Upcoming Releases: Books I Somehow Forgot Were Still Coming Out in 2020

A lot of books come out every year. Even in the hellscape of 2020. That’s my defense for the fact that my memory clearly has more holes than a sponge. Regardless, there are a few books that I’ve recently been made aware are still coming out in the two remaining months of this year, ones that I’m genuinely looking forward to. What makes me look even worse is that a few of them are pretty big releases. Here are the books that have somehow managed to slip through the cracks (well, my cracks. er…not the best way to phrase that…)

Ready Player Two – Ernest Cline | Nov 24

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According to my Goodreads history, I shelved this book to upcoming releases back in August. I have absolutely no memory of this. None. I came across it again about two weeks ago and went, what? WHEN? HOW? Let’s be real, this book was not necessary in the slightest considering how neatly book one wrapped up, but will I be enthusiastically reading it anyway? Yes, yes I will. My nerdy, video game loving self had such a fun time with Ready Player One so considering the premise to this book sounds similar to the first (a riddle, an Easter egg, an intense competition to win), hopefully it’ll be an enjoyable ride as well.


A Sky Beyond the Storm (Ember Quartet 4#) – Sabaa Tahir | Dec 1

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How I blanked on the release date for this is the biggest mystery of all. I follow Sabaa on both Twitter and Instagram and she’s talked about this book constantly for months And yet, for some unknown reason, I was under the impression it wasn’t coming out until 2021. But now I’m annoyed because there’s no way I’m going to be able to reread the 3 previous books in the series and still tackle this on release (I did book three without re-reads and regretted it immensely). This is the last book in the series which means I’m expecting plenty of pain and suffering but, I swear, if anything happens to Helene I’ll riot.


These Violent Delights – Chloe Gong | Nov 17

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Like the other books on this list, I remember coming across These Violent Delights a few months back and going: Oooooo…that looks good! But for some reason I didn’t add it to my upcoming releases shelf (why, Ashley, why?). However, this week I somehow ended up finding it again and was surprised to realise it was actually a November 2020 release! Unlike the other entries on here, These Violent Delights is not a sequel. It’s a Romeo & Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai involving rival gangs and a “monster” causing people to claw their own throats out. I mean, how darn cool does that sound? Early reviews have been good and this is the author’s debut novel so I really hope it’s enjoyable.


The Burning God (The Poppy War 3#) – R. F. Kuang | Nov 17

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Rebecca Kuang must write like her keyboard is on fire. I swear. These books aren’t short or simple and somehow she’s managed to release one each year since 2018. And it’s her first series! As The Dragon Republic only came out in the second half of 2019, I just assumed there would be a bigger gap before book three hit shelves. In my case though, my forgetfulness may also be largely due to the fact that I keep putting off reading book two (I’M DOING IT NEXT MONTH, ALRIGHT). However, the upside is that by the time I finish TDR, The Burning God will be right there waiting for me. I guess there are perks to being a massive procrastinator after all.


How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories – Holly Black | Nov 24

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So, this one is a novella rather than a book but because I’m in love with The Folk of the Air series and a sucker for anything to do with Jude & Cardan, it counts. News of this spread back in May of this year but perhaps I was still dealing with my disappointment over The Queen of Nothing and blocked it out. However, as Holly’s pretty much got me on a string, I’ll be back for more anyway. This entry focuses on Cardan and includes story from before, during and after the main series from his POV. They’ve also included some illustrations which is pretty cute and whimsical.


Are there any books still to release in 2020 that you’re super keen for? Perhaps I’ve missed even more than I thought.

Loose Ends, Faerie Cannibalism & a Giant Freakin’ Snake: The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

I don’t know how it’s possible to be disappointed and happy at the same time, but that’s how I feel about The Queen of Nothing. Perhaps it’s because even a not so great The Folk of the Air book is still a The Folk of the Air book. As I’m going to spend a lot of time ranting and whinging, I better outline some positives first. Let’s get cracking and BEWARE, SPOILERS FOLLOW.

