To Kill A Kingdom – Alexandra Christo

51addngjlzl-sx316-sy316When I first heard about To Kill A Kingdom I wasn’t sure I wanted to read it. I like fantasy but I prefer it to not be too far-fetched. However, I had heard amazing things from both Becca and Gem so I took a gamble and downloaded it from NetGalley – I am so glad I did!

It’s told from a world with many Kingdoms; some on land and some under the sea. Those on land have been at war with the sea dwellers for many years and have lost many sailers, most noticeably Princes, to Sirens who lure them to their death.

Lira is one such Siren, and next in line to take her mother’s throne. Lira likes to take the heart of a Prince on her Birthday every year and this year would have been no exception – had she not defied her mother. Forced to become human until she meets her mother’s demand, Lira ventures into a world she has only ever seen from the Sea.

The Sea Queen, Lira’s mother, is a vicious monster (read: nastier than Ursula from The Little Mermaid) and although she isn’t a main character she is utterly fascinating. I felt physically tense from any part of the story that involved her. The imagery that surrounds her and her minions is fantastic; it’s dark and vile and makes your skin want to crawl.

Lira herself is such a fantastic character. I hate to watch female leads wither and melt under the male gaze but she doesn’t flinch. She’s incredibly strong, sometimes to her own detriment, but you cannot deny she is a force to be reckoned with. If you’re looking for a book with a kick-ass female lead then your quest ends here, and you won’t be disappointed.

Her male counterpart, Prince (and self-imposed Pirate) Elian is also a refreshing character. Where Lira shows us the perilous underworld, Elian swirls us into the glitz and glamour of the palaces of various Kingdoms. He’s not interested in settling for tradition and instead chooses to live the life of a Siren Hunter with a crew of loyal sailors, trying to rid the seas of vermin he considers them to be.

What I love the most about the two of them together is not that there is gender subversion by role reversal, but they are equally balanced, and I think that is what makes To Kill A Kingdom is a brilliant and visually stimulating book. Everywhere you look there are pirates and monsters and murderers and there is a true sense of traditional Fairytale horror too – do not expect beautiful mermaids or handsome princes. Everything is twisted in it’s own way.

To Kill A Kingdom will sweep you away on a tide of viciousness and never truly let your feet back on to solid ground.

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The Witchfinder’s Sister – Beth Underdown

coverThe Witchfinder’s Sister is a debut novel set in 1600’s Essex and follows Alice Hopkins, brother of Matthew Hopkins, historically and ‘affectionately’ known as the Witchfinder General. It’s set against a back drop of civil and religious war, where superstition is rife.

I went in to the book hoping for a dark exploration of how whispers and paranoia can turn villages into witchy hotspots. I wanted a feeling of claustrophobia, and inevitable peril cast upon characters that I care about. What I ultimately found was a story that hadn’t quite decided what it wanted to say.

As a main character there were times that I was completely indifferent to Alice. I didn’t feel that the relationship between her and her brother was particularly well developed and I just wasn’t on her side. You would expect an examination of family and it touches the surfaces but didn’t quite get deep enough. There were events in Alice’s life that she talks about that did make me almost emotionally connect with her, and I could picture just how hard life must have been as a woman in her era but there were so many opportunities to make her either smarter or more ignorant, but I was bored by her passivity.

It’s not a stretch to say that the events in this book are 99% fictional, and I didn’t really mind that. I wasn’t expecting it to be an accurate history lesson since I know that there isn’t much documented evidence of exactly what happened at the time, but I felt that the actual feeling of the era wasn’t particularly well portrayed, which I think would have been a saving grace. If I’m being kind I’ll argue that the issues it tries to present around attitudes to mental illness and gossip are timeless, and thus it can transcend its historical setting – and perhaps if it was more cleverly written I could argue that.

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Half Wild – Sally Green

This post may contain spoilers for the first book, Half Bad. You can read my review of the first book here. It may also contain a couple of spoilers in Half Wild.

51yptmgpxcl-_sx324_bo1204203200_I’ve been binge reading this series ever since I realised I couldn’t remember what happened at the end of the first book. I didn’t get as far as reading books 2 and 3 the first time round so I headed over to my local bookshop and bought them, determined to read the whole series through.

Half Bad was just as wonderful as I remembered (and the ending just as frustrating) and I couldn’t wait to delve into the second book and find out where Nathan would end up. We find him living in a cave in a forest, at a meeting place appointed by Gabriel should anything go wrong whilst trying to get the Fairborn. It has a slow pace to begin with, like trying to peddle a bike when you’ve left it in a high gear, which is so teasing after the speed of the first book. It gives the reader time to catch up and remember, to get their bearings before being thrust forward once again into a constantly moving, twisting plot.

Nathan is isolated at the beginning of Half Wild and as harsh as it sounds I was glad, because I wanted to see where he was mentally as well as his thoughts and feelings around Gabriel and the rest of his group, without the distractions of the actual plot. Nathan is such an interesting and complex character and I find him fascinating.

However I didn’t feel that all characters were given the same treatment. Mercury, for example, had the potential to be another highly complex character but not much was shown about her. The first person narrative is effective but it restricts the ability to view characters in the same way we get to see Nathan.

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