Review: Belladonna (Belladonna #1) by Adalyn Grace

Belladonna (Belladonna, #1)Belladonna by Adalyn Grace
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

With a story as beautiful as its cover, Belladonna took me completely by surprise. I enjoyed this so much!

We follow Signa Farrow, who is not your average girl. I know you hear that a lot, but in this case it’s true. For example, she has an immunity to Belladonna, can commune with spirits and has a relationship with Death.

Unfortunately, our Signa was orphaned as a child and has lived with many guardians since. Recently, she’s been with her Aunt Magda, who is cruel. There’s no love lost between the two. So, when Aunt Magda suddenly dies, Signa isn’t exactly heartbroken.

She does have questions about her future though. Then she receives word that her last remaining relatives, the Hawthornes, would like her to go live with them at their Thorn Grove estate, as her Uncle Elijah’s ward.

Lacking other options, Signa leaves her old life behind willingly and with a bit of hope in her heart.

Arriving at the estate, she begins to become acquainted with everyone. Her Uncle is mourning his wife, Lilianne, who passed away recently. Woefully, her younger cousin, Blythe, seems to be suffering from the same mysterious illness that prematurely killed her mother.

When it becomes clear to Signa that Lilianne didn’t die of natural causes an unexpected murder mystery begins to unfold. This is made significantly more interesting by the fact that Signa gets the support of her old friend, Death, as she tries to solve it.

This book surprised me. I really didn’t know much about it going in. My initial attraction was the cover, followed by Adalyn Grace’s name on said gorgeous cover.

I was delighted with the setting, which based off some dates of included journal entries would be sometime in the 1850s or 1860s. It has a lush gothic feel that I really loved. Even the focus on plants like belladonna, Signa’s frequent use of it, felt very period specific and natural to me.

I enjoyed learning about Signa’s Thorn Grove family along with her. She’s really thrust right into their world of formal parties, frequent visitors and gossipers galore.

Having lived a fairly secluded life up until that point, I think Signa had felt very lonely. Now surrounded with people she becomes attached, to some more than others. Particularly her cousin, Blythe. She’s very saddened by Blythe’s illness and becomes determined to see her well.

I actually really ended up enjoying the romantic elements as well. I loved the dynamic between Signa and the character of Death. It was giving me Addie LaRue vibes and I was not mad about it.

Signa, at the age where it would be acceptable for her to marry, has some other prospects as well. Watching her navigate that, while trying to decipher her unusual feelings for Death was super compelling. I was eating it up.

Grace did a fantastic job of building the tension and mystery. It was hard to put down once Signa began looking into Blythe’s illness. It was a bit of a race against the clock and for a while, almost everyone was a suspect.

I loved the ending of this as well. It was a great set-up for the second book. Personally, I cannot wait to get my hands on it. Signa is one of my favorite new characters of the year, so I can’t wait to be reunited with her.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and Hachette Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review.

I definitely recommend the audiobook for this story. It was so easy to get swept up into this world through that medium. 10-out-of-10 recommend!!

View all my reviews

Review: Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Cinderella Is DeadCinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cinderella Is Dead is set in a stark-Fantasy world, 200-years after the legendary Cinderella’s happily ever after with Prince Charming.

We follow 16-year old, Sophia, who on the eve of her first Ball, can think only of how she wants to be with her girlfriend, Erin, forever after, not with some man, or boy, she doesn’t even know.

Even though it’s risky, Sophia pleads with Erin to run away with her. Erin refuses. In their society it is treacherous to be different; to want something different for their lives. Erin is scared to be caught, to put herself and her family at risk.

Within the kingdom, all young ladies of a certain age are required to attend the King’s Annual Ball, where they are paraded around in the hopes of being selected to be a man’s wife. They are given a limited number of chances. If not selected, it’s sort of unclear what becomes of them, but many forfeited girls are never heard from again.

The girls are chosen for completely superficial reasons, so it’s important to look your best; to be seen, but not heard.

