Book Review: Now I Rise (Kiersten White)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Corgi Children’s

Pages: 480

Release Date: July 6th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

She has no allies. No throne. All she has is what she’s always had: herself.

After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lada Dracul is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her blood-strewn path. Filled with a white-hot rage, she storms the countryside with her men, accompanied by her childhood friend Bogdan, terrorizing the land. But brute force isn’t getting Lada what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed brings little comfort to her thorny heart. There’s no time to wonder whether he still thinks about her, even loves her. She left him before he could leave her.

What Lada needs is her younger brother Radu’s subtlety and skill. But Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople—and it’s no diplomatic mission. Mehmed wants control of the city, and Radu has earned an unwanted place as a double-crossing spy behind enemy lines. Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence—but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself—but if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him?

As nations fall around them, the Dracul siblings must decide: what will they sacrifice to fulfill their destinies? Empires will topple, thrones will be won…and souls will be lost.

Review:

I loved And I Darken but something stopped me giving it 5 stars. I have no such qualms about this sequel though. Whatever unknown thing was missing from the first, the second had it by the bucket load and I loved it.

Your favourite opposite siblings are back, struggling through life, love and war. Lada will do whatever she needs to secure the Wallachian throne, and she doesn’t care who or what she has to destroy to achieve her goals. Meanwhile, Radu will do whatever he can to secure Mehmed’s heart, even if it means leaving his side.

While in the first book I was more interested in Lada’s story, this time I couldn’t wait to get back to Radu’s chapters. His internal battle with his feelings for Mehmed was fascinating and I felt for him so much. Even as he began to realise how toxic the relationship was, he couldn’t help his feelings. I wanted to tear him away from Mehmed and knock some sense into him but we’ve all been there.

Radu’s conflicting feelings over Constantinople were heartbreaking too. It’s one thing to be part of a war and think of a group of people as the enemy, but how do you maintain these feelings when you’re living among them and realise they’re just people too. I love stories that show how war tears you apart and this one showed the atrocities committed on both sides perfectly. After all he’s seen and the choices he’s made, I can’t wait to see where his story goes next.

I still loved Lada’s journey, even if Radu’s was the one that I looked forward to. She’s as headstrong and cruel as ever and is tearing up the land and anyone who gets in her way, along with her loyal band of men. I love her insistence on being prince and doing things her own way, to make things better for her people. Also, kudos for the mention of periods, always great to see something like that in YA!

This book builds on the solid foundations of the first book and takes the characters you love on an incredible journey. The character growth is amazing and I challenge you not to love these siblings!

Copy of an art exhibit

Book Review: And I Darken (Kiersten White)

Publisher: Corgi Children’s

Pages: 484

Release Date: July 7th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.

Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.

Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point.

The first of an epic new trilogy starring the ultimate anti-princess who does not have a gentle heart. Lada knows how to wield a sword, and she’ll stop at nothing to keep herself and her brother alive.

Review:

This is a book I’ve been meaning to pick up for a while and I’m so glad I got round to it.

This book is a retelling of Vlad the Impaler, but here it’s not Vlad it’s Lada. She fights assassins, Janissaries and sexism as she befriends the son of the Sultan imprisoning her and tries to get back to her beloved home of Wallachia.

Lada is by far one of the best characters I’ve ever read. She’s fighting against a society that wants to see her married off in a political marriage when she knows she’s a more capable soldier than all the men around her, and she’s ready to prove it. Lada is fierce about survival and will do anything to protect herself and her brother. She’s not your average ‘badass’ woman: if there’s a soft side to her it’s hidden beneath layers of anger and cruelty.

The only thing that does seem to soften Lada is her feelings towards Mehmed, the Sultan’s son. Although she uses him to her advantage, as she does everyone, he manages to leave a mark on her where no one else has managed, and these feelings complicate her plans for her future. But I love how single-minded she is in wanting to get back to Wallachia.

Like a lot of YA books, there’s a love triangle, but unlike most, I actually enjoyed this one. While Lada fights her feelings for Mehmed, her brother Radu is going through the same thing. It takes him a while to recognise what the feelings are, and it hurts when he sees Lada’s feelings being reciprocated and his going unnoticed. I felt so bad for him and was really rooting for them to end up together.

