Black Enough

Rating: 
Author: Edited by Ibi Zoboi, many contributing authors
Genres: Young Adult, Fiction, Short stories
Pub date: Jan. 8, 2019 (read Jan. 2019)

Thanks to HarperCollins Canada for providing me with a free advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve been working on this book for awhile. Not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because it’s short stories and I always struggle to get into short stories when there’s nothing to pull you back into the book between stories. It was pretty slow going on the first half of the book, but the stories kept getting progressively better (in my humble opinion) and I read through the second half of the book a lot faster.

Overall I think ibi Zoboi did a really good job at collecting a diverse set of stories. They all focus on young people and the many things it means to be Black. I liked that some of the stories were political and some of the stories were just about being a teenager. How some days the odds seemed stacked against you and other days you’re just another confused teenager trying to make sense of the world.

This book features an all star cast of authors, many of whom I’ve read some of their other books, and some new-to-me authors that I’d now like to check out! The great thing about a book like this is that there can’t really be any bad stories because they are all just different author’s interpretations on what it means to be black.

That said, there were a few stories that stood out to me more than others and I just wanted to take the time to highlight some of them. I really liked Brandy Colbert’s story, Oreo, which is about a black girl who, because of the choices her parents made to live in a white neighbourhood and send their kids to a mostly white school, has been accused by her cousins of being white on the inside (Oreo). It’s a story about identity, culture, and longing. She has a tense relationship with her cousin and eventually discovers that they’ve actually both been misunderstanding one another and realizes how easy it is for two people to both want what the other has.

I also liked Liara Tamani’s Girl, Stop Playing story, which I thought was so relatable to all teenage girls. It’s about a girl who has just broken up with her boyfriend and is determined to get him back, but is confused when she meets a new boy that she kind of likes, and is also jealous of the other girls hanging around her ex. I liked that this addresses issues that a lot of teenage girls feel very self conscious about, while also promoting a healthy body image and the importance of female friendship and support.

I loved Jay Coles, Wild Horses, Wild Hearts, which was probably my favourite story in the entire collection, as well as Justina Ireland’s Kissing Sarah Smart. They both focus on LGBT relationships, but contrast one another in that Coles’ characters face huge opposition from their parents and culture, while Ireland’s characters are more or less supported by their family and friends.

I also really liked Dhonielle Clayton’s, The Trouble with Drowning, and was totally impressed that the author was able to work such a plot twist into a short story! Actually this may have been my favourite… it’s a toss up! The Trouble with Drowning is about a young girls struggle to live up to her parents expectations and to excel under the shadow of her twin sister.

These are just some of the stories that stood out to me, but there were many others that I enjoyed as well. Like I said, it took me a while to read this one, but I think it’s a really important book and I’m glad I took the time to work through it!

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Books I Can’t Wait to Read in 2019

Mystery/Thrillers

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware – Sep. 5, 2019
I’ve read every book Ruth Ware has written and I will be reading this one too! I don’t think Ware is the best mystery writer out there, but I find her books so compulsively readable that I’m always thrilled to pick up a new one! Especially because this one sounds SO GOOD! It’s about a woman who takes a live-in Nanny job in the Scottish highlands, which she thinks is going to be a dream job and ends up being a nightmare that lands her in prison for a murder she didn’t commit! This sounds so intriguing and I can’t wait to read it! Goodreads says this book is coming out in early Sep, but Edelweiss is listing the release date as Aug. 6, so we’ll just have to wait and see!

I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney – May 16, 2019
Alice Feeney only has one other book, Sometimes I Lie, but I read it last year with my book club and we all loved it! I was really impressed with it as a debut novel and it had so many twists that I did not see coming at all! I know Who You Are is about actress Aimee Sinclair. She has a fight with her husband one day and then comes home to find him missing. The next day, she goes to the bank to find $10,000 missing from her account – the kicker is that she is the person who supposedly emptied the account. Suddenly her life is turned upside down and nothing is as it seems.

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager – Jul. 2, 2019
Last year and read and enjoyed Riley Sager’s second thriller novel, The Last Time I Lied. I haven’t read his debut novel yet, but I’m planning to read both Final Girls and his new book, Lock Every Door. Lock Every Door is about Jules Larson, who takes a job apartment-sitting at the mysterious Bartholomew building. At first, Jules likes the job, but when her fellow apartment-sitter disappears and she learns about Bartholomew’s dark, hidden secrets, she must race to uncover the buildings hidden past and save her friend!

Historical Fiction

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See – Mar. 5, 2019
I’m cheating a bit on this book because I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC and I have already read it, but I’m including it anyways because it releases in March and fans of Lisa See will not be disappointed! The Island of Sea Women is set on Jeju Island in South Korea and takes us through 70 years of history – from the 1930’s to the 2000’s. Jeju Island’s culture is focused around women – where they are the core providers for their families and the men stay home and take care of the home and children. It tells the story of Young-sook and her friend Mi-ja, who are both part of the Haenyeo collective of divers who make a living diving for sealife in the fridgid sea.

