Review: The Wrath & the Dawn (Renee Ahdieh)

Book Review: The Wrath & the Dawn (Renee Ahdieh)
book cover Book title The Wrath & the Dawn
Series/standalone The Wrath & the Dawn #1
Author Renee Ahdieh
Pages 388
Year published 2015
Category | Genre Young Adult | Fantasy, Retelling
Rating 3.5 star

Official Summary

One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.

Review

First and foremost, we got Shahrzad, a brave and headstrong young girl volunteered to marry a murderer to avenge her best friend. Then there’s Khalid, the murderous boy-king. Shazi is a strong heroine, one that could gain sympathies from readers… once they got over their disbelief of her impulsively rushing to meet her end. There, that’s my biggest gripe with The Wrath & the Dawn, that this brave and smart girl who was supposedly cunning enough that she believed she could kill her husband, the king, would rush wildly toward death without any concrete planning. The only signs Ahdieh shows us of Shazi’s plan to kill her husband were when she showed off her archery skill and that one time she thought to kill him but couldn’t make up her mind.

Then there’s the fact that the Khalid married her without any background check. Like… wouldn’t someone find out that Shazi has a best friend who was murdered right there in the palace. But noo, they all rushed in to get the two to wed.

But I digress. Let’s go back to Khalid. For a murderous boy-king, he is not at all a monster – as one would already find out by reading the synopsis. I like Khalid. He was a tortured soul trying to do what’s best for his people while sacrificing himself a bit at a time. As a matter of fact, I like them both. Khalid and Shahrzad were both characters with their own agenda and for once I actually liked the romance in the book. It was not cheesy, you could totally see they’re both trying to stay true to their course, trying not to fall in love, and I cannot help but rooting for them.

On the other hand, there was the jealous boyfriend, who for me was just unnecessary. Not to mention his relationship with Shazi were not shown on-screen making it hard for me to sympathize with his cause. Similar thing could be said of Shiva’s friendship with Shazi. Of course, the best friend is dead by the time the story started, but if only I was given more than a glimpse of how close the two girls were I could probably understand Shazi’s impulsive behavior.

Okay, enough with the negativity. Let’s get to the good stuff. As I mentioned before, the romance is well-balance and complement the story nicely. Shazi’s anger was balanced by her feelings and compassion for other human beings, and so did Khalid’s despair with his feeling for Shazi. Despina was another character worth mentioning. Her interaction with Shazi showed us another side of the latter, and I adored their friendship.

The writing was another highlight of the book. I’m trying to be objective here, so bear with me. Ahdieh’s writing was beautiful, but at times she’s getting way close to flowery prose. For some people, this might be the book undoing. For me, though, it’s exactly what the book needs. It made the book atmospheric, and Ahdieh’s writing was vivid enough to transport the readers to Khorasan. The magic, one of the thing I expected to find in the book was non-existent for the large portion of the book, but that’s okay as there’ll be time for that in the second book. I hope.

Verdict

The Wrath & the Dawn made me feel conflicted, but it certainly worth reading for the diverse cast, the well-balance romance, the atmospheric setting, and the great writing.

Final Score

35st
3.5 stars (out of 5 stars)


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Top Ten Tuesday: All Time Favorite YA Contemporary Books

top ten tuesday

Hello friends, it’s been a while >_> I’m sorry for taking a sudden hiatus without telling anyone, but HEY I’M BACK NOW. Hopefully for good.

As I’m adjusting back to my blogging habit, I realize that it’s Tuesday which means it’s time for Top Ten Tuesday! I certainly haven’t done this for a while, but I totally recommend this weekly fun feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish to all book bloggers. It’s fun (have I mentioned that? :p) and it’s a good way to get in touch with other book bloggers.

Anyway, let’s get on to business. This week’s topic is Top Ten ALL TIME Favorite Books Of X Genre. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’d probably know that SFF is my go-to genre. Which means it’ll be so hard for me to pick Top 10 for that genre (also, it might turn into Top Ten Brandon Sanderson Books and … well … I’ve accidentally done that so many times. LOL). I decided to go with YA contemporary instead. Truthfully, I haven’t read that many contemporary books so if anyone wants to give me recommendation based on these top 10, I’d appreciate it very much! Here they are in no particular order.

