Review: The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea

Review: The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea

Rating: 3 out of 5.

*I received a copy via the publisher and NetGalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

When aboard the ship and amongst the crew that saved her life, Flora becomes Florian, a former street urchin turned crew hand who is desperately trying to make a life for herself and her brother. But her voyage takes a turn when the captain decides to sell their unsuspecting passengers into slavery and assigns Flora as the guard to young Evelyn. Unaware of the captain’s plan, Evelyn believes she is en route to an arranged marriage and doesn’t anticipate the impact of meeting Florian. Together, they must work to fight for their own freedom without losing themselves to the depths of the sea.

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea was rather interesting. It was quite a punchy, fast-paced read of two young adults desperate to do the right thing. I did come into reading this with very high expectations, and while a lot of them were met, I wasn’t exactly all too blown away with this book. But I still enjoyed this story. I consider it a solid and entertaining debut.

What I loved most about this book was the world. I believe it’s the book’s strongest point. At the time of writing this review, the author has stated it is currently a stand-alone, but I would be interested in seeing what else the author has to offer from this world. Even if we don’t continue Flora and Evelyn’s story, the brickwork that the author has laid down here has SO much potential. I love how dark this book was, and I wasn’t expecting it, so it came as an exciting surprise. I truly loved how the author uses the Sea as this dark mother nature figure who is wholly vengeful and protective over its inhabitants. This comes in the form of a mermaid who Florian and Evelyn work to save as the crew members terrorise the mermaid for its mind-altering blood. Florian then encounters witches and finds themselves delving deep into witchcraft in order to protect themselves. There is an excellent commentary on the impact of colonialism and imperialism. Flora strives to be free from imperialist forces and wishes to live without fear of capture alongside her brother. We are also introduced to side-characters who bring much-needed depth to where I think Flora and Evelyn fail to give due to their limiting world-view, this includes a fellow crewmate, which I would love to read more about, what we’re given about him is so intriguing, even a short story to delve into his past would be enough.

The story is fun, and the characters were engaging to read about. And while I did speed through this book, the pacing in this book is a little off, as it is split into three sections. Some moments are rushed through while other areas are given time, which I don’t think it really needed. What didn’t work for me in this story was the relationship between Florian and Evelyn, more specifically, their romance. This book is dependent on them falling in love, but it falls rather flat, which is why I had decided to rate this book much lower than I wanted. The duo meet quite late in the book, and coupled with the weird pacing, the impact of their relationship didn’t feel right or even believable because it’s all based on a handful of short conversations between the two and the rest of the development occurred off-page and told to readers in between chapters. I really liked Flora, they were such an interesting character, and I was genuinely rooting for them and their dream for a better life. Their relationship with their brother was so good, and it’s such a shame, we don’t get to delve deeper into it. Because of the length of this book, it meant so much is introduced and then discarded so the story can continue, and I left sorely disappointed that the narrative just doesn’t return to something that is set up to be necessary. The lack of tension is what led the stakes and story feeling sorely under-developed and lacklustre.

Overall, The Mermaid, The Witch and The Sea was an interesting read. I feel like this story has a lot of potential in its world and characters. I still enjoyed it for what its worth but I really wished we had more time which would’ve made the story feel more fluid and move more realistically. As I mentioned before, the world-building is a shining point, which is why I would recommend and I would definitely pick up any future novels set in this universe because I don’t think it was fully utilised in this book.


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Review: The Empire of Gold

Review: The Empire of Gold

Rating: 4 out of 5.

*I received a copy via the publisher and NetGalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

Daevabad has fallen, and Nahri is miles away in Cairo. After fleeing her ancestral home, alongside Ali, she is haunted by the past which continues to follow her. Together, they are determined to return to their homeland, but not without facing the truth behind their own history. Back in Daevabad, Dara struggles to regain control alongside Manizheh in a city stripped of its magical core.

