Review: The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley



The Emperor’s Blades

Book One of the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne

by Brian Staveley

Fantasy | 569 Pages | Published by Tor in 2014


| Rating |


Conspiracy. Murder. Treachery. In this debut fantasy from Brian Staveley the intricacies of empire, the loyalty between family, friends and comrades, and the human spirit are pushed to breaking point in pursuit of truth, vengeance and the unknown. Staveley has crafted a compelling narrative which twists and turns through dangerous lands and treasonous plots. With incredible, fluid detail, The Emperor’s Blades is a stunningly addictive debut which captures both the heart and the imagination.

The circle is closing. The stakes are high. And old truths will live again…

The Emperor has been murdered, leaving the Annurian Empire in turmoil. Now his progeny must prepare to unmask a conspiracy. His son Valyn, training for the empire’s deadliest fighting force, hears the news an ocean away. And after several ‘accidents’ and a dying soldier’s warning, he realizes his life is also in danger. Yet before Valyn can act, he must survive the mercenaries’ brutal final initiation.

The Emperor’s daughter, Minister Adare, hunts her father’s murderer in the capital. Court politics can be fatal, but she needs justice. Lastly Kaden, heir to the empire, studies in a remote monastery. Here, the Blank God’s disciples teach their harsh ways, which Kaden must master to unlock ancient powers. But when an imperial delegation arrives, has he learnt enough to keep him alive, as long-hidden powers make their move?

With cover art worthy of the Old Gods themselves, the first in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne opens up a rich world of sumptuous palaces, bleak mountains and treacherous islands. As Emperor Sanlitun hui’Malkeenian falls to an assassin’s blade, the fate of an empire rests on the heirs to the Malkeenian line – Kaden, heir apparent and acolyte to the Shin Monks; Valyn, cadet of the elite Kettral wing; and Adare, Royal Princess and Chief Minister of Finance of the Annurian Empire.

As suspicious accidents, cruel deaths and nightmarish creatures haunt the Malkeenian heirs; mind, body and spirit are pushed to breaking point through a series of gruelling punishments, impossible tasks and questionable loyalties. As treason spreads in the heart of Annur, Adare’s home has little distinction between palace and prison; and with only a matter of time before Kaden becomes the assassin’s next victim, Valyn must find the strength to survive Hull’s Trial and find a way off the Qirin Islands… before family and empire are all but lost.

Worlds apart, the lives of the three heirs to the Malkeenian line divides the novel into three perilous locations. The harsh and unforgiving Bone Mountains, home to the Shin monks of Ashk’lan, where acolytes seek to unlock long hidden powers through strength and stillness of body and mind; The dangerous Qirin Islands, a haven for the criminal underbelly and training grounds of the Kettral, an elite military wing famed for their stealth, deception, brute strength and speed; and the capital of the Empire, Annur, as sumptuous as it is treacherous, where the military, ministers and priests vie for power.

The Emperor’s Blades succeeds in detailing these locations through a wealth of history, back story and the intricacies of culture and religion, which all play a pivotal role in underpinning both the narrative and its character. But while the intrigues of court in the heart of Annur and the strange powers which reveal themselves amongst the Shin monks are an integral and exciting element of the story, the grit and spirit of the novel, for me, really comes across amongst the Kettral of the Qirin Islands. The hardship of training, the (sometimes grudging) camaraderie,  and the ever present danger build edge-of-the-seat tension and make for an exhilarating read.

Yet while the worldbuilding in The Emperor’s Blades truly makes for a rich and expansive novel, and the writing rapts all attention, the real strength throughout the narrative is the characterisation, in particular that of the protagonists. The children of Sanliitun hui’Malkeenian are as different as the locations they’ve grown up in, but each has a wilfulness and strength of character that endears the reader to them and had me championing all three throughout.

Adare, surrounded by those she cannot tell from friend or foe, is clever and calculating but as a princess and a woman must constantly prove her worth to ensure her position is not lost. Valyn, trained by the most elite warriors of the empire, must undergo gruelling physical tests while seeking out those who would betray him  from amongst his own sword-brothers. Kaden, who lives a secluded life under the tutelage – and frequent punishment – of the Shin monks, is innocent to much of the scheming and treachery which plagues his siblings but, as rightful Emperor, faces the most danger of all.

These three characters are the focal point from which loyalty and betrayal, and strength and weakness radiate; characters which, as a reader, I found utterly captivating. This richly detailed novel, which maintains a pace reminiscent of action novels and which consistently draws you back in, has become one of my favourite reads of the past few years. This is a blade wielding, heart pounding and tear jerking triumph, and my investment in Staveley’s creation remains wholeheartedly assured.

The Emperor’s Blades is a fast-paced, exhilarating read whose characters exhibit great depth and realism, whose world is dangerous, beautiful and delightfully complex, and whose writing is simply stunning. I, for one, cannot wait to get my hands on its sequel, The Providence of Fire.

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Review: The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky



The Tiger and the Wolf

Book One of the Echoes of the Fall

by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Fantasy | 590 Pages | Published by Tor UK in 2016


| Rating |


This book was received from Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Bleak. Brutal. Brilliant. The Tiger and the Wolf is a unique and powerful novel, where loyalties are defined by birth and where cultures clash with spectacular frequency. Adrian Tchaikovsky has succeeded in creating a novel with incredible scope and limitless vision; a vivid depiction of a world inspired by the cultures of our past and told in a style unique to this series. This is a novel where only the strong will survive, where the weak will perish and where wars are played out both on the battlefield and within the soul.