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Review: And I Darken

header
Book Review: And I Darken (Kiersten White)
book cover Book title And I Darken
Series/standalone The Conquerors Saga #1
Author Kiersten White
Pages 475
Year published 2016
Category | Genre Young Adult | Historical Fiction
Rating 4.5 star

Official Summary

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

This was the first book I finished while taking part in ReadThemAllThon. I chose And I Darken to obtain my Thunder Badge because it was one of book that got overwhelmingly positive hype during release weeks. Does it deserve all those hypes? Let’s see.

Continue reading “Review: And I Darken”

Blogwarming Party

Hey everyone!

Welcome to the new home of Geek Apprentice, henceforth will be known as Dip into Books.
I’ve been working on this site in the last 1-2 months, but I’m still working on cleaning/fixing some posts format, but otherwise please feel free to browse around.

Continue reading “Blogwarming Party”

Pokemon Indigo League TBR Pile #ReadThemAllThon

Hey everyone, yes I’m still here. I know I’ve been absent from the blogging world for quite some time and worse I barely read anything in the last 1 month or so (*gasp* the horror) so it’s a good thing Aentee from Read at Midnight created this awesome Read-A-Thon based on Pokemon games.

In fact, I was so excited to join this read-a-thon that I made a spreadsheet to automatically calculate my Pokemon CP as evidenced my this tweet:

What can I say? I’m all for procrastinating but too lazy to do math. Here’s a screenshot of the (nearly-)final version of the spreadsheet, complete with my Pokemon of Choice (Gastly. I LOVE Gengar, I’m so strange) and my TBR pile.

screenshot

Continue reading “Pokemon Indigo League TBR Pile #ReadThemAllThon”

Top Ten Tuesday: Things I Want to Do After Reading About Them in Books

Hey guys,
I’m back with another Top Ten Tuesday post, a fun weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Things Books Have Made Me Want To Do or Learn About After Reading Them.

As much as I love reading fantasy books, I never did wish to undertake a saving the world mission nor do I ever want to take part in a heist (sorry Kaz!) There are, however, books that make me want to do or be able to do something such as:

  • Learn ballet.
    This happened when I was 10 or 11 and all I read was Japanese manga. There’s a very popular manga series called Mari-chan (by Kimiko Uehara) at that time and I believe I was not the only one who dreamed to become a ballerina.
  • Learn more about computer and the interwebs.
    I actually did this. Ha! The book in question was a 2001’s Jeffrey Deaver book called The Blue Nowhere, and it’s about a former hacker who was freed by the authorities to aid their investigation to stop a hacker who’s been killing people. Again, I have no intention to lead such a dangerous life, but the whole thing sounds really fun.
  • Read about mythology.
    Thank you Rick Riordan.
  • Researching global warming.
    As strange as it was, my interest on global warming peaked after I read one book that was claimed as anti-global warming, State of Fear by Michael Crichton.
  • Travel and see the world.
    Just about every book ever made me want to go and see the world, including the fictional ones.
  • Learning about history and culture.
    Related to the point above, I want to learn more about history after reading historical fictions. One that I got quite into was learning 19th century New York culture after reading Libba Bray’s The Diviners series.
  • Play StarCraft (or just be a rithmatist in real life).
    Out of all Brandon Sanderson’s magic systems, the one I found most enjoyable is the chalk-based real-time strategy battle in The Rithmatist. It was so fun and I wish it was a real thing so I could play it in real life.

That’s all I got for now! Feel free to tell me how strange I am in the comment below. (-:


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Top Ten Tuesday: MG/YA Books Set Outside US

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week, we get a topic to have fun with and this week’s topic is Ten Books Set Outside The US!

For my list, I include standalone as well as series. Here we go!

  1. Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas | GOODREADS
    setting
    : Aruba
    Dangerous Girl is a rare YA psychological thriller that shows the dark side of being trapped outside your native country. Emphasis was made on the difference in legal system between the MC’s origin country and Aruba.
    My review here.

    “Any one of us could be made to look a monster, with selective readings of our history.”

  2. Shades of London series by Maureen Johnson | GOODREADS
    setting
    : England
    Shades of London, a paranormal urban fantasy from prolific author Maureen Johnson, follows an American teenager named Rory in her journey to London. She somehow became entangled in the murder cases mimicking Jack the Ripper.

    “Fear can’t hurt you,” she said. “When it washes over you, give it no power. It’s a snake with no venom. Remember that. That knowledge can save you.”

  3. The Demon’s Lexicon series by Sarah Rees Brennan | GOODREADS
    setting
    : England
    I gushed and gushed about my love for this book and its characters, and I’m about to do it again. The Demon’s Lexicon series follow a group of teenagers in their quest against evil magicians led by Black Arthur. It has demons, diverse cast, and a very peculiar sense of humor which I LOVED.

