Damsel by Elana K Arnold


Damsel
by Elana K. Arnold

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb:

The rite has existed for as long as anyone can remember: when the prince-who-will-be-king comes of age, he must venture out into the gray lands, slay a fierce dragon, and rescue a damsel to be his bride. This is the way things have always been.

When Ama wakes in the arms of Prince Emory, however, she knows none of this. She has no memory of what came before she was captured by the dragon, or what horrors she has faced in its lair. She knows only this handsome prince, the story he tells of her rescue, and her destiny to sit on the throne beside him. Ama comes with Emory back to the kingdom of Harding, hailed as the new princess, welcomed to the court.

However, as soon as her first night falls, she begins to realize that not all is as it seems, that there is more to the legends of the dragons and the damsels than anyone knows–and that the greatest threats to her life may not be behind her, but here, in front of her. 

For the past couple of years I have really been enjoying fairytale retellings, so when the opportunity to review Damsel came up I jumped at the chance not really knowing what it would be about beyond Princes, Damsels and dragons.

Unusually I’m going to start my review by talking about the ending because I think it will be the part of this book that is most controversial and potentially disliked. For my part, I got to the end and said aloud to the empty room “WHAT.THE.HELL”. I’m not going to give any spoilers beyond saying that the secret behind Prince Emory’s slaying of the dragon is… graphic, disgusting and fairly shocking. It definitely hit me from left field, although thinking about the book as a whole I think you could argue that there’s a strong theme throughout that builds up to this ending.

As much as the ending wasn’t my favourite part of the book, it does add to the grim, gritty, dark tone of the story. I still dropped my rating of Damsel by a star because for me, it took the book in a direction I felt was unnecessary. I feel like the feminist tone of the book and the gradual rebellion of Ama was strong enough to make a fantastic story without needing the truly bizarre shock factor part of the ending.

Ending aside, I was hooked on this book from the first page. Arnold’s writing style lends itself fantastically to the fairytale genre and I thought the world building in this book was particularly strong- possibly because Ama is discovering the world at the same time the reader is.

This book will make you angry, sad, probably a little big disgusted in places but it will also give you some real feminist satisfaction. This is a truly grim fairytale, so if you’re looking for a romance, this is not it. It’s gritty, but also beautifully written. Just don’t blame me if you read it and hate the ending…

Thanks to Harper 360 for sending me a proof copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Distortion by Victor Dixen

Distortion by Victor Dixen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I recieved an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in return for an honest review

I really loved Ascension so I couldn’t wait to start reading Distortion. I was desperate to know what the Martian pioneers would decide to do!

Distortion opens straight back in the thick of the action that Ascension finished on, which I loved. All too often sequels finish on a really juicy story line and pick up miles in the future when everything has been resolved. In Distortion, we get to experience the pioneers making the decision whether to land on Mars or turn the Cupido around. The suspense was really well built and up until the decision was made I was unsure which they would choose to go with.

I found the story line with Andrew and Harmony a bit of a disruption to the flow of the book. I don’t massively care about their characters because they went from being secondary to a main story line in this book and really when I’m reading about them I just want to be back on Mars! However, I feel like they do play an important part in the ongoing plot and I’m interested to see what happens in the next book.

I really loved all of the action on Mars, in particular the storm and the revelation that the robots can talk really peaked my interest and made the book impossible to put down. I’m really enjoying this series and can’t wait to continue it and see whether they continue to live on Mars, return to Earth or suffer from the depressurisation of the habitats.

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What if it’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Essentially this book is best described as a modern day gay Sleepless in Seattle and it was an absolute joy to read from beginning to end. Throw in tons of references to Hamilton, Dear Evan Hanson and fantasy novels and I was in heaven.

If you know me you know how partial I am to a love story set in New York and I was heavily invested in Arthur and Ben’s relationship from the beginning of their meet cute right to the end of the book. Arthur was like an adorable puppy dog and I honestly LOVE him, whereas Ben was a little more guarded and standoffish. I like both of them but at times I was annoyed at Ben for hurting my poor baby Arthur. I really enjoyed the fact that they had to work at their relationship but they were prepared to do so.

In addition to Ben and Arthur, their friends were also wonderful to read. Dylan is my second favourite character (after Arthur), I loved his friendship with Ben, his slightly crazy approach to his own relationships and his general outlook on the world.

I’m so sad I’ve finished reading this book, I really wasn’t ready to leave their little gang. I foresee a lot of rereads in my future.

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The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The blurb for this book intrigued me instantly, as did it’s description of being a bit Agatha Christie/Groundhog Day/Quantum Leap, however I have to admit that as I sat down to begin this story I was apprehensive given the length of the book! At a hefty 512 pages I was worried it would be overly wordy and lose the momentum that mystery books like this need to keep a reader invested in the plot.

