The Sin Eaters Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

This is the third book I’ve read by Melinda Salisbury this year and I have to say, I’m a fan. She does YA fantasy that has tones of being familiar to those fans of the genre but also adds her own twists and unique little charms which is what makes me personally really enjoy her work.

So back to this particular book, it seems aimed at a slightly younger audience than the likes of State of Sorrow (you can find a review of this here somewhere) in some ways but in others I think this was a lot darker in its subject matter. The story revolves around ‘Twylla’ the daughter of a so called ‘sin eater’ and is supposedly appointed by the Gods to punish those accused of treason and the like; she does this merely by touch as her skin is deadly due to her intake of poison once a month that proves she’s chosen by Gods. The concept of being a weapon, used by the royals to kill traitors simply by touch is pretty dark in itself, made worse so by the fact in the past she was made to kill her former friend. Other than that, the book has similar themes to many YA Fantasy books about; the prospect of war, betrayal and corrupt rulers to name a few.

I personally really liked the concept of ‘sin eating’ in the book. Twylla is the daughter of a ‘sin eater’, a person who once a person is dead eats their sins in the form of specific offerings following the funeral and can choose whether or not to accept a sin. The character herself is a pretty dark and hideous one, something Salisbury captures well.

There’s a few plot twists in the book that obviously keep the book at a good pace, I did find the end quarter of the book lagged a little bit compared to the rest.

Overall, a pretty decent quickish read for fans of State of Sorrow or Court of Thorns and Roses. There’s two more in the series that I’ve ordered so I’ll get around to them sometime soon.

As always, thanks!

Song of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury

Go back a couple of posts and you’ll find my review of the first book in this series ‘State of Sorrow’ which I liked but felt was predictable and undeveloped in places. The sequel however, is gripping.

The sequel is advertised as being ‘thrillingly dark’ now I’d agree with the thrilling part, it was, but it’s not overly dark. It has it’s moments but it’s not a real standout. What does standout for me is how much the main character ‘Sorrow’ grows and develops in this book from the first installment. The lack of character growth was for me, one of the biggest let downs of the first book, but this completely turns that on its head.

I think I also noted that I found the first book a little predictable, again, ‘Song of Sorrow’ goes against that totally, there’s lots of nice little twists and turns that keep this book very engaging.

A very small particular I adored about this sequel is it’s portrayal of LGBTQ characters, there’s no big song and dance around it the particular characters are simply attracted to who they’re attracted to and everyone just happily gets on with their day. There’s also no stereotypes, which is refreshing. It’s a subtle thing but I really liked it and the full inclusion of LGBTQ characters is something still a little lacking in this genre.

It’s not often a sequel is better than the first…but in this case, it is. A fully addictive and immersive read.

Next up is ‘The Sin Eaters Daughter’ also by Melinda Salisbury.

Thanks as always!

A Throne of Swans by Katharine and Elizabeth Corr.

This is a book about shapeshifters, kingdoms in trouble and placing others above yourself. The overall plot is pretty similar to many other fantasy books I’ve read of late ‘father dies, girl learns things about father, girl must save Kingdom etc’ but actually beneath that this book has a lot of unique story points and some nice twists and turns that make it very good.

The stand out points of this story for me is the originality of the plot (baring in mind what I just said), it surrounds a kingdom ruled by people who can transform into birds and if you can’t then you’re nothing. The descriptions are beautiful, as is the development of the main character ‘Aderyn’ who is on a quest to find out who murdered her mother, while dealing with the internal trauma of her mother being killed and her father recently dying. I like characterisation that shows the characters as being ‘real’ and you get that with ‘Aderyn’ especially in how she deals with the trauma surrounding her parents deaths.

My only negative point about ‘A Throne of Swans’ is the romance aspect (I’ll try to be as spoiler free as possible). The lead character and another characters (see, spoiler free!) romance goes from 0 to 100 in the space of a few pages with very little build up surrounding it. It very much redeems itself towards the end of the book, but it just seems a little hurried which isn’t to my taste.

Overall, I would highly recommend ‘A Throne of Swans’ to all you fantasy/young adult/fairytale type fans. It’s very beautifully written with some excellent realistic character development, while the plot is familiar to fans of the genre it has a very unique take.

I’m very excited for the sequel next year.

Thanks!

