Shelf Control #83: The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black #Fantasy #YoungAdult #TBR

Wednesday, the 25th of March–Shelf Control time once again! Shelf Control is a feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. It is a weekly feature, and appears every Wednesday. To participate, all you do is pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it. If you participate, link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks!

This week, the second time in a row, my pick is a young adult fantasy read, and coincidentally also the final one in a series (Last week, I featured Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor-post here)–The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black. The Queen of Nothing is the third in the Folk of the Air series, the first two being The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King. I picked up Cruel Prince last year, and found it so entertaining and enjoyable that I bought the sequel nearly immediately, and this was also as enjoyable and kept me hooked all through. So of course, I had to read the final instalment to see how everything turns out.

The series tells the story of Jude who with her twin Taryn and older sister Vivi are taken to live in Faerie, after their parents are brutally killed. There, many look down upon them, especially the youngest prince Cardan, who loses no chance to torment. While Taryn wants to fit in simply by falling in love and getting married, Jude wants to become a knight and be able to give a fitting response to her tormentors. But when things are not working the way she wants them to, she begins to take steps to acquire power, getting eventually involved in political games playing out around the throne of Faerie. In The Wicked King, the games continue with Jude finding herself occupying an important place as the power behind the throne. Love, hate, politics, conspiracy, and betrayal are constants, and both the plot and the characters surprise one more than once with twists, turns, and plenty of secrets.

Without going into too much of a spoiler, in this final instalment, Jude has been banished from Faerie, and to the mortal realm. She is biding her time and waiting to return. Her twin Taryn brings to her this opportunity, and Jude must return to an atmosphere where war is brewing and politics continues to be dangerous. A dormant but powerful curse is unleashed which forces her to make a choice–between ambition and her humanity. How do things turn out for her, for Taryn, for Cardan?

The Author: Holly Black is an American writer and editor. She has written several young adult and middle-grade novels, short stories, graphic novels and comics, and some poetry. Among her works are the Spiderwick Chronicles, and the Magesterium books co-written with Cassandra Clare.

Have you read this series? Did you enjoy it as much as I have been? What did you think of this instalment? Did it live up to your expectations? Looking forward to your thoughts!

I have featured The Cruel Prince in a previous Shelf Control Post (here), and my reviews of Cruel Prince and Wicked King are here and here.

Find reviews of The Queen of Nothing from the Orangutan Librarian (here), A Book A Thought (here), and Reading by Starlight (here)

Cover image and description as always are from goodreads (here) and the author (here)

Shelf Control #82: Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor #TBR #Fantasy #YoungAdult

Wednesday, the 18th of March–time again for Shelf Control! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. It appears every Wednesday. To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, what makes you want to read it, where you got it, and such. Link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks!

This week my pick is a book I got a while ago, but haven’t gotten down to reading yet–Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor. Published in 2018, this is the concluding part of the young-adult duology Strange the Dreamer. Strange the Dreamer tells the story of the eponymous Lazlo Strange, brought up in a monastery as he was an orphan. On hearing stories of a mysterious and magical city from a strange monk at the monastery, Lazlo becomes increasingly fascinated with the city, but as if by magic even its name disappears from everyone’s minds including Lazlo’s own, and all that is remembered is the name ‘Weep’ (not its actual name). When Lazlo grows up and becomes first an apprentice, and then a librarian, his fascination continues, and he seeks to learn all he can about it from all the books he can lay his hands on. One day, an unforeseen opportunity comes his way as a warrior known as the Godslayer comes to his city, and he finds himself actually travelling to Weep–his dream being realised. On the other side, in Weep we learn the story of a very different young girl, half-human, half-god, Sarai, who has had a difficult life of her own, and who has a rather extraordinary talent. Their stories intersect once there, where tragedy has touched more than one life, human and other.

In the Muse of Nightmares, things have changed very much for both Lazlo and Sarai, neither of them are who they were in the first book. Lazlo must make an unthinkable choice, save the woman he loves or everyone else, while Sarai must realise what she is truly capable of. The many questions, the mysteries that the first book left unanswered must still be resolved, and a new foe who arrives on the scene must be contended with.

