The Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine

Prince of ShadowsPrince of Shadows by Rachel Caine
My rating: 5 of 5 teacups

“I stood in the dark corner of my enemy’s house, and thought of murder.”

Well, that was completely unexpected. I decided to read this book because I have an arc of it, because it was Shakespeare, because I was curious, but… I have to confess, I was expecting the worst. For a few reasons: 1) I couldn’t even make it through the first book of the author’s Morganville Vampires series, 2) Well, duh, it’s a Shakespeare retelling, and 3) Romeo and Juliet has always sparked conflicted emotions within me. In terms of language and style, it’s exceptionally beautiful, with the kind of passionate writing that makes you want to throw yourself to the wolves in the name of true love:

“These violent delights have violent ends and in their triumph die, like fire and powder which, as they kiss, consume.”

“When he shall die, take him and cut him out in little stars. And he will make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun.”

You can get all caught up in that kind of red hot drama. But, when it comes down to it, the story is really about a pair of angsty, melodramatic teenagers who take instalove to an all new level. I’ve never really bought into the romantic side of Romeo & Juliet, I always found the family politics far more fascinating. So when Caine balanced her romance with a good deal of family dramatics, scandals, betrayals, action, curses and revenge, she actually created something I was always going to love. And her writing style was PERFECT for a Shakespeare retelling.

“A curse for love, cast in my own hand and faith and flesh. A curse of love, on the house of the guilty. Let them feast on love, as crows feast on the dead. Perhaps I am, after all, mad.”

This book tells a story that runs parallel to the one most of you will be familiar with. Almost everything is happening the same but we see it from a whole new perspective and uncover surprising details. Like the fact that Benvolio is the Prince of Shadows – a Robin Hood-like character who steals from the rich, selfish and greedy – and has his own forbidden love for Juliet’s cousin, Rosaline. Or the fact that Mercutio is secretly in love with a man and his double life threatens to endanger them all. Caine takes all the old characters and develops them in new and exciting ways – I was mesmerized.

“She knew tragedy with an intimacy that was almost obscene.”

Everything about this was just… right for me. It is deliciously romantic, yet hopelessly tragic. It’s dark, yet often funny (especially in the banter between Benvolio, Romeo and Mercutio). But one of my favourite things about the novel could be seen as a negative for some readers and it will all depend on your reaction to the original story. And that is the way Caine portrays Romeo. Not as a self-sacrificing romantic hero, but as an immature, bratty – albeit strangely lovable – boy of sixteen. I have more respect for the way romance and love is portrayed in the story because I don’t have to try and force myself to believe in teen instaobsession. When compared to Romeo and Juliet’s romance, the love between Benvolio and Rosaline seems far more mature and believable, but no less passionate and sexy (more so on the latter).

If you want a beautifully-written, atmospheric retelling that is as menacingly dark as it is sensual and passionate, I really don’t think you need to look any further. I was very pleasantly surprised.

“But I warn you, what pulls them together is nothing a mortal man may battle; it is a holy fire, I tell you, a most holy fire that burns in them.”
“The devil can stoke a fire as well as ever God could.”

Donners of the Dead by Karina Halle

Donners of the DeadDonners of the Dead by Karina Halle
My rating: 4 of 5 teacups

So there’s some…

Chills gripped my chest with an iron fist the moment Isaac turned his head and stared down at me. Half of his face was gone, his eyeball blasted into his face leaving a dark red and black hole of bone, brain and blood.

and a bit of…

We were a tribe of two but a tribe all the same. Two broken people looking for their place in the world and finding each other.

Woah. That was one hell of a sexy, creepy rollercoaster. If Karina Halle set out to have us sleeping with the lights on with this latest addition to her impressive works, then she can consider it mission accomplished as far as I’m concerned. I hope you’re not too hung up on the concept of genre because Ms Halle gives traditional genre boundaries the middle finger with this… historical zombie horror western romance. Somehow, she manages to bring sexy cowboys and flesh-eating monsters to the table at the same time and make it work. I don’t know how she does it, but I couldn’t put this book down.

