How to Write Book Reviews

Since I haven’t finished either of the two books that I’m currently reading, I thought I’d step back and put together my thoughts on how to go about writing book reviews.

The first part of this is deciding which books to review. I read mostly science fiction and fantasy, so that is what I feel most comfortable reviewing. I do read in other genres and review some of those books, but in many cases, I’m not the right audience for those types of stories. My reviews may be less helpful to potential readers than a review by someone who actively reads in the genre. So generally pick a genre that you like and are familiar with.

Finding Books for Review

Once you decide more generally what to review, you also need to have books to read. I purchase a lot of them myself, but as you get more experience doing reviews, you may be able to sign up for a site like Net Galley, or get on lists from publishers where you will be sent advance copies. I’ve picked up bags of books at conventions – mostly World Fantasy Con or New York Comic-Con. Sometimes a few minutes spent chatting with a vendor will result in books for you! I also receive email offers for books to review, as well as having friends who will ask me to review their books. I’m never out of books to read!

Books

All that being said, if you accept a book for review, you should really try to read it and review it. Net Galley tracks your percentage of books reviewed and shows it directly on your profile. This also relates to whether you choose to write negative reviews. Different book review sites will generally have a policy about this. If you’re reviewing on your own blog or web site, then you need to decide this for yourself. If you aren’t going to write negative reviews, then it’s okay not to post your comments on a book that you didn’t like.

A Bit on Negative Reviews

I will write negative reviews, but when I do, it’s important for me to explain why I didn’t like the book. It shouldn’t be an attack on the author, but a professional and well thought out critique. Instead of:

This author’s ideas about space travel are stupid and I thought the plot was boring.

A different way of writing this could be:

The explanation of the faster-than-light travel was unbelievable to me, and the plot lacked tension because I never believed that the characters cared about their goal.

An example from a review that I published:

The plot never went anywhere either, and this may be a personal tic of mine. I prefer a plot-driven story, or at least a character-driven one in which the plot has some motion. I kept waiting for the antagonist or some conflict to appear. There were some interesting revelations near the end of the book, but their impact was minimal to me because I had stopped caring by that point.

What to Include

I don’t think that there is only one way to write a book review. I’m just going to explain my process here. You can write longer or shorter reviews that I do. You can go into greater detail about the plot or delve into symbolism and themes. Here is what I try to include:

  • Set the scene: I list the title, author, and any relevant associations, such as whether this book is part of a series, has been made into a television series or movie, or my history with the author’s other books. If I listened to the book as an audiobook, I usually make note of that because I find that the experience can be a bit different.
  • Picture of the cover: I put a picture of the book cover somewhere near the top.
  • Plot summary: I give the basics as far as genre, main character, and the conflict. Try to avoid spoilers. For a later book in a series, this can be tough, so give a warning if this is the case. The length of my plot summary will vary based on the size of the book and the number of point-of-view characters.
  • Likes/dislikes: At the end of my review, I’ll put some of my personal thoughts about the book. What was my favorite aspect? What was I most excited about? Was there an aspect of the setting or the magic that I found particularly unique? You can compare the book you’re reviewing to other books in the same genre.

That’s about it! In general, think about why you’re writing a review. For myself, I’m trying to write something that will help prospective readers decide if this book is something they’d like.

Have you thought about writing book reviews? Do you run an active book blog? Tell me what and where you review in the comments!

New Releases – Collector’s Editions for the Fantasy Book Lover 2018

I love going into bookstores so much that I’m really no longer allowed to. It has always been hard to leave without a purchase, especially when I can pet all the pretty books. It’s easier to resist unneeded purchases if I simply browse online. E-books are more tempting because I don’t have to find them a place on a shelf, at least, but holding an e-reader still isn’t the same as clutching that physical book.

I’ve never been into collectibles, but I do appreciate special editions of some of my favorites books. I was thinking about that the other day, one thing led to another, and I found myself browsing Amazon endlessly, looking for pretty books. Anyway, I thought I’d share some of my finds here since many people are starting to shop for holiday gifts.

Book of DustIn no particular order, here are some of my most intriguing finds:

La Belle Sauvage is the first volume of the Book of Dust by Philip Pullman. Set in the same world as His Dark Materials trilogy, this book delves deeper into that universe. This collector’s edition contains illustrations and an interview with the author.