On the night of their Ball, one of Sophia and Erin’s friends isn’t as prepared as she should be. The King reacts harshly and the poor girl’s fate is sealed.

After witnessing the King’s cruelty, and the citizens impotence in the face of such evil, Sophia can’t stand it anymore. She makes up her mind that she needs to get away. Feeling she has no other option, refusing to bow to these ridiculous traditions, Sophia runs.

Now a wanted criminal, on her own for the first time, outside the grip of the kingdom, Sophia begins to learn more about the kingdom’s history and finds that the lore the society is based upon is nothing but a bag of lies.

Together with her new friend, Constance, Sophia vows to return to the kingdom and dismantle the hurtful, unfair and savage system. It may not be easy though, as the King’s power stems for a formidable and unusual place.

While this started strong for me, with an intriguing premise and set-up, the further I got into the story, the more it lost my interest.

By the end, I was ready to move on. I still think this is a solid idea and build-up, however the final execution just didn’t match my tastes.

As the story opens, I was intrigued by the system and I still find that interesting. I also like how Bayron framed the society around the legend of Cinderella. It was a clever plot device for setting the stage for some serious examination of a patriarchal society.

I also really enjoyed and appreciated how well the dystopian tone blended with the fantastical backdrop. That was nicely done.

I think where this started to lose me was the melodramatic interactions between Sophia and Constance. I didn’t like Constance at all. I was disturbed at how quickly Sophia shoved aside her once-proclaimed super powerful feelings for Erin the second she met Constance.

That didn’t feel genuine. It kind of turned me off to both characters. I also didn’t vibe with how quickly and easily the girls seemed to be able to overpower, or influence, others. This was especially evident in the final scenes, although I don’t want to say too much here because, spoilers.

Overall, I think this was creative and had a very solid set-up. The ideas explored were interesting and I loved the use of the actual fairy tale to set up the basis for the functioning of this system.

Even though the execution of this didn’t quite blow me away, I am still definitely looking forward to reading more from this author!!

View all my reviews

Review: Cursed (Gilded #2) by Marissa Meyer

Cursed (Gilded, #2)Cursed by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cursed is the highly-anticipated follow-up to Marissa Meyer’s 2021-release, Gilded. I genuinely love Meyer’s style of writing and her always clever take on classic stories. In my opinion, she’s the queen of retellings.

Because of this, Gilded, pitched as a haunted retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, was one of my most anticipated releases of 2021. Spoiler alert: it did not disappoint!!

Initially, I was under the impression that that was a standalone novel. Reaching the final pages though, it was clear that was not the end of the story.

I have been anticipating this novel, Cursed, ever since.

Following the final scenes of Gilded, Adalheid Castle is in chaos. Serilda has been trapped in a deadly game with the cruel and clever, Erlking, or Alder King.

In a classic power move, the Erlking forces Serilda to become his wife. He’s hoping to be able to use her powers for his own gain. She plays along, mildly, as she has her own agenda going on under the Erlking’s nose; keep your enemies close and all that.

Serilda is determined to help Gild, the mysterious boy who came to her aid in the first book, solve the mystery of his forgotten past.

Meanwhile, the Erlking is plotting revenge against the seven gods who trapped the Dark Ones behind the veil. If he succeeds, it could change the mortal realm forever.

The stakes are high. Can Serilda and Gild figure out how to free themselves from the Erlking’s grasp before the Endless Moon finds them cursed forever?

Y’all, I’m most likely summarizing this very poorly. My apologies for that, but I do not want to give anything away. This is such a fun story to just sit back and watch unfold effortlessly before you.

I think Meyer did an incredible job of building this world, the characters, the lore and the action, oh my goodness! This one had so much action, but most captivating was Serilda’s character arc over the two books.

The conclusion to this couldn’t have been better. It felt so complete; a true 360. I loved sort of the exploration of the idea of what is in a story, folklore, legends that are passed down over generations. Is there truth in them? From where did these legends come?

