ARC REVIEW: Into the Heartless Wood – Joanna Ruth Meyer ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Title: Into the Heartless Wood
Author: Joanna Ruth Meyer
Rating: ★★★★

Thank you to Page Street Books for sending me an ARC!

“He will die thinking the monster in the wood never lost her heart to the boy who is lost in the stars.”

Joanna Ruth Meyer’s standalone fantasies have impressed me a lot thus far. Echo North quickly became one of my favorites after I read it last year, and now I find myself enchanted by Into the Heartless Wood as well. This book can easily be described as a gender-swapped loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast featuring an astronomer’s son and a monstrous tree siren.

The writing is absolutely stunning. The story gives off fairytale vibes and the gorgeous, vivid descriptions and prose reflect that. Everything about the story is magical: the wicked wood, the tree sirens, the changing stars in the sky. The atmospheric setting draws the reader in easily. The relationship between Owen and Seren was both heartbreaking and heartwarming. Their love is doomed from the start but that doesn’t deter the reader from wishing them a happily ever after. I really loved how the author handled the romance aspect of this story.

Into the Heartless Wood is a dark, fairytale full of magic and forbidden love. The lyrical writing, atmospheric setting, and extraordinary storytelling make this an enchanting fantasy. I loved every second of reading this and cannot wait for more people to read it too.

ARC REVIEW: Don’t Call the Wolf – Aleksandra Ross ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

40245031._SY475_Title: Don’t Call the Wolf
Author: Aleksandra Ross
Rating: ★★★★★

ARC received through #booksfortrade on Twitter.

It’s no secret that I love any kind of fairytale retelling. Don’t Call the Wolf is a magnificent debut novel centered around a Polish fairytale, The Glass Mountain, full of adventurous quests, wolves, dragon hunters, and magical forests. I expected to really enjoy this book, but I did not expect to fall completely in love with the story.

“If ever you are lost, or alone, or frightened, remember that this is your home. These Mountains will always call you back.”

What is this book about? Don’t Call the Wolf follows Lukasz, a young man from a long history of dragon hunters, and Ren, the self-proclaimed Queen of the Forest, as they strike a bargain to defeat the Gold Dragon and save the forest.

What did I like? Aleksandra Ross can write. Her prose was absolutely beautiful and fit perfectly for a fairytale retelling. From stunning descriptions to the dark, atmospheric vibes her writing portrays, it’s easy to become lost in this magical story. The writing in Don’t Call the Wolf is half the reason I love this book so much.

The story is told through the POVs of both Lukasz and Ren, and I have nothing  bad to say about either protagonists. In the beginning, Ren was distrustful and wild, but she gradually began to open up to others as the story went on while maintaining her fierceness and bravery. Her arc was handled flawlessly and because of that I think it had a much more meaningful impact both on the story, as well as on me as the reader. Lukasz was amazing. After losing his nine other brothers and suffering a debilitating injury, Lukasz finds himself alone in the world, lost and vulnerable. I loved reading his chapter and was so incredibly easy to root for him and want him to find nothing but happiness.

“But tonight his mind was burned, his veins were black, and his arms were full with the creature he loved, and tonight at least, he was still human.”

What didn’t I like? My only issue was the final conflict. The twist definitely caught be off guard–in a good way!–but it felt like it was wrapped up way too quickly. I appreciated the author’s intent not to have long, drawn out action sequences (because those can get tiresome), but the last battle was paced too fast compared to the rest of the book.

Overall thoughts: Don’t Call the Wolf had me enchanted from the first chapter. The incredibly writing and wonderful characters help create a magical fairytale retelling that was so easy to fall in love with.

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REVIEW: Stain – A. G. Howard

34842208Title: Stain
Author: A. G. Howard
Rating: ★★★★½

“In the end, you will have to prove hard enough to wrap yourself in spikes, yet tender enough to walk amongst stars without crushing their fragile legs. You will need to have hair of steel and tears of stone. Only then will you find your true self again.”

If you’re looking for a hauntingly beautiful fairytale unlike any other, look no further from Stain. From page one, I was pull into this fascinating story full of princes and princesses, enchantments, quests, magical creatures, and self-discovery. 

Stain is a completely atmospheric book: from the dark, gothic elements to the vivid descriptions, it’s so easy to become lost in this magical world. A. G. Howard has mentioned this being inspired by The Princess and the Pea, but the story she has written is entirely it’s own unique and wonderful fairytale, with only the barest of allusions to that tale. The intricacies of the plot and all the small details that come together by the end were so clever and well-constructed. 