Also by Philip Pullman, I found this gorgeous 20th Anniversary Edition of The Golden Compass, the first book in His Dark Materials series. This new edition features a discussion on fantasy literature between Pullman and Lev Grossman (author of The Magicians), and a letter from the author to his fans.Golden Compass

As far as Lev Grossman goes, I also found a boxed set of his Magicians series. While this isn’t exactly a new release, and I was not a fan of his books, it is still pretty. The series is still growing in popularity with the success of the television show on SyFy.

MagiciansOn my adventures through New York Comic-Con last month, I listened in on a panel that was promoting a collection of artwork from the long-running role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons. This illustrated history by Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, and Sam Witwer, with a foreword by Joe Manganiello was released in October, but I was not aware of this Special Edition.D&DArt

This special set of Dungeons and Dragons Art and Arcana includes additional full-color prints, an unpublished version of an adventure module from creator Gary Gygax himself, and other ephemera.

AlphabetteryWhile Anne Rice’s books are more horror than science fiction and fantasy, there is always some overlap in these genres, particularly with more recent crossovers featuring both supernatural and fantastical elements. For fans of her Vampire Chronicles, I found the Alphabettery, a encyclopedic collection that details the many connections between her characters and settings. Read up on the lore and gaze at the illustrations in this book by Becket.

EarthseaNow going back for a few more classic fantasy picks, I discovered this huge volume (1008 pages!) of The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition.

This well-loved series by Ursula K. Leguin is illustrated by Charles Vess and includes: A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, Tehanu, Tales from Earthsea, The Other Wind, The Rule of Names, The Word of Unbinding, The Daughter of Odren, and Earthsea Revisioned: A Lecture at Oxford University. Of all the books on this list, I think this is the one that I need the most!RedLotR

Lastly, one of my most cherished books on my shelves is the red leather bound version of The Lord of the Rings.

While this is hardly a new item (and I don’t think you can even get this edition any more), I did find a new boxed set of The Great Tales of Middle-Earth: Children of Húrin, Beren and Lúthien, and The Fall of Gondolin.

Great TalesThis collection brings together the most recent short novels published by the Tolkien estate and also features maps and color plates by famous Middle-Earth illustrator Alan Lee.

Are you aware of any neat collector’s editions for your favorites series or authors? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review – The Dreaming Void

I listened to the audiobook version of The Dreaming Void by Peter F. Hamilton. I had formerly listened to a lot more audiobooks because my commute was long, but with a job change, I didn’t have to drive nearly as much, so my audiobook listening sort of fell by the wayside. I’m making a focused effort to get back to listening, even when I don’t have huge chunks of time for it now.

I had read the author’s earlier series: Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained (also as audiobooks), and really liked the tale of the Starflyer War. I hadn’t realized that the Void Trilogy was set in the future of the same world.

Dreaming Void

While The Dreaming Void takes place 1,500 years after the Starflyer War, it isn’t apparent right at the outset. This book jumps forward in time and features different characters (at least at the beginning). The main idea in this book is that there is a mysterious Void which is both a danger and a mystery to civilization. Inigo is a researcher who studies the Void, but in the process begins to dream about people within this alternate universe. His dreams are broadcast across the galaxy, and he develops an almost religious following.

Humans within the Void have telepathic and telekinetic powers, and Inigo’s followers  (The Living Dream movement) have planned a pilgrimage to enter the Void. However, no one knows how to enter the Void, as anyone who has tried, has died in the process. In fact, some attempts to interact with the Void have triggered a devourment phase in which the Void spreads and destroys whatever it touches.

At the outset of the main story, Inigo has hidden himself away from civilization and the pilgrimage awaits the direction of a prophesied and unknown Second Dreamer who will lead his followers safely into the paradise of the Void.

The book follows several main point-of-view characters, and it took me a little while to sort them all out. As the story develops, some characters from the author’s earlier series reappear, having been re-lifed into new bodies.

One of my favorite story threads in this book follows Eddiard, a young man living within the Void, and one of the subjects of Inigo’s dreams. He explores his surprisingly strong telepathic/telekinetic powers, only to have tragedy destroy his home. He is a sympathetic character who still manages to make some poor choices, and his exploration of the world within the Void helps the reader explore it as well.

I have to say that I liked the initial premise in Pandora’s Star better and it made for an easier read at the beginning, compared to these books. Once I realized that Eddiard lived within the Void, I started to understand why the members of Living Dream were launching a pilgrimage, better tying the story together.