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid – Mar. 5, 2019
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo took Booktube by storm last year! I read it back in 2017 with my book club and also loved it – so I’m so excited to pick this one up later this year. Daisy Jones and the Six is about solo singer Daisy Jones and popular band, The Six. I’m not totally clear on the plot of the novel, but it’s set in the 70’s and is guaranteed to include all of the drama of sex, drugs, and rock & roll. I loved how diverse Evelyn Hugo and how good of a story teller Taylor Jenkins Reid is, so I can’t wait to read this one too!

The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia – Apr. 16, 2019
This is a lesser promoted novel that I stumbled upon on Netgalley and became immediately intrigued with. It’s by a Mexican author and has actually been published since 2015, but the English translation is being released in April. It’s about an abandoned baby that was found under a bridge and the impact he has on the small village. It’s set during the Mexican Revolution and the outbreak of the spanish influenza in 1918 and this setting is what really intrigued me about the book. I already have a copy of this from Netgalley and I’m looking forward to learning more about this period of Mexican history.

Fantasy

Romanov by Nadine Brandes – May 7, 2019
Romanov is a historical fantasy novel about Anastasia Romanov. It re-imagines history where instead of Anastasia dying, she was tasked with smuggling out a spell on her way to Siberia that might be the only thing that could save her condemned family. I don’t really know much more about the story, but I’ve always been a little obsessed with Anastasia and I pretty much only had to hear the words “Anastasia” and “fantasy” and I was in. In discovering this book, I also discovered that Brandes has another historical fantasy novel about Guy Fawkes plot to blow up the British government, Fawkes, which I must now also add to my TBR because that also sounds amazing!

Sherwood by Meaghan Spooner – Mar. 19, 2019
This is another book where I read a really short description of the book and was immediately like, “I have to read this.” Sherwood is basically a gender-bent retelling of Robin Hood. In this version, Robin Hood is dead and his betrothed, Maid Marion is bereft. The people of Nottingham are greatly suffering, especially with the loss of their hero. In her desire to help her people, she dons Robin’s green cloak and is mistaken to be him. The people are desperate for a saviour and Marion decides to do her best to help them.

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi – Jan. 15, 2019
This one comes out today, so we don’t even have to wait for it anymore! I am totally shocked at myself for including The Gilded Wolves on this list because I strongly disliked Chokshi’s other book, The Star-Touched Queen, but the plot just sounds so good that I’ve decided to give her another try! The Gilded Wolves is set in Paris in the late 1800’s and is being compared to Six of Crows, which I absolutely loved! It’s about a rag-tag group of people who assemble to hunt a lost artifact for an all-powerful society through the street of Paris. It’s received really good early reviews and I’m definitely intrigued to read it!

Young Adult

With Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo – May 7, 2019
As with many of the books on this list, I’m excited to read this upcoming release because I read Acevedo’s novel, The Poet X, last year and loved it! Along with the story, I really liked that the Poet X was written in prose. There’s no indication on the synopsis of With Fire on High that it will also be written in prose, but it still sounds really good. It’s about a teen mom who loves to cook but struggles to make ends meet and care for her abuela. She dreams of taking her school’s culinary class, going on the class trip to Spain, and one day working in a real kitchen. Can she turn any of these dreams into reality?

Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan – Feb 12, 2019
I stumbled upon this new release on Netgalley as well and while I wasn’t approved for an ARC on this one, I’m really excited to read it when it comes out in February. It’s about two high school students who are frustrated with the status quo at their school and start a Women’s Rights Club. They get a lot of positive support when they start the club, but they are eventually targeted by online trolls who threaten their club and their voices. I’m here for any and all YA books on feminism so I can’t wait to read this. What makes me more excited is that the two girls on the cover are black and white, so I’m hoping this will be a more intersectional, feminist read than some other similarly plotted books that I’ve read in the past.

Internment by Samira Ahmed – Mar. 19, 2019
This is another book I’m a little surprised to include on the list because I read Ahmed’s debut novel, Love, Hate, and Other Filters, last year and did not like it. But I don’t want to judge an author by one book, especially their debut, so I’m excited to give this one a try, which sounds WAY different than her first novel. Internment is a dystopian novel about teenager Layla Amin, whose family is forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens. Do I really need to say more? It’s set in the near-future and I think we can all agree that with the current president, anything is really possible, so I’m intrigued what social commentary Ahmed is going to make about the current political climate. I actually just received an ARC for this one, so I’m planning to read it soon.