This is a series I came across on a Goodreads friend’s review (video here), and I liked the sound of it a lot and wanted very much to read it. A few months ago, I found Muse of Nightmares on sale on kindle and picked it up even though I hadn’t got the first one yet (silly but the first would be on sale eventually 😛 ). Finally I did get the first book (a physical copy) which I am reading now (nearly finished, in fact) and so very much looking forward to reading this second one. Despite the elements of tragedy and sadness in the book (in the lives of many of the characters), there is so much that is magical and beautiful–both the things/places the author has created and the prose itself, which is making me really enjoy this one. And of course, I want to know what happens next!

The author: Laini Taylor is an American author who writes in the young adult fantasy genre. Born in Chico, California, Taylor, who grew up as a ‘military kid’ earned a degree in English from UC Berkeley. She has written various series and collections, the best known among them being Daughter of Smoke and Bone which has three novels and a novella, and Strange the Dreamer. Strange the Dreamer is a Michael L. Printz Honor Book.

Have you read the Strange the Dreamer books or others by Laini Taylor? Which ones and how did you find them? If you haven’t yet, do you plan to read any? Looking forward to your thoughts!

Info on the book is from Goodreads (here) and the author from Wikipedia (here); the cover image and author image are both from Goodreads (here and here)

Shelf Control #80: The Bear and The Nightingale #TBR #Fantasy #RussianFairyTales

Wednesday, the 4th of March–time again for Shelf Control! Shelf Control is a feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. It appears every Wednesday. To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, what makes you want to read it, where you got it, and such. Link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks!

This week, my pick is the first of a fantasy trilogy, The Bear and the Nightingale (2017) by Katherine Arden. This is pretty much the latest addition to my shelf–my copy arrived yesterday, the cover on the right, and it is very very pretty.

With its basis in Russian fairy tales, the book tells the story of Vasilisa, living at the edge of the Russian wilderness, a place where it is winter most of the year. Vasilisa spends most nights with her siblings, huddled around the fire, listening to fairytales told by their nurse. Among these stories, her favourite is that of the blue-eyed winter-demon, Frost who the wise fear, for he claims unwary souls, and as protection honor the spirits that protect their homes. But Vasilisa’s mother dies, and her father remarries, a devout and harsh woman from Moscow who forbids them from honouring the house spirits. And of course, evil begins to affect them–crops failing, evil from the forest growing nearer, and misfortune coming upon the village. Now Vasilisa must call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed, to save her family from all that her nurse’s stories warned of.

The author: Born in Austin, Texas, Katherine Arden, who now resides in Vermont spent a year in Moscow after High School. She holds a degree in Russian and French. She has written the Winternight trilogy of which The Bear and the Nightingale is the first book, as well as a couple of books for children, also part of a series, Small Spaces.

The Bear and the Nightingale is a book I was very interested in picking up essentially because of its basis in Russian fairy tales and folklore. The world it is set in sounds pretty and magical, though the winter must make the ill that occurs all the more chilling. The story sounds like one of what occurs or might occur when a more ‘modern’ world and belief system tries to oust or replace a more traditional one, something that shouldn’t be done lightly, though of course in a fantasy setting where consequences can be very different from those in the ‘real’ world.

Have you read this one? Or if not, do you plan to? How did you like it, if you have? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

All the info on the book is from Goodreads (here) as always and on the author from Wikipedia (here).

Shelf Control #57: Maelyn by Anita Valle #fantasy #youngadult

Wednesday, 21st August–time for another Shelf Control post. Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and is about celebrating the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile and write a post about it. Link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks.

This week (am writing after a week’s break), I’m featuring a book that’s waiting to be read on Kindle–Maelyn by Anita Valle. This one was a freebie being offered on Kindle and it looked interesting so I picked it up.

Maelyn is the first in a series, The Nine Princesses novellas. This one is about a King and Queen who have no children of their own; so the King goes to nine kingdoms and brings home nine baby girls, orphans, who become their very own princesses. But when the King and Queen die, and Maelyn, at eighteen, is ruling over the Runa realm, she finds that not all the people consider her and her sisters princesses, seeing them as no more than frauds or impostors who no longer deserve to be on the throne. Their Uncle Jarrod, King of Grunwold, too is determined to show that Maelyn isn’t really a princess. With all this doubt and hostility around her, Maelyn begins to question herself too. This is the first of the adventures of nine unconventional princesses, each of which focuses on one of the girls, each very different from the other, with personalities that often clash.

