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. 

REVIEW: East – Edith Pattou

38640729Title: East (East #1)
Author: Edith Pattou
Rating: ★★★★

Thank you to HMH for Young Readers for sending me a finished copy of this book!

“She would search for him. In the land that lay east of the sun and west of the moon.”

East of the Sun and West of the Moon has always been one of my favorite fairytales, and yet I don’t have an answer as to why it has taken me so long to read this book. I’ve always had my eye on it, but I think there was a sense of hesitation to actually read it because I didn’t want my expectations to let me down. I had nothing to worry about: East was a wonderful, magical story. 

The pacing and flow of the story is so well-crafted. Even with all the different POVs present, each character had a distinct voice and every chapter added to the plot. The writing was whimsical and helped maintain the fairytale aspects of the original tale the story draws from. I absolutely adored Rose. I loved her intellect, her perseverance, her kind nature, and her strength. Her interactions with the White Bear were entertaining and endearing, and I appreciated the author’s choice to create a relationship and romance that developed slowly and subtly; the truth of the depth of their feelings hidden both to the reader and the characters themselves.

East was a beautiful, fast-paced, magical story. I’m sad that it took the sequel’s release for me to finally pick this up, but I’m so glad that I did. This will be one of those stories that I’ll always remember and visit again when I want to immerse myself with a retelling of one of my favorite fairytales. 

REVIEW: The Girl in the Tower – Katherine Arden

34050917Title: The Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy #2)
Author: Katherine Arden
Rating: ★★★★★

“She had a fleeting taste of winter: smoke and pine and deadly cold, and then there was a warmth, too, and a swift, impossible sweetness.”

I greatly enjoyed The Bear and the Nightingale when I read it last year upon its release, but I wasn’t as awestruck and enamored by the book as everyone else seemed to be. I never expected to love The Girl in the Tower as much as I did. It completely blew me away and I want to sit down and read it all over again. 

“That love of maidens for monsters, that does not fade with time.”

The Girl in the Tower picked up right where the first book left off, but I felt much more invested in the story and characters this time. I was more apathetic towards Vasya in The Bear and the Nightingale, and now she has become one of my favorite female protagonists. She has grown as a character throughout the book and I loved following her on her journey. I’m so excited for where her story is going to take us next. I also felt pretty meh about Morozko when I read the first book, but now I’ve seen the light and I’m completely in love with a morose frost-demon. 

“Once in the chaos, he could have sworn he saw a tall white horse beside the bay stallion, whose rider kept the bandits’ blades from finding the girl. But then Sasha realized it was only a cloud of flying snow.”

The setting in these books are totally atmospheric. Katherine Arden is such a talented writer; her lush writing and vivid descriptions create a magical world unlike any other. I have a particular fondness for Slavic folklore, and she does such an amazing job weaving history with elements of Russian fairytales. 

The Girl in the Tower is an enchanting read that has become a favorite of mine. The gorgeous writing easily immerses the reader into this atmospheric world and I highly recommend the series. The Winter of the Witch releases in August and I cannot wait to read the rest of Vasya’s story!