mini reviews // feasting on fantasy fiction (ft. my first cassie clare book!)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would know that I LOVE fantasy books.

So it comes at no surprise that I have been devouring SO MANY fantasy books lately! Also rest in peace to past ilsa who branched out to so many different genres and was proud of herself. She is dead.

The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman
3 stars

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts.

There are dangers and adventures for Bod in the graveyard. But it is in the land of the living that real danger lurks for it is there that the man Jack lives and he has already killed Bod’s family.

I expected to love this since I have adored Gaiman’s previous works. I love Coraline (I read it ages ago) and The Ocean At The End of The Lane (which I read last year) but this one just didn’t click with me in the same way – maybe because I read it at the wrong time.

As always, this was a super strange book (duh, it’s by Neil Gaiman) about a boy who is raised in a graveyard. Gaiman writes with such a cool style, and his ideas are unique, original and a breath of fresh air.

However, I wasn’t invested in the characters or the plot. It was different, sure, but it definitely didn’t blow me away. I really loved Silas, Bod’s guardian, who is a very reserved and mysterious character. I wish we got a spin off novel about him! While I enjoyed this book and appreciated the fact that the main character’s name was Nobody, in the end, I didn’t have any strong feelings towards this!

An Ember In The Ashes
by Sabaa Tahir
4.5 stars

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.

I know that whoever reads this loves it, but for some reason, I feel like this book is so criminally underrated in the community. I actually believe this is a very solid YA fantasy, apart from the fact it’s got a lot of tropes and so doesn’t stand out too much.

All the characters are so well-fleshed out. Laia is a really emotionally strong character and level-headed. Elias is my absolute favourite! He’s kind and sympathetic but also very strong. Helene is such a complex and intriguing character and I can’t decide whether I like her or not. All of them make for very compelling characters!

The stakes were so high and I just loved every action-packed minute. I lost myself in the deadly story, which was so full of adventure, betrayals and secrets. It feels like exactly what YA fantasy should feel like; an absolute roller coaster that had my heart pounding!!

The world building is fabulous, the characters are so strong, and the plot had me on the edge of my seat!! This was brutal, intense and I can’t wait for book two. i’m so late to this book but hey 🙂

The Surface Breaks
by Lousie O’ Neill
1.5 stars

Deep beneath the sea, off the cold Irish coast, Gaia is a young mermaid who dreams of freedom from her controlling father. On her first swim to the surface, she is drawn towards a human boy. She longs to join his carefree world, but how much will she have to sacrifice? What will it take for the little mermaid to find her voice?

You know this book wouldn’t have been so bad if like,,, it wasn’t so frustrating. But before we begin my rant, I’d like to say THE COVER IS GORGEOUS!!!

rant: i’m salty. sea water is salty. this book is about the sea. #puns

I accept this is a retelling of The Little Mermaid but I could NOT get behind the premise. Here’s what happens. Gaia, the main character, is a mermaid. On her 15th birthday she goes up above the surface for the first time. She sees this human boy for maximum five seconds. She decides he is good-looking. yada yada. She then decides that this boy, who has seen for like FIVE seconds, is SOOOO handsome she wants to become human so he can love her. So she goes to this sea witch, all for this boy she’s seen for five seconds, AND SACRIFICES HER TONGUE/VOICE (so she can never speak again) and also agrees that every time she walks, her feet will bleed. All in exchange to be human and to meet this boy WHO SHE DOESN’T EVEN KNOW. She gives up her entire life for this one dumb person just because they’re handsome. *sigh*

i get this is supposed to be feminist but like. you can’t just make a book feminist and say it’s good. it still has to hold up a good STORY on it’s own. but this doesn’t.

I appreciate the fact this books shows that men and merman are #trash and abusive, manipulative and rapists. It also shines light on how society has taught women that they’re only purpose is to obedient, pretty and silent. If you think there are more redeeming qualities about this book, you’re wrong.