Things I Liked

Time Flies

One of the things I worried about going into QoN was pacing. I was especially concerned it would spend ages stuffing around at the beginning before reaching any action. As it turned out, because the novel was so short, there wasn’t time for that. The book has a reasonable introductory section in the mortal world before quickly throwing Jude back into Faerie and lots of drama. After this the plot moves very quickly (perhaps a little too quickly in the second half), easily transitioning from each stage or ‘act’ with little downtime for the characters. Without even intending to speed through the book, by the time I checked my place I was shocked to find I was already two-thirds of the way in! In other words, it’s extremely readable and you definitely won’t be bored.

Queen Jude

On my first read of TCP, Jude was a character I wasn’t sure I liked much but after the second read, the love affair set sail. Unlike the previous books, QoN was more of an emotional journey for Jude. She was heavily pressed to weigh her feelings and personal connections with others against the practical concerns of the kingdom and her own ambitions. Her experiences in this book also allow her to realise that even though she may have been taught to avoid weakness, it’s okay to be vulnerable sometimes. While I do miss a little bit of the bloodthirsty, plotting Jude from the other books, I appreciate the character development in comparing her decisions at the end of TCP to the climax of QoN.  

Grima Mog

A badass general who eats other faeries. Need I say more? Where have you been all my life?

Things I Didn’t Like

Where’s the Death & Stabbing?

After two books of scheming, backstabbing, alliances and political machinations, I think it’s fair to assume we were expecting this series to end with a battle. High stakes, death, and a final conflict between Jude & Madoc. It just made narrative sense. But did we get that? Not really. Madoc has consistently been built up to be a mentally and physically challenging adversary for Jude and Cardan, one who would eventually need to be permanently defeated. As it turned out, he was as much of a threat as a fluffy kitten. All we’re given is a teensy bit of background fighting and before you can blink, it’s over. No real stabby-stabby, no dramatic death scenes, nothing. Hello, disappointment.

Covering Conflicts with Band-Aids

Heading into QoN there were a lot of plot threads still in need of development and resolution. When I saw the size of this book, I wondered how Holly would be able to deal with them all, and satisfyingly at that. In the end, she didn’t. So many of the plot points from previous books were either left hanging entirely (e.g. Lady Asha, Jude’s mortality, secrets about Jude’s mother) or resolved in a quick fix, brush it off sort of way, lacking the weight and complexity they deserved. For example:

  • Taryn’s betrayals – Taryn has repeatedly screwed Jude over for selfish reasons. By the end of TWK she’d basically aligned herself with Madoc and even impersonated Jude to further his ends. In QoN she turns up pregnant, apologises, asks for help, decorates a couple of rooms and suddenly all is well. I’m sorry but, what? Where’s the ambition, the intent? What a waste of a character’s potential.
  • Locke – For the last two books Locke has been a low key, in the shadows sort of villain. After his attempt on Jude’s life in TWK, there was always a sense of to-be-continued with their conflict. So, the fact that he dies before this book even begins is, again, a bit of a ‘what?’ moment. Considering the additional malice added to his character in QoN, colour me very unimpressed.
  • Cardan’s banishment of Jude – For me, the explanation for this was underwhelming & illogical. At the end of TWK Jude’s been through a hard period of captivity and Cardan has not only just averted a war but found out she murdered his brother. And yet, we’re supposed to believe that his first thought was, let’s play a game with Jude. Cardan can be a little immature but no. Just no.

Reported Missing: Plot Twists

There are a lot of reasons why I love this series but one of the biggest is the plot twists. In the past, Holly has not only been able to pull one over on me once, but MULTIPLE TIMES. As a reader, I live for those dramatic, ‘oh my god, what the hell just happened’ moments. Unfortunately, I didn’t really get much of that at all in QoN. Worse, the one major twist-ish moment of the book, Cardan’s transformation into a giant snake, ended up feeling not only silly but distracting from the direction of the main narrative.

