Review: The Dragon’s Promise

Review: The Dragon’s Promise

Rating: 5 out of 5.

*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

Having survived her fatal curse, Princess Shiori must make good on her promise to her stepmother and return her dragon’s pearl to its rightful owner. But when the journey consists of a time-bending dragon’s den and an island that is the birthplace of demons, Shiori finds herself dealing with matters unheard of. While navigating human politics and its disdain for the magic that runs in her blood, Shiori must also tackle the pearl as its disorderly state threatens to harm those around her. Can she mend all she’s done, or will she sever her threads of fate?

The Dragon’s Promise wastes no time in its pacing, picking up right where the first one has ended. Shiori and her brothers are mourning the death of their stepmother after discovering that her curse was really protecting them all this time. Having spent most of the Six Crimson Cranes traversing her homeland, Shiori must enter the dragon realm and deal with the Dragon King, who is determined to get his claws on the peal at all cost. But her story is far from being over, as she must also make her way to the island of demons, luring the monster Bandur, a familiar enemy from Crimson, who is hellbent on bringing Shiori to her knees. 

The theme of family, both found and birth, runs deep in this duology and is one of its most defining aspects. Shiori grows closer with her brothers, finds love with Takkan and even a great friendship with Seryu, her dragon companion. While Takkan is the definitive love interest, I think I might have been part of a smaller crowd who adored Seryu and Shiori’s connection. Nonetheless, Shiroi and Takkan are downright adorable together. We are introduced briefly to new characters within the Dragon Realm, and in moments like then, I mourned that this story was only a duology because the potential runs deep as the dragon realm. Elang, a cousin of Seryu, to Gen, a trapped magic-user, are a few to name. Characters who come and go but make their marks in the scenes they appear in. As with Crimson, the way Lim weaves Asian mythology into this retelling of The Wild Swans is top-notch. Brilliant characters with beautiful writing all wrapped up into a duology that feels well done. 

The Dragon’s Promise was enchanting and fantastical. The Kingdom of Kiata is vast and memorable. From the harsh winters of Iro to the Forgotten Isles of Lapzur, Lim brings to life an entire continent with glorious detail and special moments. Elizabeth Lim has gained a forever fan from this duology alone. 


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Review: Six Crimson Cranes

Review: Six Crimson Cranes

Rating: 4 out of 5.

After losing control of her magic on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Princess Shiori accidentally catches the attention of her stepmother, Raikama. Magic is forbidden in Kiata, and when Shiori discovers that Raikama has her own, she is banished from her Kingdom, her six brothers turned into cranes, and she is cursed never to utter a word unless she wishes for one of her brothers to die. Voiceless and alone, Shiori must find her brothers, break the curse and discover the truth behind her magic. Or risk losing her kingdom to the battling armies of the neighbouring lands. 

Six Crimson Cranes was fantastic! This one has been sitting in my TBR for a year now; its gorgeous cover enticing to me to pick it up during one of my reading blocks. My god, this was so much fun. Sure, I’ll be honest, the plot was a bit predictable, but in this case, the journey you take to get there makes it all worthwhile. 

The youngest of her family and the only girl amongst her siblings, Shiori is brash and hard-headed. She is led to her betrothal ceremony when her paper bird slips out of her sleeve. She panics because no one is supposed to know she can enchant things to life. So, she runs. And in doing so, she meets a dragon who saves her life.  Her outburst worries her family and delays her ceremony, but the only one who seems to believe her meeting a dragon is her stepmother. The mysterious Raikama. Shiori begins to delve deep into her stepmother, and when she accidentally discovers her powers that will harm her family, she tries to tell her brothers the truth. That sets Raikama off, who then turns her brother into cranes, curses her voice to kill them if she speaks and then throws her into a corner of the world where no one will know who she is. Even if she tried, no one would believe her anyway. 

Complicated family dynamics is a core theme in Six Crimson Cranes. From Shiori’s relationship with her father, her stepmother, and her six older brothers. Shiori is quite stubborn and, in the beginning, very immature. I was worried that she wouldn’t grow out of it thus ruining my enjoyment of the book. But Lim smashes it out of the park and I adore the way Shiori grows as a character in a way that makes sense and feels rewarding as a reader. I just adore how the relationship she has with her brothers. While she adores them all she recognises the varying connections she has with each brother, some closer than others. I would’ve loved to have seen more from her brothers but I don’t rate the book less because of it since giving a spotlight to all six might be too much. 