Non-Fiction

The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West – May 7, 2019
This is a bit of a longer list than I usually make, but there’s just so many good books coming out this year! Lindy West’s new book OBVIOUSLY has to be on this list because just everything about it screams something I must read. I really like Lindy’s writing (along with Jessica Valenti and Laurie Penny) and I’m a here for a book about how the “patriarchy, intolerance, and misogyny have conquered not just politics but American culture itself.” It sounds like this book is going to cover a lot of topics, from the 2016 election to the #MeToo movement, I can’t wait to read West’s observations and critiques.

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson – Mar. 12, 2019
Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak was published 20 years ago and was monumental in discussing the impacts of rape and sexual assault. She has published many other books since then, although I’ll admit, Speak is the only one of her books I’ve read. Shout is going to be a memoir collection of poems and essays about sexual assault, the progress we’ve made, and some personal anecdotes from the author’s personal life. It sounds like a really great anthology and I’m interested to see what the author has to say 20 years after the publication of her ground-breaking novel.

Top 10 Books of 2018

I read over 100 books this year, so it is incredibly hard to narrow the list down to just 10 books! I really like reading new releases and this year almost half of all the books I read were published in 2018, so like last year, I’ve decided to publish two lists. This will be my top 10 favourite books that were published in 2018, and my second follow up post with be my top 5 favourite books that I read in 2018, but were published in other years. Without further ado, here’s my top 10 of 2018, in order this year!

10. Sadie by Courtney Summers

Sadie has been making waves this year and was my first Courtney Summers book. I started reading it on a 3 day kayak trip and was totally enthralled with it the entire weekend. It’s a powerful read, but one of the things I actually liked most about it was the format. Sadie tells the story of a young woman named Sadie – when her sister turns up dead, Sadie disappears from town and goes on a mission to track down her sister’s killer. What made the format so unique was that half of the book is told in the style of a podcast investigating what happened to Sadie, while the other half is told from Sadie’s point of view as she moves through rural America trying to track down the killer. The podcast reminded me a lot of Serial and I thought it made for a really interesting and dynamic read. Summers doesn’t hold back any punches in this story and it’s really a book about how girls and women disappear and are murdered far too often. I can’t take another dead girl.

9. The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

The Astonishing Color of After was a bit of a slower read compared to some of the other books on this list, but is the writing and the story ever beautiful! It tells the story of Taiwanese-American teenager, Leigh, whose mother has committed suicide. In her grief, Leigh believes that her mother has come back as a bird and is trying to communicate with Leigh. In an effort to learn more about her mother, she decides to take a trip to Taiwan for the first time to meet her grandparents. The story is filled with magical realism and is a beautiful coming of age story about grief, mental health, the pains of growing up, and the importance of chasing after the things that you love. I really liked the portrayal of mental health and depression and how anyone can be impacted by them and how there’s often no rhyme or reason to why someone might suffer from depression. I loved the cultural aspects that were woven into this story as well as Leigh’s relationship with her friend Axel and how it evolves throughout the story. Mostly though, I just loved this for the beautiful writing and would definitely recommend to anyone!

8. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage has been featured on pretty much every “must read books of 2018” list I’ve seen on the internet and was featured in Oprah’s book club, so I was intrigued to read it. It’s about a newly married couple, Celestial and Roy, who’s marriage is abruptly cut short when Roy is accused of a crime he didn’t commit and incarcerated for 12 years. They try to maintain their marriage, but 12 years is a long time and Celestial starts to drift away from Roy. However, when Roy gets a surprise early release after 5 years, everyone’s lives are thrown into turmoil. Celestial has moved on and is unsure what to do in the face of her husband’s release. Roy on the other hand, is still hugely invested in Celestial and wants to give their marriage another shot. It’s a thought provoking novel on the justice system and what it means to be black in America. I really liked it because there were no easy choices for the characters and it was a critical look at the impact prison can have on the individual and their greater family and community.

7. Saga, Volume 8 by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples

I’ve been reading Saga for the last two years, but for some reason, Volume 8 hit me a lot harder than any of the other volumes. I also read Volume 9 this year, which I liked, but didn’t love, but something about Volume 8 struck me differently. Saga is a graphic novel series about an intergalactic romance between two soldiers on opposing sides, Alana and Marko. The series starts off with them giving birth to their daughter, Hazel, and the entire series is them gallivanting around the galaxy trying to avoid all the individuals that think their marriage and relationship is an abomination. Volume 8 deals with abortion and I think it’s one of the reason’s why I liked it so much. The whole series is incredibly diverse and examines a number of different relevant social issues, and this issue looks at some of the reasons why women and couples decide to have abortions and why all reasons are valid. Overall, I would highly recommend the series, I’ll just put a disclaimer that the series does include a lot of sex and nudity.