Endgame Jurdan

I am unashamedly a Cardan & Jude shipper. Despite its toxicity, I adore their hate-love relationship with all its conflict and sexual tension, and I’ve loved seeing it slowly evolve over the series. In QoN, however, they weirdly transitioned into this overly lovey-dovey, can’t live without you couple which I find odd when I think about their interactions up to this point. I knew that they loved each other but somehow I never expected it to look like this. It’s almost like we missed a stage somewhere (including Cardan’s missing letters to Jude would have helped). Still, part of me is like *throws hands up* because I love Jurdan so damn much and get excited any time their names even show up on the same page as one another. I got a love scene, confessions of love, and endgame. What else could I ask for? Okay, maybe a little more page time for Cardan – the boy got shafted here.


Despite having a lot of problems with this book and it being my least favourite of the series, The Queen of Nothing is far from a bad novel and I can still say I enjoyed myself. I’ll continue to love this series and the characters, and I’m sure I’ll return to them at some point in the future.

3.5 Stars

And That’s a Wrap: November Edition

Only one month to go before 2019 is over and we begin both a new year and a new decade. I recently reached my revised reading goal of 65 books and have managed to cross a few books off my purchased TBR of late, so I’m feeling quite relaxed going into December. Here’s how November went:

The Wicked King – Holly Black ★★★★.5 | Review

Why yes, this is the second time I’ve read this in 2019. I can’t remember as far back as January so a re-read was necessary to prep for The Queen of Nothing‘s release. As expected, still fabulous and once again finished it in the blink of an eye.

Darkdawn – Jay Kristoff ★★★.5

Having been putting it off since September, I finally hit up Darkdawn. It ended up taking me a while to get through because of some pacing issues, repetition and my reaction to a few plot choices. I admit, I’m just the tiniest bit disappointed because I love this series and have been waiting so long for this book. However, despite the negatives there were still a bunch of things I liked – Jonnen and Mia’s relationship, the new pirate characters, Mia getting revenge on SO MANY PEOPLE, Jay taking digs at his own writing, and the usual amounts of sass. Not my favourite, but not bad either.

The Queen of Nothing – Holly Black ★★★.5

Another release I’ve been dying to get my hands on & again one that didn’t reach my expectations. *sigh* I liked The Queen of Nothing, don’t get me wrong, I just have issues with it. The main ones are that I feel as though it (a) was lacking the drama, twists and scheming of books 1 & 2, (b) left some plot strands hanging while resolving others in quick, unfulfilling ways e.g. Taryn’s deceptions, Locke, Jude’s banishment, etc. (c) and…the ending was both a little anticlimactic & cheesy. Regardless, the pacing was good and Cardan & Jude turned out to be end game so I can’t complain too much.

More Than We Can Tell – Brigid Kemmerer ★★★

An enjoyable read but not as much as Letters to the Lost. I love the fact that Brigid isn’t afraid to tackle real issues and heavy themes in her YA novels. This book looked at child abuse, trauma, and online harassment/bullying, and I feel as though it largely handled them compassionately and well. I really like Rev as a character and it was great to see him in greater focus here but I wish the climax to his story had been different. I wasn’t a huge fan of Emma – despite what she was going through, I couldn’t get on board with how awfully she treated the people around her. There was also a side character’s story which I feel could have been handled better. Overall though, I still liked this one.

Three Women – Lisa Taddeo ★★★

My latest foray into non-fiction. I found the writing in Three Women to be stylistically odd but also a bit frustrating as it frequently got bogged down by tangents, mundane details and philosophical musings about life, people and relationships. Content wise, I enjoyed myself and easily maintained the motivation to read it from start to finish. The stories of each of these women are not”the norm” enough for this to be considered the case study on female desire that it’s been marketed as, nor is it the super feminist read it’s been claimed to be. However, if you look at it purely as three stories of women’s different, individual experiences with sex and relationships, it’s interesting and entertaining.

I only bought four books this month. One I’ve already finished, and another I’m a fair way into so I’m pretty happy with that. I’m sure I’ll pick up a few more in December with gifts, sales, and extra down time over the Christmas break to read.