Usually, romance in stories like these never appeals to me. I was actually shocked to find myself actually enjoying the growing relationship between Shiori and her love interest. It was so sweet and real, and never once distracts from the main plot. I read an interview where Lim explains that their relationship was a challenge for her, but I hope she knows she thoroughly succeeded. 

Based on Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Wild Swans”, Lim takes the tale and makes it her own, spinning together a gorgeous tale of a young girl who grows to find power in her own voice. An incredible start to a duology. I cannot wait to read more. 


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Review: XOXO

Review: XOXO

Rating: 3 out of 5.

**I received a proof copy from Harper360YA in exchange for an honest review**

When Jenny meets mysterious Jaewoo in her Uncle’s karaoke bar, she should have turned him away, but instead, they have a spontaneous night to remember in downtown LA. Numbers are exchanged, and Jaewoo disappears. Months later, Jenny and her mother move to South Korea to care for her ill grandmother, only to discover that Jaewoo wasn’t just a nobody but a member of one of the most prominent rising K-pop boy groups in South Korea.

Jenny is an aspiring cellist, hoping to follow her deceased father’s passion, to become a musician to make her family proud. After some harsh feedback, she feels deflated, which urges her to spend the night travelling LA with Jaewoo despite barely knowing him. When she comes to South Korea and discovers Jaewoo is no ordinary person, her life trajectory is suddenly off-balance. XOXO was fun to read; in a sense, it was like I was watching a K-drama unfold within the pages. If I were younger, I definitely would’ve enjoyed this more.  

The story is cute, and there were some adorable moments between Jenny and Jaewoo. Still, in the end, it lacked depth and any attempts to highlight the “darker side of k-pop” such as bullying and the strenuous training process fell flat and wasn’t as impactful as Oh might have intended. It’s also made me realise that these K-pop centred stories are just formulaic without any outstanding features. XOXO might be the only one that hadn’t made me feel second-hand embarrassment throughout the entire story. It suffers greatly from all tell and no show, clearly marketed towards K-pop/K-drama fans who won’t need any introduction to anything here. Jenny and Jaewoon have some highlights, but the repetitive back and forth made it a chore to read. The side characters are no better; interchangeable in my mind.  Having enjoy Oh’s other works, I was surprised to find myself so disappointed with this.

Overall. XOXO is a sweet but predictable read. That’s all I can really say, there was nothing special about it that jumped out and make it memorable. Though, through no fault of its own, has made me realise that K-pop centred stories are not for me.


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Review: Jay’s Gay Agenda

Review: Jay’s Gay Agenda

Rating: 3 out of 5.

**I received a proof copy from Harper360YA in exchange for an honest review**

Moving from his rural hometown to busy Seattle, Jay Collier hopes to finally find a place where he belongs after spending most of his teens as the only openly gay person in his town. While his hometown peers have already moved past first, second and third bases, Jay creates his romantic agenda in hopes that Seattle can cross them all off. As he slowly begins to check his list, life has a habit of throwing us all off track as Jay begins to realise life can’t be boxed into a neat list and if he wants to stay true to himself, he may need to go off plan. 

Jay’s Gay Agenda is surprisingly sweet and very messy. Jay is a bright young boy who wishes to have the same romantic endeavours as his peers. But being the only boy who is gay and out to his community, his chances for romance is slim to none. But when his mum is promoted at her job, and with that comes a new home in Seattle, Jay finally feels like he can see the light at the end of the tunnel. He creates his Gay Agenda to help him figure out his wants and needs and everything is going well when he meets Albert on his first day of school. I actually really enjoyed his journey of being this small-town boy finally getting the chance to explore his sexuality.  I actually adore many of the characters in the story. I could definitely see this as a live-action in a similar vein to Simon Vs. or Heartstopper

If you’ve already seen reviews for this, then you’ll already know that the reception for this is rather mixed since Jay cheats and lies to his friends and love interest. I personally did not enjoy the cheating plotline. It really depends on how you read the story as I understand people might not see it as cheating. For me, it definitely crossed into cheating once Jay and Albert had a discussion about their first time and he promises to wait for Albert, despite having slept with someone the chapter before. 

My main issue with this book was the writing style itself. It felt off, and not a realistic voice of a teenager in current times. Jay’s voice felt rather exaggerated and more so like someone was trying to write was a teenager sounds like rather than sounding natural. It felt like a  teen movie script which was rather disappointing. I wouldn’t cross this off as a do not recommend. While it wasn’t for me, it depends on who you’re recommending this for because Jay’s voice and humour won’t be for everyone. 

Overall, Jay’s Gay Agenda is about finding yourself in a way that works best for you. Navigating life isn’t perfect and Jay, despite his refreshing optimistic attitude, doesn’t always get it first try, which is why, despite my prior thoughts, thought it was still a great exploration of sexuality from the perspective of a teen youth.


