Review: The Burning God (The Poppy War #3)

Review: The Burning God (The Poppy War #3)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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

This review will be spoiler-free for The Burning God, but will mention content that will be spoiler-ish to the two previous books in the series, The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic.

Betrayed once again, Rin returns home to the southern provinces of Nikara and begins to take her own stand for her future. The people of the South are fighting two battles: one with the stranded Mugen soldiers and another with the Dragon Warlord. Rin can help, but she faces even more difficulty as the Southern Coalition aren’t too happy with her arrival. But the common people rise behind her, and she quickly realises that power is within the people who are done with being treated as fodder. But will Rin be strong enough to resist the Phoenix who calls for her to burn the world, along with everyone she loves with it? As she begins to grow her army, Rin must make her final stand against the Hesperians, or lose her country to colonisers once again.

I remember reading TPW for the first time back in 2018. It was exhilarating and one of the best books I had ever read. (Still is one of the best books I’ve ever read.) Kuang makes her mark with this series, and in this finale, the stakes are higher than ever before. And I can now confirm that The Poppy War trilogy is one of the best series I have ever had the privilege to read. This trilogy is just pain in three acts. Not one of the books falter, and Rin’s story remains incredible and deeply saddening at the same time.

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Review: The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War #2)

Review: The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War #2)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

After causing the fall of Mugen and the ending the Third Poppy War, Rin is on the run. Hiding from her vengeful god, who rises to wreak havoc, hiding from the Empress who sold out her country, while plotting her revenge. But the Cike is a only a few numbers and with no other options, Rin must join the Dragon Warlord, who plans to remove the Empress and establish a brand new Republic. Struggling to control her power, Rin throws herself into the democratic turmoil, learning that the Empress holds darker secrets than she first anticipated and the Dragon Warlord’s beliefs are not what she expected. She might have ended the Third War, but another is about to begin and Rin will do anything to exact her revenge.

I had put off reading The Dragon Republic for so long. After reading the emotional turmoil that was The Poppy War back in 2018, my anticipation for its sequel, The Dragon Republic, was sky high. Life got in the way and a pandemic finally gave me time to read its sequel in time for the finale. The Poppy War was a wild fire start, burning from the first page. We witnessed Rin grow from a young child, unaware of her past to a young adult, that quite literally lit the world on fire. The Dragon Republic continues straight from the aftermath of TPW, Rin is tired and confused, while also battling the literal god that resides within her. She had ended the Mugen Federation overnight, but now she must face the consequences, and prepare for her next move: killing the Empress. Which is hard enough when her band of friends are labelled enemies of the Nikan Empire, and Rin struggles to control herself without the use of opium.

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Review: The Kingdom of Copper

Review: The Kingdom of Copper

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Years after the aftermath of The City of Brass, Nahri continues her power struggle with the King of Daevabad as she forges her own path without the guidance of her closest friends. Slowly, she begins to embrace her lost heritage, but one misstep can doom her tribe forever. Meanwhile, Ali, far from home in exile, continues to live on, defying his father’s orders. Hunted by assassins, he is forced to rely on his own new abilities, but a long-kept secret of his family is causing devastating effects. As the djinns begin to celebrate the new century, a brand new force threatens to topple Daevaebad’s strong brass standing.

I stand by this statement now: the Kingdom of Copper is the best book of the trilogy. To say a lot happens is an understatement. Five years after Ali is exiled and Dara is presumed dead to all, Nahri is left mostly on her own, now married to Ali’s older brother, Muntadhir, and despite all her bargaining for her dowry, she is still trapped under the thumb of the Al-Qahtani family. My biggest fear for Kingdom was the possibility it could fall victim to becoming the bridge book. But building upon the already mindboggling web of events and rules of the Daevabad universe, Kingdom outshines its predecessor by a mile and a half.

The rich and intricate history that Chakraborty has created is SO mind-blowingly good. Each book is this story is quite a hefty read, but you feel the impact. The djinn have long existed before Nahri’s time, and it shows. Their power struggles, wrongdoings and mistakes, the history is felt through every page. I truly felt for Nahri, who was raised in the human realm, because I felt overwhelmed by the detail laid out on every page. The magic system, myths, history and culture, has evident importance to the story and nothing is mention for no reason, everything has a meaning and impact on every character’s life.

