Review: Terciel & Elinor by Garth Nix

When an ill wind blows from the North, the magic of the Old Kingdom arrives with it, completely upending Elinor’s idyllic but isolated life. Meanwhile across the Wall, Abhorsen-in-Waiting Terciel trains to take on a role he feels he’ll never be ready for, and can only hope that he and his master together will be strong enough to finally lay to rest the Greater Dead creature that’s haunted their family for generations.

Terciel & Elinor is the sixth book in the Old Kingdom series, which began with Sabriel in 1995, and serves as a prequel to that book.

The Old Kingdom has been one of my favourite series for a long time now, and although I don’t feel like the more recent books quite live up to the awesomeness of the original trilogy (and nostalgia has certainly played a part in my enjoyment of them), I’ve still really loved them all. This is always such a wonderful world to revisit, and Terciel & Elinor has all the eerie vibes I’ve come to expect – along with a heavy dose of cuteness in the form of it’s two new protagonists, who I quickly grew very attached to. In particular, I found Elinor’s perspective a lot of fun; her unusual upbringing combining with her natural good sense and stubborn resolve makes her journey continuously entertaining.

I was also surprised by how much I liked the romance in this; given that I’m used to thinking of Terciel and Elinor as just “Sabriel’s parents” (and Terciel in the original trilogy was such a distant, formal-seeming character, more often referred to by his title than his name), I wasn’t expecting to ship them so hard. 💕 Many of their interactions were a little awkward, as they’re both fairly naïve, but it was incredibly endearing to see them growing closer.

Perhaps because of the greater focus on romance, I found myself mentally comparing it a lot to Goldenhand – but plot-wise, I think that Terciel & Elinor is a lot stronger, and it probably has my favourite storyline of the more recent books. The writing, as expected, is excellent; I was quickly drawn into the story, and it held on tight the whole way through. In fact, I blew through this in just two days, which is something that’s only happened a few times in the last few years… 😅

Overall: an excellent novel. I perhaps wouldn’t recommend it as a starting point to the series, but if you like The Old Kingdom, you’ll like this, and if you don’t like The Old Kingdom, you clearly haven’t read it yet, and should definitely get on that. 😋

#Polarthon Update 2

JUST FINISHED: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik.

The daughter of a moneylender too kind to take back what he’s owed, Miryem takes it upon herself to restore her family’s fortunes, with prodigious success. But when a careless boast that she can turn silver to gold catches the attention of the Staryk king, she finds herself caught in a bargain that will either kill her, or take her from her home and her family forever.

This was such a brilliant, atmospheric read; a sinister, freezing world, and three great protagonists, each with their own compelling journeys and character arcs. Wanda – whose story was the most grounded of the three – was probably my favourite, but I loved both Miryem and Irina as well, and even the book’s two villains (the tsar and the Staryk king) turned out to be really interesting characters once we came to know them.

The book did suffer from having a few too many POV characters, though. There were the aforementioned three protagonists (Miryem, Wanda and Irina), whose separate perspectives made sense as they each had their own storylines, but three more (if I recall correctly) were added later on, and although I liked most of these chapters, none of them really offered anything that we couldn’t have been shown through the protagonists’ eyes – except perhaps the single (I think) chapter from Mirnatius’ perspective, the presence of which was its own kind of (mildly) baffling.

Additionally, none of the characters’ voices were particularly distinct, and I often had to read a bit into a scene before being able to tell whose perspective I was reading from; during one chapter in particular, I remember having to constantly go back and re-check small details in previous passages to remind myself that I was reading about Irina, not Miryem. This wasn’t much of a problem for most of the book, when the characters’ lives were very dissimilar, but became more of one as the three plotlines came together…

And as for the plot, it was occasionally confusing, and a little contrived towards the end, but ultimately very satisfying. It took quite a while for the story to really get started, too, but I can hardly complain about how much of the beginning was spent on building up the world and characters and atmosphere when they were my favourite things about this book! 😋

CURRENT READATHON STATUS: Done. 👍 I didn’t quite manage to make it to the end of my climb – the last book on my TBR was A Winter’s Promise – but I’m pretty pleased with how much I managed to read… and how good both books were! 😁 Spinning Silver was for the foiled cover and icy magic challenges (and would also be for the polar fantasy challenge, if tripling-up was allowed… but alas).

