ARC Review | Ink in the Blood

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Ink in the Blood

Author: Kim Smejkal

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 448

Publication Date: February 11, 2020

Categories: Fantasy, Young Adult

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

A lush, dark YA fantasy debut that weaves together tattoo magic, faith, and eccentric theater in a world where lies are currency and ink is a weapon, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Kendare Blake.

Celia Sand and her best friend, Anya Burtoni, are inklings for the esteemed religion of Profeta. Using magic, they tattoo followers with beautiful images that represent the Divine’s will and guide the actions of the recipients. It’s considered a noble calling, but ten years into their servitude Celia and Anya know the truth: Profeta is built on lies, the tattooed orders strip away freedom, and the revered temple is actually a brutal, torturous prison.

Their opportunity to escape arrives with the Rabble Mob, a traveling theater troupe. Using their inkling abilities for performance instead of propaganda, Celia and Anya are content for the first time . . . until they realize who followed them. The Divine they never believed in is very real, very angry, and determined to use Celia, Anya, and the Rabble Mob’s now-infamous stage to spread her deceitful influence even further.

To protect their new family from the wrath of a malicious deity and the zealots who work in her name, Celia and Anya must unmask the biggest lie of all—Profeta itself.

Thank you to HMH Books For Young Readers and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

Ink in the Blood caught my eye on NetGalley because of the cover and the concept of magic tattoos. What I got as I started reading was a story about religion and a theater troupe! Celia and Anya are “inklings” – unfortunately every time I read the word “inkling” it reminded me of the video game Splatoon 2. 😂🤦🏻‍♀️ Maybe that’s why my reading experience of this book felt strange. Anyway, inklings have the gift of creating tattoos for people through their religion Profeta. But Celia and Anya, realize as they grow older they are trapped in servitude in their roles as inklings and want to escape. They find a way to join the Rabble Mob, a performance troupe and they think they have escaped Profeta but they learn in a sinister way, they haven’t left it behind.

  • Diversity abounds in this book, there is queer romance everywhere and I like that it’s a normal part of this dark fantasy world. It isn’t questioned or explained, it just IS.
  • The world building is interesting – the religion Profeta has these inklings conjuring up tattoos to guide the masses, but through Celia and Anya’s memories of their childhood, they are tortured a lot by their superiors. It was almost like a mixture of Catholicism and Hinduism (with the statue of the Divine and Diavala peeking out beneath and 6 eyes). There is an order to Profeta with the mistico being the holiest and the inklings being the lowest level on the pyramid. Celia and Anya escape and join a theater troupe called the Rabble Mob. The setting reminded me of Venice with the masks, gondolas and houses on stilts.
  • I enjoyed Celia and Anya’s relationship, they had each other’s back to the surprising and bittersweet end. They balanced each other out and went through so much together from their childhood as inklings to running away and becoming part of the theater troupe.
  • Celia and Griffin’s relationship was what kept me interested in this book because there was amazing tension between them. Now this is a slow burn…there is a lot of distrust, and hiding behind masks and innuendos. But they were my favorite part of the book.
  • There was something about the story that just kept me unengaged. I felt like the explanation of the religion and magic in the beginning was confusing to me. Maybe my reality wasn’t suspended enough for me to be immersed in this world of the Divine and Diavala the trickster god.
  • Because the story didn’t engage me right away, it took me awhile to get into this story. I put this aside for two months! I picked it up again because I know it’s being published soon. But I did find the second half of the book moved much faster t
  • The tattoo magic wasn’t what I expected. I thought it was kind of weak because it was like painting a tattoo on a body part and transferring it through magic. I guess I wanted more blood and needles involved. 😅 The tattoos were the only magic in the book.
  • Triggers: physical abuse, torture

This was an okay read for me. I think the world building with the religious aspects and the tattoos was interesting but something was missing for me in the story. My favorite parts were between Celia and Griffin who brought the tension and intensity that stood out in this book. I think many people who enjoyed books like Caraval will enjoy Ink in the Blood.