It was also a bit difficult to keep the different political agendas straight, but actually one main character doesn’t even know who he works for. His memory has been wiped to allow him to do his job better, and I assume that I’ll discover who is behind his actions later.

I think that it would have helped to have read this right after the Starflyer War books. I would have remembered more of the prior relationships between the characters if the earlier novels were more fresh in my mind. Otherwise, I enjoyed this book and have already started the next one in the series.

Bare Your Bookshelf


I saw this on The Bibliophagist blog a couple of days ago and I thought it was a fun exercise. So here are some of the things on my bookshelf (and I’m going to use both physical books and e-books for my version of this).

1) BOOK YOU OWN BUT HAVEN’T READ YET

There are a lot that I could put here, but I’ll simply put the next couple of books on my TBR pile here.

 

2) BOOKS YOUR FRIENDS LOVE

I read the first book in Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy probably a year or two ago. I seem to have developed a bad habit of leaving series unfinished. But both friends and family have read these and enjoyed them, and I liked the first book, so they’re coming up soon on my TBR pile. It also helps that I picked up copies at New York Comic-Con a few weeks ago.

 

3) BOOKS BY AN AUTHOR YOU LOVE

For this one, I was reminded of how much I loved Robin Hobb’s Farseer series. I haven’t had a chance to catch up on every book, but I have always liked her stories. And I’m trying not to repeat books and authors, but Lois McMaster Bujold’s stuff is so good that I can’t help myself.

 

4) BOOK AT THE BOTTOM OF YOUR TBR

Well, it’s probably something non-fiction, because some of those types of books are more for reference, really. But if I stick with fiction, I’ll pick Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. I had made it through book 7 or 8 at the time they were being first published, but then I became too busy with school and would forget a lot of the details between books, so I gave up on the series. I was able to pick up the entire thing as one gigantic e-book a few years ago, but it’s on the bottom of my TBR list, simply because it will take so long to read all of it.

EyeoftheWorld

5) BOOK WITH COLOR IN THE TITLE

Well I’m not a huge Terry Pratchet fan, but I have read some of his books. I’m not sure what else I have with color in the title.

ColorofMagic

6) BOOK SET SOMEWHERE YOU’D LIKE TO VISIT

Well, this may not be the most practical vacation destination, but hopefully I won’t have as tough a time as Mark Watney did.

TheMartianCover

7) MOST COLLECTED AUTHOR

I think this is a toss up between Jim Butcher and Lois McMaster Bujold, both authors who have written long series of books. If I look at books that I have owned, that are somewhere in a box or still at my parents’ house, I should add Anne McCaffrey to this one.

 

8) MISMATCHED SERIES

I discovered George R.R. Martin randomly on Audible. I always like to pick out really long audiobooks, and A Game of Thrones fit the bill. I have since bought the physical books, and I have an e-book copy of A Dance of Dragons (and maybe more of the series) also.

 

9) BOOK YOU LOVE BUT DON’T REMEMBER WELL

For me, this is sadly – most of them. I feel like I have a great short-term memory for the fiction I’ve read, but after time has passed, I can’t even remember the main character’s name. For this one, I only remember that crazy ending (of the series)…

DragonboneChair

10) HOW MANY BOOKS DO YOU HAVE? + IS YOUR SHELF EVERYTHING YOU WANT IT TO BE?

Ahahahahaaaaaahaaaaa!!!! How many books do I have? Too many to try to count in the time I’d like to spend on this blog post. Is my shelf everything I want it to be? It could be better organized. Oh, and I’d like to have more books.


If you think this looks fun, consider yourself tagged and link back to me so that I can see your answers!

Book Review – Foundryside

Foundryside is the first book in a new fantasy series by Robert Jackson Bennett. The author is best known for his Divine Cities Trilogy (City of Stairs, City of Blades, City of Miracles) which was recently nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Series.

Foundryside RD4 clean flat

In his newest release, Bennett embarks upon an ambitious fantasy series that follows a street smart thief caught up in the schemes of the Merchant Houses in the city of Tevanne. The world in Foundryside features a fantasy setting with a few elements that feel like steampunk, even though the devices are powered by magic rather than steam. Carriages are horseless, lights hover in the streets, and weapons are enchanted to have greater speed or to explode. All of the magic in the story is controlled by scrivings, symbols carved into objects that tell them how to circumvent the laws of nature. These scrivings are writing in the language of the lost civilization of the Hierophants, and the Merchant Houses are always searching for new symbols.

