Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson

Ebook, 512 pages
Fantasy, Young Adult, Fiction, Fantasy, Dystopian
Trigger Warnings: Violence, Blood

Rating: 5 out of 5.

 Make a wish, Kazi, one for tomorrow, for the next day, and the next. One will always come true.

I don’t know why the universe has decided to bless my book choices in the latter half of 2021, but I am not complaining. So far, all my books have been a 5 star read. Again, not complaining and hopefully, my luck won’t run out any time soon. (Though, they could be shorter. So, if you have any books that are 5 stars but under 400 pages- put it in the comments, please.)

Now, technically, this book is part of another trilogy called The Remnant Chronicles, the existence of which I found out after I read the first book. They should really put up some sort of disclaimer for that. (And I should start reading the blurbs as well. But going in blind is half the fun.) So, anyway, as far as I can tell, reading TRC is not required and I enjoyed the book just fine without knowing the common characters but if you are one of those people who like to go “Heyyyyy!” whenever you see a familiar character, go right ahead. Somewhat like the Six of Crows duology and the Grisha Trilogy, one world separate stories. (Fun fact: I read SoC before any of the other books there too.)

“Tell me a riddle, Kazi.”

This book, in my opinion, is a solid 5 stars for a lot of reasons. The plot was perfect, the world building was out of this world, the characters I would take a bullet for and the writing, if I could bottle the way the writer has written this, I would cause it would sell like hotcakes.

So, color me surprised, when I learned that, despite this being one of the best enemies to lovers‘ books I have ever read, this book is so underrated that it never ever shows up on any lists?! Like people, YOU ARE SLEEPING ON THIS AMAZING GORGEOUS BOOK!

“It’s awkward, isn’t it?” he said.

“What’s that?” I replied, my voice far too breathy.

“These moments when we’re not hating each other.”

Now, remember those characters that I would take a bullet for? Well, time to meet them. Kazi, a former legendary thief who is now under employment of the Queen of Venda as her personal army ‘Rahtan'(And yes, maybe in the start I loved her a little too much because of another lovable thief whose name is a little too alike to hers) goes to investigate the transgressions against her Kingdom, in Hell’s mouth, a settlement ruled by the Ballenger Family, headed by Jase, their Patrei.

“Every exchange of words between Jase and me seemed like a dance, a step forward, a step back, circling, both of us leading, anticipating, wondering what the next move would be. He didn’t trust me any more than I trusted him.”

I loved their romance. At times it was frustrating but I loved that even as they were falling in love, they never forgot their agendas. Kazi didn’t stop investigating the Ballengers nor did Jase divulge everything just because he loved her. And I loved that. They didn’t let their guard down. Often, I see how in books, the characters fall in love and then, spill their deepest darkest secrets in a matter of seconds which inevitably leads them to be betrayed.

“blink last”

Other than Kazi, we see the rest of the Rahtans aka bad ass females who didn’t cower behind anyone or anything. I loved how apart from being loyal soldiers they were given their own stories. In a short span, I loved each of them and their sibling like relationship with each other.

“You are Rahtan, Kazi. You have a promise to keep, and you will betray him eventually.”

I loved the Ballengers with ferocity. I loved their loyalty to one another. The unspoken bond, the trust in Jase as Patrei despite him not being the oldest or the strongest. Just because he was the chosen one, his words were accepted and followed.

Another thing I loved about this book was the subtle hint to dystopia. The hints were there, about the first Ballengers, the way they fought against a mysterious group called Scavengers. Told from a group of kids too young to remember what life was like before, the writer merges our world with theirs in a wonderful collusion that only becomes evident if you know the current world.

Choose your words carefully, even the words you think, because they become seeds, and seeds become history.

Now, the best way to describe Mary’s writing is like drinking water. It was 500 pages that I inhaled in a matter of days. It helped that the chapters were tiny, told from two POV’s. And I always say that if done properly, rotating POVs can be an amazing hook for a reader. And this was as proper as it gets. Riveting from beginning to end, this book remains one of the most addicting books I have read this year.

So, if it wasn’t clear so far, I loved this book. And I would recommend it to any dystopian, fantasy, young adult, new adult, ‘enemies to lovers‘ reader because you will not be disappointed.

Jade City by Fonda Lee

Ebook, 560 pages
Urban Fantasy, Adult, Romance
Trigger Warnings: Violence, Death, Drugs

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Honestly, I don’t think I have read many book that fall into the Urban Fantasy category. Maybe I just never found the appeal of mixing magic with big, concrete jungles or maybe I was just never recommended any or maybe (and this is the most possible of the three options), it got buried underneath the more popular books in my TBR. But rest assured, one of them has managed to claw itself out from under my TBR and I loved every single minute of it.

