A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes #3)

An Ember in the Ashes

<–A Torch Against the Night

Title: A Reaper at the Gates
Series: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Date Added: August 23, 2017
Date Started: July 2, 2018
Date Finished: August 4, 2018
Reading Duration: 33 days
Genre: Fantasy, Dystopian, Young Adult (YA), Romance

A Reaper at the Gates coverPages: 464
Publication Date: June 12, 2018
Publisher: Razorbill
Media: Paperback


Beyond the Empire and within it, the threat of war looms ever larger.

The Blood Shrike, Helene Aquilla, is assailed on all sides. Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable, while the Commandant capitalizes on his madness to bolster her own power. As Helene searches for a way to hold back the approaching darkness, her sister’s life and the lives of all those in the Empire hang in the balance.

Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Martial court, but in stopping the Nightbringer. But while hunting for a way to bring him down, Laia faces unexpected threats from those she hoped would aid her, and is drawn into a battle she never thought she’d have to fight.

And in the land between the living and the dead, Elias Veturius has given up his freedom to serve as Soul Catcher. But in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that will stop at nothing to ensure Elias’s devotion–even at the cost of his humanity.


***Spoilers for all previous books in the series***

Tahir has the gift of making characters on both sides of the conflict sympathetic, even casting some compassion on Keris Veturia.  Though a tortured past doesn’t excuse the horrible things one does, it often provides an explanation.  It is no easy feat to do something like this, and it is one of the better attributes of ASOIAF, as well.  Like Martin, Tahir not only titles her chapters by the character whose viewpoint we follow, but she adds additional ones with each volume.  This is merely logistical, though; what’s more interesting is how Tahir, like GRRM, seems to subscribe (whether consciously or no) to William Faulkner’s philosophy:

The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself.

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Strange Luck by Amie Irene Winters (Strange Luck #1) (DNF)

Title: Strange Luck
Series Title: Strange Luck
Author: Amie Irene Winters
Date Added: February 26, 2016
Date Started: March 13, 2018
Date DNF: March 21, 2018
Reading Duration: 7 days
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal/Supernatural, Young Adult (YA), Romance

Strange LuckPages: 296
Publication Date: June 2015
Publisher: Self
Media: eBook/Kindle


A Mysterious Letter.
A Deadly Discovery.
A World Like Nothing You’ve Ever Seen.

All Daisy Darling wanted was to be a writer. What she got was more than she bargained for. As it turns out, the quaint little town of Sea Salt, California houses more than adorable cottages and huge redwood trees. Beneath the coastal charm rests a strange world where wizards, fairies, time-altering portals, and dark magic looms.

A world where memories can be your greatest currency–and weapon.

A world where you can never reclaim what’s been taken from you.

After stumbling into the mysterious world, Daisy’s memories begin to rapidly disintegrate, but she doesn’t even know she’s losing them. As if things couldn’t get any worse, Daisy learns she is the only one who can save herself.

Daisy’s very identity is at stake, but the odds aren’t in her favor. Can she discover the secret to win back her freedom before it’s too late?


I added this to my TBR list because the main character’s sole dream was to be a writer, and that was something I could relate to.  I initially liked Daisy, and I think she deserved better supporting characters (I did like her until she shit-talked cats grrrr).  Her father is supposed to be sympathetic, but he comes off as a selfish dick wanting her to take over the shop so that he can hunt for Utopia while she puts her dreams of going to London on a hold.  What kind of parent would do that to their child?  It’s bad enough he tries to guilt her into staying in order to continue the family business when that’s not what she wants, but then he decides he’s going to foist the shop off on her while he goes on an adventure.

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The Golden Apple by Michelle Diener (The Dark Forest #1)

Title: The Golden Apple
Series Title: The Dark Forest
Author: Michelle Diener
Date Added: February 25, 2016
Date Started: February 20, 2018
Date Finished: March 12, 2018
Reading Duration: 20 days
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Fairy Tale, Young Adult (YA)

The Golden ApplePages: 298
Publication Date: March 23, 2014
Publisher: Self
Media: eBook/Kindle


Kayla’s world has been turned upside-down . . . 