At a certain point, we get it. The whole book is just shouting MEN ARE TRASH. every single male character in this book is bad. every single one. and it’s so boring. like give me some morally grey characters who have personality traits at least? or just flesh out certain characters, you know? i hated how black and white, repetitive, and stale this book was.

Gaia is so frustrating and passive. Yes, she learns about women empowerment and is super bad-ass at the end. But for the whole story, she is pining over rubbish men. That’s it. This book is just feminism and annoying characters and nothing else!

give me some substance! some plot! some real character traits! idk! anything!!!!

City Of Bones
by Cassandra Clare
4 stars

When Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder― much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon.

So yes, I finally read a Cassandra Clare book. I’ve finally begun my shadow hunter journey. Literally everyone and their grandma was screaming at me to read this series and I’VE DONE IT!

WHAT I LOVED:

  • I was so intrigued by this vibrant, enchanting world will completely swept me off my feet. I was fascinated by the mythical creatures and it felt like I was living with the shadow hunter world which felt absolutely thrilling.
  • The plot was just so enthralling, and I was gripped the whole time!! I think having Clary as the main character was great because I had the same questions as her and my curiosity made me want to keep reading!
  • THE ANGST IN THIS BOOK THOUGH. I was dying at Clary and Jace’s interactions – I shippED them until a certain thing (which is a spoiler, i guess)
  • I was laughing out loud at so many dialogue scenes!
  • I love Jace. He’s literally the most stereotypical character to ever exist – cool, mysterious dude who acts like has no emotions and is the definition of a YA baD BoY BUT I LOVE HIM STILL!! i am trash, i know.
  • I want to know more about all the characters and the shadow hunter world? like excuse me i need a whole biography on Alec.
  • IT WAS JUST SO ENJOYABLE AND COMPLEX AND INTENSE!!! SCREAM.

CONS:

  • Valentine, the villain, was so stereotypical and boring.
  • This book has a lot of tropes, which I get. This is 2007 YA. Of course, it’s going to be filled with love triangles and other things.
  • [SPOILER] Clary and Jace? Are siblings? I know they have a relationship in future books and,,, how?? I know the incest plot line will somehow get solved but i don’t want… I just don’t. it’s disgusting and ew and No.
  • And look, I’m so aware that while this series has it’s fans, a lot of people hate it because it’s deemed as Harry Potter fan fiction. To be honest, I don’t care, lol.

Mirage
by Somaiya Daud
3.5 stars

Amni is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place. As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection…because one wrong move could lead to her death.

Now this is actually a sci-fi but it read a LOT like a fantasy so we’re just gonna pretend that I’m not cheating. This was slightly underwhelming but nevertheless, I was quite invested in the story!

WHAT I LOVED:

  • I really enjoyed the writing style! It felt very rich and luxurious, and I just felt the culture and history dripping from every word. Daud weaved together a really engaging tale with gorgeous prose. The settings were so richly described, I felt like I was actually there.
  • The relationship between Maram and Amani is…everything. Maram is an entirely unlikable character but of course, I loved her. Their dynamic was so well-explored and well-crafted, I was blown away. It was the most enjoyable thing to read about their hate-love sisterly relationship? I loved it. (I totally wish they had been a couple though)
  • This is a Moroccan inspired sci-fi which it tackles important themes of oppression, culture and colonisation and it was so well done and thought provoking.
  • I really enjoyed the story! There was a nice balance of calm scenes and really intense ones and it made for a very fun story!

CONS:

  • The world building was so iffy. This book read like a fantasy but it’s actually set in space and on the moon which wasn’t really made clear.
  • Also what time is this set in? We see no real technology for a lot of this book but at the end there’s a “live stream” so do they have computers and cameras? I’m so confused.
  • The history was so info-dumped. I couldn’t even retain any of the world building the author was trying to create because…it was piled onto us very heavily.
  • The romance was completely unnecessary and insta-lovey. I really liked how the romance was WRITTEN but I didn’t ship Amani and her love interest at all. 😦

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?What’s you favourite genre? Do you love fantasy?