After taking a few months off, I returned to my blog this month with some good momentum and I’m happy with how things turned out. Here’s what I published in November:

This month I’ve been eagerly counting down the days until my office shuts for the Christmas break. I’ll get an absolutely wonderful two weeks off and as someone who works in real-estate and doesn’t usually get even two days off in a row, I am beyond excited. Christmas is my favourite time of the year so I’m looking forward to stuffing myself with good food, spending time with my family & cats, and recharging my batteries. I could do without the hot, humid weather but you can’t get everything you want.

I’ve also started thinking about potential holidays for 2020. Even after Christmas, I’ll have a lot of annual leave saved up and as someone who hasn’t had a proper holiday since January 2018, my travel bug is getting antsy. I’m still not sure where I’d like to go, but I’ve got plenty of time to decide.

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Movies and TV wise, this month I completely fell in love with Lucifer. I binged all 4 seasons on Netflix in less than two weeks and let me tell you, the withdrawal has been HARD. I’ll just be over here, sitting in a ball until season 5 drops some time next year. In movie land, I went to see Doctor Sleep and Charlie’s Angels, both of which I really enjoyed, and also sat down to watch The Knight Before Christmas (on Netflix) which was…er…well, pretty darn terrible.


That’s it from me for this month. I hope you’re all doing really well and that November has brought you some good things. Happy reading for December, everyone!

Let the Backstabbing Recommence: The Wicked King by Holly Black

Spends a year waiting for it, finishes it in less than 24 hours. I only have myself to blame here. Well, myself and Holly Black. Basically, if the book hangover from this one doesn’t kill me, it’ll be the wait for The Queen of Nothing cause, good lord. How do I even review this book? My brain is mush. MUSH I TELL YOU.

Who, What, Where?

The Wicked King takes up five months after the end of The Cruel Prince. Cardan is High King and Jude is running things behind the scenes as his second in command with the help of the rest of the Court of Shadows. However, just as before, everyone in faerie is playing their own game in their quest for power. Jude’s just got to worry about keeping it. But with the sea queen plotting against them, a vengeful prince keen on finding his way out of prison, a dangerous high general to watch, and Cardan himself to manage, it’s easier said than done.

More Momentum & Just as Many Twists

“Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold on to.

When I first read The Cruel Prince, I found it took a little while for it to reach the main gist of the story (and hit peak political warfare and stabby-ness). TWK is a little similar in the fact that not a lot happens for the first part of the book but at the same time, because the base tension level is so much higher than in book one it never gets boring. Now that Jude holds so much power, and is desperate to keep it until she can safely pass it on to Oak, she has to be on her game constantly or risk losing everything. For this reason, she’s got a lot on her plate – controlling Cardan, Madoc’s future plans, the council, Balekin, the Sea Queen, handling Locke… Even though there isn’t major progress on a lot of these things for a while, because there’s so many of them it always feels like the story is chugging along and it’s entertaining enough to keep you engaged. You’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop. And, of course, in spectacularly, twisty, Holly Black fashion, drop it does.

I don’t want to spoil any of the big moments, of which there are several (gotta love a good betrayal, or two, or three), but I will say, that ending. My god. You’d think that after the climax of The Cruel Prince anything else would fall short but noooooppe. This stands right up there with it. I did not see it coming and I have no idea where things are headed going into book three, but it’s NOT GOOD.

However, if there were two things that bugged me about TWK’s plot they would be: first, Locke’s role feels unnecessarily distracting and pointless (hopefully there’s a reason in book 3), and second, the drama queen within wishes there had been a more dramatic pay off to a misapprehension Balekin & the Sea Queen have about Jude late in the book.

A Better, Bigger Picture

Something I felt was lacking and difficult to visualise in book one was the world building. TWK improves on this a fair amount and having read it, I feel I have a much better idea of how many of the pieces of Faerieland fit together. I’m still lost on some of the geography and court hierarchies/relationships but as they aren’t necessary for the story, it’s not a big deal. The minor courts play a greater role this time around and we learn about how the world is generally governed. We’re also given more info about the King’s role and powers. What’s also very interesting is the addition of immensely powerful magical objects, aside from the crown, which will surely play a big role in The Queen of Nothing.

Jude x Cardan

“I hate you,” I breathed into his mouth. “I hate you so much that sometimes I can’t think of anything else.”