Books Read: 2
Pages Read: 808
Challenges Completed: 4/5

#Polarthon Update 1

JUST FINISHED: Orphans of the Tide by Struan Murray.

When she finds a strange boy, still alive inside the belly of a dead whale, Ellie is the only person in the Last City who believes that he’s not the new Vessel of the Enemy; the god that drowned the world, and has tormented the City ever since. But proving Seth’s innocence will be a dangerous task, and saving him – and herself – a near-impossible one.

A fun adventure in an interesting, post-apocalyptic world, and a powerful portrayal of grief, love and loyalty. It took me a little while to get invested in the story and characters, but there was a big reveal about a third of the way through that really upped the stakes, and after that, I was completely hooked. All three of the main characters were really great, too, and I loved the bonds that grew between them over the course of the story. 💕

Shipwreck Island, the next book in this series, is already out, and I’m really looking forward to seeing where it will take these characters; Ellie’s personal arc seemed to wrap-up pretty neatly in this book, but I’m hoping that we’ll learn a lot more about Seth’s mysterious origins in the next two… and that we’ll hear some more from Anna! 🤞

CURRENT READATHON STATUS: Happy to have wrapped up my first book on day 1! 🎶 This was for the first two challenges on the Explorers’ path (an adventure and a cold word), and my second read – for the next two challenges – will be Spinning Silver.

Books Read: 1
Pages Read: 342
Challenges Completed: 2/5

Review: The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk

Ridden with debt after a disastrous business deal, Beatrice Clayborn knows that her family is counting on her to raise their fortunes with an advantageous marriage… And when she catches the attention of Ianthe Lavan – clever, handsome, kind, and extraordinarily rich – it seems as though she may succeed! But Beatrice’s first and truest love has always been magic; marriage will mean giving that up, and that’s a sacrifice that she’s not sure that she’s willing to make – even for the best man she’s ever known.

I picked up this book almost on a whim (checking out the audiobook after regretting not buying a second-hand hardcover) and was completely taken aback by how much it captivated me! I loved the main characters, the story had me hooked, and the world – a Regency-flavoured fantasy world with a magic system based around summoning spirits – was delightfully intriguing (& I’ve listed a few similar-feeling titles at the end of this review, for those interested).

The romance between Beatrice and Ianthe was also very sweet, and I was super-invested in all its ups and downs; I loved how respectful Ianthe was of Beatrice’s dilemma, and how willing he was to listen to and try to understand her perspective – even though his own advantage in the world was very much linked to her disadvantage…

But! My favourite relationships in this book by far were the friendships. 💕 Beatrice makes a couple of bargains very early on in the book – one with Ianthe’s sister Ysbeta, and another with a character who I won’t spoil for you – and it was such a joy to see those very mercenary relationships blossom into true, deep friendships as the story goes on. Ysbeta was my favourite character of the bunch, and I would absolutely be shipping her with Beatrice if I weren’t so in love with their platonic relationship. 😍

If The Midnight Bargain has any flaw, it’s that its feminist message is a bit heavy-handed, which occasionally made me take it a bit less seriously… but never for more than a heartbeat. And given that it’s a message I whole-heartedly agree with, I was glad to find it so tightly entwined into such a great story.

COMPARABLE TITLES (mostly in terms of the world-building and magic):

Review: The Key to Flambards by Linda Newbery

Still reeling from her parents’ divorce, and the accident that lost her her leg, Grace Russell heads to Flambards house with an uncertain future, just as her ancestor Christina did a hundred years before. But waiting for her at Flambards are two potential new friends – cheerful Jamie and troubled Marcus – and a whole family history just waiting to be discovered.

K.M. Peyton’s Flambards series, published in the 60s (apart from a controversial fourth book that came out in 1981), followed a young girl called Christina who’s summoned to live with her grouchy uncle, who cares about horses and hunting, and not at all about his new ward’s wellbeing. While she’s there, however, she befriends the younger of her two cousins, Will, and the stablehand Dick, and comes to love the decrepit old house and its equine inhabitants. The series is set in the early 1900s, and as it goes on, the shadow of World War I begins to loom, but the main focus is always on Christina as she grows up, and learns to navigate life, and love, and the world.