Radu and Lada both grow beautifully throughout the book, and so does their relationship. They don’t get on as children: Radu is upset she never wants to play with him, though she protects him in her own way when he needs it. He feels useless next to her fierceness and craves the love their father gives her. As they grow up around the Sultan’s court, their positions shift and Radu finds a place for himself amongst them, making the most of his charisma and charm to work for Mehmed, while Lada struggles to fit in and prove her worth.

This is a historical period I know little about and it was fascinating to read about. I loved the positive portrayal of Islam, which is one of the things that helps Radu find happiness. The portrayal of women was also really interesting: while Lada thinks she must be fierce and better than the men to have power, she sees the women of the court wield power in their own way. Some are happy to be married off and have babies, and that’s fine, and others use the position they’ve been put in to carve a better life for themselves. It was great to see the way they overcame the disadvantage that had been given to them as women in that society.

This is a dark story of politics, forbidden love and fierce, fierce characters. I thoroughly enjoyed it and have gone straight onto the sequel. If you’re a historical or even fantasy fan and enjoy something a bit dark then I’d definitely recommend this.

4

Book Review: Following Ophelia (Sophia Bennett)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Stripes Publishing

Pages: 400

Release Date: March 9th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

When Mary Adams sees Millais’ depiction of the tragic Ophelia, a whole new world opens up for her. Determined to find out more about the beautiful girl in the painting, she hears the story of Lizzie Siddal – a girl from a modest background, not unlike her own, who has found fame and fortune against the odds. Mary sets out to become a Pre-Raphaelite muse, too, and reinvents herself as Persephone Lavelle. But as she fights her way to become the new face of London’s glittering art scene, ‘Persephone’ ends up mingling with some of the city’s more nefarious types and is forced to make some impossible choices.

Will Persephone be forced to betray those she loves, and even the person she once was, if she is to achieve her dreams?

Review:

I did an essay on the Ophelia painting by Millais in university as part of a trans-media storytelling class. It was something I didn’t particularly have an interest in and knew nothing about but I actually really enjoyed doing it. So when I heard about this book, set in the midst of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, I was intrigued.

Mary Adams is a country girl who’s just moved to London to be a maid. She’s not much good at cleaning grates or working hard but she does catch the eye of a number of painters with her beautiful red hair. She makes some well-connected friends and, through their trickery, is able to escape her servant life every few days and become Persephone Lavelle, a Pre-Raphaelite muse. But she can’t keep her two lives from meeting and everything soon starts to unravel.

Mary was a very lovable character. I enjoyed her outlook on everything, especially when she first came to London and just seemed to smile at everything. She was honest about herself and knew she wanted more from life than being a servant. When she became Persephone I enjoyed all the parties and new people with her: I wanted her to have a good time, to experience something she hadn’t before and enjoy being thought of as a mysterious lady.

Although I don’t know much about art, I did catch a few painters names that I recognised and it was fun to think about all the creativity and art that was going on around the edges of Mary’s story. I wasn’t a huge fan of the romance story line: there was nothing wrong with it, I just wasn’t that interested in it. It was there and that was fine but I was more interested in the paintings and the parties and how Mary coped with her double life.

Throughout the book, I felt really anxious for when Mary’s secret was discovered. It had to happen, of course, the whole ‘liar-revealed’ plot point and I was rooting for her so much I was genuinely scared of the trouble she’d be in when she was found out. It actually turned out to be even worse than I expected and I felt sorry for her, as I did so want things to work out well.

The ending left me feeling a bit odd. Although there was a hopeful note at the end, it just wasn’t the one I was expecting. It makes sense in fitting with the times: Mary’s reputation couldn’t recover after everything and she’d have trouble finding another job as a servant even if she wanted to, but the way things were left made me feel strangely hollow. It’s hard to talk about without spoiling it so I’ll leave it at that.

4

Book Review: Silver Stars (Michael Grant)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Egmont

Pages: 479

Release Date: February 9th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

The summer of 1943, World War II. With heavy memories of combat, Frangie, Rainy, Rio, and the rest of the American army are moving on to their next target: the Italian island of Sicily.

The women won’t conquer Italy alone. They are not heroes for fighting alongside their brothers—they are soldiers. But Frangie, Rainy, Rio, and the millions of brave females fighting for their country have become a symbol in the fight for equality. They will brave terrible conditions in an endless siege; they will fight to find themselves on the front lines of WWII; and they will come face-to-face with the brutality of war until they win or die.

