2018 in Review: Highlights

🎊🎊🎊 Happy New Year’s Eve Eve, everyone! 🎊🎊🎊 It’s the time of year again for everyone to talk about their favourite books! 📚 … And usually I’d be joining in with the numbered-list-o-mania, but I’ve read so many great books this year, so instead I thought I’d talk about some of my bookish highlights for the year! 😊 Not all of these are necessarily my absolute favourites, but these are the books I found particularly memorable in 2018:

If you’ve been following my monthly/seasonal wrap-ups, you’ll probably have noticed that I finally got myself an Audible subscription, which I’ve been enjoying immensely. I find it hard sometimes to tell whether my feelings about the book being read are affected by the narrator’s performance, or vice versa, but quite a few of my favourites this year turned out to be ones that I’d listened to rather than read. In terms of pure performance, though, nothing comes close to Garth Nix’s Frogkisser!, which was wonderfully read by Marisa Calin; you can find my review of it here.

The other stand-out audiobook I listened to was Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, though in this case I think my enjoyment was based mostly on the story itself (though Steve West’s narration was also excellent), and I’ve no doubt that I would have liked it just as much in print form. I was a little behind the bandwagon in starting this series, but this first book definitely lives up to the incredible amount of hype surrounding it, and the sequel (Muse of Nightmares, which was released a few months ago) was almost as good.

And on the topic of more recent releases: The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff and The Conqueror’s Saga by Kiersten White both ended this year, and are by far some of the best series I’ve read in the last few years. Neither Obsidio nor Bright We Burn were my favourites from their respective series, but they both made for incredibly satisfying endings.

After a slightly disappointing start to the series, I was also pleasantly surprised by how much I liked The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan, which I finally – and reluctantly – picked up for the Fall into Fantasy readathon in November. I was never entirely sure why The Hidden Oracle didn’t resonate with me, but The Dark Prophecy has definitely saved the series for me; I’m currently reading book three (The Burning Maze), and enjoying it just as much, and no doubt it would be included in this post, too, if not for the fact that I’m unlikely to finish it before New Year. (I also have a review up for this book, which you can find here, if you’re interested.)

On the whole, my 2018 seems to have been a really great (and intense) year for fantasy books, and it’s been really wonderful to delve so deeply back into my favourite genre, including my first (kind-of) go at one of the classics: Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle! I’ve been meaning to read this series for such a long time, and now that I’ve started, I can’t believe it’s taken me so long! So far, I’ve only read the first three books, but I’ve loved them all, and the second book, The Tombs of Atuan, is probably my favourite book of the year; it was such a wonderful read. 💕 Needless to say, Tehanu (the fourth in the series) will be one of the first things that I read in 2019.

Finally, I’d like to also give a quick mention to We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, which is probably the most thought-provoking book I read this year, and was an incredible roller-coaster of emotions. I feel like I read it so long ago that it’s heard to believe that it was really still 2018, but it’s stuck with me, and I have no doubt that it will continue to do so for a long time to come.

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Autumn Catch-Up

Almost immediately after implementing this new format, I am forced to re-think it again, as, with my reading slump now completely over, this post will be a mammoth one! 😅 (Perhaps flexibility is the key…) In any case, I read a great deal over the autumn months, and was mostly in the mood for fantasy, but with bits and pieces of quite a few other things mixed in, too! All in all, I managed to get through: 18 novels, 1 short story, 1 comic, 7 manga volumes, 2 pieces of non-fiction, and 5 audiobooks…

FAVOURITE OF THE SEASON*

LIBRARY SCAVENGER HUNT PICKS

ursula le guin//the tombs of atuan

SEPTEMBER

[REVIEW]

OCTOBER

[REVIEW]

NOVEMBER

[REVIEW]

 

OTHER BOOKS I REVIEWED

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[SERIES REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

BOOKS I DIDN’T REVIEW (INDIVIDUALLY)

The Girl in the Mirror by Lev Grossman. [SHORT STORY; Anthology: Dangerous Women]

A quick tale from the world of The Magicians, that makes me almost tempted to read the main series… Undergraduate Plum and her friends in the League play an elaborate prank on the college’s student wine steward – who has been short-pouring the wine at dinner – only for it to take a rather unsettling turn just before its completion. What I’d heard about this series makes me think I probably won’t like it, but I enjoyed this short story a surprising amount. I didn’t like Plum all that much, and even felt a little sorry for her chosen victim, Wharton, but the way that the prank played out was great fun (for the reader, though not the participants 😉).