State of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury

This was a bit of a chance buy (as most of my reads are I guess) but it sounded down my street so I got it. To begin with, on first glance, this is like most young adult fiction fantasy you’ll pick up…’girl around 18 inherits a country, there are issues and threats, some magic and some romantic’ it’s been done a lot. However, it differs from what has been done so many times before in the fact there are many twists and turns in the plot, meaning that aspect of predictability is gone which is excellent.

Another way in which this differs from so many others of its genre is the lack of focus on romance, there’s hints of it, don’t get me wrong but it’s not in your face or cringy in the same way some YA books are.

What this book lacks is good strong characterisation, I come from a position in which the past two books I have read have been perfect in this regard so I maybe a little harsh here; I don’t get a big sense of any real development with the characters and they don’t strike me as particularly ‘real’, they’re perfectly likeable (or awful if they’re meant to be) but there’s no real growth there. That said, I believe there’s going to be a second book; therefore, some character development could take place perfectly.

Overall, if you like the general genre of young adult fantasy fiction then chances are you’ll like this, as I said, upon first glance it’s underwhelming; however, give it a chance I warmed to it a lot more than I thought I would.

Thanks!

Circe by Madeline Miller

It is purely coincidence that the book I read after The Silence of the Girls based off of The Illiad is Circe a retelling of Homer’s Odyssey. As with The Illiad, I’ve not read Odyssey but I know the vague story and Greek mythology and Gods/Goddesses.

Firstly, this is a beautiful book. The detail and descriptions are flawless and compelling. A huge positive of this book is the character development, we see the main character Circe develop from a unsatisfied, almost meek being at the beginning of the book to a strong and independent character towards the end. However, this is not done in the way you sometimes see in fantasy, in which the character is totally unrecognisable by the end. Circe as a character retains some of her more ‘human’ flaws and that’s what makes the characterization in this book so lovely.

I would recommend reading this alongside The Silence of the Girls as there are overlaps in the story and characters and they almost seem to compliment each other. They are very different books I must stress but they are both very powerful feminist reworkings of great classics.

My only negative is that at times I found it a little slow for my taste, meaning I didn’t utterly devour it like I did with The Silence of the Girls; however, that just means it took me a little longer to read!

Next up I think I’ll be reading State of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury.

Thanks for reading!

New year, new books!

Happy new year readers!

The first day of the year I finished The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker and I have to say, I rarely have to just sit for a few minutes and think about a book after closing it, but I had to following this one.

If you like your classics, your myths or just general great feminist literature then this is for you. It is a retelling of Homer’s The Illiad which I must confess, I have never read, but I do know the vague story and am familiar with Greek myths in general.

The first thing that strikes me about this book is the emotion, it is raw and gritty. The book does not romanticise war in the slightest, it shows it for what it is, bloody and frightening.

The second thing that I love about the book is the realness of the female characters. The majority of the female characters are slaves, however there is no attempt for them to ‘make the best of it’ or fall in love with their captors or whatever else various ‘romance’ novels in the past have told us. Some

of the women kill themselves, some cry, some go mad, some are angry, some submit and some hold onto their past lives. It’s beautiful and shows the characters as human.

On occasion keeping track of characters can be confusing, but given it’s based on The Illiad I think that is probably to be expected. Other than that, The Silence of the Girls is a stunning read, it’s not my usual genre but I am so glad I picked it up.

Summary of 2019

This is a very short post, but I’ve read some cracking books this year (barely any of which I’ve reviewed because I’m also very lazy). But my book of the year? ………….

Serpent and Dove…maybe…I don’t know, it’s too hard!

Anyway, I’m currently reading The Silence of the Girls so that will be my first of 2020! There’s already some books I’m excited about coming out in 2020 so hopefully I’ll be more active here .

Thanks for reading!

Have a great NYE and I hope 2020 is prosperous for you all xox

The Familiars by Stacey Halls

I initially came across this book online but didn’t think it was my kind of thing, then I saw it cheap in a supermarket and went for it… And I am so glad I did.

The Familiars is a fictitious account of the Pendle witch trials, which for those of you that aren’t familiar is one of the largest witch trials in England, which saw ten people executed as witches in the North-West in the early 17th century. I for one love the hisistory of witchcraft and witch trials and for whatever reason didn’t actually click that this book was about witch trials. Anyway, the book focuses on the life of Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a young mistress of a large house and a woman who desperately wants to become a mother. Fleetwood’s path crosses with a young woman called Alice who becomes Fleetwood’s midwife; unfortunately Alice is also one of the accused of witchcraft.

