Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko, a review (Raybearer #1)

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko is the first in a YA duology following a young girl named Tarisai who is raised in isolation by her mother, the Lady. When she gets older her mother sends her to the capital of the empire they live within to compete with other children to be chosen for the Prince’s council. If she is, her mother has used magic to compel her to kill him.

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko, UK cover

I listened to this book via audio, narrated by Joniece Abbott-Pratt, and this is a beautiful way to read this book. It was incredibly well done and I enjoyed how Abbott-Pratt altered her voice to match various characters.

One of my only negatives about this book was in the characters representations. For the main characters: Tarisai, the Prince Dayo, her love interest, and her best friend (as well as antagonists such as the Lady and Tarisai’s father) are well developed and fleshed out. With great depths to them and a lot of development through the book. But there are certain people who aren’t. In this world the Prince has a council of 11 who he is mind-linked with, they all know each other inside out and physically become ill if apart from each other. And yet. We barely know anything about the other 8 members of the council. I could tell you the names of the other two friends (but I’m not in case you’d consider it spoilers) but with the rest of the council? No clue. It was the only real negative of the book, because it felt quite unrealistic that these people so intrinsically linked wouldn’t be more prevalent in Tarisai’s mind.

This book is primarily plot based, and I was utterly absorbed by it. There is so much going on within this Empire and so many stories that Tarisai hears of. Ifueko has mentioned that all of these cultures are made up, but the themes are based on religions that she was exposed to throughout her life. With Tarisai’s best friend’s religion (People of the Wing) being based upon a sect of Christianity that believes in covering their hair with prayer shawls. I loved learning about the magic system within this universe as well, and without spoiling events of the end of the book, I am very excited to dive into book two and learn some more about this world!

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 7, Atmosphere: 9, Writing: 9, Plot: 9, Intrigue: 9, Logic: 8, and Enjoyment: 9, giving a score of 8.57 and an average of 4.5*.

Highlight here for trigger warnings: death (including parental), domestic abuse, fire, genocide, gore, memory loss, mental illness, misogyny, murder, parental abuse (emotional), rape (referenced), suicide (referenced), unwanted pregnancy.

This was an absolutely fantastic story and one that I waited far too long to get into! I’m so glad that I’ve finally read it and I really need to finish up this duology sooner rather than later!! (don’t hold me to that 😅)

The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan, a review (The Kane Chronicles #2)

The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan is the second book in the Kane Chronicles trilogy, Riordan’s Egyptian mythology series. Following siblings Sadie and Carter from their experiences in The Red Pyramid as they learn more about how these Egyptian Gods are playing with their modern lives.

The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan

This was such a fun read, in fact it’s tempted me to go back and reread book one because I didn’t enjoy that one nearly as much as this! It has really renewed my interest in Egyptian mythology, which I’ve been interested in since I was a child.

I really enjoyed getting to know Carter and Sadie more, along with those that have joined their household and also the Gods! The various Gods all had such vibrant personalities and I loved seeing their eccentricities and personality quirks. They are all distinct and in ways that fit what we know of them in the “real” world. And Carter and Sadie’s sibling relationship is done so well, and their portrayal as young teenagers also feels very accurate.

The book was also very immersive, there are a mix of scenes in our world and also in the world of the Gods. Those scene’s in the Gods world I could picture vividly and really added to the knowledge the book is giving you about the mythology. The writing draws you in and really got me invested in the plotline. I definitely was more absorbed in Sadie’s story than Carter’s, it felt a lot more action packed and like she had more links with the Gods which is what I was here for!

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 7, Atmosphere: 8, Writing: 8, Plot: 8, Intrigue: 8, Logic: 8, and enjoyment: 8 giving an average of 7.86 and a 4* rating.

Highlight here for trigger warnings: death (including loved one), injury, racism.