Why, hello there, enemies-to-lovers trope, and in the best possible way. I love and am crazy addicted to this twisted, tension-filled relationship. Cardan and Jude go through a lot in this book and do make some great progress, even though where they stand with each other is always a confusing mess. Still, whether they’re sniping at each other, working in sync, or being surprisingly tender, I enjoy every minute that they’re together because they’re honestly just so equally matched. I love that over the course of the novel both Cardan and Jude begin to understand and appreciate each other in a way that no one else does, to the point that they’re willing to give up tactical advantages to save the other. It’s not easy or linear, but it’s worth it. If these two were ever able to fully trust one another, and perhaps sort through their complicated romantic feelings, Faerie would tremble at their feet. It’s just going to take a while to get there.

The Shadow Queen

“His mouth curls into a smile. His eyes shine with wicked intent. “Look at them all, your subjects. A shame not a one knows who their true ruler is.”

On my first read of The Cruel Prince, I wasn’t a fan of Jude but on my recent re-read, I gained a new appreciation for her. Stick a sword in her hand and she kicks serious ass despite being physically inferior to her opponents. She’s smart, cunning, able to redirect her fear into productivity, and goes after what she wants. Sure, Jude isn’t a purely, good-hearted character – she’s power hungry and has no qualms about murdering or screwing people over if she has to, but I can’t help but appreciate just how well she’s able to play the game as someone with built-in disadvantages.

In TWK Jude doesn’t undergo much development. She shows her inexperience and has a habit of making silly decisions as well as letting her power go to her head in a way that produces a great deal of arrogance, particularly where it comes to Cardan (so stupid). She also spends a lot of the book scrambling around, trying to do things on her own when she shouldn’t, and this bites her in the ass multiple times. While her lack of foresight disappointed (and frustrated) me in this book, I’m expecting an epic comeback in book 3.

The Not So Wicked King

“Why was I cruel to Folk? Why was I awful to you? Because I could be. Because I liked it. Because, for a moment, when I was at my worst, I felt powerful, and most of the time, I felt powerless, despite being a prince and the son of the High King of Faerie.”

Comparatively, Cardan goes through a great deal more change than Jude. While he’s a cocky party-boy that does little more than lounge around during the first half, as the book goes on he displays some surprising moments of maturity, fairness, affection, and strategic thinking (what are you talking about Cardan, don’t you know that murder is always the answer?). TWK continues to build on the backstory to Cardan’s characterisation begun in TCP and it does make him a more sympathetic character. What also helps is the fact that no longer bound by the need to impress, disappoint, or shame his disdaining family members, he starts to shed the frivolous and “cruel” protective mask he’s crafted, and do some self-reflection. As a result, by the end, he becomes more of an actual player in the game as opposed to the pawn he’s been previously. This does lead him to some shattering actions but somehow I’m still all for it because PLOT DRAMA.

Other Characters

Taryn, Locke, and Nicasia can all just piss right off. That is all.


In summary, this series is addictive and I love it. Bring me more twists, drama and backstabbing. Now to start the countdown to The Queen of Nothing *cries*.

4.5 Stars

Upcoming Releases to Get Excited About | Part 1

This year, I’ve noticed that I’ve spent a lot of time reading and trying to catch up on books that were released some time ago . In other words, backlisted books. I’ve been so concerned with these (how could I not be? The list of amazing ones I haven’t read never seems to end!) that I haven’t thought much about upcoming releases, whether they be continuations of series I like, standalones from existing great authors, or exciting new author debuts. For that reason I’m decided to start doing some posting about upcoming releases every so often to try and find some awesome new books to look forward to. Instead of the usual one book per post that tags such as Waiting on Wednesday tend to focus on, I’m going to go with three. Three sounds like a nice number (she says now when she still has a long list of upcoming releases to use in future posts…).

This week, the lucky three books are all Jan 2019 releases and they are…

The Wicked King – Holly Black (8th January, 2019)

26032887You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.


