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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Double Review: Shadow of the Fox and Soul of the Sword

Double Review: Shadow of the Fox and Soul of the Sword

Double rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5)

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

Shadow of the Fox follows young Yumeko who is forced on the run when her temple is destroyed by demons in search of a piece of an ancient text which summons one wish once every thousand years. With nothing but her kitsune powers, she teams up with a samurai who wields a demon-possessed sword and is unaware the very thing he’s searching for is hidden within the folds of Yumeko’s clothes.

This book was quite fascinating. Inspired by feudal Japan, I found Shadow of the Fox quite refreshing in the first chapters. It’s a great mix of samurai fighting, demon magic and folklore. Every thousand years, a dragon returns to grant one wish to the bearer of its scroll. Fearful of its power, the scroll ripped and scatted across the lands. Yumeko is a kitsune who was taught to hide from her abilities, making her quite a naive little child in the beginning chapters. But once evil descends on her temple, she is thrown right out of her comfort zone and into the real world where foes are at her every step, and every village seems to be hiding a secret that can kill. Tatsumi is our brooding love interest, who fears that he’s unable to carry the sword he wields.

The rest of the group that ends up in Yumeko’s journey are the highlight of this series. Despite the dark theme, they’re quite cheeky and unique that provides a strange presence of entertainment that I hadn’t expected from the book.

Despite enjoying their group dynamic, their mini-adventure detracts from the main plot for a vast majority of this book that felt quite formulaic. Yumeko and Tatsumi are clearly on opposite ends of each other, and their journey was just one long love angst that I didn’t really have much interest in. While I really enjoyed Yumeko’s growth and it felt like it kept digressing a lot. There’s a lot of switching up: one minute she’s naïve, and the next page she’s cunning before returning to appearing like a common fool for the sake of the comedic moment. The inner struggle between Tatsumi and the sword deserved more than what we’re given.

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Mini review: The Paper & Hearts Society and Secrets of the Henna Girl

Mini review: The Paper & Hearts Society and Secrets of the Henna Girl

I apologise in advance. 😂 I took a semi-hiatus because of assignments and I ended up writing these during that hiatus so these reviews aren’t written up the standard I would usually prefer.

The Paper & Hearts Society

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ (2/5)

*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.*

A young teen moved to a new town and discovered a book club that pushes her out of her comfort zone.

Honestly, this was a little disappointing, considering how positive the reviews were for this book. I really wanted to love this book, but this book was just not for me. This is a story I would say good in concept, but the execution was so bland.

I have no issues with references to certain things, but this book really overdid it with the book mentions. Like I genuinely thought this book would’ve collapsed on itself if it didn’t mention another book. Yes, this is a book about a book club. But the way it was written was definitely meant to namedrop, which I don’t have an issue with, but it just wasn’t smooth.

A majority of the book is:
Tabby/ Anyone else: Oh, wow. I love [book title] by [author]! Spends a couple of lines on how great it is.

A lot of the books mentioned were prevalent Young Adult/ Contemporary novels. I understood wanting to celebrate UKYA, but I found myself rolling my eyes a lot of it because it was so just so cringey.

I also found the characters to be quite snobby at some points. And a lot of them act as if reading is such a weird thing that makes them different. Like, you know when people say “Am I the only one who does [something that everyone does]?” Tabby and some of the others all tends to give off that similar vibe, and it was just a little frustrating.

Continue reading “Mini review: The Paper & Hearts Society and Secrets of the Henna Girl”

Review: The Year After You

Review: The Year After You

Rating: ★★★☆☆ (4/5)

*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.*

Almost a year after a car accident that derailed Cara’s life, her mother enrolls her into Hope Hall, for her final year. Miles away from anyone who knows her, on a secluded boarding school in the Alps, Cara intends to keep her past a secret. But the one thing she didn’t account for was the students of Hope Hall.

When I think random boarding school in the Alps, there’s a very stereotypical expectation I had constructed around this setting, but The Year After You utilizes the setting very well which very much complimented the story. The way everything is trapped in this one mountain made the story more intense.
Cara, our main lead, was brilliantly frustrating. I personally didn’t like her, but when we got to the end, I did feel for her. Her pain and confusion as she blames herself for the death of her friend while trying to keep her new friends at an arm’s length were honestly heart-breaking.

The side characters were extremely brilliant. Without them, I don’t think I would have enjoyed this book very much. Ren is everything you want in a friend; caring, supportive and patient. Hector is a hero with a chip on his shoulder and story of his own. He’s rather mysterious with an extremely interesting backstory. Fred, I have to admit, took a while to understand. He immediately sees Cara as a threat to his friendship group and I didn’t particularly enjoy seeing him gang up on her. Everyone in this school reminds me of my own secondary school days, we’re all on edge and even stuff that seems irrelevant now, really crumbled your world back then, so I get the fear of losing everything that you’ve known.

Overall, The Year After You is a moving debut about a girl sent to boarding school after her best friend in a car accident. Personally, this book wasn’t for me. It starts off rather slow, but towards the end, it really packs a punch


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Mini Review: It’s Not About The Burqa and More

Mini Review: It’s Not About The Burqa and More

It’s Not About the Burqa

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

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image source: goodreads

I LOVED this. A much-needed collection of essays from Muslim women on faith, feminism and sexuality as a Muslim woman. Each piece was distinct and worked towards dismantling a very stereotypical narrative around Muslim women. It does its best to discuss a wide range of experiences and allows Muslim women to take a step into a discussion we are never invited to join. It starts for a much bigger conversation where Muslim women can reclaim their identity for themselves without generalisation and gives a great insight into many other perspectives of intersections of Muslim identities.

Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes?

Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5)

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image source: goodreads

Olive is given a chance to join a new mental health programme where, for one month, she will receive a new form of therapy with other kids like herself, who are dealing with mental health issues. Except Olive does not know her diagnosis and she wants to keep it that way. In this summer camp, Olive comes to term with her thoughts, and while everyone around her is trying to fix her, she realises that maybe it is the world that needs fixing. So, she teams up with the other campers and figures out a way to fix

the world. This book is quite blunt and I, personally, had some seriously mixed feelings about this book. However, I did appreciate the discussion it had on mental health, and it encourages others to discuss it more. The characters are ridiculous and real, and their journey together as a group was a shining moment in this book. I just personally did not connect with this book, but I also did not want to rate it really negatively because of my own personal shortcomings with this book.

The Beauty That Remains

Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5)

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image source: goodreads

Told from the perspective of three teenagers, all experienced the death of a loved one. Autumn lost her best friend, Shay, her twin sister, and Logan, the boy he loved. Their stories are linked through an indie band called Unravelling Lovely, and this book essentially follows them as they navigate their grief. It’s an emotional story, and I really enjoy how each narrator uses music differently to deal with their pain. Towards the end, I feel like the plot thins especially as it’s spread between three different perspectives, but nonetheless, I really enjoyed. It’s, in essence, three different stories in one, and it has a beautifully diverse cast of characters.


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