There was a loud, solid thunk on the porch, followed by another. The house shook slightly. I kept my eyes trained on the outside but couldn’t see anything. But I could smell it. It was blood and sweat and hay and horse and something unfathomable. A severe chill threaded down my back.

The dark, creepy, foreboding tone of this novel is set from the very start and it only gets scarier as the story wears on. It’s an historical horror re-imagining of the true story about the Donner Party – a group of American pioneers who in 1846-7 became snowbound in the Sierra Nevada and had to resort to cannibalism to survive. I love love love it when a fictional story weaves in elements of truth – it makes the paranormal/fantasy aspects seem even more real and believable. And the author certainly knows how to use language to create a sense of impending tragedy:
Autumn was at our doorstep and winter was lurking in the darkness behind it.

Then there’s that whole steamy romance that is happening alongside the horror.

He’s a broody cowboy and she’s half-native american. He’s seen the world and she’s spent her entire life in a small town, working for her uncle. An expedition into the mountains forces the unlikely pair together and they soon find out just how much their survival depends on each other. What I really love about Halle’s characters is how they’re all often just a tiny bit nasty at times. They’re all flawed, all troublemakers and rebels. No Mary Sues or whatever you want to call them. They’re fleshed out and make mistakes and say the wrong things sometimes… but they’re still likable. I think it’s really great when an author can do that. When they can take people who you maybe shouldn’t like and convince you to be on their side. It’s one of the main reasons I loved Sins & Needles, it’s one of the main reasons I loved this, and it’s also the main reason I will continue to be excited every time I see Halle has an upcoming book release.

One final haunting piece of truth:

Men are the real monsters here. They often are.

Thank you to the guys at Rock Star PR for the ARC! Please note that all quotes are taken from the advance review copy I received and may differ from the final version.

The Star Thief by Jamie Grey

The Star Thief (Star Thief Chronicles, #1)The Star Thief by Jamie Grey
My rating: 5 of 5 teacups

Welcome to my first ever five teacup review for a New Adult book.

“If nothing else, humanity excelled at war.”

I’ve been considering abandoning this whole silly “NA experiment” thing a bunch of times and getting back to books I’m more likely to have a good chance of enjoying. But I decided to have one last browse through some of the recently released New Adult; I moved my search to further down the pile, past all the popular “this is the next 50 Shades” titles and to the ones with fewer ratings. That’s where I discovered this book. A book that promised to be all kinds of wild and crazy scifi-ness combined with a steamy romance. I wasn’t really expecting much. But damn, not only did this book deliver the promised goods, it hooked me from the start and gave me an exciting combination of everything I love: spunky heroine, great writing, an imaginative world, humour and, yes, sexual tension so thick you could cut it with a knife.

In this novel, the world we all know is the “old world” and this futuristic tale plants us right in the middle of space. And conflict. Don’t be fooled by what you would usually expect from the New Adult “genre”, this is very much a hardcore, detailed and sophisticated piece of science fiction. It is as much a story about war, slavery and military operations as it is a sexy romance. But both aspects of the book complement each other and make for an exciting pageturner. The author doesn’t neglect her world-building, space politics or action scenes. She has written one of those creatures that I love above all others: a genre-defying beast that takes all the best elements of my favourite genres and mixes them together to create something even better.

Then there’s the chemistry between Renna and Finn. She knew him as Hunter a long time ago and she always thought he’d died until fate throws them together again for the most important mission of their lives. Their history hangs in the air between them making the verbal sparring even more entertaining and hot. God, I love Renna. Finn’s a bit of a jerk at first (we learn the reason later) but she gives as good as she gets:

Renna lowered her voice to match his tone. “I don’t mind you on top, darling. It’s when you start pushing me around that we’ll have a problem.” She smiled at him coldly. “So I’ll do my job, don’t you worry. Just don’t expect me to play by your rules. You know I was never very good at following orders.”