This is a fantasy adventure for young adults that sounded like a fun read to me. I am not sure if this is a retelling or merely has a base in fairy tales but it will be interesting to see (whether and) how that connection is made or inspiration taken.

The author: Anita Valle is an American artist (some of her dog art is on her site here (also princess art but being me, I had to share the dogs 🙂 )) and author of series including the Nine Princesses novellas and the Dark Fairy Tale Queen series. The latter series seems to put a dark (or darker) spin on fairy tale princesses–Cinderella, Snow White, etc.

Have you read this or any of the other books in this series? How did you find it/them? Looking forward to your thoughts!

As always the info about the book is from goodreads (here) and about the author (here).

Shelf Control #55: Superior Saturday by Garth Nix #Fantasy #TBR #Children’sLiterature

The last day of July, and the last Shelf Control for the month! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and is about celebrating the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains (Mine is currently at 260 including all the e-books I have). To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile and write a post about it. Link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks.

This month, in tandem with my ‘theme’ of reading sequels and next in series books, I’ve been featuring these in my Shelf Control posts as well. This week’s pick Superior Saturday by Garth Nix is book 6 in the Keys to the Kingdom series by the author. This is a fantasy-adventure series comprising seven books published between 2003 and 2010; this one appeared in 2008. Each of the books (as the name of this one suggests) is set around a day in the week. The central character is a twelve-year-old asthmatic boy named Arthur Penhaligon who lives with his large adopted family. But Arthur has been chosen to be the heir of ‘The House’–the centre of the universe. One Monday, an asthma attack brings him into contact with Mister Monday, in charge of the Lower House where he finds his true fate. Here he learns that must defeat seven trustees who represent seven deadly sins, and collect keys from each in the process. The keys are not actual keys but different objects that hold equal power and can do much of what is asked of them.

In Superior Saturday, Arthur has five of the keys, and now must face a greater challenge than any he has faced before for the sixth, as Superior Saturday is the oldest and most powerful of the trustees, and also a sorcerer with tens of thousands of sorcerers at her command. She has control of the Upper House, and has been the one plotting against Arthur all along. Alongside, his home city is under attack, and he can’t rely on his allies.

This was a book I randomly picked up from the shop-soiled section at my neighbourhood bookshop since it sounded like fun. I haven’t read any of the others in the series (or any other by the author), and while the world sounds a little complicated to may be understand from a later point in the series, I’d still like to give it a try. Besides the story, what sounds interesting about the series are the literary and mythological references/allusions sprinkled all through, including Arthur himself (Penhaligon/Pendragon).

The Author: Garth Nix is a children’s and young-adult fantasy author from Australia, known for the Old Kingdom, Keys to the Kingdom, and Seventh Towers series. He has also written various standalone novels for children as well as some works for adults as well.

Have you read this series before or any other books by Garth Nix? Which one/s and how did you find them? Do you enjoy books with literary references and allusions? Which are some of your favourites (books or series)? Looking forward to your thoughts!

As always, info on the book, series, and author is from Goodreads, and Wikipedia, here, here, here and here.

Review: The Legend of Griff by Richard Sparrow #BookReview #Fantasy #Humour

My thanks to the author for a digital review copy of the book.

This is (which I didn’t realise at first) the first in a fantasy–adventure series complete with a prophecy, magic, mages, a tyrannical king, goblins, and trolls and fairies, even a storybook ‘hero’—all the usual ingredients but with a fun twist. In the Kingdom of Lohr, we meet different groups on missions, a bunch of trolls—mercenaries on the trail of someone; the group of people there are trailing, a motley lot including a mage carrying a magic sword in secret somewhere; then a third group of Kingswatch constables on the trail of poachers in the Great Untame; and alongside a lone adolescent goblin, Griff of the title, who is travelling to the city, wanting only to make a name for himself as a minstrel in a kingdom not very friendly to those not human. Alongside, on a pig farm is a young orphan boy, Arn Propp, handsome, brave, ready to stand up for injustice, in short the perfect hero who is trying to his work well (he lives with his uncle, aunt, and cousins, who in this case (not stereotypical) actually like and appreciate him) and get along in life but who suddenly also finds himself thrown in the midst of adventure, when he goes to rescue his cousin from some thugs. The paths of these groups cross and stories collide with unusual results, especially when one event throws the entire course of things on its head, and we find ourselves with an unlikely hero who has to take on the reins.

