Tag Archives: New releases

Book Birthdays : November 5 (+ Mid-October / Other Late Fall Releases)

Welcome to another installment of Book Birthdays, where I spotlight books on their release date along with other relatively recent releases. While many books were released last month on October 1st; for some reason, the main titles of note in this post are seeing release today- November 5th. Go figure. I hope this post is helpful in informing you of what’s new and finding some new titles to TBR. (Note : Title links are Amazon Affiliate links, if you have plans to purchase would greatly appreciate the use of them.)

First I’ll start with three books I was lucky enough to be approved for on Netgalley, all of which are released today. Reviews will be coming soon.

1.) Songs from the Deep by Kelly Powell

A dark-seeming YA Fantasy about sirens. I love this cover, it’s just beautiful. Summary – Moira Alexander has always been fascinated by the deadly sirens who lurk along the shores of her island town. Even though their haunting songs can lure anyone to a swift and watery grave, she gets as close to them as she can, playing her violin on the edge of the enchanted sea. When a young boy is found dead on the beach, the islanders assume that he’s one of the sirens’ victims. Moira isn’t so sure.

2.) Unnatural Magic by C.M. Waggoner

Almost done with this one. VERY unique novel. I’d file it under just-plain-fantasy, not quite YA, not heavily fixated on romance- though there is romance. Heavily descriptive and realized world-building where trolls and humans are the foremost races and have interestingly contrasting social norms. Summary : Onna can write the parameters of a spell faster than any of the young men in her village school. But despite her incredible abilities, she’s denied a place at the nation’s premier arcane academy.  Tsira is a troll who never quite fit into her clan, despite being the leader’s daughter. She decides to strike out on her own and look for work in a human city, but on her way she stumbles upon the body of a half-dead human soldier in the snow. As she slowly nurses him back to health, an unlikely bond forms between them.

3.) The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

So excited for this one! I love fairytale reimaginings that invert the original tellings or explore characters in new ways. Summary : Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom’s borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution–send in Guinevere to be Arthur’s wife . . . and his protector from those who want to see the young king’s idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere’s real name–and her true identity–is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot. To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old–including Arthur’s own family–demand things continue as they have been, and the new–those drawn by the dream of Camelot–fight for a better way to live.

4. The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco

Release Date : October 15th, 2019

My heartfelt thanks goes out to Leelynn of Sometimes Leelynn Reads <- Click there for a recent post on her wonderful book blog. She gave me an extra copy (a hardcover moreover) that she had of this book when we were chatting about it on her blog. So happy and excited to have received it, very much looking forward to reading it this month. You’re amazing, Leelynn! ❤

Now time for even more November 5 releases. Note to self for 2020 : beware of the 5th day of the 11th month of its propensity for wondrous-looking book releases.

5. Call Down The Hawk by Maggie Stiefvator

Release Date : November 5th, 2019

I don’t know if Amazon is having some sort of sale on hardcovers right now or if this is targeted pricing but these pretty huge releases are $13.99 USD right now, Call Down The Hawk and even Holly Black’s Queen of Nothing. Very tempted to bite even though my reading month is already wonderfully crowded. I’m still planning to finish The Raven Cycle but Call Down The Hawk sounds like a fun character-driven title.

6. The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

Release Date : November 5th, 2019

Love books about mysterious, dark family secrets and creepy mansions. This title has all of that. I’ve checked out many reviews and luckily its plot twists have not been spoiled for me yet.

7. Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw

This book had me at haunted woods. I might be an easy-to-please reader but seriously, combine woods + haunted, I will want to read it.

Summary – Be careful of the dark, dark wood… Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even. Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.


To round this out is a Kindle Unlimited paranormal pick released a few days ago (October 31st) 8. Heist by Kezzy Sparks, and two titles on my TBR from October, 9. Tarnished Are The Stars by Rosiee Thor and 10. Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao. I was lucky enough to win those two in a Twitter giveaway last month. They were both released on October 15th.


