Shadow Frost by Coco Ma ✨ Spoiler Free Review

Title: Shadow Frost
Series: Unknown
Author: Coco Ma
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: October 1st, 2019
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
Publishers: Blackstone Publishing

Goodreads Synopsis

IN THE KINGDOM OF AXARIA, a darkness rises.

Some call it a monster, laying waste to the villagers and their homes. 
Some say it is an invulnerable demon summoned from the deepest abysses of the Immortal Realm. 
Many soldiers from the royal guard are sent out to hunt it down.

Not one has ever returned. 

When Asterin Faelenhart, Princess of Axaria and heir to the throne, discovers that she may hold the key to defeating the mysterious demon terrorizing her kingdom, she vows not to rest until the beast is slain. With the help of her friends and the powers she wields — though has yet to fully understand — Asterin sets out to complete a single task. The task that countless, trained soldiers have failed. 

To kill it. 

But as they hunt for the demon, they unearth a plot to assassinate the Princess herself instead. Asterin and her companions begin to wonder how much of their lives have been lies, especially when they realize that the center of the web of deceit might very well be themselves. With no one else to turn to, they are forced to decide just how much they are willing to sacrifice to protect the only world they have ever known. 

That is, of course… if the demon doesn’t get to them first.

From young author Coco Ma comes a dazzling new tale of adventure, power, and betrayal, weaving together a stunning world of magic with a killer cast in an explosive, unforgettable debut.

Okay, so I’m not going to follow my usual format. I don’t know why but I just haven’t been feeling the structured review writing lately. So let’s just jump in.

Firstly, I will talk about my 2 dislikes of this book and the reason I didn’t rate it 5 stars. Trust me, I loved this book but these 2 things were irritating.
Firstly we have the romance between Asterin & someone else that I won’t name because spoilers. This romance was a very typical, predictable romance and kinda insta lovey. When the second character first got introduced I guess there would be a romance straight away and I was not wrong. I however thought it could of been a good opportunity for a Hate to Love situation but they only showed dislike for eachother for about 3 seconds and then it was all over.. So the author missed that chance.

Now for the second reason I didn’t like this book, which is the character Orion. He rubbed me the wrong way from the very start of this book. His overly jealous personality really freaking irritated me. Then there was the romance he is apart of later in the book….

I can’t say more without spoilers but I want to explain, so if you don’t want to be spoiled for anything then don’t read the next section that is in italics.

So as I said his jealousness pissed me off. It was constant when Quinlan was around and felt very possessive in most situations. Which I did not like. If I was Asterin I would have kicked him to the curb well before this. In the beginning I assumed the jealousness was because he was in love with Asterin, which came across a few times as true but THEN… Bringing in Harry and all of that is completely abandoned. Talk about Insta love! He meets this dude and then instantly stops with the love sick crap towards Asterin and the jealousy shit towards Quinlan… I just don’t get it. Like at all. This character in my opinion just wasn’t written very well, his actions constantly contradicted each other and as I said he came across as possessive at times, which I’m not a fan of in any situation. Of course this may have been fixed for the release of the finished copy, as I did read an eARC but I was not a fan!

Well that’s the dislikes out of the road and now for everything I liked! Firstly, the Characters in general (excluding Orion) and the POV. At first the POV was a little disorientating. We jump between POVs with each chapter and occasionally within a chapter and in the beginning it was a tad hard to follow. The author does not include names at the start of the chapters but the character’s name is usually in the first sentence of the chapter, so it was relatively easy to figure out whose POV we were reading from. After getting used to the frequent changes I actually really enjoyed it! Throughout the book we follow the POV of nearly 10 characters or more which allows you an insight into not only what the main characters are doing but also the bad guys.. Each character felt like they had a unique voice within their POVs section, except for maybe the ones we only see one chapter of POV from. But I think overall it was done quite well and I enjoyed it.

The characters themselves we all very well developed and grew throughout the book which I really enjoyed! They were all written very well excluding Orion and even the ‘bad guys’ were written very well even if they aren’t nice people. Asterin suffered from the kinda typical trope of having more power than most so she has to go and defeat the villain but in this situation it did work and everything fell into place and made sense in the end. I really enjoyed Rose’s character as well! She was a badass and I really enjoyed reading from her POV. I also really liked Luna! She developed so well throughout the story and I 100% agree with her choices at the end of this book! Quinlan was also kinda typical… Extremely attractive, powerful and there to save the day of course… He was an enjoyable character but he definitely fit the mould of most YA male characters. Then we had Eadric who was probably the character that grew the most throughout the book. He was kinda the Dad figure of the group and I really enjoyed his personality and the way he developed.

