, so why not share? Be a little beholden, but to more than one?”
Sadly, I thought that the polyamorous aspect was going to be a bigger part of the story than it was. I hoped the relationship would start before the book began, because Rovan meeting both of her love interests and falling for them over the course of the story didn’t feel realistic (especially not with everything else she had going on!). It detracted from my enjoyment of this book, as I wanted the enemies to lovers aspect to be a slow burn. Instead it seemed like a quick change of heart from both of the characters involved.
I can’t say all that much more without giving massive spoilers, so I’ll leave this review here. What I will say is that I wasn’t a fan of the ending, and that’s the main thing which contributed to my 3.5 star rating. The world and the characters were brilliant enough that I could have overlooked the rushed aspects of the plot, but unfortunately the ending wasn’t what I was hoping for.
If you’re looking for a book with a diverse cast of characters and a unique setting, I would recommend In the Ravenous Dark even though it wasn’t a new favourite for me.
Thank you for reading my review! If you’ve also read In the Ravenous Dark, please leave your thoughts down below.
See you again soon,
First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Wildfire for accepting my request to read and review this book via NetGalley. The best way to describe The Perfect Girlfriend is ‘a wild ride’. This adult thriller novel follows a woman called …
I’ve been struggling to review The Boy I Am since I read it because it’s hard to sum up how I feel about this book, but I’m going to give it one last try. I read The Boy I Am through NetGalley, so a huge thank you to Stripes for accepting my request to read and review this title.
The Boy I Am is an ambitious debut with the potential to become the first book in a longer series. Following a boy called Jude who is part of the House of Boys, K.L. Kettle’s dystopian world explores the idea of a society where boys are treated as commodities and women hold all of the positions of power.
K.L. Kettle throws you into her world without hesitation. When we meet Jude, he is in the middle of plotting to kill someone called the Chancellor, hoping to get revenge on her for something that happened in the past. Not knowing anything about the House of Boys, the structure of the world or even who the Chancellor is, the start of this novel is so fast that it feels as though it’s trying to give you whiplash.
That’s both a blessing and a curse. If you’re a reader who doesn’t like to be handled with kid gloves and wants to be completely immersed in the world of the story as quickly as possible, this will end up being a new favourite for you. If you’re more like me – someone who finds it much easier to get absorbed by the story once you’ve got the rules and the structure of the world worked out in your mind – The Boy I Am becomes a much more difficult book to read.
That being said, difficult doesn’t mean unenjoyable, and I still gave The Boy I Am four stars. By the end of the story I was wholly invested in Jude’s life and in the world that K.L. Kettle created, and I sincerely hope that she decides to write more books set in this world. As well as the House of Boys there are so many other houses mentioned, and it would be brilliant to be able to take a peek inside them.
Jude’s story feels resolved when the book ends, but there’s still so much to explore in this world. K.L. Kettle has obviously thought long and hard about all of the aspects of the society she’s created, and some of the things mentioned in passing piqued my interest. You can bet your bottom dollar that if this does end up being turned into a series I’ll be first in line to buy a copy of book two. I also think that if I do reread this book, I’ll end up giving it five stars. Even though I was completely bamboozled for the majority of the story, I felt such an emotional connection with Jude. Reading it again and having a prior comprehension of the rules of this world can only increase my enjoyment of this story.
The Boy I Am is K.L. Kettle’s debut novel, and it should be the start of a hugely successful writing career. If you like dystopian novels but want to read one which attempts something completely new and fresh, The Boy I Am is a must-read.
I hope you enjoyed this review, and thank you for visiting The Bumbling Blogger.
See you again soon,
I’ve finally finished Sword in the Stars, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on the two books in the Once & Future duology. I’ve already discussed Once & Future over on my Booktube channel, so make sure to check that out as well if …
First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Muswell Press for sending me an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
Louise Soraya Black’s second novel, The Water Garden, was not at all what I was hoping for, but I enjoyed it despite my wildly inaccurate expectations. Following a mother of two called Sarah as she moves back to the village where she grew up, the reader watches as she begins developing illicit feelings towards a teenager called Finn. Meanwhile, Louise Soraya Black reveals more about Sarah’s family history and why she might be feeling inexplicably drawn to this mysterious stranger.
I was primarily interested in The Water Garden because of the relationship between Sarah and Finn, so I found myself pleasantly surprised to discover that this novel is about far more than the relationship between an older woman and a younger man. This is a multi-generational story, following Sarah’s grandmother Maggie as she meets the man who becomes her husband, with chapters following the perspectives of Sarah’s mother and aunt, as well as exploring Finn’s family history, too.
There were a lot of things I enjoyed about The Water Garden. Top of that list has to be the evocative descriptions of the English countryside, which perfectly painted the scenery as it shifted with the seasons. I also found Sarah’s ruminations on the meaning of motherhood – the loss of her career, the inescapable drudgery of the household chores – to be relatable, and I appreciated the fact that the negative aspects of motherhood were discussed as well as the positives. Louise Soraya Black also does a great job of focusing on the importance of family, and how your family’s past can come back to haunt you in unexpected ways. The idea of a family secret is not a new one, but the way that Black weaved the tales together gave the concept life, and it made for a fresh and interesting story looking at lies and betrayal from the viewpoints of everyone impacted.
That being said, I found myself thoroughly disappointed by the end of the story. It feels incomplete. I would have happily read another 100-200 pages to be able to get a more satisfactory conclusion. The story still has so much potential when the novel ends. I am desperate to know what happens next, not only in both Sarah and Finn’s lives but in the lives of her aunt, her husband and their children. That’s the sign of a brilliant storyteller – Black brings these characters to life so vibrantly that it’s impossible to leave them behind – but also makes me feel hesitant about picking up more of Black’s work in the future, as I’m a reader who prefers to have less loose ends left trailing at the end of a story.
As the book finishes with more of a whimper than a bang, I find myself feeling increasingly disappointed in it the longer I reflect upon it. While I was hooked at the beginning and absolutely devouring the pages as soon as I reached the halfway point, the lackluster conclusion has tainted my appreciation of the rest of the story. I’m still giving this novel three stars, but there were times when I thought I’d found a new favourite author so that is a much lower rating than I’d expected to give!
I talked about The Water Garden a bit more during my May mid-month wrap up, so if you’d like to hear more of my thoughts on this novel, feel free to view that video here.
Once again, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Muswell Press for sending me a copy of this novel. If you like family drama, secrets and a story with a beautiful setting, this is a novel which you should definitely pick up.
Thank you for checking out this review, and I’ll see you again soon,
Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. I’m sorry for disappearing for a few weeks! The past few Top Ten Tuesday topics haven’t been inspiring to me, but I’ve also been having a difficult mental health spell and trying to concentrate …