And that is it for this ten-entry list of titles that came out (or are coming out) in mid-to-late October and early-to-mid November. It could be much longer but I only have the strength to cover 10 for now, lol. Are you interested in reading any of these titles, or have read them? Are you familiar with work by any of the authors mentioned? Thanks so much for checking out this post. ~ Kitty

Book Review : Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Ninth House
Author : Leigh Bardugo
Published By : Flatiron Books
Year/Date Published : October 8, 2019
Genre / Tags : Dark Fiction, Low Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Mystery, Contemporary, Horror, Action
Mood : Vibrant yet mysterious
Formats : Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook
# of Pages : 458 pages (Hardcover)

Summary

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

The mesmerizing adult debut from #1 New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo.

Content Warnings – Horror imagery (ghosts, mainly) violence, murder, coercion, sexual assault, flashback to assault of a child. A bit about that last one- if you wish to skip that scene here are some directions based on the hardcover 2019 US edition I have on hand : Page 121, stop reading at the beginning of the final paragraph that starts with “But Alex had to go. She chose the cleanest metal stall,” and start reading again at the beginning of page 124. Or you could just skip pages 121-124 altogether.

Review

I’m still in a foggy state of disarray at finally having and reading Ninth House. This book is good and well worth the while but also not quite measuring to my dreamlike, sky-high expectations. To be fair, no book should be subjected to such. I’ve found that most of my all-time faves have been utter surprises and the ones I wait feverishly for aren’t quite as sensational. Ninth House wasn’t a let down and there is much to enjoy within its pages, but this also wasn’t quite the bookish euphoria I was expecting. It’s a very far cry from Six of Crows in every conceivable way, to the point where I’d venture to imagine some people who hated Bardugo’s prior work might love Ninth House and vice versa. The commonalities between the two titles is Bardugo’s enduring knack for creative and fresh fantasy imagery (in Ninth House’s case, supernatural modern fantasy/mystery/horror) and solid characterization for the main characters.

First I’ll start with the main character, Alex. Her situation is best described as being similar to that kid from The Sixth Sense.

bruce willis i see dead people GIF

But instead of a little boy, imagine a little girl who grows up with not a single support or guiding force when dealing with this unfortunate gift. Only when she enters college, Yale to be exact, does she find people who can relate to her. By the way, if you haven’t seen The Sixth Sense I highly recommend dropping everything and watching it. Such a great movie.

Aside from seeing ghosts, Alex can interact with them. Over the course of Ninth House’s 450 pages, we see her grow and get a better handle on her powers and even learn how to use them for good and do some sleuthing. There is a bit of a chosen one trope feel but it’s a chosen-one-done-right. Alex doesn’t get special treatment for her gifts, of anything they’ve been a curse and the figures that recognize her abilities are not always trustworthy. The narrative jumps back and forth between present and recent past. In the recent past she’s given a mentor of sorts in a major character, Daniel Arlington or “Darlington”. He comes off as a bit pretentious and info-dumpy at first, but I ended up liking the guy a lot. He has an engaging rapport with Alex and there is what seems to be the vague beginnings of a relationship between the two. I’ve loved Bardugo’s approach to character relationships in previous books- in short, she tends to make them complicated, replete with conversation, and any tender development is hard-earned. Low-key shipping this couple.

Getting into a major criticism though, I didn’t find most of the characters outside of Darlington and Alex to be quite as conversationally interesting. The Bridegroom is a memorable exception, but he is one ghost among hundreds of ghosts that Alex could interact with. More enthralling and interactive ghosts, please.

Dawes is likable as an ally supporting Alex but we learn little else about them. Mercy has a minimal role outside of her sub-plot. I saw a particular missed opportunity in Hellie, a character who is central to Alex’s dark past. I think some of the world building should have been restrained in favor of memorable character development, which Leigh Bardugo has a history of doing skillfully.

I recall Six of Crows having various snippets of punchy, quotable dialogue. There are some great moments like that in Ninth House but they are often localized within Alex’s thoughts and interior development. She spends many later parts of the book being (mostly) on her own, unraveling the tangled web of disturbing secrets and a century of murders having to do with Yale’s secret societies.