The four Merchant Houses in Tevanne are powerful family-owned miniature cities with their own vast economies. Each house is physically walled off from the rest of the city, where law enforcement is unknown and poverty is widespread. The miraculous devices powered by scrivings are rare outside of the Merchant Houses, but there is always a black market for valuables.

Sancia Grado is a thief from Foundryside, one of the poorest sections of Tevanne. However, she has a unique ability to sense the physical nature of anything she touches. This lets her work as a successful thief, but is also a curse because she has to keep most of her skin covered to avoid being overwhelmed. Sancia’s power comes from a scrived plate in her head, and she dreams of the day that she can afford to have it removed. When she takes a job to steal something from a safe at the waterfront, Sancia never imagines that her plans will go so far awry. She breaks into the safe and takes a sealed box, but inadvertently sets the entire waterfront on fire, attracting the attention of Gregor Dandolo, self-appointed head of the new city watch.

After Sancia escapes the scene, she decides to open the box to find an artifact with unusual powers. She decides to deliver the stolen goods at the prearranged location, but nearly falls into a trap. Whoever set the trap has powers and devices that Sancia’s never seen before, and seems determined to see her dead.

The plot spins into a complicated chase from there, and Sancia tries to figure out who is her enemy and who might be her friend. The tension never slows for very long, and as more details about the stolen artifact emerge, the stakes get higher. Foundryside was an action-filled tale that drew me in with both the characters and the plot. The magic of scriving was unique and fascinating, although I thought that it was used in a few ways that felt far-fetched to me by the ending.

Without giving any spoilers away, I have to say that the ending of the book did a nice job in resolving the current dilemma while opening up a larger story. Even though Foundryside is the first book in a series, you can read it without being left with a cliffhanger at the end.

Disclaimer: I received this book through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review – The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season is the first book in N. K. Jemisin’s newest series, The Broken Earth. I have read all of her previous novels, and like her other work, The Fifth Season brings a truly unique world to life. The world-building is fascinating, but for some readers, may be confusing in that the author never dumps any long explanatory passages into the story. This requires the reader to piece the information together while suspending many questions, but everything you need to know is in there. The book also contains a glossary at the back for many of the terms.

Fifth Season Cover

Once the world of The Fifth Season starts to become clear, it is one of the most bizarre and mesmerizing settings I have ever encountered. Civilization flourishes between Fifth Seasons, each one a devastating volcanic winter in a world plagued by frequent seismic and geologic upheaval. During a Season, anarchy reigns, and only those who follow the ancient stonelore and are willing to take extreme measures to defend their homes and supplies survive. The people who live in this land are not quite human, and other non-human denizens, mysterious obelisks, and fragments from lost civilizations lurk across the surface and below.

A few people are born with the ability to sense and manipulate the earth, giving them a sort of geology-magic. Of course, this power comes with a price, and these orogenes are feared because they can freeze and destroy anything or anyone around them if they lose control. If they choose to, they could trigger earthquakes or worse. Set in place to control the orogenes are the Guardians, with their own set of strange powers. The book brings up the question of who is really in control – the orogenes, the Guardians, the Emperor, or someone or something else, and even the characters in play don’t know the answer.

The story is told through three different point-of-view characters. As the plot emerges, it becomes clear that each thread of the story is set at a different time. Essun is an orogene in hiding, having somehow escaped her Guardian. When a massive quake hits, she returns home to discover that her husband has murdered their son and disappeared with their daughter. Essun is determined to track down and kill her husband before he can hurt their daughter.

Damaya is a child who has just exhibited her orogene powers for the first time. In small villages, these children are often killed out of fear, superstition, or prejudice. Fortunately, Damaya’s parents have sent for help, and a Guardian arrives to take charge of her. Damaya trains in the Fulcrum to learn how to control her orogeny, but delves too deeply into its secrets.

Syenite is a trained orogene of the Fulcrum and is sent on a mission with the not-quite-sane Alabaster, a ten-ringed orogene who is supposed to mentor her, as well as father a child with her. Everything in their lives is controlled by the Fulcrum, but Syenite soon learns that Alabaster has been quietly subverting that control whenever he can.

One strange aspect of The Fifth Season is that it lacks an antagonist. While each character encounters physical obstacles or people who may post a danger or serve to slow down their progress, there is never a true enemy. In many ways, the greatest threat to all of them is the volatile earth itself. Even without an antagonist, the plot works well and remains engaging until the end.