“Expectations are a funny thing,” Wen said. “When you’re born with them, you resent them, fight against them. When you’ve never been given any, you feel the lack of them your whole life.”

Jade City takes place in Kekon, an island just few decades ago, freed from the oppressive rule of the Shotarians. The island is home to two things- a race of people who can wield Jade to give themselves unimaginable heightened powers of Strength and the jade itself embedded into the very core of the island.

The book is primarily about Jade or rather the question of who controls its supply. Jade wielding warriors, called Green Bones, who fought together in the fight against Shotarians, in the present day are divided into two clans- The Mountain and No Peak. Both clans are trying to control the jade supply on and outside the island.

Kekon’s capital is a bustling city, filled with normal people doing their every day normal things. Under the normalcy of it all, there is an unsuspecting clan war brewing amongst the Green Bones clans. It seems that the days of peace are long past them, and all this fragile world of pseudo peace needs is one more thing to shatter it all.

“Heaven help me, Shae,” he whispered into her ear. “I’m going to kill them all.”

The book centers around the Kaul family consisting of Lan, the Pillar of the Clan, his Brother, Hilo who is the second in command and his Horn and his sister, Shae who abandoned her lineage and went abroad to study and has now returned.

I loved each of their characters. I love the depth Fonda has clearly poured into them, making them as malleable and humane as possible. I loved their intricate dynamics both outside and inside the clan. The two tier respect and behavior they reserved for Lan, one as Pillar demanding unquestionable loyalty, and another as their brother, with whom they joked with and cared for. Even Shae who had left her life and jade behind as a member of the clan and family, but discovers there is only so far a Kaul can run.

Lan’s destiny seemed to be written in the stars when he was passed the mantle from his ailing and quickly declining Grandfather. To whom, he tries so hard to live up to. Lan was probably the gentlest and kindest leader to have ever reigned No Peak. He went out of his way to steer the clan towards peace even when everyone around him, especially the enemies seemed hell bent on anything but that.

“Any old horse will run when it’s whipped, but only fast enough to avoid the whipping,” Hilo said. “Racehorses, though, they run because they look at the horse on their left, they look at the one on their right, and they think, No way am I second to these fuckers.”

I loved Hilo. I loved everything about his reckless boyish charms. His rugged features, how well and deep and unconditionally his love for those he deemed worthy of love and his deep rooted, undying loyalty towards his clan and members, the authority with his he reigns as horn and the soft and heart wrenchingly pure love towards the love of his life. I loved it all. How deep his love ran and the lengths he would go to to protect those he loved. Like a roaring fire, Hilo fought as he lived, alive in the most chaotic way.

“She thought, Two strong-minded women in a man’s world, if they do not quickly become allies, are destined to be incurable rivals.”

Another thing Fonda has done masterfully, is the female characters. They were raw, real and relatable. Whether it was Shae, a badass in her own right, Wen, who was limited in so many ways but didn’t let any of it deter her, or Ayt, the villain of this series. Each character was fleshed out and very real. From Shae’s reluctance to join back into the clan she left behind, to Wen who was limited as a Jade Immune Stone eye and from a disgraced family, to Ayt, who was ruthless but somehow justified in her means to her end. A trio of badass women in an environment where they shouldn’t have prevailed and yet somehow, they were equal to or sometimes even better than the men in the series.

“Screw you, Hilo,” she snapped. “I can kill my ex-boyfriends myself.”

I loved them as a family. As dysfunctional as most families, they came together when they were needed most. Hilo, who had resented his sister for abandoning them and running away with her lover and Shae, who never felt connected to the symbolic clan and all that would cost her. But blood does run thicker than water and when they needed to step, boy, do they step up.

And last, but definitely not least in any way, Anden Emery, a mixed blooded boy who the Kaul’s adopted. A cousin, not by blood but by bond to Lan, Hilo and Shae. Despite his tragic past, he is determined to live up to the Kaul’s name and this book is about his palpable trials and tribulations as its about the illegal Jade trade that leaks into the customary lives of Kekon’s clans.

Also, a special mention for not just the political side of this book but the business side. As a business and finance major, I can fully appreciate a well written finance references. You will be surprised how many times people screw it up.

All in all this book was a roller coaster ride. It was tense, and some parts had me screaming and some just made me want to puke. But at the end of the day, it was a good book with great characters, a good motive, clever characters that made sensible decisions and an overall good book. A mobster book with a fantasy element twisted in.