The strongest aspect of this novel is how it takes down-to-earth locales and infuses a dark and mysterious underbelly of limitless supernatural magic, lurking just beneath the surface. I had quite a time getting a handle on how to even envision some of the dimension-bending abilities that are at work here. The descriptions are lush for low fantasy. A lot of thought and minute details went into the construction of an imposing network of magic-users and their experiments. It ends up coming off like a rabbit hole with a lot of room to grow in the sequels. I’m overwhelmed by how fantastical this novel is, even though it’s easily filed as dark fiction/low fantasy.

Also surprised at how effective (and perhaps understated) this book is as a horror novel. There are some very creepy moments where Alex describes what she has gone through with these ghosts or continues to go through. It’s imperative that she doesn’t make eye contact with them, or they might try to interact with and float closer. A few of them act in ways that are unpredictable. There are times she gets accosted in unexpected locations.

In closing, this book has pretty much everything I love. Supernatural elements, dark pasts, hidden secrets to unravel (or not unravel, I’m still full of confusion about many things) a writing style that almost approaches gothic prettiness at points, and complicated relationships.

My main issue is that things can get too info-dumpy (especially early on) and Alex’s obsession with a particular murder mystery can become an overwrought plot point in what is such a broadly intriguing world.

Also of note, though this is just a personal tidbit, I was expecting to be so sucked into this one and reading it in a spellbound trance from beginning to end. While this was the case for perhaps the first half, I was picking it up and putting it down without issue during the last half. So I would say it is lacking a certain extra oomph or utter spellbinding quality despite having, in theory, every possible personally appealing trait.

Overall Rating – 9/10

Why You Should Try It – An inspired and dark blend of low fantasy, mystery, horror, and action. The main character is gritty yet nuanced and I’d describe her as a chosen one trope done right. The lore and writing style is almost exhaustively impressive with a lot of personality and detail. Creative imagery.

Why You Might Not Like It – At times too detailed, or distracted by what should seem to be tangential asides. The side characters were definitely lacking in revealing details or impactful conversation. Alex’s standoffishness could be contributing to this.


Additional notes

About the disturbing content and how deep/dark it goes, I can definitely see how this can be too much for a teen/YA audience but relative to other dark adult-aimed books in general fiction/horror/thriller/suspense genres, I didn’t find this to be exceptionally gratuitous. The one scene that I can see being a point of trouble for people is one in which (spoilers, but I feel it’s important to know this context if we’re bringing it up at all) the heroine remembers being raped as a child. The moment and its after effects are referenced for some pages. I do urge anyone thinking of reading this book but worrying about that content to only approach with caution. If you would like to completely skip that scene I don’t think it would take away any important info from the plot. As stated in the content warning above, it takes place during/is mentioned at length on pages 121-124 in the hardcover edition.

(Spoiler-Free) About the ending- very satisfied with it, but in a way that makes me eager for the sequel. This has been the case for every book by this author, even the one I didn’t like (Siege and Storm, second volume of the Grisha Trilogy) she is quite good at handling endings. Building momentum and wrapping up the stuff we wanted to know about all while keeping the door wide open for more. Definitely reading the sequel.

I’ve heard that a TV adaptation is in the works.. and that’s actually pretty exciting to hear about. The low fantasy setting should be simple enough to adapt and seeing the menagerie of ghosts in the flesh is going to be pretty intense. There is a plot point of the characters using spoken word poetry to keep the dead at bay though that will be, uh, challenging to adapt without some unintentional hilarity though. But overall, I’m imagining/hoping for some chaotically entertaining cross between Supernatural, The Sixth Sense, The Eye, and Jessica Jones. That last one only because Alex reminds me of a younger version of Jessica.

jessica jones smirk GIF

Thanks for reading this review of Ninth House! Am actually shocked that I managed to write it. Upon finishing the book I was full of so many feelings and thinking (how?? How will this all somehow get organized enough to become a cohesive review?) but somehow I typed up this blob that is hopefully functionally coherent and helpful. :’D Have you read Ninth House or is it on your TBR? Always loving to read your thoughts, and thanks again for checking out this review. ~ Kitty

Book Birthday : Depths Awakened by Persephone Autumn

Since I’ve been reading so many new releases lately, this is a new post series detailing books that are just released. The criteria are 1. It’s their birthday 2. I’m reading or have read them. 3. Am planning to read them for real, not in TBR limbo.