Review:

I adored Front Lines last year and was really grateful receive a copy of the sequel in the post, big thanks to Egmont UK!

Just as with the sequel, I did find this a bit hard to get into at first, but once I got into the swing of it I loved it. We still have our unnamed narrator framing events, with a small section at the start, middle and end of the book. I have a theory on who this is now, but we’ll have to wait until the next book to find out!

Rio, Rainy and Frangie are back and still at war. Rio is in the midst of the fighting, Frangie is doing her best to patch people up and send them out in – excuse the pun – fighting condition, and Rainy is on a secret mission that sees her meeting the Mafia and the British navy.

I kind of think of Rio’s story as the main one, probably just because I like her so much, and she’s the one doing the actual fighting, which, while not necessarily the most important job, it is the one that springs to mind when you think of war. She’s a good soldier and that’s leading to promotions she doesn’t want, because it’s easier to follow orders than to give them. But Rio isn’t able to shirk away from the responsibility and it leads to guilt, a battle within herself and tensions with Jenou, her best friend and fellow soldier.

Frangie has a doubly hard war to face: people might not like women soldiers, but what they like even less is coloured women soldiers. I think Frangie’s story is so important and so eye opening. Towards the end, after conversations with a certain character (no spoilers!) she sees how she is treated like a second class citizen, and how she even contributes to that, because that’s what’s been drummed into her. I know things aren’t like they were back then, but we still have a long way to go with race relations and I think reading Frangie’s story is really important. There’s also a note from the author at the back of the book on racism in the war. One bit that really stuck with me was when he said how black American’s had to fight to be allowed to fight in the war for a country that hated them. There’s real bravery and patriotism there.

Rainy’s journey takes her to dangerous territory: an invaded Italy is no place for a young Jewish woman. I admired Rainy’s resourcefulness and determination throughout and wished things worked out differently for her (no spoilers again!) It’s hard to say a lot without ruining things but some parts of her story towards the end really made me want to cry. Also, kudos for the mention of periods, wasn’t expecting that in this book at all and it was something I’d wondered about.

I was reading some reviews of Front Lines on Amazon and one comment stuck out to me. Someone said they thought they enjoyed the book because it was similar to the Animorphs series, by Katherine Applegate, Michael Grant’s wife. I was also a big Animorph fan – still am in fact, I think they’re an incredible set of books – and I think the comment rings true for me too. While they’re quite different in one respect – Soldier Girls being about WWII and Animorphs set in the present with an alien invasion – they’re both still kinds of war stories. While I loved the action in Animorphs, what fascinated me the most was the way the war changed the kids. Fighting like that, taking lives and making tough decisions changes people, and I loved reading about how it affected them. It’s the same with this series: now they’ve been at war for a while and all three have suffered and seen so much, we’re seeing the way it changes them, for better and for worse.

This book was a triumph, again. I’m more invested in the characters than ever and I really hope (though somehow doubt) they all survive the war. I loved that their paths are beginning to cross more and hope there’s more of that in Book 3, plot allowing.  I’d love to see more of Frangie and her struggles because she felt a little more absent in this book and I do love reading about her. If you’ve not picked up this series yet then I really recommend you do. It has three amazing, complex and very different female characters that are all inspiring in their own way and are great role models in YA.

4

Book Review: Dead of Night (Michael Grant)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Egmont

Pages: 85

Release Date: February 23rd 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Set in the alternative World War II scenario of his Front Lines novels, Michael Grant, author of the bestselling GONE series, has written this story exclusively for World Book Day 2017.

Rio Richlin doesn’t have superpowers. She is an ordinary young woman. A soldier in the American army, wearing a uniform, carrying a rifle, and fighting alongside thousands who are trying to make a difference, trying to change the world.

At least, that’s the plan. Right now she’s part of a squad on a training exercise in some place called Wales. They’re cold, they’re wet, and Rio’s pretty sure they’re also lost. Spending the night in a creepy old inn wasn’t part of the plan at all…

Rio’s only training. But soon, the fate of the world will be in the hands of the soldier girls.

Review:

I really enjoyed the first in this series, Front Lines, last year and was excited when I received the sequel and this World Book Day story in the post.