6. The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker

To be honest, it’s a bit of a mystery to me why I liked this book as much as I did. Maybe I was just in the mood for a good romance, but I think it was because this was one of the rare New Adult books that I could actually relate to. I find there’s a huge gap in literature between stories about teenagers and stories about adults. There’s not a lot of great books about people in their mid-twenties and this book really that need. The Simple Wild is about 26 year old Calla. She grew up with her mom in Toronto, but she’s been estranged from her father, who is an Alaskan bush pilot, since she was 2. When she finds out her father has cancer, she decides to finally make the trip up to Alaska to meet him. She’s never understood her father’s life or why he would never leave his job to be with her and her mother. She finally has the opportunity to get to know him a little better, but fears it may be too late. At the same time, she meets her father’s best pilot, Jonah, and despite having almost nothing in common, they strike up a friendship that evolves mostly out of the two of them teasing one another. I’m not going to lie, I totally fell in love with Jonah, but this book has so much more going for it than just romance. I’m obsessed with any book set in Alaska and this was a great story about taking risks, getting out of your comfort zone, and walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.

5. Not That Bad edited by Roxane Gay

Not That Bad is a collection of stories about rape and rape culture that definitely needed to be told. I listened this anthology as an audiobook and I thought every single essay added something valuable to the collection and as a whole, the essays were extremely diverse. The premise of the book is that any story about rape, assault, or rape culture deserves a space and to be heard. People often refrain from sharing the things that have happened to them because they think they are not that bad compared to what has happened to other people they known. Gay wants to break down that idea that there is any kind of scale for breaking down the things that happen to us. Every story is that bad and every pain deserves to be acknowledged. It is only by sharing our stories that it becomes evident just how pervasive and widespread rape culture is. Your voice deserves to be heard – what happened to you is that bad – there is no hierarchy of pain and we acknowledge you.

4. Women Talking by Miriam Toews

This was my first Toews book, but I was totally blown away by it. It’s a short and simple book, but so startling in it’s honesty. Women Talking is based on a Mennonite community in rural Bolivia where the women were continuously subjected to sexual assault in secret by members of the community. They were not believed and were told that they were being punished for their sins. Eventually it came out that several men in the community had been knocking the women out with animal anesthetic and raping them in their sleep and they were arrested. This is the re-imagined conversation that took place between the women in deciding how to move forward from this ordeal. As they see it, they have three options: they can do nothing, stay and fight, or they can leave. It is extremely thoughtful and thought-provoking. Even though these characters are imagined, I was inspired by the women and their ability to forgive, love one another, and use humour to move on with their lives.

3. Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

Okay, now we’re into the top 3! It’s hard to organize the lower end of this list because I liked all those books but they’re not the top books that stand out to me and it’s difficult to rank them. But the top of list is easier because they were my favourite books that I read this year, starting with Wundersmith, the sequel to Nevermoor. The Nevermoor series is a new middle grade fantasy series that I am obsessed with. I’ve compared it multiple times to Harry Potter, not because it’s like Harry Potter, but because it reminds me of all the things I loved about Harry Potter and in how it makes me feel. Morrigan Crow is a cursed child, destined to die on the eve of her 11th birthday. But instead, she is whisked away by enigmatic Jupiter North to the land of Nevermoor, which is filled with magic and flying umbrellas and gigantic talking cats. It is such a fun series filled with so much whimsy! The world building is incredible and the plot is clever and has a lot of depth. I am in love with the characters and the world Jessica Townsend has created and I cannot wait to see where she takes this series in the future!

2. Our Homesick Songs by Emma Hooper

Our Homesick Songs took me totally by surprise. It’s historical fiction about Newfoundland’s cod fishery and the moratorium in 1992. It’s about family, community, loneliness, music, and love of place. The Connor family has always lived in the small rural, island town of Big Running and has  always survived off the cod fishery. When the fish disappear, many families are forced to make tough decisions about their future and leave their homes in search of work on the mainland. Aidan and Martha try and avoid that fate for their children, Cora and Finn, and instead decide to share a job at one of the camps in Northern Alberta. But as their community slowly disappears, Cora and Finn struggle with the changes to the life they’ve always known and the hole in their community. As a Newfoundlander, this book spoke to a part of my soul and I absolutely fell in love with Hooper’s writing style. I can see how it might not work for everyone, but her writing evoked such a feeling of homesickness that I felt I’d just moved right into the pages with Cora and Finn and Aidan and Martha. It’s a beautiful story about family and community and the links that tie us together. It’s a heartbreak story that was a reality for many Newfoundland families and I thought Hooper did a wonderful job of transporting her readers back to this time and place. I love the way she tied music into the story and I know this family will stick with me for a long time.

