The Bird & the Sword

I stumbled upon a few gorgeous pieces by PhantomRin on Tumblr (tagged below) and I was so drawn to them that I had to search for the book they came from. The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon is a story about a young mute girl named Lark who becomes part of a terrible prophecy. Before the king murders her mother, the Lady Meshara proclaims, “…you will lose your soul and your sun to the sky.” Following these last words, she sets the curse in place and takes away her daughter’s voice— for they are both witches who practice in “telling”; a type of magic honed by words only. Lark then lives alone with her corrupt father who is constantly vying for the king’s throne, leading a lonely life until she is noticed by the newly crowned prince, Tirus, who had been present upon her mother’s beheading.

bird sword coverThe world-building in this book was interesting. There are four main embodiments to being a witch: spinner, teller, changer, and healer. The spinners can weave gold out of anything, the changers can shape shift, the tellers (who are naturally the most gifted) can hex anyone/thing with their words or thoughts, and the healers are…well, healers.

The political dynamic is intriguing as well, because we start the book with the king slaughtering the protagonist’s mother in front of a whole assembly of royals and guards. So you’d assume that he would be more involved in the book, but only a mere chapter later it is reveled that he died and his son, Tirus, who is the love interest, became king. However, don’t let this discourage you. Without spoiling, I can say this slight confusion of the king’s sudden death gets resolved in the end during a bizarre plot-twist.

Lark is a very gentle character. I’d call her soft-spoken if she actually spoke in the novel, but you do get to see her communicating with other characters via her mind and telepathy powers. I think that when we read these types of novels we always expect the main character to be a sword wielding bad bitch with a lust for vengeance (which isn’t necessarily a bad trope in my honest opinion), but in this scenario Lark’s power comes from her ability to cause things to happen with her words alone. The irony isn’t missed.

Titus, on the other hand, is also a soft character, if you could call a warrior king soft. He is cursed with transforming into a bird every night, and over time these transformations become more and more potent until one night he barely changes back into a man. His brother, Kjell, forces Lark to help him in whatever way she can even though she swears that she isn’t a healer.

Kjell, like many others, fear the witches and is an adamant believer in killing their kind for being “more” than the rest of the world for having such abilities. (Seriously, the amount of irony in this book is comical.) There were plenty of moments I wanted to tell the characters that “they’re not doing it right” but I feel that way about most books so I’ll let this one slide.

The writing had a nice flow to it, and was a bit lyrical and dreamy. I liked how fast-paced it made the story. So much so that I started it around Monday evening and finished it early Tuesday morning. This one is definitely a short read, and a great one to help get you out of a reading slump.

I didn’t enjoy the ending as much because I felt like it was rushed and there were many elements that could have been further explained or explored. It tied everything up nicely and there isn’t a cliffhanger, but moments that you would have waited for since the prologue were covered in little over a few pages. Also, there were very few characters and, thus, very few perspectives to view this story from. Usually this wouldn’t bother me but because both main characters were like-minded it seemed as though the whole story was dimmed in comparison to what it could have really been.

This was 3.5/5 stars for me.

photo 1 | photo 2 | photo 3

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Review: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Review: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

It has been three years since I’ve read The Secret History by Donna Tartt and I realized today that I’d never sat down and actually wrote a decent review for the book that I’ve proclaimed to love so ardently. Perhaps this means that my review will be more organized— since I’ve had such a long period to mull over any final thoughts and feelings. Alas, that probably won’t happen either. My emotions will always cloud my judgment when it comes to Tartt.

So finally, I’d like to introduce you to the book that altered every other reading experience henceforth.

Its 559 pages of madness.

We start off following college student Richard Papen as he procrastinates over transferring to another school— departing his hometown in California all the way to the sleepy east coast. Upon arriving at the elite Hampden College in Vermont, Richard encounters five students who immediately draw his attention through their peculiarity and illusive behaviors. Little does he know, the haughty cult of classics scholars will flip his world entirely until he no longer recognizes himself or the people around him. This is a story of paranoia and betrayal—and how our minds can slowly draw out our worst selves when faced with enough trauma.