The conclusion of the book was abrupt, and I felt like I was left hanging and was a little uncertain about what I was supposed to infer from one character’s revelation. The Fifth Season is only the first book in the series, so I hope that my questions are answered in the next volume.

Book Review – How to Stop Time

How to Stop Time, by Matt Haig, is a bit outside the type of book that I would normally pick up. I acquired an advance copy at New York Comic-Con last year, so I thought I’d give it a try. This novel is a more literary treatment of a concept that I identify mainly with the movies and television show, Highlander.

Tom Hazard isn’t exactly an immortal, but he might as well be. He is one of a rare breed of humans who stops aging at a normal rate around his early teen years. In How to Stop Time, Tom is over 400 years old and appears closer to 40. Unlike Highlander, no one is  running amok with swords (unfortunately), looking to take out the other immortals.

Stop_Time

Tom had a rough childhood – his mother was killed for witchcraft once the villagers realized that Tom was different. He fled his home and had no understanding of his condition, thinking himself alone in the world. Years later, Tom discovers the Albatross Society, an organization of others with the same affliction. The society helps members move and hide, find jobs, and helps Tom realize that he is no longer alone. The head of the society, Hendrich, simply asks members to do an occasional job for him, and there’s one rule for the Society: you aren’t allowed to fall in love.

At first this sounds great to Tom. He had lost his wife to illness hundreds of years ago and has been grieving her ever since. The pain of this loss makes him realize he doesn’t want to become attached to anyone like that again. However, Tom also had a daughter, and he knows that she is an immortal like him. His main goal throughout the book is to find her and reunite with her.

The storytelling in this book alternates through different timelines, but was pretty easy to follow, with Tom always the narrator. Most of the plot follows the events of Tom’s life and how he has been dealing with his emotions. Little action or suspense is present through the story. For me, this was the weak point of this book. Tom’s despondency with his life becomes apparent early on, and he doesn’t seem to want to change.

The intrigues with the Albatross Society finally fuel some excitement by the end, but for me this book was not a page turner. However, it was easy to read and relatively short, so it may be something to pick up if you like a more literary treatment of a story that questions human mortality with a dash of time travel.

Graphic Novel Review – The Walking Dead, Vol. 1 – Days Gone Bye

I picked this book up at New York Comic-Con last year and just had a chance to sit down to read it recently (so much to read, so little time). I had thought I was coming to this fresh, not having watched the show, and only being peripherally aware of it. However, the story at the outset seemed very familiar.

Walking Dead 1

Rick is a police officer and suffers a gunshot wound in the line of duty. He wakes up from a coma to find himself in a strangely abandoned hospital. After a bit of wandering, he discovers that everyone is either dead or undead. A-ha! This is how the film, 28 Days Later begins, so I thought that must be why the story seemed familiar.

Rick flees from the zombies and escapes the hospital. When he fails to find his family and friends at home, he heads toward nearby Atlanta. He eventually falls in with a group of survivors, and this is when I realized that I had actually watched the first episode of the television show several years ago.

I liked the artwork, and while blood and gore certainly doesn’t bother me, it wasn’t pictured beyond what you need to see to depict undead brain-eating monsters.

Soon enough, the plot continued past what I half-remembered, and the volume ends with a punch that was both surprising, and, in hindsight, followed logically from earlier character actions and conversations. It also ties into the initial premise mentioned in the introduction that was what actually made me purchase this book.

Two excerpts:

Good zombie movies show us how messed up we are, they make us question our station in society… and our society’s station in the world.

And:

With THE WALKING DEAD, I want to explore how people deal with extreme situations and how these events CHANGE them.

This idea echoes the theme of another novel that I enjoyed – Stephen King’s Under the Dome (the book, NOT the television adaptation!), and I hope to watch these characters struggle and change as they try to survive in future volumes. I already have volume 2, so look for my review on that coming soon!

Book Review – Sorcerer to the Crown

I received Sorcerer to the Crown through NetGalley, and while I enjoyed the book, it wasn’t really what I had expected. This story by newcomer Zen Cho is set in Regency London and is a light and fun adventure filled with magic, humor, social commentary, and a little romance. Sorcerer to the Crown is a stand-alone novel that could be followed by more books in this alternate world.

sorcerer_front mech.indd

Zacharias Wythe was seized from his home as a child, sold into slavery, and raised in England by Sir Stephen, England’s Sorcerer Royal. He is freed and raised much like a son to the sorcerer and trained in magic as well. Zacharias inadvertently inherits his mentor’s position as Sorcerer Royal after Sir Stephen dies under mysterious circumstances. This shrouds Zacharias in suspicion, and with his race already making him an outsider amongst the London social elite, the other sorcerers in England plot against him.