In the bleak northern crown of the world, war is coming

Maniye’s father is the Wolf clan’s chieftain, but she’s an outcast. Her mother was queen of the Tiger and these tribes have been enemies for generations. Maniye also hides a deadly secret. All can shift into their clan’s animal form, but Maniye can take on tiger and wolf shapes. She can’t disown half her soul, so escapes – with the killer Broken Axe in pursuit.

Maniye’s father plots to rule the north, and controlling his daughter is crucial to his schemes. However, other tribes also prepare for strife. It’s a season for omens as priests foresee danger, a time of testing and broken laws. Some say a great war is coming, overshadowing even Wolf ambitions. But what spark will set the world ablaze?

The first in the Echoes of the Fall series follows the story of Maniye, a young Wolf and Tiger halfbreed of the wolf tribe, the Winter Runners. As daughter of her tribe’s Chief, Maniye struggles to put the wishes off her father and the tribe before her desires for freedom. With war threatened between the tribes and the struggle for power becoming ever apparent, Maniye must choose between the dangers within her tribe and those without. With a narrative which weaves magic, folklore and a clash of cultures, this is survival of the fittest on an epic scale.

The Tiger and the Wolf is a world of shapeshifters, a world where every tribe, every clan and every society worships a different animal god; their souls taking on the form of this totem allowing the individual to ‘step’ into their animal form. The narrative slowly etches out a detailed history of a world populated by a myriad of different peoples whose cultures and way of life are defined by their animal totems. From the cold brutality of the north, to the hot River Lands of the south, each setting further shapes the people who inhabit it – and their place on the food chain.

We begin this novel with the wolves, a brutal, hard and unforgiving people who’ve learned to survive in the cold northern climate, a people who glory in death and revel in war. The wolf tribes are a fascinating and terrifying society who thrive in conditions which would be the death of others, but whose harsh and brutal way of life brings something of a depressing outlook to the future of our protagonist. This bleak aspect is diverted however by the introduction of new characters and settings over the course of the novel.

The many tribes and people who inhabit this vast and impressive landscape bring a sense of depth to the narrative; the solitary bears, the graceful deer, the nomadic horse and the foe of all wolves, the dark and mysterious tiger, all bring a rich and vivid quality to the world. But whilst we get a picture of many of these people, the emphasis in this novel is on the predators, those warlike people and cultures who bring a bloody dimension to the novel, a dimension which Tchaikovsky consistently executes with skill and precision.

Whilst The Tiger and the Wolf depicts a wonderfully crafted and detailed world, the characterisation also contributes heavily to the overall feel of the novel. This is a world where each character and every society has something of their totem animal about them, creating distinctive animalistic personalities whilst, for the most part, avoiding the creation of one dimensional societal groups.

Maniye is a wonderfully innocent and conflicted protagonist whose place in the world and whose future is always less than certain. She conveys a sense of innocence and pragmatism at all times and the duality of her warring souls gives a well rounded dimensionality to her character, an aspect that can sometimes be a bit one sided in the ‘extras’ of the novel.

The supporting cast however bring diversity and excitement to the narrative with the north fielding the mysterious killer Broken Axe, the solitary Loud Thunder, and the power hungry chief of the Winter Runners, Akrit Stone River; and the south introducing the strange cultures of the snake priests, crocodile champions and Laughing Men in a landscape where pirates and warriors abound. This impressive array of characters and cultures are more than enough to capture the imagination and carry over the excitement into the next novel.

The Tiger and the Wolf is a fantastic series opener written in a wonderfully unique style, a style which almost takes you to the side of a campfire in the dead of night, listening to the shrieks of owls and tales of long forgotten ages. Tchaikovsky has created a beautiful and brutal world where the clash of cultures and tribal skirmishes are part of daily existence, and which comes across as unique in both its execution and as an addition to his impressive literary repertoire. The Tiger and the Wolf is a beautiful novel which showcases the diversity that is becoming ever apparent in Tchaikovsky’s work and which I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. This long anticipated novel didn’t fail to impress and, with the publication of Spiderlight in the summer, it looks like Tchaikovsky will continue to make his presence felt in the world of genre fiction – or, at the very least, on my bookshelf.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Most Anticipated Releases of 2016


Top Ten TuesdayWelcome to Top Ten Tuesday – a weekly feature hosted by those lovely bookworms over at The Broke and the Bookish. Expect a new top ten list every week!


| Top Ten… Most Anticipated Releases of 2016 |

Welcome back to another week’s Top Ten Tuesday. I hope you’ve all had a wonderful Christmas whether you celebrate or not! 2015 is finally drawing to a close and for this week’s Top Ten we’re looking at the most anticipated releases of 2016 – and it certainly promises to be a spectacular year for fiction! In no particular order, here are the books I’m most looking forward to getting my hands on in the coming year:

| 1. |

Sharp Ends

Sharp Ends

by Joe Abercrombie

26th April 2016

The Union army may be full of bastards, but there’s only one who thinks he can save the day single-handed when the Gurkish come calling: the incomparable Colonel Sand dan Glokta.