On a training exercise in a dreary part of Wales, young soldier Rio Richlin finds herself in a creepy inn listening to stories of wars past, present and future. That’s right, this is a kind of A Christmas Carol story, with Rio being visited by ghosts who tell the story of how they died, while giving a bit of background to the war they were fighting in, both in a historical and personal way.

I liked the format of this once I figured what was going on, and it was a great way for Grant to give some commentary on war without being too preachy. I was curious where it was going when the second ghost said she had to learn to hate the enemy – while this is probably true in the case of war, it seemed an odd message for the story, but the third ghost came and told his story and it all made sense then.

This was a great little read and a good way to get back into the world and characters after a year away from it. I’m really excited to see where all the girls go next and I hope lots of people will be picking this up for World Book Day.

4

Book Review: Blood for Blood (Ryan Graudin)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Orion Children’s Books

Pages: 481

Release Date: October 6th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

There would be blood. Blood for blood. Blood to pay. An entire world of it.

For the resistance in the Third Reich, the war may be over, but the fight has just begun. Death camp survivor Yael, who has the power to skinshift, is on the run: the world has just seen her shoot and kill Hitler. But the truth of what happened is far more complicated, and its consequences are deadly. Yael and her unlikely comrades dive into enemy territory to try to turn the tide against Hitler’s army, and there is no alternative but to see their mission through to the end, whatever the cost.

But in the midst of the chaos, Yael’s past and future collide when she comes face to face with a ghost from her past, and a spark with a fellow rider begins to grow into something more. Dark secrets reveal dark truths and one question hangs over them all—how far can you go for the ones you love?

Review:

I enjoyed Wolf by Wolf  last year and was really excited when I was approved to read the sequel. Unfortunately I really struggled to get into it. I don’t know if it was because I’d just read an amazing book and my mind was still on that one, or if it was because I’d not read the first book in a while, but I got to about 30% through and was ready to give up. I was confused by some of the names and couldn’t see where the book was going.

I took a break from reading and came back to it a week later and finally got into the swing of it. The pace picked up, they had an aim and I had some idea of where the book was going, although it took a lot of twists and turns, of course. I remembered why I liked the characters and after an incredible finale I was really glad I stuck with it.

The book picks up straight after where the first one left off, with Yael on the run after shooting Hitler. With Luka and Felix, she must do all she can to support the uprising and finish the mission she started. Luka has his eyes opened about what life in the Fuhrer’s Germany is really like for non-Aryans and Felix has to make a difficult choice but family and doing the right thing.

I loved Yael again: she’s just as strong and focussed as before, although I wasn’t keen on the lean towards romance in this book. While I liked her and Luka as a couple, I just wasn’t that bothered about the story line there, and felt they should be concentrating on more important things, like saving the world! Still, I loved Yael’s depth and complexity and wish there were more characters like her around.

I found Felix’s story really interesting. I was never sure what choice he would make, nor what was the right one. Morally speaking the choice is obvious, but when family comes into it, nothing is straightforward. I knew whatever he chose, I’d understand the decision behind it.

The climax was fantastic, one surprise to the next that left me breathless and desperate to read more (I actually read one of the chapters on my phone while pretending to be busy at work…) It was satisfyingly dramatic and intense with enough success and heartbreak to keep me happy. But one of my favourite bits was the last chapter, where we catch up with the characters shortly after those events. I liked that everything wasn’t suddenly happy and perfect in Germany and the world: war raged on and things weren’t okay overnight, but the big steps had been taken and they were on their way to change.

I’ve marked this down for the beginning as I just felt the pacing was really off in the book. While Yael and her friends didn’t have a concrete aim it felt like the book meandered for a bit. But it really picked up once they got going and I’m glad I stuck with it.

3

Book Review: The Last Beginning (Lauren James)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Walker Books

Pages: 352

Release Date: October 6th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Sixteen years ago, after a scandal that rocked the world, teenagers Katherine and Matthew vanished without a trace. Now Clove Sutcliffe is determined to find her long lost relatives. But where do you start looking for a couple who seem to have been reincarnated at every key moment in history? Who were Kate and Matt? Why were they born again and again? And who is the mysterious Ella, who keeps appearing at every turn in Clove’s investigation?

For Clove, there is a mystery to solve in the past and a love to find in the future.

