The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

⇒Featuring feminism, rebellion and survival

The Grace Year was an absolutely breathtaking novel that explored a patriarchal society where girls are blamed for being men’s lust and accused of having “magic” in order to be controlled.

I couldn’t put this stunning, important book down and I’m not sure where to start with praising it.

The Grace Year is probably the best dystopian book I’ve ever read. Tierney’s society is ugly and patriarchal and I swear I was angry every time a man spoke in this book…except from a certain one, of course.

It mixes the brutality and isolation of Lord of the Flies with the rebellion of The Hunger Games and the feminism of The Handmaid’s Tail in a cocktail unlike any other before.

Garner County was oppressive and claustrophobic, something very off about every word that described it. Kim really knows how to set an atmosphere because I felt chilled and ill at ease for most of the beginning of the book.

This book is dark, it’s gory, it’s brutal, it’s real. The Grace Year has the girls mad with magic, turning on each other and themselves. Throughout the first half of Tierney’s Grace Year, we can feel her unwinding, losing herself. The way she narrates makes us feel uneasy and worried, sad and anguished along with her, all with the sense of a fog hanging over the descriptions, barring us from seeing something.

Though this book was dystopian, it was filled with aspects of horror. The description is brutal, the murders so chilling and gory I could barely read them, yet I enjoyed them none the less.

“The things we do to girls. Whether we put them on pedestals only to tear them down, or use them for parts and holes, we’re all complicit in this. But everything touches everything else and I have to believe that some good will come out of all this destruction. The men will never end the grace year. But maybe we can.”

The way the women were forced to turn against each other in this book and how their relationships with each other were described was heartbreaking and powerful. Tierney’s society seeks to tear them apart, and they seem determined to do so during the Grace Year. The relationship between mothers and daughters, sisters, friends and lovers was complicated, sought to be destroyed by the men who were scared of what they might do if they got to talking, questioned their roles in society.

So, no, I didn’t really like the love story. I was hoping if there was going to be love, it would be between Tierney and one of the other girls, but no *sniffs*. I didn’t hate the love story, but it all felt a bit..forced. For me it felt squished in there to please readers, taking away from the storyline. I do understand Tierney’s need to love someone she wasn’t forced to, though, and I did think it was empowering to see her in control of her own body.

Overall, this book is poignant, powerful and a must-read. It’s wild and brutal and breathtaking, heart wrenching and important. I would absolutely recommend this book.

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The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh

⇒Featuring vampires, forbidden romance and New Orleans

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All the hype you’ve heard about The Beautiful, all the mentions of steamy enemies-to-lovers romance, the whispers in the dark about murder and balls…it’s all true. Renée Ahdieh’s next novel is sumptuous, gripping and heated – and the wait is finally over. Vampires are officially cool again.

I adore Renée Ahdieh. I read The Wrath and the Dawn almost a year ago and it absolutely blew me away with its rich prose and breathtaking world. I met Renée in July and she is literally the sweetest person in the world, so when an arc of The Beautiful arrived at my doorstep…I squealed.

One of my favourite things about Renée’s writing is that she can make any setting come alive. With New Orleans as a background, you can be sure The Beautiful was rich in culture and world-building. I felt like I was with Celine amid the gilded houses and the dark streets where all kinds of creatures lurk, at luxurious parties and supping with the Court.

Celine was such an awesome heroine. She wasn’t afraid to stand up for herself and her friends. She was determined and brave and beautiful. I loved seeing her character grow and change as she navigated her life after fleeing Paris. The side characters were just as great. Odette was glamourous and interesting, a star in her own right. It’s my life goal to befriend her. Pippa was generous and kind, such a genuine and innocent character, I really appreciated that she didn’t have to stab people and shout – not that I mind that – to show what a great person she was.

“It never ceased to amaze her, how she seemed to thrive under cover of darkness. How she fell more in love with the moon every night.”

One downside of this book for me was that…I didn’t really like Bastien. Don’t @ me, I beg, but he was just such a typical YA hero that I felt pretty much nothing for him. I wanted to be swept away and fall in love like I know so many readers will, but I just, didn’t and that really disappointed me.