Come on, as if this wasn’t going to be here. There were definite flaws with The Cruel Prince but it’s just one of those books that I loved reading anyway and I am unashamedly super excited to read the sequel. SO EXCITED. I’m really keen to see what happens with the political situation following the dramatic end to book 1 and to find out how Cardan and Jude’s relationship progresses because of this. I’m also hoping for some more world building and slightly quicker pacing from the get-go.

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Two Can Keep a Secret – Karen M. McManus (8th January, 2019)

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Echo Ridge is small-town America. Ellery’s never been there, but she’s heard all about it. Her aunt went missing there at age seventeen. And only five years ago, a homecoming queen put the town on the map when she was killed. Now Ellery has to move there to live with a grandmother she barely knows.

The town is picture-perfect, but it’s hiding secrets. And before school even begins for Ellery, someone’s declared open season on homecoming, promising to make it as dangerous as it was five years ago. Then, almost as if to prove it, another girl goes missing.

Ellery knows all about secrets. Her mother has them; her grandmother does too. And the longer she’s in Echo Ridge, the clearer it becomes that everyone there is hiding something. The thing is, secrets are dangerous–and most people aren’t good at keeping them. Which is why in Echo Ridge, it’s safest to keep your secrets to yourself.


I read McManus’s first book, One of Us is Lying earlier this year and ended up quite enjoying it despite a few letdowns. This one sounds like another YA mystery/thriller type thing which I’ve been craving a lot of lately for some unknown reason – some have been more successful than others. Hopefully the mystery side of this one will be a bit more suspenceful and surprising but I’m sure it’s bound to be a good ride anyway. Small town, lots of secrets, disappearances, homecoming queens, seems like a good combo to me.

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The Gilded Wolves – Roshani Chokshi (15th January, 2019)

39863498Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much.

Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.


I love group dynamics and the blurb of this one is giving me Six of Crows vibes except set in Paris with more magic awesomeness thrown in. I’m hoping there’ll be some great characters and that the plot will be a balance between action packed and quieter character/relationship building moments. As an added bonus, the cover looks pretty darn gorgeous. Get in and around my bookcase already.

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Are any of these three on your reading radar for next year? What are some other upcoming releases that you’re eagerly awaiting or even just curious about?

Let’s Talk: Fairies in Fiction

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When I was ten, I was captivated by the magic of The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi. The fey in these stories varied in their appearance and nature, ranging from brownies and goblins to nixies and ogres, but just like in any other book about the fair folk, they were also tricksy, mysterious and of course, dangerous. As I moved into my teenage years, fairy stories soon began to lose their appeal in favour of vampires, angels, and werewolves. However, over the last few years the genre has had an epic resurgence in fantasy and, much like a lot of other people’s, my interest has returned with a similar vengeance. So, recently I started thinking about what it is exactly that’s so appealing about stories dealing with the fey these days, and here’s what I came up with:

Magic

One of the best parts of fantasy is magic and it’s something that features pretty much constantly in fey stories. It’s most common purpose is  reinforcing a hierarchy – separating the all-powerful rulers from the ruled or, more commonly, the annoying antagonist character that needs to get their butt kicked from our central characters. Magic in fey stories is also often a court identifier and shows just how rooted a fairy character’s court is in their personality. In Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series, Summer King Keenan isn’t just the ruler of the Summer Court, he literally exudes sunlight and warmth. And we wonder why fey are usually arrogant asses…

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Magic’s great at spicing up conflict situations. I mean, reading about Aelin kicking ass in the Throne of Glass books is pretty awesome but assassin abilities plus fey magic? Now you’re talkingFairy magic also acts as a great plot device in regards to coming of age or transformation stories, particularly where it’s somehow bestowed upon someone who used to be human (or at least thought they were) and now has to learn how to use it. Eventually they accept themselves, develop as a person and progress on their path towards bad-assery, as we find with Laurel in Wings and Feyre in A Court of Mist and Fury.