And believe me, this book will cause you as much stress as it does with the characters.

One of the most glorious parts of The Secret History is the writing. Tartt is a superb author; her character are incredibly vivid, her prose are fluid, and her plot will have you turning page after page without realizing you’ve stayed up for several hours past midnight. I’ve never encountered another author with a smilier style, and that definitely made reading this book a unique experience, especially because (paired with the style) the plot was something I’ve only seen touched upon in other stories but never saw completely unfurled. All in all, it was a breath of fresh air…if you can call a story about murder that.

A favorite quote of mine was when Tartt described Camilla Macaulay— the only female leading character amongst a group of boys.

“Being the only female in what was basically a boys’ club must have been difficult for her. Miraculously, she didn’t compensate by becoming hard or quarrelsome. She was still a girl, a slight lovely girl who lay in bed and ate chocolates, a girl whose hair smelled like hyacinth and whose scarves fluttered jauntily in the breeze. But strange and marvelous as she was, a wisp of silk in a forest of black wool, she was not the fragile creature one would have her seem.”

I wish someone would describe me the way Tartt does her characters. You might think it seems overdone, as some of my friends who I’ve forced to read this book have mentioned, but I just believe it adds to the atmosphere. However, there were times when I had to find a dictionary just to understand what the hell was going on. I will warn you there.

N O T E : I also find it important to include trigger warnings before recommending this particular book, and I’ve yet to see anyone include one for TSH. So, please be aware of the following: mentions of incest, smoking, suicide, homophobia, and drug abuse.

Before I read this book I had strictly been reading fantasy only. Contemporary novels, or any novels that don’t include magic and folklore, don’t really fancy me. And while there is mention of Greek mythology receptively in this story, its entirely realistic. This is just another reason why I found it so enthralling: Tartt almost makes it seem like a fantasy, because surely these types of situations can’t happen in real life…but that’s definitely not the case, as you will find when reading a few chapters in.

Another way in which Tartt makes it seem like a fantasy is how she crafts her character. The narrator, Richard, has a few friends outside of the main group; and these friends are how one would imagine a college student from that era (arguably the early 70s… *no one is truly certain when this book takes place, at least I don’t think) would act. Whereas Henry, Bunny, Camilla, Charles, and Francis all seem too composed to be real young adults. They act as though they’re from ancient times— regal and mysterious and tragic. I’m probably not making much sense right now, but this is one of those things that you’ll have to understand through reading it.

If I had to choose a favorite character, of course it would be Francis Abernathy. Not only is he one of the most genuine characters of them all, but his melodrama makes him a comedic relief during the more gruesome scenes. Also, the way Tartt describes him makes me flustered; “Angular and elegant, he was precariously thin, with nervous hands and a shrewd albino face and a short, fiery mop of the reddest hair I had ever seen. I thought (erroneously) that he dressed like Alfred Douglas, or the Comte de Montesquiou: beautifully starchy shirts with French cuffs; magnificent neckties; a black greatcoat that billowed behind him as he walked and made him look like a cross between a student prince and Jack the Ripper.”

If you want to read a book that will pull you out of a slump: read this one.

If you want to read a book that will forever change your perception of storytelling: READ THIS ONE.

It might be tricky to dive into, because the author’s writing is nothing I’ve personally encountered before, but once you’re in…good luck putting it down.

SECRET HISTORY PLAYLIST: Soundcloud link. 

October Film Recommendations

Happy first of October! We’re finally in the best month of the year. I’ve waited a whole year for this time to come again, and so far the last twelve hours have been treating me just right. Everything about this season from the food, the music, the clothing, and the television shows makes me nostalgic and longing for an eternal autumn. That being said, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite Halloween flicks and shows so you can Netflix-and-Kill all month long (please tell me at least one person snorted).

Let me know which are your favorites! And if theres any I’ve missed, I’m all for new recommendations so hit up my messages below. Enjoy!