The Empire of Gold deserves a better review than I could ever write. This book wastes no time, kicking right back into action where Kingdom had ended. Nahri wakes up in an abandoned village with Ali, losing life every second. Thus, begins their journey back home, back to Daevabad, which entails a wild adventure that involves fighting sea creatures, evading pirates and rehashing old family feuds. Then you slip the script over to Dara, whose chapters are less adventurous and more dangerous as Dara finds himself pushed to the very end yet again, but now under the command of Manizheh. Empire is the series’s most cruellest novel, no matter who is your favourite, someone will get hurt. (And that was me in the form of Jamshid and Muntadhir.)

I was a little worried about Empire because it had a lot stacked up against it, especially being the finale to an expansive trilogy. The contrast between Nahri and Ali’s seemingly calm chapters in comparison to Dara’s dark and sinister moments where he is struggling to stay true to his beliefs and values felt quite strange at first. Depends on the reader, but you can either find the contrast quite comical or something of a relief, I place myself firmly in the middle.

From the very beginning of the series, where Nahri accidentally summons Dara, this series has always been character-driven, and Empire is no stranger to a vast cast of characters that pull at your heartstrings. Nahri learns more about her ancestry, which brings up even more questions than answer, Ali’s past truly comes to haunt him, and Dara is slowly falling apart while trying to follow the leader he thought he believed in. Nahri quite literally retraces her steps, and it was quite emotional seeing her back in her human home and the cost of having to leave it for the sake of her future. Dara is a fan favourite, and I understand why but, personally, for me, I wasn’t all that invested in him, though I did have a lot of empathy for him. His story is quite heartbreaking. But don’t get me wrong, I love how Chakraborty handled his character, it was quite possibly the only ending I ever expected for him, but if I had to rank the trio, he would undoubtedly come last.

I realised in my previous reviews I never mention Jamshid at all! And he’s one of my favourite characters in the series. He really grew on me because I didn’t pay much attention to him for a while and during my re-read of Brass, I really saw him in a whole new light! Jamshid has been Muntadhir’s bodyguard for over a decade, and his part in this story really comes to light in this book. While we reunite with some old faces, we also meet new ones, and they all really shine through. It’s a shame this is the finale because I so would’ve loved to have read more about them all. The thing I noted about the series and its expansive map was that we, as readers, never really get to experience much of it in the story. While Nahri and Ali aren’t gallivanting across the world, we do get to see some already mentioned places in this one, which was quite lovely.

Overall, Empire builds on the strengths of its previous novels, especially in its worldbuilding. The world of Daevabad is unreal, just when you thought you knew everything, new revelations are thrown back at you, and the whole world has you spinning again. The story of Nahri might end here, but the ending is genuinely the greatest one we would have possible be given. I don’t think I was truly ready to see the end of this world, but it is a satisfying ending and worth the read.


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Review: The Kingdom of Copper

Review: The Kingdom of Copper

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Years after the aftermath of The City of Brass, Nahri continues her power struggle with the King of Daevabad as she forges her own path without the guidance of her closest friends. Slowly, she begins to embrace her lost heritage, but one misstep can doom her tribe forever. Meanwhile, Ali, far from home in exile, continues to live on, defying his father’s orders. Hunted by assassins, he is forced to rely on his own new abilities, but a long-kept secret of his family is causing devastating effects. As the djinns begin to celebrate the new century, a brand new force threatens to topple Daevaebad’s strong brass standing.

I stand by this statement now: the Kingdom of Copper is the best book of the trilogy. To say a lot happens is an understatement. Five years after Ali is exiled and Dara is presumed dead to all, Nahri is left mostly on her own, now married to Ali’s older brother, Muntadhir, and despite all her bargaining for her dowry, she is still trapped under the thumb of the Al-Qahtani family. My biggest fear for Kingdom was the possibility it could fall victim to becoming the bridge book. But building upon the already mindboggling web of events and rules of the Daevabad universe, Kingdom outshines its predecessor by a mile and a half.