The next thing I loved was the world & magic system. Both of which are very fleshed out and detailed! I loved learning about this world and the magic system. It was so interesting even if the magic system was not the most unique I’ve seen it was still very solid. I just enjoyed how much it was thought out! There was reasons for everything and it wasn’t like some magic systems where you just have to accept that this is how it works and that there isn’t a why involved… The world was really interesting too and I would love to learn more about the other kingdoms in this world. Which hopefully we will get in book 2!

Lastly we have the plot itself to talk about because it was intense! There were only 1 or 2 places where I guessed a plot twist/plot point but even then I was so into this book that it didn’t annoy me, I just wanted to know the how! Besides those couple I guessed this book was unpredictable! There were so many twists and turns that just kept me hooked the entire time and I loved the rollercoaster ride this book took me on! I do however want to yell at the author a lit for that cliff hanger! How dare you!!

So, overall I really enjoyed this one! It had a couple flaws in my opinion but I enjoyed the ride it took me on. I loved most of the characters and I can’t want to see where they go next. Also that cliffhanger!! I need to know what happens next!!!!!!!! I can’t wait for book 2 but it’s going to be a bit of a wait I would say. There are no details released yet as Book 1 isn’t even released yet…

Thank you to NetGalley & Blackstone Publishing for providing me an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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A Curse of Ash and Embers by Jo Spurrier

Title: A Curse of Ash and Ember
Jo Spurrier
Series Name: 
Tales of the Blackbone Witches
YA Fantasy
Publication Date: September 24th, 2018
Pages: 368 (Paperback)
Publishers: HarperCollins Publishers Australia

A dead witch. A bitter curse. A battle of magic.

Some people knit socks by the fire at night. Gyssha Blackbone made monsters.

But the old witch is dead now, and somehow it’s Elodie’s job to clean up the mess.

When she was hired at Black Oak Cottage, Elodie had no idea she’d find herself working for a witch; and her acid-tongued new mistress, Aleida, was not expecting a housemaid to turn up on her doorstep.

Gyssha’s final curse left Aleida practically dead on her feet, and now, with huge monsters roaming the woods, a demonic tree lurking in the orchard and an angry warlock demanding repayment of a debt, Aleida needs Elodie’s help, whether she likes it or not.

And no matter what the old witch throws at her, to Elodie it’s still better than going back home.

So to be completely honest I didn’t love the writing. It was kinda bland but the plot made up for it. The book didn’t have a huge amount of world building as there seemed to be more of a focus on plot. So we didn’t get a tonne of background except in regard to the Aleida.
While the plot was interesting there were also a fair few places where the book felt a bit slow.
I also didn’t like the action scenes. They were kinda hard to understand which took away from the whole engaging aspect of an action scene.

The plot was my favourite aspect of the book. It was engaging and interesting. There was a lot of building up to the next plot point which kept me interested even when the book was a bit slow.

The two major characters of the book were basically opposite. One was a bit 1 dimensional and the other was interesting and thought out.
Dee who is our main character was the one that felt very 1 dimensional. Besides the arsehole of a step father and a little bit about her mother & fathers story we didn’t really get that much about Dee herself. She felt quite flat and that made it difficult to connect with her and a main character.
Aleida had a lot more background which gave her a lot more substance than Dee had in the story. I also found Aleida really interesting which helped keep me interested when reading.

So overall the book was a bit all over the place. While I enjoyed some aspects there were a fair few things that I didn’t enjoy. I enjoyed the plot and Aleida but didn’t particularly care for the main character and the writing was a bit bland. I may still continue on with the series as I am interested to see where the story goes & also to learn more about Aleida.

Copy of Goodreads Synopsis

You can purchase a copy for yourself at any of the links below.

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Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers – Spoiler Free Review

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Title: Record of a Spaceborn Few
Becky Chambers
Series Name: 
Adult Sci-Fi
Publication Date: July 31st, 2018
Pages: 400 (Paperback)
Publishers: Hachette Australia
4 star

Blog titles (20)

From the ground, we stand. From our ship, we live. By the stars, we hope

The incredible new novel by Becky Chambers, author of the belovedThe Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.

