I’m sharing another instalment of my Mini Review Mondays, the most recent of which was the other week. In case you haven’t seen any of my previous posts, I do ‘mini’ reviews of books that I’ve previously read and am now ready to share my full thoughts about.
First up, I’d like to talk about Redemptor by Jordan Ifueko. Thank you so much to Hot Key Books YA for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Spoilers for Raybearer in the synopsis
For the first time, an Empress Redemptor sits on Aritsar’s throne. To appease the sinister spirits of the dead, Tarisai must now anoint a council of her own, coming into her full power as a Raybearer. She must then descend into the Underworld, a sacrifice to end all future atrocities.
Tarisai is determined to survive. Or at least, that’s what she tells her increasingly distant circle of friends. Months into her shaky reign as empress, child spirits haunt her, demanding that she pay for past sins of the empire.
With the lives of her loved ones on the line, assassination attempts from unknown quarters, and a handsome new stranger she can’t quite trust . . . Tarisai fears the pressure may consume her. But in this finale to the Raybearer duology, Tarisai must learn whether to die for justice . . . or to live for it.
Publication Date: 17th August
TW: death, murder, anxiety, blood, acid, violence, suicidal thoughts, parental abuse
Redemptor and the Raybearer duology as a whole is the type of story that fills your heart with hope and joy. While it delves into some dark and thought-provoking territory, you are always left feeling empowered and uplifted.
I absolutely adored Raybearer, so I was just craving the sequel as soon as I could get my hands on it. I always think that sequels are such tricky beasts, but I think that only did Ifueko pull this off, I actually think I lost a little bit more of my heart to Redemptor. Simply put, this duology blew me away. Trust me, I was obsessed with the first book, but I think this sequel just topped it for me.
Ifueko’s writing cast a spell on me again. I don’t think I’ve read such an evocative and immersive fantasy story for a little while. Every sense was enriched by the pages of this book, as even more creative and gorgeous world-building surrounded me. We dig into even more mythology, history and geography of this vividly imagined world. I didn’t think it was possible to add even more layers to this complex and original fantasy, but Ifueko ensures the story thrives on its added elements.
Tarisai is a brilliant protagonist for this, as we feel her inner torment and struggle to take on her new role as leader. I loved the found family in the first book and this is only built on here, with another group being formed and more wonderful characters being introduced to us. Also, I really appreciated the character development. Every single character feel nuanced and like Ifueko has spent the time to give them depth and a distinctive voice. On top of that, the plot is so intriguing with plenty of shocking twists and turns in store.
Yet again, Redemptor is a gorgeously evocative, rich and original YA fantasy that completely immerses you in its expansive world-building, exquisite character work and precise attention to detail.
Next up, I’d like to talk about Medusa by Jessie Burton and Olivia Lomenech Gill. Thank you so much to Bloomsbury YA for allowing me to read an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
A dazzling, feminist retelling of Greek myth from the internationally bestselling author of The Miniaturist, stunningly illustrated by Olivia Lomenech Gill.
Exiled to a far-flung island by the whims of the gods, Medusa has little company except the snakes that adorn her head instead of hair. But when a charmed, beautiful boy called Perseus arrives on the island, her lonely existence is disrupted with the force of a supernova, unleashing desire, love, betrayal . and destiny itself.
Filled with glorious full-colour illustrations by award-winning Olivia Lomenech Gill, this astonishing retelling of Greek myth is perfect for readers of Circe and The Silence of the Girls. Illuminating the girl behind the legend, it brings alive Medusa for a new generation.
Publication Date: 28th October
TW: sexual harassment, sexual assault, death, misogyny
Medusa combines both the visual and the written forms in a way that is so entrancing. You are unable to look away from the person who has classically been avoided and shunned, therefore Burton essentially allows Medusa control over her own narrative at long last.
The pairing of Burton’s beautiful writing and Olivia Lomenech Gill’s gorgeous illustrations made for a match made in heaven, really helping to pull me into this story. This truly is a work of art. The illustrations are just something else. Gill’s art style perfectly captures Medusa’s psyche and her entrapment in a narrative that seems inevitable. Every page felt like uncovering a new treasure. There’s just something to be said for being able to appreciate truly stunning artwork and the way it is woven into the story feels refreshing and makes the reading experience that much more immersive. You’re still given room to fill in your own visual spectacles in your imagination, but the illustrations definitely help pull you into the story that much more.
Right from the opening pages, I was utterly hooked and entranced by Burton’s charismatic style, though it definitely also has an edge to it. You instantly know that this is not quite the story you’ve always been told. I love the feminist angle Burton has adopted here, which leads to some unexpected places. There’s a brilliant discussion of female solidarity, rape culture and toxic masculinity interwoven into this classical tale. All at once, it feels pertinent and current in a way that will capture the minds of its audience. It helps that Burton has an incredibly evocative and gorgeous style of writing, making you savour every glorious page.
Medusa is the type of book that would melt even the stoniest heart, with plenty of cutting social commentary and thought-provoking topics woven into a heartfelt and evocative story.
Finally, I’d like to delve into This is Why We Lie by Gabriella Lepore. Thank you so much to Justine Sha at Inkyard Press for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Everyone in Gardiners Bay has a secret.
When Jenna Dallas and Adam Cole find Colleen O’Dell’s body floating off the shore of their coastal town, the community of Gardiners Bay is shaken. But even more shocking is the fact that her drowning was no accident.
Once Jenna’s best friend becomes a key suspect, Jenna starts to look for answers on her own. As she uncovers scandals inside Preston Prep School leading back to Rookwood reform school, she knows she needs Adam on her side.
As a student at Rookwood, Adam is used to getting judgmental looks, but now his friends are being investigated by the police. Adam will do whatever he can to keep them safe, even if that means trusting Jenna.
As lies unravel, the truth starts to blur. Only one thing is certain: somebody must take the fall.
Publication Date: 28th October
TW: death, murder, violence, drug use, drugging, overdose
This is Why We Lie makes for compulsive reading, as you race through the pages, desperately trying to piece everything together.
Lepore very quickly establishes that the stakes here are high and no one is truly safe. The opening of this book is so impactful and shocking that from there on, I knew I was gripped. Straight away, you’ve got a dead body on your hands and things will only get worse from there. That kind of taut suspense is exactly my kryptonite and I spent the next few house just speeding through. Luckily, Lepore has some excellent twists and turns up her sleeve. This is definitely a page turner that will keep you up until you’ve discovered every last secret embedded in these tantalising pages. I loved the entire atmosphere and how it felt more and more claustrophobic. You could practically feel the pressure closing in on our protagonists.
I really loved following both Jenna and Adam’s perspectives. They often undermined and contradicted each other, with several key elements only gradually being revealed. This gave the book an unreliable feel, which is even more addictive. It forces the reader to take on that detective role and even begin to question the people whose voices you’re following along. For me, this always pulls me into the story even more and starting to frantically uncover every last secret. There’s plenty of secrets buried here, with tiny details being expanded into key information by the final page. Lepore’s pacing was also immaculate, with the speed picking up at just the right time. It almost felt like the beginning of an avalanche, with the boom way off in the beginning, but you are definitely caught up in the deadly chaos by the end.
This is Why We Lie is a solid addition to the YA mystery canon that feels exciting, highly entertaining and constantly creative.