  1. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

And the number one spot goes to The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. I read this book back in June and nothing has been able to top it since. It was an extremely emotional, but enjoyable, reading experience and even 6 months later, I still can’t stop thinking about it. Setting is everything for me in this novel. The Great Alone is set in Alaska in the 1970’s and focuses on the Albright family: Ernt, Cora, and their daughter Leni. Ernt is a POW from the Vietnam War and suffers from PTSD. He’s worried about the direction the government is going and in an effort to get back to the land, moves the family to the small town on Kaneq in Alaska. They move in the height of summer and Leni is totally enamoured with the landscape and their hand to mouth existence. It’s hard work to survive in Alaska and the sense of purpose and the long summer days keep Ernt’s PTSD at bay. However, when the long winter starts, Ernt’s demons start to get the better of him and Leni begins to wonder if she’s more at risk from the dangers lurking outside her door or from the dangers lurking within. It is a heartbreaking story, but Hannah creates such a sense of place and community that I just totally fell in love with. The writing is beautiful and every character is so well imagined and developed. A wonderful story about family and community, but also about the challenges women faced in the 1970’s and still face today.

October Summary

I totally killed it this month, setting a new PB for most pages read in a month. I have Sarah J. Maas to thank because I’ve been re-reading her Throne of Glass series and those books are monsters. Plus, I flew through her 1,000 page finale! Here’s my summary:

Books read: 10
Pages read: 5,077
Main genres: Fantasy
Favourite book: Kingdom of Ash
Favourite Re-read: Empire of Storms

October and November have to be some of the best months for new book releases. I have so many anticipated reads spread over the last month and into next month that it’s hard to keep track. I started off the month with one of my most anticipated reads of the last 3 years with JK Rowling’s new book in the Cormoran Strike series, Lethal White. I feel like I’ve been waiting for this book forever and it did not disappoint. I love the balance Rowling strikes between the mystery investigation and Robin and Strike’s personal lives. My only regret is reading this one too fast.

Also new this month was the companion novel to The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, similarly named The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy; the new graphic novel Check, Please! #Hockey; and a novel about Boko Haram, Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree. The latter was probably my favourite of the three. Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree is a tough read about the atrocities Boko Haram is committing  in Nigeria, but important, I would recommend to everyone.

Check, Please! #Hockey is an absolutely adorable graphic novel about freshman hockey player Bitty’s first year in college. He’s gay, loves nothing more than baking, and has a huge fear about being checked. It’s a great book about friendship and the pressures of college and sports. I really liked it and can’t wait for part 2 to come out next year! Unfortunately I didn’t love The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy quite as much as it’s predecessor. It was still a fun read packed full of meaningful observations about 17th century women, but it wasn’t quite as funny and I thought the plot was a little lacking. All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover was my one romance read of the year and I was pleasantly surprised by it. It is a romance novel, but it packs a punch by addressing several other little talked about issues in the plot.

My book club pick of the month was Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows. I decided to listen to this as an audiobook and ended up loving it! It wasn’t a favourite at my book club, but I thought it was a really fun read that actually packed a really meaningful punch about traditional and modern culture. My other audiobook of the month was The Woman’s Hour by Elaine Weiss, which is about women’s fight for the right to vote in America. I’ve been working on this audiobook for several months and while I liked that this book exists, I struggled with the audiobook being really boring. I wrote a brief review on my goodreads page, but I haven’t decided if I will share it on my blog or not because it’s hardly a review.

Finally, I re-read Queen of Shadows and Empire of Storms in anticipation of Sarah J. Maas’ new book and epic series finale, Kingdom of Ash. I have been loving my re-read, but thank god it is now over because it was so emotionally draining at the end and now I really just need to read anything that is not fantasy. Surprisingly I didn’t love Queen of Shadows quite as much as I remembered on my re-read, but I think I may have loved Empire of Storms even more. I finally pinpointed what I liked about it so much, which is that the main characters are actually all together for most of the novel. I’ve gotten used to them being separate for the last few books, but it was great seeing them all come together in Empire of Storms. It made for a much faster paced book, and boy was it ever intense!

Kingdom of Ash is finally out there in the world. Despite actually quite liking the finale, I did write a bit of a critical review of it. I thought there were a few problematic elements and parts that I didn’t like, but overall it was a pretty fast paced and emotional finale. I liked the ending and I feel mostly satisfied with how the series finished.

I’m thrilled now for November because it is my favourite reading month! The Goodreads Choice Awards were just announced yesterday and I love challenging myself to read and vote in as many categories as possible, so I just added a ton of books to my TBR!

Kingdom of Ash

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genres: Fantasy
Pub date: Oct. 23, 2018 (read Oct. 2018)
Series: Throne of Glass Book #7

This is going to be a beast of a review for a 1,000 page beast of book. Kingdom of Ash has totally taken over my life this past week and I have so many thoughts on the conclusion to this epic series.

