Until this month, I’d been waiting to read EotV for forever. Okay…in truth, it was more like a few months short of 3 years, but this led to some pretty high expectations – something I generally try to avoid for fear of heartbreak. Yet, to my complete surprise, this book managed to meet them, mostly.
Who, What, Where?
EotV is set in the world of Elidaen – an empire conquered by vampires after its sun disappeared one day twenty-seven years ago. In a prison cell, awaiting his death for murdering the vampire emperor, Silversaint Gabriel de Leon, the last of a holy order dedicated to defending humans against monsters of the night, is compelled to tell his life’s story to a vampire historian. Gabriel details his youth at the monastery of San Michon, rise to fame as a Chevalier of the realm against invading vampire forces, forbidden love, and journey with a small band of allies to find the Holy Grail, prophesised to bring an end to the eternal night.
It’s a Vampire’s World
First off, the world building in this book is fantastic! It’s complex, intriguing, intricate, and somehow JK breaks it down for the reader in ways that are easy to understand without bogging down the story. I was engaged in the world right from the very beginning and really enjoyed learning about its vampire lore and bloodlines, the Silver Order, Elidaen’s religion, and how the loss of the sun and vampire invasion affected people’s lives (a diet involving lots of potatoes, apparently). There were a couple of things raised and not fully explained but there’s got to be material left for the sequels, right? The one thing that bothered me a little was the use of random French words like ‘oui’ or ‘ma famillie’. It’s weird because the spoken language isn’t really discussed so it looks like they’re there purely to try and French-ify things.
I think it’s safe to say that if you loved JK’s Nevernight books it’s likely you’ll enjoy EotV. While there aren’t any footnotes (thank God), it’s similarly full of violence, revenge, corruption, foul language, moody-vibes, smut, religious themes, and emotional moments. It’s DARRRKKK. Vampires bathing in the blood of babies dark. The kind of dark and scary vampires should be. However, part of my reasoning for dropping that .5 of a star is that some of these things were slightly overdone in places. In the case of gore and violence, over time I felt myself becoming desensitised to the horror described, having read so much of it. Dead children littering the ground? Well, alrighty then! Likewise with the swearing and crassness, in that some lines came off feeling forced and excessive – we get it, they’re badasses with dirty mouths. And for the love of all that’s holy, please, no more ‘your mother/wife’ jokes. The audience is not a bunch of twelve-year-old boys.
Full Steam Ahead
There was no point while reading this book where I felt bored, and for a 700+ page novel, that’s pretty darn impressive. The plot of EotV is like if The Name of the Wind, The Witcher and The Last of Us had a threesome in a vampire nest with a twist from The Da Vinci Code thrown in. I have no idea if that sounds appealing, but it was. Gabriel’s tale switches back and forth between two different parts of his life. The first details his teenage years, during which he studied with the Silver Order and built his legend as The Black Lion. The second looks at more recent events – Gabe’s journey with a small group protecting a teenage street urchin named Dior in connection with the Holy Grail. At first, I was bothered by this structure but after seeing that it didn’t negatively impact the momentum, I realised it was a clever narrative choice. This is because it: a) stopped the book from being stuck in one place for too long, and b) allowed JK to slowly unfold certain plot elements to dramatic (and heartbreaking) effect. My only minor complaint is there were a couple of character-oriented moments in the first timeline which were summarised rather than shown to allow the book to move on to other events that I wish we’d actually seen.
A Grumpy “Hero”, Talking Sword and Scrappy Pickpocket
Talking about EotV’s characters without spoilers is a minefield, but I can safely say I liked a lot of them. Our lead, Gabriel, has been through a great deal and is akin to a more broken, bitter and arrogant Geralt of Rivia. He’s lost his faith and self-respect, and generally adopts a ‘F*** off’ attitude. While Gabe frustrated me early on, I came to understand and appreciate his interesting mix of heroic and asshole-ish qualities. His relationship with Dior was one of my favourite parts of the book and I loved seeing them come to trust and care for one another despite negative original perceptions. The surrounding cast of characters were also good but time with them was limited in some cases. A few standouts for me were Aaron, Gabe’s Silversaint nemesis turned friend; Ashdrinker, Gabe’s crazy, talking sword; Bellamy, basically Dandelion from The Witcher but more battle adept; and of course, Dior, our locking picking, smart-mouthed dynamo.
It would be a crime not to mention the stunning illustrations by Bon Orthwick in this book. As someone who doesn’t see books play out like movies in their head, these artworks truly enhanced my reading experience and helped me to feel and visualise scenes. HOWEVER, that one piece – you’ll know when the time comes – how DARE you squash my heart like that?
As I’m sure you already know, I had a blast reading this crazy, bloody, vampire ride of a paperweight and I’ll be looking forward to the next book in the series, whenever it finally makes an appearance.
Note: Thank you to Harper Collins AU and Netgalley for a large sampler of this book which allowed me to get started early!
There was a time, eons ago, that I honestly believed I was cleaning up my ridiculously overstuffed TBR. And…now look at me. Why are there so many amazing sounding books out there, dying for me to read them??? Bookworming is hard, guys.
Lately I’ve been adding a lot of books to my TBR (look, once you start you head down a rabbit hole and it’s very difficult to stop) and the majority of them have either been thrillers or contemporary romances. So, I thought it might be nice to share with you some of the latter that I’ve recently discovered, just in case they’re something that catches your eye, too.
The Charm Offensive – Alison Cochrun
Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.
Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever After expects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date twenty women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.
As Dev fights to get Charlie to connect with the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find to happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.
An opposites attract, grumpy-sunshine, LGBTI, the-bachelor-reality-type-show romance book? Please, sign me the hell up already.
People We Meet on Vacation – Emily Henry
Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.
Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together—lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?
I read Emily Henry’s Beach Read last year and although I gave it 3.5 stars, it wasn’t my favourite romance ever. So, when I heard about PWMoV a while back I was originally like, eh, maybe later. As you can see, my attitude has now changed. Lately I’ve been seeing some great reviews from people I trust on this one and I can’t deny that the blurb is making me really want to read it, so why not?
The Ex-Hex – Erin Sterling (aka Rachel Hawkins)
Nine years ago, Vivienne Jones nursed her broken heart like any young witch would: vodka, weepy music, bubble baths…and a curse on the horrible boyfriend. Sure, Vivi knows she shouldn’t use her magic this way, but with only an “orchard hayride” scented candle on hand, she isn’t worried it will cause him anything more than a bad hair day or two.
That is until Rhys Penhallow, descendent of the town’s ancestors, breaker of hearts, and annoyingly just as gorgeous as he always was, returns to Graves Glen, Georgia. What should be a quick trip to recharge the town’s ley lines and make an appearance at the annual fall festival turns disastrously wrong. With one calamity after another striking Rhys, Vivi realizes her silly little Ex Hex may not have been so harmless after all.
Suddenly, Graves Glen is under attack from murderous wind-up toys, a pissed off ghost, and a talking cat with some interesting things to say. Vivi and Rhys have to ignore their off the charts chemistry to work together to save the town and find a way to break the break-up curse before it’s too late.
I’m not sure when it happened, but 2021 seems to have somehow turned into the year of the witch romance. I’m not complaining though because I love romance, I love magic/witches, so why not mix the two? This seems like a fun take on the second chance romance trope with plenty of magical hijinkss and I’m looking forward to it.
The Love Hypothesis – Ali Hazelwood
As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn’t believe in lasting romantic relationships–but her best friend does, and that’s what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.
That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor–and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford’s reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive’s career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding…six-pack abs.
Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.
I hear that this started its life as Reylo fanfiction, but I’ve also heard it’s fluffy, tropey goodness involving, once again, the grumpy-sunshine dynamic and some fire smut. So…we’re going to do it. Plus, the cover is cute.
It Happened One Summer – Tessa Bailey
Piper Bellinger is fashionable, influential, and her reputation as a wild child means the paparazzi are constantly on her heels. When too much champagne and an out-of-control rooftop party lands Piper in the slammer, her stepfather decides enough is enough. So he cuts her off, and sends Piper and her sister to learn some responsibility running their late father’s dive bar… in Washington.
Piper hasn’t even been in Westport for five minutes when she meets big, bearded sea captain Brendan, who thinks she won’t last a week outside of Beverly Hills. So what if Piper can’t do math, and the idea of sleeping in a shabby apartment with bunk beds gives her hives. How bad could it really be? She’s determined to show her stepfather—and the hot, grumpy local—that she’s more than a pretty face.
Except it’s a small town and everywhere she turns, she bumps into Brendan. The fun-loving socialite and the gruff fisherman are polar opposites, but there’s an undeniable attraction simmering between them. Piper doesn’t want any distractions, especially feelings for a man who sails off into the sunset for weeks at a time. Yet as she reconnects with her past and begins to feel at home in Westport, Piper starts to wonder if the cold, glamorous life she knew is what she truly wants. LA is calling her name, but Brendan—and this town full of memories—may have already caught her heart.
This rom-com is said to be Schitt’s Creek inspired and I’m not sure what that will mean for me considering I only made it through 1 episode and couldn’t bring myself to watch more because I found it so annoying (please don’t murder me in my sleep). Still, the premise seems really enjoyable and I’ve heard that Tessa Bailey’s books are pretty darn steamy.
Payback’s a Witch – Lana Harper
Emmy Harlow is a witch but not a very powerful one—in part because she hasn’t been home to the magical town of Thistle Grove in years. Her self-imposed exile has a lot to do with a complicated family history and a desire to forge her own way in the world, and only the very tiniest bit to do with Gareth Blackmoore, heir to the most powerful magical family in town and casual breaker of hearts and destroyer of dreams.
But when a spellcasting tournament that her family serves as arbiters for approaches, it turns out the pull of tradition (or the truly impressive parental guilt trip that comes with it) is strong enough to bring Emmy back. She’s determined to do her familial duty; spend some quality time with her best friend, Linden Thorn; and get back to her real life in Chicago.
On her first night home, Emmy runs into Talia Avramov—an all-around badass adept in the darker magical arts—who is fresh off a bad breakup . . . with Gareth Blackmoore. Talia had let herself be charmed, only to discover that Gareth was also seeing Linden—unbeknownst to either of them. And now she and Linden want revenge. Only one question stands: Is Emmy in? But most concerning of all: Why can’t she stop thinking about the terrifyingly competent, devastatingly gorgeous, wickedly charming Talia Avramov?
See what I mean? WITCH ROMANCES. But in this case, it’s LESBIAN WITCH ROMANCE! It’s like a revenge story with a magical tournament and romance all in one!!! Can you tell I’m excited? Because I am. I really am. This book doesn’t release until early October so there’s still a few more weeks but I’ll be on that, for sure.