Centuries after the last humans left Earth, the Exodus Fleet is a living relic, a place many are from but few outsiders have seen. Humanity has finally been accepted into the galactic community, but while this has opened doors for many, those who have not yet left for alien cities fear that their carefully cultivated way of life is under threat.

Tessa chose to stay home when her brother Ashby left for the stars, but has to question that decision when her position in the Fleet is threatened.

Kip, a reluctant young apprentice, itches for change but doesn’t know where to find it.

Sawyer, a lost and lonely newcomer, is just looking for a place to belong.

When a disaster rocks this already fragile community, those Exodans who still call the Fleet their home can no longer avoid the inescapable question:

What is the purpose of a ship that has reached its destination?


*Throughout this whole review I will refer to the previous books in this series as ‘Book 1’ & ‘Book 2’ as the titles are just so long!
Book 1 = A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet
Book2 = A Closed and Common Orbit

Okay, first off. I did receive an eARC of this book, however, I did not read the eARC, I waited for the audiobook to release and listened to that. I listened to the first two books in this series on audiobook & when I tried reading this book, it just didn’t feel right. So I waited 2 days and listened to the audiobook.

I highly recommend the audiobooks for this series! They are really well done and I enjoy them a lot. It also may make it easier to read via audiobook as this is a slower, very character driven series with not a tonne of huge plot points. So the audiobooks were awesome.

Next, I didn’t like this one as much as the first two books in the series. This series is made up of companion novels. So we follow different characters in each book. Book 1 followed the crew of a ship with the main character being a human woman. The next book follows an AI that we meet in book 1 and her adventures after the events of book 1. This book does not follow any of the characters we have met before and also takes place directly after book 1. So the events of Book 2 & Book 3 actually happened at the same time. Which I thought was interesting.

Goodreads Synopsis (2)

As for why I didn’t like this one as much as the first two. I think the main thing is because this one follows multiple points of view. In Book 1 we follow 1 POV in Book 2 we follow 2 POV and in this one we follow 5 (well 6 actually but the 6th is actually a characters documentation of meeting with humans. It made it a little more difficult to connect with the characters. We still get to know them but I just didn’t have that same connection that I had with the MCs from Books 1 & 2.

I did enjoy that we got to meet another species up close in this book. We meet a Harmagian named Ghuh’loloan. So that was really interesting. In previous books, we met other species but hadn’t gotten to know a Harmagian before. I love how other species react to humans sometimes. It’s amusing as! In Book 2 another species (I can’t remember which it was) meets a human and the human cries and the other species freaks out. It was just hilarious.
All of the species in this book are so thought out and written so well that they feel real.

In this book we explore more of the human side of things and how they are living in space however many years after they had to leave earth. We also learn about some of the jobs and just how life runs there which was quite interesting.

Goodreads Synopsis (3)

This one has very little plot to it. There is a rather big event that happens in the beginning and everything kind of stems from that. There are a couple other events that stem because of that event but the book is mostly about learning about the characters and their lives.

Because of the lack of plot, this book kinda stopped a little abruptly. I was just listening, looked down at my phone and realised I was on the last chapter. It still ended nicely but because there wasn’t a huge plot point and then a resolution and conclusion, it just didn’t feel like the end.

Goodreads Synopsis (4)

I did enjoy all of our main characters. First, we have Isabel who works in the archives and lives with her Wife Tamsin. She is also the one that has the Harmagian, Ghug’loloan staying as a guest. I loved reading her interactions with Ghuh’loloan, there is a lot of sharing of info as the Ghuh’lolaon is very curious about the Exodans. I really enjoyed both Isabel & Ghuh’lolan & Tamsin too for that matter. Isabel is such a kind, intelligent person. Tamsin is a little more fun but also strong minded. I also just love Isabel & Tamsin together. They are an older couple but still go out and do ‘young people’ things together and have fun. Ghuh’lolan is really nice too and also amusing when it comes to interacting with other humans and things that humans see as normal.

