Review: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

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Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Hodderscape
Release date: 28th March 2017
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Pages: 384
Source: ARC
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The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever. What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving? The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real? Welcome to Weep.
What can I say about Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor? I should probably start off by making it known that this was my first ever Laini Taylor book. I've seen her DoSaB trilogy floating around the book community and even though the chatter was intriguing enough to convince me to buy the box set, I still haven't gotten around to actually reading it. Still, that didn't stop me from picking up Strange the Dreamer.

When the excerpt was released, for some reason I was a little disappointed by it. It was interesting, but a little meh compared to the hype surrounding it. But then when I started reading the ARC, I was immediately captured by Lazlo Strange, the librarian and main character, and connected with him on so many aspects but mostly his love of reading and all things books. Lazlo considers himself an outsider, losing himself in fairytales, stories about magic, and everything to do with the lost city of Weep. The mystery of Weep is unbelievably spell-binding; the idea that there's a magical city - with the most beautifully written imagery - that just went *poof* one day.
Laini Taylor's writing is beautiful, and I was mildly surprised despite all of the comments about DoSaB. Each sentence was utterly mesmerising, creating beautiful imagery to perfectly pair with the unique world-building and characters. Ah, the characters. We meet Lazlo, the librarian. But later on in the story we also meet Sarai, a blue-skinned goddess and some of the story is from her perspective which I wasn't expecting at all! Sarai quickly grew on me though.

At Laini's London event, she spoke about the motivations behind the story including how she wanted to write a story set after incidents many fantasy stories usually focus on, such as a war. So, instead of the Gods being alive in this story, the is set years after the Godslayer had already defeated the Gods. Therefore, the story explores the aftermath of the destruction left behind by the Gods.We see how the citizens of Weep have been attempting to move on with their lives.

Now, let's talk the ending. The story is quite long, being over 500 pages, and I feel like it could have been a little shorter. I was warned by several people that the ending would break me, and though I sort of guessed how it would end the further into the story I read, it was still heartbreaking to see it unfold. Laini did mention that she didn't want the story to end with this epic fight scene, and even though it didn't, it still managed to end with a bang.
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Rating: ★★★★
Favourite quote:
“You’re a storyteller. Dream up something wild and improbable," she pleaded. "Something beautiful and full of monsters."
“Beautiful and full of monsters?"
“All the best stories are.”
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Blog Tour: Author Guest Post by Danielle Younge-Ullman

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To celebrate the release of Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman, I have the honour of having her on my blog with an exclusive guest post just for you readers! For those of you who are unaware, Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined was released earlier this month on the 6th of April in the UK! And here is the Goodreads summary:
Ingrid has made a deal with her mother: she gets to go to the school of her choice as long as she completes a three-week wilderness programme. But when Ingrid arrives, she quickly realizes there has been a terrible mistake: there will be no marshmallows or cabins here. Instead, her group will embark on a torturous trek, with almost no guidance from the two counsellors and supplied with only the things they can carry. On top of this, the other teen participants are “at risk youth”, a motley crew of screw-ups, lunatics and delinquents. But as the laborious days go by, and as memories of her complicated past come flooding back, Ingrid must confront the question of whether she shares more in common with these troubled teens than she’s willing to admit.

Without further ado, here is the wonderful guest post by Danielle:


Thanks for having me on the blog, Enchanted Bookcase! You asked me to give you a list of songs that remind me of the characters in my novel, EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL IS NOT RUINED. This is a harder task than you might think—there’s a lot of great music out there and so my thoughts re songs for characters shifts and changes. But for now, here is my list…

Ingrid: Alaska by Maggie Rogers. I just discovered this song, and it is perfect, PERFECT for Ingrid and her story. I love it madly. Go listen, and they buy this girl’s music so she can keep making more.

Margot Sophia: Dido’s Lament from Henry Purcell’s opera, Dido & Aeneas. This is a beautiful aria, and one I first heard in high school. It’s also one of the few operas that are in English, which I find refreshing and which makes it a little more accessible, especially for English speakers who are just getting introduced to opera. Also, Margot-Sophia would have sung it beautifully.

Andreas: something by Leonard Cohen…maybe Dance Me to the End of Love or Closing Time

Isaac: Demons by Imagine Dragons

Jin: I imagine her really digging Bitch Better Have My Money by Rihanna, because Jin is such a tough girl. I think she’d also (secretly) like Cranes in the Sky by Solange.
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Ally: Brave by Sarah Bareilles—I like this for Ally, because it would be a good anthem for her.

