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First Nisha FanArt!

The first of hopefully many many more Nisha FanArt! This is a super cute piece of work I commissioned from Mary, a talented young Indonesian digital artist.

The scene is from Chapter 16 of the first book. Nisha, Faris, and Saad are at the Border, trying to help General Char in her efforts to defend their kingdom from neighboring invasions. Faris has an idea which will eventually be a huge asset to their efforts. His idea is rooted from when he was a child, training with his Outer Movement magic under the guidance of his parents.

However, in order for Faris’ suggestion to work, it requires Saad to link and channel the Outer Movement Magic which Faris practices with the Inner Movement Magic which Nisha practices.

This scene is one of the most memorable scenes when I read the book. It shows the characters’ companionship forming as they work together, and I thought it was a beautiful scene to illustrate.

mary

Without further ado, here is the illustration!

Meet the Artist

Mary

Mary is a 16 year old digital artist whom I met through the Mad Tea Book Club. At this time, she is also a volunteer board member of the book club.

Q: Why digital medium?

A: I think digital suits me the most. I’ve always preferred working in digital over other art mediums.

Q: When and where did you learn drawing?

A: I started to draw seriously around 6th grade and was self-taught for almost 4 years until I went to art school.

Q: How did you come to love drawing?

A: In 6th grade, I fell in love with My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I watched the fanart speedpaint on Youtube of this book (?). I watched countless of videos until one day I decided to try to make my own. I tried to follow their process. The result wasn’t the best but I was proud of it and enjoyed making them. So I kept practicing and making more fanart, until today!

Q: What is your dream job?

A: I’ve always dreamed to be a book cover artist or childrens’ book illustrator! Oh to be able to bring other talented people’s stories to life and see my illustrations on stores’ shelves!

Keep updated with Mary’s journey and dreams via her Instagram profile – where you can find more of her illustrations!

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Book Review: Crooked Kingdom

Leigh Bardugo definitely notches up her writing game with the Six of Crows duology. Crooked Kingdom is the sequel to Six of Crows and the fifth book in the Grishaverse. In this installment, Kaz Brekker and his band of thieves and thugs conclude their grand heist, which began in Six of Crows.

Character Development

The story arcs of Kaz and Inej, the Suli assassin indebted to him were just beautiful here. Fans of Kaz-Inej relationship will be very happy. Nina Zenik played a smaller part in this book in comparison to Six of Crows, but that’s alright because in the next duology (book 6 and 7 of Grishaverse), she is HUGE. Like larger than life. In this book however, well. Let’s just say I know all too well the horrors she has to go through in Crooked Kingdom. Enough said or it will spoil the ending.

I think that Jesper’s character was developed very well and brought to a nice ripe growth, especially with the appearance of someone special to him. Jesper started off as someone unwilling to face his true identity. He masked sorrows with a huge addiction to gambling and adrenaline. Through his adventures in Crooked Kingdom, however, he is able to somewhat come to terms with himself. I can almost smell future development for Jesper! What will a bright energetic person like Jesper be able to pull off once he has fully acknowledged his strengths and weaknesses? I can’t wait to see.

Full of Deceit and Trickery

With a grand heist, layers of deception from the antagonists and the protagonists (read: Kaz Brekker’s schemes), Crooked Kingdom can honestly be a bit tricky. Leigh Bardugo also employs a lot of flashbacks to flesh out the backstory of her characters, which I loved. I really enjoyed getting to know them better. However, I wonder if there is another way to pull this off so that it’s not so confusing to the main plot. I can see it working extremely well in movie format though. And I’ve heard rumors of a Six of Crows spinoff by Netflix…

I also must mention that as much as I enjoy Leigh Bardugo’s poetic writing, I feel sometimes it got bit carried away. As a result, some descriptions were a bit unclear for me because it went into the realm of poetry instead of being crisp and clear about what was going on.

All in all, I loved Six of Crows duology – so much that I even wrote a fanfic of it! Check out my Six of Crows fanfic ,told from Jesper’s point of view.