Act Your Age, Eve Brown (The Brown Sisters 3#) – Talia Hibbert
Eve Brown is a certified hot mess. No matter how hard she strives to do right, her life always goes horribly wrong—so she’s given up trying. But when her personal brand of chaos ruins an expensive wedding (someone had to liberate those poor doves), her parents draw the line. It’s time for Eve to grow up and prove herself—even though she’s not entirely sure how…
Jacob Wayne is in control. Always. The bed and breakfast owner’s on a mission to dominate the hospitality industry—and he expects nothing less than perfection. So when a purple-haired tornado of a woman turns up out of the blue to interview for his open chef position, he tells her the brutal truth: not a chance in hell. Then she hits him with her car—supposedly by accident. Yeah, right.
Now his arm is broken, his B&B is understaffed, and the dangerously unpredictable Eve is fluttering around, trying to help. Before long, she’s infiltrated his work, his kitchen—and his spare bedroom. Jacob hates everything about it. Or rather, he should. Sunny, chaotic Eve is his natural-born nemesis, but the longer these two enemies spend in close quarters, the more their animosity turns into something else. Like Eve, the heat between them is impossible to ignore—and it’s melting Jacob’s frosty exterior.
Have I read the second book in this series yet? That would be a no (It’s on my TBR, alright?). Do I still really want to read this? Very much so, yes. It’s set in a B&B and has enemies to lovers, basically its a resounding yes from me.
Seven Days in June – Tia Williams
Brooklynite Eva Mercy is a single mom and bestselling erotica writer, who is feeling pressed from all sides. Shane Hall is a reclusive, enigmatic, award-winning literary author who, to everyone’s surprise, shows up in New York. When Shane and Eva meet unexpectedly at a literary event, sparks fly, raising not only their past buried traumas, but the eyebrows of New York’s Black literati. What no one knows is that twenty years earlier, teenage Eva and Shane spent one crazy, torrid week madly in love. They may be pretending that everything is fine now, but they can’t deny their chemistry-or the fact that they’ve been secretly writing to each other in their books ever since.
Over the next seven days in the middle of a steamy Brooklyn summer, Eva and Shane reconnect, but Eva’s not sure how she can trust the man who broke her heart, and she needs to get him out of New York so that her life can return to normal. But before Shane disappears again, there are a few questions she needs answered. . .
This book is still a contemporary romance but it’s a lot more dramatic in vibe than others on this list. I’ve read some really great things about it and heard that it hits you in the emotions hard. Both the lead characters are writers, which sounds really interesting. They’re also black, which is great considering how white the romance genre can be at times. Here’s hoping for an enjoyable read.
Are any of these contemporary romances on your TBR, too? Or if you’ve read any of them already, what did you think?
Are there any other contemporary romances than you’re really excited to read soon?
While the US and UK may have some lovely book covers, and I thoroughly enjoy comparing them with one another, at times I feel like we overlook some of the amazing international language editions of popular books. In some cases, they’re even nicer than the English editions! Last year I had a look at some international covers of popular YA books and I thought it might be nice to do this again but include Adult reads as well. So, here are some of the interesting covers I’ve found in my online exploration…
(Note: I’ve put either the US/UK cover on the far left for reference).
The 7 (1/2) Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton
France, Portugal, Italy & Slovakia
While the US/UK cover for Evelyn Hardcastle has a clear 1920s vibe, in my opinion the international covers are much more interesting! The French version is very mystical with all the stars and the moon, which works considering this isn’t a traditional mystery. I’m not really sure why the manor is sideways on the Portuguese cover but I like the red & white colour scheme. The Italian cover is probably my favourite. It looks like paper tole art with all the layered elements and people peering ominously out from behind the pillars. I’m a big fan of the Slovak design, too, and like that they went down a different route, focusing on the mysterious man in the plague doctor mask.
The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller
Spain, Germany, Turkey & The Netherlands
I know, I feature this book a lot on my blog but I love it so, too bad. I would have used Circe but there aren’t many different covers for it. The Song of Achilles, however, has some super pretty foreign language editions. I am so in love with the Spanish version. Mainly because it’s foiled and shiny. Like, look at that gorgeousness! I adore the border on the German cover and, although you can’t see it from this image, all the beige sections such as the hair are foiled, too. Give me all the shiny books! The Turkish cover is similar to the original US cover in design but with extra detail and a more “classical” colour scheme. It works, though. The Dutch cover is fairly simple but I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that shade of blue against the stark black is beautiful.
Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston
Sweden, Brazil, Russia/China & Japan
Most of the international covers for RW&RB have similar imagery and colours to the original. I’m not super fond of the Swedish cover but at least they tried something different. The Brazilian cover is very much like the original. The only real difference is the illustration style, which I like a lot better! They look so cute and fun. In complete contrast, we have the Russian cover (the Chinese cover uses the same image with a different border). It’s so serious looking and there isn’t much warmth. I would never have guessed it was a romance. With the Japanese cover we bounce back to the original’s vibes. The illustrations are sweet but they look slightly strange sitting in mid-air. Is it just me? At least the original’s figures were leaning on the title.
Strange the Dreamer – Laini Taylor
Poland, Turkey, Croatia & Norway
It turns out that the cover for Strange the Dreamer is pretty much straight up gorgeous all around the world. As you probably expected, lots and lots of moth designs. I generally like all the covers I’ve got listed here but that Turkish cover in bright sunshine yellow with blue accents is stunning. I also quite like the way the Norwegian cover has integrated the text into the moth’s wing. It’s still legible but looks different from the regular.
The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue – V. E. Schwab
France, Hungary, Bulgaria & Russia
For this one, many countries have embraced the US cover with the title in their own language, but there are several international covers which took different routes. The French cover keeps the US colour scheme but also includes a greyscale illustration of Addie. While I prefer the simplicity of the original, I do see a sort of haunting quality to this version. The Hungarian cover is completely different but I really like it. I think the layout is very nicely done and the soft pink/navy colour scheme is striking. The Bulgarian cover is a little odd but still nice. However, it does give me more of a science fiction vibe. Once again, the stars make an appearance, though. The Russian cover is hands down my favourite. I think I might even like it more than the original. It’s so dreamy looking for such a simple design.
Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens
Japan, Greece, China & The Netherlands
The original cover for Where the Crawdads Sing is such a peaceful shot with a soft colour palette so I was interested to see how other countries had repackaged it. As it turns out, a lot of them took a like-minded approach just with different photography, like the Chinese cover. The Japanese cover is similar but I like that they’ve designed it like an oil painting, and the pink-purple colours are lovely. I find it so funny that the Greek cover went completely literal and smacked an actual crawdad on the cover. No mess, no fuss – here is a crustacean! The Dutch cover goes in a different direction to the others with the silhouette. I don’t mind this image but I wish there was slightly more contrast between the green foliage and the blue background.
Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo
Iran/Persia, France, Serbia & Israel
Like Addie La Rue, most of the international SoC covers are reworkings of the US/UK cover but I still found a few different ones. The Iranian/Persian cover is 100% my favourite. I’ve noticed that they seem to prefer using realistic-style illustrations in those countries. I love how Kaz is at the front, Inej in the top left corner & the rest of the crows in the back. It’s wonderfully dramatic. The French cover is quite clean and I like the crow image against the off-white background. The figures at the bottom are okay but could be more identifiable. The Serbian cover is another good one – great atmosphere and the decision to use Kaz’s cane as the focus was a solid one. It fits nicely against the original cover. The Hebrew edition isn’t my favourite but it’s not bad. The crow positioning is good and I like that they’ve tried to include some Fjerdan imagery at the bottom. It could be more visually dynamic, though.
The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
Korea, Japan, Georgia & Italy
Okay, I love all of these. Admittedly, cover designers for the The Night Circus had a romantic, fun subject matter and nice colour scheme to work with, so they were bound to come up with some pretty lovely imagery. These all look so mystical, dramatic and intriguing, but I think the Japanese and Georgian covers might be my favourites.
The Midnight Library – Matt Haig
Vietnam, Finland, Bangladesh and Italy
A book cover which features books, what could be more perfect? And these are all lovely in their own ways. The Vietnamese cover is my favourite. I love it so much – it looks magical. The Finnish cover is very tidy but it works. I appreciate the clean lines, plus the layout makes the title stand out. The Bangladeshi cover is kind of abstract but I like how the green and yellow stand out, and all the little images woven into the hair. The Italian cover seems like complete chaos at first but I think the pastels in the colour scheme and the white border pull it back for me.
Normal People – Sally Rooney
Czech Republic, Portugal, Norway & Slovenia
I really like each of these international Normal People covers. I’ve never been enthusiastic about the original US or UK covers so it was nice to explore some alternates. The colouring and layout for the Czech cover is great (love a good orange/blue combo). The only thing that bugs me is the empty eyes on the illustrations. The contrast on the Portugese cover is pretty cool – one dark half, one light, one figure looking forward, the other away. The colour scheme for the Norwegian cover is nice and the boxy layout is very modern and funky. The Slovenian cover is simple, much like the UK cover, and the yellow background reminds me of Conversations with Friends. I love the clean lettering and the illustration is nicely symbolic of the main characters’ bond.
Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel
Germany, Hungary, Indonesia & Sweden
Covers for Station Eleven tend to fall into two categories – pretty/starry landscapes or full blown apocalypse (Google Lithuanian’s Vienuolika stotis and Japan’s ステーション・イレブン for examples). All of the covers above are nice in different ways. Germany has the starry sky and pastel colours, Hungary’s is another example of my fave orange/blue contrast again, Indonesia balances mysterious with ominous, and Sweden’s looks like travel poster art.
The Bone Season – Samantha Shannon
Bulgaria, Vietnam, Poland & China
There aren’t a lot of differently designed covers for The Bone Season but of those I found, there were several pretty nice ones. I really like the Bulgarian cover. It retains the image from the original in the middle but I’m really drawn to the addition of the cards, bones and mist surrounding it in that lovely blue. The Vietnamese cover is quite gothic looking. I find it interesting that they took the UK/US symbol and made it out of actual bones. It all feels very horror-esque. The Polish cover has a similar vibe to the original but with different imagery. I think the sun design is striking, especially against the blue. The Chinese cover isn’t my favourite, but it’s attractive in a sci-fi way.
Did any of these covers catch your eye more than their UK/US equivalent? If so, why? It definitely makes you want to try learning another language, or at least it makes me want to!
What’s your favourite international edition of an English language book?