    “He only shot one person,” Nick remarked. “But the night is young.”
    “Forgive him, he has no manners.”
    “I get by on good looks,” Nick said.

  4. The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare | GOODREADS
    setting: England
    The Infernal Devices is a very popular series by Cassandra Clare. It’s about the Shadowhunters, people gifted the power by the angels to fight demons. While The Mortal Instruments – Clare’s other popular series – primarily set in modern New York, TID took place in 19th century London.

    “Must you go? I was rather hoping you’d stay and be a ministering angel, but if you must go, you must.”
    “I’ll stay,” Will said a bit crossly, and threw himself down in the armchair Tessa had just vacated. “I can minister angelically.”

  5. The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud (prequel to Bartimaeus trilogy) | GOODREADS
    setting
    : alternate Jerusalem
    The Ring of Solomon was published after the trilogy, but it was set prior to the events in The Amulet of Samarkand. As a matter of fact, it was set way before The Amulet of Samarkand, in 950 BCE. It also has different location with the original trilogy, at alternate Jerusalem instead of England. Readers familiar with Bartimaeus will soon feel at home with the djinni’s copious amount of sarcastic footnotes and narcissistic remarks, otherwise it might feel overwhelming.

    “The Evasive Cartwheel ™ © etc., Bartimaeus of Uruk, circa. 2800 B.C.E. Often imitated, never surpassed. As famously memorialized in the New Kingdom tomb paintings of Ramses III— you can just see me in the background of The Dedication of the Royal Family before Ra, wheeling out of sight behind the pharaoh.”

  6. Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey | GOODREADS
    setting
    : New Zealand
    I’ve talked about this book in some of my recommendation posts, particularly my Diverse Books Recommendation as part of FBCYA. Guardian of the Dead is a particular favorite of mine because the setting plays a big role in the book. Healey took her time researching Māori culture and mythology and the story itself was heavily influenced by the local culture.

    “There wasn’t any food or heat, but we had light, and places to sit, and a complete lack of frightening murderers, and that turned out to be enough for now.”

  7. Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld (alternate World War I) | GOODREADS
    setting
    : alternate Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman Empire, England, Switzerland, and some others
    Leviathan is a YA steampunk series written by Scott Westerfeld and it was set in many places in the world since it was basically an alternate World War I story. It has two great protagonists, Deryn – a British girl disguise as a boy so she could become an airman – and Alek, the heir of Austro-Hungarian throne, and a great setting. I believe it was the first YA I read that was partially set in Ottoman Empire.

    “Barking hard work, being a boy.”

  8. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins | GOODREADS
    setting
    : Paris
    This very popular book would probably end up in many Top Ten Tuesday list, and for a good reason too. Say what you want about the romance, but the setting will totally pull you in. I mean, a boarding school in Paris?! Who wouldn’t?

    “Soap?”
    “School of America in Paris” he explains. “SOAP”.
    Nice. My father sent me here to be cleansed.”

  9. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor | GOODREADS
    setting
    : Prague and Morocco
    I never did finish this series, but I really liked the first book. Karou is an art student in Prague, at least that’s what her friends think, but she hides a big secret that end up making her caught up in the middle of a war that was out of this world.

    “Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love.

    It did not end well.”

  10. The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong | GOODREADS
    setting: Canada
    Another series I didn’t get to finish. To be honest, I feel rather conflicted about this one. I liked the setting and the premise, but the execution left something to be desired.

    “Rafe didn’t just flirt-he charmed girls right up to the point where they fell for him, then he changed his mind. I called him a player with attention deficit disorder.”

That’s all for now. Have you read any of these books? What do you think about them?


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Review: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Book Review: The Serpent King (Jeff Zentner)
book cover Book title The Serpent King
Series/standalone stand-alone
Author Jeff Zentner
Pages 384
Year published 2016
Category | Genre Young Adult | Contemporary
Rating 4 star

Official Summary

Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life—at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.

He and his fellow outcast friends must try to make it through their senior year of high school without letting the small-town culture destroy their creative spirits and sense of self. Graduation will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is content where he is thanks to his obsession with an epic book series and the fangirl turning his reality into real-life fantasy.

Their diverging paths could mean the end of their friendship. But not before Dill confronts his dark legacy to attempt to find a way into the light of a future worth living.