The Beautiful was full of twists and turns, both unexpected and expected. I never knew quite where the plot was leading, where the killer would strike next, what Celine would do. It was pacey and enticing and I couldn’t put this book down.

I loved the feeling that crawled up my spine as I read this book, that I was being watched by a pair of beautiful but deadly eyes that hid in the dark corners of the streets. I loved the mysterious snippets of narrative we got from the eyes of the villain, they really helped make this book unique and interesting.

Honestly, was this book cliché? Yes, absolutely. But I enjoyed it in all of its trope-y beauty, so I’ve got nothing to complain about.

Overall, The Beautiful was a sumptuous and magical book that swept me off my feet. It was elegant and lyrical, surprising and exciting. I would expect nothing less from Renée Ahdieh. I’d absolutely recommend this book to everyone who loves YA fantasy. What a revelation.

Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo

⇒Featuring magic, squad goals and dangerous cities

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Reminiscent of Six of Crows, Into the Crooked Place features a badass, diverse group of misfits who have to put up with each other (they love each other really??) whilst they go on a quest to save the Realms and the city they hold dear.
My favourite thing about this book had to be the characters. I love them. LOVE. Tavia is a badass b*tch who isn’t afraid to stand up for who she is. Despite being a busker – someone who sells illegal magic for the Kingpin – she hasn’t lost sight of her love for her friends and family. I loved that despite being so kickass and cool, she was also kind and loving. What a great main character.
My favourite character by far was Saxony. Not only was she a queer Crafter, but I also loved her story most of all. Saxony came to Creije to find her sister, and she’ll stop at nothing to get her back.
Karam was a kickass underground fighter with a heart of steel – except when it came to Saxony – and a fierce sense of loyalty.
Wesley reminds me of Kaz Brekker, in a very good way. With eyes only for Tavia, a tragic backstory and a terrible reputation as underboss of Crieje, he was hard not to grudgingly love.

“Sometimes it felt like she had nothing to hold on to. But if she lost everything, surely all she had left to do was gain. And there was so much Saxony wanted. Peace. Justice. Revenge.”

The world-building was pretty cool! Creije especially felt so real and atmospheric! It was such an awesome background for the story and really made the first part of the book come alive. It fitted seamlessly into the plot of the story and I’d totally love to visit (I’d probably die, not going to lie here).
However, the other places the crew travelled felt a little underdeveloped. There wasn’t enough description for me to really soak in the culture and feel of the other places.
This book was really well-paced! It introduced us to the characters well at the start without getting boring, then built up the tension more and more towards the end. Amid all the great action scenes, there was a lot of time to flesh out the characters. For some people, that might get a little boring, but I adored the characters and I hope that once the duology is resolved there’s a spin-off featuring Karam and Saxony where they get married. The plot was super interesting, full of twists and turns! I was caught up in this book.
Whilst Into the Crooked Place was good, it wasn’t without fault. A lot of the tropes in this book have been done before. They are some of my faves – gangsters, heists, black magic, magical disease, “secret” powers, ruthless boys with sad backstories – so I wasn’t complaining, but I think this book could have been a teeny bit more original in order to gain all of 5 of my stars!
Overall, Into the Crooked Place was a little cliché but a very good book. I’d absolutely recommend it to fans of Six of Crows and A Darker Shade of Magic, and generally those who love YA fantasy!

Slay by Brittney Morris

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I adored Slay. It was important and moving, I just couldn’t put it down. The author was inspired to write it after watching Black Panther, so I thought it was smart to pick it up just after I watched the movie. I was not disappointed.

Keira secretly developed Slay, an online gaming community where black people duel from all over the world. But when someone is shot because of the game, it’s all over the news…and Kiera doesn’t know what to do.

This book was so important on many levels. As a white person, I know this book wasn’t written for me. There might have been a few cultural references that I didn’t understand. I still loved it so much, of course, and my race didn’t affect my personal opinion of the book. I just wanted to give that little disclaimer. As a white person, this book actually taught me some things and I think it could teach others even more.