  • Hocus Pocus (1993)
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
  • Halloween (1978)
  • Scream (1996)
  • Beetlejuice (1988)
  • The Addams Family (1991)
  • Halloweentown High (1998)
  • Corpse Bride (2005)
  • Coraline (2009)
  • The Craft (1996)
  • Monster House (2006)
  • Sleepy Hollow (1999)
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
  • Edward Scissorhands (1990)
  • Saw (2004)
  • The Haunted Mansion (2003)
  • Practical Magic (1998)
  • Scary Godmother (2003)
  • Carrie (1978)
  • Twitches (2005)
  • Warm Bodies (2013)
  • Ginger Snaps (2000)
  • The Blair Witch Project (1999)
  • Hellraiser (1987)
  • Scream Queens (2015-16)
  • It (1990, 2017)
  • The Shinning (1980)
  • The Hills Have Eyes (1997)
  • The Babadook (2014)
  • Insidious (2010)
  • Friday the 13th (1980)
  • The Conjuring (2013)
  • The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  • The Birds (1963)
  • Train to Busan (2016)
  • Zombieland (2009)

Warwick, NY

If you’ve been following my blog or Instagram, then you might already know how enraptured I am by autumn— a.k.a the best season of the year. Everything from the sights, the smells, the tastes, even the feel of the cold wind and the scratchy turtle-neck sweaters makes me come to life like a reverse, melancholy effect of a springtime rose. When things decay, I suppose my spirit is energized? Ironic how that works.

One day I’ll write that thousand-paged thesis about why I love the fall as much as I do, but for now I’ll keep this short and practical.

Starting with example number one: apple picking. 

Each year I would go apple-picking with my family, either around upstate New York or out east on Long Island. While the east has its own magical makings, I prefer going north where the natural environment seems to have taken over the towns like a segment from Snow White‘s the dark forest. The last two years have been fairly rough, however. My parents got divorced and I transferred to a new college, miles away from my home. I believe things happen for a reason, and the friends I’ve met within just the first three weeks at my new campus are all wonderful and kind people. So when I mentioned apple picking, they were all as excited to go explore the terrain north of our school as I was.

We went to Masker Orchard in Warwick, NY. Although many of the apples weren’t ripe for picking just yet, there were thousands to choose from. And with a view sitting atop a mountain, looking out over the farms and the houses, it felt surreal to be up there— as if we had been dropped in a different era. It helped that since we went so early in the season there were only a few other guests in attendance, which meant we were able to shoot more freely and with a wider scope!

To make things even better, originally the temperature was in the mid-sixties but a storm passed overhead as we were shooting and the cold draft and grey skies made for a perfect atmospheric photo session. Of course, as soon as it began pouring we headed into town with our bags of apples to eat with the locals.

I can’t wait to go back. With the Renaissance Faire nearby, I’m sure I’ll be headed up there within the next few weeks. //

Music Recommendation: Tiger Mountain Peasant Song by Fleet Foxes.

Autumn Book Tag

Autumn Book Tag

Some people might think that perhaps this is too early, but I’m here to remind you that its never too soon for fall (the best season of the year). I’ve never partaken in one of these book tags, however I have seen a few of them floating around other blogs and YouTube channels. Instead of tracking these ones down, I’ve decided to recreate my own! Feel free to use these questions for your own tag.

  1. Best autumnal themed book cover?
  2. Which fictional friend group would you trust with a Ouija board?
  3. Which book setting would you love to be celebrating in during Halloween night?
  4. Best autumnal food description inside of a story?
  5. Which fictional character would you dress as?
  6. An antagonist you would pledge your allegiance to?
  7. The creepiest book you’ve ever read?
  8. A book you’ve yet to read but will read this October?
  9. Which fictional character would you put in charge of the decorations for a Halloween party?

 

1. Although I have yet to read this book, I instantly fell in love with the cover art when I first saw it. Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood is a modern take on “Alice in Wonderland” with an eerie twist. Alice, the protagonist, moves into her grandmother’s estate only to realize that the creature’s from her grandmother’s tales are more tangible and dangerous than she’d ever imagined. This book comes out January 30th, 2018.