Overall, this is a fantastic duology for Fairy Tale fans. It has such a classic feel, but is wholly original; great writing and character development.

Additionally, I did listen to the audiobook for both installments, narrated by the always fabulous, Rebecca Soler.

I highly recommend that format for these stories. Soler’s narration style lends itself perfectly to Meyer’s writing. It’s a match made in heaven.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I’m not sure what is going to come next for Marissa Meyer, but you best believe I’ll be reading it!!

View all my reviews

Review: The Empress of Time (The Keeper of the Night #2) by Kylie Lee Baker

The Empress of Time (The Keeper of Night, #2)The Empress of Time by Kylie Lee Baker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Empress of Time is the conclusion to Kylie Lee Baker’s The Keeper of the Night duology. This story follows Ren Scarborough, who is half-British Reaper, half-Japanese Shinigami.

In the first book, Ren and her half-brother, Neven, fled London for Japan, where Ren hoped to learn more about her mother and her Shinigami roots.

Once there, Ren was given a difficult quest by the Goddess of Death. She needed to find and eliminate three dangerous Yokai demons.

Along with her brother and a new friend, Hiro, Ren’s quest kept me glued to the pages. Death work is difficult business. It’s fast-paced with extremely high-stakes. Over the course of the first novel, I became easily attached to this group of characters.

Additionally, the first book had a fairly earth-shattering conclusion, so I have been anxiously awaiting this second installment.

In The Empress of Time, Ren has now been ruling the Japanese Underworld as the Goddess of Death for the past decade. She is no longer the same conflicted girl who fled the streets of London all those years ago.

Now Ren has received startling news that her past has come back to haunt her though. There are British Reapers approaching the shores of Japan. They’re here for Ren, for vengeance.

Ren seeks help and is again sent out on what seems to be an impossible quest. This time she must find and retrieve a magical sword said to have been missing for thousands of years.

With Hiro gone, Ren is joined this time around by the moon god Tsukuyomi, Hiro’s brother, on her mission. Together the two race throughout the country trying to find the object they seek before time runs out for Ren.

As mentioned above, I have been really excited to get this second book. It was just as intriguing as the first one. I was a little surprised by the huge time jump, however. I was sort of anticipating this would pick up right where the first book left off, but that wasn’t the case.

It did take me a little bit to come to terms with that.

As with the first book, Kylie Lee Baker really succeeds with the dark, beautiful imagery she is able to conjure up with this. And when I say dark, I mean it.

There’s a lot of death, mutilation, even the occasional consumption of body parts. It gets bloody, dangerous and gruesome, but we love to see that in a Fantasy.

I loved the inclusion of so many elements from Japanese folklore and myth. The world is well-constructed and worked really well over the course of this story.

Another thing I really enjoyed about this was how Baker kept the themes from the first book alive. For example, in the first book there’s a big focus on Ren’s heritage and her inner conflict over being half-British Reaper and half-Japanese Shinigami.

For Ren, she never felt like she belonged in London and she was in fact treated like an outsider by the other Reapers.

In this book, even though Ren has found a bit more peace with who she is, she still doesn’t feel like she has a true place she belongs. Particularly at the start of this.

So, bringing the Reapers to Japan and now having the Shinigami battle on her behalf, it was like the two sides of her being having an external conflict, instead of just the inner one from the first book. I am most likely explaining this terribly, but I found it really interesting.

This story was still about Ren searching for the place she truly belonged, but the playing field and the actors were so much larger in scope than in the first book. There has been a great evolution to Ren’s character, but she is still a character in deep need of finding greater meaning for herself.

With that in mind, I loved how this concluded. The final little section was the icing on the cake. A conclusion that seems fitting for the life that Ren lived.