The plot was so engaging, entertaining and impossible to put down – literally, I stayed up until to 2 am to read Slay. It was so immersive and interesting. It was definitely character-driven, but was exciting none the less!

“If black gamers want their own space online away from the eyes of the majority, let them have it. Y’all have Mummy and Legacy of Planets. Do you need to have everything?”

I really loved the characters, especially Kiera and her younger sister Steph. They felt like such real people with their struggles and insecurities. Kiera’s voice felt real and easy to relate to, I loved reading her thoughts and opinions. I really enjoyed the dynamic between these two sisters, it was absolutely beautiful to watch their relationship grow. The side characters, especially Claire aka Cicada, were awesome. I loved to see their lives and views occasionally dotted throughout the book, and from Kiera’s perspective too.

Slay, the game was so interesting! I don’t actually game, but a lot of my friends do and it was fun to see quite a few scenes inside the game and how the rules worked.

I think a lot of gaming based books and even gaming, in general, are often very male-dominated so I loved seeing the feminist aspects of this book because, when do I not?

Slay was such an amazing, important book that I’d definitely recommend everyone picks up. It discusses race, identity, relationships and more in such an important way at the same time as being impossibly fun to read. What a gem of a book.

#TonightWeSlay

The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis

⇒Featuring feminism, sisterhood and the wild west

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I loved The Good Luck Girls. It’s a wild west novel featuring creepy forests and bandits and underground resistances…but feminist. We stan.
The Good Luck Girls follow five kickass girls as they escape a “welcome house” where they were sold into prostitution. It was such a moving and beautiful story about girls claiming their freedom and their rights to be themselves, but it was also inexplicably fun, what with bank robberies and ambushes.
The characters in this novel were awesome. I was expecting multiple perspectives, and though the whole book was told through the perspective of Aster, I really felt like I got to know each girl. Their character development and the relationships between the five of them were very genuine and really well done. I also liked Zee and all the other (good) secondary characters. All of them felt like real people despite getting less page time than the main characters.
The world-building was awesome. It was wild west inspired and I loved the ramshackle towns and the ghost-ridden forest, the underground hideouts and the taverns. It really set the background for the novel in a very realistic way – part historical, part fantastical. With characters like Zee, I could almost hear his accent through the page!

“It’s only that sometimes I wish we didn’t have to fight at all. Feels like I’ve been fighting since the day I was born.”

The writing was really good, easy to read but also mesmerising. This story is brutal and unique, I could barely put it down. The story sucks you in and won’t let you go, and I swear, this book would make the best movie! The world and characters felt so real and raw, I immediately became attached to their story and had to read on.
The Good Luck Girls was so empowering, to women and to women of colour especially, but also to everyone who fights for their rights in an unfair world. To the dreamers and the rebels and those who want more, it sent such an important message of hope and friendship. It astounds me that a book can be so moving and so deliciously adventurous, and I’d really recommend you guys pick this one up.

You can add The Good Luck Girls on Goodreads, or go ahead and buy it from Amazon! You didn’t hear it from me, but last I saw it’s on sale!

September Wrap Up

Hiya Witchlings!

September. What did I read?

Let me tell you, gentlefriends (yes I read Nevernight, yes I’m obsessed, yes I’m gay. Leave a girl alone).

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⇒Crooked Kingdom. This duology…I…beautiful. Nina deserves the world.  Yes, I did cry when i *just* missed tickets to Leigh Bardugo’s UK tour. But seriously, I adore the Grishaverse and I’m hyped to read king of scars.

⇒The Ten Thousand Doors of January. This book was so beautiful and lyrical and just everything! You can find my full review here! I scream much.

“Books can smell of cheap thrills or painstaking scholarship, of literary weight or unsolved mysteries. This one smelled unlike any book I’d ever held… It smelled like adventure itself had been harvested in the wild, distilled to a fine wine, and splashed across each page.”

⇒Every Sparrow Falling. Super moving contemporary about LGBTQ+ issues and foster care. Review is heere 🙂

⇒Slay. Hell! yes! This! Book! It was so badass and important! I probably couldn’t connect to it as much on account of being white, but you betya I loved it! Review to come soon!

