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Nisha – The Indonesian Edition!

Hi friends! Sorry to have been totally MIA on my blog for the month of November! It was quite a majorly eventful month to say the least. I had a scuba diving trip to the Banda Sea for a full week without internet (glorious, indeed). Bandung Philharmonic, an organization I co-founded had our Finalia Concertante. And last but not least, NISHA, the first book of my Nishaverse trilogy, is now available for pre-order in Bahasa Indonesia! Finally! It wasn’t an easy journey but we made it with the support of dear friends from Omah Library and The Mad Tea Book Club.

The Indonesian Edition

This version of Nisha had gone through a hefty translation process (my appreciation is skyrocketing for translators) PLUS it has EXTRA ILLUSTRATIONS from the amazing Inez Wandita who did all the covers for the ebooks! At the moment physical books are available for pre-order via Omah Library here: bit.ly/OrderOMAH. At the moment the price is very special, so save yourself some money and get it now. You’ll also be supporting indie publishing, women authors, women illustrators, and women empowerment through the power of storytelling.

Coming Soon to Shopee

After this special pre-order time, the Indonesian version of Nisha will be hitting The Mad Tea Book Club’s Shopee with some extremely delicious BONUSES which are still secret for now 😉 But be on the lookout because you can also purchase the bonuses separately.

Previous Reviews

Since the English version of Nisha has been released back in 2020, you can see some of the reader’s reviews on Goodreads. If you want the English, digital version, you can purchase it directly from my shop. Pst: there’s an audiobook version as well!

Obviously I’m so proud with Nisha’s journey so far, and thank you, THANK YOU all so much for supporting my writing!

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Book Review: To Kill A Kingdom

To Kill a Kingdom has got to be one of my favorite Little Mermaid retellings so far! Imagine the Ariel we all know being a hard, sharp killer, with the sea witch Ursula as her mother instead of sweet King Triton. And substitute the lovely mermaids we know with deadly, bewitching and ferocious sirens. You get Alexandra Christo’s To Kill a Kingdom.

Plot

Since it’s a Little Mermaid retelling, we know the basic structure of the narrative: sea creature girl fall sin love with human prince. The original Hans Andersen story has a tragic ending with the mermaid dissolving into sea foam while Disney paints a happily ever after. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that To Kill a Kingdom will have you smiling instead of crying at the end!

Enemies to Lovers

The siren creatures are at war with the humans, with Lira, our siren princess being the most famous prince killers and prince slash pirate Elian being the most famous siren hunter. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an enemies to lovers carried out this convincingly before. There was no “they actually loved each other this whole time”, or Romeo and Juliet love at first sight between two enemy parties. Here it was real fear and hatred that our two main characters felt for the other. That changed to grudging respect, comradery, flirting, and then finally to love. I found this super satisfying and a lot of fun to follow.

Magic

Okay the one thing that seemed a bit odd to me was how magic played a deux ex machina role without much constraint in the worldbuilding. It’s literally oh this person can suddenly appear here and it’s because of magic (video game-esque, I must say).

Four Stars

All in all though, with just a little over 350 pages, To Kill a Kingdom wasn’t a long book. But the standalone had everything I was looking for: gory fairy tale retellings, fantasy world adventure, pirates, royalty, sirens, a great enemies to lovers relationship, and even a bit of politics on Elian’s part! I honestly wish it was a bit longer, but give me short, sweet, to the point any day over unfocused ramblings just length sake.

If you’re into pirate vibe books as much as I am, you might also like Daughter of the Pirate King duology.

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Duology Review: Sands of Arawiya

I have been curious about Sands of Arawiya duology for the longest time. I mean just drooling over the gorgeous covers at bookstores. This month I finally got around to ordering and reading both We Hunt the Flame and We Free the Stars. Here’s what I thought.

We Hunt the Flame

Before we go further, I have to say the print for my edition was way too small for me. My poor eyes really struggled there, and it made me wish I was reading on my Kindle instead. It definitely had me in a predisposed irritated mood which no reader wants to be in when reading!

