Category Archives: demons

Review of #Gwithyas: Door to the Void by Isha Crowe #Brainfluffbookreview #book review

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This is another offering from Grimbold Publishers – a quirky, YA fantasy, featuring hapless Zircon Gwithyas, who is the main protagonist.

Zircon Gwithyas just wants to be a normal teenager, preferably one with a girlfriend. If you’re a spotty nerd with glasses as thick as jam jars, that isn’t easy. It’s even harder when you live in a derelict manor on a haunted hill with a bunch of spooky eccentrics for a family, and the object of your affection is an irritable sword-wielding college student. It becomes virtually impossible when you are dragged into a dark, chaotic semi-reality where your moderately-deceased ancestors expect you to save the world from a horde of grotesque demons with a fondness for torture…

I love this one. Zircon’s exasperated view of his life puts an amusing spin on this Gothic tale of overweening ambition, pride, as the terrible consequences reverberate down the generations of this afflicted family. I really like the fact that Zircon is gawky, physically unappealing and unfailingly bad at interacting effectively with the people around him. He doesn’t even want to be a Guardian – in fact, he didn’t realise this was his fate, until circumstances give him a hefty nudge.

Crowe has played with the classic Hero’s Journey, so beloved of screenwriters and SFF authors, by including many of the necessary ingredients, such as the Call to Action as the initial emergency engulfs the family – his initial resistance to said Call is entirely according to the script. But the wise Mentor, whose counsel is supposed to help Zircon on his way, becomes otherwise engaged and Zircon’s trusty sidekick, Joanna, thoroughly despises his physical ineptitude and evident terror. In the end, of course, he tackles the monsters, or there wouldn’t be a story. But it isn’t until well into the book, the reader begins to appreciate exactly what has been going on – and realises just how cleverly Crowe has played with our expectations.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, (no internet!) I’ve been unable to post my review when I scheduled to do so, therefore it’s been a while since I read this one. But it won’t leave my head. I find myself thinking of Zircon rather a lot at times when I should be thinking of something else – it’s special when a book gets under my skin to that degree. Highly recommended for fans of fantasy – this one is a gem.
9/10

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Review of NETGALLEY arc Blunt Force Magic – Book 1 of The Monsters and Men trilogy by Lawrence Davis

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I read several positive reviews of this one and took one look at the cover – and requested it…

Janzen Robinson is a man lost between two worlds. Five years removed from a life as an apprentice to a group of do-gooding heroes who championed the fight against supernatural evils, the once-promising student is now a package courier going through the daily grind, passing time at a hole-in-the-wall bar and living in a tiny, run-down apartment on the south side of Cleveland, Ohio. Then fate (or a case of bad timing) brings him face to face with a door that’s got his old life written all over it. From the ancient recesses of unyielding darkness known as the Abyss, a creature has been summoned: a Stalker, a predator whose real name is forbidden to be spoken aloud. It’s a bastardization of the natural order, a formidable blend of dark magic and primal tenacity. Its single-minded mission? Ending the life of a fiery, emerging young witch.

Though the cool cover shouts otherwise – at least to me, who thought this was going to morph into epic fantasy, this story is very much within the urban fantasy genre. That said, there are some striking differences that make this one stand out. Yes, Janzen has been selected as an apprentice due to his natural talent – however, that was a while ago. In the meantime, something terrible has happened to his mentor and he has spent the last five years just getting by. Therefore, while he does have raw talent, there is relatively little skill or finesse in his workings. I really like the idea that he is only half trained and that because of his chippy, mouthy character, he is also tricky to help, as he is often his own worst enemy.

That doesn’t stop him plunging into a desperate situation against a very dangerous opponent without too much thought about the consequences. This is partly due to his own bloody-minded nature and partly due to the survivor guilt he still feels.

While I’m always wary of assuming authors necessarily shoehorn their own lives into their writing, I was interested to read that Davis is a war veteran who served in Iraq. The young soldier who befriends Janzen is very well depicted and all the action scenes are effective and realistic.

In short, this one held me throughout. I liked the dynamic and the fact that there was no romantic relationship running throughout – a refreshing change in urban fantasy, these days. I also liked the scrabbling, somewhat desperate nature of Janzen’s opposition to the nasties ranged against him. I particularly appreciated the monsters – especially the stalkers, which are truly terrifying creatures.