Book Review | Winterwood

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Winterwood

Author: Shea Ernshaw

Format: Hardcover (owned)

Pages: 323

Categories: Witches, Mystery, Romance, Young Adult

Be careful of the dark, dark wood…

Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even.

Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.

But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago.

For as long as there have been fairy tales, we have been warned to fear what lies within the dark, dark woods and in Winterwood, New York Times bestselling author Shea Ernshaw, shows us why.

I am a fan of Shea Ernshaw’s books. This is now the second book I’ve read from her and I have to say I love how she writes these witchy stories. By coincidence I always start reading them near a full moon and not even by choice…it just happens that way! If that isn’t magical, I don’t know what is.

Nora Walker is a “Walker”, she is descended from witches. She lives in the town of Fir Haven which is surrounded by woods. There is a boys camp, called the Camp for Wayward boys near her home and a boy went missing in a snowstorm. Nora finds the boy in the woods and she learns how he came to be lost, but it’s not what she expected at all.

  • The author has a distinct style to her writing. Once I read the first sentence, my world disappears and I’m in the world she has created. I love that both books I’ve read now have been about witches, she’s very good at it. Her writing is atmospheric. I felt the creepiness of the Wicker Woods especially when Nora explains things about the woods like how you can only take things from the woods during a full moon when the trees don’t see you do it! 😳 The trees are watching. This story is told like a magical, haunting, supernatural, eerie, fairy tale.
  • I love the setting of the story: a town that is alive in the summer because of lake life, and dead in the winter because the cold is fierce. Nora lives for the winters and the isolation it brings and when I say she is alone, she is ALONE. Her mom left the town, and her grandmother has died. I can’t even imagine living in a place like that all by myself. But just the vibe of the story comes through in the writing: the eerie town, the scary woods, the isolated feeling Nora experiences and a sinister event taking place at the boy’s camp was a recipe for making my spine tingle.
  • I kind of had an idea where the story was headed with Oliver and the dead boy at camp. There is a mystery that Nora is trying to uncover. I liked that this mystery was tied to these boys at camp and it brought the feeling of danger to the story, at least danger around Nora. I enjoyed trying to guess at what happened.
  • Nora is a Walker and all Walker women are witches. I absolutely adored the black pages dedicated to a Walker woman between some chapters. I thought it was done beautifully because it was a family tree and spell book at the same time. And we get to see Nora’s entry. 😍
  • That ending with Oliver and Nora. ❤️
  • Also I have to mention the book cover is beautiful (I have the white OwlCrate version), the naked cover is gorgeous, the pages that are black with the branches…I love all the little details. 😍
  • Some things were a bit repetitive, like Nora saying there was a dead boy. Also she said she was a Walker, a lot. Haha…we know Nora! You Walker women are pretty amazing.
  • The romance is a slow burn almost to the point it felt a little forced to me when they let their attraction take over. But it still made me enjoy the twist at the end – actually that twist made my heart just thump a bit harder.
  • Triggers: drowning

I’m in love with Shea Ernshaw’s writing. She just knows how to set the mood perfectly for a full moon, witchy, reading night and what a coincidence that I’ve read her books on these nights! Winterwood is haunting and it wove its spell around me. I look forward to reading more books from this author!

Book Review | Blood Heir

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: Blood Heir (Blood Heir Trilogy, #1)

Author: Amélie Wen Zhao

Format: Hardcover (owned)

Pages: 464

Categories: Fantasy, Young Adult

In the Cyrilian Empire, Affinites are reviled. Their varied gifts to control the world around them are unnatural—dangerous. And Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess, has a terrifying secret. Her deadly Affinity to blood is her curse and the reason she has lived her life hidden behind palace walls. 

