Review: We Set the Dark on Fire

Review: We Set the Dark on Fire

Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5/5)

In a strictly divided society, where high ranking men each marry two women, a Primera and a Segunda, Daniela has risen to the very top of her class despite her forged identity.

Medio is an island nation divided by a wall and aligned by class. The mythos of the world reveals it was born after two sibling gods fought over a woman. Those who sided with the salt god were cursed to live in barren and ruined lands. The descendants of the sun god who reside in the capital are wealthy and refused to change their disproportionate way of living. The role of Primera and Segunda comes from the sun god and his two wives: one who is responsible for running the household and one who must bear their husband’s children. And the Medio School for Girls is accountable for raising girls suitable for marriage.

Daniela is days away from graduating and getting married into one of Medio’s high-ranking families. When an agent of La Voz, a group of rebels within the city who protest the violence and disparity of the divide between the island, calls out her fraudulent papers and supplies her with new ones. Soon, she is blackmailed into spying on her new family. As she settles into her role as Primera, she must make some unexpected choices if she wants to survive.

We Set the Dark on Fire is certainly engaging, a story not so far removed from our reality. It’s a part thriller, part forbidden (sapphic) romance, and full on drama. I can’t quite put my finger on what precisely, but it has that old school dystopian flair. And Mejia brings her own Latinx twist to YA dystopia which I really enjoyed.  

Mejia has crafted quite a world. I found it quite sparse at first, especially with no map, I couldn’t really picture anything that wasn’t the space that Daniela occupied and her descriptions of the border. Which is such a shame because it really weakens the rebellion when you almost nothing about it. Other than visual, there is a lot of detail in different ways. Mejia takes on immigration, class disparity, corruption and oppression. And I really enjoy the use of the salt and sun god’s actions which led to the way their current society was formed.

I’m still a little wary over how the romance between Dani and Carmen developed. I do like “enemies to lovers”, but this felt more like bullies to lovers, and I really couldn’t put aside the fact that Carmen tormented Dani for over five years. The romance is good, I would say it’s one of the books strongest points, but how we got there was the issue. Other than these two little titbits, I would still say this is quite a good read.

Overall, We Set the Dark on Fire was a refreshing read where my high expectations were surprisingly met. An action-packed narrative that discusses privilege and immigration, mirroring our own headlines. The plot twist at the very end actually threw me off completely. I am definitely excited to see where the story will go further in the next instalment.     


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Review: The Battle (The Gauntlet #2)

Review: The Battle (The Gauntlet #2)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5)

*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.*

Years after The Gauntlet, the Architect returns with a new partner, MasterMind, to take revenge on the Mirza family. Now twelve-years-old, Ahmad Mirza must face their latest creation, The Battle. Ahmad is forced back by the Architect to a brand new Paheli. A slicker and more modern update raises the stakes, and with New York frozen in time, Ahmad must beat the game again before it beats him.  

Like the first book, the story is structured around three challenges that Ahmad and Winnie must complete to defeat MasterMind’s game. Riazi again gives readers not much time as our characters must rush all over the city of Paheli. Ahmad remembers little from his past adventure, so he’s just as confused as Winnie is. What definitely carries on the from the debut is the fast-paced mix of monsters and high-stakes battles for survival. I loved the descriptions of the new Paheli, it’s an entirely new landscape with some familiarity with Ahmad and returning readers. The world-building of the novel and game design shines through. The old Paheli isn’t there anymore, but parts of it still manage to linger with a more significant emphasis on the steampunk design this time around. I enjoyed the level of detail given to the setting. I’m obviously not the intended audience, but this book is good fun, full of action and adventure.

A similar issue I had with The Gauntlet was the disparity in characterisation between the lead, now Ahmad, and its secondary characters. The Battle introduces Ahmad’s classmate, Winnie, as his companion into Paheli. Throughout the novel, you really get a feel for Ahmad and watch him grown as a person, but Winnie is not as fully developed. She’s a smart and confident girl but doesn’t really impact the story as much you’d expect and felt like a paper character meant to just tag along with Ahmad.