This week’s entry is.. Depths Awakened by Persephone Autumn.

Title : Depths Awakened
Author : Persephone Autumn
Release Date : October 9th, 2019
Genre : Romance, Contemporary
Formats : Paperback, eBook
# of Pages : 252 (paperback)

Summary

One look in his eyes and every heartache I’d suffered vanished.

From the second I saw her, my heart stirred to life.

He is my serotonin. She is my cure. But the past threatens to tear us apart.


AppleBookshttps://apple.co/2krUGtt

Amazonhttps://amzn.to/2mrH6Hh

Barnes & Noblehttp://bit.ly/2mpSiUJ

Kobohttp://bit.ly/2krUSJd

Google Playhttp://bit.ly/2mtrenJ

Goodreadshttp://bit.ly/2kslvhc

#depthsawakened


I love the cover, it’s so gorgeous. Definitely makes me want to read it. Let me know in the comments if you’ve read or plan to read Depths Awakened, curious as always about your thoughts. Thanks for reading! ~ Kitty

Book Birthdays – Three October 1st, 2019 Releases + 3 Anticipated Titles

I noticed that a lot of books are released on the first of the month so today’s post is a heads up to any who are interested in the newest of new releases to check out these titles. Will also throw in two October 8 releases I’m looking forward to because why not. 🙂 (Note : Title links are Amazon Affiliate links, if you have plans to purchase would greatly appreciate the use of them.)

I finished the first three books and have reviews up for them. Before book blogging I was always that person super late to the party, so it’s interesting to be on top of newly released stuff for once.

1. Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky – Out Now, October 1st

Review Here. Will go into more detail on this one in my monthly reading wrap-up but to sum it up in three sentences. Really good if super long horror/thriller novel. / Very weird and creepy atmosphere. / Perfect for Halloween. If you’ve reviewed this title let me know, would love to read your thoughts.

2. Bakemonogatari volume 1 by NISIOISIN – Out Now, October 1st

See my Goodreads review, here. Try to say this author’s name 3x fast. This is a shounen (basically, guy-oriented) romance/action manga. Not my usual sub-genres of interest but the imagery is super weird in a unique way and the art style is undeniably gorgeous and detailed. Recommended if you’re an avid fan of the medium. But if you’re new, there are more inviting works to try. Note to self : Idea for a future post, starter manga recommendations.

3. Resurrection Girls by Ava Morgyn – Out Now, October 1st

Review Here. Not much of a horror-themed book, but a very touching and effective contemporary. One of the best YA novels I’ve read concerning loss, mourning, and the effects on family. Very fast-paced and readable, definitely a good consideration for the under-300-pages factor too in our time of long TBRs and giant tome novels.


Anticipated titles

1. The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys – October 1st

Doing a blog tour for this title this month. I have the ARC on hand and am super excited to read it! A close friend of mine is a Ruta Sepetys stan and I’ve put this author of great renown on hold for way too long. Looks to be a gorgeous, lengthy, intense and compelling work of historical fiction. Also the hardcover of this title is fat and seeing fat books makes me happy. ^^”

2. The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh – October 8th

This one had me at vampires. Also love the cover. Trying not to look up too much about it since it’s fun to go into YA blindly when you already know it’s going to have themes you like.

3. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo – October 8th

I am trying not to fangirl, trying not to fangirl.. who knows, maybe I won’t like it. (Lies!! I have to love it.) For real though, I went through Six of Crows and the Grisha trilogy thinking the whole time “I wish Leigh Bardugo would write an adult novel someday but that probably won’t happen.” Here we are, and I can’t believe it’s so close at hand.


