Book Review | The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

Title: The Poppy War
Author: R.F. Kuang
Genre: Adult Fantasy / Historical Fiction
Publication Date: May 1st, 2018
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“A brilliantly imaginative talent makes her exciting debut with this epic historical military fantasy, inspired by the bloody history of China’s twentieth century and filled with treachery and magic, in the tradition of Ken Liu’s Grace of Kings and N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy.

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.” (Goodreads)

Edit: I have finished my reread and still enjoyed it just as much! Even though I knew there would be some harsh things to read about (CW: Rape/Gore/Violence) I didn’t realize how much it would still cause me to cringe.

I don’t usually read much adult fantasy because its hard for me to find ones that I actually enjoy. I have heard mixed reviews for this book but I went with my gut and went for it! It was the best decision because it blew my expectations out of the water and left me needing more.

Rin comes from a troubled past. She is an orphan of war, helps her foster family with their drug business, and now they want to marry her off. She is determined to not make that her fate and starts studying for a test that if she passes will lead her to a military academy. There, she meets some really interesting characters and gets swept away into war, hatred, and power not from this world.

Rin doesn’t want to be like the other girls in her village. She doesn’t want to marry and instead forges her own path. As she becomes a woman, there is talk of her menstruating and a lot of books are doing this which is great because it is a natural function of the body and makes the characters more relatable. Because of her menstruation she also makes a decision which has some consequences later down the road.

One of my favorite characters from this book was Jiang the master of lore at the military academy. He was a bit on the weird/crazy side and did drugs which at times made him hilarious. Although he added comedic relief at times, he was a very important character and tried to ground Rin when her emotions would get the best of her.

The plot was nothing I had imagined and at times I wondered why it was fantasy. There wasn’t much talk of the gods they used to worship or magic in general but as I kept reading it finally appeared and we are introduced to shamans. It was refreshing to see them as there aren’t many books with shamans that I have personally read. There is also political issues and even the social hierarchy were poor is deemed as bad. This book is filled with war and it doesn’t shy from the gruesome reality of it. A times it was hard to read about what the soldiers did to villages and cities but it is supposed to make you uncomfortable and realize that although this is fiction, things that can happen in the real world.

Overall, I loved this book. It is gripping and full of humor, loss, and the tragedies of war. Rin is a strong and emotional character and I can’t wait to see where her story leads in the next book.


Book Review | The Winter of the Witch (The Winternight Trilogy #3) by Katherine Arden

Title: The Winter of the Witch
Author: Katherine Arden
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Publication Date: January 8th, 2019
Publisher: Del Rey
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.” (Goodreads)

The Winter of the Witch was one of my most anticipated reads for 2019 and it did not disappoint. We are swept back into this magical world right where The Girl in the Tower left off. Vasya is trying to make peace with what happened to Moscow the night before while trying to keep her family safe as an angry mob wants her tried for witchcraft. Katherine Arden’s writing is once again captivating and brings to life this world and the characters we have grown to love.

We find ourselves back at recognizable places such as Moscow and the forest but we also are drawn into new magical worlds that feel like a dream. Her world building is breathtaking and imaginative as always.

New and familiar characters come back for this epic conclusion. Vasya is still growing in the beginning and by the end she is finding her purpose which is satisfying to see. She is always full of real human emotions as Katherine has a way of making each character come to life. I even grew to like Medved, the bear, and I didn’t think that was possible. Many of the characters are met with tough decisions they must make and sometimes those decisions lead to fateful consequences.

This book gave me so many emotions and tears were shed multiple times as well as a few laughs here and there. Although I am sad to see this wonderful world end, The Winter of the Witch is a great ending to a beloved series.

Book Review | The Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy #2) by Katherine Arden

Title: The Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy #2)
Author: Katherine Arden
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Publication Date: December 5th, 2017
Publisher: Del Rey
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“In The Girl in the Tower, Vasilisa faces an impossible choice. Driven from her home by frightened villagers, she has only two options left: marriage or the convent. She cannot bring herself to accept either fate and instead chooses adventure, dressing herself as a boy and setting off astride her magnificent stallion Solovey.