Overall, I have no doubt that younger readers will enjoy the new Paheli landscape with high-rise landscapes, flying cars and familiar faces. A surprising reveal at the end makes me wonder where the future of Paheli could lead.  I personally didn’t enjoy The Battle that much which is quite disappointing, especially when I adored the first one. I absolutely loved The Gauntlet, but its sequel doesn’t match up with the magic of its predecessor. It is a solid and fascinating return but to those who loved the world created before may be disappointed by its execution.


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Review: The Black Veins (Dead Magic #1)

Review: The Black Veins (Dead Magic #1)

Rating: ★★★★☆ (3.5/5)

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

After Blythe witnesses her family being kidnapped right in front of her and her best friend injured, she’s forced into a road trip like no other. In search of other powerful magicians like her or “Guardians”, she must make her way to Electric City. But in a world where magic thrives and an imminent war between the two magician governments forces Blythes and her new friends to think on their feet and discover magic in a new way.

I found The Black Veins an interesting read. The writing is easy and enjoyable, and I found myself barrelling through the book with much ease, despite my own issue with the pacing. I particularly enjoyed the way Monet brings together all these teens who seemly have nothing in common. It was hilarious and sweet, watching them fall apart and come back together as a team. All the guardians have their own quirks that make them stand out. At first, I wasn’t too sure about the comedy aspects of this book, but I found it so funny, and I really loved how realistic all these teens came alive.

Blythe is the leader whose family kidnapping kickstarts her journey across the states. Slowly, she comes in contact with the guardians. Cordelia is a stuck up hacker, Daniel has never left his parents side, Antonio is confident and brash with a hilarious comedic flair. The last three I’ll keep unnamed were equally exciting and fun to experience.

I found the pacing to be quite the biggest pitfall for this book, and the lack of consistency in its pacing is where I struggled the most in the book. The overall journey we witness was quite exhilarating, and Ashia Monet is clearly a talented writer, but the story felt quite long and what we’re given in terms of worldbuilding doesn’t feel the gaps as well as I expected it to. Given the number of Guardians we meet, I feel like I didn’t really connect with the last three as much. But I do believe this is something that will most likely be worked upon in the sequel.  

Overall, I found The Black Veins to be a strong debut. A YA urban fantasy that follows a group of teenagers. I found their journey to becoming a found family quite sweet, and I would definitely recommend this book. I might just chalk my negativity as the result of myself never really enjoying the first book as much as the rest of the series. If you’re interested in an urban fantasy road trip that follows a ragtag group of teenagers with enough power to destroy the world basically, then The Black Veins is definitely a treat for readers. And considering the ending of The Black Veins, I’m excited to see what happens next.


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Review: Jade City

Review: Jade City

Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

I’m more disappointed in the fact it took me this long to discover Jade City. This book has been in the world since 2017, and I’m only reading it now. Jade City is everything I’ve ever wanted in a book and more.

Set in the island of Kekon, a land stuck in a dangerous territory war between the No Peak Clan and The Mountain Clan, the Kauls of No Peak fight for control of their capital and the growing jade market. More than a green stone, Jade holds bioenergetic power that amplifies its users, and the two clans are fuelled by its power for control of Kekon.

Jade City is a masterpiece. Never have I found myself so captivated by a book that still lingered with me days after I had read it. The worldbuilding is on another level, and Fonda Lee has created such a vibrant and detailed world. I did find the beginning a little dense, but once you’ve settled into the world, you’re thrown straight into, and I loved it. The history of Kekon is vast and rich, you can see the level of detail that has gone into creating this world. The rank system based on Jade, the history of the world beyond Kekon and the inner workings of the diversity of lifestyle on the island. You can truly feel this world come to life as you read.

One of the book’s more stronger aspects is its characters. I truly loved how well thought out all their goals and struggles were. Even those you aren’t supposed to root for have a little piece of my respect. While the book follows multiple POVs, the main three were the Kaul siblings: Lau, Hilo and Shae. Lau, the new head of No Peak, struggles to garner the same respect his grandfather once had and living in the shadow of his late war father. Hilo is rash and impulsive and finds himself stepping into a role he was never meant to take. Shae returns to the island of Kekon and has no choice but to return to her old life as a Green Bone, after renouncing her role years before. Other characters I really enjoyed were Bero, a petty thief with a much more significant role, and the Kaul’s younger cousin, Anden, who was adopted into the family and struggles to come to term with his future as a fighter. There’s so much more I could talk about, but this book really balances the detailed world with complex characters quite perfectly.