Now we go onto our cast of characters, where do you even begin? Nahri has grown up a lot since Brass. I felt like in the first book; she was a little too backed up into a corner, given little to no information about her past so her struggles can come across as quite frustrating to readers. But in Kingdom, she is in better control of her life, despite the restriction. My heart soared when she discovered the abandoned hospital and slowly watching her plan to rebuild and create a space where the djinn and shafit (half-human/djinn offsprings) alike can have access to medical care. But no one willing to help her achieve such plans. Then comes Ali, our castaway prince, who begrudgingly returns to his family. He thrives a lot out of the comfort of his royal court, and it’s a shame we didn’t see more of their world outside of Daevabad. I think Kingdom consolidated Ali as my favourite character of the series. His pious disregard to the dark side of the court business made him quite a different character to Nahri, who is continuously using her con-artist skills to her benefit. Kingdom also shines a stronger light on the Al-Qahtani siblings, especially Muntadhir, Ali’s hot-headed older brother who is now married to Nahri. The two have resigned themselves to a loveless marriage of convenience, but the pair have an excellent working relationship. While they don’t see each other as trustworthy partners, they aren’t enemies either. They realise they’re both in miserable circumstances and they have to work together in order to get through it all. I came to really love Muntadhir in this book. And finally, Dara. I wasn’t too sure on his character in the first book but, just like Muntadhir, I come to understand and appreciate him here. You feel for him as he tries to do what is best, but he has no choice but to make unethical choices, guided by another. Ghassan and Manizeh are given so much more depth than the predecessor book.

Overall, I absolutely recommend the Daevabad series. Chakraborty returns to her sweeping universe with an absolute bang, giving us a compelling sequel that takes you on a wild, magical journey. What I loved the most about Kingdom was the characterisation of everyone, hero and villain alike. With raised tensions and higher stakes, this fantasy series ranks very high on my list.


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Book Review: The City of Brass *Updated*

Book Review: The City of Brass *Updated*

* I initially received an ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in 2018. This is an updated review. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Daevabad, a magical city that is split between six djinn tribes, is not the place Nahri expected herself to run to after accidentally summoning a daeva warrior. Suddenly her skill to magically heal and deduce other’s medical issues almost makes sense in these magical lands. Her only companion is the daeva warrior whose past is just as cloudy as her own. But when she meets Prince Ali, the youngest royal in the city of Daevabad, their battle for political power intertwines as they struggle to protect the ones they love. 

When I first read The City of Brass, I wasn’t too hot on it, originally. I had initially read this beast of a book during an awful reading slump which I genuinely believe impacted my opinion because I re-read this book back in March of 2020, and my mind was blown. I can’t believe how different my reading experience was this time. It was like I was reading a completely different book. I don’t think I’ve ever changed a rating so drastically before. (from 3 stars to 5 stars!)

I’m reading my old review of COB, and I want to LAUGH at past Zaheerah. Because everything I said in the original review, I am the complete opposite now. In the initial review, I’m very lukewarm towards our central trio (Nahri, Dara and Ali) but now? I freaking adore them. Nahri’s street smart wit, Dara’s mysterious presence and Ali’s infuriating yet endearing attitude. The familial relationship between Ali, his father and his two older siblings was of greatest interest to me. He is our insider to the Daevabad world and culture, so serious as he finds himself working with the very people his father despises in his fight against his world’s injustice. While Nahri navigates a world unknown, Ali is struggling to face his privilege while also balancing his love for his country and his family. But they both realise not everything is as black and white as they thought. 

The world-building was the best part of the novel. That opinion has not changed since 2018. It’s just so intricate and intensely detailed that it’s a wonder how the author managed to cram so much detail in every page without feeling overpowered as a reader. The cultural detail from the people to their clothes and customs. I imagined it all so well, the sprawling city of Daevabad. (This review was written before the announcement of the Netflix show so yes I am so excited to see the book come to life – Netflix, don’t mess this up.) The character-driven storytelling is so addictive; you genuinely don’t want to let this story go. 

Overall, re-reading The City of Brass was a brilliant decision. The City of Brass is full-on and a great foundational start to an excellent series. Most of this book is readers being introduced to the vast world and its people, and I can see most readers being put off by the sheer size. But Chakraborty is a brilliant action writer, her infusion of hard-hitting fight scenes with enchanting characters makes this a vibrant and thrilling fantasy world. I definitely recommend this story of a young healer, a djinn with a dark past, and a prince who wants to do his city justice.