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Jenna Lamia]

The story of a white girl called Lily who runs away from her abusive father, and sets out – dragging along her nanny and best friend Rosaleen, in trouble with a dangerous group of racists after spitting on a white man’s shoes – in search of information about her mother, who died when she was a toddler. I had a hard time getting into this story, but once I got through the first section of the book I was hooked. Lily was probably the weakest of the main cast (though I still liked her a lot by the time the book ended), but the relationships she formed with the people who helped her on her search were incredibly compelling. She and Rosaleen had their ups and downs, but their love for one another was always very obvious, and the bond that grew between Lily and the Calendar Sisters (and August in particular) was wonderful. Lamia’s narration was also beautifully done; I don’t know if I would’ve liked this book half so much if not for her excellent performance.

I Am Pusheen the Cat by Claire Belton. [COMIC]

A collection of short comics about a very silly, very cute cat (with whom I’m sure we are all familiar). I actually bought this to give to a friend who really loves Pusheen, and hadn’t intended to do more than flip through it myself, but as is often the case with episodic cartoons like this, a quick flip-through turned into an entire read-through without much input from me. (It was still pretty quick, though. 😋)

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin.

The first book of the Earthsea Cycle, which tells the story of the early years of the wizard Ged, who, as a boy, and out of pride, summons a terrible shadow that stalks him throughout the rest of his childhood – and which he must hunt in turn once he is a fully fledged wizard. I stalled halfway through reading this book about ten years ago, and have been meaning to get back to it ever since, but somehow it was never a priority. But I’m really glad to have finally been able to experience the beginning of this amazing series! 😁 It’s a very character-driven story, with slow pacing and an often a somewhat lonely tone, and a vast world, saturated with magic.

Hard in Hightown by Varric Tethras (a.k.a. Mary Kirby). [Illustrators: Stefano Martino, Álvaro Sarraseca, Andrés Ponce & German Ponce]

A short tale from the world of the Dragon Age video games, as told by Varric – a companion character from both Dragon Age 2 and Inquisition – who is one of Thedas’ most popular authors. The majority of this book exists in-game in the form of unlockable codex entries (of which I had already read a few), but it was really lovely to read them all together, with some wonderful accompanying illustrations. The story itself – a murder mystery – is nothing particularly special, but the real charm of Hard in Hightown is all the familiar locations and characters that are scattered throughout the book, as Varric’s penchant for modelling his characters after his friends is greatly in evidence. 😊

The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le Guin.

The second Earthsea book, which is told from the perspective of Tenar, the young priestess of the Nameless Ones, who wield a dark power in the sacred tombs beneath her island home of Atuan. I think I may have enjoyed this book even more than A Wizard of Earthsea! The new perspective was unexpected (and I was surprised by how long it took for Ged to appear in the story), but I liked Tenar a lot, and her small world above and below the island were fascinating.

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Steve West]

The sequel (and conclusion) to Strange the Dreamer, in which Lazlo Strange and his companions come face to face with the horrors of Weep’s past, and begin to uncover the reasons behind them. Since this is a sequel, I don’t want to say too much about the plot, but I had somewhat mixed feelings about it; while I loved all the backstory and worldbuilding in this book, and felt that the story wrapped up in an interesting way, I wasn’t as blown away by it as I hoped to be… Given that my expectations were sky-high, perhaps that isn’t saying much, but I found the book a bit too romance-driven (even though the romances were all ones I liked), and thought that the consequences of the dramatic – and potentially game-changing – twist at the end of Strange the Dreamer were avoided more than addressed… But regardless, I still think this was a fantastic series, and my interest in Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy (which I think this one is peripherally connected to?! Though I could be mistaken about that!) has definitely been re-invigorated.

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb.