2. I can’t say just how much of the supernatural world I truly believe in, but I have played with an Ouija board before and there are some things I still can’t seem to find an explanation for. With that in mind, it’s important to be playing this game with a group of people you trust and who equally have the same open-minded attitudes. For this, I would invite Donna Tartt’s cast of characters from her novel The Secret History. All five of those morally grey protagonists believe to a certain extent of a world we’ve yet to breach, and I think it would be exhilarating to watch up close as Henry Winter tries to summon spirits. (Side note: It would be just as entertaining to witnesses Francis Abernathy in any perilous scenario. He’s too cute.)

3. On Halloween night, I would love to be in the Autumnlands— a woodland realm set in the whimsical backdrop of Margaret Roberson’s debut novel An Enchantment of Ravens. Knowing that those trees already have a mind of their own, and that the land is saturated in magic all revolving around the essence of fall, I can only imagine what festivities would befall the land on such an occasion. It would also be nice to see Rook, the Autumn Prince, in all of his glory.

4. There’s no debate over this one. Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus wins all. It is lush with descriptions of Victorian London and the darker parts of carefree magic. The whole novel felt like a dream, but the scents and the food imagery is definitely something to notice.

“The circus looks abandoned and empty. But you think perhaps you can smell caramel wafting through the evening breeze, beneath the crisp scent of the autumn leaves. A subtle sweetness at the edges of the cold.”

5. Each year I’m faced with this question and each year I save it until last minute where I end up changing my mind a thousand times. However, this year I’ve decided upon a single character and I intend to stick with her: Joan of Arc. Now, I realize she’s not fictional. But enough tales have been written about her heroine acts (and chainmail is freaking awesome) that it seems too good to resist! My backup, however, will be Lagertha from the television series, Vikings.

6. I would gladly pledge my allegiance (and heart) to the Darkling from Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy. He has done some royally heinous acts in his time, but I’ve always understood his motives and found them to be justifiable, albeit dangerous and corrupt. Sign me up for the next war.

7. The creepiest book I’ve ever read would have to be the Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susan Cokal. The whole story revolved around a plague and while there were other thematic elements at work, I could never get past the gory descriptions and the terrifyingly realistic tone of the sickness that swept through the kingdom. I suppose it was more frightening because it really did happen some centuries ago, but reading it firsthand made me nauseous and fearing for my life.

8. While I’m still incredibly existed for the publication of An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson, I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy and for that I will have to change my answer to Leigh Bardugo’s Language of Thorns. These Grisha inspired folkloric novellas not only sound promising, but the artwork going into the book itself will be beautiful as well. This book will be published on September 26th, 2017. (The same date as An Enchantment of Ravens!!)

9. There were many characters that I could have chosen for this particular question, however Lucien from Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series will always be me favorite fall-themed character. I bet he’d know exactly what shade of apple to purchase for games, and what pumpkin carvings would befit wax candles. Just the prospect of a modern-day (AU) version of Lucien has me near tears. I would befriend him so fast.

 

Dealing With Social Anxiety

Dealing With Social Anxiety

Something has been eating at my mind all week and I felt the need to write it down before I pass it along as just another “paranoid thought.” I feel as though we are all always striving to meet new people, and thus make new relationships as we age, because we are all somewhat vulnerable and in need of human contact.

Personally, I feel most comfortable when I’m alone and am not obliged to hug or shake hands with others. I was often reprimanded for my “rude” behavior, when in retrospect my hesitance for physical contact was reflective of how I view myself and where I find my comfort zone. But this still didn’t change the fact that when I was home alone at night, with my brother at my father’s house and my mother with her boyfriend, I felt isolated… and not in the way I usually preferred.

I think its horribly easy to pass off a stranger as someone who is disconnected from the world if they don’t meet your eyes, aren’t willing to have physical contact, and who don’t know how to respond to certain messages. Of course, you could also deem them as being socially awkward and leave it at that. However, my fellow introverts and I have the same notions and perceptions about the world that the rest of the extroverts do. We just aren’t able to communicate these things as well as others because limited opportunities present themselves where we can feel comfortable enough to express what really is going on inside our minds.

But instead of categorizing myself and a million other people as being socially inept, I’m going to tell you about my own story and how I’ve come to deal with being known as the “quiet girl” who somehow managed to garner a massive crowd on onlookers.
So yes, I have social anxiety.