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Book Review: Six of Crows

Six of Crows duology consists of Six of Crows and its sequel Crooked Kingdom. Both books take place in the Grisha Universe (the fans know it as Grishaverse) created by Leigh Bardugo. The original trilogy, Shadow and Bone, is now a hit Netflix series which was excellently done. Having watched the first season and read the original trilogy, I recommend just watching the Netflix version. HOWEVER.

“No mourners. No funerals.”

six of crows

When it comes to Six of Crows, this is a definite must read. While the original trilogy takes place largely in Ravka, Six of Crows centers around Kerch – an island country built on trade and commerce. In a setting where everything is regulated by its price in the market, our criminal heroes rise from the slums to grandiose glory.

The Gang of Misfits

Okay, not quite. At least, not YET in Six of Crows. Six misfits and rejects, suffering various traumas, gather together under the command of the ultimate bad boy / gang leader Kaz Brekker. What is so special about Kaz is that he is a cripple. But don’t underestimate his cane because it might just very well crush your head. Kaz’s love interest and second-in-command is Inej Ghafa. Inej is an acrobat turned slave-whore because she was stolen from her family by slavers and sold into the Menagerie, an elite whore house in Ketterdam. Kaz pays off her debts and recruits her to be his Wraith (secret intelligence aka information gatherer) slash assassin. Their relationship is one of the most interesting couple relationships in fantasy, because of the traumas they have gone through.

Jesper Fahey, an excellent shooter and horrible gambler is the third in their crew. Hailing from the farmlands of Novyi Zem, Jesper is embroiled in gambling debt. He desperately needs the money from a grand heist the crew has been hired to do. For this grand heist, Kaz recruits the remaining three: Nina Zenik, Matthias Helvar, and Wylan. If you’re starting to think Ocean’s Eleven, YES. That’s the vibe, but with a lot of Grishas involved.

One of the most dangerous Grisha ever is indeed Nina Zenik, a Heartrender (Grisha who can manipulate heart pressure in humans) who just happens to be in love with Matthias, a Fjerdan who hunts Grisha for a living. Obviously their relationship is tricky, to say the least. Half the time they are trying to kill each other, and the other half of the time they are saving each other. Wylan, the last addition to their crew, starts off being rather dull, but slowly grows in importance throughout the book (can’t say more or it will be a spoiler).

The Relationships

As much as this book is centered around the grand heist that this crew has been hired to pull off, it is also about their relationships with each other and with themselves. All of the six have major life issues they have to deal with. In the course of their impossible task, they find themselves – and each other.

I’ve grown so attached to these characters that I wrote a Six of Crows fanfic! Enjoy my little take of these Ketterdam gangsters.

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Sacred Rituals Cover Art (Step by Step)

Inez Wandita, the incredibly talented cover illustrator that I work with, has generously shared these drafts for everyone to see! Her cover of Nisha was a real hit with readers, and if you want to see the Nisha step-by-step you can check it out here.

Creative Process

Interestingly you will see that her creative process is completely different for Nisha and Sacred Rituals. Inez confided to me that after reading the draft of Sacred Rituals, she immediately had a vision for the cover. Thus the first draft was already rather fleshed out, in comparison to Nisha’s first draft.

We changed some things so that it was more clear who was on which side. Saad and Faris are on the left facing off against Hans and the Aklum Captain on the right side. A very prominent part of this design is the eyes on the top of the page, which signify Nisha’s deeper awakening and understanding of her own powers, namely the Inner Movement magic which she practices. This becomes a key part of the battle scene, so I thought it was cover-worthy indeed.

Have you read Sacred Rituals? What did you think about the choice of design for the cover? Let me know in the comments!

If you haven’t read Sacred Rituals, you can purchase it at the shop. If you are a book reviewer and would like to exchange for an honest review, simply contact me.

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Nisha Cover Art Process

A lot of my readers mentioned how much they loved the Nisha cover illustration by Inez, so Inez and I decided to share the step by step of Nisha cover art process!