This was a really enjoyable middle book, which makes a change from a lot of other series! I’m definitely looking forward to finishing out this series with The Serpents Shadow. Do you like mythological retellings? Have you read any of Riordan’s other books? This is the only series of his that I’ve read and I think I need to pick up the Percy Jackson series!

Fake Law by The Secret Barrister, a review

Fake Law: The Truth About Justice in an Age of Lies by The Secret Barrister, is the second book by this anonymous author I’ve read (the self titled The Secret Barrister being the first). A non-fiction title, by a currently serving British Barrister, explaining in more depth the truth behind those astonishing sounding news articles.

Fake Law: The Truth About Justice in an Age of Lies, by The Secret Barrister

We see so many news articles, especially since the prominence of social media, announcing that the state has stopped deportation of a terrorist because he owns a cat, and that they refused to treat your dying baby. But what is the legal truth behind these inflammatory headlines? Surprising few of you, they don’t tell the full truth. They barely tell any truth at all.

This book was fantastic, if anger inducing. Secret Barrister (SB) touches on so many points that the right wing fanatics have attempted to weaponise to further their own aims. SB breaks these down and instead shows the truth of these events. The terrorist with a cat? The cat was mentioned in passing as showing their deep roots, with a partner and a house, in Britain. And they weren’t even a terrorist. The refusal to treat a dying baby? That’s because there were no available treatments left, and it is usual to confirm that with a court order. The media just saw that as clickbait and ran with it.

With so much of the British Justice system rooted in Royal courts and approvals, it was odd to be reading this over the dates of Queen Elizabeth II’s passing, with the mention of the Queens Courts, which are of course now the Kings. Something that most likely won’t bother anyone not British/in the Commonwealth, but just a little jarring to read on the day of her death and the days afterwards.

SB does a fantastic job a breaking down the law into something that regular civilians can comprehend, with citations added for those who wish to look into things in more detail. With his unique position of anonymity (he mentions his gender near the end of this book) it means that he can provide insight into how our courts are currently operating without having to pander to anyone.

I was already sceptical of these clickbait articles that we see everywhere on social media and in headlines, but Fake Law has solidified that scepticism. These articles always, either on purpose or through lack of legal knowledge from the reporters, miss out vital information that completely change the perspective.

SB uses some very high profile cases in his examples (Baby P and Jamie Bulger for example) which had a large amount of misinformation around them in the media. With these, and the other cases used (anonymised unless already in the public eye) the book is incredibly interesting. Learning more about these cases that I’ve been brought up with and have seen time and again on the news. But also just seeing how the British Justice system actually functions. Something that common folk don’t usually get to see.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Research: 9, Uniqueness: 9, Readability: 9, Personal Impact: 8, Intrigue: 9, Informativeness: 9, and Enjoyment: 9, giving an average of 8.86 and a 4.5* rating.

Highlight here for trigger warnings: misappropriation of the law, discussions of child death, child abuse, sexual assault, incarceration.

This is an absolutely fascinating book. Of course for those interested in legal proceedings around the world, but also for those who want to know just how badly the media manipulate information surrounding high profile cases. I’m very glad that I picked this up and I’m definitely going to be picking up any other books SB has or will publish.

Sherlock Holmes: The Essential Mysteries in One Sitting, a review

I really love these Running Press Mini Books, but I’ve been waiting until I’ve read the original works before I dive into each “summary”. Given I just read The Complete Sherlock Holmes it was time to dive into Sherlock Holmes: The Essential Mysteries in One Sitting!

Sherlock Holmes: The Essential Mysteries in One Sitting from Running Press Minis

This is going to be a very short review for a very little book, but this is a fun summary of some of the most classic Holmes stories. It gives a good little overview of the key stories, whilst also giving you some background information on the primary characters that feature in the Holmes books and the themes that Conan Doyle liked to include in his writing.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 9, Atmosphere: 5, Writing: 6, Plot: 7, Intrigue: 4, Logic: 5, and Enjoyment: 4 giving an average of 5.71 and a 3* rating.