All in all, this is a thoroughly enjoyable new series and I very much look forward to reading another slice of Janzen’s adventures – I hope Davies writes quickly. While I obtained an arc of Blunt Force Magic from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

Teaser Tuesday – 27th February, 2018

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Blunt Force Magic – Book 1 of the Monsters and Men trilogy by Lawrence Davis

97% I walked out of the filthy den of forfeited hopes and dead ambitions into the blinding light of midday.
“You ducking the hard stuff again?” Kaycee asked, walking over from her store which was only a few feet down from the underground bar.
“Food.” I lifted the to-go bag up for her to see.
“From there? That’s brave.”
“Bravery is my middle name.”

BLURB: Janzen Robinson is a man lost between two worlds. Five years removed from a life as an apprentice to a group of do-gooding heroes who championed the fight against supernatural evils, the once-promising student is now a package courier going through the daily grind, passing time at a hole-in-the-wall bar and living in a tiny, run-down apartment on the south side of Cleveland, Ohio.

Then fate (or a case of bad timing) brings him face to face with a door that’s got his old life written all over it. From the ancient recesses of unyielding darkness known as the Abyss, a creature has been summoned: a Stalker, a predator whose real name is forbidden to be spoken aloud. It’s a bastardization of the natural order, a formidable blend of dark magic and primal tenacity. Its single-minded mission? Ending the life of a fiery, emerging young witch.

This is only part of the rather chatty blurb – and as you can see I’ve nearly finished this one. It’s been great fun and Janzen’s scruffy magic is a nice addition to the urban fantasy vigilantes keeping all those monsters at bay. I’ll be reviewing this one in due course.

Review of Split Feather – Book 1 of The Daughter of the Midnight Sun series by Deborah A. Wolf

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I saw this one on the library shelves, liked the look of it and notwithstanding the fact that my TBR pile has reached crazy proportions, I took it home.

Siggy J. Alexie is a troubled young woman. Taken from her family as a toddler, abandoned by her adoptive mother into the foster care system as a preteen, she is haunted by a history of abandonment, abuse, and mental health issues. She is also haunted by a demon. Siggy sees ghosts and demons, has conversations with beings she knows aren’t really there, suffers from cluster headaches, coffee addiction, and terminal bad language, and has a hot temper that just won’t quit. She lives in a crappy trailer in the woods in Bearpaw, Michigan – alone, just the way she likes it. But then she goes and does something heroic and screws up her rotten life even further.

That’s as much as the very chatty blurb I’m willing to share, but do be warned, it continues at some length and gives at least a couple of major plotpoints that you’d be better off reading within the story. The other warning – while it mentions it, if you are offended by strong language, then this isn’t the book for you. There is extensive use of the f word throughout, because as Siggy admits – she is a potty-mouth. However, I really warmed to the punchy first-person narrative which manages to portray an abused, troubled young woman without a scrap of whining or self pity. In fact, despite the bleakness of her life, she is frequently very funny, which worked well in bonding me to her and ensuring I really cared about what happens to her.

Her life doesn’t make for pretty reading – the foster-care system she ends up in is clearly broken and has left her to fend for herself with a sub-standard education and dealing with issues she shouldn’t have to. As well as having to cope with a demon who constantly plagues her.

I really like this aspect of the book. The demon can be taken at face value as one of the otherworldly creatures inhabiting this fantasy novel – or the demon can be seen as the personification of her own self-loathing. Either way works well and I enjoyed the fact that Wolf gives us an opportunity to read that layer into the story. The writing is sensually very rich – we know most of the time what Siggy is smelling and how the landscape impacts upon her as senses as well as emotionally. Not only does this give us another layer of information, it also underlines the impression of Siggy’s otherness. Of course, with such a vivid protagonist, we also need a suitably horrible antagonist – and Wolf delivers a couple, who are also both women, which I really enjoyed.

The other interesting aspect of this book is there is no romantic attachment, which – given Siggy’s messed up emotional state, was something of a relief. She isn’t in a fit state to be falling love. Yet all too often in this genre, a heroine staggers away from a series of incidents dire enough to have Superwoman buckling at the knees, only to fling herself into the arms of a handily available man, professing her love. Frankly, she’d be better off with a long, hot shower and a lie-down. Alone.

All in all, this is a really good start to what promises to be a fascinating and engrossing series. Recommended to urban fantasy fans who like gritty, vivid protagonists and a well-told story.
9/10

Review of The Medusa’s Daughter – Book 1 of The Mask of Medusa series by T.O. Munro

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I met the author during a late-night session at the bar at Bristolcon 2016 – a marvellous evening and it ended up with him giving me a review copy. I’m ashamed it’s taken me so long to get around to reading it…

Haunted by very different pasts, three travellers journey together across a continent riven by clashes of faith and race. Odestus, the war criminal flees from justice. Persapha, new to all things human, yearns for a way and a place to belong. Marcus Fenwell, schooled in diverse talents, seeks a future beyond a wine bottle. But past and future entwine to snare them all, for the Medusa has not been forgotten nor her daughter forgiven.