As usual, I’m a little torn on how to rate this. Did I enjoy reading it? Absolutely. Was it intense? Undoubtedly. Am I satisfied with the ending? Mostly. Did it still have problematic elements? Sadly, yes.

This series has had a lot of ups and downs over the years. Upon re-reading the series, I’ve come to the conclusion that Crown of Midnight and Empire of Storms were my favourite books in the series, and Tower of Dawn was my least favourite. KoA kept me on the edge of my seat for the full 1,000 pages, but it could definitely have been shorter and I don’t think it will top my list for favourite book in the series.

Disclaimer, I won’t be able to keep this review spoiler free, so if you haven’t read the book yet, I would hold off on reading this review.

First off, the beginning of this book is really dark. I mean, I was expecting it to be dark based on how Empire of Storms ended, but I was not anticipating just how far into the depths this would go. We know at the end of EoS that Aelin is trapped by Maeve and likely to be tortured, but it was so much darker and worse than I expected. In fact, my spirits were so low in the first 300 pages of this book that I almost had to put it aside for a while and I was unsure whether Maas would be able to redeem the story after bringing it to such a low point. However, though I could have done without some of the descriptions and inference of how Aelin was tortured (I really hate any depictions of torture), I appreciate that Maas didn’t shy away from the impact it had on Aelin. Aelin is a mess after escaping from Maeve and she doesn’t bounce back. Every day is a struggle and she tries to put on a brave face for the people around her, but we know she has been broken. She is so tired of the war and the sacrifices demanded of her and she repeatedly says she just wants it to be over. Her feelings rang so true for me and I was really glad Maas wrote Aelin this way and didn’t shy away from the impact it would have on her. As a side note, I also loved the inclusion of Rowan asking Aelin for consent before touching or kissing her again after she escapes Maeve. So overall, I thought Rowan and Aelin were really well done in this book. There were still a lot of sex scenes (overall, not just Aelin and Rowan), but they were definitely more low key and background to the plot.

My second favourite part of the story was by far Dorian. I thought Dorian kicked some ass in this book. He was really more of a tag along character in EoS. He was recovering from his ordeal with the valg prince and didn’t contribute a lot to the story. But Dorian is a king in his own right and I wanted to see him play a larger role in the story. Maas definitely delivered in KoA. He takes control of his own power, makes his own decisions based on the needs of his kingdom over his personal (or anyone else’s) wishes. He is not afraid and takes on the enormous burden of finding the third wyrdkey. My favourite moment in his story arc was when he tricks Maeve. I figured he had some other plan up his sleeve, but I ultimately expected him to be overcome by Maeve and I loved when he destroyed Morath all on his own. The only thing I wasn’t into was Dorian and Manon’s relationship. There’s not really any chemistry between them and I found it hard to believe someone as badass as Manon would be into someone like Dorian. I didn’t like when he basically made her ask him to stay, but I did like that they both understood that she would ultimately never be happy with Dorian, and that while she liked him, her Queendom meant way more to her. She wanted to win back and live in the Wastes and Dorian wanted to rebuild his kingdom.

Finally, I was pretty into Elide in this book. In my review of Empire of Storms, I talked about how important of a character Elide is because she’s essentially the only one without any physical strengths, but she gets by just fine on her wits. I was thrilled to see her play spy in Doranelle at the beginning of the book and to see her repeatedly save her friends throughout the story. She plays a huge role in winning the war and I was shocked at how important her and Yrene were to the conclusion of the story. I just expected Maas to give the glory to one of the other characters, and I actually thought it was great that she wrote Yrene and Elide as two of the heroes of the story. The only thing I didn’t like was how mean Elide was to Lorcan at the beginning. I thought it was justified at the end of EoS, and I could see her just ignoring him through this book, but she was actively mean to him, which I didn’t like.

That said, I did really like Lorcan in this book and I LOVED Fenrys. Fenrys was kind of irrelevant in EoS, but his story in this book is devastating, yet beautiful. He and Aelin suffered so much and I really liked the relationship Maas developed between them. How two people who had suffered so much, could understand each other so well and be a comfort to one another while they both tried to heal themselves. Plus I thought their storyline was clever and I loved their secret code. As for Lorcan, he’s a character who has developed so much since the start of EoS, when he was basically just a mindless killing machine, to finally finding some humanity and reason for living. He ended up being a very sensitive character and proves that even after 500 years, people are still capable of change.

While we’re talking about the cadre, I will say that I’ve never really cared for Gavriel. He was arguably the nicest of the cadre at the beginning, but he kind of just felt irrelevant. I didn’t care at all about him being Aedion’s dad and thought it was totally unnecessary filler. Plus I thought his reunion with Aedion was actually the worst thing ever. I was not impressed that Maas brought them together for like a minute, only to tear them apart again. I feel like she was trying to make this into a great sacrifice, but like, I never really cared about Gavriel and I think she only wrote this scene to get out of having to harm any of her other more important characters. It just felt kind of cheap.