Thanks for checking out today’s post! Are you reading, have read, or want to read any of these titles? Curious as to your thoughts. Any October releases you are eagerly anticipating? Thanks as always for your comments, likes, and just being here. Much appreciation your way. ~ Kitty

Book Review : A Lush And Seething Hell by John Hornor Jacobs

A Lush And Seething Hell by John Hornor Jacobs (Preorder Link, Amazon)

Author : John Hornor Jacobs
Published By : Harper Voyager
Year Published : October 8st 2019, Preorder Available At Link Above.
Genre / Tags : Adult Fiction, Dark Fiction, Psychological Horror, Horror, Literary Fiction
Mood : Grimdark, but the smart kind.
Formats : Hardcover, eBook
# of Pages : 384 pages (Hardcover)

Review

The award-winning and critically-acclaimed master of horror returns with a pair of chilling tales—both never-before-published in print—that examine the violence and depravity of the human condition.

Bringing together his acclaimed novella The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky and an all-new short novel My Heart Struck Sorrow, John Hornor Jacobs turns his fertile imagination to the evil that breeds within the human soul.

A brilliant mix of the psychological and supernatural, blending the acute insight of Roberto Bolaño and the eerie imagination of H. P. Lovecraft, The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky examines life in a South American dictatorship. Centered on the journal of a poet-in-exile and his failed attempts at translating a maddening text, it is told by a young woman trying to come to grips with a country that nearly devoured itself.

In My Heart Struck Sorrow, a librarian discovers a recording from the Deep South—which may be the musical stylings of the Devil himself.

Breathtaking and haunting, A Lush and Seething Hell is a terrifying and exhilarating journey into the darkness, an odyssey into the deepest reaches of ourselves that compels us to confront secrets best left hidden.

Review

Content Warning : Torture, Violence, Self Harm, Mild Sexual Content

This title contains two novellas, one is perhaps shorter than an average novella and the other is longer than average.

I’ll start with the first, The Sea Dreams It Is The Sky. It takes up about 30% of the book. Or somewhat over 100 pages. This story gave a fantastic first impression and would get five stars on its own. The writing style is immediately noticeable for its artistic and insightful range.

The story takes place in a South American country not unlike Chile and makes references to dictatorial regimes and political figures. Augusto Pinochet and Pablo Neruda for example. There are allusions made to victims of the atrocities during that time. Having some minor familiarity with the subject matter, this story was vastly effective and gut-wrenching.

I recall watching this film from 1982 called Missing, directed by Costa-Gavras. It’s about a young journalist that was one of the 10-30k people “disappeared” during the regime, likely tortured and killed as many were around that time of political upheaval. I had felt a sense of dread wondering what all he likely went through. This story really brought back memories of watching that film for the first time and provides a grisly example.

I highly recommend reading this novella in one sitting. A break between can really impact one’s feel for the mood and nuance leading up to the finale.

If this entire book was in line with that first story, this would be an easy 4-5 stars. But, and admittedly for mainly subjective reasons, I did not find the second story appealing.

There is a quiet dignity and sophistry to the writing at large and I would like to emphasize that in terms of technical quality, both stories are consistent. But where The Sea Dreams It Is The Sky deals with heavy subject matter that lends a pulse to the proceedings, My Heart Struck Sorrow struggled to capture my interest.

The lead character, Cromwell, has lost his wife and child. Though still in a state of mourning, he keeps busy with as a librarian of arts. He and a co-worker find a hidden door that leads to a bunch of journal entries and old recordings from the 1930s. They proceed to explore the collection as its very relevant to their area of expertise.

Most of these chapters have to do with a character named Harlan Parker who traveled throughout the southern states of America during that time, archiving folk music. I was so uninterested in Harlan himself. Those sections with him permeate the vast majority of this novella.

Worse yet, his lengthy journals are in full italics. I’ve seen books get criticized before for overuse of italics. I did not fully understand why this could be such a problem until encountering a good example of such in this novel. A petty complaint perhaps, but it’s consistently irritating. Do note that this review is based on an ARC. I plan on hunting down the final version and if italics are not overused in those sections, I will update this review accordingly.