But after she prevails in a skirmish with bandits, everything changes. The Grand Prince of Moscow anoints her a hero for her exploits, and she is reunited with her beloved sister and brother, who are now part of the Grand Prince’s inner circle. She dares not reveal to the court that she is a girl, for if her deception were discovered it would have terrible consequences for herself and her family. Before she can untangle herself from Moscow’s intrigues—and as Frost provides counsel that may or may not be trustworthy—she will also confront an even graver threat lying in wait for all of Moscow itself.” (Goodreads)

Edit: This was a reread and I still enjoyed it a lot!

The Girl in the Tower continues to follow Vasya as she tries to find her place in the world without losing herself in the process. Along the way she finds herself disguised as a boy and helping the Grand Prince of Moscow defend the city.

Honestly, I loved this book more than the first. Katherine Arden is such a wonderful story teller and her characters are always so conscious of their actions and sometimes make horrible decisions which is so real and refreshing. Vasya has grown as a character since The Bear and the Nightingale but still has kept true to herself even when the odds are stacked against her.

The world building, as always, is detailed and the pace of the book is well done. I didn’t want to put it down for anything! I am so glad this series was recommended because it has become one of my favorites. It is great to have books written about other fairy tales than the usual ones. Besides, who doesn’t love Morozko?

Arc Review: Babel by R.F. Kuang

Title: Babel, or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution
Author: R.F. Kuang
Genre: Adult Fantasy / Historical Fiction
Publication Date: August 23rd, 2022
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ to maybe a ⭐⭐⭐✨

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal.

1828. Robin Swift, orphaned by cholera in Canton, is brought to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, all in preparation for the day he’ll enroll in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation — also known as Babel.
Babel is the world’s center of translation and, more importantly, of silver-working: the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation through enchanted silver bars, to magical effect. Silver-working has made the British Empire unparalleled in power, and Babel’s research in foreign languages serves the Empire’s quest to colonize everything it encounters.
Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, is a fairytale for Robin; a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge serves power, and for Robin, a Chinese boy raised in Britain, serving Babel inevitably means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to sabotaging the silver-working that supports imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide: Can powerful institutions be changed from within, or does revolution always require violence? What is he willing to sacrifice to bring Babel down?” (Goodreads)

I was really looking forward to this one since I really enjoyed The Poppy War trilogy. I’d say that it is one of my top fantasy series. It’s just that good! I knew that this book would be a bit different since it deals more with academia and language. Can’t say that I have read a book about language, but also haven’t really dabbled in the academia genre either. There were aspects that I liked about this new novel, but also parts that bogged it down. As an anticipated read I would say that it was a bit disappointing. I do have hopes for the sequel since this is just the beginning.

The book is told from multiple point-of-views but mostly the book is about Robin Swift. He has been given a chance to learn at Oxford, but most importantly Babel. It’s all about the languages. This chance of a lifetime does come at a price and it’s one Robin isn’t sure he wants to pay.

I did like learning about Robin because he has an interesting background of coming from nothing to living with the rich but also never feeling like he fitted in to high society. His new life isn’t what it is cracked up to be and neither is the professor he lives with. Can’t say that I ever liked that professor. Robin is a character who falls under the morally gray spectrum. He has good intentions but his means of doing things can be questionable. Not everyone agrees with the way he handles things. I will say that his actions felt very genuine and I could see him being a real character because of it.

There are a lot of characters in this book, some with bigger roles and other with a smaller one, but each one still adds to the plot in a way. I do have a few I liked more than others and I am actually quite curious who will show up in book two as well as what their plot lines will entail. Robin does find a found family and they each understand one another. I liked seeing them interact together and it’s also one of my favorite tropes.

Even though I liked a majority of the characters, I can’t say that the plot twists that involved a few were really shocking. I know I didn’t connect fully with the characters, no fault to them, and so maybe that is why.

The book’s plot does talk a lot about colonialism, racism, and xenophobia. I thought that the conversation was done really well and had me thinking a lot about how it relates to our own world. The things that some of these characters are told or have had done to them because of those things is just heartbreaking.