Honestly, the set up for We Hunt the Flame was a bit too similar to Hunger Games. Zafira, the female protagonist, is almost exactly like Katnis. Her skill with the bow, the little sister (Primrose, Hi!). Even down to the boy next door who has grown up with her and is in love with her but sadly gets a nonfrontal rejection. Luckily I am a sucker for south Asian fantasy settings so the ancient Arab imagery kept me interested.

The plot itself unfolded quite fast with a lot of action so that I didn’t feel bored. However it did seem like the standard collection of YA event tropes. I liked Nasir’s, the male protagonist slash assassin prince, POV better just because I think it was more interesting – with the family pressure he had to deal with (from his Sultan father) and the pull of his growing feelings for Zafira.

There is quite an appeal to found family sentiments (the zumla), but in this first book, I just didn’t feel the chemistry and comradery of the group. Nasir and Zafira’s chemistry worked though, and that’s what tugged me along to the second book.

We Free the Stars

We Free the Stars is almost 600 pages long, and it felt that way, especially for the first 200ish pages. The story felt very slow, and even Nasir’s POV became a bit too pining for me. The one redeeming factor, I think, is Altair’s character (who, by the way, reminds me a lot like Nikolai Lantsov in Shadow and Bones). He’s the General of the kingdom, and well, his identity has a bit of a twist in it.

Once it got to the middle point the plot was much more interesting. Towards the end there was even a bit of Zafira descending into delicious madness thanks to the power of the Jawarat (a magical book). I didn’t understand why this was painted as morally bad. I honestly thought it was one of the coolest things she did! Like finally, Zafira’s villain era, yeay!

That brings me to one of the aspects that irked me during this duology. I feel that there was quite a heavy hand on being good and getting on that moral high ground, while at this point of my life I have to say I’m much more interested in gray anti-hero stories (cue Taylor Swift).

Oh, the writing throughout Sands of Arawiya was definitely atmospheric, though at several action points it got me confused as to what actually happened. All in all, if you’re looking for a standard, happy end, romantic YA fantasy adventure, then I think Sands of Arawiya will do fine.

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Book Review: The Jade Setter of Janloon

The Jade Setter of Janloon is a novella by Fonda Lee. It takes place before the events of Green Bone Saga, in the same jade studded world. Since Green Bone Saga is one of my favorite trilogies (and I miss Kaul Hilo too much), I had to get my hands on this short story. Good news: it didn’t disappoint!

Plot

The Jade Setter of Janloon follows Pulo, an apprentice to Isin, the most revered Jade Setter in Kekon. Even Ayt Mada, the Pillar of the Mountain Clan has her jade setted by Isin. But when someone steals Ayt Mada’s moon blade from Isin’s shop, the stakes get very steep, very fast.

Short as it is, Fonda Lee weaves well paced drama about all the characters of the jade shop. You really start to feel their anxiety as their situation worsens. One thing I always enjoy about Green Bone is how authentic the Eastern themes are, and how the characters deal with the paradigms they have grown up with versus the modern culture and world. In the trilogy there were big themes of honor, family vs individuality, upholding your culture vs managing westernism, etc.

Here it is the master-student relationship which the author grapples with. This theme wasn’t explored so much in the main trilogy, so special nod to Fonda Lee for finding yet something else that’s ancient and incorporating it into her jade world seamlessly. She also raised a very important social issue in this novella (it would be a spoiler if I say it) so kudos for that!

Appearances

Yes, Hilo (still a Fist, not yet the Horn) has a major appearance with the Maik brothers. LOVE THIS. Not just Hilo, but Lan and Ayt Mada have their moments as well. I did miss Wen and Shae terribly, though I see how the plot would be forced if they were to be incorporated into this particular storyline.

As for the main characters of the novella, I didn’t feel so much for Pulo, but his character did get major development. Malla is an interesting character – I’d love to get to know more too. I think Pulo and Malla’s romantic relationship was a bit forced, but it’s a minor complaint.

In the end, if you loved the trilogy, I think you’d have a great time with this novella!

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Series Review: Green Bone Saga

My friends, pick this up right now. I’m telling you, I read a lot of fantasy, and Green Bone Saga is UP THERE. One of the best fantasy series I’ve read so far – although it’s not the fairy tale, dragons, and wizard type of fantasy. Seriously, I can’t stop gushing about this series.