A love story between two ghosts who are only able to meet by possessing the bodies of two teenagers. I didn’t have high expectations for this book, but was pleasantly surprised by it! It wasn’t particularly scary, but the spooky atmosphere was excellent, and I loved how the characters were caught between their desire to be together, and the dubious morality of their actions. I believe that the sequel is about the two teenagers whose bodies they were inhabiting, which sounds interesting, and I hope to read that at some point, too.

The Farthest Shore by Ursula Le Guin. [Illustrator: Charles Vess]

The third book in the Earthsea Cycle, where Ged – now Archmage – is called away from Roke by a young prince who visits the island, bringing news that magic is fading from the world. As the majority of this story was spent travelling, it covered a lot of places in Earthsea that I hadn’t seen before, and which it was very interesting to visit, and I also really liked Ged’s new companion in this book, Prince Arren, and the bond that grew between them… Of the three books I’ve read so far, I found this the least-compelling, but that’s not much of a criticism! 😅 Having just begun reading from my new illustrated edition, I wish that there had been more pictures, but that only speaks to the quality of Vess’ artwork.

Secret Vampire by L.J. Smith.

The first book in the Night World series follows a human girl called Poppy who is secretly in love with her best friend – who is, unbeknownst to her, a vampire, and possibly also her soulmate. This is probably one of the weakest stories from this series, as it’s almost entirely romance-driven, and neither of the two lead characters are particularly compelling, but it’s quite short, and I some of the secondary characters are interesting (meaning Ash, and Poppy’s brother Phil).

Daughters of Darkness by L.J. Smith.

The second Night World book, in which the three Redfern sisters run away from their vampire family in search of a little freedom, and find themselves living next door to an inconveniently observant human girl, who suspects they may be killers. In contrast to Secret Vampire, this is one of the best entries in the series. I really liked all three of the Redferns, and Mary-Lynnette, their neighbour, was a great protagonist, although the length of these books doesn’t really lend itself to a great deal of character development. I appreciated, too, that the focus of this story was on the murder mystery, rather than pure romance – though the romantic aspects of the book were also very well done.

Spellbinder by L.J. Smith.

The third in the same series, which is about two teenage witches who find themselves in competition over a mortal boy, and throwing around spells that are quickly growing beyond their control. This was another promising entry in the series, and I enjoyed the focus on Blaise and Thea’s friendship, despite their wildly different values. I liked Eric a lot, too, and his growing romance with Thea was very sweet.

Dogs, volumes 0-6 by Shirow Miwa. [MANGA]

A dystopian series about a group of characters who are all searching for a way into the Below, their home city’s sinister underground. I had previously read the first three volumes of (and prequel to) this series, but decided to give them a (much needed) re-read before continuing on, as it’d been such a long time. And I find myself (for a second time) intrigued by the story and characters, and wowed by the beautiful art, but wishing the series was a bit less violent, as much of it seems unnecessary, and the action scenes are sometimes quite hard to follow. I’m also a little worried that, with Heine’s backstory now explained, the most interesting part of the plot may be over – despite the tease at the end of volume 6 of a new, powerful enemy for the team…

Frozen Tides by Morgan Rhodes.

The fourth book in the Falling Kingdoms series, which follows a group of young protagonists, each of whom is trying to get their hands on the four Kindred – a set of stones with powerful magical abilities – for reasons of their own. The plot is definitely escalating dramatically in this new entry in the series, and I like where a lot of the relationships are going. Princess Amara of Kraeshia also joins the main cast in this book, and I’m not sure how I feel about her as a character yet, but she certainly adds an interesting new perspective on this world… And I still hate Jonas – I will probably always hate Jonas – but he does seem to be getting at least a little less insufferable as the series goes on. I tend to talk quite negatively about this series, but I do kind of love it. It’s not great literature by any definition, but it’s super-fun, and I’m really looking forward to reading the last two books. 😁

The Rights of Man by H.G. Wells.

A new edition of Wells’ manifesto on human rights, introduced with an essay by Ali Smith. The beginning of the book is primarily made up of a proposed bill of rights, which is rather dry when read in its entirety (despite the importance of its contents), but I found Wells’ discussion of each clause interesting, and considerably more engaging. This is definitely not the most extensive thing ever written on human rights, but it provides a good introduction for those interested in the topic.