I would not recommend The Key to Flambards to anyone who hasn’t already read the main series. It’s not a sequel, exactly, and its story stands very well on its own, but much of Grace’s (our new heroine) inner monologue is taken up by wondering about Christina’s life, and many of the conversations that she has with side characters (particularly the adult ones) are about the history of Flambards and its inhabitants… all of which would probably be fairly tedious to a reader who isn’t already emotionally invested.

Beyond that, I found it to be a fun read, though lacking in narrative tension. The story centres on, at various times: Grace re-learning how to love the outdoors through horse riding; her concerns about returning to school; Marcus’ troubled relationship with his father; and the struggle to get enough funding for Flambards – now an artists’ retreat, of sorts – to stay open, and not be sold to make room for housing developments. And although none of these storylines take any particularly surprising or dramatic turns (except for Marcus’ story, in places), they all wrap up very satisfyingly. Grace made for an interesting protagonist – struggling (understandably so), but resilient – and her relationships with both Marcus and Jamie (and even the bossy Charlie) developed naturally, and were both very sweet.

Overall: Nostalgia was obviously a huge factor in my enjoyment of this book, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone else who grew up with Flambards (the books or the TV series). To everyone else, I recommend Flambards. With great insistence. 😊

#BotWathon Final Update!

JUST FINISHED: The Second Sleep by Robert Harris.

Father Christopher Fairfax is sent to Addicott to conduct the funeral of its former priest, but there’s more to Father Lacy’s death – and to the man himself – than Fairfax could have imagined.

The Second Sleep is undoubtedly well-written: though the story is not particularly fast-paced, it reads very quickly, and Harris does an excellent job of keeping the reader engaged. And the world that he’s created here is a very interesting one, blending recognisable parts of the present into a very historical-feeling background…

However! Sadly, that’s pretty much where my praise for this novel ends. ☹️ I didn’t like the main character very much; he was complex and interesting, but sometimes came across as kind of skeevy… He has two potential love interests, and I really disliked the way he thought about them. In fact, this book really could have done without the romance altogether, as it wasn’t particularly well-developed, and added nothing to the plot. Also (though I’ll admit that this is a personal thing), I often find it frustrating to read from the perspective of very religious characters, which didn’t help my enjoyment of this book.

And as for the plot, the mystery of Father Lacy’s death was brushed aside fairly quickly in favour of the historical mystery, which was intriguing for most of the novel, but had a very underwhelming resolution. I don’t often read thrillers, and mainly decided to pick this one up because Fatherland (by the same author) is one of the few that I’ve really enjoyed, but unfortunately it wasn’t quite what I hoped it would be.

CURRENT READATHON STATUS: Finished! If on a slightly disappointing note. ☹️ This last book was for the Great Plateau challenge (to read a book that’s out of my comfort zone), and also allowed me to complete the Weapon Connoisseur bonus challenge, for every book I read to be from a different (main) genre. 🎉 Despite its lacklustre end, I’ve really enjoyed this round of BotWathon, and I’ll definitely be looking forward to the next one! 😁

Books Read: 5
Pages Read: 1967
Hours Listened: 10:13
Main Challenges Completed: 5/5
Bonus Challenges Completed: 3/3

#BotWathon Update 3

JUST FINISHED: The Kingmakers by Clay & Susan Griffith.

Adele may have won the battle to fight the war against the vampires her own way, but the war itself is not going particularly well… so Gareth volunteers to take on the risky role of spy and saboteur, and return to his brother’s court to try to take it down from within.

This is the final book in the Vampire Empire trilogy, and plot-wise, it was probably the weakest, which is sad. ☹️ The ending felt somewhat rushed, a lot of plot developments were a little over-convenient, and several threads of the storyline never went anywhere… but I did still enjoy it a lot. The writing has definitely improved since The Greyfriar (where it was kind of choppy), and it’s clear to see that the authors have become much more accustomed to writing together…

And, of course, there’s the romance! Which is the main thing I enjoy about this series, and is as wonderful as ever in this book. 💕 There were plenty of cute scenes between Gareth and Adele, and I love the way that they continue to support and protect each other. I’m a little sad that there wasn’t an epilogue or something to show how they’ll be in the future, but I guess that’s what The Geomancer is going to be for (or at least, I hope it’s going to be more character-driven than plot-driven).