As it happens, that very snappy, non-spoiler blurb neatly sums up the ongoing structure of the book. We follow the fortunes of all three of these interesting characters as events unspool around them. This is complicated by the fact that one of the characters is in a very tricky position in a timeline ahead of when the rest of the action takes place.

Munro certainly knows how to wind up the tension as we witness one of the protagonists being interrogated in fairly dire circumstances – before switching to one of the other characters. The focus of the book is the title heroine, Persapha, who has had a very peculiar start in life, having been hatched from an egg and raised by reptiles. We are alongside as she starts to pick her way through a busy city filled with humans, who she finds difficult to understand. I found myself genuinely concerned on her behalf as the dangerously innocent girl uses her mother’s mask to try and discover what happened to her.

The magic system is skilfully handled and I really enjoyed the world, which works well. There are some nice twists in the political landscape that I appreciated and the characterisation is convincing with plenty of depth. However, I was more distanced from the main protagonists than I would have liked as Munro tends to drift out of viewpoint and into a semi-omniscient point of view. While I am aware that plenty of readers still enjoy this story-telling structure, it gives the book a slightly old-fashioned feel and left me a little frustrated. Given the depth and complexity of the characters, I would have appreciated a more immersive approach to fully hook me into the story, though this is very much a personal preference.

That said, it is still very well written with plenty going on and a gathering momentum towards the end. Before it all comes to a juddering halt. Not a single storyline is resolved – every single one of the main plotlines is left on a cliffhanger after reading over 600 pages. I am aware that a second book is in the works, but I would have liked some payoff for getting to the end of the first volume in this series.
8/10

Friday Faceoff – Do not go gentle…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer and is currently hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog. This week the theme is a cover featuring night, or the dark, so I’ve chosen Knights of the Borrowed Dark – Book 1 of Knights of the Borrowed Dark trilogy by Dave Rudden.

 

This cover, produced by Puffin in April 2016, is not my favourite, but like all these covers it is a strong contender. I like the fact that Denizen looks the right age and as the light pours from his hands, the creatures lurking in the gloom are suitably menacing, thus accurately reflecting the content in this outstanding children’s fantasy series. I love the strapline, but I’m not a fan of the title font, which is rather boring.

 

This edition was produced by Puffin in January 2017 has a more grandiose backdrop, though the boy looks older which I think is a bit of a shame. That said, the excellent writing and great adventure ought to be enjoyed by anyone in their early teens, as well as younger children. The title font is still rather boring, but reasonably inoffensive and the cover still accurately reflects the content.

 

Published in August 2016 by Random House, I really like this cover. The sword wreathed in blue coruscating fire glows from the cover, as the dark roils in the background. As for the title font – that’s just what a cool title like this needs! The title now delivers depth and suitable awesomeness that promises – and delivers – a cracking adventure you won’t easily forget. This is my second favourite cover.

 

This German offering, published in April 2016 by Sauerländer ticks all the boxes as far as I’m concerned. I love the cover as it features the depth and breadth of the world, with Denizen standing in the middle. I also like the font, which is attractively displayed and again, reinforces the impression that this is a strong series with a gritted struggle between Light and Dark. This cover is my favourite. What about you – which of these is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Prisoner of Limnos – Book 6 of the Penric and Desdemona novella series by Lois McMaster Bujold

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Himself was thrilled when he realised that another slice of Penric goodness was coming our way – quite right too as this series has not only been consistently excellent, it also is very good value, given that each novella is modestly priced. So would this next slice of the adventure measure up to the very high standard already set?

In this sequel novella to Mira’s Last Dance, Temple sorcerer Penric and the widow Nikys have reached safety in the duchy of Orbas when a secret letter from a friend brings frightening news…

And the answer is yes – this book is a joy to read and difficult to put down. However, I do feel quite strongly that although each book is designed to be read as a standalone, in order to gain the maximum enjoyment from this particular adventure, you at least need to read Mira’s Last Dance. As this narrative continues from the ending of that story, there are too many allusions to previous storylines – and besides, why not double the reading pleasure?

One of the delights of this series is charting the growth in Penric’s confidence and maturity since his first fateful encounter with the demon he has named Desdemona. Initially, he had a lot of adjusting to do, given that he wasn’t Temple-trained and his hosting of Desdemona was a complete accident. We don’t get so many tussles between them and neither does Desdemona bait him so much – instead, a strong bond is evident and interestingly, at one stage, it is Desdemona who is panicked and overcome in this adventure, with Penric providing the necessary reassurance to get them out of yet another tricky situation.