Curnden Craw and his dozen are out to recover a mysterious item from beyond the Crinna. Only one small problem: no one seems to know what the item is.

Shevedieh, the self-styled best thief in Styria, lurches from disaster to catastrophe alongside her best friend and greatest enemy, Javre, Lioness of Hoskopp.

And after years of bloodshed, the idealistic chieftain Bethod is desperate to bring peace to the North. There’s only one obstacle left – his own lunatic champion, the most feared man in the North: the Bloody-Nine . . .

Sharp Ends combines previously published, award-winning tales with exclusive new short stories. Violence explodes, treachery abounds, and the words are as deadly as the weapons in this rogue’s gallery of side-shows, back-stories, and sharp endings from the world of the First Law.

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| 2. |

Daughter of Blood

Daughter of Blood

by Helen Lowe

26th January 2016

A falling wall, a broken shield… and an enemy that will exploit every weakness.

Malian and Kalan are coming home, but already it may be too late. The Wall of Night, dangerously weakened by civil war among the Derai families that garrison it, is on the verge of failing. Everywhere their ancient enemy, the Darksworn, is on the move as the threads of an old pattern begin to tighten.

In Grayharbor and in the Red Keep, a child and a young woman are caught in conflict’s maw, as whispers gather around Dread Pass and a Darksworn prophecy points to Malian herself being the stake the ancient enemy will drive into the heart of the Derai Alliance.

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| 3. |

The Bands of Mourning

The Bands of Mourning

by Brandon Sanderson

28th January 2016

With The Alloy of Law and Shadows of Self, Brandon Sanderson surprised readers with a New York Times bestselling spinoff of his Mistborn books, set after the action of the trilogy, in a period corresponding to late 19th-century America.

Now, with The Bands of Mourning, Sanderson continues the story. The Bands of Mourning are the mythical metalminds owned by the Lord Ruler, said to grant anyone who wears them the powers that the Lord Ruler had at his command. Hardly anyone thinks they really exist. A kandra researcher has returned to Elendel with images that seem to depict the Bands, as well as writings in a language that no one can read. Waxillium Ladrian is recruited to travel south to the city of New Seran to investigate. Along the way he discovers hints that point to the true goals of his uncle Edwarn and the shadowy organization known as The Set.
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| 4. |

The Tiger and the Wolf

The Tiger and the Wolf

by Adrian Tchaikovsky

11th February 2016

In the bleak northern crown of the world, war is coming.

Maniye’s father is the Wolf clan’s chieftain, but she’s an outcast. Her mother was queen of the Tiger and these tribes have been enemies for generations. Maniye also hides a deadly secret. All can shift into their clan’s animal form, but Maniye can take on tiger and wolf shapes. She can’t disown half her soul, so escapes – with the killer Broken Axe in pursuit.

Maniye’s father plots to rule the north, and controlling his daughter is crucial to his schemes. However, other tribes also prepare for strife. It’s a season for omens as priests foresee danger, a time of testing and broken laws. Some say a great war is coming, overshadowing even Wolf ambitions. But what spark will set the world ablaze?

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| 5. |

Morning Star

Morning Star

by Pierce Brown

11th February 2016

Red Rising thrilled readers and announced the presence of a talented new author. Golden Son totally changed the game and took the story of Darrow to the next level. Now comes the exhilarating conclusion to the Red Rising Trilogy: Morning Star.

Born a lowly Red in the mines of Mars, Darrow lost his beloved wife to the treacherous Gold overlords. Vowing to fight for the future that his wife believed in, Darrow joins a secret revolutionary group and is remade into a Gold so that he can infiltrate the ruling class and bring them down from the inside. Now, after years of hiding amongst the Golds, Darrow is finally ready to declare open revolution and throw off the chains of oppression. Nothing in Darrow’s world has been easily won, and this final fight will be the most harrowing of all.

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| 6. |

A Gathering of Shadows

A Gathering of Shadows

by V.E. Schwab

23rd February 2016

Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London.

In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games—an extravagant international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries—a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again—meaning that another London must fall.

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| 7. |


Children of Earth and Sky

Children of Earth and Sky

by Guy Gavriel Kay

12th May 2016

The bestselling author of the groundbreaking novels Under Heaven and River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay is back with a new novel, Children of Earth and Sky, set in a world inspired by the conflicts and dramas of Renaissance Europe. Against this tumultuous backdrop the lives of men and women unfold on the borderlands—where empires and faiths collide.

From the small coastal town of Senjan, notorious for its pirates, a young woman sets out to find vengeance for her lost family. That same spring, from the wealthy city-state of Seressa, famous for its canals and lagoon, come two very different people: a young artist traveling to the dangerous east to paint the grand khalif at his request—and possibly to do more—and a fiercely intelligent, angry woman, posing as a doctor’s wife, but sent by Seressa as a spy.

The trading ship that carries them is commanded by the accomplished younger son of a merchant family, ambivalent about the life he’s been born to live. And farther east a boy trains to become a soldier in the elite infantry of the khalif—to win glory in the war everyone knows is coming.