Mid Year Freak Out Tag

I want to laugh out loud about how apt this tag name is- Mid-year Freak out! Whoever named this knew what they were doing. I mean, don’t we all have a tiny existential crisis when we notice the word, July? Like how, in the world, is it July? And that is shortly followed by, how have I done, absolutely nothing in these past six months? But existential crisis aside, this is a great way to unwind and remind ourselves, Hey! there is still six months left to do what we need to do (Which is apparently read more books, in my case).

Now, this year has been a weird one in my case, because for once in my life, I might just possibly (practically banging my head on wood so that I don’t jinx myself) finish my Goodreads 2021 Reading Challenge. So, please cross your fingers and toes and anything else you can cross!

My goal has always been 52 books and then, towards September end, when I realize there is no way I can finish 52 books in a year, I slowly and very slyly, update my goal to a more easier one. So, have I met my goals? Yes. But have I really met them? Never.

Books I have Read so far:

A whooping 22! (*insert Taylor Swift singing 22*)

I know! I am proud of myself too. I know, on the big huge scale of Goodreads readers and bloggers, my 22 was probably something most of them (you) would finish in a week. But for me, with 166 days left (As GR was kind enough to inform me), this is a huge win.

Favorite Book That You’ve Read So Far In 2021:

This is probably the hardest thing to ask me. I hate making decisions. And well, choosing the best book in a year where I have read a lot of good books isn’t easy. (My picking game was on an all time high this year.) But after a lot of thinking, I have decided that The Sword of Kaigen by M. L Wang was it.

It was so incredibly beautiful that I knew just as I finished it that no book I read would not come close enough to beating it. A standalone spin off to M. L Wang’s Theonite series. (And the answer to the age old question: No, you don’t need to read the series to understand and enjoy this masterpiece.) This book is told from rotating POV’s of Mamoru, who is trying to live up to his family’s name, and his mother, Misaki, who is trying to outrun her past.

“Wholeness, she had learned, was not the absence of pain but the ability to hold it.”

A beautifully crafted story in an equally beautifully crafted world. Its the perfect book to get lost inside and at the end, refuse to come out of.

Best Sequel You’ve Read So Far In 2021:

So, I am an idiot, who apparently has not read any sequels this year. Now, the chosen book (if you can call it that) is not much of a sequel as it is a short (emphasis on short) story.

Heracles’ Bow by Madeline Miller which is a sort of sequel to The Song of Achilles. In her usual heart breaking manner, Miller packs a punch in just a few pages, which really is a whole new low.

Story explains why Philoctetes, who was Heracles’ Archer, who inherited his bow and poisonous arrows, is left behind before the Trojan War, despite Heracles oath to defend Helen of Troy.

A testament to her writing and something you can finish reading in 15 minutes, its still an enjoyable and heartbreaking piece told in a magical, torturous way.

New Release You Want To Read But Haven’t Read Yet?

I am a simple woman. I see the name Taylor Jenkins Reid, I automatically add it to my TBR (Which might I add is becoming quite like the sun as each day passes by- I too can’t look at directly at it for too long or it gives me a headache).

My favorite by her will always be The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, which if you haven’t read, please do because it is great!

I hope to read this one this year just like I hope to read all of TJR’s other books. Anyway, lets hope for the best.

Most Anticipated Release of the Second Half of 2021:

So, every year I do this thing, where every Tuesday, I look up new releases and then, add them to my TBR. It got so bad that my TBR looked like a bloated whale while my Read Books stayed lean as a single stalk of sad celery.

Now, I was adamant this year to make a bump in TBR list and hence, didn’t bother looking at “New Releases” with the strong belief that if it was meant to find me, it would.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that no book did (I am not made of stone!). On the contrary, a lot of books did.

Jade Legacy is the third and final book in The Green Bone Saga by Fonda Lee, of which I am currently reading the first book, Jade City.

Now, Am I enjoying it so much that despite not yet completing the first book I am eagerly waiting for the third one? No. I just didn’t have anything to add here.

Biggest Disappointment of the Year:

So, for a minute moment when I was going through my Read books, I couldn’t see any that I hated this year and I was quite amazed. Until my eyes fell on this book, that is.

I’ll admit, that me and Colleen have had a rough relationship. So, far, I have only liked one of her books, It Ends with Us. (Which apparently was the only one she wrote with her brain.)

This book, on paper, should have been right up my alley. Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be. And now, that I am painfully reminded of what an idiotic pathetic excuse for a book this really is, I have decided to write a rant review for this book to further encapsulate the sheer rage I felt reading this book. (Picture the rage you felt when watching the movie adaptation of Artemis Fowl and if you haven’t watched that terrible excuse for an adaptation, then, Percy Jackson which honestly wasn’t that much of a train wreck as the former.)

