Review: “The Ikessar Falcon” by K.S. Villoso

Title: The Ikessar Falcon
Series: Chronicles of the Bitch Queen #2
Author: K.S. Villoso
Publication Date: September 22, 2020
Publisher: Orbit
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

ARC provided by the publisher. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

K.S Villoso takes readers down a dark and treacherous path in this action-packed sequel to The Wolf of Oren-Yaro.

The spiral to madness begins with a single push.

Abandoned by her people, Queen Talyien’s quest takes a turn for the worst as she stumbles upon a plot deeper and more sinister than she could ever have imagined, one that will displace her king and see her son dead. The road home beckons, strewn with a tangled web of deceit and impossible horrors that unearth the nation’s true troubles – creatures from the dark, mad draggons, and men with their hearts hungry for power.

To save her land, Talyien must confront the myth others have built around her: Warlord Yeshin’s daughter, symbol of peace, warrior and queen, and everything she could never be.

The price of failure is steep. Her friends are few. And a nation carved by a murderer can only be destined for war.

Heavy is the head that wears the crown.

Well, it’s actually uneasy lies the head wears the crown, but I think the Bard will agree with me that the former fits this story better.

With more on the line for Queen Talyien, The Ikessar Falcon is even more intense and propulsive than its predecessor. It picks up immediately after the events of The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, with Tali trapped in enemy territory desperate to go home to her own empire and her son Thanh.

K.S. Villoso expands the world she introduced, taking readers deeper into Tali’s world, one fraught with dangerous creatures, mad dragons, and unknown powers. I loved that we got more information about the mysterious agan, which was already touched on by the first book. There’s more to know about it, I’m pretty sure, but at least we learn a bit more about how it works and how it adds up to the sum of Tali’s many, many problems.

Characters introduced in the series opener again join Tali in her journey in this installment, with some who only played a minor role taking first book taking on more prominent parts. It’s something I’ve always appreciated in any story but more so in a Fantasy which tend to have a bigger cast. Villoso does a tremendous job playing with her characters, challenging them and throwing them into some really difficult situations. No one was spared, every character – from Tali to Khine, even Lo Bahn – was put through the wringer in this one, and it peeled back their layers, revealing more of what’s at the core of them. There was so much character growth in this one, but none more significant than Tali’s.

Queen Talyien remains the heart and soul of this story. By all means, she is still much like the Talyien readers met in The Wold of Oren-Yaro but somehow she is more vulnerable, more unsure of herself in this sequel. She is in precariously dangerous situation with all her problems boring down on her from all front. Tali is a multi-faceted characters and Villoso effectively showcases all her sides in this book: a mother fearing for her son’s safety, a queen grasping at her hold over her empire, a woman with wants and needs, a person flawed and imperfect who often makes mistakes but is trying her damndest to do what she thinks is best. She is relatable and understandable, and I just couldn’t help but feel for her even if I do disagree with some of her choices. Tali still hasn’t come fully to herself, and it would be so interesting to know how she fares in the next book knowing where this installment left her.

I totally loved this book. It’s quite honestly one of the best sequels read most recently. It took everything I loved from the first book, built on it and added a whole ton more – amazing wolrdbuilding, fully-formed characters, action that will leave you breathless, and a story that’ll draw you in from stat to finish. I definitely recommend this to everyone, especially if you love a whole lot of politics in your Fantasy.

Author photo (K.S. Villoso)

K.S. VILLOSO writes speculative fiction with a focus on deeply personal themes and character-driven narratives. much of her work is inspired by her childhood in the slums of Taguig, Philippines. She is now living amid the forest and mountains with her husband, children, and dogs in Anmore, BC.