A very interesting thing to note for the Nisha cover art process is that Inez picked up the leaves of the magical forest to be the background of the book. As readers of Sacred Rituals will know, these particular leaves become incredibly important later on. Funny thing is, Inez illustrated the cover even before I began writing the second book. So there was definitely a bit of cosmic intervention there!

Pretty cool stuff eh? You can purchase Nisha here for reading, or even get the audiobook which I narrated!

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Nisha, Faris, and Saad Aesthetics

Aesthetics seem to be the rage these days on booktok – another fascinating phenomena pushing books up the charts. Of course, copycat me decides to hop on the aesthetics trend and make some of my own. An aesthetic on TikTok is basically a highly stylized visual compilation synchronized with music. The visuals are usually taken from Pinterest, and it is combined to represent the topic / plot / story. So you can make a book aesthetic, a home aesthetic, a summer fashion aesthetic, or pretty much any other aesthetic you want to make.

I made 3 aesthetics for main character of the Nishaverse. Here is Nisha’s aesthetic.

Faris’ aesthetic is from his backstory in Scenes from Faris’ Childhood. This also acts as the prologue to Sacred Rituals.

@airinefferin

Sacred Rituals aesthetic. Read prologue free at airinefferin.com. Book coming out July 1st. #sacredrituals #fantasy #booktok #mybook #author #booktik

♬ Fantasy Adventure – Josh Rousseau

Last but not least, Saad’s aesthetic. The Fisherman’s Story is a short story of Saad’s past embedded within Sacred Rituals. I’m not completely happy with the Captain depiction, but ah well.

@airinefferin

The Fisherman’s Story is a short story embedded in my second fantasy novella Sacred Rituals. Available on my website airinefferin.com 🤩 #booktok

♬ Heroic Pirate Music – Augustin C

Which do you like best? As always, if you are an independent reviewer and would like to read my books in exchange for an honest review, let’s get in touch!

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Book Review: Winter (Lunar Chronicles)

Winter is the thick and satisfying conclusion of Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. Beginning with Cinder (a retelling of Cinderella), and ending with Winter (a retelling of Snow White), I have to say I am officially a fan of this series.

Fresh Retellings

One of the reasons I dig Marissa Meyer’s fairy tale retellings so much is because she does a great job balancing the familiar framework of old fairy tales with new twists and turns. This freshness gives the old stories new life. In The Lunar Chronicles, she weaves hit manga Sailor Moon into the narrative, and voila, you have a recipe for amazingness. It doesn’t stop there, however. Many authors have great recipes but fail in the execution. Here is where I truly appreciate Marissa Meyer because her execution was brilliant. Not too slow, not too fast, just the right amount of interpersonal drama against the backdrop of an intergalactic war.

Winter and Jacin’s Relationship

I’ve said that of all the relationships in this series, my favorite is Cinder and Kai. However, there is something lovely about Winter and Jacin’s relationship which essentially began when they were kids. They grew up together, and they both knew that for the other, there would be one else. They never questioned each other’s loyalty and love no matter how suspicious it certainly looked at times. Their trust for each other was absolute, and that is just beautiful. I don’t know how often this happens in real life, or if it ever actually happens. But surely this is the ideal relationship goal for everyone.

Worthy Ending

This whole adventure began with Cinder, and after falling in love, heartbreaks, kidnaps, fingers being cut, revolutions, the author had Cinder tying up all the loose ends quite nicely. I enjoyed the delicious length of the ending being prepared, and all in all, was very pleased. Five Stars for Winter.

If you want to read a fanfic I wrote based on this series, read Winter and the Komodo Dragon.

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Book Review: Siege and Storm

Siege and Storm is the second installment of Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, which is now an epic Netflix series. Having read the books and watched the series (twice!) I have to say I like the Netflix version better. Rarely does this happen in a book vs screen battle but it did happen here. With that said, in my opinion, Siege and Storm was generally a more exciting book than the first.