My favourite moment in the book: Gareth trying to be secretive. He’s really not meant for subterfuge, but bless him, he just keeps trying. 😅

CURRENT READATHON STATUS: One book to go ! (Which will be The Second Sleep.) 😊 This one was for the Blood Moon challenge, but I used my Team Revali perk to choose whatever book I wanted instead! 😋

Books Read: 4
Pages Read: 1640
Hours Listened: 10:13
Main Challenges Completed: 4/5
Bonus Challenges Completed: 2/3

#BotWathon Update 2

JUST FINISHED: Beach Read by Emily Henry.

Still reeling from her father’s death and the simultaneous discovery that he’d been having an affair, along with an awkward breakup and a serious case of writer’s block, January Andrews has absolutely lost her faith in happy endings… which is a problem, as she needs to submit a draft for her newest romance novel ASAP. But her new neighbour/former college nemesis may have a solution: switching genres for the summer! And forcing the jaded Gus to write a cheerful rom-com is almost as appealing a prospect as indulging her own new worldview with something distinctly the opposite…

This was such a cute romance! I wasn’t expecting (& didn’t get) too many dramatic turns to the plot, but Henry’s subversion of the grumpy/sunshine trope was really interesting, with jaded-but-wanting-to-believe-in-a-better-world Gus, and sunny-but-questioning-everything-she-ever-believed January… and I really loved both characters! January was a sympathetic lead, and Gus was an endearing love interest… and even though I never really doubted that things would turn out well for them in the end, the ups and downs of their relationship were very gripping.

The concept of their writing competition was a lot of fun, too, and I really wish that I could read both of their books! (Though maybe Gus’ more, as we learn less about it over the course of the novel…)

CURRENT READATHON STATUS: Not actually behind – I finished this and The Kingmakers (review to come!) at more or less the same time, so I only actually have one book left to read – but I feel behind. 😓 This book was for the Divine Beast Vah Ruta challenge, to read a book with a water-related word in the title, and also fulfilled the Duelling Peaks Tower bonus challenge, to read a book featuring a rivalry or competition. 😊 My next (& final) read will be The Second Sleep.

Books Read: 4
Pages Read: 1640
Hours Listened: 10:13
Main Challenges Completed: 4/5
Bonus Challenges Completed: 2/3

#Bookoplathon & #MagicalReadathon Update 4! (+ #BotWathon Update 1)

JUST FINISHED: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson.

Set in a world where two factions – the Alethi and the Parshendi – have been fighting a long, drawn-out war since the assassination of the Alethi king, an unlikely set of characters are caught up in combat and politics of this world. Kaladin, a surgeon’s apprentice-turned-soldier-turned-slave, is brought to the Shattered Plains as a lowly bridgeman, and hopes to lead his new crew to freedom – but first they must survive, and keep surviving; Shallan hatches a plan to save her family from ruin by stealing a powerful magical artifact from the heretical Princess Jasnah; and Dalinar, the new king’s uncle, has begun seeing visions that tell him to unite the Alethi people, who very decidedly do not want to be united.

Brandon Sanderson does it again! 😁 As the first in a really long series, The Way of Kings is naturally made up of a lot of world-building, scene-setting and character development, with big Plot Implications only really coming into play near the end, but wow, was everything in this book done masterfully! I loved all the main characters, and plenty of the supporting ones, too; the world was fascinating, and was introduced to us in a really organic way, with barely any info-dumping at all; Sanderson’s writing style was incredibly gripping, even when nothing in particular was happening; and the ending was absolutely exhilarating! (I was reading this at work this afternoon, and had to actively hold myself back from excited bouncing/pacing/making other sudden movements on the shop floor… 😅)

I do find myself left with a lot of questions, which sometimes frustrates me, but this time I’m genuinely excited to search for the answers in the future books… probably because I have faith that they’ll definitely be answered – and that the answers will be incredible. 😆

Some final feelings:

  • I want Kaladin and Dalinar and Adolin to all become bros. It was super-satisfying whenever any of the main characters crossed paths, and I’m really looking forward to them all interacting more in Words of Radiance. (And hopefully meeting Shallan, too!)
  • The Wit definitely seems like he Knows Things. I feel like he might be a crossover character, but I’m not familiar enough with the wider Cosmere to be able to tell for sure.
  • I didn’t find the excerpts at the beginning of the chapters in this book as interesting as I did the ones in Mistborn, but I loved the reveal (or strong implication?) we get at the end, of where they all come from!