I needn’t have worried. I have never been so impressed with a mystery/crime book in my life. I was hooked instantly even though I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I love that the reader is plonked into the same position as the lead character and drip fed clues and information and for the most part has no idea of the significance of an action until much later in the book.

I usually love guessing the ending of mysteries, but find myself a little disappointed if I do manage to guess the ending or if the ending is so baffling it would never be able to be guessed by a sane person. Stuart Turton has achieved the impossible and created a mystery which ends so perfectly, which makes all the sense in the world but which very, very few people would be able to see coming.

I’m very cautious about reviewing this book in detail as I don’t want to give away a single plot point because it was such an incredible feeling to read this book knowing nothing about it. I was completely immersed and desperate to find out what would happen next.

I will say that I loved the sci-fi aspect of the plot, and I thought the repetition of the days was achieved masterfully. How on earth all the loose ends managed to get tied up at the end is completely astounding but very satisfying as a reader.

I cannot rave about this book enough and have already recommended it to several friends. I think this Christmas I may just bulk buy copies and hand them out to everyone I know.
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The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Nobody can write war like Pat Barker. Not the romanticised bloody battles which are so often written about, but the heart rending, visceral, brutal effect that war has on humanity.

Back in college I read Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy and it connected me with WWI in a way that nothing else had managed. The Silence of the Girls had a similar effect. It took one of the greatest Greek myths ever told and made it accessible. The familiar characters became flesh and blood, more flawed than heroic and the women who had been previously ignored became their own people, with personalities and emotions.

Their fear and disgust became mine and I could feel myself in their camp, smelling the blood and the sweat and following them around as they tried to survive.

I loved Briseis and couldn’t help rooting for her to escape Achilles and find some kind of happiness in her future.

I found it really important that this book wasn’t a love story. Briseis didn’t fall helplessly in love with the man who enslaved her. She didn’t forget that he had murdered her family and Pat Barker doesn’t shy away from the fact that these so called heroes are raping women they have claimed as prizes. It is such an important book and it really makes you think about the way these stories have classically been told, with faceless women doing what they are told because the men deserve their spoils of war.

I thoroughly recommend this book, it’s one of my top reads of the year.
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XX by Angela Chadwick

XX by Angela Chadwick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I was really intrigued when I read the synopsis for this book. Imagine a world in which scientists can use two women’s eggs to produce a baby girl. It’s such a interesting concept and one which would completely change the world if it were true.

From the beginning I was drawn into Jules and Rosie’s relationship and I felt a part of their struggles. Sometimes books which feature science as their plot are too science-heavy, whereas XX very much focuses on the humans involved in the science- what’s it like for them, what are they experiencing and feeling and how they would cope with the events that unfurl.

I found this meant I gobbled up page after page eager to know what happened next, personally invested in whether Rosie and Jules would get their happy ending. It also avoided the author getting anything too scientific incorrect, which is important as it wouldn’t have worked to make up the science involved in this process.

I had real problems liking Jules as a person. I felt she consistantly made the wrong choices when she could so easily have made the right one. She was quite infuriating as a character but this did work within the plot of the book as Jules frequently makes reference to the fact she knows she’s less personable and easy to like than her partner Rosie.

I thought the exploration of what makes a child yours and the feelings Jules and Rosie had about the baby all the way through the book was really believable and honestly whilst I was reading I had no idea how it was all going to end.

I also really enjoyed the fact it was set in Petersfield and surrounding areas as that’s near where I’m from. It was nice to see familiar names and areas being referenced. I think only people who live near Leigh Park will properly understand the relevance of Jules’s father being raised there!

I really enjoyed this book.

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The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen

The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I was instantly intrigued by the premise of this story. I loved the idea of the dead letters depot, staffed by letter detectives working to return lost mail to their rightful owners. I would absolutely love to be a letter detective, so much so I can’t bring myself to research whether this ever was an actual, real job once. I couldn’t bear to have missed out on such an interesting job because I was born in the wrong decade!

As the plot unravelled I became enthralled. I was so heavily invested in the love story of William and Clare, and then so intrigued to read more letters from the mysterious Winter. I was desperate to find out who she was and whether William would find her.

As characters, William and Clare were very flawed but also very lovable. I was rooting for their marriage and shaking my head in despair every time they did something to damage the chances of them fixing their issues. I felt like I knew them both intimately by the time I was a third of the way through the story and I think this is because of the incredibly beautiful and almost melodic way of writing Helen Cullen has.

Personally, I found the ending a bit disappointing. As I got nearer the end I could feel that I wasn’t going to get the neat, tidy ending I was yearning for. The number of pages I had left didn’t tally with the amount of story that still needed to be reconciled. I feel a bit cheated that we never got to properly “meet” Winter and that we didn’t get to see William and Clare’s reconciliation.

Overall though, I loved this beautifully written book and will be highly recommending it to many people.
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