The true protagonist of the novel is Prunella, a young lady who teaches at a school for magically gifted girls. However, it is unseemly for women to use magic, so the true purpose of the school is to teach the ladies how to avoid using their powers. Prunella is particularly gifted, but runs into trouble when Zacharias Wythe visits the school. She leaves with the new Sorcerer Royal and hopes to learn more about her powers and her past.

The plot weaves back and forth between these two, with Prunella struggling to master her magic while keeping some dangerous secrets. Zacharias works to discover why England is running out of magic, a problem likely linked to the Faerie realm.

I found the story to be light and engaging and the plot drew me in. Prunella is a fantastic character, and overshadows Zacharias with her audacity and bravery. I don’t read a lot of books set in this time period, but to someone who isn’t overly familiar with Regency novels, the historical aspects worked and nothing seemed out of place.

The mysteries behind Sir Stephen’s death and Prunella’s past are all cleared up in a satisfying way. While the stakes are high, the outcome is logical and happy, as befits the overall tone of the book.

I’ll be looking out for more books from Zen Cho in the future.

Book Review – Twelve Kings in Sharakhai

This book took a long time for me to read, but it was absolutely not the book’s fault at all. When I first started to read Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu, I was sidelined by other obligations and just never had enough time to read more than a few pages of the book at once. I’m sorry, but I would have struggled to stay engaged with even the most suspenseful page-turner at that time.

Sharakhai cover

I put the book down on purpose once I realized that I really liked it, but my snail’s pace was hampering my enjoyment of the story. Once the rest of my life was organized again (as much as it ever is, really), I went back to give this book the time that I thought it deserved, and was not disappointed.

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai is the first book in a series titled The Song of the Shattered Sands, which is supposed to run to six books total. This fantasy novel is set in the desert city of Sharakhai and has a Middle Eastern or Arabic feel to the names, cultures, and details. The main character is Çeda, a pit fighter and courier for those customers who don’t want their business known. Sharakhai is ruled by twelve seemingly immortal Kings, and Çeda is determined to kill all of them because she blames them for the death of her mother when she was just a child.

It is a tall task for a pit fighter to go up against the mystical rulers of Sharakhai, and Çeda flounders trying to figure out how to avenge her mother. She has been left with only her mother’s book and the skills and knowledge of how to sneak to the fields of the adichara, deadly trees with forbidden blooms that grant the user a hypervigilant state.

The story opens on B’eht Ihman, the night on which the asirim (undead slaves of the Kings) search the city and claim several of its inhabitants. While this is a death sentence, it is also supposedly an honor to be chosen. It is forbidden to be out on the streets, a law which Çeda routinely flaunts. On that night, one of Çeda’s courier jobs goes wrong when her best friend, Emre, is nearly killed. She is also cornered by one of the asirim who wears a crown, whispers mysterious words to her, and plants a kiss upon her forehead.

There is more to the plot that Çeda’s desire for revenge, for the Kings of Sharakhai have numerous enemies, including neighboring states and a more organized ruthless rebel force, the Moonless Host. Their plot threads all begin to intertwine as Çeda is drawn into the secrets surrounding the Kings, solving riddles that are seemingly the keys to their demise.

The book begins by telling its story through mainly Çeda’s point-of-view, alternating the current day with flashbacks showing her time with her mother. These flashback scenes become more sparse once we have learned the necessary information, and other characters add to the narrative, including Emre, Ramahd (an emissary from another state), and even one of the Kings. This structure worked well for me, but as more characters are introduced, it did require some concentration to remember all of the political relationships between them.

I truly enjoyed Çeda’s tale and found her to be an enthralling and realistically drawn protagonist. Some of her secrets and foreshadowed events were obvious early on, but I believe that was an intentional decision by the author, as more of the excitement of the story comes in how she pulls off what she does. But this book also ends as one volume of a series should – with many unanswered questions. One aspect of the plot is wrapped up so there is still some satisfaction to be had, and it doesn’t end on a huge cliffhanger. The next book (With Blood Upon the Sand) is already available, and I plan to pick it up soon.

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