Truth Telling & Two-Sidedness

A fascinating component of fairy lore is the idea that the fey are incapable of lying. Yet, because of this they’re exceptionally good at telling half-truths and using the truth to manipulate situations to their advantage. Just look at the scene introducing the fairy queen in Cassandra Clare’s City of Ashes – one conversation, a little bit of honesty, and suddenly everything’s topsy-turvy in our characters’ relationships.  I love this trope because it forces you and the characters to read between the lines of what’s being said and creates the perfect circumstances for a plot twist or betrayal.

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…Or a reverse betrayal as the case is in Margaret Rogerson’s An Enchantment of Ravens.

This idea feeds into the fairy nature of being two-faced. While the fey are outwardly very beautiful and seem to delight in light-hearted things like games, music, dance and food, underneath it all there’s a compelling darkness and twisted cruelty. This provides such a great opportunity for characters to rise above all of that in order to serve as interesting protagonists. Yet, it also allows for some pretty terrible villains, acting out of a desire for power or simply their own amusement (like the asshole fairies in Black’s The Cruel Prince).

Immortality & Beauty

Okay, let’s be honest, it’s rare to find fairy based stories that don’t involve a romantic component and if there’s romance going on, you can bet that the characters involved will be damn attractive.

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And fairies are just that. They’re athletic, beautiful (often almost verging on too much so), experienced in the ways of the world, and will likely stay that way forever – that is unless someone decides to physically attack them. Essentially, there’s the attractive elements found in the vampire genre minus the creepy, well, dead issue. Listening to every human character go on and on about how amazing looking fey characters are in comparison to themselves does get a bit old but hey, a reader needs someone swoon worthy once in a while, even if they can be kind of a sucky person on occasion (e.g. Prince Cardan from The Cruel Prince, Dorian from Dark Swan, or Kiaran from The Falconer)

Courts & Conflict

Another very common feature of fey based stories these days is to follow elements of traditional fairy lore by dividing the population up into different courts. This is usually based on seasons, times of day or whether they’re feeling particularly Seelie or not (haha…okay, bad joke. I’ll see myself out.) It’s a structure used in Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey series, Richelle Mead’s Dark Swan books, and Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series, just to name a few. And why? Because it’s a perfect driver for conflict. These courts don’t just differ in name, but also in culture, attitudes and temperament. Then again, it doesn’t help that fey kingdoms often resemble modern-era Europe in their desire for power and tendency to prey on the weak. Plus, anyone who lives as long as fairies do is bound to build up some serious grudges over the years. If it were me, I’d start screwing with people just to alleviate the mind numbing boredom of immortality…

Fairy courts also provide opportunities for alliances and political intrigue, and at times even all-out war. The fun part is watching them try to interact with one another with sometimes awful or hilarious results. See A Court of Wings and Ruin for an entertaining example. Essentially, Me:

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Are you a fan of fey related books? If so, why and what are some of your favourites?

Love Ashley

The Descent to Hell is Easy: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

4 stars

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A large chunk of you have probably already read this particular release by now but as I’ve just read it and it’s still fresh in my memory, I’m going to review it anyway. These days I don’t often sit around excitedly waiting for books to come out, I’m too busy trying to conquer my existing mound. Still, I was actually really looking forward to reading this one and because I refrained from reading anything other than the blurb beforehand, I avoided a first class ticket all aboard the hype train. Woot, woot!

The gist: TCP centres around seventeen-year-old, Jude, who after the murder of her parents is forced to grow up in Faerie along with her two sisters under the guardianship of her parents’ murderer. Not as prisoners, we’re talking confusing pseudo-parent relationship here.

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To make matters worse, the fey are kind of well…awful. If they’re not trying to eat or control Jude, they’re most certainly trying to frighten and torment her, especially the punk ass faeries she’s stuck going to school with. So fair warning, you will spend the first part of the book basically just thinking:

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Until BAM. In comes…

faerie politics,

espionage,

ALLIANCES,

MURDER,

PLOTTING!

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Okay, getting a teensy bit carried away, but you get the point – lies, twists and stabby-stabby. I don’t want to dwell too much here because spoilers, but a lot of the drama revolves around the faerie royal family and the throne. It sends everything into chaos and drives our protagonist to become increasingly more morally questionable in her search for power after too long being one of the powerless.