The People in the Trees is a ridiculously difficult book for me to rate and review. Although it’s only around 360 pages long, it took more than two and a half months for me to finish and sent me into a book slump for most of June. So, do I blame the book or myself? The fact that I managed to read the last 130 pages in the space of around 2-3 days probably suggests option B but honestly, who knows. I guess the more important question is, is it possible to be impressed by a book and still dislike it?
Who, What, Where?
TPITT tells the story of scientist Dr. Norton Perina, who in 1950 signs on to an anthropological expedition to the remote Micronesian island of Ivu’ivu searching for a rumored lost tribe. They successfully locate the tribe only to also discover a group of exiled jungle dwellers they call “The Dreamers,” people who seem to be fantastically long-lived but with signs of mental degradation. Perina suspects the source of their “immortality” to be the consumption of a rare turtle. Unable to resist the scientific implications, he kills one and smuggles its meat back to America. He proves his thesis, earning worldwide fame and a Nobel Prize, but soon learns that the turtle’s gift comes at a price. As things spiral beyond his control, Perina finds that his discovery brings a terrible cost for the islanders and sets him down a path with a monstrous destination.
Am I Engaged or Bored?
As I was reading this, there were moments where I was highly engaged in what was happening. Yet, there were also many others during which I was bored stiff and seriously considered DNF-ing (I almost did but it ended up just being a month long break). TPITT is written in the form of a non-fiction memoir – something I don’t read much of. While my copy looked reasonably short from the outside, I soon discovered that it was often dense, involved plenty of footnotes, and, as with any real person’s life story, had several snooze-worthy periods (in particular, the first 70 pages detailing Norton’s life before Micronesia). Sure, much of the information included was essential to the believability of Norton’s story and his voice as an arrogant, asshole scientist, but as a reader there were so many things that I did not give two craps about.
I read Yanagihara’s A Little Life in 2020 and, despite it’s difficult themes, I loved it. I knew to expect similarly dark topics with this book but reading TPITT felt like a different kind of unsettling and uncomfortable. Animal cruelty, traces of misogyny, graphic child rape, colonialism – this isn’t a feelgood story or “easy” read in the slightest, especially when it comes to its bleak epilogue. I don’t usually have too much of a problem with this sort of thing, but I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times where I felt something ugly twisting in the pit of my stomach.
A Triumph of Style & Voice
Now, you’re probably wondering why it’s so difficult for me to rate TPITT. Why not just hit 1 star and move on with my day? Well, there are a few other important things to note. The first being, this book is an amazing example of narrative style and voice. Norton may be an awful human being to view the world through the eyes of, but gosh does Yanagihara perfectly capture the tone, focus, unreliability and language of her narrator from start to finish. The book is extensively researched, detail rich, and entirely believable as the memoir of a disgraced Nobel Prize-winning scientist, written from the confines of his prison cell. Part of this is likely due to the story drawing heavily from the life of deeply problematic scientist Carleton Gajdusek. The prose itself is also undeniably stunning at points, a reminder of Yanagihara’s talent for beautiful descriptions and exposition which, without warning, drills right to your emotional core.
The Rape of the Natural World
The other major reason for my conflict is the book’s approach toward certain issues. These include: colonialism/westernisation, the destruction of the environment, weighing someone’s contributions to society against who they are as a person, and humanity’s selfish, single-minded pursuit of scientific discovery. These are all key themes in TPITT and whilst I may not have enjoyed its story, I believe it explores these ideas in effective, impactful ways which continue to encourage me to think about and discuss them. When I consider the novel, my mind is always drawn back to Norton’s return to Ivu’ivu after his discoveries are made public to the international community. The devastation this knowledge wreaks on the island’s culture, flora, fauna, economy and people will never cease to be heartbreaking.
The People in the Trees was a challenging read in more ways than one and, even now, I find myself thinking about it. Maybe that’s just the power of Hanya Yanagihara. While this may not have been the book for me, I understand why others have rated it so highly and can’t help but admire it as a piece of literary fiction.
Yes, I am fully aware that we’re already a week into September and I’m only now just posting my TBR. SSSSHHHHHHH! I’m an indecisive nut, okay and picking monthly TBRs is hard for me but, unfortunately, that’s part of completing a readathon. Speaking of which…
It’s back! Yes, that’s right, Magical Readathon (created by G at Book Roast) is returning again in 2021. But not as we know it. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, up until this year, Magical Readathon was based around Harry Potter and completing prompts related to Hogwarts exam subjects. However, after the J K Rowling controversies of 2020, G was worried about how continuing the readathon in its current form would make members of the trans community feel. And so, she has completely overhauled it in spectacular fashion. For Magical Readathon 2.0, G has created an entirely new fantasy world, Aeldia, with a full booklet devoted to describing its history, continents, and inhabitants (all with illustrations I might add!).
The Novice Path
G intends for the readathon to return to a magical academy type vibe in 2022. But, as a way of introducing us all to Aeldia first, she’s developed a readathon for September 2021 based around ‘The Novice Path’ – the path designed to “test” new students seeking to reach & study at Orilium Academy. The path involves a series of obstacles/landmarks which, as you’d expect, are overcome by completing reading prompts. G’s kept things pretty easy in that you only need to complete a minimum of 2 prompts to successfully reach the academy. Still, you’re more than welcome to do as many as you want, as long as you use different reads.
As usual, I’m not 100% sure which prompts I want to do and books I’ll be in the mood for so I’ve decided to find a book for (almost) each one and see where September takes me. Here are my picks:
The Novice Path: A Book with a Map
A TORCH AGAINST THE NIGHT (EMBER QUARTET 2#) – SABAA TAHIR (RE-READ)
Time to continue with my Ember reread on the road to finally reading A Sky Beyond the Storm. I’m excited! I definitely want to tackle this in September because I have a terrible habit of starting series rereads and then abandoning them midway through (*cough* The Bone Season *cough*). So, best to keep going while the motivation is there. If my memory serves me correctly, when I first read this, I think I may have even enjoyed it the slightest bit more than book one. Seems hard to believe, having just reread An Ember in the Ashes, but I think it had something to do with the adventurous spirit of it all, broader world building and some good political drama. Guess we shall see.
AshtHorn Tree: A Book That Keeps Tempting You
ONE LAST STOP – CASEY McQUISTON
Red, White and Royal Blue was my second favourite read of 2019. So you can imagine how excited I was when One Last Stop was announced. It’s a f/f romance set in NYC about twenty-three year-old waitress/uni-student called August who meets punk-rocker, Jane, on the subway. The only problem is that Jane has magically traveled to the present from the 1970s and can’t seem to remember how or much about her past. I was a little worried about reading this after seeing some middle of the road reviews. Since then though, I’ve also seen a heap of super positive ones, too, so I’m feeling excited again. I’ve been looking at this sitting on my desk for weeks now, daring me to read it, so it seems like now is finally the time!
The Mist of Solitude: A Standalone
Just to give myself more flexibility, I’m going to leave this one open as a freebie in case I discover something during the month that I really, really want to read all of a sudden (which, let’s face it, is typical me). The prompt for this landmark is ‘a standalone’ so it’s extremely broad and will allow me to read a very large number of books. Maybe I’ll feel like another romance or perhaps a mystery. Or, maybe I’ll be a good little bookworm for a change and read something off my existing TBR…It could happen, right? Right?
Ruin of the Skye: A Book Featuring Ghosts, A Haunted House or Other Supernatural Elements
WHITE SMOKE – TIFFANY D. JACKSON
I’ve never read a Tiffany D. Jackson book before but after the amazing things I’ve heard about her previous novels, Monday’s Not Coming and Grown, I thought her September release White Smoke might be a good pick for this prompt (although I’ll have to read it after the 14th) It’s about a girl named Marigold who moves to the Midwest after her mother remarries and gets a new job, which includes a house as a relocation bonus. But after moving in, they start to notice things going missing, doors opening on their own, voices in the walls and a weird smell in the vents. Plus, Mari’s step-sister has been talking about a mysterious “friend” who wants Mari gone. I have no idea if this will be an actual ghost/haunted house story but seeing as that’s what it’s pitched as, I feel like it meets the requirements.
Obsidian Falls: a Thriller/Mystery Book
ROCK PAPER SCISSORS – ALICE FEENEY
It’s very likely that I’ll complete this prompt because lately I’ve had a massive thing for binge-reading thrillers in 1-2 days. Usually my ability to do relies on me buying something off the Amazon kindle store on a whim based on whatever my mood is and just blazing on through it, so my choice for this prompt could change. At the moment I’m planning on reading Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney. It’s a new release and follows a couple with marital problems who win a weekend away to Scotland but find that things start to go wrong when they get there, begging the question: did they really randomly win this trip? I’ve heard that there’s a great twist in this one, and I love getting my mind blown by those, so here’s hoping for an exciting and quick read.
Tower of Rumination: A 5-Star Prediction
EMPIRE OF THE VAMPIRE – JAY KRISTOFF
At over 700 pages this seems pretty ambitious, but considering I only have to complete a minimum of 2 prompts, I can afford to be ambitious. My physical copy has only just arrived, however I was lucky enough to receive the first 300 or so pages via Netgalley so I was able to get started early. I’m really liking it so far so hopefully my 5 star prediction becomes a reality. It’s set in a world in which the sun is almost completely blocked out, allowing vampires to seize control. The plot centres around an imprisoned man named Gabriel, the last member of a holy order called the Silversaints, who is telling his life story to a vampire. He details his education, great love, the destruction of his order, and his quest to find the Holy Grail, which is said to be able to end the eternal night.
Orilium Academy Arc: A Book with a School Setting
A LESSON IN VENGEANCE – VICTORIA LEE
Since I just did a massive dark academia book post, there were a lot of potential options for this prompt. I’ve decided that if it ends up being one of my chosen ones, I’ll use A Lesson in Vengeance for it. I’ve been excited about this book for months so hopefully I’m not disappointed. It’s about two girls at a boarding school in the Catskill mountains who are researching the mysterious deaths of a group of students who were believed to be witches and are rumoured to still haunt the school grounds. It also involves a sapphic romance between the two MCs – one is a prodigy author and the other has returned to the school after dropping out following her girlfriend’s death.
Create a Character
The fun doesn’t stop there. For those looking to participate in the readathon in 2022, we also have up until April to create our own character! By completing particular prompts we get to choose our magical student’s background, home continent, and race. Want to be a wild roaming dwarf from the desert continent of Daerune? Go for it. Or how about one of the ancient earthlings with cool elemental abilities who lives in the lush forests of Irtheria? The choice is yours. I’m nowhere near a fast enough reader to do this during September on top of The Novice Path prompts so I’ll try to shape my student over the next few months instead.