I love how bitingly sarcastic, funny and totally unapologetic she is. She is exactly the kind of heroine I love. This isn’t supposed to be a humour book but there are a number of great lines scattered throughout – which I won’t quote because you should discover them yourself – and I found myself laughing out loud a number of times. It was also very refreshing to get a female MC in New Adult who wasn’t obsessed with being virginal and shaming other women for being “slutty”. Renna is very comfortable with her sexuality and with other women. I liked this quote:

The woman stood up straighter and puffed out her chest. She did have a nice rack. Renna would have puffed them out, too.

The book does end on a bit of a cliffhanger but I still recommend you go pick this up now. I honestly liked how everything was handled – it was well-written with lots of plot but provided me with the kind of romance I could happily stick around for. There was a realistic progression with all the relationships in the story and I particularly liked how the dislike and suspicion between Renna and her other crew mates blossomed into mutual trust and respect over time. Very, very impressive and entertaining. And I’m sure all your inner nerds will perk up at the science-y language, the artificial intelligence and the cybernetic implants. You know I’m right:)

Landry Park by Bethany Hagen

Landry Park (Landry Park, #1)Landry Park by Bethany Hagen
My rating: 4 of 5 teacups

What a pleasant surprise! I didn’t realise I’d added Landry Park to my mental list entitled “just another dystopia” until it managed to completely prove me wrong. My first thought after finishing this book is that it’s probably more suited to fans of historical fiction than the typical dystopia. The style of writing, the plot, the characters and the setting all feel like something straight out of an historical novel. If you ask me, it worked very well.

The story starts as I might have expected. There’s a female protagonist, it’s set in a future United States (no longer so united), something has happened to change the social order, there’s a hot guy, there’s a bitchy girl… you know how this one goes, right? Because you’ve seen all this a million times, yes? Well, apparently not. As the story unravels, more questions arise and characters receive greater development. The world-building is spread over the novel but is refreshingly intricate and fascinating. The story is full of surprises, both in the main plot line and in the cast of characters. And sometimes who can resist a bit of the backstabbing, rivalry and family scandals found beneath the riches and pretty ballgowns of the upper classes?

This “dystopia” (or perhaps “utopia”, depending on your point of view) is all about class. It’s about wealth, knowledge, power and the relationship between the three. The setting is the beautiful Landry estate in a future United States which is ruled by the gentry. The main character – Madeline Landry – has lived in luxury her whole life and has long known her destiny to be the next ruler of the Landry estate. But Madeline has always been a bit feisty and rebellious. She isn’t sure she’s ready to walk down the path her family has laid out for her. As she begins to discover the truth behind the society in which she lives, she finds herself obligated to challenge the poor treatment of the Rootless (the lowest class in society). But her good intentions prove to be more dangerous than she could have imagined and she starts to unearth secrets that have been hidden for generations.

What I really liked most of all was the way each character was handled. Hagen introduces us to individuals who we think we know at first, we think we can slot them into neat categories of heroine, love interest and mean girl. But each one is more than that. I love it when YA authors don’t neglect complex character development and remember that people are multilayered. Each character surprised me in Landry Park and I especially loved the friendship that grew between Madeline and Cara when it had first seemed as if they were typical teen girl rivals.

Beautifully written, occasionally dark and surprisingly addictive… I hate the term “an author to watch” but I know I’ll be keeping an eye out for more books by Ms Hagen.

The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley

The Emperor's BladesThe Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley
My rating: 5 of 5 teacups

Stayed up till 2:45 reading this bad boi.

I’m not sorry.

But I do have a lot of packing I have to do since I blew everything off to read all day yesterday. Not sorry about that either, lol.

Super duper quick though, this book was really fabulous. Great prose (toed the purple line once in a while, and it’s like the author caught that and reeled it back in – loved that), outstanding characters, completely engrossing storyline, and TOTALLY AWESOME world. I am on the edge of my seat waiting to see what comes next!! Those twists and turns and that last reveal, GAH! This is a debut book, but you’d never know it by the skill in which the story is told, and I for one will be on the lookout to see what other gems Brian Staveley brings to this genre.