CURRENT READATHON STATUS: Done! 😆 I finished The Way of Kings with about an hour to spare, which I’m really pleased with! And it counted for all three of my current readathons! (Juggling all of these has been a little exhausting, to be honest, but now that we’re into October, at least I’ve only got Breath of the Wild-athon to finish. 😅) For Bookoplathon, this counted for the highest rated prompt, for the Magical Readathon it was my Tower of Rumination pick (a five-star prediction), and for BotWathon it was for the Lurelin Village prompt (which was also a five-star prediction).

In between this update and my last, I also finished Nightwing: A Darker Shade of Justice, which was my chance card pick for Bookoplathon, and my Bridge of Hylia (a book where a character crosses between worlds) pick for BotWathon, along with the Eventide Island bonus challenge (to read a book in one sitting). I still have my three character prompts to fulfil for Magical Readathon, but thankfully I have until April (I think) to get that done… And as for the rest of BotWathon: I’m currently almost halfway through the audiobook of Beach Read, and my next physical read will probably be The Kingmakers. 😊

Bookoplathon Books Completed: 5
Magical Readathon Books Completed: 7
BotWathon Books Read: 2
Pages Read: 3386
Hours Listened: 12:02
Bookoplathon Challenges Completed: 5/5
Magical Readathon Challenges Completed: 7/10
BotWathon Challenges Completed: 3/8

#Bookoplathon & #MagicalReadathon Update 3!

JUST FINISHED: The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna.

A purity ritual, where girls are cut to show the colour of their blood, stands between Deka and the acceptance of her village, but when her time comes to prove herself, she finds to her horror that her blood is not red, but gold – the colour of impurity. She is saved from a seemingly endless punishment by a mysterious woman in white gauntlets, but White Hands’ assistance does not come for free, and the future she has in mind for Deka is a dangerous one…

An interesting world and premise, let down somewhat by a somewhat predictable storyline, and a cast of mostly one-note characters. Deka made for a likeable lead, but I found that much of her character development happened very suddenly, for instance she starts off very devout, but is able to fully embrace the idea that her sacred text is lying to her during a two-week, off-page timeskip fairly early on, and by the time we rejoin her is no longer willing to let her actions be determined by the Infinite Wisdoms… which just seems like it ought to have been a more gradual process.

Similarly, I found much of the pacing kind of rushed; especially during her time training, I got no real sense of time passing, even though I knew that it must be, and while we’re occasionally told directly that time has passed (e.g. the aforementioned two-week timeskip, and a couple of instances of the “gilded sleep”), often we’re just left to assume it – or else assume that the characters’ skills – and their reputation – are growing at a frankly unbelievable rate.

Things I thought that the book did really well, however: As I already mentioned, I liked Deka, and she became a lot more interesting as the story went on; the plot also really picked up towards the end, and the last 150 pages or so brought my rating up to a solid three stars; and it has a really strong feminist message, which I liked – and I’m sure many others will, too.

(Trigger warnings for descriptions of abuse and exploitation (including sexual) of children.)CURRENT READATHON STATUS: Thrilled to have finished this one before the clock struck midnight! 🕛 Breath of the Wild-athon began about half an hour ago, and since I managed to fit my last two Bookoplathon books/my last Novice Path book onto that TBR as well, I’d say that the timing for this read ended up working out pretty well! The next physical book I’ll be picking up will be The Way of Kings (my kindle is charging as we speak), and my next audiobook will be Beach Read (which is only for my BotWathon TBR). The Gilded Ones was for the Bookopoly POC rep prompt, and the Novice Path Entrance challenge for the Magical Readathon, to read a book with a map.

MAGICAL READATHON BOOKS READ IN THE MEANTIME: Mrs. Death Misses Death (Mist of Solitude – a standalone).

Bookoplathon Books Completed: 3
Magical Readathon Books Completed: 6
Pages Read: 2157
Hours Listened: 8:12
Bookoplathon Challenges Completed: 3/5
Magical Readathon Challenges Completed: 6/10