When Ana’s father, the emperor, is murdered, her world is shattered. Framed as his killer, Ana must flee the palace to save her life. And to clear her name, she must find her father’s murderer on her own. But the Cyrilia beyond the palace walls is far different from the one she thought she knew. Corruption rules the land, and a greater conspiracy is at work—one that threatens the very balance of her world. And there is only one person corrupt enough to help Ana get to its core: Ramson Quicktongue.

A cunning crime lord of the Cyrilian underworld, Ramson has sinister plans—though he might have met his match in Ana. Because in this story, the princess might be the most dangerous player of all. 

The last book I read in 2019 was Blood Heir, but I didn’t write the review in 2019. 😅 I was getting ready to ring in the New Year! Haha – but I digress.

This book had some controversy, but the author made some changes and released the book at a later date. Since I didn’t read the arc, I don’t know what changes have been made but let’s dig into my review.

Princess Anastacya’s parents are dead and her brother is now on the throne. As a young girl, she was framed for the murder of her father and fled the palace, ending up on the run searching for a criminal who could help her find her father’s true murderer.

On this quest to find the culprit, she learns a few truths about the empire she loved. Her father’s empire had a dirty secret, one deep in the practice of human trafficking. With eyes wide open she plans to catch her father’s murderer and change the empire’s ways – but another secret threatens to bring all her plans down.

  • The cover of this book drew me in right away. I mean that girl on the cover looks fierce!
  • This story has Anastasia Romanov vibes, set in a place similar to Russia when describing the landscape and the use of the language, not that I can speak Russian. And the princess’ name is Anastacya! Similar, no? The world building is lush, I was drawn into this cold landscape of the Cyrilian Empire.
  • The beginning of this book is awesome, there is danger, suspense and so much action! Loved meeting Ransom who is this notorious underground criminal with connections everywhere. He has a shady past, a shadier present and so much charm! I think Ransom and Ana’s relationship was great with their rough beginning and then later on relying on each other. But Ransom’s charm was infectious and Ana needed that in her life.
  • The subject of human trafficking is heavy but very relatable to this day and age. There are some truly sad parts especially when it comes to Ana and her bond with a young girl,May, who was once trafficked. Ana sees more living outside of the palace which is a good thing – it makes her want to change things for people who are oppressed.
  • The magic in the book is one that people are born with and they are called Affinites. Affinites have an affinity – such as Ana is a Blood Affinite, she can control blood in people! There are so many different types: flesh, earth, wind, and more. Affinites are looked down upon in the Cyrilian Empire and are enslaved, trafficked and treated poorly.
  • I enjoyed the twist in the story – I didn’t see that coming.
  • The beginning was so good but I think I had some trouble with the pacing. I thought from the beginning I was going to read the book in one sitting. I finished it in three days. Ransom and Ana had chemistry in the beginning…then I don’t know where it went. Talk about a slow burn!
  • As much as I adore a story set in a place similar to Russia and it’s history, I feel like after Grisha-verse, it’s starting to become over done. I just can’t help comparing. Totally different stories, but the setting, the language. Just all so similar. 🤷🏻‍♀️
  • Triggers: blood, violence, human trafficking, death

I was really sucked into this world of Affinites, especially in the beginning of the book but my interest waned a little in the middle of the story. There is a twist in the latter half of the story which I did enjoy. I like how Princess Ana sees the truth about the human trafficking in her empire and tries her best to change things around. It was the silver lining to her fleeing the palace, she got to experience life outside of it and see how the real people lived. The ending isn’t a happy one, it’s a trilogy so the fight for what’s right will continue in book two and three. Blood Heir is a strong debut, but I will definitely have to be in the mood though to pick up the sequel.

Book Review | The Relic Spell

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Relic Spell (The Phyrian War Chronicles Book 1)

Author: Jimena L. Novaro

Format: eBook (provided by author for review)

Pages: 346

Categories: Fantasy, Young Adult

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Magic rolls through Orion Tamura’s history classroom like a tidal wave of golden light that only he can see. The spell is deadly, and Orion has no idea who cast it or what they want.