Her father has made her the prize in a deadly, impossible tournament, and Kayla has retaliated in the only way she knows how; by choosing her champion beforehand. But taking control of the outcome changes the game completely, and when the real reason behind the strange test becomes apparent, Kayla realizes not just her life, but her entire kingdom is at stake.

Rane’s honor is torn in two… 

In order to save his brother, Rane will do whatever he has to–including deceive and betray a princess. He knew nothing about this tournament would be easy, but when it turns into a deeper, far more sinister game, Rane is forced to see it through to the end, or leave his brother at the mercy of their enemy.

Now their fates are entwined, and they must venture into the deep, dark forest together . . . 

Kayla and Rane are bound to one another by an enchantment and Kayla’s actions. But the sorcerer forcing them to do his will may have miscalculated, because no-one comes out of the Great Forest unchanged. No-one.

The Golden Apple is loosely based on the fairy tale The Princess on the Glass Hill.


Per the blurb The Golden Apple starts with “The Princess on the Glass Hill,” which is not a fairy tale I was familiar with, but it follows the typical fairy tale rules.  The unlikely hero is Cinder Lad, the youngest brother of three who’s ridiculed, bullied, and forced to live among the ashes.  However, he was the only one brave enough to stay in the barn the entire night when the noises outside frightened his two eldest brothers away.  The source of the noise was a copper laden horse the first night, a silver chased one the second, and a gold bound one the third.  When the king offers up his daughter to the man who can climb the glass hill and retrieve three apples, the two older brothers mock Cinder Lad for even thinking to participate, but then they and all the other men are bemused when a knight in copper armor on a copper laden horse rides up a third of the hill before backing down again.  The princess tosses him one of the apples before he rides away.  The next day comes the silver chased who goes two-thirds of the way up for a second apple, and finally the gold bound goes the full tilt to win the third fruit and princess’ hand, half the kingdom, and his brothers’ shock because SURPRISE it’s Cinder Lad.

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Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (Strange the Dreamer #1)

Title: Strange the Dreamer
Series Title: Strange the Dreamer
Author: Laini Taylor
Date Added: April 18, 2016
Date Started: August 26, 2017
Date Finished: December 20, 2017
Reading Duration: 116 days
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult (YA)

Strange the Dreamer coverPages: 528
Publication Date: May 28, 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Media: Hardback


The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?


When we become waterlogged, and the cage disintegrates, we will intermingle.  When this paper aeroplane leaves the cliff edge, and carves parallel vapour trails in the dark, we will come together.

-Dear Esther

The dream is strange and strange is the dreamer.  Lazlo, the only other name he has.  A war orphan raised by monks, he very early on falls in love with story even as he’s near broken by abuse, and the one tale he can never forget is of the forgotten city of Weep.  Lazlo’s passion for this lost land is equivalent to mine for Final Fantasy VII, which no one can ever quite share.

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Blink Once by Cylin Busby

Title: Blink Once
Author: Cylin Busby
Date Added: July 22, 2016
Date Started: September 15, 2017
Date Finished: October 21, 2017
Reading Duration: 36 days
Genre: Young Adult (YA), Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery

Blink Once coverPages: 288
Publication Date: September 4, 2012
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Media: Hardback (Library)


West is a high school senior who has everything going for him until an accident leaves him paralyzed. Strapped down in his hospital bed, slipping in and out of consciousness, West is terrified and alone. Until he meets Olivia.

She’s the girl next door-sort of. A patient in the room next to his, only Olivia can tell what West is thinking, and only Olivia seems to know that the terrible dreams he’s been having are not just a result of his medication. Yet as West comes to rely on Olivia-to love her, even-certain questions pull at him: Why has Olivia been in the hospital for so long? And what does it mean that she is at the center of his nightmares? But the biggest question of all comes when West begins to recover and learns that the mysterious girl he’s fallen in love with has a secret he could never have seen coming.


This novel was far better than I expected.  It was ethereal without be unrealistic and believable while still retaining its magic.  There are two distinct parts that would be spoilery to mention but are obvious once you reach the end of the first.  Busby crafts a finale that is completely realistic and doesn’t try to shoehorn anything in for the sake of an overly happy ending.  It couldn’t have been more satisfying, and this is the type of book that must have a good ending otherwise everything leading up to it falls apart (*cough cough Never Never).  

