Mini Review Monday #54

I’m sharing another instalment of my Mini Review Mondays, the most recent of which was quite a while ago. 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 A Dark and Starless Forest by Sarah Hollowell. Thank you so much to Rob Richardson at Melia for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Derry and her eight siblings live in an isolated house by the lake, separated from the rest of the world by an eerie and menacing forest. Frank, the man who raised them after their families abandoned them, says it’s for their own good. After all, the world isn’t safe for people with magic. And Derry feels safe—most of the time.

Until the night her eldest sister disappears. Jane and Derry swore to each other that they’d never go into the forest, not after their last trip ended in blood, but Derry is sure she saw Jane walk into the trees. When another sibling goes missing and Frank’s true colors start to show, feeling safe is no longer an option. Derry will risk anything to protect the family she has left. Even if that means returning to the forest that has started calling to Derry in her missing siblings’ voices.

As Derry spends more time amidst the trees, her magic grows more powerful . . . and so does the darkness inside her, the viciousness she wants to pretend doesn’t exist. But saving her siblings from the forest and from Frank might mean embracing the darkness. And that just might be the most dangerous thing of all. 

Publication Date: 14th September

TW: death/disappearance of loved ones, violence, body horror, abuse, gore, parental death

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

A Dark and Starless Forest is an utterly entrancing book. Even now, months after reading it, my heart is still lost in those dark woods with Derry. 

This is an incredibly strong debut. Hollowell infuses every page with so much emotion and soul that you can’t help but fall in love with Derry and her family. I am such a sucker for a good found family and Hollowell has crafted such an amazing one here. Every single character felt well-rounded and I loved exploring their different powers. It’s the quiet moments that fill your heart with joy, with all the small details that bind the group together. Of course, this only makes the ensuing devastation hit that much harder. 

In every way, this is the type of book that you will just devour, turning page after page until you can uncover every one of its secrets. This was the perfect pre-Halloween read, building up those spookier feelings as the nights draw closer and darker. I loved the way Hollowell blended these horror elements into a contemporary fantasy book, creating this mystical, mysterious concoction that I became addicted to. The plot is so well-crafted, with plenty of great twists and turns. Around every corner there is a new element of danger and darkness, leading to a beautiful meditation on family and harnessing your own power.

Temptation and absolute power are really interesting motifs that Hollowell explores. The way these underlying themes weave together and build to that explosive conclusion is amazing. I especially loved the ambiguity of the ending and the idea that temptation never truly goes away. However, Hollowell makes it clear that it’s often those who look most humanlike that are the most dangerous in this world, with a nuanced and sensitive portrayal of abuse. 

A Dark and Starless Forest lives up to its name, encasing you in a shadowy world full of magic and monsters. What stands out most though is the wonderful found family at its heart.

Next up, I’d like to talk about A Psalm of Storms and Silence by Roseanne A. Brown. Thank you so much to Harper 360 YA for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Karina lost everything after a violent coup left her without her kingdom or her throne. Now the most wanted person in Sonande, her only hope of reclaiming what is rightfully hers lies in a divine power hidden in the long-lost city of her ancestors.

Meanwhile, the resurrection of Karina’s sister has spiraled the world into chaos, with disaster after disaster threatening the hard-won peace Malik has found as Farid’s apprentice. When they discover that Karina herself is the key to restoring balance, Malik must use his magic to lure her back to their side. But how do you regain the trust of someone you once tried to kill?

As the fabric holding Sonande together begins to tear, Malik and Karina once again find themselves torn between their duties and their desires. And when the fate of everything hangs on a single, horrifying choice, they each must decide what they value most-a power that could transform the world, or a love that could transform their lives.

Publication Date: 11th November

TW: trafficking, xenophobia, torture, manipulation, romantic feeling for an adopted sibling, suicidal ideation, implied abuse, mentioned physical abuse of a child

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

A Psalm of Storms and Silence is a captivating conclusion to a stunning duology. 

I loved A Song of Wraiths and Ruin when I read it last year, so I was extremely excited to delve into the sequel. It was so rich in its world-building and mythology, while also balancing political themes and complex, carefully constructed characters. Somehow, Brown made this sequel even richer and nuanced. 

I absolutely loved the way the story has been built upon and the worldbuilding made even stronger. Brown takes us to new lands and introduces us to new characters, which makes the overall tapestry of the story that much more intriguing and interesting to read. I loved the creativity and level of detail poured into every new location. It really felt like I was standing there. 

This is just one aspect of Brown’s gorgeous and evocative writing, as I also adored the emotional and political explorations of family, legacy and power. She really digs into what it takes to be a good leader and to be able to overcome your past. Both Karina and Malik are trying to defeat the ghosts of their past and present, leading to some dark moments in the narrative. I loved how much they both grew over the course of the book and of course how the journey between the two of them developed, but never defined them. Without spoilers, I actually really enjoyed the openness of the ending and how it feels like Brown has handed the story over to the reader’s imagination. 

Despite all this, Brown ensures that there are sparks of hope and joy embedded into the story, with there always being that spot of light. I really liked the meta framing of the book in a storytelling tradition with it being bookmarked by the sense of a story shared round a fire and a wider community. It adds to that genuine feeling of belonging that is at the core of this duology. 

A Psalm of Storms and Silence was a superb continuation and conclusion to this meticulously crafted story. 

Finally, I’d like to delve into A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske. Thank you so much to Tor Books UK for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Set in an alternative Edwardian England, this is a comedy of manners, manor houses, and hedge mazes: including a magic-infused murder mystery and a delightful queer romance.

Young baronet Robin Blyth thought he was taking up a minor governmental post. However, he’s actually been appointed parliamentary liaison to a secret magical society. If it weren’t for this administrative error, he’d never have discovered the incredible magic underlying his world.

Cursed by mysterious attackers and plagued by visions, Robin becomes determined to drag answers from his missing predecessor – but he’ll need the help of Edwin Courcey, his hostile magical-society counterpart. Unwillingly thrown together, Robin and Edwin will discover a plot that threatens every magician in the British Isles.

Publication Date: 9th December

TW: emotional and physical abuse, torture, murder, kidnapping, homophobia, parental death, self-harm for magic

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

A Marvellous Light is such an entertaining, fun and flirty book that brightened up my day. I love the way Marske blends this fantastical mystery with a historical romance, making it a real mix of genres that just shines. 

I loved how Marske pops you straight into the action, with danger, magic and deadly consequences straight away. From those first few pages, you are heavily invested in the plot, knowing the stakes are high. The plot never really lets up, with danger and twists just a page away. I really liked this rollercoaster style approach and the way it built with the tension getting more and more intense. 

Then, she fleshes out these wonderful characters through their alternating viewpoints. We’re allowed some time to get to know both Robin and Edwin, but the nefarious plot is never too far away. I liked this pacing, as it was kept tense and dangerous, but also allowed for the quieter moments of character development. Of course, these still moments are also often where the romance starts to blossom. I loved their entire dynamic and how it felt like it grew naturally, with subtle moments that grew into something more. 

Threaded through all this is Marske’s imaginative magic system. I loved how interesting it was, becoming genuinely fascinated with the intricate workings of this spellcraft. Also, Marske was so creative with applying it to the wider worldbuilding and plot in a way that allowed us to explore new locations and characters that were all interwoven by their shared use of magic. It adds that extra spark of imaginative zeal to an already intriguing plot that will make readers fall in love.  

A Marvellous Light is a flirty, raunchy and romantic book that blends history, mystery and fantasy brilliantly.

9 thoughts on “Mini Review Monday #54

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