Are any of you also participating in Magical Readathon this month? If so, I’m sure you were much more organised in selecting your TBR than I was. Let me know which prompts you’re most looking forward to completing and the books you’ve selected for them!
So, you know how I said I was going to be consistent about doing wrap up posts to help when it came to my end of the year wrap up? Yeah, how about we just forget about that because it failed pretty much after April. Probably because I intended to do May and June together, hit a reading slump, finished only 1 book total in June and simply continued onward in the hopes that things would improve. Now, here we are.
I was really keen to read this one but tried not to let my expectations get away from me. Luckily I didn’t because I wasn’t the biggest fan by the end. The book revolves around a group therapist trying to solve some murders at Cambridge University, under the belief that they’re connected to a Greek tragedy professor and his female “study group” called ‘The Maidens’. While there were things I liked such as the setting, atmosphere, and way the book dealt with the MC’s grief, I couldn’t get past the weird dialogue choices, stupid decisions of the lead, underdeveloped subplot elements and multitude of unbelievable story components, especially the ending.
All of us Villains – Amanda Foody & Christine Lynn Herman (ARC) ★★★★ | Review to Come
This book is pitched as The Hunger Games with magic so you can imagine how excited I was to get an ARC. It’s about a group of families who every generation are bound by a curse to send one of their teens into an arena to fight to the death for control of the town’s reserves of high magic. It wasn’t as bloody and action packed as I was expecting from the HG comparison but I still had a great time. The characters are really well crafted, the magic system is decently constructed and there’s an adequate build up to the arena. It also has romance elements which don’t overwhelm the story and some exciting plot threads that make me really keen for the sequel. There were a few things which could have been improved upon but, overall, a great YA fantasy read.
Look at me actually reading some Australian fiction for a change! I probably should read more if it’s like this. The Nowhere Child is a split timeline book set both in the present and 1990s which deals with an Australian woman discovering she’s the victim of a 20+ year old kidnapping case in a small US town. This was a lot less of a dramatic thriller type mystery and more of a slower burn one than I expected. It focused on characters, relationships and how the kidnapping impacted the town, but I really enjoyed it. I was engaged pretty much right until the end and though that White’s writing was great, especially for a debut novel.
An Ember in the Ashes (Ember quartet 1#) – Sabaa Tahir (Re-Read) ★★★★.5
I’m finally doing my Ember re-read so I can read A Sky Beyond the Storm (I know I’m super behind). I was a little worried when I first started that it wasn’t going to be as good as I remembered but once I got past the opening chapters, I had a great time and sped through it. I still love Elias and Helene, and I think Laia grew on me more this time through. The plot is well constructed and entertaining, the world building is fantastic, and I like that the ending isn’t highly predictable. Maybe I just have a thing for competition plots. The last time I read this I gave it 4 stars but considering the YA fantasy books I’ve read since, I feel I undervalued it a little so I’m going to bump it up to a 4.5. I’ll try to reread the next book soon.
Blood of Elves (The Witcher 1#) – Andrzej Sapkowski ★★★
I rewatched the first season of The Witcher in late July and as, you can tell, suddenly became very interested in reading the first novel (I’ve already read the short stories). I didn’t mind this but there were plenty of times where I sat there wondering what the overall plot was. The middle of the book, in particular, felt very aimless. There are a lot of lengthy conversations and a great deal of time is spent world building, politically especially, in ways I’d probably find overwhelming if I weren’t already familiar with aspects of it. Still, I like Yennefer, with her brand of bitchy-snarkiness, and enjoy Ciri’s bond with both her and Geralt. Hopefully the next book has more magic/sword badassery and eventful plot drama now that Ciri has received both witcher and sorcery training.
The People in the Trees – Hanya Yanagihara ★★.5 | Review to Come
*Sigh* I started this book in June and didn’t finish it until more than halfway through August, an achievement considering I thought about DNF-ing it numerous times. It’s a fictional memoir which details the life of a Nobel-prize winning scientist who after travelling to a remote island in Micronesia discovers that a turtle there brings a sort of immortality to those who eat it. This book was super hard for me to rate and review because while I didn’t like the story (sometimes I was engaged, others I was super bored), I can’t deny that I’m impressed by it as a piece of literary fiction. It’s not an easy read and deals with super dark themes (e.g. child rape), but the narrative style and voice is extremely well done. It also explores ideas like colonialism and the destruction of the environment in impactful ways. It may not be a favourite, but I’ll be thinking about it for a long time to come.
This was $3 on the kindle store and one of the last two Sager books I had yet to read. My experiences with Sager have been varied so I wasn’t sure how this’d go but I enjoyed it. The concept is farfetched and over the top but I decided to just go with it. It’s about a woman who takes an apartment sitting job in a fancy New York building but starts to suspect something is wrong when one of the other sitters mysteriously disappears. Unlike The Final Girls, the pacing in this was really good and I read nearly all of it in one sitting. The level of tension is decent as well without being too much. As far as heroines go, I liked Jules – she was a fighter and I clearly understood the motivations for her actions. The big reveal is…a lot and brought down my rating somewhat, but like with The Last Time I Lied I found that it didn’t massively affect my overall enjoyment. No regrets about spending a lockdown day reading this one.
In the Dark – Loreth Anne White ★★★
This was good but I didn’t love it. In Agatha Christie fashion, In the Dark follows eight people as they travel to a wellness spa in isolated British Columbia. The group quickly finds that all is not as it seems and they’ve been invited there for sinister purposes. I really liked the set up for this, and the eerie vibes of the setting were great. The decision to concurrently feature the police & SAR investigation was mostly well done (if a little detail heavy) and tied in nicely to the other timeline. Plus, this plotline featured two strong characters I wouldn’t mind reading about again. However, there were points during the book where things lagged for me. The first two thirds were more enjoyable than the last, during which the tone shifted, and I found the ending slightly flat with more exposition than necessary. Also, while I appreciate what the story was trying to say about the effects of stress on group dynamics and people’s selfish sense of self-preservation, I do wish events had been more calculated (as was first insinuated) than spur of the moment.
The Push – Ashley Audrain ★★★★★
My second 5 star read of the year, hurray!!! Considering this book is on Goodreads’ list of the most read books of 2021 so far, I can’t believe it took me this long to hear about it. Because, holy moly, this steamrolled me emotionally. The writing was just raw, heartbreaking perfection. Loneliness, resentment, anxiety, defeat, and completely gut-wrenching grief, I felt it all with the main character. While it’s largely “pushed” as a thriller, it’s more of psychological drama with a heap of tension. The Push tells the story of Blythe, who becomes convinced that there is something wrong with her daughter Violet. Is she right or is it all in her head? This is a complex, brutal, and layered view of motherhood that contravenes the usual stereotype of perfection, completion and unconditional love. It’s a short, punchy read and I cannot recommend it enough!
Up until the last week or so, I’d bought almost no books at all in the last two months. I know, I’m shocked, too. Mainly because a) I’ve been unable to physically go to a bookstore (more on that later) and b) I haven’t been in a reading mood. One Last Stop was a gift from one of my best friends, sent as part of care package to boost my mood (which it did!). I was so excited to receive it and I’m looking forward to reading it in September. After going back and forth over what edition of EotV to buy for around a month, I finally pre-ordered the special Aussie red paperback edition. It should get here sometime next week, however, I was lucky enough to receive the first 300 or so pages early via Netgalley so I’ve started reading already to get a head start.
Yesterday I also ordered A Lesson in Vengeance and Once There Were Wolves online. I’m super keen for both and the latter will be signed by the author, which is pretty cool. My last purchase is a kindle one which can be attributed entirely to the fact that I re-watched Bridgerton S1 on Netflix last week. Even though I two starred the first book, I was kind of like, ‘what the hell, let’s just do it’ and bought the sequel. Let’s see what happens.
As usual, here’s the list of posts from the last two months additional to the book reviews already linked above. Just in case there’s something you missed that you’d be interested in:
Life wise, the only real update I have for you all is, unfortunately, Covid-19 related. Back in July, after months of zero cases, my home state in Australia experienced an outbreak of the Delta variant. A few weeks later Sydney was placed into lockdown and when numbers continued to grow, several government areas were placed under heavier restrictions. These limit people from leaving those areas (or your home) except for specific reasons. Unluckily, I live in one of the affected regions and have been unable to leave my house except for the occasional walk. My work hours have been reduced by a large amount (I’m still able to do some from home), but thank goodness I’ve been able to receive government support to cover this.
While the conditions here are nothing compared to what some countries have experienced, being stuck inside my house for a month, with more to come, hasn’t been the easiest time. It’s even harder in the face of people consistently flouting public health orders by hosting parties, refusing to wear masks, and attending anti-lockdown protests. Our case numbers are still awful at the moment but hopefully things will improve soon. Regardless, I’m extremely happy to have received my first vaccine dose this week.
I hope that you’re all doing well at the moment, in both life and reading, and that you and your families are staying safe. It’s scary to think that we’re already in September. I feel as though both this year and last have simultaneously taken forever and gone by in the blink of an eye. So, here’s to, fingers crossed, a great new month of reading! Much love.
That’s right, it’s time for EVEN MORE bookish, reading and author related facts. But why, you ask. Well, why not? And because you can never have enough fun facts about books and reading! So, let’s continue to expand your (and my) superior trivia knowledge, shall we?
Bookish & Reading Facts
1. there’s a precise word for ‘someone who reads in bed’
That’s right! The term is a ‘Librocubicularist’. Try saying that mouthful three times fast.
2. Reading is good for both mental and physical health
Although, I’m sure you were already aware of this. The University of Sussex conducted a study in 2009 that showed reading can reduce stress levels by up to 68%, which is even better than listening to music, taking a walk or having a cup of tea. Apparently it eases muscle tension and lowers your heart rate.
3. The World’s Oldest (Operating) bookstore is located in Lisbon, Portugal.
It’s called the ‘Livraria Bertrand’ and was founded by two French brothers in 1732!! When you buy a book there, the staff will ask if you want a stamp in it stating that you bought it at the world’s oldest bookstore. The books stocked are mostly in Portuguese but they do have a small English language section.
Bonus: Up until 2014, when it closed, the largest bookstore in the world by floor area was the Barnes and Noble flagship store on 5th Avenue in New York City. It covered 54,250 square feet and had 12.87 miles of shelving.
4. The original printing press was built in Germany by a man named Johannes Gutenberg and the first book he printed was The Gutenberg Bible.
It’s one of the rarest books in the world. Back in the 1970s, a copy was sold by a New York book dealer to a German museum for $1.8M. Again, note to self, do not get into rare book collecting.