Plot

Siege and Storm starts pretty bleak with Alina Starkov the Sun Summoner not being able to use her powers because she is in hiding with her childhood friend and love interest Mal Oretsev. Everyone will be able to track her down if she gives a hint that she can summon light, so she is pretty dependent on Mal. Which as we all know is a recipe for disaster. Sure enough, they get caught by the Darkling and he imprisons them (again) on a ship that is searching for Rusalye, the fabled sea serpent. The Darkling believes Rusalye is the second amplifier. With both amplifiers then Alina’s powers will be further maximized, which of course he intends to manipulate.

The reason I think this book is much more exciting is that a new character comes in who saves the day not once but several times. You guessed it. It’s Nikolai. I actually can’t wait to see who Netflix casts for him in season two.

Women empowerment theme

With regards to the women empowerment theme that is such a big part of this series, I think author Leigh Bardugo did a nice job positioning Alina to be the General of the Second Army. Sure, Alina is not ready and inexperienced and was just introduced to the Second Army about a year ago, but a large part of this book is Alina adjusting to her new role of leadership and command instead of being the trophy prize that she was in the previous installment.

Be on the lookout also for how Leigh Bardugo weaves the concept of organized religion in and out of this series, quite fascinating if one remembers her origins. Born in Jerusalem, Leigh is a nonpracticing Jew.

Have you read this series / watched the show? What did you think?

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Book Review: Daughter of the Pirate King

What a FUN read. Pirates of the Caribbean is one of my favorite movies and piracy, in general, is a fantasy genre I’m quite besotted with, so when I came across Daughter of the Pirate King duology on booktok (tiktok accounts which focuses on books), it went to the top of my To-Be-Read. Spoiler Alerts – a whole ship of them!

Synopsis

Princess Alossa is the daughter of the fearful pirate king. She was trained personally in the art of fighting, swordsmanship, and general pirate behavior directly by her father. Her body bears the physical scars. Yet, the result is she is one of the best pirates alive. She captains her own ship named the Ava-Lee, whose crew are mainly women pirates with various abilities. Captain Alossa is beloved by her crew and in turn she does everything she can to protect them.

In the first book, she is sent on a mission to retrieve a part of a hidden map which leads to a legendary treasure trove guarded heavily by sirens. Sirens are underwater she-creatures that sing to men, sleep with them underwater, then drown them and steal their treasure). Along the journey, we find out that Alossa is so strong because her mother was the Queen of the Sirens.

The second book goes into her relationship with her mother and finding out terrible truths about her father. Together with her crewmates and the sirens, Alossa leads a battle to begin the new era- the era of the Pirate Queen.

Romance

Oh yes, there is romance alright. Riden, the ridiculously attractive first mate just keeps distracting Alossa…until she realizes that their feelings and relationship is precisely what she needs to balance her human nature and her dangerous siren nature.

What I like best about how Tricia Levenseller presents the romance is how empowered the women’s roles are. These women pirates kick ass – or rather, slit throats – and are deadly, powerful fighters. They don’t let guys mess with them, and the only guys accepted onboard the ones that respect the women and are not insecure about their own abilities.

Men who are insecure of their abilities usually end up emotionally abusing their partners. I mean, the Alossa’s father is the perfect example! Let’s just say I’m glad the Siren Queen (Alossa’s mother) got her revenge in the end.

Do I fantasize about being a pirate on board the Ava-lee? You bet. Five stars for the duology.

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Nisha Sequel Is Here!

And finally, after getting carpal tunnel syndrome, after going to Labuan Bajo, after producing a musical…the sequel to my fantasy trilogy Nisha is released.

I would like to thank Cung for putting up with me everyday, Chriswan my editor who completely believes in Nisha’s Universe and is always doing what he can to make it more believable, and all the book reviewers, bookstagrammers, book podcasters out there who read and reviewed my books. A special shout out to Krisandryka and Sherry, my Mad Tea Book Club co-founders. Last but not least, the gorgeous illustrations came from the hand and head of Inez Wandita.

Without further ado…. Sacred Rituals by Airin Efferin.

Support me by purchasing Sacred Rituals at the shop! Please send me your thoughts, feedbacks, and honest reviews. For a sneak peek and a view of the Nisha Universe Map fresh off the cartographer’s desks, visit here.

Happy reading!