I definitely recommend this to fans of Dark Fantasy, Japanese-Inspired Fantasy and classic quest tales. Kylie Lee Baker really knows how to wrap it up. This was a beautiful finale for this lush story.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Inkyard Press and Dreamscape Media, for providing me with copies to read and review.

I had a lot of fun with this duology and definitely look forward to reading more from this author in the future!

View all my reviews

Review: All of Our Demise (All of Us Villains #2) by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman

All of Our Demise (All of Us Villains, #2)All of Our Demise by Amanda Foody
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

All of Our Demise is the finale to the All of Us Villains duology.

This Dark YA Fantasy, featuring a magical competition to the death, is penned by the dream duo of Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman.

If you haven’t read the first book, please proceed with caution. There may be some things mentioned in this review that some would consider spoilers.

I will not be hiding them.

After the conclusion of Book 1, the limits of the tournament are beginning to erode. The status quo shaken.

The public is now more involved with the process than ever before, with Reporters flocking to the historic battlegrounds, turning the pain and misery of the Champions into entertaining fodder for everyone else.

It’s basically the Capital during the Hunger Games. The magical contestants are bona fide celebs.

Additionally, a dead boy has returned, now influencing the tournament and out of nowhere a new champion has entered the ranks, looking to dismantle the tradition entirely.

The champions end up divided into two groups: those who wish to proceed as normal and those who wish to break the curse, thus ending the tournament forever.

This book was freaking intense. I reread the first book, All of Us Villains, just prior to starting this and I am so glad I did.

This is quite a detailed world and it is very fast-paced. Therefore, I have a tendency to race along, excited to get to the conclusion of the action. Occasionally this causes me to forget fine details.

The first book is really where we are learning the bulk of background on our main characters and their families. I was super glad to have that refresher before getting into this one.

Luckily, I loved that one so much and really had fun revisiting the story. This installment builds beautifully off of everything that occurred there. It was a seamless transition from one book to the next; very well done.

I loved how in this one, our main characters shift themselves into essentially two opposing teams. There are those who want to end the tournament and those, mainly those whose families have gained the most from the tradition, who want things to remain as they are.

This seems relatable to the real world, doesn’t it?

We do follow the same characters here as we did in the first book. I was glad for that. I was a little concerned we were going to move on to new perspectives, as sometimes happens. I’m glad the authors stuck with the characters we already know and love.

I did see so much character growth for each of these mains. As they interacted with one another more, it helped to reveal a deeper side to their personal wants and motivations. There were some great arcs; particularly for me, Allistair and Gavin.

I think this is such a fun duology, dripping with dark atmosphere, engaging characters and non-stop action.

My head was left spinning. There was so much covered in this book alone. Overall, a great continuation, with a more than satisfying conclusion!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Teen and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review.

I seriously hope this isn’t the last collab we see from Foody and Herman. All of Our Demise releases tomorrow, Tuesday, August 30, 2022.

View all my reviews

Review: Bright We Burn (The Conqueror’s Saga #3) by Kiersten White

Bright We Burn (The Conqueror's Saga #3)Bright We Burn by Kiersten White
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bright We Burn is the third and final book in Kiersten White’s sweeping YA-series, The Conqueror’s Saga.

I bought this entire trilogy back in 2018 and she has stood quietly, yet beautifully, on my shelves, unread, for all these years. I picked up the first book on a whim, And I Darken, last month when I started my TBR-Haul Project.

The goal of this self-created project is simply to get me to read some of the backlist titles that I own. And I Darken was the first book of the project and I’m so glad it was.

I had such a successful reading experience with that book and consequently binged the rest of the series.

I found the world White created over the course of this series completely immersive. I was transported to the Ottoman Empire era and I found it to be such a refreshing, captivating, mysterious, yet brutal, setting.

The characters, particularly our main characters Lada, Radu and Mehmed, were each so fleshed out and distinct. Over the course of the series I became so attached to them and invested in their lives. I was like a helicopter mom circling them; especially Lada.