My only – very minor – complaints: there are three pov’s here, but the two brothers’ dominated so much that I would be slightly annoyed at being pulled from their tense moments, only to be annoyed at leaving Adare’s story so quickly. This complaint is more like a compliment since it’s just me wanting moar, but there it is just the same.

People would vacillate between referring to Ha Lin that way, or just Lin, and it caught my eye every single time. This is a personal thing I’m sure, but whatever, reading is personal.

I’m always in awe when I read a high fantasy story (granted, I haven’t read that many), but what must it be like to construct such an immense story! I mean, I don’t think that my typical fare of stories are easy to write per se, I know I’d never be able to, but then I read something like this, and my mind is just blown by the sheer amount of work and imagination involved. Hats off to a brilliant new addition to a brilliant genre!

Uninvited by Sophie Jordan

Uninvited (Uninvited, #1)Uninvited by Sophie Jordan
My rating: 3 of 5 teacups

Maybe I’m being generous. Or unfair. I can’t decide exactly how I feel about Jordan’s latest young adult novel – Uninvited. I recently had my low expectations trampled on by her impressive contribution to the new adult craze – Foreplay – and couldn’t wait to see what more she had to offer. But Uninvited was a disappointment. It suffered from flaws in the very foundation of the story and the characters, even though the author’s writing was compulsively readable enough to make me sail through it in a day and still up my rating to three stars. It’s a combination of addictive, fast-paced plotting and a worn out, unconvincing story. It’s entertaining, but also has a disappointingly weak protagonist. It wasn’t bad and yet it could have been so much better.

There is much to celebrate and Uninvited will no doubt be an easy sell for many teens. The plot moves at a breakneck pace, dragging us into the action and drama from the very first chapter and delivering new punches at every turn. It reminded me somewhat of Divergent in this sense – I found myself simultaneously shaking my head at the ridiculous ideas I was asked to believe and reading on like a crazy person in my need to see what would happen next. Even in this you can see that Jordan is used to writing books for adults or “new adults” in the mature themes she doesn’t shy away from incorporating. There are plenty of descriptions of violence that aren’t sugarcoated for a younger audience… and I kinda liked that. In fact, this book contains that which is perhaps most important when writing a good dystopian book – a very real sense of fear, frustration and helplessness. I’ve read plenty of dystopian books that have failed to convince me that things are really that bad, but there’s no danger of that here.

The story is about a music prodigy – Davy Hamilton – whose life is ruined when she is tested for and found to have Homicidal Tendency Syndrome (HTS), also known as the kill gene. Abandoned by her friends, feared by her parents and forced to change schools, Davy finds that other carriers like her might be the only people she can turn to. Even though the idea is a bit daft (well, it is), it sort of half works. I can see what the author was trying to do and many interesting ideas are brought to the table… about nature vs nurture, about humanity, about evil and hypocrisy, but I do think the romance dampens all the other powerful messages floating around. So many ideas are pushed aside by the spotlight stealing cliche of a good girl/bad boy romance. I thought we were going to learn something important but it turns out it’s another one all about being saved by lurrrve.

And I thought Davy was a weak character. It was probably a deliberate move in a bid to make us more sympathetic towards a girl who’d been accused of being a killer, but it actually made her more annoying. A lot of emphasis is placed on who she’s going to find to protect her – and many opportunities are set up for Sean to swoop in and save her ass – and she had a tendency to be mind-numbingly stupid. She stupidly puts herself in a lot of dangerous situations and constantly requires saving by Sean, neither fact particularly endeared me to either of them. But the worst bit of all was when Sean knelt over Davy, pushing her down into the bed, just to prove that she was vulnerable to anyone who wanted to rape her. It made me feel pretty sick.

Hmm, I’m not sure if I’ll be continuing with the second book. I think I might just wait and see what the reviews are like before making a decision. But I will look out for more of Jordan’s novels.