Another pet peeve- songs being transcribed in novels. While there is nothing wrong with the songs here and they seem thoughtfully poetic, they are numerous and were often lost on me.

So between the italics, the plentiful song lyrics, and Harlan and Cromwell being less than thrilling to read about, this novella wasn’t quite a hit with me.

The final thing I’d like to note is that this book’s month of release, its cover, even its title- A Lush And Seething Hell- brings it to the forefront as a perfect Halloween read.

It could be, depending on your tastes. The horror present here is very down-to-earth and psychological in nature and mainly only frightening in its violence. This isn’t a spooky/scary or heart-pounding type of horror and this novel’s best strength is in its literary prose which could be off-putting for people looking for a more fast-paced scare. A Lush and Seething Hell is a meditation on humanity’s ills and best catalogued as dark fiction.

Rating – 6.5/10

Why You Should Try It – Two novellas that are extraordinarily different in setting and scope but consistently written. Fabulous literary prose and sophisticated style. The setting and aims of the first story really got to me and cover a topic that is little explored in fiction, much less horror. Fantastically researched, complete with a bibliography at book’s end.

Why You Might Not Like It – For mainly subjective reasons, I really didn’t care for the second story and struggled with Harlan’s point of view. As much as this title has to offer, my ambivalence toward a whole two-thirds of it has influenced the above rating.

Disclosure : I received this title as an e-ARC from Netgalley for the purpose of review.

One last end note, I might have a pretty unpopular opinion on this title. Based on perusing some Goodreads reviews, some people really love the second story. Same dislike the first story. Some love both. Quite polarizing really, and fitting as both stories are massively different.


Have you read any works by John Hornor Jacobs or plan to? Are you interested in A Lush And Seething Hell or have read it already and have thoughts? Thanks for reading this review, I look forward to your thoughts. ~ Kitty

Book Review : The Harp Of Kings by Juliet Marillier

The Harp of Kings (Warrior Bards) (Amazon Link)

Author : Juliet Marillier
Published By : ACE
Year Published : Coming Out September 3rd, 2019. Preorder available.
Genre / Tags : Historical Fantasy, could-be-YA but mostly General High Fantasy
Mood : Quiet, elegant, yet adventurous.
Formats : Paperback, eBook
# of Pages : 464 pages (Paperback)

Summary

A young woman is both a bard–and a warrior–in this thrilling historical fantasy from the author of the Sevenwaters novels.

Eighteen-year-old Liobhan is a powerful singer and an expert whistle player. Her brother has a voice to melt the hardest heart, and a rare talent on the harp. But Liobhan’s burning ambition is to join the elite warrior band on Swan Island. She and her brother train there to compete for places, and find themselves joining a mission while still candidates. Their unusual blend of skills makes them ideal for this particular job, which requires going undercover as traveling minstrels. For Swan Island trains both warriors and spies.

Their mission: to find and retrieve a precious harp, an ancient symbol of kingship, which has gone mysteriously missing. If the instrument is not played at the upcoming coronation, the candidate will not be accepted and the people could revolt. Faced with plotting courtiers and tight-lipped druids, an insightful storyteller, and a boorish Crown Prince, Liobhan soon realizes an Otherworld power may be meddling in the affairs of the kingdom. When ambition clashes with conscience, Liobhan must make a bold decision and is faced with a heartbreaking choice. . . .

Review

Many thanks to Netgalley, ACE, and Berkley Publishing Group for offering me an e-ARC of this title for review.

I’ve just finished the book and am in a delighted headspace of wanting to give it a 10/10 and wanting immediately to read the sequel that hopefully comes out. I marathoned the last 40% of this book (so, 200+ pages) all in one enthralled sitting. Everything clicked into place and it was an amazing time! But in the interest of wanting to consider all of a book’s ups and downs when rating, I think 8/10 is most fitting. The first half was less compelling, the pacing being a main culprit.

First, the characters. There are three points of view, each very distinct and worthwhile in telling a multi-faceted storyline. I loved all three.They’re somewhat idealized and almost too obviously endearing, but they really grew on me.