Next is Tessa. Tessa is married to George & mum to Aya & Ky. Tessa is just living life, working and looking after her family, including her rather stubborn father. George is away for work so she is left to look after Ky & Aya. Ky is only 2, so he is very active and hilarious at excuses. Aya is I think around 6-8 I don’t remember and she is very strong-willed. Tessa is an interesting character but probably my least favourite out of the MCs. Just because I don’t feel like I got to know her as much as others.

Eyas is our next MC and she has quite an interesting job. I won’t go into details though. She is very passionate about what she does but it makes it difficult for her to make real connections. I love her friendship/thing with Sunny. It was very natural and he is just so nice. Eyas just wants to help wherever she can and do what she thinks is right.

Sawyer is an outsider that moves to the Exodus Fleet. He just wanted change and is just trying to figure out how to live in the Fleet. It’s fun watching him trying to navigate this new life & he just wants to fit into life with the Fleet.

Lastly, we have Kip. Who is a teenager, still going to school, trying to figure out what to do with life. He is quite a sensible and kind kid and tries to do right. He sometimes gets led astray by his friend, but he sorts it out in the end. He is a nice guy and just wants to find his place in the world. Well not world, in the universe.

Goodreads Synopsis (5)

Even if I didn’t love this one as much as Book 1 & 2 I still loved it. It has an amazing diverse change of characters. EXCELLENT world building & unique ‘alien’ species. What more could you want from a heavy Sci-Fi. Usually, I complain when there is little plot but it just works so well with this series. Highly recommend the whole series!
I seriously hope this series gets more books in this world! It’s just so interesting! I would love to read from the POV of one of the alien species. That would be super interesting too.
Also just a note, you could read this one as a Standalone as it’s a completely new set of characters in a different area of the universe. It could be a little confusing as they do mention other species that don’t get explained in this one as we have already learnt all about them in the other books. But it could be done. But I do recommend the others.

Copy of Goodreads Synopsis

I was provided with an eGalley of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you very much to Hachette Australia NetGalley for this opportunity.

You can purchase a copy for yourself at any of the links below.

*There is an alternate cover. I will leave it below, but the links with a * beside them are the alternate cover.*

Hachette Australia
Paperback   /   Hardcover

Book Depository
Paperback   /   Paperback*   /   Hardcover

Paperback   /   Hardcover   /   eBook   /   Paperback*   /   Hardcover*

Angus & Robertson
Paperback   /   Hardcover   /   Paperback*   /   Hardcover*

Amazon (Aus)
eBook   /   Hardcover   /   Paperback

Alternate Cover:

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Copy of Goodreads Synopsis




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The Golden Fountain by Zuheb Alep – DNF review

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Title: The Golden Fountain
Zuheb Alep
Middle Grade Fantasy
Publication Date: Feb 28th, 2018
Pages: 320 (Paperback)
Publishers: Troubador Publishing Ltd
No rating

Goodreads Synopsis

The Golden Fountain is the story of a twelve-year old Benjamin, a rebellious boy whose fierce desire to become a leader is threatened by the children disappearing around his city. The citizens of the city has long suffered their children’s disappearance, but the fact that they were never discovered leads Benjamin to finally decide one thing; he would creep on-board a ship carrying eight thousands soldiers to rescue them around the world.

This story is set parallel in a world to our own, with magical creatures such as talking snow-cats bred for war, winged humans with elemental powers, birds as large as a horse and ferocious witches.

This world is more than magical, with the balance of light and darkness about to break. Only Benjamin can prevent that with his unbreakable sword and a unique compass. Fall into a story completed with many themes, mostly about love and worst of all … death


DNF @ 55%

Okay, so some middle grade are for me and some aren’t and this is one that just isn’t.

First of there is basically no world building at all! You are just thrown into this parallel world to our own that makes no sense and then nothing is explained. Maybe it will be in the end but I just can’t force myself to push through another 150 pages when I don’t care. And yes this is parallel to our world, it’s basically our world but they slightly changed the spelling of everything and then threw some weird magical items in.

Examples of the names:

Book: Aradia, Egypta, Afrika, Europia, etc.

Real: Arabia, Egypt, Africa, Europe.

Okay next, I’m just bored. As there is no development or world building I can’t connect with characters & the world doesn’t interest me so I’m just bored reading about characters I don’t care about in a world that makes no sense.

Also this book is just constant action that makes no sense. Like I said, nothing is explained so we just jump from event to event with no reasoning as to why. Then that thing just ends without explanation and we move onto the next ridiculous thing.