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Review: You Truly Assumed

Review: You Truly Assumed

Rating: 2 out of 5.

*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

After a terrorist attack near her home, Sabriya’s summer plans are thrown out the window. Instead, she turns to an online journal to express her feelings. You Truly Assumed (the blog)  becomes a hit as Muslim teens gather around the new community. Soon, Zakat and Farah join the team to help, but as their numbers rise, so makes the malicious comments. And the community they’ve worked so hard to build might just come tumbling down if they don’t speak up. 

You Truly Assumed is a story that had a lot of potential. And I feel like it almost hits the spot but fails to keep its momentum. Let’s start with the plot. Three girls, Bri, Zakat and Farah. Bri is a ballet dancer whose summer auditions are cut short after a terrorist attack makes her hometown standstill. Her sister encourages her to put her pen to a digital paper and sets up an online blog to discuss her thoughts privately, or so she thought. Instead of auditions, she’s helping the terror attack victims while YTA thrives.  She recruits Farah, who is currently spending the summer with her estranged father and joins the team to help run the tech side of the blog. Zakat’s artistic flair brings a new image to the blog; however, her family aren’t supportive of her future in art. When Bri notices an influx of hate comments, a physical threat almost tears them down, and they have to figure out how to control it or risk shutting the site down. 

You Truly Assumed thrives in concept. I adored the idea of three young women using the blog to tell their stories, creating a community where they can discuss what they want on their terms. It also highlights the voice and individual levels of three young Black Muslim girls. I really enjoyed seeing the diversity in their lives and how Sabreen explores the different ways a person can experience Islamaphobia and racism. 

My main issue with You Truly Assumed is that while the plot is engaging, the writing simply isn’t. It felt weird reading the story of Sabriya, Zakat and Farah because it reads like three stories forced into one book. It’s one big book telling the readers what happens and not an ounce of showing. We are told their blog is thriving, yet we only see three, maybe four, posts within the book. If I can recall correctly, only two of them were actually blogging content.  We are told these girls have become close friends, but their conversations are limiting and most of their development happen off-page. This entire book hinges on the emotional connection between these girls, but the emotion isn’t there, so readers are left just to watch it all happen. 

Overall, I wasn’t impressed. The heart of the story is so there and close within our reach. It feels like a story incomplete, and it was exhausting to read, mainly because I was imagining what the book could’ve been. 

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Review: The Boy with Fire

Review: The Boy with Fire

Rating: 3 out of 5.

*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

In a world teetering on the edge of war, one man’s hunger for power might just doom them all. Yassen Knight was once a notorious assassin, now he’s on the run and his only ticket to freedom is defending the princess of Ravence. Elena is counting down the days she ascends the throne, but her inability to hold Fire threatens her crown. Leo isn’t ready to give the crown up yet, not when a looming prophecy threatens everything he holds dear. As the clock ticks till the coronation, the people of Ravence must prepare for change or fear seeing the land burn. 

What stood out about this book for me was the writing. I think Verma is a phenomenal writer. I really enjoyed how she writes, it’s rich and filled with details that make the world of Sayon come to life. She writes quite smoothly in a way that seems very experienced. There are too many good quotes from this book. I’m sure my Kindle copy is more highlights than plain lines. 

However, when I finished this book, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. The world-building is well done, and I enjoyed the universe Verma has formed. But I couldn’t seem to place where my disappointment lay, but I think, in the end, the characters themselves didn’t live up to the world they resided in. I feel like we really only got to understand the characters at a surface level.

Elena and Leo were interesting, and I liked the parallel between father and daughter as Leo struggles to make sure Elena will inherit a world worth fighting for, but fails to understand what is really best for his land. Yassen is introduced strong and I was prepared to adore him, but again there really isn’t any significant action aside from Leo’s chapters so much of the book is rather slow. It’s a constant cycle of being reminded that Elena can’t control her fire ability and Yassen is a former traitor. The book is advertised as “enemies to lovers,” but the energy between Elena and Yassen isn’t there. Elena is engaged in an arranged marriage between Samson, a friend of Yassen, and it feels like they had better chemistry. 

It’s been some time since I finished this book, and I still can’t figure out where I stand with it. Conceptually, its plot and characters should appeal to me but reading this book felt like a drag. Pitched as Dune meets The Poppy War, The Boy with Fire struggles to light a flame to its comp mates. The potential is there, and for another reader, it will be perfect, but the story barely made a mark for me.


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