Jade City

The first book of the Green Bone Saga introduces us to the iconic Kaul family. The Kauls are the head of the No Peak Clan in the city of Janloon. Janloon is rather like 1970s Hong Kong except with jade. Jade in the whole series is a source of magical powers which Green Bones can tap into, endowing them with superhuman abilities. Naturally, such a substance is coveted throughout the whole world, from street rats to presidents.

Fonda Lee‘s worldbuilding is superb, complete with political power plays that reminded me of the first book of Game of Thrones. Of course, Green Bone Saga quickly exceeds Game of Thrones, in my opinion. The Kaul family relationships and dynamics drive the whole series. Let me say that I love every single one of them! All the characters in the Kaul family are complex and morally gray, but HEAVEN HELP ME I am in love. Their struggles are so relatable, especially if you’re Asian or familiar with Asian culture and the clash with “modernity”.

Jade War

The second installment took the whole thing to another level. As the political groundwork was so meticulously laid out, the pay off and stakes are visibly high. Plot wise Jade War is riveting. But the greatest joy of this book is seeing the main characters of the Kaul family really grow into leadership. Not only that, they also start influencing the wider world.

Kaul Hilo, I have no words. I am simping over this character – literally drooling. Anden Emery, the adopted son of the Kauls, actually has the most unexpected arc. His being half in and half out is an issue for him (though not for anyone else, it seems) and he really grows a lot in this book. Now Kaul Shae, this lady is larger than life here. There is a scene in which Shae duels the long-time family enemy: Ayt Mada of the Mountain Clan. This has got to be the most exciting scene in the whole series. Fonda Lee really knows her action flow.

Jade Legacy

The last and thickest book of the series (I finished it in two days) is thoroughly satisfying in story, but heartbreaking. I’m shattered, and will likely never recover.

Jade Legacy uses time jumps to cover the span of the decades. Some readers on Goodreads mention this to be skimming the story. I don’t mind because it actually works as a storytelling device, allowing characters to look back and reflect on key events. In this way we can also see the impact of those events on the characters’ lives. Fonda Lee milks these internal dialogues so that we really get closer the characters.

The arcs of the “main” generation of Kauls: Hilo, his wife Wen, his sister Shae, and his brother Anden, all wrap up very well. Even Ayt Mada’s arc was well resolved. The younger generation, Niko, Ru, Jaya, could have been given more treatment but then that’s probably a whole new series in itself. Which I wouldn’t mind, by the way.

There is one trope in this book that seemed to be a repeat of something in Jade Legacy, so that was kind of cliche for me. Other than that, however, I find myself a complete fan of the series, and will be reading the novella The Jadesetter of Janloon. After my jade withdrawal symptoms have slightly receded, of course.

Bonus

Since I’m a fan of booktok aesthetics, here is the best fan made aesthetic I’ve come across so far for Jade City. Oh and the sexy voice? Kaul Hilo would approve.

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Trilogy Review: Shades of Magic

This is the first time I’ve read VE Schwab, thanks to @yourstrulyjulietta! Throughout reading Shades of Magic trilogy I had a blast gossiping with Khloe from @bookies_cloudeleven, Feb at @feb_books and Heni at @heniaakbar. I think I finished the whole trilogy in about a week…

A Darker Shade of Magic

The first thing that stuck out to me was VE Schwab’s writing, which shone brightest in A Darker Shade of Magic, in my opinion. Brilliant play of words and sentences to evoke the mood of the whole thing. Next up are the characters. Kell, Rhy, Holland, the Dane twins, all fascinating. Lila Bard…well 😀 I think she’s a character you either hate or love, you can’t really be on middle ground with this one. The worldbuilding with four Londons / worlds (although we don’t see much of them besides Red) is a cool concept, although I kind of wish there was a bit more variety between the worlds, not just with the level of magic.

Shades of Magic series is branded as adult fantasy, but this first installment had kind of a young adult feel to it (not necessarily a bad thing, I love YA books), perhaps because of Kell, Lila, and Rhy’s struggles with their identities and figures of authority, which is usually a YA theme.