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22 thoughts on “mini reviews // feasting on fantasy fiction (ft. my first cassie clare book!)”

  1. OMG YOU READ CITY OF BONES AHHHHHH. I’m complete trash for anything shadowhunters and I’m SO GLAD YOU LIKED IT!! And um,,, yeah. The Clary and Jace thing is,,, disturbing for a while, but I swear it’s wrapped up in a non-disturbing way. Flkjkhg I can’t wait to see what you think of the rest of the series!!!

    And omg yes I had the exact same thoughts on Mirage. Like it was beautifully written and Amani and Maram were great (they should have been a couple, I agree) but the romance was SO bleh. And the world building just,,, didn’t make sense.

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  2. I definitely agree that An Ember in the Ashes is good! Like it has its tropes, but the author handles them so well, and I just remember flying through that book! I enjoyed the second installment a little less, so I went into the third feeling really iffy, but I had nothing to worry about because the third delivered! I’m not patiently waiting for the finale.

    I read all of TMI save for City of Lost Souls and City of Heavenly Fire, plus I read the entire TID in between those books, but I remember nothing about them?? Like I feel like my memories were just wiped and I only know that certain things occur because the books are so famous so a lot of people talk about scenes that happen in them. I’m planning to do a reread so that I can finally get caught up this year though. I’m so happy you enjoyed your first Cassie Clare book! Also, that The Surface Breaks rant was priceless! I’ve heard a lot of people say the same negative things and just.. yikes.

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  3. Yay glad you enjoyed City of Bones! Teenage me (eyy I’m still a teen but shh) overlooked the incest and was just head over heels in love with Jace. But know I know haha. OMG Ember is so frickin good gahh! I’m reading the sequel now and I just keep putting it off because my ANXIETY cannot handle it.

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  4. I remember reading and re-reading City of Bones a hundred times a few years ago, and it’s making me feel very nostalgic you’re starting it now haha I’m really glad yiu enjoyed it! I’m not the biggest trash for Jace tho xD The [spoiler] also messed me up but have a little faith! Can’t wait to see what you think of the next books!

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  5. Hi Ilsa,
    I really love the Shadowhunter series and I’m happy you liked “City of Bones”.
    A agree on all the Pros, except for the one about Alec. I wanted to know more about some characters too, but Alec has never been very interesting for me personally.
    Talking about the Cons…
    – I hate Valentine, but I have nevere cared much about his charcterization.
    – The tropes didn’t bother me. Neither when I first read the series, in 2014, nor now. Except for the Love Triangle one, it was soo annoying!
    – I know, I know it seems horrible right now. But wait. I was desperate whan I read that plot twist and tried to convince myself it wasn’t real. Please, don’t do the same and don’t think about incest, it’s not what it seems. As you continue reading Cassie’s books you’ll understand that she constantly throws in those plot twists only to hurt the reader. Reading her books is at the same time a fantastical and also an agonizing experience.
    – I haven’t heard about this thing, but I agree with you. I don’t care.
    I can’t wait for you to get to “City of Glass”! It’s my favourite of TMI. I hope you’ll continue liking the series.

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      1. BUT SERIOUSLY??? HOW??? EVEN???? In a fairness – I don’t like The Mortal Instruments books. Lol. gasp CONFESSIONS!! Clary is the most annoying character, so closely followed by Jace that they deserve to be witch each other based on their bland annoyingness. Soulmates ugh. Also Alec is blah. Sorry Malec fans. I do like Magnus. The only good books in TMI are the last books of the “trilogies” aka COGlass and COHeavenlyFire. But … I do enjoy the trash that they are?? They are like addicting good trash. TMI is chaotic good honestly and I have in fact reread them like twice. #noshame How I love it. TID and TDA are so much better though. Like. Loads top tier better. I’ve seen people that hate them tho so I’m just laughing seriously don’t mind me I’m joking around. ARE YOU SURE YOU HAVEN’T READ LADY MIDNIGHT?! BECAUSE I COULD HAVE SWORN ON A FLAMING SWORD YOU HAVE. i…am shocked Ilsa. Socked I tell you. But yes plz catch up on all of them so you can fangirl over TID (if you like those) and TDA (again if you even like them).

