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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.

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Book Review: The Stone Sky

The epic conclusion of the Broken Earth trilogy by NK Jemisin snatched 3 awards: the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Locus Award. The Stone Sky was, indeed, grande.

Core Magic

In The Stone Sky, Mother (Essun) and Daughter (Nassun) separately goes into the core of the Earth. There they both experience Earth’s utter power and magic. Only after surviving that can they reach the other side: Corepoint. It’s quite a feat of fantasy and science fiction. What Jemisin pulls off so well is the grand scale of time.

The three books of this series have encompassed between them thousands of years and generations. In this way it reminds me of the Dune series. However, unlike Dune, Jemisin is able to do it while following the lives of mainly two characters: Essun and Nassun.

At the core of the story is how the privileged and powerful of the society treat the marginalized. Jemisin is able to make you feel like you are the one being marginalized, manipulated to benefit the system. Sounds familiar? I am so glad she is writing. As a black woman, her perspective of the human experience is so needed by the world right now.

In her own words: “…a character who is angry at the system, but has learned how to cover that anger in ways that allow him to survive in a system that doesn’t welcome that anger – Lord knows I’ve learned how to do this too.”

Narration

I’ll admit even I got confused several times with the second-person narrative style in The Stone Sky. It’s quite tricky to follow, yet I couldn’t have imagined it told another way, as the impact would not be the same.

Apparently TriStar Pictures has secured rights to adapt the trilogy into a series, with Jemisin herself doing the adaptation! I cannot wait. I think done right, the story has potential to be better than Dune as a film!

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Book Review: The Obelisk Gate (Broken Earth #2)

The saga continues as the stakes rise in this sequel! In The Obelisk Gate we find our heroine Essun reunited with Alabaster – old friend slash mentor slash lover in a community built into a giant underground crystal. Alabaster, however, has been greatly reduced from his powers. He is slowly turning into a stone eater – a process he prefers rather than dying. The underground community is called Castrima-Under, and wonder of wonders, it is led by a rogga (supernatural humans with powers) named Ykka.

As Essun slowly gets used to life in Castrima, her daughter, Nassun, over to the North of the planet also begins to awaken her young rogga powers. And her powers are lethal.

“Do you consider yourself human? If you do, then so do I.”

The Obelisk gate, nk Jemisin

Mother-Daughter Theme

I think it’s brilliant how NK Jemisin structures The Obelisk Gate around the mother and her daughter. Hundred of miles separate them. They go through their own journeys, but you can just see that their paths are going to converge (in the third book), and it’s not going to be good. At least that’s what I think. I’ve never really read a book like this, where both heroines are fleshed out so well and I’m rooting for both of them, but I know both of them are probably going to take each other head on and it’s going to be devastating. Wow. Just brilliant.

The world building continues to fascinate me. More is revealed about the planet and it’s history with the civilizations prior to the Fifth Season societies. I think one thing Jemisin does so well is weaving the world building narratives into the book, enriching the stories and histories while never being info-dumpy. It’s always a fine line between too little world building and just an info dump of the universe, but Jemisin does it so well.

On Racism

As a third type of “humans”, the stone eaters are very interesting. At first, even our heroine Essun doesn’t consider them humans because, well, they’re more like stones. It’s fascinating because Essun is a rogga who has been dealing with rogga hate her whole life. Essun knows how it feels for roggas to be considered a lesser species in comparison to Stills (humans). And yet, that’s how she (and us, the readers) view the stone eaters! At one point Hoa, one of the stone eaters says to her: “Do you consider yourself human? If you do, then so do I.”

And that was subtle, but revelatory. I can’t wait to read the culmination of the series in the third book!

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Elements Cover Reveal

Is it Christmas yet? Naaahhh just the breathtaking picture of Inez’ cover for Elements, the 3rd book in the Nishaverse series!

Elements cover goes back into the same vibe as the first cover after seeing some feedback from reviewers and readers. Most seemed to like the cover of the first book better, although both images gathered solid praise. So we went back to that vibe, but with a different emotion on Nisha’s face. If you read the book you will understand why…

Illustrated by Inez Wandita

Elements will be officially released at the shop on 31st January 2022. In the meanwhile, advanced reader copies are now available for reviewers! If you are a book reviewer, have reviewed both Nisha and Sacred Rituals, and would like to review Elements (in exchange for a free digital copy), please fill out this form.

So now that all three covers are out, what do you think? Which one do you like best?

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Writing Lessons from Great Fantasy Authors

One of the positive sides of the pandemic is that I got more time to read. I originally set my goal to read 60 books in 2021, and completed that around October time. To date, I read a total of 73 books so far! I’m quite proud of myself. Virginia Woolf once said : read a thousand books and your words will flow like a river. I definitely feel a little bit of that rubbing off, because I almost never struggle with writer’s block – it’s pretty easy for me to weave a story from a blank page. Of course, then there is re-writing and editing, and that’s a different story. But generally, I do feel the massive reading that I do aids my writing.

Read a thousand books and your words will flow like a river.

virginia woolf

In this post I’m going to share three precious writing lessons I’ve noticed from some of the most enjoyable authors I’ve come across. They’re all fantasy authors because well, that’s without a doubt my favorite genre!

NK Jemisin

I read her Broken Earth books, and wow, it’s fantasy writing that people will study about years later, I’m sure of it. Something from Jemisin that I’d be interested to experiment with is how she drips the world building into the narrative with passages from “scrolls” or history books of that world. She puts a bit of this at the ending of every chapter, so that through these “chapter endings” so we are able to know more about the world she created. How she uses different point of views to indicate different points of time amidst the centuries is also something quite cool.

Megan Whalen Turner

I think MWT has some of the best plot twist writing skills ever. It seems she does this by “playing around” with the narrator’s perceptions. As a reader I feel like my default is to sympathize with the narrator (unless if it’s a serious antiheroine, which is a different matter), so what the narrator perceives is what I perceive as a reader. Thus when the narrator is “shocked” as the twist is revealed…well my jaw is dropping as well.

Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone trilogy was not my favorite, but Six of Crows duology completely went off the charts. It was followed by King of Scars duology. Something I learned about Leigh Bardugo is how she gives vulnerabilities to her characters. For example, take my favorite character Inej Ghafa. She is amazingly strong, and given what we know about her traumas from the Menagerie, her character becomes incredibly three dimensional. The pains and flaws are so relatable to the readers, thus the characters feel so real.

Worldbuilding, plot, and character arcs. Pretty great writing lessons there, in addition to the sheer enjoyment of reading their series!

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Nishaverse Wallpaper Airdrop!

Elements, the third book of the Nishaverse trilogy is ready for a release date of 31 January 2022. In the meanwhile, Inez and I have made a Nishaverse wallpaper series to satisfy your anticipation time.

There are 3 digital artwork in this Nishaverse Wallpaper series so far:

  1. Ged Luft (whom we all occasionally get annoyed at)
  2. Baba (Faris’ cool father)
  3. General Char (Nisha’s aunt)

Here is a high res of the Ged wallpaper:

Collect the 3 wallpapers by subscribing to my newsletters! The Baba and Char wallpapers will be airdropped to your inbox next Sunday, 28th of November. If you’ve already subscribed then sit back, relax, and wait for the airdrop 🙂

My newsletter contains exclusive sneak peeks of upcoming books and projects, and also special digital gifts from me (for example: the wallpapers and music recordings). I promise I won’t be sending you spam, and you can unsubscribe anytime.