The Secret Crusade by Oliver Bowden. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Gunnar Cauthery]

A novelisation of the first Assassin’s Creed video game (with some elements from later games which explain why it’s the third in the novel series, and not the first), which tells the tale of Altaïr Ibn La-Ahad, the youngest ever Master Assassin, who’s stripped of his rank after a series of horrific misjudgements on an assignment put the whole of the Order of Assassins in danger. I was hoping that this book would fill in some of the gaps that were left in the game’s storyline (which jumps around a lot in terms of times and locations), particularly in regards to Altaïr’s relationship with Malik. But while it did offer a lot of extra content – including extra backstory for Altaïr, an explanation of his enmity with Abbas, and a continuation of the main story which really fleshes out his relationship with Maria – Bowden didn’t elaborate much on the retelling of the game itself, which is a shame.

The Bear & the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. [AUDIOBOOK; Narrator: Kathleen Gati]

The enchanting first book in a fantasy trilogy inspired by Russian folklore, which follows a young girl with a hint of magic, who becomes caught in an unending battle between the gods of life and death. Vasya was a really wonderful lead character, and the haunting, wintery wilderness of northern Russia – full of magic and spirits – was as much a character as a backdrop to the story. The slow pacing may be a little off-putting for some people, and the start of the book is a little confusing (since a lot of the characters are introduced all at once), but needless to say, I loved it! I’m already nearly done with the second book in this series, and can’t wait for the third! ❄️4 stars

*Not including re-reads.

[EDIT (23/12/18): Decreased rating for The Bear & the Nightingale from 5 to 4 stars after further consideration, and replaced it with The Tombs of Atuan in my “favourite of the season” slot. My feelings on the book haven’t changed, just my assessment of those feelings… if that makes any sense. 🤔]

Review: Frogkisser! by Garth Nix (Spoiler-Free)

When the flighty Princess Morven’s suitor-of-the-moment becomes the unfortunate victim of one of her wicked stepstepfather’s transformation spells, it is up to her younger sister Anya (who would really much rather be reading) to save him – and perhaps the kingdom as well!

Frogkisser! is a retelling of the Grimm Brothers’ The Frog Prince, in which a prince is magically transformed into a frog, and can only be restored to his original form by his true love. But Princess Anya is decidedly not Prince Denholm’s true love, and so the story instead centres around Anya’s quest to find the rare ingredients that she can use to make a magical lip-balm, which will negate the need for true love. Nix draws on many more tales and tropes than just the expected Frog Prince, and the unexpected ways in which each new almost-familiar character is implemented into the story is consistently entertaining. Frogkisser! also manages to set itself apart from many modern fairytale retellings (and even their source material) with its notable lack of romance! I kept expecting a love interest to show up, but there wasn’t even a hint of one, which was quite refreshing.

The characters are both varied and memorable. Our main protagonist Anya has a great character arc, and the people she meets on her quest all have unique roles to play in the story, as well as simply being great fun to read about. My favourite was the Royal Dog Ardent, whose every word and action was just so incredibly doggish that I couldn’t help but smile. 💕 (The Royal Dogs in general are a huge highlight of this book, and it’s definitely one that I would wholeheartedly recommend to young – and old – dog lovers.)

And the world, though small, is full to the brim with magic and whimsy, and enough different magic systems that this could easily have been an entry on my “interesting magic systems” list of recommendations, had I read it back then – but as it is, it may have be the first on a follow-up! 😁

I listened to Audible’s production of Frogkisser!, narrated by Marisa Calin, who gave an excellent performance, really drawing out the distinct personalities of each of the (many, many) characters with her incredibly expressive voice work.

T5W: Second = Best

Second books get a lot of criticism. If a series started out strong, then they have a lot to live up to, and sometimes they can seem like just a whole book’s worth of filler before a (hopefully) epic final novel… but I actually tend to really like them; with quite a few of my favourite series, I end up liking the second book best. 😊 So, naturally, I was thrilled to discover that this week’s Top 5 Wednesday theme was second books… Here’s my (heavily abridged) list:

5) A Court of Mist & Fury by Sarah J. Maas

This may be a bit of a cheat, since I haven’t finished the series yet, and so can’t know for sure whether A Court of Mist & Fury will be my favourite, but I couldn’t help including it here, simply because it was such a dramatic improvement over the first book… I liked A Court of Thorns & Roses, but the more I thought about it after I finished it, the more underwhelmed I felt; I was somewhat reluctant to even pick the sequel up, despite all the amazing things I’d been hearing about it… but, wow, was this book a huge step up. If you’re not sure about this series after book one, then rest assured that it’s worth it (so far🤞).