Also there are so many characters!! Half of them we meet for like one chapter and then don’t hear about again. It’s impossible to keep track of everyone as there is just so many.

Then there is the similarities to other books & movies that I noticed. They aren’t big things but things like ‘Stellotape’ I have no idea why they didn’t just call it Sellotape when most of the other random objects in the book don’t get name changes. But ‘Stellotape’ reminded me straight away or ‘Spellotape’ from the Wizarding World. Next we have a magic compass that points to the thing you want most. Sound familiar?

Then there is the excessive use of Explanation marks. It’s not all the time but I noticed a heap of spoken sentence that had a ‘!’ behind it for no reason. Let me give you an example.

*Please be aware that this quote is from the ARC and may differ from the finished published work*

“What? No!” said Jordanna

SAID! SAID does not mean yelled. Make up your mind. Is she saying or yelling it. Like it just contradicts its self so often.

Then there is also the very abrupt description/observations of characters. Let me give you another quote.

He soon woke at the sound of Benjamin’s voice and began propping up his fat body

Uhm? Is that necessary? I suppose at least he didn’t say it out loud.

Goodreads Synopsis (5)

So overall, I am simply not enjoying this book and don’t want to continue. Also I’m just coming out of a reading slump and don’t want to force a not enjoyable book on myself right now!!

Also just a little warning. There is a fair bit of death, violence and abuse in this book. And it is marked at ‘Young Adult’ even though the main character is 12.

Copy of Goodreads Synopsis

I was provided with an eGalley of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you very much to Troubador Publishing Ltd NetGalley for this opportunity.

You can purchase a copy for yourself at any of the links below.

Troubador Publishing Ltd

Book Depository

Amazon (Aus)
Paperback   /   eBook

Copy of Goodreads Synopsis




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A Tale of Two Murders by Heather Redmond – Spoiler Free Review

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Title: A Tale of Two Murders
Heather Redmond
Series Name: 
A Dickens of a Crime
Historical Mystery
Publication Date: July 21st, 2018
Pages: 320 (Hardcover)
Publishers: Kensington Publishing Corporation
4 and a half star

Goodreads Synopsis

On the eve of the Victorian era, London has a new sleuth . . . 

In the winter of 1835, young Charles Dickens is a journalist on the rise at the Evening Chronicle. Invited to dinner at the estate of the newspaper’s co-editor, Charles is smitten with his boss’s daughter, vivacious nineteen-year-old Kate Hogarth. They are having the best of times when a scream shatters the pleasant evening. Charles, Kate, and her father rush to the neighbors’ home, where Miss Christiana Lugoson lies unconscious on the floor. By morning, the poor young woman will be dead.

When Charles hears from a colleague of a very similar mysterious death a year ago to the date, also a young woman, he begins to suspect poisoning and feels compelled to investigate. The lovely Kate offers to help–using her social position to gain access to the members of the upper crust, now suspects in a murder. If Charles can find justice for the victims, it will be a far, far better thing than he has ever done. But with a twist or two in this most peculiar case, he and Kate may be in for the worst of times . . .


This review won’t be in my normal format as I find it hard to review mystery books as I don’t want to give anything away!

I did really enjoy this book. It literally had me guessing the whole time. I had absolutely no idea who the murder was until that person was confessing at 95% of the way through the book. This book kept me hooked and I was so intrigued by all the characters. There were scandals and secrets at every turn and that keeps you on your toes!

I enjoyed our main character, Charles Dickens, however, I don’t know anything about the real Charles Dickens, so I was unable to actually make a connection except the name. But as I said I did enjoy him. I liked that he was an amateur of sorts. I’m used to reading Hercule Poirot mysteries and he is a pro at it. But in this one young Charles was just taking any hint he could get and he changed his mind nearly every chapter about what things were important and who was suspected.
Other characters I liked were Fred who is Charles brother. He was funny and interesting and I think that was because he was that bit younger. William was another interesting character that I enjoyed. Also, Miss Kate Hogarth was enjoyable. I loved that we had a female of that era that was able to come in and help and even though some of the males tried to think of her as too delicate to hear about such things she proved them wrong. Julie was awesome too. I liked that she was a bit rowdier and modern compared to most of these old-fashioned proper people in the book.