As these lives entwine, their fates—and those of many others—will hang in the balance, when the khalif sends out his massive army to take the great fortress that is the gateway to the western world…

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| 8. |

The Silver Tide

by Jen Williams

25th February 2016

Tales of the Black Feather Three and their exploits abound far and wide, and Wydrin of Crosshaven, Lord Aaron Frith and Sir Sebastian have become sell swords in demand. Having foiled powerful mages and evil magic, they now face a challenge unlike any before – in the form of Wydrin’s mother.

Devinia the Red, notorious pirate and captain of the Poison Chalice, is intent on finding the fabled treasure hidden within the jungles of the cursed island of Euriale. She needs the skills of her daughter Wydrin and her companions to get there, and our heroes cannot resist the lure of coin and adventure. But no explorer has returned from the heart of the island, and it’s not long before the Three find themselves in the clutches of peril. Deep within the island of the gods, there are remnants of forces best left undisturbed…

Follow the reckless heroes of The Copper Promise and The Iron Ghost in an epic quest unlike any they have faced before.

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| 9. |

The Trees

The Trees

by Ali Shaw

10th March 2016

There came an elastic aftershock of creaks and groans and then, softly softly, a chinking shower of rubbled cement. Leaves calmed and trunks stood serene. Where, not a minute before, there had been a suburb, there was now only woodland standing amid ruins…

There is no warning. No chance to prepare.

They arrive in the night: thundering up through the ground, transforming streets and towns into shadowy forest. Buildings are destroyed. Broken bodies, still wrapped in tattered bed linen, hang among the twitching leaves.

Adrien Thomas has never been much of a hero. But when he realises that no help is coming, he ventures out into this unrecognisable world. Michelle, his wife, is across the sea in Ireland and he has no way of knowing whether the trees have come for her too.

Then Adrien meets green-fingered Hannah and her teenage son Seb. Together, they set out to find Hannah’s forester brother, to reunite Adrien with his wife – and to discover just how deep the forest goes.

Their journey will take them to a place of terrible beauty and violence, to the dark heart of nature and the darkness inside themselves.

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| 10. |

Corsair

Corsair

by James L. Cambias

10th May 2016

In the early 2020s, two young, genius computer hackers, meet at MIT. One, Elizabeth Santiago, dreams of technology and space travel. The other, David Schwartz, is just looking to make a quick buck.

Nearly ten years later, David is setting himself to become a billionaire by working in the shadows for international thieves, while Elizabeth works in intelligence preventing international space piracy. With robotic mining in space becoming a lucrative part of Earth’s economy, her job has become increasingly stressful.

David and Elizabeth fight for dominance of the computer systems controlling ore drop placement in international waters. If David can nudge a shipment 500 miles off its target, his employers can get there first and claim it legally in the open sea. Each one intuits that the other is their real competition but can’t prove it. When Elizabeth loses a major shipment, she leaves government employ to work for a private space company to find a better way to protect shipments. But international piracy has very high stakes and some very evil players, and both Elizabeth and David are in for a world of trouble.
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What are your most anticipated releases of 2016? If you would like to join in with Top Ten Tuesday, head on over to The Broke and the Bookish and sign up!

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Top Ten ‘X-mas’ Tuesday: Top Ten… Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Leaving Under My Tree


Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday – a weekly feature hosted by those lovely bookworms over at The Broke and the Bookish. Expect a new top ten list every week!


| Top Ten… Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Leaving Under My Tree |

Ahh it’s almost Christmas and for this week’s Top Ten we’re listing the books we wouldn’t mind Santa leaving under our trees. A mix of both old and new releases, this is a pile of books I absolutely can’t wait to read. So sit back, crack open the mulled wine and mince pies, and take a look at some of the goodies that may or may winging their way to me this Christmas.

| 1. |

The Aeronaut’s Windlass

by Jim Butcher

The Cinder Spires is set in a world “of black spires that tower for miles over a mist-shrouded surface” and follows a war between two of the Spires: Spire Albion and Spire Aurora.

It’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen meets Sherlock meets Hornblower. There are goggles and airships and steam power and bizarre crystal technology and talking cats, who are horrid little bullies.heart

| 2. |

Legion: Skin Deep

by Brandon Sanderson

Following the success of Legion, Legion: Skin Deep charts another fast moving and gripping adventure for Stephen Leeds, AKA Legion. Leeds is a genius, his mind contains too much information. And to cope it his split his skills off into individual personalities. They crowd his head and he lives with them in a vast empty mansion. While he can call on any one of them to solve a problem he also walks a line across an all-consuming madness.

Legion: Skin Deep is an all-new, action-packed novella starring one of the most fascinating and charismatic heroes ever.heart

| 3. |

Shadow’s Edge

by Brent Weeks

Kylar Stern has rejected the assassin’s life. The Godking’s successful coup has left Kylar’s master, Durzo, and his best friend, Logan, dead. He is starting over: new city, new friends, and new profession.

But when he learns that Logan might actually be alive and in hiding, Kylar is faced with an agonizing choice: will he give up the way of shadows forever and live in peace with his new family, or will he risk everything by taking on the ultimate hit?heart

| 4. |

Guns of the Dawn

by Adrian Tchaikovsky

A standalone, action-packed pseudo-Napoleonic historical fantasy adventure from the esteemed author of the Shadows of the Apt series.