4) Lirael by Garth Nix

Nix’s Old Kingdom series is fantastic as a whole, but as much as I loved Sabriel and Touchstone in the first book, Lirael’s character arc in this book has always stuck with me. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that the new storyline that Lirael began was fantastic, and she had a wonderful set of sidekicks in Sam, Nick, and the Disreputable Dog. 😋

3) Half Wild by Sally Green

Not a huge amount happens in Half Wild compared to the other two books in the trilogy, so this may be something of an odd choice, but what I really love about this book is how, with the action slowed down, there was so much character and relationship development. In particular, there was some really amazing exploration of Nathan’s relationship with his estranged father Marcus, as well as his two potential love interests, Gabriel and Annalise…

2) Fire by Kristin Cashore

Fire is the second book in the Graceling Realm trilogy, and seems to be a lot of people’s least favourite entry… It’s certainly very different from the other two books – it’s even set in a different world! Kind of. But although I found the transition between books quite jarring (I wasn’t even expecting the change in protagonists, and that’s the least of the changes from Graceling), I very quickly became attached to the new characters, their world, and I loved how much this book effected the other two, despite their apparent disconnect… 💕

1) The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

His Dark Materials is such an incredible series, and deserves all the praise it’s ever received and more; it’s exciting, thought-provoking, heart-breaking, beautifully written… Naturally, I love all three books in the trilogy, and the spin-off novellas, and I’m eagerly awaiting The Book of Dust. But Will’s introduction, and how our own world was pulled into this story with him, is what makes me love The Subtle Knife so much. (It also gave me what was probably my first ever OTP. Lyra & Will forever. 😭)

And an honourable mention for Street Magic by Tamora Pierce, which is one of my favourite books of all time, and also the second book in The Circle Opens quartet… which is itself a follow-up to the Circle of Magic series. I didn’t include it on the main list mostly because I tend to think of it as being a sixth book rather than a second, but this is also a series that people should definitely read! 🙏

(Also, in no particular order: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta, The Boy Who Wept Blood by Den Patrick,  Quicksilver by R.J. Anderson… and probably about a hundred more. But I’ll stop here, for the sake of all our sanity.)

[Top 5 Wednesday is run by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. To find out more or join in, check out the Goodreads group.]

October Haul

October seems to have turned into another crazy month for book-buying, for which I have no defence, except that there’ve been a lot of new releases recently that I’ve been really looking forward to – and I also got really into The Witcher video games, and decided that I needed to read the books that they’re based on, too. 😳 In fact, every time I look at this stack of books, I’m almost paralysed with indecision over which one to pick up next; I’m so excited for all of them!

On a less positive note (was that first paragraph even a positive note? Perhaps, partially), my book-buying ban definitely needs to be re-implemented, which unfortunately means I won’t be getting my hands on Gemina (the other new release that I’ve been wanting) for a little while yet… 😦
october 2016 haul

1) Goldenhand by Garth Nix. The fifth book in the Old Kingdom series, which I know absolutely nothing about, and don’t want to know anything about, since I still haven’t read Clariel

2) Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas. The fifth book in the Throne of Glass series, which seems to have been on everyone’s most-anticipated lists… I’m excited to read this, though I’m also quite nervous about it, as I wasn’t a huge fan of some of the decisions that were made in the last book. Hopefully this one will be better, though!

3) Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. The sequel to Six of Crows, which I read a couple of months ago and absolutely loved. This is probably going to be the first book I read once I’ve finished my mini-marathon of the Andrzej Sapkowski books that I currently own; my insides have been twisting with anticipation every time I catch sight of it in my TBR pile… Obviously, I have very high hopes. XD

4) Magnus Chase & the Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan. The second book in the Magnus Chase & the Gods of Asgard series. Of all the books I picked up last month, this is probably the one I could most have done without, as I still haven’t read the first book. I do, however, have faith that this series is going to be just as amazing as Riordan’s other books that I’ve read, so I don’t regret it, and I also wanted to make sure that I remembered to get it while it was still available in hardback. The paperback is still a long way off, but I tend to forget about things if I put them off for too long… ^^’

5) The Last Wish, Sword of Destiny, Blood of Elves, Time of Contempt & Baptism of Fire by Andrzej Sapkowski. The first five books in the Witcher series, which inspired the aforementioned video games! Interestingly, the first two books in the series are short story collections, while the main saga actually begins with book three (Blood of Elves). I’ve already read the first three of these books (which I’ve talked about in my October wrap-up), and am currently about mid-way through Time of Contempt – so far, they’re really great, and they only seem to be getting better as they go on!

6) A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb. An apparently quite spooky paranormal romance featuring ghosts, which I first heard about on a youtube video by ChapterStackss, about her favourite romance novels. I was intrigued, but not enough so to go looking for it… but the very next day I came across a copy at work, and knew that I had to have it. 🙂 Hopefully I’ll be able to get to this before Halloween is too distant a memory. 😛

7) Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick. Another book that I stumbled upon at work, though I know even less about this one than the last. It’s a dark fantasy, and the first book in the Tales of the Kin series, but I can’t tell you any more than that… ^^’

8) Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets (illustrated edition) by J.K. Rowling. This book needs no introduction. I’ve been looking forward to it all year, and I’m definitely impressed with what I’ve seen of it so far! I’ve already started this, but I’m going to be taking it quite slow, and reading along with the Harry Potter & the Sacred Text podcast, which quite coincidentally started on book 2 around the same time that this was released! XD

Upcoming Releases: Autumn 2016

Autumn looks like it’s shaping up to be an exciting season for books (October especially!); there are so many things coming out soon that I couldn’t even fit them all on this list! But after much agonising, here are the books I’m most excited to see in September, October & November!

[NB: All dates are taken from Amazon UK unless stated otherwise, and are correct as of 28/08/2016.]

Sarah J. Maas//Empire of StormsEmpire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas (6th September)

The next book in the Throne of Glass series, which has been getting more and more exciting as it’s gone on. I wasn’t hugely thrilled with Queen of Shadows in terms of character development, but the plot was really great, so I still have high hopes. 🙂

Leigh Bardugo//Crooked KingdomCrooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (27th September)

I finished reading Six of Crows just a few days ago (as I’ve been telling you all incessantly), so it’s a stroke of luck that the sequel’s coming out so soon! I am more excited to read this than I’ve been for any book in a long time, so I’ll probably be reading it pretty promptly, too! My hopes for it: I’d really like some chapters from Wylan’s perspective, and maybe a little more of Jesper, too; they were the characters that I felt got the least development in Six of Crows (though, naturally, I still want to see loads of Kaz, Inej, Nina and Matthias! 😉 ).

Garth Nix//GoldenhandGoldenhand by Garth Nix (4th October)

To be honest, I know nothing about this book except that it’s a new Old Kingdom story. And I still haven’t even read Clariel (the book that comes before it, and which I’ve had on my shelf since it was released two whole years ago. But I want it anyway, and I’m sure it’s going to be brilliant – Garth Nix’s books always are. XD

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter & the Chamber of SecretsHarry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (4th October)

The illustrated edition, because it’s that time of year again! 😀 Re-reading Philosopher’s Stone last year was such a wonderful experience, and Jim Kay’s art was beautiful, so of course I’m excited to see what’s he’s done with Chamber of Secrets.

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff//GeminaGemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (20th October)

Another book that I’m expecting to be beautiful. And heart-wrenching. And generally amazing. Illuminae was one of my favourite books from last year, and I really hope that this sequel will live up to it… I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed!

Honourable mentions, cut because I’m not yet up to date on either of these two series… and because this post was in danger of becoming far too long even without them: Magnus Chase & the Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan (4th October) and The Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch (22nd September).