Why you Should Read this Book:

It Starts and Ends with a Bang

We begin with several murders and end with political machinations and a side of murder.

Characters in Shades of Grey

There are pretty much no characters in this book that can be considered straight forward good or bad, which is great because character complexity is what we all want. The fey that populate Faerie each have their own self-centred drives, mean streaks and chequered  pasts, including those characters that we’re supposed to root for and those who seem a-okay for chunks of the time.

Even our main character, Jude, isn’t immune from this, possessing a underlying bloodthirstiness and craving for power as great as any faerie’s – one that becomes increasingly apparent as the story goes on and is likely to bite her in the ass later. While she may not always be a likeable character, she’s definitely an engaging one.

Then, of course, there’s Prince Cardan. Ah, Cardan.

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…And apparently so does Cardan. Damn it, you just had to go and develop (a) depth and (b) an amusing, sarcastic sense of humour. *sigh* I guess sometimes you just can’t help but root for the asshole. I’m not saying I’m swooning but by the end of the book I definitely enjoyed every time he turned up on the page. But hopefully it’s okay because I consciously recognise the fact that he’s scum.

Politics, Secrets and Lies, Oh My!

A lot of people have said this is faerie Game of Thrones and I guess the analogy works to a degree, just don’t expect as much complexity. Still, the enjoyment factor was definitely there for me. I really loved reading as the power plays, plotting, and twists unfolded during the fey and Jude’s struggles for power. A lot of people were quite shocked by the sudden turns in the book, me not so much, but they’ve provided a great foundation to get excited about going into book two.

Writing

This has been a bit of a divisive one. World building aside, I quite like Black’s style and voice. It’s a little bit dark, a touch twisted, doesn’t dwell too much on imagery, and manages to come up with some great lines, particularly where they relate to Jude’s assessments of herself. A few examples:

“I have lied and I have betrayed and I have triumphed. If only there was someone to congratulate me.”

 “Desire is an odd thing. As soon as it’s sated, it transmutes. If we receive golden thread, we desire the golden needle.”

“That’s what comes of hungering for something: You forget to check if it’s rotten before you gobble it down.”

Reasons you May Not Enjoy this One:

Pacing & Direction

This is a book that takes a while to really get going. The first half revolves around Jude’s interactions with her family and the fey in her class, and her desire to try and prove herself at a tournament. For some people this’ll be too slow pace wise and worse, for a long time these events are going to seem unconnected and without any real purpose. By the end you’ll understand their importance in getting Jude and events to where they needed to be but until then it might put people slightly in struggle town.

Unlikeable or Just Plain ‘Eh’ Characters

TCP contains a lot of unlikeable characters without a balanced amount of loveable ones. While my perceptions of people improved over the course of the novel, I can safely say that while there were several characters I liked, there were none I loved and if they’d been killed off I probably would have just gone:

However, I can see why it might be the case in this kind of story where basically everyone’s motives are suspect.

Jude herself is also slightly difficult to relate to or like at times. While her strength and smarts are great, her arrogance, whining, and keenness to out awful the faeries, not so much.

“If I cannot be better than them, I will be so much worse.”

Additionally, a lot of her traits and skills are kind of just thrown at the reader without much development or explanation which makes bonding with her as a MC a bit difficult.

World Building

After reading the entire novel I still know very little about the world it’s set in – the inhabitants, the social hierarchy, usage of magic, interactions with the human world, war, the broader politics of Faerie, etc. It’s a bit like a puzzle where you can make out small details in the tiny sections you’ve completed but on the whole, you have no idea what the damn thing’s supposed to be yet. Is it a bird, is it a plane, no it’s….lack of proper world building. I get it, we all hate info dumping but a little more than general vagueness is always much appreciated.

Despite it’s flaws, I really enjoyed The Cruel Prince and raced through it in the space of about two days. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but if you go into it, ignore the hype, try to appreciate the book for what it is, and hopefully you’ll enjoy yourself. As for me, I’ll be over here, eagerly awaiting The Wicked King. *whistles*

4 stars

Read this one too? What were your thoughts?