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Cruel BeautyCruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
My rating: 5 of 5 teacups

Well, I thought this was wonderful.

What is Cruel Beauty?

– It’s a gorgeously written blend of Beauty and the Beast retelling and Greek mythology.
– It’s at once a powerful, wonderful, heart-breaking love story and so so much more than that.
– It’s a dark tale that stabs you in the heart at every turn and constantly throws all new levels of craziness into the mix.
– And it’s the latest addition to my favourite YA of all time shelf.

Cruel Beauty shouldn’t work. But somehow it does. It managed to have me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. It shocked me. It creeped me out. I laughed. I cried. I’m still not sure I understand the ending but I am sure that it doesn’t really matter. In short, I loved it. It was one of those rare books that literally glued my eyes to the page, had me devouring each sentence in a mad need to find out what the hell was going on and what would happen. It was a bizarrely beautiful little addiction and I only hope this signifies the start of a great year for young adult (after the last was so disappointing).

So… Nyx. The best books are held aloft by a great protagonist and Cruel Beauty is no exception. Nyx is exactly the kind of character I love. She’s strong-willed, witty and brave. She’s also angry, bitter and ferocious. She’s lived her whole life being prepared as a weapon; and as a sacrifice. Her father made a deal with the Gentle Lord – the evil ruler of their kingdom – before Nyx and her twin sister were born. Their mother had been unable to conceive a child, so their father foolishly asked that the Lord grant them children and promised one of his daughters to the Lord in exchange. But he also lost his wife to childbirth in the bargain. The Gentle Lord’s habit of cashing in double on his deals is well-known. Nyx, as the child her father loved less, has long-known her destiny to be the wife of the Gentle Lord. When the times comes, she goes with determination, fear and anger. She does not play by the Lord’s rules. She is defiant. She tests his patience. I liked her instantly.

Then there is Ignifex, of course. The Lord that has terrorized their kingdom for centuries. The one who carries the blood of countless innocents on his hands. But, unsurprisingly, things are never quite that simple. What I liked best about Ignifex was his wicked sense of humour. There’s nothing quite like a villain who is constantly witty and hilarious. The complex layers of each character in this book just blew my mind, no one is ever simple or cliche. The heroine does plenty of bad things and the evil villain… well, be careful you don’t fall in love.

Cruel Beauty was just so unexpected. I thought I knew exactly what it was as soon as I glimpsed the cover, title and GR description. I thought I understood perfectly and I thought I’d probably read countless versions of the same book. How wrong I was. This is honestly quite unlike anything I’ve ever read before. I liked how everything about the book, the setting, the story and the characters was a bit like one of those Russian dolls. Something else within something else within something else. Then there’s that whole haunting bittersweet tone that permeates this entire novel. I swear Ms Hodge has perfected the art of raising goosebumps with a perfectly-spun twist on an old Greek myth. And it just got better and better.

I think this review is more of an incoherent mess of feelings, so I’ll stop now before the drooling starts. What I want to know is this: when is the author releasing another book?

The Falconer by Elizabeth May

The Falconer (The Falconer, #1)The Falconer by Elizabeth May
My rating: 2 of 5 teacups

Goodreads members have differing opinions on what kind of rating is the hardest to write a review for. Some say it’s the ones they didn’t like – perhaps trying to keep a balance between their own subjective dislikes and the overall general standard of the book; some say it’s the all time favourites – how can you put that kind of book love into words? For others, myself included, it’s those annoying books that sit right in the middle. Those books that are okay. Fine. Overwhelmingly average. When they’re neither bad nor good, what do I say? For me, The Falconer is one of those books. I feel like I’ve read this book about fifty times before (okay, five or six but shh…) and I feel like I’ve written this very same review that many times as well.