Answers are scarce—all of Port Monica’s sorcerers vanished fourteen years before, including Orion’s father. Armed with his limited knowledge of magic, Orion is the only one left in the city who is strong enough to investigate the origins of the spell.

But the city’s leaders will stop at nothing to censor and sabotage anyone who gets close to the truth. Invisible otherworlders watch every move Orion and his friends make, and a mysterious sorcerer who knows the answers haunts Orion’s dreams.

Thank you to author, Jimena I. Novaro, for providing me a copy of this book for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Orion Tamura is Port Monica’s most powerful sorcerer since all the other ones vanished during the Phyrian War. But Orion is also just a teenager with big responsibilities on his shoulders. He is protecting a town from evil and trying to help keep his family afloat and that is a lot for one kid to take on. He has his best friend Max who is a warrior in his own right and he makes other friends along the way as they try to get to the bottom of who sent out a huge, deadly spell throughout the town. Can Orion be everywhere at once and make sure everyone he cares about is protected or will he fail?

  • The world building in this story is really well done! We have some history about a Phyrian War which was a big event that involved sorcery, magic, demons and then some. Not many who lived through it want to remember it though. There are all types of demons and other creatures with magic. As for Orion, his dad, Daisuke, was well known in the community as a powerful sorcerer but there is bad history there and he’s been gone for as long as Orion can remember.
  • Speaking of Orion’s missing dad – Orion’s character is dealing with a lot on his plate. He’s a sorcery and feels obligated to keep the town safe, well obviously because a safe town means his family stays safe. His mom is trying to move on without his dad, his younger sister and brother are going through some things too and Orion’s trying to be there for everyone but burning his candle on both ends. On top of that he’s dealing with feelings for his best friend Max and trying to find out who released this dangerous spell in their town. Orion makes mistakes but the best thing about him is he keeps trying to do what he can with what power he has.
  • Two characters that I thought are interesting were Briar and Elsa – maybe because I just gravitate more towards strong females but Briar’s demon lineage is fascinating. I loved that Elsa was always kicking butt too! 💪🏾 Orion was pretty lucky to have her watching his back even though she had her own mission to accomplish.
  • There is a lot of racial and sexual diversity represented in this book, which is always refreshing.
  • This story keeps moving, meaning there is a lot of action! From the get go Orion and Max are involved with fighting a creature and it doesn’t stop there. There is downtime here and there in the story but it has a lot of action to keep one entertained.
  • Orion at times didn’t come off as a physically strong character. Like Max, his best friend was definitely more of the warrior, but at times Orion couldn’t meet his eyes. I know it was due to personal/longing stuff but I just wished at times he could assert more of his power when it was needed. But maybe that’s just a personality thing.

Some things in the story isn’t resolved by the end which makes sense since this is going to be a series. I look forward to reading book two and finding out what happened with Briar and her demon family. This is an urban fantasy story with a wholly constructed magic system and detailed world building. If you like fantasy, then The Relic Spell would interest you!

Book Review | Rules For Vanishing

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: Rules For Vanishing

Author: Kate Alice Marshall

Format: Hardcover (borrowed)

Pages: 416

Categories: Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult, Supernatural, Horror

In the faux-documentary style of The Blair Witch Project comes the campfire story of a missing girl, a vengeful ghost, and the girl who is determined to find her sister–at all costs.

Once a year, the path appears in the forest and Lucy Gallows beckons. Who is brave enough to find her–and who won’t make it out of the woods?

It’s been exactly one year since Sara’s sister, Becca, disappeared, and high school life has far from settled back to normal. With her sister gone, Sara doesn’t know whether her former friends no longer like her…or are scared of her, and the days of eating alone at lunch have started to blend together. When a mysterious text message invites Sara and her estranged friends to “play the game” and find local ghost legend Lucy Gallows, Sara is sure this is the only way to find Becca–before she’s lost forever. And even though she’s hardly spoken with them for a year, Sara finds herself deep in the darkness of the forest, her friends–and their cameras–following her down the path. Together, they will have to draw on all of their strengths to survive. The road is rarely forgiving, and no one will be the same on the other side.