Now that I have mentioned the good, let’s get to the aspects I wasn’t a fan of. The beginning of the book did reel me in right away but it didn’t take long for it to slow down and kind of drag on with a lot of info-dumping. I understand why it had to be done since it is the beginning of a series as well as having an academic setting that involves language. There is a lot to discuss. I just wish it didn’t feel like a chore to get through at times. There are also some time jumps where they are just starting and then all of a sudden they are in their second or third year (can’t remember exactly). It wasn’t a terrible jump but I just wasn’t a fan of the transition.

Overall, it was a fine book. This author is a great writer and I will always enjoy that about her. I’m hoping that with a lot of the info-dump out of the way book two will be better when it comes to pacing. I am still curious and will continue to read on but with lower expectations. I know that others may not have the same issues as me and so I would say go ahead and read it to see if it is the right fit!

Book Review: The Traitor Queen (The Bridge Kingdom #2) by Danielle L. Jensen

Title: The Traitor Queen (The Bridge Kingdom #2)
Author: Danielle L. Jensen
Genre: (New) Adult Fantasy / Romance
Publication Date: September 1st, 2020
Publisher: Self-Published
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“A queen now in exile as a traitor, Lara has watched Ithicana be conquered by her own father, helpless to do anything to stop the destruction. But when she learns her husband, Aren, has been captured in battle, Lara knows there is only one reason her father is keeping him alive: as bait for his traitorous daughter.

And it is bait she fully intends to take.

Risking her life to the Tempest Seas, Lara returns to Ithicana with a plan not only to free its king, but for liberating the Bridge Kingdom from her father’s clutches using his own weapons: the sisters whose lives she spared. But not only is the palace inescapable, there are more players in the game than Lara ever realized, enemies and allies switching sides in the fight for crowns, kingdoms, and bridges. But her greatest adversary of all might be the very man she’s trying to free – the husband she betrayed.

With everything she loves in jeopardy, Lara must decide who – and what – she is fighting for: her kingdom, her husband, or herself.” (Goodreads)

I’m disappointed in myself for waiting to long to pick this one up! How can I live with myself after not reading this incredible book right away?! Seriously, every book this author writes is golden and I’m so excited that this series isn’t over with.

The book is told from two point-of-views just like the first in the series. The chapters alternate between Lara and Aren which I really enjoyed. It’s nice being in both of their heads because each one is dealing with different emotions based on guilt, betrayal, and a whole bunch of other things! Their relationship is very much in turmoil and there is a lot of outside noise as to what they should do. I liked seeing them try to grasp on to one another even if they weren’t always sure about because of consequences. The author definitely knows how to pull at your heartstrings because the last half with them is INTENSE! I know I couldn’t help but shed a few tears. This couple is everything and I just wanted everything to be okay.

One thing I really enjoyed about the sequel was the side characters. There are so many good ones! Can I just say that Lara’s sisters are amazing? I love a good sibling relationship and even though the backstory between them is not rainbows and sunshine, they came out of hiding for her. It just warmed up my heart! A few new characters were introduced as well and they couldn’t help but steal the spotlight either. I know two of them will be getting their own book and I am so ready for it.

For me, there was never a dull moment when it came to the plot. From the beginning it was fast-paced and definitely a wild ride from start to finish. I didn’t predict any of the plot twists which is always a nice thing.

Overall, this was a great read! I’m so happy I finally sat down to read it. Although, now I have to wait until the third is published, haha.

Audiobook Review: Mark of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse


Title: Mark of the Raven (The Ravenwood Saga #1)
Author: Morgan L. Busse
Genre: Fantasy / Christian Fiction
Publication Date: November 6th, 2018
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers

“Lady Selene is the heir to the Great House of Ravenwood and the secret family gift of dreamwalking. As a dreamwalker, she can enter a person’s dreams and manipulate their greatest fears or desires. For the last hundred years, the Ravenwood women have used their gift of dreaming for hire to gather information or to assassinate.

As she discovers her family’s dark secret, Selene is torn between upholding her family’s legacy–a legacy that supports her people–or seeking the true reason behind her family’s gift.

Her dilemma comes to a head when she is tasked with assassinating the one man who can bring peace to the nations, but who will also bring about the downfall of her own house.