I also enjoyed the setting of the book which was 1835 London. I don’t usually read historical books set that far back as my prefered Historical fiction is WW2 based but I found it very interesting.

Copy of Goodreads Synopsis

I was provided with an eGalley of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you very much to Kensington Publishing NetGalley for this opportunity.

You can pre-order a copy for yourself at any of the links below.

Kensington Publishing
Hardcover   /   eBook

Book Depository

Amazon (Aus)
eBook   /   Hardcover



Copy of Goodreads Synopsis




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Fade-Out by Patrick Tilley – DNF Review

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Title: Fade-Out
Patrick Tilley
Genre: Sci-Fi
Publication Date: Dec 14th, 2017 (first published in 1975)
Pages: I have no idea at Goodreads doesn’t say and I have an ARC of it (Loc 7604)
Publishers: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
half star

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‘Tense … fascinating’ Sunday Times

When an object of undeniably extra-terrestrial origin appears, the world is thrown into panic. Is this alien race harmless or a danger to humanity? Nine weeks later, civilization is on the edge of a total breakdown more devastating than any nuclear war or natural disaster.

Patrick Tilley, author of best-selling science fiction series The Amtrak Wars, creates in Fade-Out a chilling thriller of humanity’s first contact with advanced alien intelligence; a high tension tour-de-force that will stay with you long after you have turned the last page.

‘Tension builds and builds, up to an astonishing climax’ Daily Mirror

A new paperback edition will be out in December.


Okay, so it is not that I am absolutely hating this book, it’s more that it’s simply not for me.

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The writing in this book is fine. It’s well written but a little hard to understand especially with a lot of abbreviations and technical terms that I have no idea the meaning of. It took me about 3 chapters to realise AFB stood for Air Force Base and I still don’t know what SAC or NORAD stands for.

In the front of the book, there is a guide to all the characters and what their job is, as we are working with politicians, scientists, engineers and heaps of other people that have official titles. Which is great if you can remember them as it’s not easy on an eBook to just go back to the start and check like it is to just flick back the pages in a book. Then there are the names themselves! Some of them get called by both their first and last names by different characters and it’s just so hard to keep track of who is who!

AND IT IS SO DAMN SLOW!!! I like action packed, fast paced books! Some of the time I don’t mind a slower start especially if it is building a fantastic fantasy world! Like for example, Strange the Dreamer. But this book its just a group of men sitting in different locations discussing basically the same thing over and over! The first 10% of the book drove me wild as it was just them going back and forward wondering whether it is the Russians doing this stuff and because I read the synopsis where it says ‘extra-terrestrial’ I already know who is doing it! So this back and forward was driving me insane.

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Due to the fact that I am only 17% into the book (which is about 100 pages according to (the amazing) BookOut App), there hasn’t really been a plot yet! Like I said in the Writing section it’s just men sitting around discussing things! (Also, where are all the women?!)

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I have absolutely no connection or really an opinion on any of the characters as there are just so many and I barely know who is who. The only 2 fairly constant characters seem to be the president and his Assistant and I still don’t feel anything towards them. I have nothing bad to say about them, or anything good as I just don’t feel anything at all.

Christmas Blog Title (17)

Overall, this book just isn’t for me. If you enjoy slower sci-fi books with not much going on, then you may love it. However, it is just not for me. It’s too slow, too confusing and I just felt bored reading it.

Also, just a side note. I’m confused as to why this book exists and why it was on NetGalley as a new release. The book was originally published in 1975..

I was provided with an eGalley of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you very much to Bloomsbury Publishing Plc NetGalley for this opportunity.

You can purchase from the Bloomsbury website HERE!



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Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh – Spoiler Free Review

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Title: Flame in the Mist
Renee Ahdieh
Genre: YA Fantasy & Retelling
Publication Date: May 16th, 2017
Pages: 368 (Hardcover)
Publishers: Hachette Australia
3 and a half star

*Thank you to Hachette Australia & NetGalley – I received an eGalley in return for an honest review*
*All opinions are my own & 100% honest*

You can pre-order a copy of this book from Hachette Australia or Book Depository, just click the links.

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The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor’s favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family’s standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she’s quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she’s ever known.


If there are any SPOILERY parts of the view they will be in purple font.