This is a little novelty item and a fun gift to give to someone, as well as being something fun to collect. It also would be a nice little read to refresh the mind on some of these stories.

Have you seen these miniature books around? Do you think they’re cute? I do!

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a review

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Every. Single. Sherlock story. This collection from Penguin comes in at 1122 pages. And I read it in a week. Ejit 😂

The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This collection includes all of the short story collections, as well as the longer standalone short stories. These are: A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Valley of Fear, His Last Bow, and The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes.

In a slightly backwards step, I read The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes first. It was the only short story collection in there that I hadn’t read a single story from, and I was reading this to fulfil the prompt for MiddleEarthAThon of reading a short story collection. Unfortunately this was also one of my least favourites out of the collection. This was the very last thing Conan Doyle wrote for Sherlock and he was pretty fed up of him by this point. It shows. These cases were really easy to solve, I was solving them straight away. They just had a lot less care put into them.

But I wasn’t being deterred! I went back to the start and continued reading this collection! After watching so many adaptations, it was quite odd to read some of these original stories for the first time. Because I knew the plot so well I’d just assumed before that I’d already read them, but I’m pretty sure now that I hadn’t. So at least I’ve fixed that!

A Study in Scarlet is the first ever Sherlock story, introducing Holmes and Watson to the public, as well as to each other. We have American’s being mysterious murdered on our shores, apparently due to their relation to some sinister groups that have been growing in power in the US and the UK. This is a fantastic introduction to these characters and definitely a staple for any Holmes fan.

The Sign of Four is where we meet Watson’s future wife. A young woman comes to consult Holmes, she is mysteriously receiving a large pearl each year but this year she has apparently been contacted by the provider, wanting to meet with her. This unfortunately is laced with racism, with the story having an Indian setting and the thoughts of the time coming out in full force. The actual mystery is still interesting, but because of the racism I wouldn’t place this as a staple.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes contains a lot of the core short stories, but it also contains a fair few that our detective never manages to solve. The primary of these being our first introduction to The Woman, Irene Adler, in A Scandal in Bohemia. A great collection.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes are where we first meet Moriarty, and also where Holmes and Moriarty visit Reichenbach falls. The rest of the short stories in this collection are a little tame, although enjoyable. But The Final Problem is definitely worth a read. Conan Doyle had wanted this to be the final Holmes story, but the public didn’t agree.

The Return of Sherlock Holmes involves the detective coming back from his presumed death, and that story itself is great fun. There are 13 other stories in this collection which are interesting and a little bit tricky. Again Conan Doyle wanted to end things here for Sherlock, and again he failed, but The Second Stain is an interesting (attempt at a) final short story which I really enjoyed.

The Hounds of the Baskervilles is a classic for a reason, this is an engrossing story and one which Conan Doyle was the most proud of I believe. It’s so in depth and well crafted, even knowing the story from adaptations I still wasn’t exactly sure what was coming on the next page. This is an absolute staple and is arguably the best of all the Sherlock Holmes stories.

The Valley of Fear is one that is a lot more niche. I’ve seen adaptations of it of course, but it’s definitely less prevalent. Moriarty is involved in this story, but primarily in the background. Instead we follow a man who is being hunted for acts he committed in the US. I found the UK side of the story fine, but I didn’t enjoy Conan Doyle’s writing once we moved across the pond and followed these events first-hand. Although I can’t deny that they were interesting.

And finally, because of my weird reading order, His Last Bow. In this collection Holmes has been drawn out of retirement to assist the Government during the approach of the First World War, and we see him assisting the Prime Minister. But we also are provided, thanks to Watson, stories from Holmes’ earlier cases that are no longer restricted from being told. This wasn’t one of my favourites, but I did still enjoy it.