Lada was my favorite character. I loved her strength and determination. I felt like White wrote her really well. It was easy to understand her motivations and as hard as she was, you could tell that it was because she was essentially traumatized from her childhood.

She pushed everyone away, only keeping her country in her heart, that way no one could break it. I felt for her. Additionally, she’s a complete and total badass.

After returning to her home country, Lada uses a thousand stakes to send a message to her rivals. This one would never go down without a fight.

Radu grew so much in this one as well. It took a lot to get him to this place, but I think he finally is able to gain some sort of peace, or at least understanding, in his life that was satisfying to see.

He was a sweet baby bird that I want to protect throughout this beginning of this series. In this book, it didn’t feel as much like that. He really came into his own and although not a perfect situation, we love to see the growth.

Overall, White sent me on a tremendous journey with these characters. I seriously haven’t been this emotional at the close of a series in a long, long time. We’re talking actually tears, folks.

Kiersten White has destroyed me. I may never fully recover.

I’ve now read 9-books from this author and I’ll tell you, she’s a heavy hitter in my book.

I will continue to pick up anything she writes and I recommend you do too!

View all my reviews

Review: The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones

The Drowned WoodsThe Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Drowned Woods was one of my most anticipated releases of 2022. This YA Fantasy novel is a companion to Emily Lloyd-Jones 2019-release, The Bone Houses.

Full transparency, I hadn’t even read The Bone Houses until this month. The reason I was so excited for The Drowned Woods was based on its synopsis alone. It sounded absolutely captivating to me.

Spoiler Alert: It so totally was!!

Once I picked this up, it was all I could think about. I absolutely adore this story with my whole heart and soul. Lloyd-Jones swept me away into another world.

This story follows 18-year old Mererid, ‘Mer’, who is the last living water diviner. Her powers being known, she was wrenched from her family in order to go live in the castle of Prince Garanhir and be bound into his service.

She’s made to do terrible things, such as finding the wells of Garanhir’s enemies so that he can poison them. This results in the deaths of many, many innocent people.

Mer is devastated to have been a part of this. Luckily, she is able to slip out of the Prince’s grasp and flee. After that, avoiding recapture is her only focus.

Mer’s able to fly under the radar working as a barmaid. That is until the day her old handler, Renfrew, the Prince’s ex-Spy Master, approaches her with an opportunity to bring the Prince down.

He proposes a heist of sorts to steal an important magical artifact that in a sense secures the Prince’s control over their kingdom. Mer is intrigued and swayed by her old mentor. They can actually do this, make Garanhir pay for what he put so many innocent people through.

Together they assemble a team including a fae-cursed young man, the lady of thieves and an adorably-loyal corgi named Trefor. They were all brought onto the mission because of the special skills they each portrayed.

This crew, I loved watching them all come together and as they set off on their quest, I knew this story was going to be a slam dunk for me.

I loved everything about it. The world creation was fantastic, the magic system was easy to understand, yet intriguing, and the character interactions and motivations were so well done.

Mer, Fane, the fae-cursed young man, and Trefor in particular were so well developed. I loved watching their relationship build into what it ultimately becomes.

Mer’s character arc was so beautiful, heart-wrenching and ultimately satisfying. I adored her and her free will, determination and strength in face of set-backs.

As you get to the end, the truth behind the connection to The Bones Houses is revealed. I cannot even tell you what that moment was like, reading that reveal.

My heart swelled; insta-tears. It made me want to reread TBH knowing what I know now, even though I just read it! What a moment. It was so good.

Thank you to the publisher, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I appreciate it so much and have no doubt this is going to be on my Favorites list for 2022!!

View all my reviews

Review: The Bones Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

The Bone HousesThe Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After the death of her parents, 17-year old, Ryn, is left to run the family’s graveyard, along with her brother and sister.

This may seem a simple task to you, they’re gravediggers. How challenging can it be?

In their remote village of Colbren, however, the dead oftentimes don’t remain dead; not exactly.