This was a really fun read for me. A couple of other reviewers of this book have mentioned how like Pratchett this book is, and that was something that came to my mind as well—the humour, and the set-up of the story while original also reminded me a lot of Pratchett, and there were moments specifically that I found myself thinking of the city watch books in particular. I enjoyed how the author picked up the elements of a typical fantasy adventure and put his own spin on it making it a very entertaining journey. Also, it isn’t just the ‘main’ twist, but there was another along the way which took me by surprise and I’d love to see how that plays out over the course of the story. Like the discworld book it specifically made me think of, Men at Arms, this one too weaves in issues of diversity, people refusing to understand each other, even listen to each other merely because they are different, and the need to look at things from each one’s point of view before taking action (more often than not violent) recklessly (not a problem of the fantasy world alone, unfortunately). The characters were also very likeable, and I liked how the author made us see things from each one’s or each group’s pov. I am keen to see where their adventures take them next and what new twists and turns the plot takes. Great fun!  Four and a half stars!

Children’s Book of the Month: Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

Cover of the Companion Library Edition (1965, Grosset and Dunlap), the copy that I have

The 1883 classic tale of the rather naughty wooden puppet. The translation I read was by M.A.  Murray, illustrated by Mariano Leone. The story begins with a carpenter Master Cherry coming upon a rather unusual piece of wood which seems to talk and laugh, and even cry. He hands this over to his friend Geppetto who has at that time come looking for a piece of wood to make a puppet by which he can earn a living. But even as he is making the puppet, he realises that this no ordinary puppet for it not only speaks to him, but begins to get into mischief like pulling off the poor man’s wig. And once Pinocchio is made, more mischief ensues as the boy is interested only in having his own way, even if poor old Geppetto has to suffer (even go to prison) in the process. But Pinocchio is not bad hearted. He in fact feels for his father and really wishes to do him some good. With good intentions, he starts off to school with his spelling book but before long is distracted by a puppet show. This is the beginning of a series of adventures where Pinocchio falls into one soup after another (from nearly being fried as a fish to turning into a donkey), while attempting quite sincerely every so often to turn good, and ultimately to become a boy.

Before I go into my thoughts in the book, I’d just like to write about the edition that I have which is the Companion Library edition (1965) published by Grosset and Dunlap. When I bought this book (second-hand) I didn’t realise that this was actually two books in one, starting on opposite ends (see picture below). So it was a real surprise when I got home and noticed that. It has some nice cheerful (green and white) endpapers. I also quite liked the illustrations (the illustrators of both books must be related, Mariano Leone for this one and Sergio Leone for the King Arthur book), and especially the cover.

Anyway, now back to the actual book. For starters, I realised when I read that book that I hadn’t actually ever read it before. The impression I had of Pinocchio is of a boy-puppet who told lies which made his nose grow long, which was then restored if he tells the truth—something which would go on till he learnt his lesson. But this was not just that, in fact there were literally only two episodes of this. Pinocchio gets into various forms of mischief, but his worst habits are being disobedient and getting tempted by whatever people (usually the wrong sort) tell him rather than listening to good advice. That he is lazy, and like many children would rather be having fun than going to school adds to his troubles, and he finds himself in trouble (even on the verge of losing his life) each time he strays. But the kind of adventures he has and the different settings and characters are very imaginative, fun, and a real delight to read about. I enjoyed the descriptions, for instance of the poodle, Medoro who was sent by the blue-haired fairy to rescue Pinocchio:

“He was in the full dress livery of a coachman. On his head was a three-cornered cap braided with gold, his curly white wig came down onto his shoulders, he had a chocolate-colored waistcoat with diamond buttons, and two large pockets to contain the bones that his mistress gave him at dinner. He had besides a pair of short crimson velvet breeches, silk stockings, cut-down shoes, and hanging behind him a species of umbrella case made of blue satin, to put his tail into when the weather was rainy.”

And the story is full of humour. There are also some (though not a lot) of rather Alicey (in wonderland) lines. For instance:

“I wish to know from you gentlemen, if this unfortunate puppet is alive or dead!”

“To my belief the puppet is already quite dead; but if unfortunately he should not be dead, then it would be a sign that he is still alive.”