5. Books actually do have a “smelL” which becomes more potent as they age
Ever wondered about the book smell we love so much? Well, it’s caused by a breakdown of two of the chemical components of paper – lignin and cellulose. The by-products of this process create a mixture of almond, vanilla, floral, and general sweet scents.
6. Scientists can use this scent to determine a book’s age
By looking at the breakdown of these compounds, historians are able to use a process called material degradomics to determine the age of a book. Science is cool, guys.
7. The Romance Genre is a Massive Money Maker
Romance as a genre is often disregarded but you might be surprised to know that romance makes up over 1/3 of mass-market paperbacks sold. It’s a billion dollar industry and actually makes more money than several other genres combined. I’ll admit, I contribute to this.
8. Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue is credited as being the first ever ‘locked-door mystery’
However, if you go back a LONG way, it might actually be Greek historian Herodotus’s account from the 5th century BC of a robber whose headless body was found in a sealed stone chamber with only one guarded exit. Creepy.
9. in 2014, Amazon released a list of the most highlighted e-book passages and 19 of the top 25 were from The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.
The most popular was the line, “Because sometimes things happen to people and they’re not equipped to deal with them”. People were obviously feeling very bleak at that point in time.
10. Stieg Larsson got the idea for his The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo lead, Lisbeth Salander, by imagining what Pippi Longstocking would have been like as an adult.
Even the nameplate for one of Lisbeth’s apartments is an allusion to Pippi’s house Villa Villekulla. I’m sorry, but what??
11. Truman Capote was REALLY superstitious.
He wouldn’t start or finish a book on a Friday, allow more than 3 cigarette butts in an ash tray, stay in hotel rooms with unlucky numbers, call phone numbers that added up to unlucky numbers, or fly on a plane with more than two nuns on board. He always needed to write lying down and frequently carried a security blanket with him. However, some of these things might be due to the fact that he suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder.
12. Charles Dickens had a fascination with morgues and dead bodies
He was in the habit of visiting the Paris Morgue, even on holidays like Christmas and New Years. He referred to the morgue as ‘an old acquaintance’. Morbid, but whatever floats your boat I guess?
13. Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series was created because of a challenge of sorts from a member of an online writers’ workshop.
The man claimed Jim couldn’t write a good story based on a lame idea. He disagreed and said he’d do it based on any two lame ideas of the guy’s choosing. They were “Lost Roman Legion”, and “Pokémon”. And what do you know, the average Goodreads rating for book one, The Furies of Calderon, is over 4 stars.
14. Roald Dahl used to write his books in a small shed at the bottom of his garden.
He would sit in an cosy, old armchair with a pencil and a red book (apparently he never learned to type) for around 4 hours every day. That’s some serious dedication.
BONUS – Did you know that originally James and the Giant Peach was going to be about a giant cherry? It was changed because a peach was supposedly ‘prettier, bigger and squishier’. So weird.
15. Toni Morrison began working on her first novel while she was at university but it wasn’t published until she was 39 years old
She went on to win a Pulitzer prize, be awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, and become the first African-American woman to ever win the Nobel Prize in literature . If that isn’t reason to never give up on your dreams, I don’t know what is.
16. Marissa Meyer wrote her The Lunar Chronicles novella, Fairest, in just 9 days!
Originally it was going to be a short promotional story but ended up growing and developing so much beyond this that it was published as its own novella. I mean, I already knew that Meyer drafted the first 3 books in the series as part of different NaNoWriMos but this is crazy impressive!
BONUS: Meyer drew influence for the series from things like Star Wars and Sailor Moon. No wonder it’s so much fun.
How many of these facts did you already know about? Probably more than me, let’s be honest. Still, I hope you picked up one or two new things to use during super boring conversations.
Missed the first two posts full of bookish and author related facts? You can find them here & here.
As you might already be aware, dark academia is both an aesthetic and a genre. When it comes to the aesthetic, at its heart it’s a subculture that revolves around education and the enthusiastic pursuit of knowledge. A romanticisation of learning, as it were. There’s a particular focus on the liberal arts – classic languages like Latin and Greek, history, literature, poetry, philosophy, and often a connection with old school universities like Oxford or Cambridge. As a result, it’s quite Eurocentric, a little on the pretentious side, and frequently involves some not so great approaches towards mental health, so it’s important to be aware of these flaws.
The overall vibe of DA could best be summed up as vintage meets Gothic. Think upper class 1930/40s fashion with plenty of tweed, layering and autumn colour schemes, moody weather, old & musty libraries, journaling and letter writing, classical music, dinner parties, and late night drinking sessions involving plenty of intellectual discussion.
Dark Academia as a Genre
The dark academia genre is often said to have taken off following the popularity of Donna Tartt’s 1992 novel, The Secret History. While a lot of people seem to believe that dark academia is simply a mystery in an academic setting, there’s more to it than that. More often than not, DA books are actually coming of age stories, twisted and bleak ones, but learning experiences for characters all the same.
So, what are some of the features of dark academia stories?
An Academic Setting
Usually prestigious and somewhat isolated, e.g. boarding school, university, library etc.
Emphasis on Knowledge and Learning
Allusions to the fine arts, potential forbidden knowledge or dark avenues of study
“Darker” Themes and a Preoccupation with Ideas Surrounding Life & Death
Some popular themes are hubris, revenge, temptation, jealousy, obsession and paranoia
One the reader foresees/is forewarned about
Usually a death, one the protagonist was involved in somehow
Close-Knit Groups of Individuals
A group of friends or secret society
Probably has toxic foundations
Adult Authority Figure
Who abuses their power or exercises influence in damaging ways
Damaging Secrets that Eat Away at the Characters
Social & Economic Disparities + Fish-Out-of-Water Scenarios
DA deals with elitism and privilege, and how this can result in moral ambiguity, apathy, and arrogance
The protagonist is distinct from the privileged characters and acts as the reader’s window into their world
Plenty of imagery, lengthy dialogue and internal monologuing
Not every book in this post ticks off all the dark academia elements above (particularly the learning and knowledge focus). If I were being stricter, the list would be a lot shorter. However, because I know people likely have broader views about what DA is than me, especially when it comes to YA reads, I’ve included some books that are more in the vein of ‘mystery/thriller in an academic setting’, too.
Now for the fun part, the list of DA reads! I’ll clarify in advance, I have not read anything close to every book on this list but rest assured, I’ve done LOTS of research to compile it. Hopefully you find something that floats your boat.
Adult Dark Academia
Let’s just get the obvious one out of the way first, yes?
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
After being accepted to an exclusive New England College, Californian Richard Pappen falls in with an exclusive, eccentric and clever group of classics students led by charismatic professor, Julian Morrow. Under Julian’s tutelage, the students are taught a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when an attempt at completing a Bacchian rite ends in tragic consequences, the group is pushed to take extraordinary lengths to cover it up. In the aftermath, secrets come out, relationships are tested and their lives are changed forever. I really enjoyed this book and it’s a must read for anyone wanting to give DA a go.
Alright, moving on…
Frankenstein – Mary Shelly
A classic literature example of the dark academia genre as well as the aesthetic. Obsessed with creating life itself, Victor Frankenstein plunders graveyards for the materials to fashion a new being, one which he shocks into life with electricity. To Frankenstein’s dismay, the resulting creature is a twisted, parody of a man. Rejected by his creator and denied human companionship, the creature sets out to destroy Frankenstein and all that he holds dear. A disturbing and dramatic exploration of birth and death, creation and destruction, Frankenstein is one of the most iconic horror stories of all time.
They Never Learn – Layne Fargo
Scarlett Clark is an exceptional English professor and even better at getting away with murder. Every year, she tracks down and kills the worst man at GormanUniversity and so far, she’s avoided drawing attention to herself. But as she’s preparing for her biggest kill yet, the school starts probing into the deaths on campus. Determined to keep her enemies close, Scarlett insinuates herself into the investigation and charms the woman in charge, Dr. Mina Pierce. Everything’s going according to plan…until she makes a mistake with her latest victim. Meanwhile, Gorman student Carly Schiller is just trying to survive her freshman year. Free of her abusive father, all Carly wants is to focus on her studies but her roommate has other ideas. Allison Hadley is cool and confident—everything Carly wishes she could be—and the two girls quickly form an intense friendship. So when Allison is sexually assaulted at a party, Carly becomes obsessed with making the attacker pay. This is one of the ‘thriller/mystery in an academic setting’ books I mentioned.
The Likeness – Tana French
Also see ‘The Secret Place’ by Tana French
Traumatised by her brush with a psychopath, Detective Cassie Maddox transfers out of the Murder squad and starts a relationship with fellow detective Sam O’Neill. Then Sam calls her to a crime scene: a woman stabbed to death outside Dublin who looks exactly like Cassie. What’s more, her ID identifies her as Lexie Madison – the identity Cassie used years ago as an undercover detective. With no leads or clue to Lexie’s identity, Cassie’s old boss spots the perfect opportunity: say the stab wound wasn’t fatal and send Cassie undercover. It’s crazy, but Cassie is drawn not only to the prospect of working again but assuming the victim’s identity as a graduate student and infiltrating her close-knit group of secretive, intelligent, odd friends. As she is drawn into Lexie’s world, Cassie realizes that the girl’s secrets run deeper than imagined and she’ll have to tread carefully if she wants to tempt the killer out of hiding to finish the job. This is the second book in a series but they can be read out of order without difficulty.
For Your Own Good – Samantha Downing
Teddy Crutcher has won Teacher of the Year at the esteemed Belmont Academy, home to the best and brightest. He says his wife couldn’t be more proud—though no one has seen her in a while. Teddy really can’t be bothered with the death of a school parent that’s looking more and more like murder or the student digging a little too deep into Teddy’s personal life. His main focus is on pushing these kids to their full academic potential. All he wants is for his colleagues—and the endlessly meddlesome parents—to stay out of his way. It’s really too bad that sometimes excellence can come at such a high cost.
Catherine House – Elisabeth Thomas
I wasn’t so sure about including this one due to mixed reviews but if you’re big on atmosphere over plot, this might be for you. Hidden in the woods of Pennsylvania, Catherine House is a liberal arts school like no other. With an experimental curriculum, selective admissions policy, and formidable endowment, it has produced the world’s best minds. But acceptance comes with a price. Students are required to give the House three years completely removed from the outside world. Among this year’s class is Ines, who expects to trade partying, pills and boys for rigorous intellectual study – only to discover an environment of sanctioned revelry. The students are encouraged to explore, expand their minds, and find themselves and their place within Catherine. But is it all too good to be true? Is there something sinister hiding beneath the school’s shabby splendor, hallowed history and advanced curriculum?