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Master of Crows by Grace Draven (Master of Crows #1)

Title: Master of Crows
Series Title: Master of Crows
Author: Grace Draven
Date Added: May 25, 2017
Date Started: August 31, 2017
Date Finished: September 27, 2017
Reading Duration: 27 days
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Romance/Paranormal Romance

Master of Crows coverPages: 276
Publication Date: July 13, 2009
Publisher: Amber Quill Press
Media: eBook/Kindle


What would you do to win your freedom? This is the question that sets bondwoman, Martise of Asher, on a dangerous path. In exchange for her freedom, she bargains with her masters, the mage-priests of Conclave, to spy on the renegade sorcerer, Silhara of Neith. The priests want Martise to expose the sorcerer’s treachery and turn him over to Conclave justice. A risky endeavor, but one she accepts without hesitation–until she falls in love with her intended target.

Silhara of Neith, Master of Crows, is a desperate man. The god called Corruption invades his mind, seducing him with promises of limitless power if he will help it gain dominion over the world. Silhara struggles against Corruption’s influence and searches for ways to destroy the god. When Conclave sends Martise as an apprentice to help him, he knows she’s a spy. Now he fights a war on two fronts–against the god who would possess him and the apprentice who would betray him.

Mage and spy search together for a ritual that will annihilate Corruption, but in doing so, they discover secrets about each other that may damn them both. Silhara must decide if his fate, and the fate of nations, is worth the soul of the woman he has come to love, and Martise must choose continued enslavement or freedom at the cost of a man’s life. And love.


“What nobility is there in being a false god’s puppet?”

Grace Draven has a habit of writing stories with the same paradigms as FFVII and ASOIAF.  The titular character is being seduced by an evil god with dark promises?  Sounds fantastically familiar.  He’s also a powerful dark wizard?  Sounds a great deal like Song’s Three Eyed Crow.

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Never Never by Colleen Hoover & Tarryn Fisher

Title: Never Never
Series: Never Never
Authors: Colleen Hoover & Tarryn Fisher
Date Added: August 26, 2016
Date Started: July 20, 2017
Date Finished: July 30, 2017
Reading Duration: 10 days
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Mystery, Romance

The cover of Never Never by Colleen Hoover and Tarryn FisherPages: 326
Publication Date: December 8, 2017
Publisher: Hoover Inc.
Media: eBook/Kindle


 “How odd to be made of flesh, balanced on bone, and filled with a soul you’ve never met.” 

Charlize Wynwood and Silas Nash have been best friends since they could walk. They’ve been in love since the age of fourteen. But as of this morning…they are complete strangers. Their first kiss, their first fight, the moment they fell in love…every memory has vanished. “I don’t care what our real first kiss was,” he says. “That’s the one I want to remember.” 

Charlize and Silas must work together to uncover the truth about what happened to them and why. But the more they learn about the couple they used to be…the more they question why they were ever together to begin with. 

“I want to remember what it feels like to love someone like that. And not just anyone. I want to know what it feels like to love Charlie.”


My first impression of this novel broken in three was of amazement.  Charlize or rather Charlie and Silas have no idea who they or their families are, nor do they have a clue what happened to them to cause this.  Through a series of events, they both realize they’re in the same boat and try to figure out what the hell is going on and why they’re in this situation.  Attempting to both solve the mystery of their memory loss and keep anyone from realizing it’s occurred would be daunting enough, but they also must navigate the social travails of high school, family life, and the fact that there’s bad blood between Silas and Charlie’s fathers.

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A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes #2)

An Ember in the Ashes

<–An Ember in the Ashes                                                                               A Reaper at the Gates–>

Title: A Torch Against the Night
Series: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Date Added: June 7, 2017
Date Started: July 12, 2017
Date Ended: August 23, 2017
Reading Duration: 42 days
Genre: Fantasy, Dystopian, Young Adult (YA), Romance

The cover of A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa TahirPages: 452
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Publisher: Razorbill
Media: Paperback


Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.

But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.


“So long as you fight the darkness,
You stand in the light.”

The second installment of Elias and Laia’s saga is just as compelling as the first.  The stakes are even higher, the perils more vast, and not even once believed allies can be trusted.  The soldier and the scholar are joined in their point of view chapters by Helene, whose duties as Blood Shrike threaten to rip her apart as they cannot coexist with her loyalties to her once best friend and brother-in-arms.