I finally got my hands on this book and it totally reminded me of The Blair Witch Project, which I saw on opening back in…1999. 🤭

So there is an urban legend about Lucy Gallows who went into the woods and never came out. When Sara’s sister Becca goes on this search to find Lucy, she goes missing as well. One year later, text messages are sent, to play the game to find Lucy Gallows. Sara wants to do it so she can find her sister and her old friends join her.

This was definitely like The Blair Witch Project, but with cell phones and them seeing actual ghosts! Because we all know there was like nothing to see in BWP. 🤷🏻‍♀️

  • I like the urban legend of Lucy Gallows – I get a kick out of stories like that. I love the ghost hunting and I’m glad the kids thought to capture video of their journey on the road because hello yes, in this day and age we need video evidence!
  • The road was very fascinating. I thought the gates were interesting and for the horror fans there are a lot of gruesome descriptions of people who tried to walk the road and…never made it off the road basically. 👀
  • The story is told in alternating between interviews with Sara (after the events of the road) and during the trip on the road. I thought it helped build up the suspense and at some points I wondered if this was all some psychological twist in Sara’s mind. It also included text messages between the group of friends and video evidence. I just like how the author used a whole mix of things to tell the story.
  • My favorite scene is when all of the characters are lost in a house, which s still part of the road. But it gets kind of crazy in there and that’s the part where I felt was the most creepiest in the book.
  • I connected to no character. ☹️ How is that possible? Maybe too many characters? And some characters going missing and honestly…at some points I didn’t remember who was supposed to be on this Lucy Gallows search party. There was a Miranda and Mel (Melanie) and I kept confusing the two. 🤷🏻‍♀️
  • Without spoiling – and it’s hard…there is something other than Lucy Gallows that haunts the road and it’s a big part of the story but it emerges in the middle of the story. It took me too long to hook me, plus with the confusing ending I had to process this book for a minute – okay it took me all weekend because my my brain burned out due to catching the flu. Anyway I googled this legend of Dahut and Ys and it exists! Okay why didn’t the legend just start with that instead? I guess it added layers to the story but I think at times it threw me off, maybe that was the purpose but it made me impatient.
  • The ending was abrupt and confusing.

I found Rules for Vanishing entertaining until the ending which confused me. It was fun following this group of teens walking down this mysterious road that shows up but the ending left me underwhelmed. On a scary scale, and I usually can’t tolerate a whole lot of scary…this one did not scare me at all. It did have the creepy factor so I’m glad about that.

Book Review | The Delinquent Crown

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: The Delinquent Crown (Olexia Legends #1)

Purchase Link: Amazon

Author: Sydney Faith

Format: eBook (from author)

Pages: 263

Categories: Fantasy, Young Adult, Adventure, Family

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from the author, Sydney Faith, in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Olexia is a wild and dangerous world filled with magic.

Miri and Nick find Olexia by chance but choose their fate when they step through the portal. A shard of glass and a hastily-written letter from their mother are all they have to solve their puzzling past.

In Olexia Miri and Nick find danger and unlikely allies, and with their help, they learn to wield their newfound powers and find out the truth about Olexia’s buried secrets.

When the ruthless Council leader learns the siblings harbor a powerful artifact, he sends his bloodthirsty LaKaio soldiers to hunt them down at any cost.

With time running out and secrets about their past being revealed around every corner, Miri and Nick must decide if they’re going to hide away or rise up against the sinister leaders of Olexia.

Thank you to Sydney Faith for giving me a copy of her book to review.