“I regret,” said the Owl, “to be obliged to contradict the Crow, my illustrious friend and colleague; but in my opinion the puppet is still alive; but if unfortunately he should not be alive, then it would be a sign that he is dead indeed!”

This is a humorous and fun read, and although it does (and understandably so) get preachy in parts about how young boys should behave (after all it was meant to teach a lesson), I found it to be a really enjoyable read.

#BookReview #ChildrensLiterature #Classic #Humour #Fantasy

Review: Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

My thanks to NetGalley and HQ for a review copy of this book.

Shadow of the Fox is a Japanese-inspired fantasy–adventure, and the first of a trilogy by author Julie Kagawa. This is the first of her books that I’ve read. In the book we meet Yumeko, a half yokai (magical beings who can shapeshift and assume human shape) who is sixteen and has been brought up at the Silent Winds Temple where most of the monks try to teach her to ignore her kitsune or fox-self, which includes the magic she can perform and act human. When the temple is attacked by a demon creature (an oni, Yaburama) and his minions, she finds out about a prophecy that it is she who would protect the part of the dragon scroll that the temple has had in its safe-keeping for many years. She is to carry the scroll to the other temple, Steel Feather, where another part of it is hidden but she doesn’t know where that temple is. Just as she is escaping from the temple, she meets, Kage Tatsumi. Just slightly older than her, he belongs to the shadow clan and is a ruthless assassin of creatures of all kind, and does only as his clan requires him to do, no questions, no feelings. Tatsumi has been sent by his clan head to recover the scroll. Naturally Yumeko can’t tell him she is the bearer but manages to secure his help to escort her to find the location of the Steel Feather Temple (where Tatsumi too hopes to recover the missing scroll and complete his mission). Like Yumeko, Tatsumi also has a secret, as bearer of the powerful sword Kamigoroshi (one that can do away with any kind of creature), he is also a vessel for a demon Hakaimono, who he keeps under control by not allowing himself to feel any emotion. And so begins their adventure. On the way to the capital city, Kin Heigen Toshi, where they hope to find out where the Steel Feather Temple is, they are attacked by all variety of creatures, demons and monsters and have a powerful blood mage on their trail. There’s also a “side-quest” or two, and they are joined by a ronin, Okame, and a noble Taiyo Daisuke, who become part of their motley group.

This book was so much fun, I really loved it. The book managed to have a light-hearted adventure feel and tone despite all the monsters and bloodshed. In fact, much of it had a humorous undertone which was very good fun. I also enjoyed the folklore elements (some of these, Yokai included, I’d come across in the one other Japanese-inspired fantasy I’d read, Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean, and so was familiar with–find my review here)—the different types of creatures one encounters, even the horrid ones.

Both the main characters Yumeko and Tatsumi are very likeable. Alternate chapters are in fact told from each of their perspectives (in first person), and one thing that stood out in this which I thought Kagawa had done really well is how Yumeko’s naivety and inexperience stands out in the Tatsumi chapters (from the eyes of another) while in her chapters, one doesn’t see this. (The author is also building up a romance but only the base has been laid so far). I also very much liked Okame and Daisuke. There are also a few chapters told in third person from the perspective of a young girl Suki, who comes to the imperial palace as maid to Lady Satomi, and whose story ends up taking some rather interesting turns as we go on. The only (very slight) complaint that I had was that in some (though only a few) instances, the dialogue felt a little modern coming from the time and setting in which the characters lived but it didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the book.

As far as the plot elements are concerned, there’s nothing really out of the ordinary as such, a prophecy, a quest, monsters, a journey, but the way it is done makes it very enjoyable and great fun. The ending was quite a surprise, had a couple of turns/twists(?) I didn’t see coming and made me wish I had the sequel right there in front of me to pick up and continue, but alas that couldn’t happen. I can’t wait for it to come out so I can continue with them on their journey! Five stars!

Other reviews from blogs I follow: @lynnsbooks here and the Orang-utan Librarian here.

Have you read this one so far? How did you like it? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Shelf Control #26: Children of Blood and Bone

Shelf Control time again! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies. It celebrates the books waiting to be read on your shelf. To participate in this feature, all you do is pick a book from your TBR pile and write a post about it, linking back to Lisa’s blog.