Overall, I’m so so glad that I’ve finally read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories! And even for those stories that I didn’t love, I did enjoy all of them. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s writing in the Holmes stories is one I greatly enjoy, and whilst I’ve heard that his writing in other works is not the same, I would like to try some of his non-Holmes stories.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 9, Atmosphere: 7, Writing: 7, Plot: 7, Intrigue: 7, Logic: 7, and Enjoyment: 7 giving an average of 7.29 and a 4* rating.

Highlight here for trigger warnings: drug addiction, death, body shaming, racial slurs, racism, misogyny, ableism, forced marriage, homophobia, kidnapping, murder, domestic violence (referenced).

I still can’t quite believe that I managed to read this in a week, but I’m glad that I managed it! I’m also really glad that I’m now able to say definitively that I’ve read all of the Sherlock works. These are classics for a reason and were a lot of fun to read, but I might be all Sherlocked out for a little bit 😅

Have you read any Sherlock books? Whether the originals from Conan Doyle or any of the myriad of adaptations? I’ve read a fair few of the retellings and the adaptations over the years, as well as watching them! There’s just something about Holmes that the public can’t get enough of.

Timefulness by Marcia Bjornerud, a review

Timefulness by Marcia Bjornerud is a non-fiction on Geology that discusses how the Earth’s temporal rhythms are critical to humanities survival. This was gifted to me by the lovely Kari who is always here to encourage me to read more non-fiction and geological reads.

Timefulness: How thinking like a geologist can help save the world, by Marcia Bjornerud

I will start with something bad for this book, unfortunately. And frustratingly it comes from the third page from the end of the damn book. So annoying! The final paragraph for this section contains ableism directed towards autistic people. I’m going to include the quote beneath so you can see it.

As members of a technological society that can keep Nature at arm’s length most of the time, we have an almost autistic relationship with the Earth. We are rigid in our ways, savants when it comes to certain narrow obsession, but dysfunctional in other regards, because we wrongly view ourselves as separate from the rest of the natural world. Convinced that Nature is something outside us, a mute and immutable thing external to us, we are unable to empathise or communicate with it.

Timefulness by Marcia Bjornerud, end of Chapter 6, p179 in my paperback edition.

Thank you to Veronica and Bekka, two autistic bookish creators, who looked at this paragraph for me to confirm that it is icky from an own voices POV. Of course they are only two individuals out of a collective, but their voice is more meaningful than mine. Please check out their links and follow them as they’re wonderful people with great channels!

So. There’s that. Which immediately negated all the positives I had gained from this book. Personally? I can no longer recommend the book. But if you’d like to know my thoughts on the rest of the book, then the review continues below.

If you’re coming into this with minimal geological knowledge then don’t be concerned, as Bjornerud explains everything in the depth required to understand her points. However, it does use some more scientific terminology than I would expect from a base level book (not even geological, electrocariograms anyone?).

It does discuss the benefits of geology as a more mainstream discipline, along with mentioning the time timeline of geology itself. Something that seems to be common in quite a few geological non fictions but doesn’t seem to be all that pertinent to the authors intended thoughts here. However, if you’re wanting to know more about geology as a whole but don’t want to dive into a textbook? This could be a good shout!

This is very much a plead to humanity to recognise the speed at which alterations are happening to this planet. Faster than we’ve measured in prior geological timescales. And whilst the planet will endure long after we are gone, human bodies, and other living creatures on this floating rock, aren’t able to adapt to these conditions quickly enough and our lives with be snuffed out.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Research: 7, Uniqueness: 6, Readability: 5, Personal Impact: 5, Intrigue: 6, Informativeness: 6, and Enjoyment: 5, which gives an average of 5.71 and a 3* rating. But of course this is not inclusive of that very end section.

Highlight here for trigger warnings: ableism.

Unfortunately this is not a book I will be recommending. I think I’ll keep it on my shelves for a while, as it did have good points that I’d like to return to. But that ableism? Please, if you want a book like this yourself, look at picking a different one up.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, a review

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is a historical fiction set during World War II, following POVs from both sides of the war. This is a book that had been on my owned tbr since 2016 so I was glad to be able to get to it thanks to the MiddleEarthAThon and the Mary-Shelley-A-Thon!