Miri and Nick are siblings living somewhat normal lives on Earth. I say somewhat because Miri, experiences painful episodes that the doctors diagnosed as epilepsy. But her episodes are more than just a medical condition. When they find out about a new magical world called Olexia everything strange about their lives makes so much more sense.

Once these siblings are in Olexia the adventure never ends as Miri and Nick learn about this world full of magic, a different language and way of life.

  • This is the first book of the series and already I am immersed in this world of Olexia. When Miri and Nick steps through portal it reminds me of Narnia, where everything is just so different from Earth. In Olexia they know about “Earth” and call it Terra. But the world building is great, there are different types of people with their owl languages and customs. Also I feel like this book only scratched the surface of Olexia and there is more to learn.
  • There are some strong side characters like Kayta and Siymin who stumbles into Nick and Miri right away. I like Kayta and her attitude, she’s feisty. Siymin is calm, clever and smart. Siymin and Miri’s relationship grows throughout the story and there is a hint of a romance coming between them but I’m sure that will be explored more as the series goes on.
  • The magic system was explained really well too. Not only Miri and Nick both have their own unique powers. Where Miri thought it was a hindrance on Earth, her powers to see the future in Olexia is super useful as well as Nick’s power as a jumper. And I like that they take the time to learn their craft with Tuko also. Being new to this world and magic, it was nice that they didn’t know how to use their powers right away and had to do some actual training.
  • The sibling bond between Miri and Nick is tight and it has to be, for years it has only been the two of them. They were raised in foster care but they always wondered about their past and parents, more so with Miri. Nick has been Miri’s caretaker and he’s done a fine job at it, he’s an awesome big brother. When secrets are revealed in Olexia, it’s a lot for the siblings to take in but I’m sure we’ll see them deal with the information they have more in the next book.
  • The action keeps going in this book which kept it fun. There is a quest for Miri and Nick to find pieces of a magic mirror and they are also trying to find their parents. They encounter LaKaio (basically the bad guys) and have to get out of many dicey situations.
  • I’ve learned that in YA, there can be such an age spectrum when thinking about what audience would love this book. I’m an older adult reading YA and this book felt a little younger compared to some of the YA I’ve been reading lately…seriously, some YA at times can be considered adult reading…or at least New Adult. But this one is definitely for teens and I’d even say middle grade could enjoy this!
  • There are a lot of characters we meet when Miri and Nick jump into Olexia – especially when they meet Siymin’s large family and you would think because their names are so unique, I could follow – but at times I got a little lost. Maybe because I was getting used to the different sounding names.
  • It has a cliffhanger ending! That’s a warning if you don’t like cliffhangers haha…but yeah I read that last sentence and I was like…ohhhh. 🤭

Overall, I really enjoyed getting to know Miri and Nick and this new imaginative world of Olexia. As the series continues I’m sure there will be so much more to learn about Olexia and the people that populate such a magical world. Also the cliffhanger ending makes me want to find out what other secrets will be revealed in the sequel! This is a very solid first book for the start of a young adult fantasy series.

About the Author:

SYDNEY FAITH is a YA author who, after a lifetime of living in her make-believe worlds, decided to start sharing them at 17 in the form of books.
When she’s not writing, Sydney enjoys creating YouTube videos, baking and eating chocolate chip cookies, and thinking about writing.
As a Midwesterner, you’ll find Sydney pointing out cows on road trips, enjoying the state fair, and complaining about the snow.

You can find her at:
Instagram: @sydfaithauthor

ARC Review | The Wickerlight

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Wickerlight (The Wren Hunt, #2)

Author: Mary Watson

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 416

Publication Date: November 26, 2019

Categories: Dark Urban Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult, Druids

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

It’s been two months since Zara’s sister Laila was found lifeless on the village green of the small Irish town Kilshamble, not a mark on her. Vicious rumors circle that she died of an overdose or committed suicide–but an autopsy finds no evidence.