A Gathering of Shadows

Hmm, sadly A Gathering of Shadows gets a Middle Book Syndrome verdict from me. Not much happens for a looong time until the games (the magician’s tournament). When the tournament finally started it was great, but by then I was skimming Kell and Rhy’s POVs, especially because they got rather whiny. Lila’s POV learning how to be a pirate from Alucard on the Night Spire, although lacking in plot, is something I love because I highly romanticize pirates (and secretly want to be a pirate myself so there you have it).

I’ve seen some reviews on Goodreads really hashing it out on Lila’s character (she’s special, one of a kind, not like other girls) while some other reviews gush and love how bad-ass she is – therein in my conclusion you can’t really be ambivalent with Lila, you either hate or or love her. For me, the thing about Lila is that her character is consistent. From the beginning to the end she was selfish, up-in-your-face, too much, and very very gray. So I think if she actually started to behave (gasp) better it would be weird and almost disappointing. Like, I’m just counting on her to be a wild card and bring trouble. HOWEVER, I have noticed a disturbing pattern which carries on to the third book…

A Conjuring of Light (SPOILER)

Okay so the disturbing thing about Lila Bard is that all the women around her dies. Calla, her dressmaker, Kisimyr the magician, Ojka the assasin, the Queen, Princess Cora, and even Jasta the other lady pirate (whom I thought was a really cool female character). By now I’m rather traumatized and really hope the author lets more female characters survive (in the expansion of the series) because pretty please?

Aside from the above concern, I gulped A Conjuring of Light in A DAY (and it’s the longest of three books). It was thrilling and quite emotional! The best thing I like is the fall of the city, the chaos afterwards, and how they slowly come upon the solution. The romance between Kell + Lila and Rhy + Alucard was delightful. Me likes.

Holland’s character is…tragic. It kind of felt like the first book was about Kell, the second about Lila, and the third about Holland. His fate is tied, has been tied to his world from the beginning – gosh what a burden to carry bro.

So here is what I think is really cool about the 3 Antaris + 1 (Voldemort-ish) piece of black magic. Lila from Gray London has always wanted freedom, which she gets by moving to another world. Kell from Red London just always wanted to belong, which he also gets by staying in Red, and Holland gets the hard knock of brutal fate, but at least granted his dying wish to breathe last in White London. Osaron, the black magic from Black London just wants more more MORE, and he too gets it (if my prediction is correct about the open ending). Look, everyone gets what they want!

If you like Shades of Magic, I would highly recommend Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (my favorite author) or Broken Earth series by NK Jemisin.

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Book Review: Cinder’s Adventure

Cinder’s Adventure was released March 2022 in honor of 10 years of Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. I’m a big fan of this series, so I gulped this right in. Afterwards, I saw a lot of mixed reviews from fans on Goodreads. Some fans are terribly disappointed because they have been waiting a decade for Cinder and Kai’s wedding, and well, Cinder’s Adventure didn’t have a lot of that. Some others enjoyed it for the fluff it is and are satisfied. I’m in the second camp. I’ll explain why below.

First Book

So I’ll be honest, one of the reasons I bought Cinder’s Adventure is because Marissa Meyer announced that she is donating all her royalties to First Book. It’s a non-profit that helps to promote literacy and a love of reading in underserved areas. Okay, support that cause and get a Cinder fluff in the meantime? I’m in. I do think reviews should keep this initiative in mind before slaying the author down.

Interactive Novella

I haven’t read one of these since I was a little girl. I’ll admit they’ve never been one of my favorite book formats. Such a format doesn’t really develop much plot or character or relationship due to the nature of readers choosing their own paths. I ended up jotting down what happened in each chapters and going through in chapter order to read what I missed. It’s like reading a not-so-connected collection of fanfics.

Marissa’s Multiverse

One thing that is fun if you’re a Marissa Meyer fan is the multiverse-ness of this book where characters intertwine and interact with each other. Pst…there is a happy Heartless ending in there somewhere! I haven’t read Instant Karma yet, but the snippet of it in this ebook makes me want to read that too.

Worth it or Not?

To go back to the question. If you keep your expectations in check: this book isn’t canon at all and is a collection of fluff, with a noble cause behind it, then yes I think it’s worth it. Note that it’s only available in ebook so no trees were wasted in the making. I do hope it stays that way!