Which is really one of the biggest complaints I have about this book. If you’re still reading this review and haven’t read the book, I’m about the get into major spoilers now. My complaint is that it felt unrealistic that nobody from Aelin’s court died at the end. I was gearing myself up for Dorian potentially sacrificing himself, which would have broke my heart, but been meaningful. I never really believed that Maas would see through the “queen who was promised” scenario because I just didn’t think she would separate her star crossed lovers, Aelin and Rowan. But really, no one died (I’ll get to the Thirteen). Aedion and Lysandra were fighting that tedious battle in Terrasen for the entirety of the novel, I found it very improbable that one of them wouldn’t die.

Aedion and Lysandra’s story was easily my least favourite sub-plot in this book. It was boring and so repetitive. Plus, the timeline made no sense. They fought essentially the same battle for the entire time that it took Aelin to escape, travel to Erilea over the span of weeks, take back Anielle, and then travel to Terrasen (again, over multiple weeks). I felt like it was supposed to create this huge sense of urgency, which it did, but it just wasn’t believable. Plus it was really boring! Also, side note, are we seriously supposed to believe this entire SERIES took place in just over a year? Girl please. There is no way Aelin escaped Endovier; dated Dorian and Chaol; saw her friend murdered; spent MONTHS in Wendlyn; met, fought, fell in love with, and MARRIED Rowan; came to terms with her heritage as queen; killed the king and brought down the glass castle; amassed Arobynn’s fortune and multiple armies; was captured for MONTHS and escaped; all in the span of ONE YEAR. Just no, not possible. She cannot possibly still be only 19 years old.

One of the main things I didn’t like about A Court of Wings and Ruin was that it was all about war and strategy and tactics. Maas lost a lot of the character development that made ACoMaF so great by making ACoTaR a more plot driven novel versus character driven (like ACoMaF was). I think she did a better job here, it was definitely still a character driven novel, but after a while battles just get boring and don’t necessarily drive your plot forward. Aedion and Lysandra’s plotline really needed more substance to it, it was just not enough to carry throughout the entire book. Plus, I really hate Aedion. Like a lot – especially at the beginning of this book. He is actually so mean to Lysandra. I said I didn’t like how Elide was mean to Lorcan, but I felt she was at least a little justified, whereas all Lysandra ever does is try to do what her Queen has asked of her and Aedion treats her like shit for it. I’ve never liked Aedion because he is so arrogant and borderline abusive, but he went to full abusive in this book and after he threw Lysandra out in the snow, I finally parted ways with him forever. In my eyes, he lost any chance of redemption and I really hoped Maas wouldn’t pair him and Lysandra together at the end. He was too mean to her and actually abusive. Super pissed about their storyline. In my opinion, Aedion would have been the perfect character to kill off. Someone needed to die, he’s still beloved, but like, we don’t need him.

Have I got through all the characters yet? There’s so freaking many! I don’t have much more to say about Chaol and Yrene or Nesryn. Honestly, did Tower of Dawn really even matter that much? When I read it I was like, oh this is actually really important to the storyline, but Aelin figured out Maeve was valg on her own anyways, so the only thing Tower of Dawn really added to this book was a huge army and a healer. We really didn’t need a 700 page book for that and I just thought all the characters from Tower of Dawn felt really two dimensional in this book. Everyone from EoS had this real depth to their characters, but Nesryn, Sartaq, Borte, and Falkan all felt like fillers. Yrene ended up being important, but for someone who was one of the core characters of the original series, I felt Chaol didn’t add that much to this story. I was glad to see him using his chair, cane, and horse, without complaining about it, and that he let Yrene live her life and wasn’t overprotective of her. I also loved seeing him and Dorian reunited, but overall Chaol just felt a little secondary.

And finally, Manon. I cried real tears for Asterin and the Thirteen! I loved how they died in that I thought it was a really powerful scene, but again, I kind of think Maas set them up to be the sacrifice over other characters. I loved watching them interact with the Crochans and how the Thirteen have always inspired Manon to be a better person. I was disappointed that Manon’s storyline seemed to focus more on Dorian than the Thirteen though. I don’t resent Maas for their sacrifice, because I did think it was really beautiful and well done, but I wish it had maybe been a little later in the plot? I don’t see how Manon could have ever come back from that. It really would have destroyed her. But I did love the scenes with the Bluebloods and that it was Petrah who took down Iskra.

