Mini Review Monday #72

I’m sharing another instalment of my Mini Review Mondays, the most recent of which was a few weeks 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 The Merciless Ones by Namina Forna. Thank you to Usborne Publishing for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

It’s been six months since Deka has freed the goddesses and discovered who she really is. There are now wars waging across the kingdom. Otereans now think jatu are traitors to the nation. Deka is called a monster.

But the real battle has only just begun and Deka must lead the charge. Deka is tasked with freeing the rest of the goddesses. Only as she begins to free them, she begins to see a strange symbol everywhere in places of worship and worn on armor. There’s something unnatural about that symbol; just looking at it makes Deka lose her senses. Even worse, it seems to repel her powers. She can’t command or communicate with the new deathshrieks. In fact, she can’t even understand them when they speak.

Deka knows freeing the goddesses is just the beginning. She can tell whatever dark force out is powerful and there is something sinister out there threatening the kingdom connected to that symbol–something merciless–that her army will need to stop before humanity crumbles. But Deka’s powers are only getting stronger…and her strongest weapon could be herself.

Publication Date: 26th May

TW: graphic violence, sexual violence, homophobia, blood, violence, death, sexual assault, trafficking of a minor, PTSD

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

The Merciless Ones is an exhilarating, thrill-packed expansion of Forna’s formidable fantasy series. Every element is developed and improved upon, enriching this imaginative and brutal series even more. 

The Gilded Ones really caught my eye last year with its empowering, feminist and rich story-telling. This was a YA fantasy unlike any other. Forna kicks it up a gear here, delving even more into the graphic realities of war, oppression and manipulation. This series is not a light read, as Forna is not afraid to really go there in her nuanced and stark depiction of this world. Right from that starling opening scene, your eyes are fixed to the page. Forna does not play around, starting the book by immediately plunging you back into this incredibly violent world. Still, there is this incredibly rich and evocative quality to Forna’s writing that never fails to totally immerse me in her three-dimensional world. Every detail is fleshed out, until all your senses are awoken and plugged into her intricately created landscape. 

After that plot twist and cliffhanger at the end of The Gilded Ones, I needed to know more and Forna delivered in every way. The tension only ever ratchets up more, which I’m not sure was possible. Everything you thought you knew, you do not. This is a constantly surprising and engaging book and I am excited to see how the story continues. We are treated to plenty of twists, turns and betrayals, undermining everything that has previously transpired. Woven into this is a multi-faceted exploration of the effects of trauma on individuals, with plenty of character development and some intriguing arcs emerging. They are all so fractured and emotionally vulnerable, creating a tangible connection between character and reader. 

The Merciless Ones is a stirring continuation of a continually challenging and unique YA fantasy series that deserves to be read by everyone. 

Next up, I’d like to talk about The Counselors by Jessica Goodman. Thank you so much to Crystal McCoy at Penguin Random House for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Sisters by choice.

That’s how Goldie and her best friends, Ava and Imogen, define their friendship, which formed years ago at Camp Alpine Lake.

This year, Goldie is back at camp as a counselor, desperate for summer to start and for Ava and Imo to arrive. With the dark secret Goldie’s been keeping, she’s more in need of their comfort than ever.

When the boy who broke Goldie’s heart, turns up dead in the lake, this last summer before college is completely upended—and Goldie learns that she’s not the only person at camp who has been lying.

Asking questions offers Goldie no answers, only danger and betrayals deeper than she ever imagined.

Publication Date: 31st May

TW: death, murder, blood, drug use, alcohol, car accident, depression, cheating, fire

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

The Counselors was a break-neck read, packed with thrills, spills and plenty of secrets. 

This is the type of book that just oozes those summery days, with the heat pushing down on you and the days stretching out endlessly. Camp Alpine is initially depicted as an oasis, an idyllic place away from the stress and strains of life. It is a place entombed in luxury and privilege. There is that sense of something fundamentally wrong lurking underneath though. It’s like those moments when something drops in your stomach and the whole world tilts. Goodman expertely depicts this throughout the book, with little moments building this big picture of corruption, lies and a few bodies too. The atmosphere is top-notch and makes the setting hum with electricity, taking on a life of its own. Goodman includes a really intriguing exploration of privilege and class difference that I appreciated, adding a layer of social responsibility into this mystery. 

The plotting of this book is immaculate. Goodman strings you along, with intriguing flashbacks to a fateful moment that you are gradually privy too. The tension is constantly being raised, with the stakes getting ever more intense and challenging. I love it when a mystery keeps me on my toes and showcases the intricate details the writer has woven in. A good mystery should ultimately surprise and shock you but you should also be able to read back and see all the moments you missed. Goodman did it with her two previous works for me and it is only executed better here. You can really get a sense of her becoming more comfortable with her craft. This is a tighter, stronger and slicker mystery. 

The Counselors is a fantastic, well put together and consistently thrilling YA mystery from someone you need to keep your eye on in the genre. 

Finally, I’d like to delve into Empress Crowned in Red by Ciannon Smart. Thank you so much to Hot Key Books for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Enemy witches Iraya and Jazmyne have each achieved their darkest desires. For the former, the doyenne who killed her family is dead. For the latter, the crown has been won. For both, their treacherous alliance is over – until a hidden evil rises from their last adversary’s ashes, forcing them to join forces once more to defend Aiyca and their respective orders.

Laying claim to the island of Iraya’s birth right and the bloody crown Jazmyne wears, this mysterious assailant is rearing monsters in the name of war. A war neither Iraya or Jazmyne are prepared to fight. New alliances must be forged to protect Aiyca and once again the two witches must work together to defeat an enemy who threatens both their worlds.

Who will be the one sitting on top of the throne in the end – Iraya, Jazmyne, or another? Two witches. One motive. And everything to fight for.

Publication Date: 7th June

TW: death, murder, violence, suicide

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

Empress Crowned in Red claws its way through the darkness and deceit of this duology to deliver an impeccable, compelling and incredibly entertaining story. 

It is no exaggeration to say that Empress Crowned in Red was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. Witches Steeped in Gold was one of my favourite reads last year, which I thought was such a phenomenal, rich and utterly original fantasy. Luckily for me, this was everything I had hoped it would be and more. 

Smart deftly wraps this compulsive duology up with an even more rich, layered and detailed story. Every single element of the first book is levelled up. The writing is even more complex, bringing in more elements of world building, politics and history that enrich your reading experience so much. It is just stunning, emotional and bordering on lyrical at times. This makes it feel like an epic tale of old being told once more. 

I loved the continued exploration of morality and your allegiances will shift time and time again as the full extent of the treachery is unveiled. This is such a character driven duology. I really love how much Smart has poured into these ferocious characters. They are often brutal and willing to go to any ends in order to achieve their desires, but they are also fundamentally flawed and emotionally vulnerable in a way that it is impossible not to connect with them. Also, their development is excellent to watch unfold. They are such different people from the beginning of their tale, but the way their journeys unfold is stunning. 

Empress Crowned in Red concludes an imaginative and deeply fascinating duology that I cannot implore you enough to pick up. Smart wields her pen with deft skills and plenty of malicious intent.

6 thoughts on “Mini Review Monday #72

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