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WEEK 1 (INTL)

September 14

Camillea Reads
Small Stained Pages
Thoughts Stained With Ink

September 15

moon & coffee.
Novels and Nebulas
Phrases & Pages

September 16

Bookathon
Flipping Through the Pages
Love Yo Shelf

September 17

My Fangirl Chronicles
Papertea & Bookflowers
The Last Reader – blog & booktube

September 18

Heart’s Content
The Perks of Being Noura
Vanshika’s Books

September 19

A Cup of Cyanide
mac n’ books
Utopia State of Mind

WEEK 2 (PH)

September 21

Her Book Thoughts
jonna and her wails
White Sky Project

September 22

Accio! Blog
In Between Book Pages
Pages in Waves

September 23

bookdragonism
The Bookworm Daydreamer
Musings of a Bookish Teacher

September 24

Afire Pages
Rarevenclaw – blog & booktube
Tomes and Thoughts

September 25

Enthralled Bookworm
infp_bookworm
Your Tita Kate – blog & booktube
Ysa, not Bella

September 26

Gerald The Bookworm
Ishiee Mouie – blog & booktube
Litfae
Oro Plata Myta
Trihoes – live show

First Line Fridays: “The Poppy War” by R.F. Kuang

First Line Fridays (feature photo)

First Line Fridays is a weekly feature hosted by Hoarding Books.


Happy Friday everyone!

I’ve been looking forward to this weekend. This coming Monday is a holiday here where I am and I get to have a rare long weekend for myself. Already, I’m planning my reading list.

I’ll be sharing the first few lines of a book I finished a couple of days ago – The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang.

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“Take your clothes off.”

Rin blinked. “What?”

The proctor glanced up from his booklet. “Cheating prevention protocol.” He gestured across the room to a female proctor. “Go with her, if you must.”

 

 

 

 

I know there isn’t much context in the first few lines of the book, but The Poppy War was an incredibly plotted story set in an equally well-crafted world. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and was hoping to get my hands on its sequel The Dragon Republic. Alas, I’m fourth in line for it, which means roughly 8 weeks waiting time. Sigh. Anyway, I’ll have The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty and the ARC of Wild Savage Stars by Kristina Pérez (which is coming out this 27th August) to tide me over.

💗💗💗

Rachel

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Come and join in the fun. Visit Hoarding Books to see what other FLF bloggers have to share.

 

Can’t-Wait Wednesday: “The Tiger at Midnight” by Swati Teerdhala

Can't Wait Wednesday

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted Tressa at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted Jill at Breaking the Spine.


Happy Wednesday everyone! This year it is truly raining great debuts and, today, I’m going to be featuring one of the titles that I’m most looking forward to.

38205303Title: The Tiger at Midnight
Series: The Tiger at Midnight #1
Author: Swati Teerdhala
Publication Date: April 23, 2019
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Kobo

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

Esha is a legend, but no one knows. It’s only in the shadows that she moonlights as the Viper, the rebels’ highly skilled assassin. She’s devoted her life to avenging what she lost in the royal coup, and now she’s been tasked with her most important mission to date: taking down the ruthless General Hotha.

Kunal has been a soldier since childhood, training morning and night to uphold the power of King Vardaan. His uncle, the general, has ensured that Kunal never strays from the path—even as a part of Kunal longs to join the outside world, which has only been growing more volatile.

Then Esha’s and Kunal’s paths cross—and an unimaginable chain of events unfolds. Both the Viper and the soldier think they’re calling the shots, but they’re not the only players moving the pieces. As the bonds that hold their land in order break down and their game transforms into a breathless chase of impossible attraction, both the soldier and the rebel must decide where their loyalties lie: with the lives they’ve killed to hold on to or with the love that’s made them dream of something more?

The Tiger at Midnight promised to be an epic read and I’m looking forward to get to know Esha and Kunal more. If you’re on the same page as I am, pre-order this book. Swati Teerdhala has a wonderful pre-order campaign for her baby, and the best part *queue drumroll* it’s open INTERNATIONAL. Pre-order The Tiger at Midnight until April 29 and enter the pre-order giveaway to get a signed bookplate, a bookmark and two exclusive illustrated character cards of Esha and Kunal. Here’s the link if you’ll be pre-ordering.

💗💗💗

Rachel

let's chat

What book/s are you excited for this week?

 

 

Review: “The Fever King” by Victoria Lee

39897058Title: The Fever King
Series: Feverwake #1
Author: Victoria Lee
Publisher: Skyscape
Publication Date: March 1, 2019
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐⭐
TW: Drug & alcohol abuse, violence, torture, genocide, mental health, parental death, death of child death
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

 

 

Debut author Victoria Lee mixes science fiction and fantasy to create an intriguing new world in her series opener The Fever King.