This week my pick , as you can see from the cover picture above, is a very popular read this year, Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. This is a book with so much hype around it that I was a little apprehensive picking it up, but it sounded pretty interesting and I have also been reading a lot of positive feedback so I’m looking forward to giving it a try.

What it’s all about: This is the first book in the Orisha Trilogy, and tells the story of Zelie who is a diviner, one of magical blood, who resembles her mother but cannot be a maji (or one possessing magic) like her for her mother and others like her have been killed and all magic destroyed. But she finds a chance at striking back at the ruthless monarch responsible for this, and bringing back magic. In this quest, she is helped by a rogue princess, and must outwit the crown prince, who is also bent on destroying all magic.

When and Where I got it: Very recently–I ordered a copy online and it arrived I think last week. My copy is a paperback edition by Pan Macmillan.

Why I want to read it: Not so much because of the hype or even because it is a fantasy, though I do enjoy fantasies but more so because this book is supposed to have elements of West African mythology, and this is something (in fact any African mythology, other than Egyptian) I really know nothing about, so I thought this would be an interesting way to get a peek into that. [This was also the case for me with Japanese mythology which I got a little idea of from Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean (review here) and hope to get some more of from Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa.] And of course, the cover–another very striking one this year!

A Little About the Author: Tomi Adeyemi is a Nigerian-American writer and creative writing coach. In this, her debut book, she has taken inspiration from West African mythology, the Black Lives Matter movement, and also fantasy fiction like Avatar: The Last Airbender and Harry Potter.

Have you read this one yet? Or do you plan do? If you have, what did you think of it? Did it live up to all the hype or did it not meet your expectations? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Review: Wolf-Speaker by Tamora Pierce

My thanks to Harper Collins UK and NetGalley for a review copy of this one.

This is the second of the Immortals series (my review of book 1 is here) by Tamora Pierce. The one opens with the wolves that Daine once hunted with trying to reach her and thinking over the news they’ve received of her from other creatures of the forest. Daine, now fourteen, meanwhile is heading with her mentor/teacher, the mage Numair Salmalin, their horses including Cloud, and Kitten the dragon baby, towards the pack for they have sent for her help as their new home, Dunlath is in trouble. The two-feet there are cutting down all the trees, mining incessantly, chasing away prey making the place unliveable for them, and ultimately for themselves. When they get there however, they find that it isn’t only the animals who are in trouble. A family of local nobles,the lords of Dunlath, are plotting treason against King Jonathan, and switching loyalties. Here they are aided by a whole group of rogue mages, who have some very powerful magic at their command, and don’t seem to care who or what they destroy. Circumstances become such that Daine is left all alone with only her animal friends and some immortal ones in Dunlath. The only other human helping her at first is ten-year-old Lady Maura, younger sister of the Lady Yolane. Daine begins to learn and practice more of what her wild magic makes her capable of,and these new found powers and her friends are what help her face and defeat the “villains” of the piece.

If anything, I think I enjoyed this one even more than the first book. The first book obviously had to set out the background, and introduce us to the world that Daine lived in, and the friends she found in Tortall, but this one to me felt more rounded as a story. I enjoyed watching Daine, who spends much of the novel away from human company, explore her new powers or rather the new uses she discovers of her magic. This helps her not only to do things she couldn’t earlier but view the world through the perspectives of her different animal friends. This was an element I really enjoyed. Pierce does a great job of highlighting the various things—sounds, smells, sights—that different animals would notice, and making one (even the reader) feel that they were looking through the eyes and mind of the animal in question. The adventure elements for me were fairly exciting as well. But besides these, the book also had some important messages to give. It may be set in a fantasy world, but even there “humans”continue to behave as they do in real life, destroying their environment,surroundings, disrespecting other living creatures for what they think is their own gain.  The other was about needing to understand creatures/life that is different, human or animal, as life, as creatures/people who have thoughts, feelings, concerns, and who shouldn’t be judged as monsters or evil in an off-handed way. Here Maura, who is scared of some of Daine’s “friends” manages to shows Daine how she herself might be prejudiced unfairly against some others. Pierce manages to show us that even people who are “good” aren’t always flawless and may have their own prejudices and discriminatory attitudes that they need to address—another message extremely relevant for our world. Once again a wonderful read, in which I especially enjoyed all the animals and Daine’s interactions with them!