In My Dreams I Hold a Knife – Ashley Winstead
Ten years after graduation, Jessica Miller has planned her triumphant return to Duquette University. Everyone is going to see the girl she wants them to see, not who she was when she left campus, back when Heather’s murder fractured everything, including the tight bond linking the six friends she’d been closest to since freshman year. Ten years ago, everything fell apart, including the dreams she worked for her whole life—and her relationship with the one person she wasn’t supposed to love. But not everyone is ready to move on. Not everyone left Duquette ten years ago, and not everyone can let Heather’s murder go unsolved. Someone is determined to make the guilty pay. When the six friends are reunited, they will be forced to confront what happened that night—and the years’ worth of secrets each of them would do anything to keep hidden.
These Violent Delights – Micah Nemerever
This book is definitely big on the dark themes part of DA. When Paul enters university in 1970s Pittsburgh, he hopes to move past the recent death of his father. Sensitive, insecure, and incomprehensible to his grieving family, Paul feels isolated and alone. When he meets the worldly Julian in his ethics class, Paul is immediately drawn to his charm. Paul sees Julian as his sole intellectual equal and wants nothing more than to prove himself worthy of their friendship. But as charismatic as he may be, Julian is also volatile and cruel, and Paul becomes increasingly afraid he will never live up to Julian’s expectations. As their friendship spirals into all-consuming intimacy, they each learn the lengths to which the other will go to stay together, their obsession ultimately hurtling them toward an act of irrevocable violence.
Confessions- Kanae Minato
Confessions is another one of those academic setting mystery/thriller books but it has such good reviews, I had to include it. This is a Japanese translation so yay for some diversity. After calling off her engagement in wake of a tragic revelation, Yuko Moriguchi had nothing to live for except her only child, four-year-old Manami. Now, following an accident on the grounds of the middle school where she teaches, Yuko has given up and tendered her resignation. But first she has one last lecture to deliver. She tells a story that upends everything her students ever thought they knew about two of their peers, and sets in motion a maniacal plot for revenge.
Plain Bad Heroines – Emily Danforth
In 1902, Flo and Clara are students of The Brookhants School for Girls, obsessed with each other and the author of a scandalous memoir, Mary MacLane. The girls establish a private club, The Plain Bad Heroine Society, and meet secretly in a nearby apple orchard. That is, until their deaths at the hands of a swarm of angry yellow jackets, a copy of Mary’s book found beside them. Five years, and three mysterious deaths later, the school closes its doors. A century later, the abandoned Brookhants returns to the news when Merritt Emmons publishes a breakout book celebrating its queer, feminist history. The book inspires a horror film starring lesbian it girl Harper Harper playing ill-fated heroine Flo, and former child star Audrey Wells as Clara. But as Brookhants reopens its gates and our heroines arrive to begin filming, past and present become entangled and soon it’s impossible to tell where the curse leaves off and Hollywood begins.
Kill All Your Darlings – David Bell
Not to be confused with the film Kill Your Darlings (they’re completely different). 2021 seems to be all about plagiarism thrillers. After years of struggling to write following the deaths of his wife and son, English professor Connor Nye publishes his first novel, a thriller about the murder of a young woman. There’s just one problem: Connor didn’t write the book. His missing student did. And then she appears on his doorstep, alive and well, threatening to expose him. Connor’s problems escalate when the police insist details in the novel implicate him in an unsolved murder. Soon Connor discovers the crime is part of a disturbing scandal on campus and faces an impossible dilemma–admit he didn’t write the book and lose his job or keep up the lie and risk everything. When another murder occurs, Connor must clear his name by unraveling the horrifying secrets buried in his student’s manuscript.
Bunny – Mona Awad
Bunny falls on the highly bizarre, absurdist, black comedy side of the Dark Academia scale (like The SecretHistory on a huge LSD trip). It’s about a scholarship student named Samantha Mackey who’s a bit of an outsider in her selective MFA program at New England’s Warren University. That is, until she receives an invitation to join the Bunnies (a clique of rich girls who call each other “Bunny” and move & speak as one) at their fabled “Smut Salon”. Ditching her friend Ava, Samantha gets lost deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole of the Bunnies’ sinister world. As she begins to take part in their ritualistic off-campus “Workshop” where they conjure monstrous creations, the edges of reality start to blur. Soon, her friendships with Ava and the Bunnies will be brought into deadly collision.
The Lake of Dead Languages – Carol Goodman
Also see Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman
Twenty years ago, Jane Hudson left the Heart Lake School for Girls after a terrible tragedy. Now she has returned to its isolated shores as a Latin teacher, hoping to make a fresh start. But ominous messages from the past dredge up forgotten memories she’d rather stayed buried. Since freshman year, Jane and her roommates, Lucy Toller and Deirdre Hall, were inseparable – studying the classics, performing rituals on the lake, and sneaking out after curfew. However, the last winter before graduation, everything changed. Three lives were taken, all victims of senseless suicide. Now pages from Jane’s missing journal written at the time have reappeared, revealing shocking, long-buried secrets. And suddenly, young, troubled girls are beginning to die again . . . as piece by piece the shattering truth slowly floats to the surface.
The Maidens – Alex Michaelides
Not one of my favourites, but it still meets the DA brief. Mariana Andros is a London-based group therapist still reeling from the tragic death of her husband a year prior. But when her niece Zoe calls from Cambridge after her friend, Tara, is found murdered, Mariana quickly finds herself caught up in the investigation. Of particular interest is Edward Fosca, the charismatic Greek tragedy professor and Tara’s potential lover, known for heading an exclusive, all female “study group” (aka secret society) known around campus as ‘The Maidens’. As Mariana looks closer at the crime and more bodies start to turn up, the more convinced she becomes that Fosca is the guilty party, alibis be damned. But how to find the evidence to prove it?
Black Chalk – Christopher J. Yates
It was only ever meant to be a game played by six best friends in their first year at Oxford University; a game of consequences, silly forfeits, and childish dares. But then the game changed: The stakes grew higher and the dares more personal and more humiliating, finally evolving into a vicious struggle with unpredictable and tragic results. Now, fourteen years later, the remaining players must meet again for the final round. Who knows better than your best friends what would break you?
The Bellwether Revivals – Benjamin Wood
Bookish Oscar Lowe has made a life for himself amid the colleges of Cambridge and yet is a world apart from the students who study in the hallowed halls. But when Oscar is lured into the chapel at King’s College by the ethereal sound of an organ, he meets and falls in love with Iris Bellwether, a beautiful and enigmatic medical student. He follows her into a world of scholarship, wealth, and privilege, and becomes embroiled in the machinations of her older brother, Eden. A charismatic but troubled musical prodigy, Eden persuades his sister and their circle of friends into a series of disturbing experiments. He believes that music — with his unique talent to guide it — has the power to cure, and will stop at nothing to prove himself right. As the line between genius and madness blurs, Oscar fears danger could await them all.
My Dark Vanessa – Kate Elizabeth Russell
This is quite a different type of DA read than others on this list, probably because of the lack of murder, but it still fits. 2000. bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic forty-two-year-old English teacher. 2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her? Or is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager may be far different from what she has always believed?
The Truants – Kate Weinberg
Jess Walker has come to a concrete campus under the flat gray skies of EastAnglia for one reason: to be taught by the mesmerizing and rebellious Dr. Lorna Clay, whose seminars soon transform Jess’s thinking on life, love, and Agatha Christie. Swept up in Lorna’s thrall, Jess falls in with a tightly knit group of rule-breakers–Alec, a courageous South African journalist with a nihilistic streak; Georgie, a seductive, pill-popping aristocrat; and Nick, a handsome geologist with layers of his own. But the dynamic between the friends begins to darken, until a tragedy shatters their friendships and love affairs, and reveals a terrible secret. Soon Jess must face the question she fears most: what is the true cost of an extraordinary life?
Summer Sons – Lee Mandelo
This is a 2021 September release so be on the lookout. Andrew and Eddie were best friends bonded more deeply than brothers, until Eddie left Andrew behind to start his graduate program at Vanderbilt. Six months later, Eddie dies of an apparent suicide. He leaves Andrew a horrible inheritance: a roommate he doesn’t know, friends he never asked for, and a gruesome phantom with bleeding wrists that mutters of revenge. As Andrew searches for the truth of Eddie’s death, he uncovers the lies and secrets left behind by the person he trusted most, discovering a family history soaked in blood and death. Whirling between the backstabbing academic world where Eddie spent his days and the circle of hot boys, fast cars, and hard drugs that ruled Eddie’s nights, the walls Andrew has built against the world begin to crumble, letting in the phantom that hungers for him.
Never Saw Me Coming – Vera Kurian
Another September 2021 release. It’s a thriller but definitely falls under dark avenues of academia. Meet Chloe Sevre: a freshman honor student and leggings-wearing hot girl next door, who also happens to be a psychopath. Her hobbies include yogalates, frat parties, and plotting to kill Will Bachman, a childhood friend who grievously wronged her. Chloe is one of seven students at her DC-based college who are part of an unusual clinical study for psychopaths. The study, led by a renowned psychologist, requires them to wear smart watches that track their moods and movements. When one of the students in the study is found murdered in the psychology building, a dangerous game of cat and mouse begins, and Chloe goes from hunter to prey. As she races to identify the killer and put her own plan into action, she’ll be forced to decide if she can trust any of her fellow psychopaths—and everybody knows you should never trust a psychopath.
YA Dark Academia
If We Were Villains – R L Rio
One of my favourite DA reads. If you’re a Shakespeare fan, this will be right up your alley. Oliver Marks has just served ten years in jail – for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the man who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened a decade ago. As one of seven young actors studying Shakespeare at an elite arts college, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingenue, extra. But when the casting changes, and the secondary characters usurp the stars, the plays spill dangerously over into life, and one of them is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.
The Orchard – David Hopen
Ari Eden’s life has always been governed by strict rules. In ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn, his lonely days are dedicated to intense study and religious rituals. So when his family announces that they are moving to Miami, Ari seizes the chance for reinvention. Enrolling in an opulent Jewish academy, Ari is stunned by his peers’ wealth and ambition. When the academy’s golden boy, Noah, takes Ari under his wing, Ari finds himself entangled in the school’s most exclusive group. These friends are magnetic and defiant—especially Evan, the brooding genius of the bunch. Influenced by their charismatic rabbi, the group begins testing their religion in unconventional ways. Soon Ari and his friends are pushing moral boundaries and careening toward a perilous future—one in which the traditions of their faith are repurposed to mysterious, tragic ends.