Last but not least, check out this fancast Tiktok video I made in honor of the occasion: #Lunar10YearsLater

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Book Review: Land of Sand and Song

I came across this book on Jacq’s bookstagram account and have since been really curious about it. I wasn’t let down! I’m always looking for good fantasy, especially good Eastern fantasy written by Asians. Land of Sand and Song by Singaporean author Joyce Chua satisfied that thirst beautifully.

Joyce Chua’s writing style reminds me of fairytale storytellers such as Marissa Meyer and Shannon Hale – that poetic undercurrent explicit during descriptions. It’s a style I enjoy because I’m a sucker for fairytale retellings. Plot-wise Land of Sand and Song is a bit on the predictable end but I don’t mind because most fairy tale story vibes are like that. Having said so, I didn’t expect there to be a love triangle between the protagonist Desert Rose and the two princes so hey that was a little yummy bonus!

Another thing I liked about this book was the strong women characters. Desert Rose is pretty kick-ass and can hold herself up in any situation. The organization she is a part of is an organization of women assassins: of course, I’m gonna love it.

I think anyone who is into Eastern fantasy, Asian myths, and strong women characters would enjoy this read. I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel! Another Asian (historical) fantasy I would recommend is She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan.

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Series Review: The Wheel of Time

The Wheel of Time was recommended to me by an Instagram buddy (probably because my IG story is so often about fantasy) and I was quite happy with it! Amazon Prime’s take on the books by Robert Jordan is epic, eye-licious, and matriarchal – yes! In addition to that, Rosamund Pike one of my favorite faces of all time plays a powerful sorcerer named Moraine.

Plot

I found the TV adaptation did pretty well in balancing the intricate plots (and subplots) while revealing the cool cultures of the societies and communities in the world of the Wheel of Time. Funeral rites are a big deal here, which I like. Politics especially in the second half of the series, once we are in the Ice Tower, also gets a lot of screen time. Indeed Amazon is aiming for Wheel of Time to be the “next Game of Thrones” in terms of epic fantasy series that just…take over the world. It does differentiate itself in the portrayal of female roles though.

The script is very classic high fantasy. Stakes are as large as the whole world, where the action of one ordinary (or not so ordinary, as it turns out) villager will save or destroy everything. It’s rather cliché at times, but in that way it probably sticks close to Robert Jordan’s vision.

Casting and Characters

The diversity of the cast is well worth a mention as actors and actresses of all colors fill the Wheel. However, I didn’t feel enough pull from the main characters of the story other than Moraine (and she isn’t really supposed to be a main character). In comparison to Shadow and Bone, another fantasy series released in 2021, I have to say Kaz and the gang wins the race by a far margin.

Feminism in the Wheel of Time

Amazon’s take on the world of the Wheel is a feminist, matriarchal world, where women hold the power and are the main driving force of the story. Not a sidelined supporter nor victim of misogyny; this is major for fantasy shows. Women in this world are born knowing that they are the only beings capable of channeling the One Power. They are raised being told they can be leaders. In fact the highest position of leadership, the Tamyrlin Seat, always goes to a woman. So many other fantasy characters in fantasy literature have to prove that they are “worthy” to be more than free domestic labor. In The Wheel of Time the women are born worthy – imagine that.

In Wheel of Time the women are born worthy – imagine that.

All in all despite the lack of magnetism to the characters, I think Amazon’s Wheel of Time is a great step for feminist fantasy. I probably won’t read the books, not only because there is 24 of them, but also because I’ve read from reviews that the books are quite traditional in its binary gender tropes. So cheers to staying away from that!

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Elements (Nishaverse #3) Official Release

This is the day! I’m so excited to share with all of you Elements (Nishaverse #3) which is the conclusion of the Nisha trilogy. Thank you to to all the readers for being a part of this ride with Nisha and her friends. To celebrate this special day, I’ve commissioned from fantastic bookstagrammer @yourstrulyjulietta to make a book trailer video.

Music: Game of Survival (Ruelle)

You can now purchase Elements (Nishaverse #3) in epub and/or mobi format at the shop. Take a moment to rate and review the book on Goodreads – I love going through what readers’ think because it is great feedback for me and for the story development in the future… wink.

To see what advanced reviewers’ and readers have thought so far, check out this page.