In amongst all the tension and excitement, we are also treated to Bujold’s hallmark humour, which is every bit as quirky as her characters. While the stakes are undoubtedly high, I found myself sniggering once Penric manages to successfully get into the prison complex, when someone wholly unexpected pops up… Their indignant exchange was a nice bit of light relief in amongst all the tension and danger.

I found this one almost physically painful to put down and when I finally finished it with a sigh – it was part happiness at having had such an enjoyable read, along with the inevitable pang of regret that it was all over. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, this book – and the series – is recommended for anyone who enjoyed the Miles Vorkosigan books or loves reading well-written fantasy with appealing characters and plenty of adventure.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – Zip it, lock it and throw away the key

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is keys, so I’ve chosen Keeper of the Keys – Book 2 of The Cycle of Fire series by Janny Wurts.

 

This cover, produced by Grafton in 1990 is really eye-catching with the limited colour palette of blues. The glowing key illuminating the face from below gives an otherworld, ethereal cast to the character and while I don’t much like chatter on the front cover – at least the endorsement isn’t too intrusive. This is my favourite.

 

This edition was produced by Ace in August 1988 and is far more dramatic. The protagonist is clearly in a desperate situation. I really like the unfolding drama with the sinister figure looming over the hapless lad. My problem with this cover is that the beautifully painted eagle somehow gets lost amongst the large golden lettering. Why on earth didn’t they choose another colour for the title font?

 

Published in October 1995 by HarperPrism, this is another beautiful detailed, action-packed cover. This time, the protagonist (he does get about, doesn’t he?) is hanging off the hull of a boat, moodily clutching the key around his neck as he gazes out across the seascape. I also thoroughly enjoy this one – but the eerily lit face just edges it. Which one is your favourite?

Sunday Post – 5th November 2017

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

This was the first full working week since I recovered from the flu, so Monday and Tuesday saw me teaching as usual. I am now on the last lap of the final edits for Dying for Space which is the sequel to my debut novel, Running Out of Space, and am planning to release it on 14th December. So I am in the process of preparing for the blog tour – Lola is once more organising it for me to run from 14th-31st December. And I was a bit startled to realise when about to publish my usual Friday Face-off blog, that it was my 1,500th post…

On Wednesday I returned to Pilates and Fitstep, taking it easy, which was just as well as I was horribly unfit and Friday found me stiff in places I didn’t even know I had muscles. On Thursday, Mhairi came over and offered her usual awesome help and companionship. On Friday evening Himself and I actually had a date night – we went out to The Dragon, our favourite restaurant and afterwards returned home to snuggle up on the settee and watch the final two episodes of season 7 of Game of Thrones. Oh my goodness – what a finale! It was raining yesterday – of course it was as we were due to pick up the children. My daughter invited us to stay for brunch, which was wonderfully good. On the way home we swung by Worthing for some shopping and in the afternoon my sister came over for a meal and we sat and watched Strictly with Oscar, aged 7, passing judgement on the dancing and the judging.

Today, I will be spending most of the day filming Tim’s script in a converted barn for the medieval scenes. We are nearly at the end, so fingers crossed it doesn’t rain and the light levels are good. I hope everyone is also having a great weekend.

This week I have read:

Gnomon by Nick Harkaway
Gnomon, which took Harkaway more than three years to complete, is set in a world of ubiquitous surveillance. Pitched as “a mind-bending Borgesian puzzle box of identity, meaning and reality in which the solution steps sideways as you approach it”, it features: a detective who finds herself investigating the very society she believes in, urged on by a suspect who may be an assassin or an ally, hunting through the dreams of a torture victim in search of the key to something she does not yet understand; a banker who is pursued by a shark that swallows Fortune 500 companies; Saint Augustine’s jilted mistress who reshapes the world with miracles; a refugee grandfather turned games designer who must remember how to walk through walls or be burned alive by fascists; and a sociopath who falls backwards through time in order to commit a murder.
This took me some time to complete, but it was worth slowing down my normal reading speed to savour the dense prose and keep track of the characters. An unusual, rewarding read with some surprising twists and a poignant, powerful ending.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang
Orphaned, raised by wolves, and the proud owner of a horned pig named Merlin, Weylyn Grey knew he wasn’t like other people. But when he single-handedly stopped that tornado on a stormy Christmas day in Oklahoma, he realized just how different he actually was.
This is another quirky, unusual read which defies strict genre classification. It’s a lovely, warm-hearted tale that nonetheless avoids sentimentality. I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

 

 

 

The Prisoner of Limnos – Book 6 of the Penric and Desdemona novella series
In this sequel novella to Mira’s Last Dance, Temple sorcerer Penric and the widow Nikys have reached safety in the duchy of Orbas when a secret letter from a friend brings frightening news: Nikys’s mother has been taken hostage by her brother’s enemies at the Cedonian imperial court, and confined in a precarious island sanctuary.
This little gem is yet another excellent addition to this entertaining, unusual series and takes the story that halted at the end of Mira’s Last Dance onward, encompassing yet another exciting adventure.