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      2. I LOVEJACE SHUT UP. just kidding, i’m very much aware of how tropey his character in but i genuinely have a soft spot him bc im trash! im sorry!! clary is eh, don’t have too many opinions on here just yet. AND YES IVE NEVER READ A CASSIE CLARE BOOK UP UNTIL THIS BOOK. i’m probably going to wait till the summer holidays to binge the TMI series and then maybe TID and TDA but her books are HUGE. i cannot wait to, hopefully, fangirl with you.

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      3. YOUR LOVE FOR JACE IS VALID 👏. i shall accept it. if it means you’ll eventually get to read about Mark Blackthorn than i guess fine. You can stan trash Ilsa. We all do at some point. *hides throne of glass books behind potted plants*

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  6. Ahh so happy you liked An Ember in the Ashes, I LOVE this book so much and the second one destroyed me and I haven’t been ready to get the third book just yet haha. It’s such a great series though and deserves all of the praise and love, the world and its characters are BRILLIANT.
    I’m so sad you didn’t love The Surface Breaks, I loved that cover so much and I thought it would be a great read, but…. well I think I might pass on that one haha 🙂
    Lovely reviews! 🙂

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  7. I love Ember and Cassie Clare! AEITA series is truly underrated and it’s! so! great! I’m actually dying for last book, i think it comes out in april 2020?

    I wasn’t the hugest fan of CoB, but I love her later books. If you liked CoB, you’re most likely going to obsess over her other books! The Infernal Devices is my favorite trilogy of all-time. Happy reading 🙂

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  8. Okay, but from what I remember from the actual Little Mermaid fairy tale, was it actually even over a guy? Like, the guy was a part of her motivation, but it was also general fascination with the human world/grass is greener on the other side type thing? I could be wrong, it’s been a LONG time since I read it, but I definitely don’t remember the mermaid going, “OMG I SAW A GUY I WILL NOW GIVE UP EVERYTHING FOR HIM.”

    Ember in the Ashes was sooo good I love it and I love Elias and I love Laia

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  9. the Little Mermaid retelling sounds so bad ashdlfkhslfd it has such a pretty cover though, unfair!!!!

    also very proud of you for reading your first Cassie Clare book!! I hated City of Bones and I don’t plan on actually reading the rest of TMI (especially because of the INCEST), but I read Clockwork whatever (the first one in TDA, I don’t remember) and it was decent so I’ll probably continue that. also fhdshfs I really need to read Mirage since it was an eARC from like MONTHS AGO. your reviews are all v good and I love you!!!!

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  10. I loved Ember in the Ashes! Read it like 2-3 years ago, so my memory of everything that happened is a bit foggy. But I remember not being able to put it down because the plot was super intense and the character interactions were addicting as heck to read!

    I remember reading City of Bones back in middle school. The incest thing was weird and my middle school brain was unable to comprehend it entirely haha. I remember being pretty upset because they were a pretty good ship, but I definitely still read on because I wanted to know how things would be resolved (I want to tell you how it’s resolved but I don’t want to spoil it).

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  11. OMG YAYYYYY!!! WELCOME TO THE SHADOWHUNTER FANDOM ❤️ I am absolute Cassie Clare trash and even though the Mortal Instruments isn’t her best work, I will forever scream about it at the top of my lungs and recommend it to everyone and their mother 😂 Can’t wait to see what you think of the rest of the series!

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  12. HAHA I love that you said the you that branched out to different genres is dead, that is totally me this summer. It’s been all fantasy for months now. I can’t help myself.

    So I totally agree that An Ember in the Ashes is amazing and needs to be recognized more! I feel like people only pay attention to it right after the latest book in the series comes out, but it deserves attention all the time. The sequel is one of the top backlist books that I really want to read!!!

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