Denland and Lascanne have been allies for generations, but now the Denlanders have assassinated their king, overthrown the monarchy and marched on their northern neighbour. At the border, the war rages; Lascanne’s brave redcoats against the revolutionaries of Denland.

Emily Marshwic has watched the war take her brother-in-law and now her young brother. Then comes the call for more soldiers, to a land already drained of husbands, fathers and sons. Every household must give up one woman to the army and Emily has no choice but to join the ranks of young women marching to the front.

In the midst of warfare, with just enough training to hold a musket, Emily comes face to face with the reality: the senseless slaughter; the weary cynicism of the Survivor’s Club; the swamp’s own natives hiding from the conflict.

As the war worsens, and Emily begins to have doubts about the justice of Lascanne’s cause, she finds herself in a position where her choices will make or destroy both her own future and that of her nation. heart

| 5. |

Rise of Empire

by Michael J. Sullivan

A puppet is crowned. The true heir remains hidden. A rogue’s secret could change everything.

War has come to Melengar and once more Royce and Hadrian are hired to make a desperate gamble and form an alliance with the Nationalists whom are fighting the Imperialists in the south. As the power of the Nyphron Empire grows, so does Royce’s suspicion that the wizard Esrahaddon is using the thieves as pawns in his own grab for power. To find the truth, he must unravel the secret of Hadrian’s past–what he discovers may end their friendship and break Riyria in two.

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| 6. |

Angel of Storms

by Trudi Canavan

Tyen is teaching mechanical magic at a school respected throughout the worlds. News arrives that the formidable ruler of all worlds, long believed to be dead, is back and enforcing his old laws – including the one forbidding schools of magic. As teachers and students flee, Tyen is left with no home and no purpose… except the promise he made to Vella, the sorcerer imprisoned in a book. Tyen must decide what he is willing to do to free her.

After five years among the tapestry weavers of Schpeta, Rielle’s peaceful new life has been shattered by a local war. As defeat looms, the powerful Angel of Storms appears and invites Rielle to join the artisans of his celestial realm. But what will he require in return for this extraordinary offer?heart

| 7. |

Sorcerer to the Crown

by Zen Cho

In Regency London, Zacharias Wythe is England’s first African Sorcerer Royal. And that’s only the first of his problems. He must juggle the conflicting demands of a wayward Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, where a faction schemes to remove him from his position by fair means or foul. He must cope with the Fairy Court refusing to grant Britain the magical resources it needs. And now the British Government is avid to deploy this increasingly scare magic in its war with France. He must also contend with rumors that he murdered his predecessor and guardian, Sir Stephen Wythe. But this task would be easier if Sir Stephen’s ghost would just stop following him around. And now he has to deal with something even more outrageous than any of these things: a female magical prodigy. 

Ambitious orphan Prunella Gentleman is desperate to escape the school where she has drudged all her life, and a visit by the Sorcerer Royal seems the perfect opportunity. For Prunella has just stumbled upon English magic’s greatest discovery in centuries – and she intends to make the most of it.heart

| 8. |

The Traitor Baru Cormorant

by Seth Dickinson

The Traitor Baru Cormorant is an epic geopolitical fantasy about one woman’s mission to tear down an empire by learning how to rule it.

Tomorrow, on the beach, Baru Cormorant will look up from the sand of her home and see red sails on the horizon.

The Empire of Masks is coming, armed with coin and ink, doctrine and compass, soap and lies. They’ll conquer Baru’s island, rewrite her culture, criminalize her customs, and dispose of one of her fathers. But Baru is patient. She’ll swallow her hate, prove her talent, and join the Masquerade. She will learn the secrets of empire. She’ll be exactly what they need. And she’ll claw her way high enough up the rungs of power to set her people free.

In a final test of her loyalty, the Masquerade will send Baru to bring order to distant Aurdwynn, a snakepit of rebels, informants, and seditious dukes. Aurdwynn kills everyone who tries to rule it. To survive, Baru will need to untangle this land’s intricate web of treachery – and conceal her attraction to the dangerously fascinating Duchess Tain Hu.

But Baru is a savant in games of power, as ruthless in her tactics as she is fixated on her goals. In the calculus of her schemes, all ledgers must be balanced, and the price of liberation paid in full.heart

| 9. |

Ancillary Justice

by Ann Leckie

On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Once, she was the Justice of Toren – a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.heart

| 10. |

Old Man’s War

by John Scalzi

John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army.

The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce– and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.

Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity’s resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don’t want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You’ll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You’ll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you’ll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets.

John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine–and what he will become is far stranger.heart

Happy Christmas fellow bookworms! What books do you hope to find under your tree this year? If you would like to join in with Top Ten Tuesday, head on over to The Broke and the Bookish and sign up!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Classics of 2015


Top Ten TuesdayWelcome to Top Ten Tuesday – a weekly feature hosted by those lovely bookworms over at The Broke and the Bookish. Expect a new top ten list every week!


| Top Ten… Classics of 2015 |

This year i have been determined to read more classics and amongst those dusty tomes I’ve discovered some fantastic literature, many of which are almost poetic in narrative and are often full of understated (if not blatant.. cough… Wodehouse) humour. For this week’s Top Ten, and to avoid any repeats with last week, I’m bringing you my top ten classics of 2015 – and hopefully I’ll unearth many more literary masters in 2016!

| 1. |

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Picadilly Jim

by P.G. Wodehouse

This is the book which started my love affair with Wodehouse. No author has brought tears of laughter to my eyes quite so much as this comedic genius, and with an inordinate number of books to his name, I expect to be crying with laughter for many more years to come!