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

As mentioned there are 2 POVs in this book (as well as the occasional other POV to add context). The first is a young Parisian girl, Marie-Laure, who went blind at around 6 years old, her father made a detailed model of their area of Paris so that she would be able to learn her way around. The second point of view is from a young German boy, Werner, who is an orphan living in a rural coal town. Both end up being more involved in the second World War than they had expected, just trying to survive.

The character building throughout this novel, as both of our main characters grow from young children to young adults, is done so well. They are both growing up under awful circumstances which shape who they become, and it’s fascinating to see how their thoughts alter and change over time. Marie-Laure’s POV is crafted carefully, because she loses her sight early on her navigation of the world around her is done through her other senses. Doerr writes this so fantastically that you don’t even notice the lack of sight. Werner’s POV is a lot more naïve, he believes a lot of the traditional values that he was taught and seeing the world through this lens is incredibly interesting.

The core of the plot is one we all know, but the intricacies are done incredibly well. I was so invested in the personal lives of Marie-Laure and Werner and those they’re close to. I wanted to know how their lives were impacted by the war and this was done in a more unique manner than I’ve read before. I don’t want to ruin anything, so no spoilers here! But I do think this was done beautifully.

This book is also incredibly readable. The writing is engaging, with descriptive sentences packed into very short sections. Two pages is the average length for each section, and so you feel like you’re absolutely flying through the book despite its 500+ page length. I didn’t want to put this book down.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 10, Atmosphere: 10, Writing: 9, Plot: 9, Intrigue: 9, Logic: 8, and Enjoyment: 9 giving an average of 9.14 and a 5* rating!

Highlight here for trigger warnings: death, violence, war, genocide, rape, antisemitism, bullying, child death, gun violence, sexual violence and assault, torture, racism, religious bigotry, death of parent, murder, ableism, xenophobia, grief, body horror, cancer, child abuse, confinement, gore, mental illness, physical and emotional abuse, terminal illness, psychosis.

If you couldn’t tell? I adored this book! It’s one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read and I am so mad I left this on my shelves for SIX YEARS!! But now it lives on my 5 star shelf of fame 😍 Thanks MiddleEarthAThon and MaryShelleyAThon!

Have you read this book, or anything else by Anthony Doerr? I definitely want to grab Cloud Cuckoo Land now!

Demon Road by Derek Landy, a review (The Demon Road Trilogy, #1)

Demon Road by Derek Landy is the first in an urban fantasy trilogy set in the USA. After reading and adoring the Skulduggery Pleasant series for so many years I just had to try out his alternative series.

Demon Road by Derek Landy

We follow a 16 year old called Amber, who discovers that her parents are demons who want to eat her, because it will increase their power. And all her parents friends are in on it too, bar one. That one helps Amber to escape and she goes on the run on essentially the supernatural version of Route 66, meeting some violent and magical people along the way.

Amber, unfortunately, did feel like a knock-off Valkyrie (the main character in the Skulduggery series). She was interesting, but just felt a little 2D and lacking in dynamics. Our secondary characters, however, were pretty fleshed out and I enjoyed learning more about them! (Other than the token Irish character, who really needs some more fleshing out. Although it seems like he might get that in the next book, but right now? Glen ain’t my fave). The characters have a similar banter style that we’ve become used to in the SP series, not the same thankfully, but just as banter heavy and slightly ridiculous which makes it fun.

The instigating plotline in this one is… quite ridiculous. It almost makes Skulduggery look normal. But the actual story arc is done well and I enjoyed the road trip aspect, traveling around the US and stumbling across various deadly supernatural entities. The book leaves off with the prospect of this continuing in the the rest of the series so that could be fun. I also really enjoyed our anti-heroine-demon MC, definitely something a little different. She’s not portrayed as pure or as completely breaking away from her demon nature. If anything Landy leans into it and makes her a little worse. But that’s just what makes her seem more like a real person.