One path holds glory and power, and will solidify her position as Lady of Ravenwood. The other path holds shame and execution. Which will she choose? And is she willing to pay the price for the path chosen? (Goodreads)

I read this for the first time as an e-arc in 2018 and really liked the story but never continued on with the series because at times I am terrible at it!

I have been trying to get better and that is why I am revisiting this series, but as audiobooks this time.

My reviewing skills back in the day were okay but I have changed a lot since then, haha. So I am also updating my review.

I still enjoy the two main point-of-views and the one from Lady Selene’s mother, but that one only happens a few times.

There is a lot of character development for Lady Selene who must decide where her loyalty lies and what she is willing to lose in the process of it all. That also includes losing herself to the darkness which clearly clings to her mother.

It’s always hard to want to please your parents but not give up on who you are as a person. I can understand the struggle well. Selene is always doing a balancing act.

I think my favorite part out of the whole book is the relationship. I mean, it’s not really a relationship but by the end she marries for convenience to another house lord and I’m excited to see where the relationship between them goes.

There is magic found within each house as well and I thought the magic system was cool and fun to learn about. Selene has dream walking and although some people would like her to use it for evil, I think that she will really let her gift shine in the next book.

Overall, I still enjoyed this book the second time around and look forward to actually continuing this series.

Old Review:

The cover and description is what drew me in but the plot and writing kept me glued. This book was so good that I read 80% of it in one day. Mark of the Ravens is filled with Assassins, murder, and twisted families. The main character, Lady Selene, is relatable as she struggles to not lose herself when the ones close to her ask for more. It also has multiple POVs which adds to any book and makes the development of the characters even better as you get to see their side. This book will leave you wanting more and I can’t wait for this series to continue! It is out now so go check it out!

Book Review: Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Title: Game of Thrones
Author: George R.R. Martin
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Publication Date: August 6th, 1996
Publisher: Bantam
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.

Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.” (Goodreads)

I had tried to read A Game of Thrones in 2013 and put it down and never picked it back up. Honestly, I don’t remember the reason for it but I am sad that it has taken this long for me to pick it up again and finish it.

This book surprised me in a good way and I can’t stop thinking about it! Ever since I read the last page it has been on my mind as the world he has created is so intricate and vast that it easily swept me away and clearly hasn’t let me go.

Out of all the characters, I have a few characters that I absolutely loved. The first of those characters being Arya Stark. She is headstrong and doesn’t let anyone tell her what she can’t do. I can’t wait to see more from her in the next book. The second character on my list is none other than Jon Snow. Being a bastard he got a lot of crap from Catelyn but he doesn’t let that stop him from loving his siblings or wanting his father to be proud of him. I also liked Samwell Tarley because he is a great friend to Jon and hopefully he will have a bigger role in the next book.

Obviously two of my favorite characters are from the Stark house and it’s funny because awhile ago before getting back to reading this I took a quiz on what house I would fall in and I got Stark. My husband would say I like them because I have a good moral compass which is what you could say about the characters I chose. I guess there is truth in that! Either way, they have great characteristics and I can’t wait to see where their the series takes them.

When it comes to the television show, I have only seen the first couple of episodes. I personally prefer the books more and so I am not sure if I will ever watch the whole television series. Only time will tell on that one.

Overall, this was a great book full of scandal, betrayal, lies, and war. The characters are well developed and the world is one you don’t want to leave. If you haven’t read this yet and love adult fantasy I would suggest giving it a try!

Favorite Winter Reads

Hello, my fellow book lovers!

It was hard to think of books that had a wintry setting and that I also love so my list is quite short but they are ones that I plan to read every winter.

The Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden was one of the best series I read this year. It was magical and you can’t help but love the characters and the world she created. It will be one series that I intend to reread next winter. If you haven’t read it yet I highly recommend doing so! The Winter of the Witch will be coming out in early January. I was lucky enough to get an eARC and I will have a review posted for it tomorrow!

The last book that has been a childhood favorite is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. You can’t ever go wrong with this book for winter and it is a book that I will always cherish. The movie was great as well and I plan to watch it soon!

Do you have any books you like to read during the wintry months? Let me know!