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⇒Truly Devious. My New obsession? I think hecking so. Murder mystery with cool protagonist set in ancient boarding school? Please and thank you. I adore.

⇒The Upside of Unrequited. I love Becky Albertali. She do it again. SO much relatable and cutesy and friendship and awesome characters.

“Where her books were, she was. Get the books right and the rest will follow. Now she could address the rest of the room.” Truly Devious

⇒The Grace Year. Feminist dystopian full of magic and kickass characters and just so much awesome and moving and important! Soon to be a movie and out October 10!

⇒The Good Luck Girls. Feminist bandits on the run in the wild west ft. sisterhood and beating the patriarchy. My review will be up TOMORROW.WOOO.

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⇒Nevernight. Badass. Murdery. Love. Thank u and goodnight.

I have plans to finish Six Goodbyes We Never Said tonight!

So what else happened this month? The Deathless Girls was released. Read it. My August Magical Reads Crate arrived and I ADOREEEE IT! So excited for September box! I started watching Euphoria which has Zendaya in! I love Zendaya. I watched Endgame! I did cry, thank you. Black Widow deserved a funeral and that’s final. I started school again. Year 11…whooo? I cry.

So yeah. This month has been pretty uneventful BUT I read lots so…success?

 

 

Lover Book Tag

“I like shiny things, but I’d marry you with paper rings.”

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So, I’ve been looking all over for a great book tag, and the awesome Star is All Booked Up has come up with a great one! Inspired by Taylor Swift’s Lover album, let’s talk about books; Just so everyone knows, I’m listening to each song as I write the prompt because I haven’t yet heard the full album. I like Taylor but I’m not obsessed…maybe I should be?! – This is a really long album and tag so please forgive x

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“It isn’t love, it isn’t hate, it’s just indifference” I Forgot that You Existed

A Hyped Book You Won’t Read

Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi. Everyone is hyping the Shatter Me series up, so even though I disliked the first book I read book two, but I barely liked it any more. Not to be harsh, but the single good thing in these books is Kenji (he likes Tangled, marry me). So I won’t be continuing this series, sorry to people who loved it.

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“I love you, Ain’t that the worst thing you ever heard?”Cruel Summer

Enemies to Lovers

This is one of my least favourite tropes *hides* but one ship I will NEVER stop shipping is Iseult and Aeduan from Truthwitch by Susan Dennard (read it please). Sureee, their love might have started when Iseult killed Aeduan and he became obsessed with her (that makes it sound worse that it is, I promise they aren’t toxic or problematic- I don’t ever ship that) but they’re a still a big OTP!!!!

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“Can we always be this close, forever and ever?”Lover

OTP

Everyone knows that my One True Pairing is and will always be MALEC!!! (From Shadowhunter Chronicles, if you weren’t aware)

“Alec Lightwood loved one man so much he changed the whole world for him.”

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The Man is my favourite song from the album, so SORRY to the awesome Star but I’m changing this prompt – I know it’s cheating but shhh

“I’m so sick of running as fast as I can, wondering if I’d get there quicker if I was a man.” – The Man

Feminist Book

You knew it was coming – it always is – Girls of Paper and Fire! This book *sobbing* is so beautiful. Haven’t read it? Watch this space :)))))) While you’re waiting, go listen to the song. DAMN it’s good 🙂

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“Who could ever leave me darling, but who could stay?” The Archer 

Characters who think they’re undeserving of love

My main bae, Will Herondale. He think he musn’t let people love him 😦 but I ADORE HIM SO WHY AREN’T I DEAD HUH

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“Wanna see what’s under that attitude.”I Think He Knows

Flirty Banter/Slow Burn

This was hard but I just have to copy Star’s answer now that she brings it up – America and Maxon from The Selection – when is the TV show coming seriously. OOh imagine it like a Reality TV Show, I WANT!

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“American Stories burning before me, I’m feeling helpless the damsels are depressed.” Miss Americana and The American Prince

A Book that deals with politics

This has to be The Hate U Give – this book is SO important – I love the movie too because Amandla Stenburg. As a white person as well this was really important to read.