“She would make her parents proud…reclaim what had been stolen, save the night realm’s prince, and unite the sun with the moon – whatever it took to see it all done.”

I adored both the characters, Lyra/Stain and Prince Vesper. Lyra’s growth throughout the book was inspiring, and I loved the theme of the rose gaining her thorns. And I actually appreciated the fact that the author gave her a touch of vindictiveness at the end towards her enemies, instead of the typical all merciful/totally forgiving heroine in a lot of novels. It made Lyra that much more relatable and realistic. The romance was handled expertly: we have a slow burn between the two, and it was so satisfying to watch it unfold!

Stain enchanted me from the very beginning. The story is so mesmerizing and atmospheric that I felt like I myself was under a spell while reading. For those who enjoy dark, gothic fairytales with a touch of romance and strong characters, please do yourself a favor and add this to your TBR. 

 

 

REVIEW: Echo North – Joanna Ruth Meyer (ARC)

40046030Title: Echo North
Author: Joanna Ruth Meyer
Rating: ★★★★★

ARC received through #booksfortrade on Twitter. 

“Ever north, where the mountain meets the sky and the trees are hung with stars.”

Echo North is a breathtaking, brilliant retelling of one of my favorite fairytales, East of the Sun, West of the Moon, while also blending elements of other similar stories, such as Tam Lin. This book completely blew my expectations out of the water. 

I’m familiar with the stories on which Echo North is inspired by, and so I had some sense of how the plot would unfold. Joanna Ruth Meyer did such an excellent job, however, in taking the original elements of the fairytales and adding little twists to create a whimsical story that was both true to its roots, and yet totally unique. After making a deal with a strange white wolf, Echo, our heroine, finds herself as caretaker of an enchanted house that responds to her wishes. The house also includes a library full of magical mirror-books, capable of transporting the reader into the books’ story. 

“What would happen when I blew out the lamp—what would happen if I lit it again?”

The storytelling was fantastic. The vivid descriptions and writing had me completely enamored by the book. Little hints are revealed along the way, and yet I was so focused on the magic of the story that it wasn’t until after the reveals at the end that I was able to reflect upon all the pieces. The ending was a little bittersweet, but it was entirely satisfying and wrapped the book up perfectly. 

Please do yourself a favor and add Echo North to your TBR, especially if you’re a fan of whimsical fairytales like East of the Sun, West of the MoonThis is such an enchanting, wonderful story and I’m so thankful I was finally able to find an early copy of it. 

REVIEW: The Winter of the Witch – Katherine Arden (ARC)

36621586Title: The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy #3)
Author: Katherine Arden
Rating: ★★★★★

ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

“Come with me, Snegurochka. I know a house in a winter forest.”

When I read The Girl in the Tower last year, it quickly became one of my favorite books ever, which was a total surprised since The Bear and the Nightingale was enjoyable, but not mind-blowing. The Winter of the Witch was not only a satisfying conclusion to the series, but an absolutely stunning and magical story all on its own. 

“But who could do it other than she? You can be a bridge between men and chyerti, Morozko had said. She thought she understood that, now.”

As with the second, The Winter of the Witch picks up right where the last book left off, making it easy to transition back into the story. Vasya continues to be one of the best written female protagonists I’ve ever read – and one of my very favorite heroines in literature. Her character growth throughout the series is amazing, and her bravery, strength, and compassion are admirable traits that only speak to some her well-roundedness. In addition to Vasya, there were so many other characters whom I loved reading about: Sasha, Olga, Marya (although there wasn’t as much of her in this one), Dmitrii, Ded Grib, and Pozhar to name a few. And of course, there’s Morozko, our morose winter-king. My adoration for that brooding frost-demon only grew in this novel, and I couldn’t get enough of his scenes, especially the angst with Vasya. Chapter 17 very nearly put me in an early grave, you guys. 

She whispered, “You are not alone anymore.”
“I know,” he whispered. “Neither are you.”

I’ve said this before, but the atmospheric setting in these books is one of the best I’ve ever written. Katherine Arden is such a talented author: her lush writing, vivid descriptions,  and carefully crated historical and fairytale elements create such a magical story. And the wintry setting made this a perfect read for winter time. 

He was only half there; the wind seemed to blow through him.
“As I could, I loved you too,” she whispered.
Their eyes met. Then he was gone, gone on the rising wind, blown through the wild air. 

There is so much to love about The Winter of the Witch, and I will never stop recommending this series to people. From the writing to the characters to the storytelling, The Winternight trilogy is an enchanting, whimsical story perfect for those who love a blend of fantasy and folklore.