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| 2. |

moe

Murder on the Orient Express

by Agatha Christie

I have been an Agatha Christie fan for some time now, dipping into and out of her work ever since I was a child, so it was about time then that I made a concerted effort to make my way through her catalogue in some semblance of order. Murder on the Orient Express most certainly lives up to its reputation as a whodunnit masterpiece and has fuelled my passion for Christie’s crime classics.

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| 3. |

ss

Sense and Sensibility

by Jane Austen

I had first read Sense and Sensibility as a young girl and, despite my love for both both literary and televised Austen, I hadn’t re-read a number of her novels until this year. Sense and Sensibility is social commentary at its finest, full of wit and humour with a sometimes heartbreaking storyline, which made me fall in love with Austen all over again.

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Hard Times

by Charles Dickens

I cannot begin to describe how much I love this book. Charles Dickens is a master of the literary charicature and it is done so well in Hard Times. And not only that, we have some of the most beautiful and evocative descriptions of the industrial revolution that I’ve ever come across. A definite highlight in this year’s list of classics.

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| 5. |

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Around the World in Eighty Days

by Jules Verne

I was determined to read more Jules Verne this year but only ended up reading one novel – Around the World in Eighty Days. This delightful adventure, undertaken as a bet and chock full of a multitude of intriguing characters,  has definitely spurred me on to read more of Verne’s work.

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| 6. |

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The Thirty-Nine Steps

by John Buchan

Having never even heard of this novel until this year, The Thirty-Nine Steps took me by complete surprise. Reading just like one of the military escape memoirs I love so much, The Thirty-Nine Steps has me determined to add more John Buchan novels to my 2016 reading list.

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| 7. |

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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There

by Lewis Carroll

And no list of classics for me would be complete without the delightful and nonsensical work of Lewis Carroll. This is pure and unadulterated fuel for the imagination, like a fever dream… on acid. And this year’s re-read only re-fuelled my love for this wonderful piece of literature.

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| 8. |

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The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde remains one of the most well known classic horror stories so it’s unsurprising that this short book, packed full of mystery, shock and suspense, made its way into this week’s Top Ten.

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| 9. |

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Something Fresh

by P.G. Wodehouse

Something Fresh is the first book in the Blandings series which I’ve wholeheartedly devoured in 2015. With the delightfully dotty Lord Emsworth, many an imposter and something of a whodunnit… involving scarabs… this is a fine example of comedic literature which had me reaching for the next book in an instant.


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| 10. |

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The Mystery of the Blue Train

by Agatha Christie

Another Christie classic (and another which involves trains!) tops this week’s list. Full of intriguing (and highly suspicious) characters, exotic jewels and even more exotic locations, this is one of my favourite Christie novels to date.

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Which are your favourite novels of 2015? Do any classics top your list? If you would like to join in with Top Ten Tuesday, head on over to The Broke and the Bookish and sign up!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Newly Read Authors 2015


Top Ten TuesdayWelcome to Top Ten Tuesday – a weekly feature hosted by those lovely bookworms over at The Broke and the Bookish. Expect a new top ten list every week!


| Top Ten… Newly Read Authors 2015 |

For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, we’re taking a look at some of my favourite newly read authors of 2015. From debut authors published in recent years to firmly established literary masters with a huge repertoire to their name, these are the writers whose work has crept to the top of my reading pile. In no particular order, here are ten of my favourites:

| 1. |

Michael J. Sullivan

with Theft of Swords

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| 2. |

Becky Chambers

with The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

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| 3. |

Brent Weeks

with The Way of Shadows

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| 4. |

Pierce Brown

with Red Rising

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| 5. |

Bernard Cornwell

with Azincourt

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| 6. |

Victoria Schwab

with A Darker Shade of Magic and Vicious

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| 7. |

Helen Lowe

with The Heir of Night and The Gathering of the Lost

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| 8. |

Anthony Ryan

with Blood Song

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| 9. |

David Gemmell

with Morningstar and Knights of Dark Renown

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| 10. |

Kim Stanley Robinson

with Red Mars

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Who are your favourite newly read authors of 2015? If you would like to join in with Top Ten Tuesday, head on over to The Broke and the Bookish and sign up!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Thanksgiving Bastards


Top Ten TuesdayWelcome to Top Ten Tuesday – a weekly feature hosted by those lovely bookworms over at The Broke and the Bookish. Expect a new top ten list every week!


| Top Ten… Thanksgiving Bastards |

Nothing makes a good book like a good bastard which is why, for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, I’m choosing ten of the most greedy, selfish and devious bastards to grace my bookshelves. And I’m thankful for every single one. These are the pirates, felons and twisted torturers; the characters who do the wrong thing at every opportunity, who lie and cheat and steal yet somehow always manage to come out sunny side up. In no particular order, give thanks for these magnificent bastards:

| 1. |

Sand dan Glokta

The First Law by Joe Abercrombie

Crippled war hero. Torturer. Complete bastard. Glokta is an Inquisitor in the Union’s House of Questions who uses his cunning and intelligence to extract more than just fingernails from his guests, and he does it all with a good dose of cynicism. He is one man you do not want on the other end of the thumb screws… unless, of course, he is on your side.