There are a few reasons as to why I hate summer. For starters, it’s too freaking hot, I constantly get sunburns even after applying proper protection, and everything is too bright for me to take my type of photography. Although, the biggest notion I hate about summer is seeing everyone I know come home from college to our small town for the next two or three months. I realize how that sounds. It seems as though I’m angry with the world, that I hate people, and that I made no friends in high school.

I realize these perceptions, because I’ve had people tell them to my face. The reality is this: I enjoyed high school and I think plenty of the students who attended with me are really sweet and creative. But on the other hand, I always feel as though when they look at me, they’re noticing any blemishes I have, what clothes I’m wearing, if I’m not smiling big enough, and that I still can’t hold a proper conversation without misunderstanding many references about parties or alcohol.

While I know that I’m likely being paranoid, I can’t help but think these things upon seeing people I went to school with. It doesn’t help that I’m usually alone— as I prefer to often be— and they’re usually in groups of four or eight. To be fair, I know that I could just go up to them and start a polite conversation about where they’re going and what they’re studying. But the awful thing is, I still see myself in the high school stigma wherein the friend you make in middle school are the ones you will be bound to until graduation. I know this because I dealt with it. I tried to leave a toxic friend group… and ended up having nobody for months.

It was the last few months of senior year— the few months where schoolwork doesn’t seem to count, there are always parties on the weekends, and the people you were friends with were the ones you’d talk to on Facebook for the next decade until they start to get married.

In the beginning of the year I had a group of about six friends, and we were all incredibly close with one another. Everyone was so different yet we had a common ground that built our kinship over the years. And halfway through the first semester, there was a party that all of us attended. As you might be able to imagine, this was the turning point. This was where arguments that had been silently brewing for months exploded in a violent fury, and the group was divided by who was on which side of the cannon fire. I tried to remain neutral, but of course that only acted against me.

It wasn’t until the police were involved when I realized the reason I couldn’t make friends outside of my immediate circle wasn’t just due to my social anxiety, but because I was already labeled as being a part of this “pack.” And when I stepped back and saw how my friends were behaving— constantly thriving on drama, talking badly about others who they barely knew, and picking fights over the smallest of things…. I had to withdraw. I had to escape that, because that wasn’t who I was and I felt disgusted and saddened just knowing it took me that long to figure it out.

So I stopped. I stopped talking to them, sitting with them at lunch, texting, partying, seeing them on weekends. I cut off all connections. And by doing so, I completely isolated myself from everyone in the school.

My mother told me, as I was in tears and having a panic attack that I didn’t know who to go to senior prom with, that I should try talking to other students— ones that were in my favorite art or literature classes. I don’t blame her for suggesting this, but I know that our generations are programmed differently and doing as she asked would be more impossible the she had intended. Making friends so late into the school year was nearly sacrilege— people would wonder why I’m talking to them after four years, and why I wasn’t present with my “group.” They would assume the worst. And I didn’t have the physical or mental strength to go through that again.

I was at my end. Stressed, anxious, depressed… not even the next installment of my favorite series could lift me out of my slump.

But I realized something during those weeks. I’m no different than anyone else, even thought my situation may be. Everyone faces hardships, and this was just something that I caused on my own and something that I had to fix on my own. So instead of seeking friendships, I started to fix the most important one: the one I had with myself.

I read more, blogged more, starting taking better photography and positing it online. I discovered new music (like Florence Welch and Fleet Foxes) and became enraptured with this whole “aesthetic” that I had never experienced before. I decided I wanted that— to be completely within my own imagination and not give a fuck about what anyone else thought if I, for instance, decided to wear chainmail as an accessory. (Not the fancy jewelry type. I’m talking full out LARPing and cosplay chainmail.) And although I didn’t smile more, because that doesn’t mean anything in regards to my emotional being, I felt a million times happier. I was liberated, and free to wander in my creativity that had been sitting silently for me to recognize it.

After reading about these heroines who slew dragons and navigated court politics against overpowered kings, I thought to myself— why the hell can’t that be me? Sure I might not find a dragon anytime in the near future, but I can certainly navigate my way around toxic relationships and not feel sorry for myself while I celebrate my strength.