Zara believes somebody must know what happened, and she throws herself headfirst into an investigation. But retracing her sister’s footsteps takes her to David, a member of an ancient magical faction called the judges. The judges are in the midst of an ancient feud with another faction called the augurs, and Zara quickly finds herself embroiled in a dangerous, twisted game. And if she isn’t careful on the path she’s treading, she could end up with the same fate as Laila.

Thank you to Bloomsbury YA and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

FYI: I did not read The Wren Hunt and I should have. Luckily, The Wickerlight is so good as a standalone I didn’t get totally lost. I wasn’t sure what to expect and when I first started the book, I admit I put it down for a few weeks because I had to let it permeate in my head. I picked it up again recently and I finished it in one night. That was totally unexpected.

In The Wickerlight, we get to know this Irish town of Kilshamble, and wow, it is dark, mystery, mystical and magical but not in a happy glittery way. This story is told in dual POV. We meet Zara who’s sister Laila is dead and Zara wants to know how and why. Then there is David, who is a judge (no not the kind with a gavel), he is part of this magical world where augurs and judges are enemies, and there is a silent war between them. I missed a big chunk of David’s background by not reading The Wren Hunt, so read that first. Zara doesn’t know what she’s stumbled into when she digs for clues about Laila’s death, but soon it’s too late to turn back. Zara is learning that maybe Laila was right about magic.

  • I loved learning about the druids and Irish folklore in this story. We learn about the Augurs and Judges who basically hate each other – they have a complicated history.
  • This story is set in a modern world but the magic is so subtle that it fits so well, I love how it came together seamlessly. We are Zara, learning about the secrets of this town. Most of the magic is not as powerful as it was long ago but it works in the modern day world of this story. It’s nature, earth magic. Also the folklore stories about monsters in the forest – gives us a creepy background for this setting. 😳 I enjoyed the dark, eerie tone in this story!
  • The mystery of Laila’s death really kept me in this story. We stumble into this strange magical world that exists in Kilshamble. I love how Zara peels a layer slowly to find out something else about Laila. Laila’s words at the beginning of each chapter adds to the mystery as well! I wanted to find out what happened to Laila for Zara and her family’s sake. Their grief is palatable and this family has crumbled, it wasn’t tight to begin with but Laila’s death has basically broken their family apart. I felt for Zara and her mother. 🥺
  • Zara and Laila’s stories of the Horribles. I freaking loved it because it was their thing together and the stories made it perfectly okay to not be good and perfect all the time as long as you are not cruel, mean or hurtful. The Horribles were their shadow family and a coping mechanism I think because of their family situation.
  • David and Zara. David sounds like he was a jerk in The Wren Hunt and in The Wickerlight his character is fleshed out. He’s not a saint, his life is about pain, and feeling pressure from his dad. As for Zara she feels out of place in this new town, her family life wasn’t perfect to begin with and she carries guilt from Laila’s death. Her choice in the end was unexpected! And I really like their slow burn romance.
  • Obviously if you didn’t read The Wren Hunt like me…I was a little lost in the beginning and thank goodness for the glossary in the back of the book. I had to learn about the Augurs and Judges and once I did get settled in, it was smooth sailing from there.
  • There is a scene where David gets tortured – so trigger warnings: cutting. It’s not a trigger for me but even I got squeamish at the visuals of the scene. But this book IS dark, the judges do not mess around when it comes to discipline. 👀 The augurs have their own form of torture, but it didn’t involve cutting, just mind bending/mind control.
  • The business about hoarding words to make a law (like a spell) at times confused me, especially when it is introduced into the story. I think the idea is so poetic and the story is so lyrical that it went over my head at first. But then the practice grew on me, the way words are precious and how different words call to a person. I especially loved when David was hoarding words, haha, I mean that boy felt it!

The Wickerlight is an intriguing, lyrical, deliciously, darkly magical, unique story. It starts with grief and pulls you into the mystery of a death and this world of old magic. Definitely read The Wren Hunt first and then come lose yourself in The Wickerlight like I did.