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“Now I’ve read all of the books beside your bed.”Paper Rings

Books recommended to you that you LOVE

Um,,, so many! I get loads of my book recommendations from Bookstagram! One I ADORE is The Raven Boys, which I was convinced to read by Raven AKA @thelostfairchild (follow pls 🙂

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“That’s the kind of heartbreak time could never mend.” – Cornelia Street ( i give up typing these out lol i’m so flaky 😦

Biggest Book Hangovers

Oh GOD, I had the BIGGEST book hangover after reading Muse of Nightmares (Strange the Dreamer 2). Still not over it?

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A couple years ago I wrote super soft fan fiction about Clace from The Mortal Instruments and cute little stories from when they had their kid – it was actually pretty good ngl…

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Weeelll I already mentioned Will Herondale… ok my underrated book bae and mate is Tarquin from A Court of Thorns and Roses – he’s so precious baby. I adore him and everything about him, I want to go visit the summer court ;)))

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Oh gosh! The ending of Allegiant hurt me so much back in the day! There’s so many others but none have surprised me more than that!

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OOooh…I’m going to go with A Court of Mist and Fury. It’s not the most steamy book, but I read it about two years ago and thirteen year old me was *side-eye emoji*

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I loved the rep in The Deathless Girls – #ownvoices queer traveller girls! It’s out very soon so maybe go preorder :)) Also the music video for this song is the best thing ever, go watch!

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Me and Enrique from The Gilded Wolves – how come that didn’t happen, huh?

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I don’t have problematic faves. If they’re problematic I don’t like them, that’s that. Evil is fine, abusive isn’t. Even so, I had a soft spot for Maven in the first Red Queen book, so him!

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Nina and Inej. This friendship is so pure and underrated, we stan 100% all the time. I mean, Nina shared her biscuits with Inej I mean…

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Why am I blanking? The Kingdom by Jess Rothenburg was FULL with plot twists (it was all just one big reveal) and plenty betrayal. What an iconic book.

 

Thanks for reading guys! I love the album and the tag! Thank you Star for this awesome tag! Now go read the books I’ve recommended and listen to Lover 🙂

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

⇒Featuring vampires, sisterhood and lesbian romance

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Oh. My. God. I don’t know where to start with this book. Wow. Just wow. This book was everything I ever asked for and more. I saw “feminist retelling of Dracula” and I got a beautifully gothic retelling of the Brides of Dracula, pushed to the sidelines of history, featuring two sisters whose bond was everything, and a queer main character who falls in love with a beautiful girl. I got a tragic ending, I got a romance, I got adventure, I got vampires, I got feminism, I got queer. And I adored every single word I read.

Of course, I made the mistake of reading this book in July and leaving the review ’til last minute, but The Deathless Girls feels imprinted in my mind. Kiran’s writing is absolutely mesmerising, I could barely tear my eyes away. She tells the story of Lil, a traveller girl and one of a half, and her twin Kizzy when they’re kidnapped from their traveller settling and sold as servants to the local lord.

This book is gorgeously gothic and dark without being too bloody or horror-like. It was so atmospheric and I swear the aesthetic of this book is enough to read it alone – have you SEEN that cover? Yeah? The inside is prettier. It’s also rich with Romanian culture and language which makes it even more luscious.

“They came to call us the three sisters – two dark, one fair – and worse. The beautiful damned, the brides of Dracul, the deathless girls.”

This book is, of course, feminist, so not only does it empower the women pushed to the edges of history, it includes themes of sexual assault and objectification. Not only this, but it also tackles racism and discrimination – Lil and Kizzy are traveller girls, whom the townspeople look upon with scorn and whispers of “Gypsies” and “Witches”, so it’s impactful in that way too. The queer romance in this story was so important to me too. I didn’t know it was going to be f/f until Lil stared for far too long at a beautiful girl and I knew I’d found my new OTP, but it meant so much to me that even though the romance didn’t take the centre stage, these two girls could still be in love. Also, not to brag, but the author bi-fived me, so can I reach a higher place in life.