Allegedly, due a decades-old curse, the dead in Colbren can reanimate themselves and begin to walk again amongst the living. These walking dead are known as bone houses.

For the most part, Ryn is used to dealing with this issue. They don’t cause too much trouble. They seem to stick to the forest and are fairly easily cut down if need be.

Recently though, the behavior of the bone houses is changing. They’re venturing further into the village and attacking with a new ferocity. Ryn can’t quite figure it out.

Around this same time, a mysterious young man, a mapmaker by trade, has come to the village. Could the two things possibly be connected?

Ryn is drawn to this new man, Ellis, and the two begin to get to know one another. It turns out Ellis was found in the very mountains that border the village. He is on a search for his parents. He wants to know where he came from.

They both have mysteries to solve and there’s no better way to solve a mystery than going on a quest. Any Reader knows that!

Thus, Ryn and Ellis, along with Ryn’s very faithful goat, head off deep into the heart of the mountains, where they hope to finally learn the truth behind the curse and their own lives.

The Bone Houses is a highly creative and engaging YA Dark Fantasy story. I loved the characters and the escalation of the plot over the course of the book.

It’s hard to believe a story following a gravedigger and the walking dead could be beautiful, but in the capable hands of Emily Lloyd-Jones apparently it is.

The writing is lyrical and compelling, with just the right amount of humor, romance and horror elements woven throughout.

I fell in love with both Ryn and Ellis, but really it was Ryn’s family goat who stole the show. We stan an animal companion element in any Dark Fantasy story, but it was particularly well done here.

Additionally, I love a quest. It was fun to go along with Ryn and Ellis on their journey, as they began to piece together the truth behind the bone houses the intensity of the story continued to amp up.

I also liked the secrecy and reveals revolving around Ellis. He had a super fascinating backstory and I loved how Lloyd-Jones chose to bring that all to light. There were some great reveals.

I picked this up in anticipation of this author’s upcoming release, The Drowned Woods, which is releasing next Tuesday, August 16, 2022.

The Drowned Woods, although following a whole new set of characters, is said to be set in the same world as this novel. I wanted to be sure to have the backdrop of The Bone Houses prior to picking that one up.

Also, I have heard incredible things about this book, so I definitely wanted to get to it anyway.

Overall, I had a lot of fun with this story and am happy that i made time for it!

View all my reviews

Review: Now I Rise (The Conqueror’s Saga #2) by Kiersten White

Now I Rise (And I Darken Series, #2)Now I Rise by Kiersten White
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Now I Rise was book #2 for my TBR-Haul Project, which I discuss in detail in my review for the first book in this trilogy, And I Darken.

After completing that 1st-book, I knew I had to continue on ASAP. This is not the type of story you can walk away from.

I became fairly obsessed with the characters in the first book, but now I am properly obsessed.

I’m loving the vibes I am getting from Lada. Her self-proclaimed dragon-status is so friggen apt. She’s serving Red Wedding realness, that’s for sure.

Radu, as well, has captured my heart. He’s such a sweet baby bird, underestimated by many, who I want to protect with every fiber of my being.

As a second book, this was one of the best I have ever read as far as continuing to expand the world and never-ceasing tension found therein.

I don’t want to go into the plot too much as it may spoil the previous book. However, I will mention that after the conclusion of the first book, our three main actors, Lada, Radu and Mehmed, all find themselves in different places, pursuing their own goals.

I have read other books where part of the magic is having characters together. If there are ever times in the narrative where they are all apart, it doesn’t seem to work as well.

That is absolutely not the case here. I loved watching these characters move out on their own and continue to grow. Lada and Radu, though raised together, are on such separate trajectories; they want completely different things, but if you think about it, for the same reasons.

It’s such an interesting dynamic between the siblings.

This setting as well, with the expansion of the Ottoman Empire as a back-drop, is absolutely fascinating. I’m not sure how historically accurate it is, but from what I have read, it sounds like the author really did her research and tried to handle it with the upmost care.