Biggest Surprise of the Year:

A book that surprised me in all honesty is, The Sword of Kaigen, but in the spirit of choosing a new book, I have picked The Priory of the Orange Tree, which also surprised me a lot.

I had heard a lot about this book before it released and most of the reviews rated it somewhere between 3-4.5 stars. But the main reason I didn’t want to pick up this book was its size. A whooping 850 pages! (Enough to kill a small bird, if you ask me.)

Now, told from multiple characters in different cities, it takes a minute to finally catch up with all of them and how they fit together. That, combined with a slow start, I can easily see why it was shedding stars. But soon, the book picks up and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. A decent 4 star read at the end.

New Favorite Author (Debut or New to You):

Almost all the books I read this year were by new authors (new to me) and well, all of them stand out in their own way.

However, Mary E. Pearson wrote one of the best enemies to lovers series, I have read so far- The Dance of Thieves. I loved her characters and her world she created. I loved the spunk each character had (even the side characters). I loved the way, the leads kept their agendas straight, even after falling head over heels for each other, which is such a rare quality in a book.

Underrated Gems You’ve Discovered This Year:

An easy choice but not an easy to read book. A List of Cages is very simply a punch to the gut. With poignant characters and a relationship that would make any grown man (or in this case, a very small yet stubborn woman) cry.

This book made my heart ache with each heavy page. The characters, who are all lovable cinnamon rolls, each with their own problems, were so relatable and incredibly well written.

With a trigger warning list as long as the river Nile, the book manages to exceed expectations and just carve out a whole in your heart.

Favorite Book to Movie Adaptation You’ve Seen This Year:

I have seen a lot of adaptations this year.

I saw Bridgerton, Firefly Lane, The Haunting of Hill House, Defending Jacob, The Haunting of Bly Manor, Shadow and Bone and Normal People and Behind her Eyes.

I also saw Witches, The Murder on the Orient Express, Matilda, Shawshank Redemption and Forrest Gump.

I think almost every blogger must have added Shadow and Bone as their favorite and I am no different. I eagerly waited for this show since its announcement and it did not disappoint. I loved Jesper’s character. My baby was adapted so well, I almost teared up.

Honestly, there are no words that can do my love for this show justice. An excellent adaptation and an even better show. I am on the edge of my seat the whole time. Oh, did I mention that I hate horror? And yet, I say this show is a must watch? Must mean something. (just saying.)
This adaptation was probably one I liked even more than the book (blasphemy I know!). I watched it before I read the book, but loved it all the same. One of the best series I have watched all year.

Words cannot put into words how insanely good this show was. I havent yet read the book so I can’t compare. But the show, in its 6 episodes, was amazing. AMAZING. Psychological thriller done spectacularly right!

What Books Do You Need to Read by the End of the Year?

Umm…all of them? Hello? How is this even a question. I plan to crack a tiny dent in my TBR. But right now, I have a short few that I plan on reading. Malibu Rising, Vow of Thieves and Jade City.

So, here ends my longest blog post yet. I want to say thank you, if you have read and liked what you read, so far. Means a lot!

WWW – Wednesday – 14th July 2021

Drudging through the other thousand book blogs out there, I have discovered this fun little meme for book bloggers. Hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words, in it bloggers answer the three WWW’s:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finished reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

Its supposed to be done every Wednesday but because I am me and have a terrible repute for being a slow AF reader, I have decided to do this every month. (Someone please remind me to do this next month. Thank you)

Current Read:

Now, I have, maybe, finished three chapters of this book and so, I can’t really vouch whether its worth a hype yet. A prose reminiscent of The Poppy War Trilogy and The Sword of Kaigen (Review to come), I am quite curious to see how the plot progresses. Something tells me that its going to wreck my heart solely because its an epic fantasy, and most epic fantasies tend to take a shard of my broken heart with them. (Examples as referred above).

This book is yet another reminder that I should fix my annoying habit of picking a book up solely because “the cover made it looked interesting” and actually read the goddamn synopsis. It will be like The Wives all over again where I didn’t know the protagonist’s name until I was nearly done with the book.

Just Read (Phew!)

A fast paced read with an engaging plot. Read the full review for it here :The Wives

Up Next:

The second part of one of the best books I have read in a very long time. The first part was amazing on so many levels and the ending made me want to read the second part without skipping a beat!

Oh, did I mention its enemies to lovers? And has a plot to die for? And that lived up to any and all hype its getting? Anyway, RTC after the second book.