Seth: Same Love by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Tavik: I feel like he’d like Eminem, so let’s go with Eminem, Not Afraid. For Ingrid thinking about Tavik, though, I would go with Hideaway by Kiesza, because although Tavik gets Ingrid talking about herself, he is also a kind of sanctuary for her. 

I hope you all enjoyed reading this as much as I did! I love seeing what authors think about their characters, and music is such an unexpectedly intimate thing. I feel like someone's favourite song says a lot about someone's personality or even just how they're feeling in the moment so I'm really glad Danielle took the time to do this for us readers! Just from the song choice, I can tell I'm going to love Jin.

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You can get a copy of Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined at the links below!
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About the Author
Danielle Younge-Ullman (danielleyoungeullman.com) is the author of the YA novels, EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL IS NOT RUINED, and LOLA CARLYLE'S 12 STEP ROMANCE, and of the adult novel, FALLING UNDER. Danielle studied English and Theater at McGill University in Montreal, then worked as professional actor for ten years. This was character-building time during which she held a wild variety of acting and non-acting jobs—everything from working on the stage and in independent films, to dubbing English voices for Japanese TV, to temping, to teaching Pilates. She now lives with her husband and two daughters in in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleYUllman!


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NAONDEL Blog Tour: Author Guest Post

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NAONDEL by Maria Turtschaninoff is out this week (on 6th April) and because of how much I enjoyed MARESI, I am super excited to read this prequel! I'm even more excited to have the author on my blog with a guest post on her writing.

Book by book I have been building a fantasy world for the past ten years or so. I had no clear idea of the world when I began, and I still don’t: it reveals itself to me in pieces on a need-to-know basis.
It started with a girl with wild black hair, sitting under a table. I saw her in my mind’s eye when I was working as a museum guard, my most boring job to date. All I could do during the days of patrolling priceless paintings was imagine stuff. And one long, empty Tuesday morning I saw this girl in my imagination. She was mute. Or, she was not physically unable to speak, she just didn’t. I wanted to know why. What would silence a child? She’s the youngest in a large, very poor family, in a harsh environment. When she is born, nobody wants her, she is yet another mouth to feed. And nobody spends any time or care on her. They don’t speak to her. So she never learns to speak.
As I thought about this girl, a log cabin rose around the table she was sitting under. Logs indicate a forest, so I placed the cabin on the outskirts of a village, situated in a large wood. For a while that was enough, but as the story grew, so did the world. Where was this forest? What kind of a country was it? What was the climate like? Who ruled, and why? A city appeared, with a king. A countryside with farmers, a seashore with fishermen. And little by little countries around it started to take shape, too, countries with which my country, Lavora, was at war or did trade with. Suddenly I had a whole world on my hands – even though I had only the vaguest idea of what it looked like. My world is like a 15th century map – full of white areas that are only filled in when I travel to them – i.e. write a story set in that place.
The whole world spread out like ripples that emanated from that mute girl, and her name was Arra, which is also the name of the novel about her. It was published in Swedish in 2009 and in Finnish a year later.
In Arra, there are two short mentions of a nomadic people who herd sheep and have curly-haired little horses. That was all I knew about them when I set out to write the second novel, set in this (as yet unnamed) fantasy world of mine. I didn’t even know that the story was to be set among them, at first. All I had was a scene: a man cuts the hair of a girl. It is a symbolic gesture, full of meaning. But for the longest time I did not know who these two were, what their connection to each other was, what the action meant or where they lived. When I remembered the nomadic people called Akkade in my story Arra things began falling into place. The man is the father of the girl. And by cutting her hair, he is making her his son. Little by little I learned to know more about them, about their customs and habits and beliefs and about the vast, windswept steppe that was their home. The novel Anaché was published in Swedish in 2012 and in Finnish the next year.
This way my (as yet unnamed) fantasy world has grown, story by story. I have written about how Maresi came about elsewhere, but that story, too, started with a simple idea of a location and the voice of a young girl. Book by book the stories and peoples in them become more and more entwined, and in Maresi there are mentions of both Arra and Anaché, even though those stories precede Maresi’s with several hundred years and are set far away.