While there are love entanglements in this series, they in no way diminish the narrative nor seem shoehorned in for the sake of its YA status.  Laia develops feelings for Keenan due to their mutual goals in the resistance, while Elias and Helene have always had their odd relationship due to being friends forever behind their Masks.  Oddly the strongest bond is the most star-crossed in Elias and Laia, which forces Helene to acknowledge her feelings for him in dealing with her jealousy.

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Shadows on Snow by Starla Huchton (Flipped Fairy Tales #1)

More book reviews can be found here.

Title: Shadows on Snow
Series Title: Flipped Fairy Tales
Author: Starla Huchton
Date Started: July 30, 2017
Date Finished: August 15, 2017
Reading Duration: 16 days
Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Romance, Young Adult

The cover of Shadows on Snow by Starla HuchtonPages: 250
Publication Date: November 3, 2014
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Media: eBook/Kindle


Once upon a time, a dark evil crept into my kingdom, stealing my loved ones and the happy life I knew. The world turned against me, and I swore to become stronger, to keep myself safe.

Once upon a time, there was a handsome prince, hair dark as ebony, skin as pure as the freshly driven snow, and I became the only one who stood between him and death.

Once upon a time, our stories intertwined, and now, healing my heart may be the only way to save us all from the evil that threatens to destroy what little we have left.


I’ve always loved fairy tale retellings, so much so that I write them myself and infuse the all to familiar tropes in all of my works both fanfiction and original.  Starla Huchton has taken it upon herself to delve into terrain fairly well trodden in order to present the old in another new way.  Since this is the first of her stories I’ve read, I’m going off of assumption here, but it appears as though what she’s flipping is the gender of the participants.

The seven dwarfs are now seven sisters (who still manage to be princesses in their own right), the evil queen is an evil king, and Snow White is an ebon-haired, snow skinned prince named Leo who is a kind capable ruler that any man would be willing to follow and many a princess would want to marry, but he’s not the main character; the Rae is.

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An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes #1)

An Ember in the Ashes

A Torch Against the Night–>

Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Series Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Date Added: December 30, 2015
Date Started: May 17, 2017
Date Finished: June 28, 2017
Reading Duration: 42 days
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult (YA), Romance

Pages: 446
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Razorbill
Media: Paperback

Shares Paradigms With: Hunger Games, Final Fantasy VII


Laia is a slave.

Elias is a soldier.

Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.


There are two kinds of guilt.  The kind that’s a burden and the kind that gives you a purpose.  Let your guilt be your fuel.  Let it remind you of who you want to be.  Draw a line in your mind.  Never cross it again.  You have a soul.  It’s damaged, but it’s there.  Don’t let them take it from you…

Alternating between Laia, a Scholar made slave, and Elias, a Mask turned aspirant, An Ember in the Ashes is a story of a concurrent struggle for freedom against a brutal regime that oppresses not only the conquered populace, but also forces its own citizens to fall in line with its totalitarian sway.  Resistance is met with swift retribution by the elite Masks, and rebellion is quelled with equal parts fire and equal parts blood.  The circumstances of Elias and Laia’s particular bondage eventually bring them together in not only proximity but also fate, proving that the difference between soldier and slave is less of a gap and more of a term.

Laia’s story begins with her brother Darrin’s arrest for owning sketches of Martial weapons, which are the very reason the Empire has held her people in thrall for so long.  The once purveyors of knowledge have no recourse against their enemy’s forged Serran steel, which is a secret well hoarded with only certain blacksmiths able to manufacture it..

Alone and desperate, Laia seeks out the Scholar rebellion for help…the same rebellion that betrayed her parents and landed Darrin in a Martial prison.  However, there are people within the organization who remember her mother the Lioness and expect her remaining daughter to live up to that name if she wants their aid.

Elias may have more prestige, but he is no freer than Laia.  Abandoned by his own mother at birth, he was taken in by Mamie Rila of the Tribe Saif and raised as their own, but when his grandfather discovered his existence, Quin Veturias made the child his heir, while other factors ensured Elias joined Blackcliff Academy, the Empire’s military school where only the best survive, and Elias is one of the elite.

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