The rich and intricate history that Chakraborty has created is SO mind-blowingly good. Each book is this story is quite a hefty read, but you feel the impact. The djinn have long existed before Nahri’s time, and it shows. Their power struggles, wrongdoings and mistakes, the history is felt through every page. I truly felt for Nahri, who was raised in the human realm, because I felt overwhelmed by the detail laid out on every page. The magic system, myths, history and culture, has evident importance to the story and nothing is mention for no reason, everything has a meaning and impact on every character’s life.

Now we go onto our cast of characters, where do you even begin? Nahri has grown up a lot since Brass. I felt like in the first book; she was a little too backed up into a corner, given little to no information about her past so her struggles can come across as quite frustrating to readers. But in Kingdom, she is in better control of her life, despite the restriction. My heart soared when she discovered the abandoned hospital and slowly watching her plan to rebuild and create a space where the djinn and shafit (half-human/djinn offsprings) alike can have access to medical care. But no one willing to help her achieve such plans. Then comes Ali, our castaway prince, who begrudgingly returns to his family. He thrives a lot out of the comfort of his royal court, and it’s a shame we didn’t see more of their world outside of Daevabad. I think Kingdom consolidated Ali as my favourite character of the series. His pious disregard to the dark side of the court business made him quite a different character to Nahri, who is continuously using her con-artist skills to her benefit. Kingdom also shines a stronger light on the Al-Qahtani siblings, especially Muntadhir, Ali’s hot-headed older brother who is now married to Nahri. The two have resigned themselves to a loveless marriage of convenience, but the pair have an excellent working relationship. While they don’t see each other as trustworthy partners, they aren’t enemies either. They realise they’re both in miserable circumstances and they have to work together in order to get through it all. I came to really love Muntadhir in this book. And finally, Dara. I wasn’t too sure on his character in the first book but, just like Muntadhir, I come to understand and appreciate him here. You feel for him as he tries to do what is best, but he has no choice but to make unethical choices, guided by another. Ghassan and Manizeh are given so much more depth than the predecessor book.

Overall, I absolutely recommend the Daevabad series. Chakraborty returns to her sweeping universe with an absolute bang, giving us a compelling sequel that takes you on a wild, magical journey. What I loved the most about Kingdom was the characterisation of everyone, hero and villain alike. With raised tensions and higher stakes, this fantasy series ranks very high on my list.


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– Black Lives Matter UK (https://blacklivesmatter.com/)
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Book Review: The City of Brass *Updated*

Book Review: The City of Brass *Updated*

* I initially received an ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in 2018. This is an updated review. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Daevabad, a magical city that is split between six djinn tribes, is not the place Nahri expected herself to run to after accidentally summoning a daeva warrior. Suddenly her skill to magically heal and deduce other’s medical issues almost makes sense in these magical lands. Her only companion is the daeva warrior whose past is just as cloudy as her own. But when she meets Prince Ali, the youngest royal in the city of Daevabad, their battle for political power intertwines as they struggle to protect the ones they love. 

When I first read The City of Brass, I wasn’t too hot on it, originally. I had initially read this beast of a book during an awful reading slump which I genuinely believe impacted my opinion because I re-read this book back in March of 2020, and my mind was blown. I can’t believe how different my reading experience was this time. It was like I was reading a completely different book. I don’t think I’ve ever changed a rating so drastically before. (from 3 stars to 5 stars!)

I’m reading my old review of COB, and I want to LAUGH at past Zaheerah. Because everything I said in the original review, I am the complete opposite now. In the initial review, I’m very lukewarm towards our central trio (Nahri, Dara and Ali) but now? I freaking adore them. Nahri’s street smart wit, Dara’s mysterious presence and Ali’s infuriating yet endearing attitude. The familial relationship between Ali, his father and his two older siblings was of greatest interest to me. He is our insider to the Daevabad world and culture, so serious as he finds himself working with the very people his father despises in his fight against his world’s injustice. While Nahri navigates a world unknown, Ali is struggling to face his privilege while also balancing his love for his country and his family. But they both realise not everything is as black and white as they thought. 