You can get a copy of Naondel at these links!
In the opulent palace of Ohaddin, women have one purpose - to obey. Some were brought here as girls, captured and enslaved; some as servants; some as wives. All of them must do what the Master tells them, for he wields a deadly and secret power. But the women have powers too. One is a healer. One can control dreams. One is a warrior. One can see everything that is coming. In their golden prison, the women wait. They plan. They write down their stories. They dream of a refuge, a safe place where girls can be free. And, finally, when the moon glows red, they will have their revenge.


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ARC Review: Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

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Author: Amanda Foody
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release date: 25th July 2017
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Pages: 384
Source: eARC
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Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show. But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered. Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.
Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody is one of those books I've seen floating around the bookish twitterverse that immediately caught my eye - I mean, with a cover like that how could it not? - but to be honest, I hadn't thought too much about it since I haven't been reading as much in the past few months due to university commitments and the fact that it isn't out for a few more months but when I got the eARC, I started it and managed to read the whole thing in two sittings. It absolutely took me by surprise, and it was a little dark and mysterious enough that I was hooked from the very beginning.

The characters were all a little different, which made the story even more captivating. We have Sorina, the girl with no eyes - she literally just doesn't have eyes - and as an illusion-worker, she wields the ability to create illusions/people that are almost human since others can see, feel and touch them, and they have their own personalities, but yeah, they're illusions. I don't want to go too into the illusions because reading about Sorina's 'family' was super interesting, and finding out about them bit by bit was one of my favourite aspects of this story so I'd rather not take away the opportunity for any of you to experience it the same way.

The story is built around mystery. As far as Sorina's concerned, her illusions are just that - illusions. So, technically, they can't die. Except, she finds one of them brutally murdered. How is that possible? Well, most of the story is spent trying to figure this out and as Sorina attempts to find the culprit, we are taken on an adventure all over the Festival. The world-building in this story is absolutely breathtaking as is the writing itself.
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In terms of the other characters besides Sorina and her illusions, we are greeted by an entire festival of characters. Some who wield magic, some who don't, some who are good and some who are not-so-good. Luca's ability was unbelievably cool! Again, I wont spoil it but seriously. Also, Luca's character in general was just super lovable and really interesting to read about. The romance though more or less obvious from the beginning, kind of took a surprise turn. As I read on, I guessed that Luca was demisexual because of certain signs nearer the last half of the book (and Amanda Foody did kindly confirm for me that he is on the ace spectrum, he falls somewhere into asexual/demiromantic and demisexual). I think this is the first fantasy book I've read where there was a demisexual character, and I think it was pretty great to see.
[I'm not as aware of the different types as I'd like to be, so excuse if my wording/terminology is off].

Dark and full of magic, Daughter of the Burning City was a gripping story full of mystery and wonder. It made me want to visit Gomorrah and for most of the story, the beautiful descriptions made me feel like I was actually there. Sorina was such an interesting, real and unique main character and I loved reading from her perspective. I especially loved the ending. I was speaking to a friend about the story and we were talking about how for most of the story, Sorina sees herself as a 'freak' (as do almost all the other characters, hence the Freak Show), but by the end she grows to accept herself. She doesn't change, she just learns that she's awesome regardless. And I think that was a pretty cool message.

Rating: ★★★★★
Favourite quote: N/A (will add when I get a finished copy).

Note: According to Wordery, this will also be published in the UK later this year! Whoop!
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ARC Review: The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon

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Author: Samantha Shannon
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release date: 9th March 2017
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopia
Pages: 384
Source: ARC review
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The hotly anticipated third book in the bestselling Bone Season series – a ground-breaking, dystopian fantasy of extraordinary imagination
Following a bloody battle against foes on every side, Paige Mahoney has risen to the dangerous position of Underqueen, ruling over London's criminal population. 
But, having turned her back on Jaxon Hall and with vengeful enemies still at large, the task of stabilising the fractured underworld has never seemed so challenging. 
Little does Paige know that her reign may be cut short by the introduction of Senshield, a deadly technology that spells doom for the clairvoyant community and the world as they know it…
 The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon is the third book in The Bone Season series. This specific instalment took a little longer than expected to hit shelves, but those torturous two years were absolutely worth the wait.