In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.

Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.

The Fever King is one of my most anticipated releases of this year. I’ve read a lot of good things about it from other bloggers who had the chance to read it in advance, and it made me just want to get my grabby, impatient hands on it. Needless to say, I pre-ordered my copy early (because I am weak!)

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This book deserved all the buzz it got!

I started reading it immediately soon as I got it on my Kindle and finished it almost in one sitting. Fast-paced and gripping, the story pulled me in and plunged me into this intriguing post apocalyptic world where magic runs rampant. I loved everything about this story – characters, plot, the topics it tackled without reservation, the diversity contained within its pages. The Fever King is easily one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.

Noam as a main character was so easy to love. He had a rough life, the son of undocumented immigrants fleeing magic-infested Atlantia, Carolinia’s neighboring country. After his mother’s death, Noam had to take care of his father who, in his grief, falls deep into depression.

But even his father is taken from him when viral magic hits his neighborhood killing everyone except Noam.

Noam is a complex character. Fierce and good-intentioned, though a little misguided and naive. His story reflects that of many migrants especially in the US. Being part of both worlds, I think he felt guilty, unnecessary but nevertheless there, and it drove him to strive to change things for the Atlantia refugees crossing lines and doing things he never thought he would do in the process. 

TFK 1.png

It was a ride reading and tracking his journey knowing that some of the people he has surrounded himself with have hidden agendas. You don’t know how many times I wanted to reach out into the book, grab Noam by his shoulders and shake some sense into him. Frustrating as it was for me as reader, I think Noam’s naivety and moral grayness made him more believable and realistic – more human – and it’s what endeared him more to me.

The Fever King tackles some pretty heavy stuff. Immigration and intergenerational trauma are just two of the most prevalent ones. Victoria Lee pulls no punches and weaves these topics into her narrative. But if you’re worried it will be too message-y, then fret not because it isn’t at all. This partly owes it to Lee’s seamless work, but mostly it’s because, I think, she really meant for this book to have half of its foundations built on politics. It’s one of the things I appreciate the most about this story.

TFK 3.png

As if it I need more reasons to love this book, The Fever King also features a diverse cast of characters. Noam is bisexual and Jewish. His father, while not directly stated in the book (I think, so correct me if I’m wrong) is Columbian. He converts into Judaism when he married Noam’s mother.

Dara, beautiful and mysterious Dara who had me trying to puzzle him out until the very end of this installment, is so unashamedly gay. He and Noam have this instant connection, tense at first then developing into something genuine towards the end.

TFK 2.png

Like Noam, Dara has been through some tough times. Some of it were alluded to in the book, but I could do with more. And maybe we’ll get that in the next book, but in this one I feel like I only half know him. The same goes for Calix Lehrer, the antagonist and Noam’s and Dara’s mentor.

Overall, The Fever King is an awesome book and a great series opener. Taking elements from both genres, it creates an intriguing balance between sci-fi and fantasy. I am totally in for this series and excited for the next book already. Let’s just hope my brain stops thinking about what might happen to Dara and how Noam’s going to play Lehrer’s game. I absolutely recommend this if you’re into sci-fi and fantasy with a generous peppering of political intrigue and manipulation.

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About the Author:

Victoria LeeVICTORIA LEE grew up in Durham, North Carolina, where she spent twelve ascetic years as a vegetarian before discovering that spicy chicken wings are, in fact, a delicacy. She’s been a state finalist competitive pianist, a hitchhiker, a pizza connoisseur, an EMT, an expat in China and Sweden, and a science doctoral student. She’s also a bit of a snob about fancy whiskey.

Lee writes early in the morning and then spends the rest of the day trying to impress her border collie puppy and make her experiments work. She currently lives in PA with her partner.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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GIVEAWAY!

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Win a copy of The Fever King by Victoria Lee. US only. Giveaway ends February 31.

Good luck!