Review:

I was super excited to receive a review copy of this book, and then with everything going on the last month or so it got a bit forgotten. So sorry to the lovely people at Walker books for that! I’m glad I’ve got round to reading it though because it was really fab.

I really enjoyed The Next Together but somehow this book just did it more for me. While I sometimes found Kate irritating as a protagonist, I really loved Clove. She had some of Kate’s impulsiveness and some of Matthew’s thoughtfulness and a whole load more personality of her own. I loved that she knitted to relax/let off some steam, although it used to have the opposite effect on me!

It was great to read about a gay character in a time travel book, where the focus isn’t on being gay/coming out. Clove and Ella’s relationship was sweet: confusing and frustrating at times maybe, but what relationship isn’t?! It took a while to get my head round some bits of it but that’s time travel for you. Special shout out again to James’ version of the future and the little ways she drops things in about it: it’s all subtle and works perfectly to build a picture of the world you’re in.

It was great to have some of the mysteries of the first book resolved and finally learn why Kate and Matt keep coming together at different points in history. It wasn’t the answer I was expecting either. Some bits of the plot had a ring of familiarity to them – changing things in the past and then actions making you start to disappear in the future, etc – but it was all well written and enjoyable so I’m not complaining. There were also parts that made me want to read The Next Together again, real ‘OMG that’s clever’ moments. You can tell the books were really well planned out.

This was a fab ending to the duology, although if she wanted to add another book in with more of Clove’s adventures, I wouldn’t be complaining. It’s probably not going to happen so I’ll just have to wait for her next book, The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, which sounds awesome just from the title alone!

4

Book Review: Another Together (Lauren James)

Publisher: Walker Books

Pages: 50

Release Date: June 2nd 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Winter, 1940: there is a murderer on the loose at Bletchley Park, the headquarters of Britain’s most daring codebreaking operation against the Nazis. Can two young codebreakers Kitty and Matthew catch the killer?

Review:

I’ve been struggling to find time to read lately, and after finishing The Next Together I wasn’t sure if I had time to go straight on to The Last Beginning. Then I remembered I downloaded this short story ages ago. It was the perfect little story to dip into and great to be able to carry on with Kate and Matt’s story without having to commit to a full book while I was busy last month.

It was nice to be able to read a full one of the pairs adventures without jumping between stories: while I did like this in The Next Together, it was great to read one of their stories uninterrupted, as it were. I think this period of their lives was mentioned in the first book and I’m glad James picked this one for her short story. I love this period of history and it was great to see these familiar characters in it.

As always, I loved the pair, but found Kitty slightly annoying. She’s a bit too brash and in your face for me, but you gotta love a character with flaws. I’m still a bit in love with Matthew: I love his nerves around Kitty, the way she pushes him to do things outside his comfort zone and the way he grounds her. They’re such a lovely couple and I love seeing them in different time periods.

The plot to this was fairly simple (yes, I guessed the murderer easily) but it’s only a short book and the writing was great, bar a few too many exclamation points. It was the perfect story to tide me over in a busy month and to whet my appetite for the next book.

4

Book Review: The Hypnotist (Laurence Anholt)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Corgi Childrens

Pages: 352

Release Date: October 6th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Jack has left his native Ireland and is making a new life as Professor of Neurology at a university in the American South. He has certain skills, honed over his lifetime, that he mostly keeps hidden. Skills in hypnotism and mind control . . .

Thirteen-year-old Pip is plucked out of an orphanage by a farmer, hired as a farm-hand, and as carer for the farmer’s wife. But Pip is black. The farmer and his wife are white. And this is 1960s America, where race defines you and overshadows everything.

As racial tensions reach boiling point with a danger closer to home and more terrifying than either thought possible, Jack and Pip’s lives become inextricably linked. And Jack’s hypnotic skills are called on as never before . . .

Review:

I had no idea what this was really about going into it, and I struggled at first because I just didn’t know where it was going. About 100 or so pages in things started kicking off and I was suddenly really invested in the characters and their story.

The story is told in dual narrative, from Pip, a young black boy working for a white couple and their racist, radical son, and Jack, an Irish professor and hypnotist. There’s also songs sprinkled throughout by Hannah, a selective mute Native American girl who also works for the family.