Despite being shorter than the first two books, which was a bit of a surprise at first, the story was just as full of adventure. From the very first chapter - scratch that, the first page/prologue, I was flipping out. First off, if you've read the prologue that was released exclusively by The Bone Season advocates (*clears throat* here!), then you know shit hits the fan immediately.
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The entire series is based on rebellion, however, The Song Rising has the most political themes out of the three books currently published. This is the book where we see Paige actually take on her new role as Underqueen and attempt to put her plans into action to tackle the Rephaim problem. However, Scion - with some help from a certain someone - begin to up their game, creating Senshield which can detect clairvoyance to an extent that the city has never before seen. The criminal population of London is already hostile towards their new Underqueen, and we see Paige attempt to lead an entire city of criminals, most of whom clearly do not respect her authority. Surprisingly, we see zero Nashira in this book. Of course, she's mentioned a few times, but we are introduced to new antagonists that Paige has to deal with.
The characters were as complex and intriguing as ever. As always, Jaxon Hall was my favourite (after Warden, of course). We saw a little bit less of him in this book which wasn't at all surprising considering the ending of The Mime Order. But the scenes he was in were fantastic, as always. I don't know what it is about Jax, but I just find him super interesting to read about.

In The Song Rising, we see Paige visit more countries under Scion rule - Scotland and Manchester - which was really exciting because I recall Samantha Shannon bringing it up in the past at one of her events. And I'm pretty sure that we will see some of Paris in the next book, and if you know me you know my love for Paris.
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Gah. I have a feeling book 4 will be my favourite, and from Samantha's tweets, the most painful. Overall, The Song Rising was more than worth the wait. I was a little wary about it being quite a bit shorter than the rest but it was an exciting and adventurous instalment to the series, with timely themes given the current political climate.

Rating: ★★★★★
Favourite quote: “Never allow yourself to believe you should be silent.”

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ARC Review: If Birds Fly Back by Carlie Sorosiak

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Author: Carlie Sorosiak
Publisher: Macmillan Children's
Release date: 29th June 2017
Genre: YA, Romance, Contemporary
Pages: 352
Source: review copy
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Linny has been living life in black and white since her sister Grace ran away, and she's scared that Grace might never come back. When Linny witnesses the return to Miami of a cult movie star long presumed dead, she is certain it's a sign. Surely Álvaro Herrera, of all people, can tell her why people come back - and how to bring her sister home?
Sebastian has come to Miami seeking his father, a man whose name he's only just learned. An aspiring astrophysicist, he can tell Linny how many galaxies there are, how much plutonium weighs and how likely she is to be struck by a meteorite. But none of the theories he knows are enough to answer his own questions about why his father abandoned him, and why it left him in pieces.
As Sebastian and Linny converge around the mystery of Álvaro's disappearance - and return - their planets start to collide. Linny's life is about to become technicolor, but finding the answers to her questions might mean losing everything that matters.
If Birds Fly Back by Carlie Sorosiak was one of my most anticipated debuts of 2017 and I was lucky enough to be sent an ARC by the lovely people over at Macmillan Children's as part of their lucky dip! As always, in no way does this affect the honesty of my review.
The story is split between two POVs; Linny and Sebastian. Linny is known by most as 'camera girl' because she spends most of her time filming and her camera is like an extension of her. Her sister, Grace, who was also her best friend, recently vanished leaving behind a note and a broken family. Since her sister's disappearance, Linny has grown obsessed with disappearance cases. Specifically those where the individuals have returned. At the beginning of most of her chapters, we are introduced to a new case and I just felt the need to mention this because they are super interesting. And then we have Sebastian. Cute, dorky, aspiring astrophysicist Sebastian. Though I loved Linny, I think I most enjoyed reading Sebastian's perspective because I found myself laughing a lot more. Even if I wanted to punch his friend Micah in the face most of the time.
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Linny and Sebastian are both struggling with their own predicaments, both involving abandonment. Linny wants to know how her sister could have left without telling her, or without taking her along. Sebastian wants to know how his father could have abandoned him and his mother. They find comfort and understanding in one another, and though Sebastian keeps his intentions secret for a while, he grows close to Linny and we see a friendship-romance blossom.

If I had to sum up If Birds Fly Back in a single word, that word would probably be 'addicting'. I read the story in two sittings; half in one evening, and then the second half the next evening. Even when I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it and forced myself to get through uni assignments so that I could spend the entire evening bingeing it without feeling too guilty.

If you're a fan of Rainbow Rowell, Jen E. Smith, Morgan Matson, or just contemporary romance in general, I advise you check out Carlie Sorosiak's stunning and addicting debut. The characters were diverse, flawed and honest, and had me rooting for them the entire way through. The romance made my heart melt. I laughed, I cried, and despite the literal storm going on in the background (you suck, Storm Doris) Carlie's writing transported me to a scorching summer in Miami, on a wild adventure. I will definitely be rereading this as soon as the weather begins to warm up, and recommending it as the perfect summer read.