Thematic Recs: Interesting Magic Systems

In most fantasy novels that I’ve read (and I’ve read quite a lot of them), performing magic is a matter of waving a wand and saying some words, or concentrating very hard on your desired outcome; consistent actions, and (mostly) consistent results. Which is great – all magic is awesome magic! 😀 Every now and then, though, I come across a book with a really interesting, inventive magic system, unlike anything I’ve seen before. And exploring these kinds of magic – learning their uses and limitations, and seeing how the characters put them into practice – is one of my favourite things to do. 🙂 The magic systems in these books/series are some of my recent favourites, so I hope you like them, too!

Rainbow Rowell//Carry On1) Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. Though heavily influenced by Harry Potter and its fandom, the magic is one thing in Carry On that’s entirely unique, and was one of the best things about this (already fantastic) novel. Spells in this world are popular phrases, and are given power by how well-known they are. So, for example, “some like it hot” can be used as a warming spell, but if people stopped using the phrase, then the spell would become less and less effective. It’s mentioned a few times that song lyrics don’t make very good spells (with a few exceptions) for this very reason; they enter and leave popular culture too quickly. Nursery rhymes, on the other hand, apparently make great ones, as people are never really able to forget them… There’s a really epic scene near the middle of the book, where Baz uses “Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home” on a dragon. 😛

Brandon Sanderson//The Final Empire2) The Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. The magic in this book is called Allomancy, and those who use it are Allomancers, their powers drawn from different kinds of metals, and their alloys (hence the name). Iron and steel push and pull (respectively) on nearby metal objects; tin and pewter enhance the users’ senses or physical abilities; brass can be used to calm emotions, while zinc enflames them; and bronze is used to locate nearby Allomancy, while copper hides it. Allomancers can generally only use one type of metal, but there are a few select people, called the Mistborn, who are able to use them all. Each power seems quite limited in potential, but the way that Sanderson incorporates them into the story is pure genius, and he writes some of the best magical action scenes I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

Peter V. Brett//The Painted Man3) The Demon Cycle series by Peter V. Brett. I have a love-hate relationship with this series, because it’s really great, but horrible things keep happening to all my favourite characters… 😥 The magic system, though, is based on wards – runic images painted onto any surface available, which do things like create barriers, or turn a demon’s fire into wind – and only have an effect on demons (which is convenient, since the Thesa is beset by them). Runic magic in itself isn’t all that unusual in fantasy, but what sets The Demon Cycle apart is this interesting detail: The wards are all powered by the demons themselves; the more the demons fight against them, the more power the wards will be able to draw on, and the stronger their magic will become.

Garth Nix//Sabriel4) The Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix. This series uses another runic system called Charter magic, but there are actually several different schools of magic in The Old Kingdom series. When I first read it, I was particularly enamoured of the Clayr, a group of sorceresses who can see into the future, but the kind of magic that’s most important to the series is that of the Abhorsen – a hereditary title belonging to Sabriel’s family, which marks them as necromancers. Main characters who are necromancers are incredibly hard to come by, in my experience, but the way that Sabriel uses her powers is a little different from most portrayals of necromancy – she uses a selection of bells, each with a different purpose (one to call the dead, one to banish them, one to bind them, etc.). In the second book, another character is introduced who’s also able to channel her power through a mirror, which is just as unusual as the bells.

Genevieve Cogman//The Invisible Library5) The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman. This last series is one of my most recent discoveries: I’ve only read the first book so far, but I think I’ve just about got a handle on the magic that Irene uses (which, again, is not the only form of magic in the book, just the most interesting). It’s called the Language, and can only be used by Librarians of the mysterious Invisible Library, of which Irene – our heroine – is one. Instead of casting standardised spells, Irene is able to use the Language to instruct the world around her to alter itself (for instance by telling a lock to open), and – so long as she’s worded her order correctly – the world will obey her. It’s incredibly open to interpretation (she has to choose her words very carefully), and constantly evolving, and she receives new updates on the Language whenever she returns to the Library from a mission. Interestingly, she also tells us a few times that the Language doesn’t work so well when ordering objects to do things that are against their nature. For example, she very easily manages to tell a collection of enchanted gargoyles to stop moving, since stone is naturally still; it would have been much harder for her to make them move in the first place (had they not been enchanted), and the spell would have worn off much more quickly.