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Resources on the Black Lives Matter movement, and what you can do to support basic human rights:
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Resources for UK citizens:
https://blm.crd.co/ (Specifically aimed towards UK & Ireland citizens)
– Black Lives Matter UK (https://blacklivesmatter.com/)
– Show Racism The Red Card (https://www.theredcard.org/)
– Runnymede (https://www.runnymedetrust.org/)
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Blog Tour: Jade War

Blog Tour: Jade War

Title: Jade War

Author: Fonda Lee

Publisher: Orbit Books

Publication date: 23 July 2019

Genres: Adult, Fantasy

Synopsis

In Jade War, the sequel to the World Fantasy Award-winning novel Jade City, the Kaul siblings battle rival clans for honor and control over an Asia-inspired fantasy metropolis. 

On the island of Kekon, the Kaul family is locked in a violent feud for control of the capital city and the supply of magical jade that endows trained Green Bone warriors with supernatural powers they alone have possessed for hundreds of years. 

Beyond Kekon’s borders, war is brewing. Powerful foreign governments and mercenary criminal kingpins alike turn their eyes on the island nation. Jade, Kekon’s most prized resource, could make them rich – or give them the edge they’d need to topple their rivals. 

Faced with threats on all sides, the Kaul family is forced to form new and dangerous alliances, confront enemies in the darkest streets and the tallest office towers, and put honor aside in order to do whatever it takes to ensure their own survival – and that of all the Green Bones of Kekon. 


The universe was clearly working in my favour when I was given the honour of participating in the Jade War blog tour organised by Shealea @ Caffeine Book Tours.

Of course, the biggest thank you to Shealea for hosting this mammoth of a blog tour and working alongside Fonda Lee and her publishing team to give us all physical copies to review! The participants of this tour are all wonderful and extremely talented and I can’t wait to see what everyone’s thoughts are on this brilliant gem of a book! Check out my review and playlist!

photo taken by zaheerah

Review

Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

*I received a finished copy via Caffeine Book Tours in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

We return to the city of Janloon, where the Mountain and No Peak clans have seemingly announced a public truce. But secretly the leaders of their respective clan continue to fight for control of their nation Kekon, home to the only source of jade, a magical energy source which strengthens its users. With the rise of jade smugglers, the Kaul family must work together to if they wish to bring down Ayt Mada while also squashing rising tensions within Kekon and its neighbouring countries.

My first thoughts after finishing Jade War weren’t even something I could describe. An incoherent stream of yelling seems rather fitting. The sheer joy I experienced from reading this novel is something that can’t be easily replicated.

I can’t decide what makes this series so exhilarating. It’s smart, action-filled with an intricate plot that doesn’t let you down. It truly has the perfect blend of brilliant worldbuilding and damn near perfect characters that reside within it. Everything felt so vivid and realistic and, more importantly, believable. The attention to detail is spot on, and nothing is forgettable. Jade War takes us out of Kekon and really delves deeper into the other countries. Usually, I would lean towards one or the other, worldbuilding or characters, but the Green Bone saga really hits the mark on everything.

Like in Jade City, there are many alternate perspectives, but the core ones remain the members of the Kaul family. And Lee solidifies her cast of characters that are immensely complex and ridiculously compelling.

Hilo was the game changer for me. There is so much growth and development with him that he has become one of my favourite male characters. His initial dangerous demeanour can be dissuading, but he is so protective of his loved ones that he has no choice but to act out to protect them. He is one of the series’ best characters.

Shae really stood out the most for me, personally, and her character truly grabbed my heart and was clearly unwilling to let go. Her role as Weather Man continues to be undermined daily, and she’s trying her hardest to prove to everyone she can her job, and not letting her personal life, which introduces a romantic relationship, conflict with her duty to the clan. Wen, now wife to Hilo, really makes her mark in Jade War. Hilo naturally fears for her since she’s resistant to jade, making her an easier target. But she refuses to let anyone stop her from helping her clan, her family. Her compassion and strength really amazed me. Wen and Shae, especially, are unstoppable and when they work together, shit gets done.

Anden is genuinely my favourite character in the series. In Jade War, he embarks on a new life, jade-free, on his cousin’s order, and even then, he can never truly escape the green life he was born into. What I loved, especially about Anden’s arc is that it brought to life the land beyond Kekon. And Anden he comes as a stranger and slowly learns that there’s a way to living green that is entirely different from the way he was brought up. The rules are stricter in different ways. Everything is on a different playing field when living jade-less, making it quite different from his own upbringing where Jade was crucial to your identity. And despite his promises to his family to keep a low-profile, he still manages to find trouble.

Family is such a core theme, and the circumstances the characters face put them under all sorts of pressure. Whether it be tradition, duty, honour or personal feelings, they return to each other because that’s what they’re fighting for. Stories that focus on familial love is what I love the most, and this series has, hands down, one of the best fictional families ever.