 

Ironclads by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Special limited edition sceince fiction hardcover novella by the Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning author. Only 1000 copies.

Scions have no limits. Scions do not die. And Scions do not disappear.

Sergeant Ted Regan has a problem. A son of one of the great corporate families, a Scion, has gone missing at the front. He should have been protected by his Ironclad – the lethal battle suits that make the Scions masters of war – but something has gone catastrophically wrong…
This supposes that in a post-apocalyptic world where resources are scarce, corporations are involved in the inevitable wars with the top families encased in top-of-the-range armour that makes them almost invulnerable. Needless to say when the dirty jobs are handed out, it’s the regular grunts that end up having to pick up the pieces…

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 29th October 2017

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of World of Fire – Book 1 of the Dev Harmer Mission series by James Lovegrove

Teaser Tuesday featuring Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang + Mello and June at It’s a Book Thang host the final leg of the blog tour for Running Out of Space

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Artemis by Andy Weir

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Mongrel Mage – Book 19 in the Saga of Recluce series by L.E. Modesitt Jr

My 1,500th Post… Friday Face-off – Much as I love you, I cannot permit you to maul this particular coat – featuring Frederica by Georgette Heyer

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Hostage Heart by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Gerry Rafferty: Her Father Didn’t Like Me Anyway https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2017/10/31/gerry-rafferty-her-father-didnt-like-me-anyway/ Once more Thom at The Immortal Jukebox presents a gem of a tune, complete with knowledgeable analysis.

Pirates for Halloween? https://zenandtheartoftightropewalking.wordpress.com/2017/10/31/pirates-for-halloween/ Viv discusses this ongoing blight that steals income from authors – and how it can also cause other serious consequences..

Halloween Special: Petticoat Loose https://inesemjphotography.com/2017/10/29/halloween-special-petticoat-loose/ In amongst this marvellous scenery lies a spooky tale…

10 of the Best Seduction Poems https://interestingliterature.com/2017/11/01/10-of-the-best-seduction-poems/ As the weather cools and we start snuggling up together for warmth, we reflect on other ways to generate some heat…

When I’m Almost Done Reading a Good Book… https://powerfulwomenreaders.wordpress.com/2017/11/01/when-im-almost-done-reading-a-good-book/ Yes… I think we’ve all been there.

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and may you have a great week.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Netgalley arc The Tiger’s Daughter – Book 1 of The Bright Ascendency by K. Arsenault Rivera

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This epic fantasy looked a bit different, so I requested it.

The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests. Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons. This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O-Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.

This is one of those lush, richly written fantasy tales that clearly has its roots in the Eastern tradition. Set in a large sprawling land that is a cross between Mongolia and Japan, it is the story of two girls born of two close friends. One is a Qorin ruler, leader of nomadic horse tribes, while the other is sister-in-law to the paranoid emperor. I was a bit concerned about the way the animosity between the Oorin and Hokkarans were depicted – would anyone call themselves flat-faced? While I enjoyed the fact this wasn’t a fantasy set in medieval/early modern Europe, I did wonder if it didn’t borrow rather too heavily from other historical conflicts.

These two girls, born close together, first meet as small children and then throughout their young lives, quickly forming a strong bond. This novel is actually a letter from one of the girls, written to the other and charting their adventures together and what they have done. It is a time-honoured structure and mostly successful – although I do think the pacing could have been improved, if only we had hints throughout of just what the stakes were, before they were fully revealed.

However, that grizzle doesn’t detract from the richness of the worldbuilding and the punchy characterisation of these powerful girls. While it is a coming-of-age romance, because of the manner in which their friendship turns into something far deeper and more passionate, it is certainly different. I thought the love between them was tender and convincing, though personally I could have done with less explicit sex scenes.

I liked the fact that though there is a great deal of powerful magic sloshing around, when people get hurt, there is a price to pay. This is a hefty book at 500+ pages, but especially towards the end, the pace really picked up and the story concluded with a nicely climactic ending.
7/10