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Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

Littlefinger is a sly manipulator. Cunning and ruthless, he has worked his way up from nothing to become a master of coin and court intrigue. Unfortunately for those who either cross or underestimate him, Petyr Baelish is at his best when he’s dancing his puppets on their strings… take care that you’re not one of them.

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| 3. |

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‘Gentleman’ Johnny Marcone

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Johnny Marcone, the crime lord of Chicago and ruler of its dark and (almost) human underworld is not a man you cross lightly… unless your name is Harry Dresden. Marcone is a skilful and ruthless ‘business’ man who’ll stop at nothing to get his own way. Only be careful who you cross, he might just have something which resembles a heart beneath his slick, suited and deceptively ordinary exterior.

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| 4. |

Nicomo Cosca

The First Law by Joe Abercrombie

Nicomo Cosca – soldier of fortune, womaniser, drunk. Beneath the flamboyant exterior, flaking scalp and drooping moustaches lies a treacherous snake who would sell his own mother for an extra coin. With damn good luck and a surprising talent for warfare, this repulsively lovable rogue always seems to find himself on top… with  a bottle of Styria’s finest in hand, of course.
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| 5. |

Victor Vale

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Victor Vale is not just a bastard, he’s a super-human, pain-wielding, morally deficient bastard. Sure, he might just keep you alive… if it suits him… but he’s the best of a bad-bunch-of-evil-bastards and needs must. Or so they say.

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| 6. |

Locke Lamora

The Gentleman Bastard Sequence by Scott Lynch

And you certainly can’t have a list of Bastards without including at least one Gentleman Bastard. Locke Lamora is a thief and a con-artist, a cunning liar skilled in the art of deception, and a man who could have Camorr, Tel Verarr and Karthain in his pocket if he wasn’t far better at losing all his gold than he was at making it.

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| 7. |

Thalric

Shadows of the Apt by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Aggressive, driven and unflinchingly loyal to his ideals, Major Thalric of the Rekef Outlander will stop at nothing to paint The Lowlands in stripes of black and gold. With an impressive résumé which includes back-alley murders, political assassinations and a penchant for torture, this is one (of many) Wasps you don’t want in your path.

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| 8. |

Jerek Mace

Morningstar by David Gemmell

Jerek Mace is the Morningstar – a legendary hero whose defeat of evil has long been prophesised. Except Jerek Mace is a liar, a thief and a complete bastard. When avoiding his heroic duties you may find him womanising, pilfering, murdering and shamelessly running away after committing wanton acts of banditry. Behold! The hero of old!

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| 9. |

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Darian Frey

Tales of the Ketty Jay by Chris Wooding

Womaniser. Morally bankrupt. Thief. Bastard. Captain Darian Frey is rogue and a pirate who would quite literally steal candy from a baby… with the deepest of sympathy, of course. But be warned, accuse him of the one crime he didn’t commit and you’re going to have a whole heap of trouble on your hands.

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| 10. |

Mulch Diggums

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

And bastards aren’t just limited to books for adults either. Mulch Diggums is a kleptomaniac dwarf who comes in handy in a tight spot but not without making you pay for it again… and again… and again. Under a myriad of aliases Diggums, his repulsive body odour and what can only be called a ‘bum-flap’ take breaking and entering to a whole new level. Easy-Breezy.

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Who is your favourite literary bastard? If you would like to join in with Top Ten Tuesday, head on over to The Broke and the Bookish and sign up!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Book to Movie Adaptations I’d Love to See


Top Ten TuesdayWelcome to Top Ten Tuesday – a weekly feature hosted by those lovely bookworms over at The Broke and the Bookish. Expect a new top ten list every week!


| Top Ten… Book to Movie Adaptations I’d Love to See |

Having not read half the books which are soon to become films, this week’s Top Ten will be looking at the book to movie adaptations I would love to see. These are the books that would make incredible films, fantastic TV series and fill that empty hole left when you finish them. So without further ado, here are this week’s Top Ten:

| 1. |

Dissolution

by C.J. Sansom

The Matthew Shardlake novels would be an amazing series of films. Murder, mystery and a crime solving lawyer in the heart of Tudor England – what’s not to love?! This would make a cracking series too.

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| 2. |

The Blade Itself

by Joe Abercrombie

Couldn’t resist throwing in The Blade Itself. How awesome would Glokta be?! And surely we need a great anti-hero movie, everything’s always a bit Mary Sue on the big screen.

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| 3. |

Rivers of London

by Ben Aaronovitch

A film following Peter Grant as he discovers there’s an even darker and more dangerous side to London – yes please! Gods and goddesses, riots and rebellions, wizards and vampires – I can see the whole series of films!

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| 4. |

Red Rising

by Pierce Brown

This book would just have to work on the big screen! It’s got everything – an awesome angst filled hero, an abundance of oppressed masses and more evil overlords than you can shake a stick at.heart

| 5. |

Vicious

by V.E. Schwab

What an awesome movie this would make! The super-anti-hero needs a place on our screens and Eli Cardale and Victor Vale fit the bill perfectly.