Nevertheless, I still have social anxiety. Some scars are permanent, after all. However, it has evolved into something that I have control over and am able to push aside when I put my mind to it. I’ve never felt so sure of myself, even when I still have doubts and still feel lost. The knowledge that I will always have tomorrow to fix what I’ve wrought today has helped me grow into the person I am.

When people message me on Instagram or one of my other social medias and say they were hesitant to address me because they were anxious about how I would respond, I sometimes don’t know what to think. So, I tell them the truth. Don’t be wary of me, because we’re no different from each other. Just because I run a blog doesn’t mean that I’m an extrovert with wonderful social skills.

I am who I am.

Introverted, creative, and willing to face anything life throws at me.

Being Picky About What You Read

Being Picky About What You Read

I think its reasonable for readers to be picky about what content they’re obtaining when they look for new books. To be honest, many of the novels that are currently occupying the breathing space in my bedroom (I have to walk around the stacks of books just to find my mattress) are ones that were either sent to me from publishers or authors, or ones that friends loaned to me with the secret intent of never seeing those books again. Luckily I found a donation bin near my old library where I can drop off the ones I know I’ll never get to, but recently I went to that bin and found that it was overflowing with books. There is even a clear sign on the crate that states “please do not leave books outside if bin is full.” But as it turns out, I’m leaving to go to college in less than a week and my cottage sized home is already bursting with luggage and cardboard boxes. So I did what I could— fit as many books as I could cram into the donation bin, called the number on the bin for a quick pick-up, and then drove off with half of the books still in my car.

This probably seems so strange and random of me to be mentioning, but it actually brought to mind something that has always been nagging me. I feel as though many of the readers I meet both online and offline always have a preferred genre that they stick to when trying to find new books. I’m not exception to this rule, because I adore fantasy novels over everything else. While half of the books I own aren’t ones that I’ve picked for myself, the half that I did buy on my own time are all ones with warrior heroines on the covers; dragons, knights, castles, magic. You name it, it’s on there. But for me, those are the best types of novels. A love story between two high school students or a science-fiction piece about the apocalypse just doesn’t draw me in as much as a story about a wandering mage or a medieval executioner would. So while I’ve tried to force myself to enjoy genres other than fantasy… it usually never works out. With the exception of one of my favorite novels, The Secret History by Donna Tartt, I often stray from contemporary (for example) because I feel as though I’ve already read those stories because I’m living in that world currently. Perhaps one of the reasons I do adore Tartt’s novel so much is because it was the only contemporary/ thriller to draw me in as much as a high fantasy would.

I find that readers, particularly bloggers, will force themselves to try genres that they know they won’t really enjoy because they want to broaden their scope of stories. And truly, I think that’s wonderful! It makes sense, right? But for me, and I’m sure this applies to others as well, each time I try a certain genre that’s not my preferred cup of coffee, I end up having a bad experience with it because in the back of my head I know there are a thousand more fantasy books I could be reading of which I would love plenty more than the off-chance I pick up a romance novel.

I also feel that it’s important to bring up the diversity issue in regards to book genres. While I’ve probably just exhausted your eyes with my blathering on about how I love fantasy… I also have to recognize that it doesn’t contain as much diversity as other genres, particularly Young Adult contemporary. In recent years, the YA contempt. sections have experienced a massive influx of diverse stories, and I couldn’t be more inspired to see it. It’s something that every book being published needs to include, no matter the content or “historical accuracy” (a weak argument I’ve seen far to many times to even want to delve into on this post). So that being said, I’ve tried my hardest to search for the fantasy novels that include a diverse cast of characters and portray them in correct/ positive ways. Needless to say, it wasn’t on easy feat. But that’s in part due to the fact that there aren’t too many diverse fantasies being published, and for the ones that are, occasionally the synopsis won’t draw me in. Remember what I said about being picky? On one hand it’s a blessing because you’re more likely to enjoy the book your reading, but on the other hand the book you’re reading may have many faults or might take you forever to find.

All that being said, below is a list of my favorite books. And yes, they’re mostly fantasy.