I have to admit this isn’t a period I know much about, aside from some historical facts. We weren’t really taught it at school and I haven’t read many books set in this era so it was something new for me, and I found it really interesting. I think the thing that sucked me in was the scene where the KKK was introduced: it was genuinely scary and I felt Pip’s fear. There’s also a seemingly nice and rational character who professes his support for the group and tries to normalise their actions and describes them as a ‘family group’, making it sound more like a country club than a violent, racist organisation.

While reading there was part of me thinking, ‘phew, thank goodness we don’t live in a world like this any more.’ And part of me despaired at the parallels I could see between then and now. No, we don’t have segregation anymore and yes, race relations are better. But they’re not perfect and there’s still a myriad of issues. There’s still people who think like this. When reading some of the racists rants, it sounded too much like things you still hear today, especially in post-Brexit Britain. The story served as a warning to me, as it shows the awful consequences of when these dangerous views go unchallenged.

All that aside, this was a really interesting story, with a great set of characters that you can’t help but root for. I loved Pip and wanted him to get his ‘great expectations’. He was just too sweet and adorable, and I loved his simple love for Lilybelle and Hannah. I struggled to get into Jack’s narrative at times: I found his colloquial address to the audience a bit awkward but I loved his skills and his reactions to the racism. It was really interesting seeing it from an outsider’s point of view, as it wasn’t something he was used to in Ireland. I also really enjoyed Hannah’s songs – Anholt is quite a poet.

With the world in the state it is, I feel this is a really important read, as well as being endearing and even funny at times. A great YA debut, and one everyone should pick up this year.

4

Book Review: Cleo 2 – Chosen (Lucy Coats)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Orchard Books

Pages: 320

Release Date: March 10th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Two warring deities, one Pharaoh’s throne…and the beginning of the world’s greatest love story

Tryphena is dead, evil Berenice and her dark demon god hold the Pharaoh’s throne – so Cleo must flee the city of her birth and seek out her patron goddesses before it’s too late to save Egypt. Not only must she make her way across the desert to restore Isis’s power, but her goddess also commands her to raise two armies before taking ship across the Great Green Sea to find her exiled father in Rome. The weight of royalty hangs increasingly heavy on Cleo’s shoulders – and impossible, scary decisions lie ahead.

What should she do about her unpredictable and moody scribe-spy lover, Khai? Will best friend Charm desert her for the mysterious soldier-girl, Iras? And what about the troublingly handsome young soldier Cleo meets on the way to retrieve her exiled father? Is Marcus Antonius the prophesied one who will ultimately be the death of her? Most important of all though, can Cleo and her untried troops pass the Egyptian gods’ final test? Can they find a way to defeat the unnatural army of the Burnt-souled Dead stalking the streets of Alexandria? Or will all of Egypt run with the blood of unhallowed and infernal sacrifice?

Review:

I’ll start off by gushing about the cover, because OMG isn’t it just gorgeous?! Lucy Coats gave me a sneak peek at the UKYAExtravaganza in Nottingham last year and it made me so excited to get stuck back into Cleo’s story.

Cleo has changed a lot since the events of the first book: you can tell her experiences have really affected her and she feels a lot more grown up, which is just as well for someone trying to become Pharaoh of Egypt. In this book we pick off where Cleo left off, with some of our old favourite characters, like Charm and sexy spy Khai, and we meet a host of new colourful characters too.

Once again, I loved the relationship between Cleo and Charm – they really are the best of friends and they get by together, whatever life throws at them, whether that’s disrupting love stories, disturbing prophecies or a full on war. We see a lot more of Khai in this book as well, and I liked seeing his and Cleo’s relationship develop now they no longer had the distance or an evil Pharaoh sister in between them. It’s interesting to imagine Cleopatra loving someone like that at that age, especially if you know her history and her other two famous lovers.

Charm gets her own love story here too, and I really enjoyed it. I didn’t really expect to see an LGBT theme in a book like this (I don’t know why, I just didn’t) but it was really refreshing and felt natural too. Iras was a great character, cheeky and loyal and lovable, though her tendency towards nicknames did irritate me a bit. I also loved the fact that this book talked about – even just casually – things that don’t often get mentioned in books like this: things like periods, and going to the toilet. It’s small things but it’s touches like that which I appreciate.

This is a great sequel to Cleo and adds a fitting end to this part of her life, though we all know it’s far from the end of her epic story. I’d love to see Coats’ take on the next stage of Cleo’s life too.

4