I realise I haven’t touched on this on my previous review of Jade City, but the fight scenes deserve a more extended discussion of its own. It truly comes to life and takes your breath away. The fight scenes are so brutal that I wasn’t sure if I would survive what would happen next. Having a story this ambitious and complex is not an easy feat, and Lee is incredible to have created a story so intense and satisfying.   

I was already head over heels obsessed with the Green Bone world, but Jade War just confirmed every feeling I had from Jade City wasn’t a fluke or a one-off. Jade City glittered with a promise of something bigger, and Jade War delivered that with a big bang. I have zero ideas of what will happen next, but I do know that is the clan is my blood, and the Pillar is its master. Fonda Lee deserves every word of praise and accolade she gets from this series, this series deserves it all and more.


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About the author

Fonda Lee writes science fiction and fantasy for adults and teens. She is the author of the Green Bone Saga, beginning with Jade City (Orbit), which won the 2018 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, was nominated for the Nebula Award and the Locus Award, and was named a Best Book of 2017 by NPR, Barnes & Noble, Syfy Wire, and others. The second book in the Green Bone Saga, Jade War, releases in the summer of 2019. Fonda’s young adult science fiction novels Zeroboxer (Flux), Exo and Cross Fire (Scholastic), have garnered numerous accolades including being named Junior Library Guild Selection, Andre Norton Award finalist, Oregon Book Award finalist, Oregon Spirit Book Award winner, and YALSA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. In 2018, Fonda gained the distinction of winning the Aurora Award, Canada’s national science fiction and fantasy award, twice in the same year for Best Novel and Best Young Adult Novel.

Fonda wrote her first novel, about a dragon on a quest for a magic pendant, in fifth grade during the long bus ride to and from school each day. Many years later, she cast her high school classmates as characters in her second novel, a pulpy superhero saga co-written with a friend by passing a graphing calculator back and forth during biology class. Fortunately, both of these experiments are lost to the world forever.

Fonda is a former corporate strategist who has worked for or advised a number of Fortune 500 companies. She holds black belts in karate and kung fu, goes mad for smart action movies (think The Matrix, Inception, and Minority Report) and is an Eggs Benedict enthusiast. Born and raised in Calgary, Canada, she currently resides in Portland, Oregon.

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Review: Jade City

Review: Jade City

Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

I’m more disappointed in the fact it took me this long to discover Jade City. This book has been in the world since 2017, and I’m only reading it now. Jade City is everything I’ve ever wanted in a book and more.

Set in the island of Kekon, a land stuck in a dangerous territory war between the No Peak Clan and The Mountain Clan, the Kauls of No Peak fight for control of their capital and the growing jade market. More than a green stone, Jade holds bioenergetic power that amplifies its users, and the two clans are fuelled by its power for control of Kekon.

Jade City is a masterpiece. Never have I found myself so captivated by a book that still lingered with me days after I had read it. The worldbuilding is on another level, and Fonda Lee has created such a vibrant and detailed world. I did find the beginning a little dense, but once you’ve settled into the world, you’re thrown straight into, and I loved it. The history of Kekon is vast and rich, you can see the level of detail that has gone into creating this world. The rank system based on Jade, the history of the world beyond Kekon and the inner workings of the diversity of lifestyle on the island. You can truly feel this world come to life as you read.

One of the book’s more stronger aspects is its characters. I truly loved how well thought out all their goals and struggles were. Even those you aren’t supposed to root for have a little piece of my respect. While the book follows multiple POVs, the main three were the Kaul siblings: Lau, Hilo and Shae. Lau, the new head of No Peak, struggles to garner the same respect his grandfather once had and living in the shadow of his late war father. Hilo is rash and impulsive and finds himself stepping into a role he was never meant to take. Shae returns to the island of Kekon and has no choice but to return to her old life as a Green Bone, after renouncing her role years before. Other characters I really enjoyed were Bero, a petty thief with a much more significant role, and the Kaul’s younger cousin, Anden, who was adopted into the family and struggles to come to term with his future as a fighter. There’s so much more I could talk about, but this book really balances the detailed world with complex characters quite perfectly.

Overall, Jade City will be one book I’ll recommend forever. The nature of the ending tells us the new clan war is far from being over. I’m so excited and interested to see what Lee will give us in its sequel. From the writing, execution, characters and sheer depth of the world inside, this series is on track to become one of my favourite series ever.


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