Special Topics in Calamity Physics – Marisha Pessl
After a childhood moving from one academic outpost to another with her father (a man prone to aphorisms and meteoric affairs), Blue van Meer is clever, deadpan, and possessed of a vast lexicon of literary, political, philosophical, and scientific knowledge—and is quite the cineaste to boot. In her final year of high school at the elite (and unusual) St. Gallway School in Stockton, North Carolina, Blue falls in with a charismatic group of friends and their captivating teacher, Hannah Schneider. But when the drowning of one of Hannah’s friends and the shocking death of Hannah herself lead to a confluence of mysteries, Blue is left to make sense of it all with only her gimlet-eyed instincts and cultural references to guide—or misguide—her.
Truly Devious – Maureen Johnson
Sixteen-year-old Stevie has an obsession with all things crime. Podcasts, mystery fiction, cold cases, you name it – Stevie is the expert and she dreams of one day becoming a great detective. When she’s accepted into the exclusive, and extravagantly funded, Ellingham Academy, Stevie is surprised but also excited. Founded in the 1930s by business tycoon, Albert Ellingham, the school is famous for its troubled past involving two murders and the kidnapping of Ellingham’s family, all unsolved. The only clue in the case: a morbid poem sent by someone known only as ‘Truly Devious’. When given the opportunity to choose a personal project, Steve’s choice is simple – solve the Ellingham murders. But when one of the students in her class dies mysteriously, Stevie begins to realise that perhaps real-life detective work is different from what she expected.
The Mary Shelly Club – Goldy Moldavsky
New girl Rachel Chavez is eager to make a fresh start at Manchester Prep. But as one of the few scholarship kids, Rachel struggles to fit in, and when she gets caught up in a prank gone awry, she ends up with more enemies than friends. To her surprise, however, the prank attracts the attention of the Mary Shelley Club, a secret club of students with one objective: come up with the scariest prank to orchestrate real fear. But as the pranks escalate, the competition turns cutthroat and takes on a life of its own. When the tables are turned and someone targets the club itself, Rachel must track down the real-life monster in their midst . . . even if it means finally confronting the dark secrets from her past.
Ace of Spades – Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
When Niveus Private Academy students, Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo, are selected to be part of the school’s senior class prefects, it looks like their year is off to an amazing start. Not only does it look great on college applications, but it officially puts each of them in the running for valedictorian. Shortly after the announcement is made, though, someone who goes by ‘Aces’ begins using anonymous text messages to reveal secrets about the two of them, threatening their carefully planned futures. As Aces shows no sign of stopping, what seemed like a sick prank quickly turns into a dangerous game, with all the cards stacked against them. Can Devon and Chiamaka stop Aces before things become deadly?
The Ivies – Alexa Donne
Everyone knows the Ivies: the most coveted universities in the United States. Far more important are the Ivies. The Ivies at Claflin Academy, that is. Five girls with the same mission: to get into the Ivy League by any means necessary. Even if it means disrupting class rankings or sabotaging academic competitions. In order to best secure their chances, each of the Ivy girls agree to apply to a different school, thus stopping them from competing against one another. As you might imagine, things don’t exactly turn out that way. When one of the Ivies turns up dead mere hours after being accepted into a different school than the one allocated to her, the question becomes: was it one of her friends taking out revenge or another student finally taking matters into their own hands?
The Year of the Gadfly – Jennifer Miller
Mariana Academy was founded with a serious honor code; its reputation has been unsullied for decades. Now a long-dormant secret society, Prisom’s Party, threatens its placid halls with vigilante justice, exposing students and teachers for even minor infractions. Iris Dupont, a budding journalist, feels sure she can break into the ranks of The Devil’s Advocate, the Party’s underground newspaper, and uncover the source of its blackmail schemes and vicious rumours. Some involve the school’s new science teacher, who also seems to be investigating the Party. Others point to an albino student who left school abruptly ten years before, never to return. And everything connects to a rare book called Marvelous Species. But the truth comes with its own dangers, and Iris is torn between her allegiances, her reporter’s instinct, and her own troubled past.
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder – Holly Jackson
This one doesn’t have an academic setting BUT it does revolve around a school project with a dark topic. Pretty and popular, senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself. It was all anyone could talk about. And five years later, Pip sees how the tragedy still haunts her town. But she can’t shake the feeling that there’s more to it. She knew Sal and he was always so kind to her. How could he possibly have been a killer? Now a senior herself, Pip decides to reexamine the closed case for her major project. She soon discovers a trail of dark secrets that might actually prove Sal innocent… and the line between past and present begins to blur. Someone in Fairview doesn’t want Pip digging around for answers, and now her own life might be in danger.
How We Fall Apart – Katie Zhao
Nancy Luo is shocked when her former best friend, Jamie Ruan, top ranked junior at Sinclair Prep, goes missing, and then is found dead. Nancy is even more shocked when word starts to spread that she and her friends–Krystal, Akil, and Alexander–are the prime suspects, thanks to “The Proctor,” someone anonymously incriminating them via the school’s social media app. They all used to be Jamie’s closest friends, and she knew each of their deepest, darkest secrets. Now, somehow The Proctor knows them, too. The four must uncover the true killer before The Proctor exposes more than they can bear and costs them more than they can afford. Soon, Nancy suspects that her friends may be keeping secrets from her, too.
The Basic Eight – Daniel Handler
So apparently Lemony Snicket also writes dark academia. Meet Flannery Culp, a world-weary high-school senior. She is primed to take on the few remaining obstacles that stand between her and the rest of her life: the SAT, college applications, the fall semester….Mercifully, there are a few distractions: 1) her friends, the Basic Eight and 2) Adam State, the object of her affections. If only things hadn’t gotten out of control. If only Flan had stayed away from the absinthe. Then she wouldn’t be a topic on daytime talk shows, or incarcerated, or have time to edit her journals….
One of Us is Lying – Karen M. McManus
Had to include this fan favourite – even though it’s more along the lines of mystery in an academic setting. Five students enter detention. Less than an hour later, one of them is dead. Our suspects: Addy, the popular girl who can’t seem to do anything without her boyfriend. Cooper, the rising, young baseball star with a wicked fastball. Nate, the school drug dealer, currently on probation and the easy scapegoat. And Bronwyn, top of her class and destined for Yale. All have secrets, but which of them murdered Simon, Bayview High’s resident blogger and gossip king, to stop them getting out?
S.T.A.G.S – M. A. Bennett
At St. Aidan the Great School, or S.T.A.G.S., new things, and new people, are to be avoided. Unfortunately, Greer MacDonald, scholarship student, is very much a new person. Usually ignored or mocked by the schools most admired circle of friends, The Medievals, Greer is surprised when they offer her an invitation to attend an exclusive weekend retreat at a private estate. It’s billed as a weekend of “huntin’ shootin’ fishin’,” and rumor has it that the invitee who most impresses the group will be given the privilege of becoming a Medieval themselves. As the weekend begins to take shape, however, it becomes apparent that beyond the fancy clothes and elaborate multi-course dinners, there are predators lurking, and they’re out for blood…
Looking for Alaska – John Green
I can hear you saying ‘WHAT?’ from here. Yes, when you compare LfA with the DA list above, it ticks a lot of boxes. School setting, dark themes, a tragedy, discussions about life, death and literature…You see what I mean? Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then. . . . After. Nothing is ever the same.
Magical Dark Academia
Ninth House – Leigh Bardugo
This book is all kinds of dark academia. Ninth House introduces an alternate Yale where rich and powerful members of eight secret societies engage in dangerous occult rituals dealing with everything from necromancy and portal magic to shape-shifting. These societies are kept in check by a small ninth house, Lethe. Every three years Lethe recruits a freshman, opening their eyes to the uses and dangers of magic. Twenty-year old Galaxy ‘Alex’ Stern is a high school drop-out from LA with the ability to see ghosts. After somehow surviving an unsolved multiple homicide, Alex is mysteriously offered a scholarship to Yale and the freshman position in Lethe. The book alternates between two storylines- winter & spring. The former deals with Alex’s arrival at Yale and her learning about magic and the societies. The latter follows her investigating the death of a young woman on campus with several unexplained connections to the societies.
A Deadly Education – Naomi Novik
In A Deadly Education, our lead is Galadriel ‘El’ Higgins, a loner teenage witch with a talent for destructive magic and a dark, end the world type prophecy hanging over her head. El is currently in her penultimate year at Scholomance, an international school for young mages with a frightening survival rate. Dropping out isn’t an option so students have little choice but to push through their coursework whilst trying to avoid getting eaten by one of the many monsters (maleficaria or ‘mals’) lurking throughout the school’s corridors and crevices. And even then, they still have to make it through graduation – a monster-mage blood bath of epic proportions, survival of which depends largely on students’ ability to form alliances. However, this school year has proven to be more deadly than normal and if she wants to see it through, El might just need to start finding some allies.
The Atlas Six – Olivie Blake
This book has been on my TBR for forever and it sounds so good. Every ten years, six unique and talented magicians are chosen to be considered as initiates into the Alexandrian Society, a secret group of magical academicians who act as caretakers of lost knowledge from great civilisations of antiquity. Yet, only five will make the cut and receive power, wealth and prestige. Enter: Libby and Nico, who exert control over elements of physicality. Reina, who intuits the language of life. Parisa, a telepath who can traverse the subconscious. Callum, an empath who can influence the workings of a person’s inner self. And Tristan who sees through illusions to a new structure of reality. Recruited by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they are told they will have a year to qualify for initiation and will be judged on their contributions to subjects of impossibility: time and space, luck and thought, and life and death. Most of them will succeed. Most of them.
A Lesson in Vengeance – Victoria Lee
This one’s slightly less outright ‘magical’ than others, but I’m including it here anyway. After dropping out following the death of her girlfriend, Alex, Felicity Morrow has returned to Dalloway School. She’s even back in her old dormitory, said to be haunted by the spirits of The Dalloway Five – a group of girls gruesomely and mysteriously killed centuries prior who some believe were witches. The school doesn’t like to talk about its troubled history, but the students do. Before Alex’s death Felicity was researching the deaths as part of her senior thesis but she’s now determined to leave it all behind her. However, she soon finds herself drawn to new student Ellis Haley, a prodigy novelist similarly researching the Dalloway Five. When Ellis asked Felicity for help, she can’t bring herself to say no. But when history starts to repeat itself and new information comes to light about Alex’s death, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway and in herself.
A Discovery of Witches – Deborah Harkness
If you’d like some heavy romance with your fantasy dark academia, this is the book. Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from a distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of magical creatures soon descends upon the library. Among them is the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire geneticist who Diana is inexplicably drawn towards. As they begin to unlock the secrets of the manuscript and their feelings for each other deepen, so the fragile balance of peace unravels. For, little does she know, Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries and she is the only one who can break its spell.