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This cover is really pretty. I like how they incorporated the throwing stars in with the flowers around the peacock. I’m not sure what the peacock has to do with the actual story as I don’t remember a peacock ever being mentioned. But it is still a gorgeous cover.

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This book is written in third person POV, which I don’t really enjoy that much. It’s not horrible but I just feel like I can’t connect with the characters as much as I can with first person POV. I enjoyed Renee Ahdieh’s writing but I think this book would have been soo much better in first person POV.

I kinda wish that I had known at the start that there was a glossary at the back of the book because there were a fair few terms mentioned that were in a different language and I had no idea what some of them meant. Like the odd one I could figure out what it meant, but most I had no idea and it was really frustrating. As I read the book in digital copy I didn’t even know it was there until the last page and I swiped across and there it was! Would have been handier at the start.

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I enjoyed the aspects of this book that were similar to Mulan. I had never even heard of a Mulan retelling until this book, so I enjoyed that part of it. Obviously it didn’t stick exactly to plot of Mulan but some of the main points were still present. In Mulan, Mulan volunteers to go to war in her father’s place by dressing up as a man. Where as this story takes a different turn of events to lead to Mariko pretending to be a man, involve arranged marriages, a dark forest, unknown creatures and a plot to kill Mariko. This story is a little bit darker at times as well, but I have never read the original Mulan story, it could be even darker than this one, I’ve only seen the Disney movie and as it’s a children’s move its pretty tame most of the time. In this story Mariko’s brother also plays a major role, which I enjoyed sometimes and then others not so much. He was kind of a confusing character, but I will talk about that more in the Characters section below. I don’t believe Mulan had a brother in the Disney adaptation of the story, so this was an interesting addition.

Also I don’t understand the magic system in this book at all. There is one guy who has these magnificent powers, there is a woman who walks through a tree into some other place and that’s about the extent of the magic and it just confused me. Also at one point it implied that the guy with magnificent powers paid or something to be given the powers which is even more confusing.

Also, I don’t understand at all what the point was of showing Ranmaru’s feelings for Yumi. There was no explanation at all as to why she was ignoring him. How Ranmaru came to have feelings for Yumi, outside of her physical appearance. It just didn’t make sense that they put it in there for like one page and then said no more about it. 

Another odd bit was the part where Okami found out that Mariko was actually a female. So, I kinda understand why Mariko kissed Okami, but I don’t get why he kissed her back. Only a few minutes ago he believed she was a male, I have nothing against 2 males having feelings for eachother, but it just didn’t make sense. I don’t know if the author was going for an insta love type deal when it comes to Okami’s feelings for Mariko or what it was.

And the last thing that isn’t specifically plot, it’s more the characters, but I’m putting it here anyway… Why does no one in this damn book tell the truth.. It’s kinda irritating. Mariko, Okami, Ranmaru, Mariko’s father, The Empress and the royal consort (can’t remember her name) are all lying and keeping secrets. It was getting a little monotonous.

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So I have already said that I couldn’t really connect with or fully understand the characters because it was in third person POV. But I’ll still talk about some of the main characters.

I  didn’t mind Mariko, I like that most of the time she made calculated decisions and never gave up on what she was trying to do. Okami was that character that showed no emotions and then does for the right person, while I don’t hate that type of character, they also aren’t my favourite. Like we get it, you’re tough.. You are allowed to show happiness atleast.. Ranmaru, I don’t really know, he may have been the clan leader but he was still kinda background in the story itself most of the time. Yoshi, first off I’m surprised that spelling of this name isn’t trademarked to Mario Bros or Nintendo or something. But anyway, I liked him, he was interesting and treated Mariko like a human being from the start even if sometimes she annoyed him. Kenshin, was just I don’t know. He was confusing most of the time. Like I know that he was just trying to save his sister, but some rationally thinking sometimes wouldn’t have hurt! And what has with killing that old guy and the two kids and waking up and not remembering doing it?! Sorry what and how?

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Well this book was okay, but it wasn’t fabulous. There was a lot of confusing elements and seen as this is the first book in a duology, there is a lot of things that need to be explained in that second book. Is one book really going to be enough? I disliked the third person POV in this book. Third person POV can be done really well, for example, Harry Potter.. So it’s not that I hate Third Person POV as Harry Potter is my favourite series ever. But this book there was just no connection to characters and a majority of the time I just didn’t understand why they did anything.

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