Today I’m sharing another instalment of my Mini Review Mondays, after continuing it earlier this month! In case you haven’t seen any of my previous posts, I do ‘mini’ reviews of books that I’ve read, loved and usually promised to review ages ago.
Today, I’m focusing on three brilliant stories that I was lucky enough to read early via Netgalley that are coming out in next month, starting with the sumptuous sapphic fantasy The Midnight Lie, which is published on 3rd March!
The Midnight Lie:
Where Nirrim lives, crime abounds, a harsh tribunal rules, and society’s pleasures are reserved for the High Kith. Life in the Ward is grim and punishing. People of her low status are forbidden from sampling sweets or wearing colors. You either follow the rules, or pay a tithe and suffer the consequences.
Nirrim keeps her head down and a dangerous secret close to her chest.
But then she encounters Sid, a rakish traveler from far away who whispers rumors that the High Caste possesses magic. Sid tempts Nirrim to seek that magic for herself. But to do that, Nirrim must surrender her old life. She must place her trust in this sly stranger who asks, above all, not to be trusted.
I absolutely adored this beautifully written sapphic fantasy.
Watching the relationship slowly blossom was gorgeous to see. We get to watch it develop from flirting and casual glances to professions of love, giving me such a brilliant glimpse into their story that I am really excited to continue.
The world-building was amazing, after the first few chapters helped me piece together this whole immersive, rich world. It grows with the story, so you never feel like a load of information is being dumped on you at once. The subtle details you spot at the start gradually form this huge picture, which is exactly the type of world-building I adore.
Nirrim and Sid quickly became some my favourite characters, with brilliant development and growth over the course of the book. Watching Nirrim grapple with the years of emotional abuse she’d suffered and how that had made her passive was heart-breaking. There’s a lot to be said for having quieter characters that slowly allow us to see their inner selves and their strength that they themselves may not know about. With Sid, I can’t say too much without ruining the plot, but they’re an awesome character.
The writing style was so, so sumptuous and lyrical. It utterly entranced me and I flew through the pages, just waiting until the next day so I could continue my buddy read.
Rutkoski has me utterly hooked and I’ll be watching out for the sequel, especially after that ending!
Next, I’m discussing the stunning Grief Angels, which comes out next month (5th March).
15-year-old Owen Marlow is experiencing a great, disorienting loss after his father suddenly passed away and his mother moved them to a new town. None of his old friends knew how to confront his grief, so he’s given up on trying to make new ones. There is one guy at school who might prove to be different if he gives him a chance but lately, Owen has been overwhelmed by his sadness. He’s started to have strange, powerful hallucinations of skeletal birds circling above him. Owen tells himself that these visions are just his brain’s way of trying to cope – until one night, the birds descend and take him to an otherworldly forest. There, he is asked to go on a dangerous journey that promises to bring him the understanding he so desperately seeks – if he can survive it.
This is a powerful, moving book about grief and finding yourself that I really enjoyed.
The writing in this book instantly captivated me, it was beautiful and lyrical with real heart. The imagery he uses is haunting and incredibly striking. The way Owen plays with language is delightful to watch and provides all sorts of interesting ideas on the page.
At the core of the book is the dual narrative of Duncan and Owen, two troubled teenage boys trying to navigate the world. Owen has a real talent for creating believable, authentic teenage characters that you can really relate to and empathise with. He also tears into the ideas of toxic masculinity, somewhat of a recurring theme in his novels and explores the teenage male psyche. The utter alienation and inability of the characters at times to express their feelings is heartbreakingly honest. I couldn’t help but root for Duncan to break away from the sexist, toxic group of so-called ‘friends’ he was enmeshed in.
As the title suggests, this is a book about grief in all its complexities. I felt like the way grief is portrayed was so accurate and it’s all intertwined with these imaginative fantasy elements that are utterly enchanting. For me, it really hit home with my own personal experiences of loss, creating a brilliant dynamic that hopefully will help many other people.
Finally, I’m discussing the terse, captivating Run, Rebel by Manjeet Mann, which is also out on the 5th March!
Trigger warnings: physical abuse, bullying, emotional abuse, parental and domestic abuse, alcoholism, panic attacks and mentions of an honour killing
When Amber runs, it’s the only time she feels completely free – far away from her claustrophobic home life. Her father wants her to be a dutiful daughter, waiting for an arranged marriage like her sister Ruby.
Running is a quiet rebellion. But Amber wants so much more – and she’s ready to fight for it.
It’s time for a revolution.
From the first page, Mann’s writing had utterly hooked me into Amber’s story. The verse almost pulses with such emotion and seethes with scarcely contained anger from the first line. The way she explores family, friendships, class and identity was brilliant, particularly the discussion around abuse and the feeling of constantly walking on eggshells. There’s an underlying uneasiness to Amber’s voice that resonated with me, giving me an atmosphere of paranoia whilst I was reading.
The formatting and the way that Mann plays with language & form within her verse was so unique and captivating to see. I flew through the pages in just one sitting, unable to extract myself from Amber’s voice. She was a brilliantly complicated narrator, authentic and flawed but you could understand her motivations even if her actions were completely wrong. There was so much rich character development for several of the characters and I enjoyed being able to see their perspectives through the verse, handily signposted by different styles.
For me, the form Mann chose to tell this story was perfect. It allowed room for the intense emotion and subject matter of the story to shine through precisely selected, often sparse language, reflecting their controlled lives that gradually widen. This is a dark and fierce book, but Mann ultimately allows for there to be hope and dreams to be explored past the final page. Some of the most beautiful moments in the book centre around friendship, love and light amongst the choking, dark atmosphere.
There are no simple answers in this powerful dissection of patriarchy, female empowerment and trauma, but nor should there be. Run, Rebel is a brilliant verse novel that will completely captivate you.