The Devil Makes Three – Tori Bovalino
Tess Matheson only wants three things: time to practice her cello, her sister to be happy, and for everyone else to leave her alone. Instead, she finds herself working all summer at her boarding school library, shelving books and dealing with the intolerable patrons. The worst of them is Eliot Birch: snide, privileged, and constantly requesting forbidden grimoires. After a bargain with Eliot leads to the discovery of an ancient book in the library’s collection, the pair accidentally unleash a book-bound demon. The demon will stop at nothing to stay free, threatening those Tess loves and dismantling Eliot’s strange magic. Tess is plagued by terrible dreams of the devil and haunting memories of a boy who wears Eliot’s face. All she knows is to stay free, the demon needs her… and he’ll have her, dead or alive.
The Magicians – Lev Grossman
I’m much more a fan of the TV adaptation, but I’d be remiss by not including this book under this section. Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A senior in high school, he’s still secretly preoccupied with a series of children’s fantasy novels, set in a magical land called Fillory. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft of modern sorcery. He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. Something is missing, though. Magic doesn’t bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he dreamed it would. After graduation he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real. But the land of Quentin’s fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he could have imagined. His childhood dream becomes a nightmare with a shocking truth at its heart.
Magic for Liars – Sarah Gailey
This book has some dark themes but the way it’s written makes it feel a lot lighter than it actually is. Ivy Gamble has never wanted to be magical. She is perfectly happy with her life. She has an almost-sustainable career as a private investigator, and an empty apartment, and a slight drinking problem. It’s a great life and she doesn’t wish she was like her estranged sister, the magically gifted professor Tabitha. But when Ivy is hired by the headmistress to investigate the gruesome murder of a faculty member at Tabitha’s private academy, the stalwart detective starts to lose herself in the case, the life she could have had, and the answer to the mystery that seems just out of her reach.
Piranesi – Susanna Clarke
Also see Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
I can’t explain why this is DA without spoilers so you’ll just have to accept that it fits. Advance warning though, it’s a weird example of it. Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands of statues, each one different from the rest. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house. There is one other person in the house—a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.
The Furies – Katie Lowe
Like A Lesson in Vengeance, this is less ‘magic’ than the other books in this section but because of witchcraft, it’s here. In 1998, a sixteen-year-old girl is found dead on school property, dressed in white and posed on a swing, with no known cause of death. In the present, our narrator Violent looks back on that night and the series of events that led to it. After an accident involving her family, Violet joins Elm Hollow Academy, a private girls school in a quiet coastal town known as the site of famous 17th century witch trials. Violet is soon invited to join an advanced study group, alongside Robin, Grace, and Alex – led by charismatic art teacher, Annabel. While Annabel claims her classes aren’t related to ancient rites and rituals, warning the girls off the topic, the girls start to believe magic is real and they can harness it. But when a former member of the society is found dead nine months after she disappeared, Violet begins to wonder whether she can trust her friends, teachers, or even herself.
Vicious – V E Schwab
You can’t go wrong with a Schwaby read. Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong. Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl with a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?
Nevernight – Jay Kristoff
Couldn’t resist the chance to use one of my favourite books. Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined. Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest group of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to her vengeance. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.
Vita Nostra – Sergey and Marina Dyachenko
A Ukrainian approach to fantasy dark academia. While vacationing, Sasha Samokhina meets the strange and sinister Farit Kozhennikov. When Farit directs her to perform a task, Sasha finds herself powerless to refuse in the face of potentially terrible consequences. As the days go on, Sasha continues to carry out tasks for Farit until eventually he directs her to enter the mysterious Institute of Special Technologies. Even though she doesn’t wish to go, Sasha feels like the school is where she should be and so begins her education. She soon discovers that the institute’s “special technologies” are unlike anything she’s ever encountered. The books are impossible to read, lessons maddeningly obscure, and work refuses memorization. Using terror and coercion to keep the students in line, the school punishes their families for transgressions and failures. Despite her fear, Sasha undergoes changes that defy the dictates of matter and time; experiences which are nothing she has ever dreamed of . . . and suddenly all she could ever want.
Middegame – Seanan McGuire
Not a favourite of mine but popular with many others. Roger and Dodger are twins. While Roger has always had an aptitude for words and languages, his sister views the world in numbers and equations. Havinggrown up at opposite ends of the country, the two only meet when they realise that they have a psychic connection with one another. Little do they know that they are the carefully crafted experiments of an alchemist named James Reed, designed to embody the two halves of the Doctrine of Ethos, language and mathematics, believed to be the key to commanding all things. Reed seeks to use these abilities to ascend to a place known as The Impossible City, and in doing so gain unimaginable power. But the more Rodger and Dodger try to fight their destiny, the faster it seems to sneak up on them.
The Ravens – Kass Morgan & Danielle Paige
Kappa Rho Nu isn’t your average sorority. Their parties are notorious. Their fundraisers are known for being Westerly College’s most elaborate affairs. But beneath the veil of Greek life and prestige, the sisters of Kappu Rho Nu share a secret: they’re a coven of witches. For Vivi Deveraux, being one of Kappa Rho Nu’s Ravens means getting a chance to redefine herself. For Scarlett Winters, a bonafide Raven and daughter of a legacy Raven, pledge this year means living up to her mother’s impossible expectations of becoming Kappa Rho Nu’s next president. Scarlett knows she’d be the perfect candidate — that is, if she didn’t have one human-sized skeleton in her closet…. When Vivi and Scarlett are paired as big and little for initiation, they find themselves sinking into the sinister world of blood oaths and betrayals.
Dark Academia Aesthetic Reads
Below are a couple of books that are generally considered to be DA reads in terms of aesthetic rather than the genre. I thought I’d include them for interest.
In the Mood for a DA Movie or TV Series Instead?
Thought this would be a fun little bonus to add on to the reading list. Some of these are very much DA genre and others are more about the vibes and aesthetic. Some are both! Either way, enjoyable times to be had.
There we have it! As I’m sure you’re aware, this is by no means an exhaustive list because…I would be dead before I finished it. That, or slowly losing my sanity. Still, I hope this is helpful for those who are curious about the genre and looking to read some of the books within it.
Do you have a favourite dark academia book, movie or TV show?
The Nowhere Child is a good reminder as to why I should read more books from Australian authors. It’s honestly such a shame that I cover so few because this was a great mystery read, especially for a debut.
Who, What, Where?
TNC centres around Kim, a photography teacher living in Melbourne whose life quickly changes when a man informs her that he believes Kim to be the victim of a 26 year old US child kidnapping case. As much as she tries to deny it, the more Kim looks into it, the more obvious connections become apparent between herself and the missing toddler, Sammy Went. Needing to know more, Kim travels to the small town of Manson, Kentucky to try to find out the truth about her “mother” and past.
Write Like the King
Something I really liked about this one was White’s writing style. It’s engaging, easily digestible in large amounts and I found that fifty pages often went by in the blink of an eye. White’s also very good at paying attention to the right kinds of small details to develop vivid settings and meaningful characters without overwhelming the reader. As a result, there’s a good sense of place and it was easy for me to imagine Manson as a real small town in Kentucky – the way it looked, felt and the type of people who lived there (religious extremists with a thing about snakes apparently). White’s approach to storytelling in parts of this actually reminded me a bit of Stephen King, particularly books like Salem’s Lot or The Institute, but still with its own distinct feel and no supernatural elements, of course. Considering White supposedly took cues from King’s On Writing, this makes sense.
More About the People
I was expecting The Nowhere Child to be a twisty, thriller type read. As things turned out, it was more of a slow build mystery with characters and relationships at its heart. The book is told in dual timelines. In the present we have Kim realising who she is, travelling to the US and connecting with people from Sammy’s past. Meanwhile, in the 1990s, we follow multiple characters in Manson and witness how Sammy’s disappearance impacts her family and the town as a whole. Some of the things the book focuses on include the marriage between Sammy’s parents, influence of The Church of the Light Within, bias of the town towards people of certain backgrounds, and pressure on the police force to find the culprit. A few of the plot threads, such as the darker side of the church, could probably have been expanded on slightly, and I wish there had been more meat to the POV of Sammy’s teen sister, Emma. Regardless, I can’t complain too much as I felt like most of the major characters were satisfyingly fleshed out to the degree they needed to be for the story to have an impact. Although several of them made some questionable choices, I was able to sympathise with nearly all of them in some way. A couple could probably have been better utilised in the present timeline but I can understand the desire to focus on Kim’s journey.
Unraveling a Kidnapping
The novel gets stuck into the main kidnapping plot pretty much straight from the get-go but does eventually slow down somewhat. Still, I found that the use of the dual timelines kept momentum going for the most part (along with the shorter chapters). While I had plenty of moments of frustration when one timeline cut off at a dramatic moment, I was quickly engaged in whatever was happening next in the alternate story. The 90s chapters involve the police trying to investigate the kidnapping, however, not much comes of these efforts for a long time so the book doesn’t get into the real substance of the mystery until a fair way in. For this reason, after some time I started to get increasingly worried that I’d be disappointed with the ending. As it turned out, the book finished strongly with events culminating in an exciting climax and an ending which felt mostly believable with the puzzle pieces previously given to the reader. There were also a few small, emotional moments for some of the characters which I appreciated, too.
As you can probably tell, I had a great time reading this one and will definitely be giving Christian White’s second novel, The Wife and the Widow, a read in the future. If you’re looking for a well-written and engaging take on the old kidnapping mystery story, I highly recommend giving The Nowhere Child a look.
This week’s topic for Top 5 Tuesday (created by Shanah at Bionic Book Worm and now hosted by the lovely Meeghan at Meeghan Reads) is books with food on the cover! I was pretty excited for this topic until… I discovered that I’ve read barely any books with food based covers. Cue my disappointment. So, in order to actually have some semblance of a post, I decided to just showcase some awesome looking food covers that I’ve discovered during my travels through the internet.
Fair warning, I’ve read probably only around 5 of the books showcased here. But I’m not going to let that come between me and covers which showcase cake, pie, ice-cream, pizza, dumplings, pastries and any of the other food goodies in the world.
As it turns out, I was having so much fun finding covers with food on them, I thought: why not also include 5 books with food in the title?
And, of course, I couldn’t possibly leave beverages out of the mix. Here are 5 more covers which feature drinks!
Okay, I’m done now. Promise. My growling stomach can’t take any more. Time to go ferret out something to eat in the kitchen.
What are some of the best covers you’ve seen that feature food or drinks?