Rating: ★★★★★

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Review: Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

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Author: Alwyn Hamilton
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Release date: 2nd Feb 2017
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Pages: 592
Source: eBook from NetGalley
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This is not about blood or love. This is about treason. Nearly a year has passed since Amani and the rebels won their epic battle at Fahali. Amani has come into both her powers and her reputation as the Blue-Eyed Bandit, and the Rebel Prince's message has spread across the desert - and some might say out of control. But when a surprise encounter turns into a brutal kidnapping, Amani finds herself betrayed in the cruellest manner possible.Stripped of her powers and her identity, and torn from the man she loves, Amani must return to her desert-girl's instinct for survival. For the Sultan's palace is a dangerous one, and the harem is a viper's nest of suspicion, fear and intrigue. Just the right place for a spy to thrive... But spying is a dangerous game, and when ghosts from Amani's past emerge to haunt her, she begins to wonder if she can trust her own treacherous heart.
Where to even start? How about a quick reminder of my love for Rebel of the Sands? You can read my full review of REBEL here! Now, on to the sequel. I pretty much would have sold my soul to get my hands on Traitor to the Throne. In fact, I did, and managed to get hold of a SDCC bound manuscript aka the holy grail of ARCs.
You know when you have a book you really want in your hands and you sit there and stroke it and pet it and love it but then don't want to start it just yet? That sort of happened. I blame exams but I was also a little hesitant because the copy I had was pre-edits. But then NetGalley came to the rescue with a finished e-Copy sent straight to my kindle and I came out of my last exam and started it straight away. As soon as I was a few pages into Traitor to the Throne, I was giddy with nostalgia. I absolutely loved the world in Rebel of the Sands and was beyond excited to be returning to it. I promised myself I'd be more critical and articulate when reviewing books this year but I actually just want to screech about how much I adore these books. So, to refrain from doing so I will break it down for you all:

The characters: if you like to read (or even watch movies) you probably agree that the best villains are the ones that make us sympathetic to their cause. There shouldn't be a clear line between good/bad because that would just be boring. Alwyn nails this. The Sultan is evil. Or is he? The way his character is written in this story makes us question everything we'd gathered from the first book about right and wrong, and I found myself actually starting to like the Sultan?!

For my sister... I would set the sea on fire.

Shazad Al-Hamad is one of my most favourite characters, ever. I know that's a bold statement to make, but seriously. I could read on and on about the beautiful, dangerous female who everyone undermines because she's a female/pretty/daughter of a well-known Mirajin General etc. etc. etc. but is actually an intelligent strategist for the Rebel Prince and one of the original members of the rebellion and in all honesty, Ahmed and his rebellion would be nowhere without Shaz. Her friendship with Amani, the banter and the love and respect they have for each other concealed by thinly-veiled sarcastic snipes, . We also get to learn more about the Demdji we'd encountered in Rebel, and meet more of the Sultan's sons which I was actually looking forward to and very much enjoyed. I found myself comparing them to Jin and Ahmed but they were all quite different and I kept hoping for random events that would lead to Shazad meeting Kadir and tearing him to shreds. That would've been fun.
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The romance: Jin is my soulmate. I have claimed him as my own little cinnamon roll. The romance wasn't a huge factor in this book which I think was actually great because it allowed the focus to be on the plot but it was also always there in the background and the chemistry and friendship between Amani and Jin melts my heart.
The setting: Alwyn Hamilton's world-building is probably what makes these books so addicting, other than the characters. The mix between the wild west, and Arabian desert full of djinn, mythical creatures and a devious Sultan (not to mention all the hot princes, seriously). 
The writing: there was a lot more mythology and magic present in this book than there was in the first which I thought was incorporated beautifully into the story.
The plot twists: every time I thought I knew something, something else flew out of nowhere and the story itself was just so gripping, action-filled, and had enough dilemma that I was actually worried for Amani and the others for most of the book. (Still am, to be frank).

Overall, Traitor to the Throne was a sequel that I could've only hoped for. A strong, adventure full of lovable characters and myths. All I can say that it is an actual roller-coaster of emotions and I will be waiting with bated breath for book number three!

Rating: ★★★★★
Favourite quote: “I thought of Shazad. My sister in arms. We had recognised something in each other the first time we met and we were tied. By more than blood.”

BEHOLD: the new US covers
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I just felt the need to share these new, gorgeous US covers.
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