If you’re new to fantasy, if you’re new to faeries in fantasy, there’s no real reason for you not to like this novel set in an alternative Edinburgh in the year 1844. It’s a little tame for my liking, occasionally almost edging towards the middle grade end of the age range, but I’m sure newcomers to the genre will find it more entertaining. But all I can see are the same recycled features: a female warrior protagonist who’s out for vengeance, an awkwardly forced romance, another love triangle, and a cliffhanger worthy of Moning’s Fever series. In fact, this book feels like an amalgamation of several I’ve read before. It’s like Shadow and Bone without the Darkling, Throne of Glass without the entertainment (or a fabulous sequel to make the first worth sitting through), and Darkfever without, like, everything I love about that series.

The writing is fairly good, though. With some more original material, I think I could find myself returning to see what the author writes in the future. I’ve just exhausted myself on this story line. But anyway. Here’s what’s happening in The Falconer: Lady Aileana Kameron is the daughter of the Marquess of Douglas in Scotland. She was blissfully enjoying upper class life and social events until a faery murdered her mother and she became a hunter. In secret, she slays faery after faery, hoping to one day come face to face with the faery who murdered her mother and quench the need for revenge that is burning inside her. On top of that, drama ensues when her father returns and demands she choose a husband. Other possible suitors aside, Aileana is torn between her fae ally – Kiaran – and her old crush – Gavin – who has recently returned to Edinburgh.

I will say that I’m glad the author included nasty, evil faeries. While there is obviously some faery romanticization with Kiaran, the faeries in this novel tend to be the vicious, blood-thirsty kind (perfect, in my opinion). But I think there is a lot of untapped potential in this story and a bit of tweaking could have made it a more original and engaging tale. For one thing, it actually took me a while to realise that this is supposed to be a steampunk novel, those elements of it were so subtle that I didn’t even notice them at first. I’m really enthusiastic about the new steampunk genre because it combines so many different things that I love, but I find myself being frequently disappointed by the lack of it in books that promise so much. Don’t be afraid to go all out, I say! I want machines! I want old times! I want that magical blend of science fiction and historical! …please?

Afterthought: I compared this book to many others and I remember noting to myself several times that it seemed loosely similar to the Fever series. But Khanh did a fantastic (and shocking) breakdown of the similarities between this and Faefever in her review. Wow. Enough said.

Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

Faking NormalFaking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens
My rating: 4 of 5 teacups

Something is hiding in my childhood. Something Off.

This book literally scared me. I had foreseen Faking Normal having many possible effects on me but fear really wasn’t one of them. And the worst part? This book doesn’t have any monsters in the traditional sense. No demons or things that go bump in the night. Not even any serial killers or psychopaths. The scary things in this book are the memories that people forget over time. The kind of memories we push below the surface and force ourselves to hide away. What don’t we remember from our early childhoods? What horrors did our minds automatically repress to shelter us from dealing with reality? Why are we like we are – could there be an answer hidden deep inside us, a long-forgotten memory that haunts us subconsciously?

There are so many books about sexual abuse in its various ugly forms. I’ll be honest and say I imagined this book would be yet another poor version of Speak. The two do have many similarities: both are about teenage girls who feel unable to talk about their horrific experience. They both have a lot to deal with internally as well as externally and the ultimate theme of both is about gaining an understanding of why many victims feel unable to report what has happened. But, that being said, Alexi’s story felt fresh and unique. The author’s approach to the subject was different from Anderson’s and touched upon elements of child psychology as well. The two girls’ reasons for not reporting the crimes also differ.

Then there’s the other part of this story.

You know, if you’d asked me to draw my perfect guy as a kid, I would have drawn you a cliche. He would have been a stereotype: tall, white (or orange crayon most likely), dark hair, good-looking in a generic way. But we learn as we get older that fantasies don’t hold up in reality. We never want the person we thought we would and we never ever want the person who the world thinks we should. From the heavy metal-loving loner who I watched anime with in high school, to the only Pakistani guy who talked to me in English at the fast food place where I got my first job, to the nerdy guy with the glasses who gave me his copy of Crime and Punishment to read in college. The cliched fantasy is never what we want or need. The person we want in the end is the one we want for all the reasons you can’t draw on paper. And that’s what Alexi Littrell starts to realise in this story.