One thing I adore about retellings is that, sometimes, you know they’re going to end badly. This happened here, and even though I knew how it happened I kept thinking of all the ways just *maybe* everything could be okay. This made The Deathless Girls even more painful, but also made me enjoy it even more – it’s so unique in it’s perfection.

My official pitch for The Deathless Girls is “Bram Stoker’s Dracula meets Girls of Paper and Fire.” and if you’ve ever listened to a recommendation I’ve given, let it be this one. Trust me, you want this beautiful treasure of a book in your life. There’s so much more I want to say about this book, but I don’t have a way to transfer my heart to paper (computer) yet, so you’ll just have to believe on this one.

Every Sparrow Falling by Shirley-Anne McMillan

“Family doesn’t exist, I told myself. Not for people like me, anyway.”

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Every Sparrow Falling was a beautiful and moving book that I thoroughly enjoyed.
This story centres around acceptance; the acceptance of gay people by the community, of Cariad by her foster parents, of different options and views.
I really liked the LGBTQ+ aspect of this story and how important it was. I appreciated how central it was given that the main character is straight because we don’t see that a lot of that in fiction. Every Sparrow Falling does feature religious prejudice and homophobia, as well as one scene that came close to conversion therapy, but it was all very well handled and shone a light on the important topic.
As well as this, McMillan discusses foster care. This book was actually very informative to me about the foster system and the impact it had on children in it, and I liked that. But despite these heavy topics, there were also equally important ones of friendship and what it is to be a teenager.

I really liked the characters. Cari was very well done – her voice felt very raw and teenage, an honest and meaningful point of view. But despite this, I just couldn’t seem to relate to her, and that was one drawback of the book for me. I loved all the backing characters, especially Brains and Dawn & Jacky – they were really well developed and all felt very real. I really rooted for them and their happiness.

The ending was surprising and heartbreaking – it felt a little sudden to me but I still liked it – well, not liked it, but felt deeply emotional about it.

Every Sparrow Falling was emotional and important, and I hope it changes the world.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

⇒Featuring bookish heroines, enchanted doors and magic

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Wow. Alix E. Harrow’s debut book has me absolutely awed. This book is almost a door itself, leading to a breathtaking world of stubborn heroines, words that fly from the page, and ten thousand different realities to explore.

Alix’s lyrical writing is Laini Taylor meets literature fiction. Her prose is lush, enchanting, immersive, lyrical. It’s bursting with mesmerising imagery and everlasting wonder. It’s ready to be the wings of your imagination, and help you soar past snowy clouds into a place where women turn into leopards, where tattoos tell the stories of our lives, where scavengers seek eagle feathers.

“Books can smell of cheap thrills or painstaking scholarship, of literary weight or unsolved mysteries. This one smelled unlike any book I’d ever held… It smelled like adventure itself had been harvested in the wild, distilled to a fine wine, and splashed across each page.”

The Ten Thousand Doors isn’t about action-packed battles or brutal fights. It’s about eternal stories, about books, about finding home. It’s about escapism – to be free, to find the place you belong, whether it’s through a blue door to a world that smells of salty sea air, or simply into a book, as you curl up on your bed. This book really is for the readers – the bookish ones, that read and dream of magic, of adventure, of love. I was just about convinced by the end of the book that these doors exist – and just as determined to find one myself.

“Words and their meanings have weight the world of matter, shaping and reshaping realities through a most ancient alchemy. Even my own writings—so damnably powerless—may have just enough power to reach the right person and tell the right truth, and change the nature of things.”

It was clear in this book how important stories are – not just a hobby, but a way of life. Alix weaves family, love, adventure and the journey to belonging into this book beautifully, and discusses important issues like being “coloured” in the early 20th century, classism and destruction of culture.

This debut just swept in and made my life a thousand worlds better – the characters, the friendships, everything about the way this book was told – is beautiful.

I’m not equipped with the words to properly review The Ten Thousand Doors of January, so I hope you’ll forgive me that this one is shorter than most I write and let me leave you with the fact that you need to read this book.