I read this book in May. MAY! That is how long it take for me to write this review. In retrospect, I’m glad I took my time off from the book before writing this review because when I finished it I was quite taken emotionally and cannot see some things I’ve now noticed.

Characters

Zentner has a knack of writing characters. We have three narrators in The Serpent King, Dillard (Dill), Lydia, and Travis. Out of the three, I especially connected with Travis, who loved fantasy books and liked to spend his time talking about fictional characters in online forum. However, I also saw myself in Lydia, she’s confident, selfish at times, but she’s also a dreamer. She believes one can do anything if they would just put an effort to it. Dill is arguably the main character of the three, and I couldn’t quite figure him out. I appreciate his voice and I think he added many values to the story, I just didn’t quite connect with him. Having said that, these three together formed a formidable friendship a person would envy to have during their high school days, and to some readers it might bring the nostalgic feeling of “us against the world.” They each told their story albeit in different portions, Dillard got the biggest, Lydia second, and Travis was the smallest, but each rang true and never once you’ll become confused which one was narrating the story. The secondary characters are also as strong as the primary ones. The parents especially play crucial role in the book, which was refreshing because in many YA books they seemed to be in the background or nonexistent.

Plot and narrative

There are many things happened in the 384 pages I read, but they all focused on one thing, finding yourself. There are a lot of talk about religion in this book, but I never felt it was stiring the focus away from the main story. The themes of abuse and bullying also got major focus in the book and I applaud Zentner’s effort. He didn’t sugarcoat it to make it seems better than it was.

The writing was excellent to the point that makes you reading it even when you know you shouldn’t (heads up: do not read The Serpent King in public places or at work). I sympathized with their stories and felt all those feels, anger, sadness, happiness, but there was this one little thing that nagged at me. The eureka moments – for lack of better words. In the book, we encounter many of these things. The character sat down to think when he/she was facing some huge problem then they suddenly have this solution that will make everything okayPerhaps, I’m too jaded or whatever, but these moments of sudden bliss and “everything is alright in the world” made the book felt a bit like fairy tale. I’m not saying that dreams don’t come true, but there were times when I think this cannot be real, this is too easy. I don’t know about this, but when was the last time you’re able to fix a 5-years worth of mess just by having an idea. I am not saying they’re living the dreams either. I know these kids, especially Dill and Travis, were having so much trouble back home. You felt for them, but you don’t make it all go away by having one idea.

Verdict

The Serpent King is a worthy coming-of-age story interwoven with many stuff that teenagers are facing, dealing with child abuse and living with people who have different perspective with you. The bond of friendship between the three main characters is also a major selling point of The Serpent King as does the genuine voice of teenager that emerged from each of the MC.

Final Score

4 star

4 stars (out of 5 stars)


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Review: Gambit by C.L. Denault

Book Review: GAMBIT (C.L. Denault)
book cover Book title Gambit
Series/standalone The Prodigy Chronicles #1
Author C.L. Denault
Pages 556
Year published 2015
Category | Genre Young Adult | Fantasy, Dystopian
Rating 4 star

Official Summary

In Earth’s battle-ridden future, humans have evolved. Those with extraordinary skills rise to power and fame. Those without live in poverty.

Sixteen-year-old Willow Kent believed she was normal. But when a genetically-advanced military officer shows up in her village and questions her identity, long-buried secrets begin to emerge. With remarkable skills and a shocking genetic code the Core and its enemies will do anything to obtain, Willow suddenly finds the freedom she craves slipping through her fingers. Greed, corruption, and genetic tampering threaten every aspect of her existence as she’s thrust, unwilling, into the sophisticated culture of the elite Core city. To ensure peace, she must leave the past behind, marry a man she’s never met, and submit to the authority of a relentless officer with a hidden agenda of his own.

Her life has become a dangerous game. How much will she sacrifice in order to win?

Disclaimer: I received an e-galley from the publisher.

Review

From the premise, Gambit, the debut novel from C.L. Denault, seems to be simple enough. A girl discovered her secret identity and was forced to leave her family and live another life in a place alien for her. That sounds like… every dystopian-light novel out there.

However, judging Gambit from that simple premise will most likely mislead you. It’s a complicated book, exploring things that made me feel conflicted. Let’s get to it.

Characters

At the front and center, we have Willow Kent, a sixteen year old girl who’s hiding a big secret. It was not long before her secret was discovered and she was forced to leave her hometown and everyone she’s familiar with. Willow is a strong character, flawed and stubborn, and there’ll be times you might want to strangle her, but she’s too sympathetic and brave to dislike. Despite her flaws and asides from how you feel about her, one simply cannot deny that she has very strong personality and growth. She started out at a tavern girl who thinks she has it all under control, then she found out that her life was not her own. The entire arc of Gambit focused on it.