I do have criticisms and the book might have got five stars otherwise. There was some casual slut-shaming that annoyed me with the character of Maggie playing the role of the throwaway “slutty” girl who is the butt of many jokes. One thought of Alexi’s is: “it’s too cruel to tell Maggie her dating practices don’t lead to roses”, because she’s apparently been around a bit. She also deserves to be used and her feelings are not considered. This is a conversation that’s had when Heather’s boyfriend cheated with Maggie:

“Maggie. But she… why would he do that?”
I give her a look. “Maggie, Heather. She was there,” I say.

It was just such an unnecessary addition to an otherwise really good novel. One thing I will say and I think it’s important to note, I was a little confused about the use of the word “rape” in this novel for a large part of it, but my questions were answered in the end. For once I would say stick with it if you’re unsure. This is a very real spoiler, please do not click unless you’ve read the book: (view spoiler)

The term irritates me, but this novel is very much a coming-of-age tale. It’s about leaving fantasy behind and facing reality. Facing the truth. Facing your fears. And growing up. There are many mysteries to be solved in this book and each revelation is like leaving a little bit of childhood behind. It’s incredibly powerful. And sad. You should read it.

The Seers by Julianna Scott

The Seers (Holders, #2)The Seers by Julianna Scott
My rating: 4 of 5 teacups

After finishing this sequel to
The Holders
, I still maintain that this is a massively underrated series. It has a Harry Potter meets X-men vibe but will specifically appeal to teen girls/young women the most. The story itself is not entirely unfamiliar but Scott puts her own unique spin on paranormal boarding schools, superpowers and teen romance. It’s fast-paced, funny, a little creepy at times, but certainly always entertaining and addictive. For the first time in what feels like forever, I find myself wanting a YA paranormal series to never end.

Becca returns in full-force with her sarcastic humour making the narrative sparkle on each page. In short: I like her. But I need to say more than that too. She’s realistically flawed, brave without being ridiculously so, willing to fight for the ones she cares about and a perfect balance of heroine and insecure teenage girl. I have one main criticism of this series and that’s that no other female character is anywhere near as developed as she is. Chloe (Becca’s friend) is inoffensive but pales in comparison next to the depth of Becca’s personality – something that I hope will sort itself out in the next book. And the new character of Shannon is also entirely one-dimensional. I appreciate that the rules of the magic in this book make the main players male but I’d ideally like to see more from other female characters in future.

In this sequel, the story picks up not long after we left off. I’ll try my best to avoid spoilers for the first book as much as possible. The last book left us with one clue as to how Becca could defeat the power-crazy Darragh and save not only Holders but possibly the whole of humanity… Ciaran Shea. But how and if he will help still remains a mystery as Becca, Jocelyn, Alex and Cormac take a trip to Adare Manor and find themselves amid the bitchiness and pomposity of Holder aristocracy. However, Ciaran won’t be easy to find and Adare Manor appears to hold some dark secrets of its own – it seems that Becca and Jocelyn might not be the only ones interested in the information they seek. The main question becomes who to trust in this race for the truth.

Sound exciting? It is!

Though, perhaps what I love most about all of this is Alex. As far as YA paranormal love interests go, he easily has to be one of the best. I mean… he blushes. He’s sweet and considerate but doesn’t treat Becca like a baby. The two of them support one another and – apart from a couple of mild instances to keep the tension going – they are refreshingly free from drama. Plus, I like the maturity of their relationship and the way the sexual side is handled in this book. Scott doesn’t attempt to pretend teen hormones don’t exist and introduces that side of their relationship gradually but realistically. They’re easy to root for and easy to love because this book isn’t primarily about romance and its dramatics. Love is present constantly in the background, but there are more pressing issues to deal with and the author never loses sight of this.

The ending of this book is shocking and sad but leaves a little room for hope too. I honestly don’t know how certain issues are going to be resolved or if they even will be. Ms Scott is just a little bit evil – you never know what kind of hell she’ll be willing to put you through.

But I can’t wait to find out.