  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt— Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last – inexorably – into evil.

 

  • An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson— Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized among them. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes – a weakness that could cost him his life. Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love, violating the fair folks’ ruthless Good Law. There’s only one way to save both their lives, Isobel must drink from the Green Well, whose water will transform her into a fair one—at the cost of her Craft, for immortality is as stagnant as it is timeless. Isobel has a choice: she can sacrifice her art for a future, or arm herself with paint and canvas against the ancient power of the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

 

  • The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi— Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

 

  • Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh—The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath. So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace. The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

 

  • Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones— All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns. But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts. Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

 

  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo—Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee. Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

 

  • Scourge by Gail Z. Martin—The city-state of Ravenwood is wealthy, powerful, and corrupt. Merchant Princes and Guild Masters wager fortunes to outmaneuver League rivals for the king’s favor and advantageous trading terms. Lord Mayor Ellor Machison wields assassins, blood witches, and forbidden magic to assure that his powerful patrons get what they want, no matter the cost. Corran, Rigan, and Kell Valmonde are Guild Undertakers, left to run their family’s business when guards murdered their father and monsters killed their mother. Their grave magic enables them to help souls pass to the After and banish vengeful spirits. Rigan’s magic is unusually strong and enables him to hear the confessions of the dead, the secrets that would otherwise be taken to the grave. When the toll exacted by monsters and brutal guards hits close to home and ghosts expose the hidden sins of powerful men, Corran, Rigan and Kell become targets in a deadly game and face a choice: obey the Guild, or fight back and risk everything.

 

  • The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak— In her latest novel, Elif Shafak spins an epic tale spanning nearly a century in the life of the Ottoman Empire. In 1540, twelve-year-old Jahan arrives in Istanbul. As an animal tamer in the sultan’s menagerie, he looks after the exceptionally smart elephant Chota and befriends (and falls for) the sultan’s beautiful daughter, Princess Mihrimah. A palace education leads Jahan to Mimar Sinan, the empire’s chief architect, who takes Jahan under his wing as they construct (with Chota’s help) some of the most magnificent buildings in history. Yet even as they build Sinan’s triumphant masterpieces—the incredible Suleymaniye and Selimiye mosques—dangerous undercurrents begin to emerge, with jealousy erupting among Sinan’s four apprentices. A memorable story of artistic freedom, creativity, and the clash between science and fundamentalism, Shafak’s intricate novel brims with vibrant characters, intriguing adventure, and the lavish backdrop of the Ottoman court, where love and loyalty are no match for raw power.

 

  • Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente— Koschei the Deathless is to Russian folklore what devils or wicked witches are to European culture: a menacing, evil figure; the villain of countless stories which have been passed on through story and text for generations. But Koschei has never before been seen through the eyes of Catherynne Valente, whose modernized and transformed take on the legend brings the action to modern times, spanning many of the great developments of Russian history in the twentieth century. Deathless, however, is no dry, historical tome: it lights up like fire as the young Marya Morevna transforms from a clever child of the revolution, to Koschei’s beautiful bride, to his eventual undoing. Along the way there are Stalinist house elves, magical quests, secrecy and bureaucracy, and games of lust and power. All told, Deathless is a collision of magical history and actual history, of revolution and mythology, of love and death, which will bring Russian myth back to life in a stunning new incarnation.

 

  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab—Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black. Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand. After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure. Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

 

  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater—“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.” It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive. Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her. His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble. But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little. For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

 

  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor—Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky. In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low. And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war. Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out. When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

 

  • The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley— Here is the magical legend of King Arthur, vividly retold through the eyes and lives of the women who wielded power from behind the throne. A spellbinding novel, an extraordinary literary achievement, THE MISTS OF AVALON will stay with you for a long time to come….