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| 6. |

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A Darker Shade of Magic

by V.E. Schwab

And of course A Darker Shade of Magic would make the cut too! I would love to see Schwab’s Londons up on the big screen – the sumptuous and rich Red London, the gritty and bleak Grey London, the harsh and cruel White London, and the mysterious and dark Black London.

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| 7. |

Company of Liars

by Karen Maitland

It’s 1348, England, and nine strangers are trying to outrun the plague. Except they’re being picked off one by one and the most likely villain is already part of their group. Everyone’s a liar, no one can be trusted, and this would make an awesome film!

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| 8. |

The Lies of Locke Lamora

by Scott Lynch

A swashbuckling, sword-fighting, rip-roaring tale of misadventure – this would be an incredible adaptation. Not least because Camorr would be like Venice on acid.

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| 9. |

Ship of Magic

by Robin Hobb

The Liveship Traders trilogy is a beautiful fantasy adventure. With (Live)ships, pirates and a courageous heroine, this would surely be a fantastic adaptation.

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| 10. |

The Final Empire

by Brandon Sanderson

And my list of movies wouldn’t be complete without throwing the Mistborn series in there. With one of the most unique magic systems in fantasy fiction, one which would showcase the most amazing fight scenes, this film would surely be a hit. Even if the film was only half as good as the books.

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Which books would you love to see made into movies? If you would like to join in with Top Ten Tuesday, head on over to The Broke and the Bookish and sign up!

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Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab


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A Darker Shade of Magic

by V.E. Schwab

Fantasy | 384 Pages | Published by Titan in 2015


| Rating |


Apparently there was a lot of hype surrounding A Darker Shade of Magic, a lot of hype that seemed to bypass me entirely. V.E. Schwab’s name was cropping up everywhere, everywhere but my bookcase that is. Fortunately for me, Dragons and Jetpacks had selected A Darker Shade of Magic as the August Fantasy Book of the Month and it soon found itself (along with Vicious – that sneaky basket stowaway) at the top of my to-read pile. Now I’m fully initiated into ‘the loop’ I can honestly say this book is magnificent. Schwab has created a richly immersive tale, woven with darkness and vibrant enchantment, which leaves me in great anticipation of a sequel.

Magic once flowed through the worlds, their doorways open to those who would cross them. Until the corruption set in. One by one the doors between worlds were closed. Each sealed off from the next, they evolved, changed and festered under the influence of monarchs, dynasties and usurpers.

Now only travelled by powerful magicians known as the Antari, one thing remains constant throughout. London. Grey London, a drab and magic free land ruled over by mad King George; Red London, a city of vibrant enchantment home to the Maresh Dynasty; the twisted and deadly White London, where magic is wielded like a knife; and Black London, a mysterious and ravaged city severed from the worlds like a rotting limb.

Kell is one of the Antari, a blood magician and traveller between worlds. An ambassador for the Red Court, he is charged with carrying messages between the respective powers of these lands. That is, until his habit of smuggling magical and benign artefacts between worlds lands him in a whole heap of trouble. As he escapes through Grey London, Delilah Bard, a notorious thief and prospective pirate, is swept along with Kell in the flight from cut-throats, brigands and a magic far darker and more powerful than anyone thought possible.

Schwab certainly has a way with words, her writing is incredibly evocative and weaves together four contrasting, imperfect and imaginative worlds. Each London is distinctive and instantly recognisable. Schwab captures the essence of each of these cities, her descriptive style assaulting the senses with colours, sounds and smells. Though they all share facets of the London, it is Grey London which resonates most with our own world. Danger forever hides in the shadows, in twisted alleyways and darkened streets. Even the most idealised London, full of colourful characters and vibrant magic, is not safe. This novel has carved new worlds out of our own history; at once exciting, dangerous and utterly absorbing.

A Darker Shade of Magic successfully bridges sub-genre gaps to present a narrative which appeals to a wide audience. For the most part, I like my tales dark and gritty; I like my weak, immoral, impulsive bastards. And if an antihero protagonist isn’t in the offing, then a dastardly villain will do just as well. Enter the Dane Twins. Every scene with them is a malicious dance, every encounter tortuous; Athos and Astrid are cats playing with mice. And then there’s Holland…

Schwab paints her characters in shades of grey, their personalities underlined by their London, the full spectrum of morality open to all. She creates a vivid picture of humanity’s imperfections and the two protagonists wear their imperfections (and many an item of clothing) incredibly well. Kell and Lila dominate the storyline; two conflicting, intertwining characters who remain infinitely relatable throughout, and who leave us with promise of magic, adventure and intrigue at the close of play.

Though, for me, Kell and Lila lose out to the secondary players in terms of unique personality traits, this novel succeeds in developing a diverse range of compelling characters, whose roles I can only hope will be extended in the ensuing novels.

Schwab is a gifted author whose words are as magical as the characters she creates. A Darker Shade of Magic is a short but brilliant read which will have you in another world at the turn of a page. And perhaps if you look out of the corner of your eye, or smell the scent of flowers on the air, you might just find a way from one London into the next.


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