It was a super refreshing, historical, real-world setting that made everything happening feel that much more intense and believable.

If you enjoy stories with a rich historical setting, a ton of political machinations and brutal, heart-rending characters, you have to pick up this series. It may be backlist, but it is very much worth your time.

I am so excited to see how this all wraps up!!!

View all my reviews

Review: And I Darken (Conquerer’s Saga #1) by Kiersten White

And I Darken (The Conqueror's Saga, #1)And I Darken by Kiersten White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


And I Darken is the perfect example of why you should never neglect your backlist!

Listen, I know it’s tough with new releases being shoved down your throat week after week; it can be extremely distracting. Trust, I get that.

With this being said, there are some real gems out there just lurking on your bookshelves. I hauled this beautiful baby in March of 2018. 2018!!!

I’m so glad I finally picked this up. I’m currently obsessed with the world White created within these pages and picked up the second book immediately upon finishing this one.

For those unaware, which I assume is practically everyone, this is the first book in my TBR-Haul Project.

Basically, I have a problem with buying a bunch of books that I never get around to reading. I’m sure many of you can relate. I finally decided enough was enough. It’s time to start putting a dent in that ever-growing stack.

In my Reading Journal, I have a page dedicated to each month’s hauled books. I am starting at the beginning, in March 2018, and selecting one book from each month until I get all the way to July 2022.

In total, if I cycle through once, there will be at least 52-books included in this project. That’s my goal. If it is successful, we’ll see if I want to continue with it.

Out of the unread books that I hauled in that first month of my recorded hauls, March of 2018, And I Darken still held the most interest for me. I’ve heard a lot about this series and it seems that many Readers with taste similar to my own have really enjoyed it.

I’m so glad I decided to start with this one. I feel like with it, I have set myself up for success with this project.

In this story we meet brother and sister pair, Lada and Radu, when they are just small children. From there we get insight into some formative moments of their lives as they move towards their teenage years.

Lada is the older of the two and has a fierce personality. I absolutely adore her determination and unstoppable desire for independence.

Radu, the baby of the family, is soft and sweet, but he’s extremely smart and is frequently underestimated by strangers. In a society that awards strength, quick violence and skill on the battlefield, Radu doesn’t quite fit in with his contemporaries.

When they were young, their father moved them from their homeland of Wallachia into the heart of the Ottoman Empire, eventually abandoning them there.

Lada’s heart has always, will always, belong to Wallachia however, and she dreams of returning and claiming her birthright of power. She despises the Ottomans and all they have subjected her people to.

For Radu’s part, he feels like he’s found a home in the Empire. A place where he feels safe. He converts to Islam and makes friends.

Chief among their special friends is Mehmed, the lonely son of the sultan. In him, Radu feels like he has finally found acceptance, and Lada is intrigued enough by him to not hate him. That’s saying something for Lada.

Together the three form a very complicated web amongst them. There are secret desires, pining and plotting happening from all sides. It’s intriguing as heck.

I loved all of the political maneuvering in this and the backdrop of the Ottoman Empire was refreshing, exciting and beautifully done.

I also grew very attached to the characters. Lada, I admire and cherish for her dynamism and strong-will. Radu, I love and appreciate for his kind soul and sweet, quiet strength.

While the two had the same upbringing, it’s clear that the two are now set on different paths. Even though they love one another so much, their desires may never mesh. It seems one will always have to sacrifice what they want in order to keep peace between them.

This left off in such an interesting place. You can tell it is building towards an epic showdown. As I mentioned above, I have already started the second book in the series, Now I Rise, and enjoying it just as much.

Overall, I think you can tell that I am living for this story right now. I’m so excited to see what other backlist titles I will love just as much.

If you have been putting this one off for years, like I had, and love YA Political Fantasy stories with complicated familial relationships and lush historical settings, you should absolutely pick this one up and give it a go!

View all my reviews