 

  • Vixen by Rosie Garland— Rosie Garland’s extraordinary tale is a story of superstition and devotion in the time of the Black Death and will bewitch both new readers and fans of her much-loved debut, The Palace of Curiosities. Devon, 1349. In Brauntone, where seagulls screech across the fields and the wind has a mind to change, Father Thomas arrives as the new priest. Determined to impress his congregation, he quells fears of the coming pestilence with promises of protection. For Anne, the priest’s arrival is an opportunity that at sixteen, she feels all too ready for. Convinced a grand fate awaits, she moves in as Thomas’s housekeeper, though hopeful of something more. But his home is a place without love or kindness. So when a strange, mute Maid is discovered, washed up in the marshes, and taken in, Anne is grateful for the company. Their friendship is to give Anne the chance of a happiness she thought she’d never know. But soon the plague strikes Brauntone, spreading panic. And as the villagers’ fear turns to anger, Thomas must sacrifice anything to restore their faith in him.

 

  • An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir— Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free. Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear. It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do. But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy. There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

 

  • Heartwood by Freya Robertson— A dying tree, a desperate quest, a love story, a last stand. Chonrad, Lord of Barle, comes to the fortified temple of Heartwood for the Congressus peace talks, which Heartwood’s holy knights have called in an attempt to stave off war in Anguis. But the Arbor, Heartwood’s holy tree, is failing, and because the land and its people are one, it is imperative the nations try to make peace. After the Veriditas, or annual Greening Ceremony, the Congressus takes place. The talks do not go well and tempers are rising when an army of warriors emerges from the river. After a fierce battle, the Heartwood knights discover that the water warriors have stolen the Arbor’s heart. For the first time in history, its leaves begin to fall… The knights divide into seven groups and begin an epic quest to retrieve the Arbor, and save the land.

 

  • The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera—The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests. Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons. This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O-Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.

 

  • Elfland by Fred Warrington—Rosie Fox is a daughter of the Aetherials, an ancient race from the Spiral—the innermost realm of the Otherworld—who lives secretly among us. Yet she and her kind are bereft of their origins, because on Earth, in a beautiful village named Cloudcroft, the Great Gates between worlds stand sealed. Her parents, Auberon and Jessica, are the warm heart of Cloudcroft and of Rosie’s loving family. But on the hill lives the mysterious, aloof Lawrence Wilder, Gatekeeper to the inner realms of Elfland. Tortured by private demons, he is beset by trouble on all sides: his wife has vanished and his sons Jon and Sam are bitter and damaged. Lawrence is duty bound to throw open the Gates every seven years for the Night of the Summer Stars, a ritual granting young Aetherials their heritage, their elders vital reconnection to their source. Lawrence, however, is haunted by fears of an ever-growing menace within the Spiral. When he stubbornly bars the Gates, he defies tradition and enrages the Aetherial community. What will become of them, deprived of the realm from which flows their essential life force? Is Lawrence protecting them—or betraying them? Growing up amid this turmoil, Rosie and her brothers, along with Sam and Jon Wilder, are heedless of the peril lurking beyond the Gates. They know only that their elders have denied them their birthright, harboring dark secrets in a conspiracy of silence. When Sam is imprisoned for an all-too-human crime, age-old wounds sunder the two families…yet Rosie is drawn into his web, even as she fears the passions awoken in her by the dangerous Wilder clan. Torn between duty and desire, between worlds, Rosie unwittingly precipitates a tragedy that compels her to journey into the Otherworld, where unknown terrors await. Accompanied by the one man most perilous to her life, she must learn hard lessons about life and love in order to understand her Aetherial nature…and her role in the terrifying conflict to come.

 

  • The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco— “The beast raged; it punctured the air with its spite. But the girl was fiercer.” Tea is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in the kingdom. For theirs is a powerful, elemental magic that can reach beyond the boundaries of the living—and of the human. Great power comes at a price, forcing Tea to leave her homeland to train under the guidance of an older, wiser bone witch. There, Tea puts all of her energy into becoming an asha, learning to control her elemental magic and those beasts who will submit by no other force. And Tea must be strong—stronger than she even believes possible. Because war is brewing in the eight kingdoms, war that will threaten the sovereignty of her homeland…and threaten the very survival of those she loves.

 

  • The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller—Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

 

  • The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss—Told in Kvothe’s own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen. The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature. A high-action story written with a poet’s hand, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that will transport readers into the body and mind of a wizard.