Overall, Jade City will be one book I’ll recommend forever. The nature of the ending tells us the new clan war is far from being over. I’m so excited and interested to see what Lee will give us in its sequel. From the writing, execution, characters and sheer depth of the world inside, this series is on track to become one of my favourite series ever.


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Review: We Hunt the Flame

Review: We Hunt the Flame

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

Threatened by the growing darkness of the Arz, the kingdom of Arawiya can only be saved by an artefact hidden within the cursed forest of the Sharr. Known as the hunter and her identity a secret to any outsiders, Zafira’s ability to navigate the forest captures the attention of a mysterious witch who claims that Zafira can return magic to the world. But she isn’t the only one in this search. Nasir, a prince and an assassin for his father, is sent to kill the Hunter and retrieve the book himself. Soon, they are thrown together by an enemy far greater than they’d ever expected.

My initial thoughts for this was that I enjoyed this a lot more than I has anticipated. I knowingly hold books that are extremely hyped at an arm’s length, because I have been disappointed by them too much in the past. But this was something different.

We Hunt the Flame is told through a dual perspective of Zafira and Nasir. Zafira, a hunter who masquerades as a man, and Nasir, a Prince of Death, who is forced to conceal compassion to carry out his father’s will. Both of them are top notch leads with distinct voices. Zafira enters the Sharr because otherwise, the Arz would destroy her home, but the loss isn’t something new to her. After her father died after navigating the Arz by himself, Zafira is motivated to save the ones she loved. Nasir is a man broken by his own father, and it was devastating to see him be so conflicted over what he wants but knowing that it will always lead to the suffering of the ones around him.

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Review: Gates of Thread and Stone

Review: Gates of Thread and Stone

Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

The Labyrinth has been humanity’s home for a long as Kai could remember. Despite the damp and discomfort, it is home. That is until her adopted brother, Reev, disappears and keeping her head down isn’t an option anymore. Kai must come to terms with her ability to manipulate time and unravel her past before she loses her future.  

I really enjoyed this a lot more than I expected! I had some initial shortcomings maybe because the title put me off a lot, but I genuinely had a good time reading this.

The fantasy world was substantial. I guess I would’ve liked more on the creation of gargoyles, but the world is rather exciting and inventive. Humanity lives inside this walled off city now named Ninurta, with fractions of communities of differing wealth. We slowly learn throughout the book about the use of magic, how it destroyed the world we once knew, and how it manifests in different beings.  It’s sort of post-apocalyptic with a magical twist. I really enjoyed that fact that it’s given to us in paces because the amount that is needed to create this world, it just wouldn’t have been right to info-dump it all.

I really enjoyed Kai as a protagonist. She’s very headstrong, and I liked that she was very sure about what she wanted from the get-go and was very adamant that nothing was going to get in her way. I really loved Avan as well. Maybe not as a love interest but as a friend to Kai, who you can clearly see these two cared for each other and were willing to anything to keep each other safe. Their friendship was delightful, and I was expecting it to be held more platonic, but the romance wasn’t as bad as it could’ve gone nor did it dominate and overtake the actual plot.

The twist that comes towards the end had me thoroughly shocked. I was initially confused because I genuinely was not expecting the way the plot just shifts so suddenly into something we weren’t necessarily informed about. The ending was a complete 360 from the original set up. But the twist did introduce some new characters that I am indeed very interested in and brought some of the secondary characters to the forefront again. I’m reading the sequel as I’m writing this and I enjoy how the story is progressing from here.  

I listened to the audiobook, though I did swap to the e-book on chapters where it wasn’t available, I think the audiobook made the reading experience more enjoyable. I really loved the voice actor for the book who did an outstanding job at not only bring Kai’s story to life but gave a real warmth to the secondary characters.

Overall, Gates of Thread and Stone was pretty solid and fun to read. It isn’t jumping to the top of my favourites list, but it is a contender. The world and story were amusing and exciting that I do have high hopes for how this series will play out in the end.


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