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March 18th

March 19th

Moonlight Rendezvous – Review + Favourite Quotes
Morgan Vega – Review + Favourite Quotes
Novelishly – Review + Favourite Quotes
The Layaway Dragon – Review

March 20th

Utopia State of Mind – Guest Post
Phannie the ginger bookworm – Review + Favourite Quotes
Pages Below the Vaulted Sky – Review + Favourite Quotes
A Dream Within A Dream – Promotional Post

March 21st

Living a Hundred Lives – Review + Mood Board
In Between Book Pages – Review + Favourite Quotes < === Hey, you’re here!  🙂
The Book Bratz – Review + Favourite Quotes

March 22nd

Magical Reads – Review + Favourite Quotes
Confessions of a YA Reader – Promotional Post

March 23rd

SepiaReads – Review

March 24th

The Bibliophagist – Interview
Pages and Pugs – Review
Bookish_Kali – Review
Rebecca’s Reviews – Review + Favourite Quotes

 

Review: “Strange Grace” by Tessa Graton

32824058Title: Strange Grace

Author: Tessa Graton

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: September 18, 2018

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Get it:  IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Books-a-Million | Powells | iBooks

ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss

Three friends defy their town’s tradition in Tessa Graton’s newest YA Fantasy Strange Grace.

Long ago, a village made a bargain with the devil: to ensure their prosperity, when the Slaughter Moon rises, the village must sacrifice a young man into the depths of the Devil’s Forest.

Only this year, the Slaughter Moon has risen early.

Bound by duty, secrets, and the love they share for one another, Mairwen, a spirited witch; Rhun, the expected saint; and Arthur, a restless outcast, will each have a role to play as the devil demands a body to fill the bargain. But the devil these friends find is not the one they expect, and the lies they uncover will turn their town—and their hearts—inside out.

Strange Grace was one of the first books I got approved for months ago when I revived my blog last April. I have been excited to get to it, but since it releases late in the year and I’ve gotten other books with earlier release dates, I had to postpone reading it. The wait was certainly worth it though, as Strange Grace might just earn a place at my top fave reads this year.

Strange Grace has everything I want in a book – beautifully haunting writing, an intriguing, unique premise, twisty plot, great representation, and interesting and nuanced characters. It also tackles important topics such as gender expectations, and doing the right thing over the easy thing.

This story leans heavily on its main trio – Mairwen, a young witch coming from a long-line of Grace witches; Rhun, a beloved of the town and the expected next saint of Three Graces; and Arthur, the outcast. All three, though they all have their stories to tell, are so closely intertwined, so unapologetically complicated. Together they challenge their town’s tradition and force their people to look and examine their way of life, and I just couldn’t help but root for them to succeed.

At the beginning of this story, I thought the three will star in another love triangle – Mairwen is in love with Rhun who is in love with Arthur who is in love with Mairwen – but as the story progressed, the lines between the three began to blur and develop into a polyamorous relationship. This is not something I’d normally read, but Tessa Graton wrote Mairwen’s, Rhun’s and Arthur’s love for each other with much sensitivity and sincerity, and made it an integral part of her narrative without being a distraction.

The writing, oh goodness, the writing is another thing I loved about this book. Strange Grace has this fairy tale quality to it, though definitely not the type you see in Disney movies. Graton’s writing was so gorgeous and vivid that it just drew me into this dark, isolated small town she created. She revealed pieces of the story bit by bit as the characters themselves peel away the layers of secrets about their town. It may move a bit slow at first but, trust me, it only served to highlight the story even more.

Strange Grace is a one-of-a-kind book. I definitely recommend this to everyone, especially to readers who love dark fantasies. This is a perfect read for Fall.

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About the Author:

tg2017_smTESSA GRATON is the Associate Director of Madcap Retreats and the author of the Blood Journals Series and Gods of New Asgard Series, co-author of YA writing books The Curiosities and The Anatomy of Curiosity, as well as dozens of short stories available in anthologies and on merryfates.com. Though she’s lived all over the world, she’s finally returned to her prairie roots in Kansas with her wife. Her current projects include Tremontaineat Serial Box Publishing, YA Fantasy Strange Grace coming in 2018, and her adult fantasy debut, The Queens of Innis Lear, from Tor March 27, 2018.

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