I read an observation recently about how Manon should have been gay in this series and now I can’t stop thinking about it now. Maas has gotten push back about her books for not being diverse and being super straight. She tried to address this in ACoWaR by having Mor come out as gay, and the more I think it about it, it would have been so easy for Manon to have been gay. The witches totally don’t care about men at all, there are no male witches (well some in the Crochans I guess), and Manon is all about the sisterhood. Like, Manon and Asterin would have made the best couple ever. They definitely had more chemistry than Manon and Dorian.

Anyways, it brings me to another complaint about Maas’ books in general. I don’t get what the weird obsession is with mates and how the mating bond is like the strongest thing in existence. There’s definitely some abusive mates out there who probably trap each other in crappy relationships. In ACoMaF, Rhys even talks about how his parents were mates but weren’t actually that great together and that mates don’t always love each other, so it just seems like a really crappy system for finding your life partner. And I don’t get why is Maas so obsessed with pairing off every single one of her characters. Are there any single characters in this series? Because I can’t think of any? Fenrys and Gavriel are the only ones that come to mind, but not even Gavriel really because he’s supposedly still in love with Aedion’s mother who died. It just gets a little tedious and repetitive when every single main character turns out to be mates with another main character. Even Aedion and Lysandra? Like I knew they were going to end up together, but I didn’t think Maas was going to push the mate thing on them too. (and even the wvyerns have mates, lol, although kind of cute because Abraxos is adorable)

So I obviously have complaints about this book/series. I thought the whole Aelin escaping death thing was too convenient. It kind of cheapened the whole “queen who was promised” storyline and the fact that the Gods didn’t even take Erawan with them? What the hell?! Why did we just waste 3 books searching for wrydkeys, who even cares if it doesn’t get rid of Erawan?

Maas had the perfect setup to save both Aelin and Dorian, I don’t know why she didn’t use it? It made sense that Aelin would want to take the burden upon herself, and her asking Dorian to share the burden would be a great lesson in relying on your friends. You don’t have to do everything yourself, take everything on yourself – arguably one of Aelin’s biggest flaws. The idea that the two of them could each give half of their power was such a brilliant plot element in my opinion and would have been a really nice and sentimental moment about friendship. But no, Aelin had to take it all on herself and then have Maas make up some stupid way for her to escape it all. Did anyone else pick up on that Rhysand cameo by the way? I thought that was the freaking weirdest thing ever. I also missed the part in the plot where the keys were about sending the gods away… I thought it was just about sealing the gate Erawan was using and sending him back. I didn’t realize we were going to banish the gods as well. Ballsy move Maas, but it just didn’t really seem to fit the rest of the story.

However, I did like that Aelin actually lost her powers (though this still could have been accomplished with each her and Dorian each giving half their power). But I didn’t like that she had to lose her humanity. Also just felt very cheap. But I liked that she ultimately learns to rely on her friends by letting Elide, Yrene, and Dorian take care of Erawan, and that she took on Maeve without her powers. It said more about the character of the cast that they weren’t afraid to take on these two demons, even with reduced powers. So I actually did really like the conclusion of the book, with the exception of the random wolf tribe faes coming in at the end. They are literally never mentioned anywhere in the book, so it felt really anti-climatic and cheap. Plus, I need someone to explain to me how Aelin opened up all the portals, because that felt like a huge plot hole to me.

Mostly the battle scenes just felt really repetitive. I was nervous that this would happen after how ACoWaR ended. There were a lot of battles going on in this book, and they were constantly saved by a new ally showing up in the nick of time, only to have Erawan again send more forces that again warranted the arrival of yet another ally to save them. But the wolf tribe was by far the weirdest, because it didn’t even seem like it was really necessary. The Khagan’s forces seemed to mostly have everything under control, and if you’re just going to have all the armies collapse when Erawan dies, than you didn’t really need an extra army anyways.

I think that’s most of what I wanted to say. I do have one last comment about how Maas seems to have lifted a few plot points and phrases out of the Lord of the Rings movies/books. I picked up a few of them myself and was kind of like, “I think that’s from LoTR”, but didn’t think that much of it, but then I read this review about it and realized just how many times some things seems to be lifted from LoTR, so I think it’s worth mentioning.

I have ended up voicing a lot of complaints here, so despite how it might seem, I did actually really enjoy this book. I don’t think I’ll be in a hurry to re-read it and there were definitely problematic elements, but there was also a lot that I really liked about it. Like I said, I actually really liked the conclusion and I will be sad to part ways with this series. It’s definitely been a journey and it’s great to see epic fantasy series like this coming from female authors. Writers are definitely held to a higher standard these days, but it’s not an excuse to not have diversity in your books. Sarah started writing this series like 15 years ago, so it may be interesting to see what she comes up with after finally parting ways with something she’s been working on for half her life. This series was incredibly impressive in scope and I think I’ll always have fond feelings for it. But now I am feeling thoroughly wiped out and I need to go read anything that is not fantasy while I decompress.

Much love!