Unfortunately there did seem to be a fair amount of fatphobia towards the main character in this book, it seems to be lightly fought back against by Landy but not enough in my opinion. And Ambers overall appearance is heavily focused on (seriously Glen, you’re such a prick about this) with insults continuously flung about calling her ugly in her human form. There’s honestly no need for that and I hope it’s toned down a lot for the next books.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 7, Atmosphere: 6, Writing: 6, Plot: 7, Intrigue: 6, Logic: 7 and Enjoyment: 7 which gives an average of 6.57 and a 3.5* rating. I’m debating whether I’ll round this up or down on Goodreads.

Highlight here for trigger warnings: murder, death, blood, cannibalism, gore, violence, trafficking, child death, gun violence, kidnapping, stalking, fatphobia, emotional abuse.

Overall, this isn’t as good as the Skulduggery series. And whilst it feels rude to compare them it also is inevitable. However, separate from that series it’s still a decent book (separate from the fatphobia and Glen – but Glen might just be me) and I’d still recommend for people who think it sounds interesting to give it a shot. You should just also try out the Skulduggery series!

Have you read anything from Landy? Did I mention Skulduggery Pleasant too much? Let me know! 🤣

August Reading Wrap Up

In August I had two readathons: the Mary Shelley AThon and the MiddleEarthAThon. Both were amazing and both inspired me to pick up books I wouldn’t have (at least this month) otherwise. It also meant that I read more than I would’ve so no complaints here!!

If you’d like to see how well I balanced my books out this month, then check out the video here!

The first book I finished in August was Fire by Kristin Cashore which is the second book in the Graceling series. This is an older YA series that has gotten a bit of a revival lately and it’s so much fun! Fire is our main character and I loved seeing her development throughout the book, as well as how the court changed around her. So excited to dive into Bitterblue next! This was my tbr jar pick and I’m glad this was forced into my hands!

Next up was Mathilda by Mary Shelley which I picked up for the Mary Shelley A Thon prompt of something written by Shelley. This is a super short read, around 100 pages, and a really interesting one. It’s essentially an unedited short story about a young woman who just wants a family and considering it’s unedited… wow is it written well. I just wish Shelley had been able to edit this one up into a fully fledged work!

The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi was my next read, the Goldsboro GSFF book for last month, and WOW did I adore this book. Five stars, one of my favourites ever. This book is just amazing. I need the sequel like yesterday. This high fantasy is incredibly detailed, beautifully well developed, and I adored seeing the characters learn more about the world and each other. I love this book so much that I struggle to talk about it. That’s when you know I loved a read!

Then another great read was The River and the Book by Alison Croggon, my first reads from this author since The Pellinor Series (you know, that one that’s in my handle). This is not an own-voices book, but that is literally the only downside. It’s a beautifully written book that tackles white saviourism and it’s a real short read too. One I’d definitely recommend picking up!

Then I read the behemoth that is The Collected Poems of Robert Burns which clocks in at 600 pages. This was for a Mary Shelley A Thon prompt to read a poem/collection of poetry and this was the best choice because it was gifted to me by the readathon host Caitlyn! (from Mad Cheshire Rabbit) This is definitely not one I’d recommend generally to everyone, because there are some duds in this collection, but there are also some fantastic works and I think you should look Burns up and read a few.

The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones was the Illumicrate read for August and it was… fine? There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with this YA fantasy, but it also wasn’t a standout. Not one I’ll recommend or remember, but it’s fine. Read my full review linked above for more details.

Then I finished my non-fiction for the month, Timefulness by Marcia Bjornerud. This one was fantastic, having super interesting and unique discussions on geology, the physical makeup of our planet, and how we can learn to think more about timeframes past our existence. But. There’s ableism right at the end and I just can’t recommend a book after that. Check out my full review of this one coming in a few days (or available on my blog now if you’re reading this in mid September 22 onwards).