The book is told entirely through the voice of Fleetwood, who is a very likeable character and one the reader can very much empathise with. The book is also divided into four parts, which is something I quite like in fiction.

Halls’ blending of historical fact with her own imagination is beautiful, and while this book is more historical fiction than fantasy, there’s still a little bit of mystery and magic thrown in there (is Alice the fox?!) and the imagery is also lovely. The description of the scenery very much gives you a sense for 17th century England, especially this geographical location which is very remote and politics and religion have very much made it a place in which witchcraft accusations could (and clearly did) happen.

I would personally class this a pretty feminist work, the women are strong, independent and work together. Class and wealth also comes into play here, making the lives of the characters very different, especially the relationship between Fleetwood and Alice; however their differences are where you can see their individual strengths.

I don’t particularly have any negatives to discuss regarding this book, it was a thoroughly enjoyable book that was a beautiful blend of fiction and historical fact.

I’m very much looking forwards to Stacey Halls next book next year.

Thanks!

🙂

The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith.

I read this a month or so ago but given my last review this one seems fitting to come next, The Vine Witch and Serpent and Dove are pretty similar in terms of style and setting.

Once again, this was an impulse purchase, given it had half off on amazon which I wouldn’t resist. The plot briefly is as follows: Elena was kept under a Curse for years until freeing herself (bam feminist hero!), upon freeing herself she goes back to her old life as the Vine Witch of a vineyard; however, the vineyard now has a new owner who does not believe in magic or superstition. The book of course has elements of romance, magic and even crime making it a pretty good read for many fantasy fans.

As with the Serpent and Dove that I reviewed earlier in the week, one of my favourite things about The Vine Witch is the setting, think early modern fantasy France, with elements of the medieval period chucked in for good measure. The combination above makes for a very beautiful world, and easily imaginable.

Imagery is very important in this book, and something the author does well. A large part of the story is about wine and taste and the senses overall and Smith makes these things come alive for her readers.

The story itself, while having aspects you find in much Young Adult fantasy, is quite original (at least not something I’ve come across) which is nice, I’ve mentioned before that originality in YA is something that lacks a little at times.

There was not anything that I disliked about this book, if not for Dove and Serpent The Vine Witch would be a contender for Book of the Year for me, but alas!

I believe there is a sequel planned for 2020 so very exciting to see how that goes!

Thanks as always,

Bethany

Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin

I may have told a small lie in my last post, in which I stated that I would review the stand alone Witcher book; however, I forgot and actually finished it ages ago! but I have read some excellent works lately so I’m going to come back with one of those.

Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin was an impulse purchase from Amazon purely because it seemed like it maybe something I may like…and yes, I like it, I like it a lot. I like it to the point it may actually end up being my Book of the Year, but we shall see as it is only November and I have many more books to read before the year is up!

To quickly summarise (with no spoilers of course), this book is essentially a witch and a witch-hunter who are forced together in marriage in a world that resembles fantasy medieval France. It has romance, adventure and fantasy in one book (everything I love of course). The book is divided between the two main characters points of view, ‘Lou’ the witch and ‘Reid’ the witch-hunter. Normally I find split chapters confusing, but not in this case. Lou and Reid have very distinctive voices throughout the book and thus it is hard to get confused between the two.

My personal favourite thing about this book is its setting; as I previously stated it is set in a world reminiscent of a fantasy medieval France, and it is gorgeous, the world itself and the characters, who are described perfectly. There are lots of themes running through the book, such as good vs evil, Christianity vs Paganism (or witchcraft etc) and otherness just to highlight a few, all of which are handled well by the author.

The most exciting part of this book are the various twists in the plot; I read a lot of fiction and it gets to a point where you can generally see where a story is going (especially in the YA genre); however, not the case in this work, the twists in the story were excellently executed by the author and really engage the reader, I read this book in two and half days because I struggled to put it down. As previously noted, I find some Young Adult Fantasy to be predictable, but this book was not the case in the slightest, I am so happy that there is going to be a sequel as I think this will give a chance for the author to really develop the characters (not till 2020 though).

I do not actually have a single bad thing to say about this book, it was gripping, powerful and just addictive really…I very much look forwards to the next!

A little bit of a quick one, but I’m just getting back into writing!

Bethany