The world-building was the best part of the novel. That opinion has not changed since 2018. It’s just so intricate and intensely detailed that it’s a wonder how the author managed to cram so much detail in every page without feeling overpowered as a reader. The cultural detail from the people to their clothes and customs. I imagined it all so well, the sprawling city of Daevabad. (This review was written before the announcement of the Netflix show so yes I am so excited to see the book come to life – Netflix, don’t mess this up.) The character-driven storytelling is so addictive; you genuinely don’t want to let this story go. 

Overall, re-reading The City of Brass was a brilliant decision. The City of Brass is full-on and a great foundational start to an excellent series. Most of this book is readers being introduced to the vast world and its people, and I can see most readers being put off by the sheer size. But Chakraborty is a brilliant action writer, her infusion of hard-hitting fight scenes with enchanting characters makes this a vibrant and thrilling fantasy world. I definitely recommend this story of a young healer, a djinn with a dark past, and a prince who wants to do his city justice.


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https://blm.crd.co/ (Specifically aimed towards UK & Ireland citizens)
– Black Lives Matter UK (https://blacklivesmatter.com/)
– Show Racism The Red Card (https://www.theredcard.org/)
– Runnymede (https://www.runnymedetrust.org/)
– Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust (https://www.stephenlawrence.org.uk/ab…)

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Review: Crier’s War

Review: Crier’s War

Years ago, the Kingdom of Rabu came under the control of the Automae after the war almost decimated the land. Now, humanity lives under their controlling and violent thumb. Ayla, a human servant, finds herself unexpectedly rising in her rank where she plots to kill the sovereign king’s daughter, Lady Crier. Crier is Made to be perfect, without a single flaw, ready to carry her father’s legacy. However, her recent betrothal sees her spot slipping right from under her, and meeting Ayla creates tension that can start a war, but can they rise above it and stop before it goes too far?

A couple of months ago, I saw the prettiest book cover reveal I had ever seen and, with no shame, decided that I had to read this book. When I took a look at the description and saw it was an F/F sci-fi/fantasy novel about automation? A double whammy. I had brought myself up to hype Crier’s War and counted down the says to its release. There’s a lot to love about Ayla and Crier’s story, much of it I loved, but I did find it a quite directionless a lot of time, which was disappointing, to say the least.

This isn’t an original set up but what made this story stand out was how Varela utilises the concept of automation ruling over humanity. Set in an alternate future where alchemy has crafted the Automae who now rule the land. Humanity created them when their Queen was unable to have children, but they quickly rose up against their creators. The core of this book is mainly about what it means to be human, is it free will or the fact we have blood running through us that makes us so? I found it interested how the author uses this story to discuss oppression, privilege and appropriation. Was I expecting it? No. Did I like it? Very much so.

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Review: Girls of Storm and Shadow

Review: Girls of Storm and Shadow

*I received a copy via the publisher and NetGalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

After failing to kill the Demon King, Lei and Wren barely escaped with their lives. But this isn’t the end of their journey, unaware their plot failed, the duo must travel the kingdom to gain support from clans from all corners of the world. But a heavy bounty on Lei’s head makes this even more difficult and when tensions begin to make Lei doubt what she knows, can she succeed in her quest or will the dark magic finish the war before its even begun?

After finishing Girls of Paper and Fire, I eagerly anticipated the release of Storm and Shadow. And I can say that I’m not disappointed, although I was a little underwhelmed. But I still found it a solid read.

I won’t lie, Lei, despite being our main protagonist, was not the star of the show for me. Lei and Wren are joined by others, some familiar, some new. Despite how fractured it all becomes at the end, I truly loved the moments of everyone banding together in their journey. I thought the brashness of Bo and Nitta would be off-putting, but their sibling banter was hilarious and I had come to love their sibling relationship a lot. Merrin got my attention the most, his anger and frustration with everything going on around them was admirable. My heart broke a lot during a pivotal moment in this book. Lei and Wren go through a lot in this. Wren, in particular, shocked me quite a bit. I won’t say too much, but I’m glad Ngan utilised Wren’s past a lot more in this book, a shocking revelation made a lot of sense and really amped up my excitement for whatever comes next in the finale.

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