Liobhan is a strong heroine full of gusto and energy, she’s the most warrior-like of the trio. Her brother Brocc is a highly talented bard. A more gentle, soulful, and contemplative type. Then there’s the weird, semi-hostile wildcard, Dau. At first I was wondering “What is this guy even doing here?” But he ended up becoming my favored of the set.

The trio are set off on a mission to secure a missing harp. They’re tasked with being sneaky and uncovering clues from various sources. They will end up uncovering a massive threat to multiple areas of their world and secrets behind a royal family. Each character has their own distinct role in the story and their chapters convey a wildly different atmosphere.

The bulk of Brocc’s are more dreamy with lovely imagery. Liobhan’s contain more conflict, but also some moments where she bonds with a younger side character and we see a marked soft side to her. Dau has a lot of growing to do, overcoming a dark past and learning to trust again. He changes a lot over the course of the story and my feelings for him went from vaguely negative to overwhelmingly positive. I like how these three didn’t all agree about various goings-on. Long story short- these are very good characters and not one-note.

I notice this title is sometimes categorized and shelved as Young Adult. This is not unfitting, as the characters are all 18 years old so they are literal young adults. But I’d hazard a guess that if one were to read random pages of a just-plain-fantasy book and random pages from YA fantasy books, The Harp Of Kings would be widely guessed to fit amidst the just-plain-fantasy books. 

There is a maturity to the writing style, a sophistry that is immediately noticeable. The romance is light and vague and the gimmicks are few. The characters are very level-headed and intelligent. There’s no whining or angst. The plot goes at whatever pace it wants to and doesn’t seem concerned with keeping youths entertained via shocking plot twists or such. I’m sure many adults would be geared to appreciate this one. I could also see this serving as a great bridge point from YA fantasy to more general, adult fantasy.

So many important things are done well. The characters, the writing, and the world building is meticulous, convincing, and well thought out. The only downside for me was the uneven pacing and a marked slowness that permeates some early parts. There are long stretches where the story seems to be at a stand-still in favor of exploring minute details.

There are periods where characters chat at length about political intrigue or go into long-winded explanations. While I adored the very beginning (first 15% or so) there were soon too many moments that are best described as quiet and slow. Like a sort of fantasy slice-of-life, stretches where nothing particularly thrilling happens. We just learn more about the world the characters live in. I haven’t read a ton of fantasy so this may be par for the course, but I’ve read some titles that went about things more briskly.

I’d like to think that trimming some of the earlier sections could have helped in making this a more consistently compelling title, but that could have interfered with how convincing and well-realized the world ended up being.

Overall, I do consider those initial concerns a sort of investment that ended up proving worthwhile once I was hooked. Still a worthwhile read and I will miss these characters.

Side note, though the romance is not a large component of this book, I adored the glacial slow burn relationship of Liobhan and Dau. Looking forward to seeing how the very gradual development from sort-of enemies to friends to something more may culminate. It’s rare to find a pair that develops so naturally and carefully. There is a ton of potential.

Overall Rating – 8/10

Why You Should Try It – Wonderfully written, detail-oriented high fantasy. Three distinct points of view. Likable characters. A well-realized and convincing world. Ideal if you look to escape from YA Fantasy cliches and seek a more mature and polished approach. Also great if you want very little romance. That said, the little bit of romance here is nicely done.

Why You Might Not Like It – Can be slow and plodding in its earlier parts. Some of the conversations are dull. The characters are serious. Not much in way of banter or humor if you happen to look for that. Also very little in way of thrilling excitement or surprises. Serene to the point of quietness, minus some chapters with Dau in the last 30% or so.

The Harp of Kings (Warrior Bards) (Amazon Link)

Thanks so much for reading my review! Are you interested in reading The Harp Of Kings? Have you read any of Juliet Marillier’s other series or books? Daughter Of The Forest has been on my TBR for a few years, it’s the first book in the Sevenwater series. I appreciate all of your thoughts/comments. As always-