For my first MiddleEarthAThon read, a shiny book, I went for Demon Road by Derek Landy which is the first book in a YA Urban Fantasy trilogy. This is the same author of the Skulduggery Pleasant series and unfortunately it doesn’t quite live up to that high bar. It was enjoyable enough though and I’m curious, so I’ll be carrying on with the series.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr works for both readathons. For MiddleEarthAThon it’s (one of) the oldest book on my tbr, and for Mary Shelley A Thon it counts for both a book outside of your comfort zone and a tbr vet. This. This book was fantastic, amazing, and a 5* read! I had the smallest of issues with how travel was portrayed but other than that – perfection! Another favourite of the year.

And my final read was most of The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This entire collection was 1122 pages so I didn’t manage to read it all before the month was up, but I did manage it in the one week of the MiddleEarthAThon, and in August I read a fair few of the short stories. I’ll mention this one more in my September wrap up but this was a 4* read and just as fun as I remember Sherlock stories being.

And that’s everything I managed to read last month! It totalled 3944 pages, and so much of that was during the MiddleEarthAThon!!

Did you get any five star reads last month? The Final Strife and All The Light We Cannot See are both amazing and I’m so glad that I picked them up!!

The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones, a review

The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones is a Welsh folklore inspired fantasy read that came in an Illumicrate box. It follows a young woman who is the last living water diviner, someone who can find and control water.

The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Our water diviner, Mer, is captured by the prince of her kingdom and bound into his service. Through him she has caused the death of many people, as he poisoned the water sources that she found under his orders. She escaped the prince and was living a life on the run until Mer’s old handler found her, and suggested a way to bring down the prince and free the kingdom from his rule.

Firstly, Emily Lloyd-Jones is an American. I assume with her surname there is Welsh heritage there, but she is from Oregon, USA, and that does mean this is not an own voices story. Lloyd-Jones has written Welsh based/inspired stories before that Welsh readers haven’t exactly… loved the representation inside. Given that this came in a British (clearly English) book box, I’m disappointed that Illumicrate once again chose an American author. But as I don’t know enough about Wales I can’t speak to whether this book badly represents the country or not. I recommend finding own voices reviewers to confirm that aspect.

Separate from the representation issues however, this is a fun, basic, little read. It’s a sweet book, and quite a quick one to get through meaning that I’ll recommend this YA fantasy to any teens who ask. I adore the little Corgi that features through the book, definitely the best character 😉 but a lot of the other characters fell flat, despite the attempts at development and at adding in depth. We do get LGBTQ+ representation in here, which is always great, but even then the relationships portrayed felt quite flat and one dimensional.

This book has one of the most “fairytale” endings I’ve read in a long while, especially as an adult. Not everything goes right, but the characters end mostly happy and with that uptick of “the world is getting better”. This was marketed as “standard” YA but I definitely feel as though it leans towards younger YA instead. Nothing wrong with that at all (some of my favourites are in that bracket) but it did mean I went in with the wrong expectations.

The plot is the most interesting thing about this book, and it did show a lot of promise. But? The twist at the end was just… so unrealistic for how she had portrayed the characters so far? There wasn’t enough character depth to justify the choices that they made, and not enough weight given.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 6, Atmosphere: 7, Writing: 6, Plot: 7, Intrigue: 7, Logic: 6, Enjoyment: 7, giving an average of 6.57 and a 3.5* rating.

Highlight here for trigger warnings: character death (on-page), child/spouse death, suicide, drowning, slavery, torture/branding, severe injury, violence, poison, guilt, self-loathing.

This is definitely a fun read, I wouldn’t want to put anyone off reading it. Just be aware what you’re going into. A fun, basic fantasy read that won’t stick in the mind but will be a bit of fun whilst you read it.

Have you read The Drowned Woods or anything else by Emily Lloyd-Jones? I’d love to hear what you think of her writing!