There are other characters: the best friend who got left behind, the little sister and two little brothers, the alpha love interest, the parents, etc, but they all don’t seem matter much because this is Willow’s story. I do, however, have to say something about the love interest. I do not approve of him and his actions, but I do understand why Willow fell for him despite everything. He is more complex that he seemed to be when we first met him, but in this matter, my opinion still stands, an apology and a gift don’t make it all go away. I hope Denault did something drastic with him on the second book because the romance might become disturbing otherwise.

Plot and world-building

Did I say this was a debut? Yes, I did. Gambit was surprisingly well-written for a debut. Usually, you can spot a debut author by their willingness to use certain tropes and stay in safe zone by following the check-list. Not Denault. What she did with the plot was beyond the simple “girl with superpower left her hometown and save the world” because she is a special snowflake. Okay, she is kind of a special snowflake :P, but there were many people far more experienced than her to match her strength. Everyone also has their agenda, and the way Denault told her story kept you guessing everybody’s motives and secrets. Because of this, at the end of the book, I’m still not sure where everyone stands. The book used the chess analogy to explain Willow’s position and I think it’s a fitting one.

As for the pace, this one is a very well-paced book, making it an unputdownable read for me. Something is always happening even from the first chapter, so if you’re the type of person who got bored with lengthy description of the world, don’t worry, what world-building you get with Gambit was only the necessary one.

Speaking of world-building, I haven’t talked about one of the more interesting aspect of the book, the dystopian society. What you get with Gambit was a society divided by genetic code. The prodigies are people with mutations in their genetic code that cause them to have some skills. These prodigies live a wealthy life in the Core, with genetic engineering colored their entire life while the normals live in the villages barely scraped by. Gambit is not the first book I read that uses genetics as its core theme. However, it’s the one that felt truly dystopian in the sense that you could totally see the difference in societies. And the normals are not the only ones who got affected by the social politics. Here Denault presented hierarchy and a set of rules even in the prodigies society. Just because you’re a heir of a wealthy family, it doesn’t mean you get to do everything you wanted.

Verdict

Gambit is an exciting read from start to finish. There are things I don’t agree with, but at the end of the day, you might disagree with the protagonists, but you will understand her, what is her motive, and why she did what she did. And I think that’s a great thing to have.

Final Score

4 star

4 stars (out of 5 stars)


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Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Enjoyed that Need to be Read by More People

Hey everyone, I’m back for another Top Ten Tuesday post. Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish where they give you a topic each week and you make a list for said topic. This week topic is Top Ten Books We Enjoyed That Have Under 2000 Ratings On Goodreads. 

I really haven’t read that many lesser known books so I won’t even make it to 10, but here they are.

  1. Gambit (C.L. Denault). This dystopian x-men-ish book is awesome. I’ve recently finished it and already written a review that’ll be up sometime this week. [GOODREADS]
  2. Front Lines (Michael Grant). This being Michael Grant, I was surprised to find it only has 1400+ ratings on goodreads. Front Lines is a World War 2 book led by 3 amazing narrators that asked the question “what if they let females to serve during WW2?” It’s an interesting, gory read supported by great character development. [GOODREADS]
  3. Fall from Grace (Richard North Patterson). A great thriller from an author famous for writing legal and political novels. [GOODREADS]
  4. A Conflict of Interest (Adam Mitzner). You could totally see I’m a fan of legal thriller… A Conflict of Interest is a lesser known legal thriller, but it’s definitely worth your time if you’re a fan of crime thrillers. [GOODREADS]
  5. Resurrection Bay (Neal Shusterman). Very short read, only about 30 pages on ebook. It gave me chills though. [GOODREADS]
  6. Stupid Perfect World (Scott Westerfeld). A sci-fi novella from Westerfeld sets in futuristic world free of disease and hunger. What happened when a group of teens taking a class in Scarcity were forced to experience ‘hardship’ (aka our life)? Probably not my favorite of his, but I really liked the concept. [GOODREADS]
  7. Blaze of Glory (Michael Pryor). Read this ages ago, didn’t quite remember what happened, but it was a fun adventure involving magic. I think. [GOODREADS]

Believe it or not, that’s all I got. I totally need to read more diverse books and indies. So please leave me your recommendation below.


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