Review: A Golden Fury by Samantha Cohoe

Thea Hope longs to be an alchemist out of the shadow of her famous mother. The two of them are close to creating the legendary Philosopher’s Stone—whose properties include immortality and can turn any metal into gold—but just when the promise of the Stone’s riches is in their grasp, Thea’s mother destroys the Stone in a sudden fit of violent madness. While combing through her mother’s notes, Thea learns that there’s a curse on the Stone that causes anyone who tries to make it to lose their sanity. With the threat of the French Revolution looming, Thea is sent to Oxford for her safety, to live with the father who doesn’t know she exists. But in Oxford, there are alchemists after the Stone who don’t believe Thea’s warning about the curse—instead, they’ll stop at nothing to steal Thea’s knowledge of how to create the Stone. But Thea can only run for so long, and soon she will have to choose: create the Stone and sacrifice her sanity, or let the people she loves die. | Goodreads

Rating: 2.5/5

Review

A Golden Fury covers a topic rarely seen in YA fantasy: alchemy. Add that to the fact that I love books about the French Revolution and I was immediately compelled to request an ARC.

To start with, I thought A Golden Fury was well-written for a debut, and there were some cool ideas in here that I thought were worth exploring. I liked the science-based approach to alchemy and the hints that the field of alchemy was much broader than the stuffy European alchemists were willing to open their eyes and consider. (Though I will note that this would have had more weight if the non-white character who apparently taught Thea her skills was actually given some page time). A Golden Fury is also unafraid of madness: the standout scenes in this book are those where Thea is slowly loosing her grip on reality, to the extent that as the reader, even I wasn’t quite sure what was real anymore. Cohoe really captured the suffocating feeling of losing control.

That said, I didn’t particularly care about any of the characters. Everyone, from Thea to the love interests and the antagonists, seemed to say or do whatever was necessary to drive the plot forward. I couldn’t connect with anyone in this book and thought some of their actions made little sense, which undercut some of the major plot reveals. Additionally, characters’ motivations were typically revealed only once convenient, and hints at interesting backstories were mostly dead-ends. Character development is what makes or breaks a book for me, and unfortunately for the most part, it didn’t exist in this book. Cohoe did, however, nail the thorny relationship between Thea and her mother, and Thea’s self-doubt about living up to her mother’s standards as an alchemist felt real and pervasive.. I will also give the author plenty of kudos for her treatment of the staple YA love triangle – without spoiling the outcome, let’s just say that the mere existence of a love triangle in this book is in fact somewhat of a ruse.

Overall, the weak character development overshadowed any excitement I had about the prospect of an alchemy-based plot and while this was an easy read, it’s not one that I had any deep and meaningful feelings about.

A note on the marketing

Remember how I said I love books about the French Revolution? Well, it turns out that the majority of this book actually takes place in England. The revolutionaries’ attitude toward towards co-opting science for the revolution is mentioned early on as the reason why Thea must flee to England, but then conveniently dropped and never mentioned again. As it turns out, Thea doesn’t have a lot of interest in revolutionary politics of any description. Nor does she have much interest in English politics in Oxford, except occasionally to argue that women should be able to study alchemy. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I got my hopes up based on the description, and I suspect others may have as well.

Note: I received an ARC from Wednesday Books in exchange for a review. A Golden Fury will be released on 13 October 2020.

Review: The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk

Beatrice Clayborn is a sorceress who practices magic in secret, terrified of the day she will be locked into a marital collar that will cut off her powers to protect her unborn children. She dreams of becoming a full-fledged Magus and pursuing magic as her calling as men do, but her family has staked everything to equip her for Bargaining Season, when young men and women of means descend upon the city to negotiate the best marriages. The Clayborns are in severe debt, and only she can save them, by securing an advantageous match before their creditors come calling.

In a stroke of luck, Beatrice finds a grimoire that contains the key to becoming a Magus, but before she can purchase it, a rival sorceress swindles the book right out of her hands. Beatrice summons a spirit to help her get it back, but her new ally exacts a price: Beatrice’s first kiss… with her adversary’s brother, the handsome, compassionate, and fabulously wealthy Ianthe Lavan.

The more Beatrice is entangled with the Lavan siblings, the harder her decision becomes: If she casts the spell to become a Magus, she will devastate her family and lose the only man to ever see her for who she is; but if she marries—even for love—she will sacrifice her magic, her identity, and her dreams. But how can she choose just one, knowing she will forever regret the path not taken?

Publication details: 13 October 2021, by Erewhon. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Rating: 4/5

Review

I have been a fan of C.L. Polk since I read Witchmark late last year, and she lived up to my expectations here: The Midnight Bargain is my favourite of her works to date.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, though there were definitely moments where I found myself enraged on Beatrice’s behalf regarding her treatment. The premise of this book is that sorceresses have their magic suppressed when they get married, to prevent the risk of their future unborn children being possessed by spirits during pregnancy and turned into dangerous monsters. Which sounds horribly dystopia-esque, but this book is actually a secondary world regency fantasy, where the focus is on a few individual women trying to find a way out of such a fate and continue to pursue their interests as Mages (a mission complicated by society’s obsession with marriage as a way to bolster a family’s fortunes). It’s not the tone I was expecting, but it really worked for the purposes of this book, as it showed how the subjugation of women becomes ingrained in society in part by robbing individual women of their agency and stopping them from collaborating to end their own oppression.

Beatrice is a determined (if occasionally reckless) character, and I found it rewarding to follow her journey throughout the book. I particularly liked her friendship with Ysbeta, Ianthe’s sister. The synopsis paints them as rivals, but they quickly realise that they have a mutual interest best achieved through cooperation and collaboration, which is a much more interesting story – proving yet again that female friendships make everything better. Her relationship with Ianthe had an unfortunate air of insta-love about it, and it took me a while to warm to him as he, too, was forced to slowly let go of his assumptions about women’s ability to wield magic. (I gave the insta-love somewhat of a pass in this book as it was at least necessary for the plot to proceed – and by the end I was totally rooting for them).

Otherwise, I found the magic system fascinating – after their training, a sorcerer binds themselves to a spirit who helps them wield magic, but they must offer something as part of a bargain in return. Nadi, Beatrice’s chosen spirit, is a fun addition to the cast with her witty commentary on everyone they meet and steadfast determination to put some of the more smug male villains in their place.

The Midnight Bargain is an excellent addition to the feminist fantasy genre, which speaks to current issues around women’s bodily autonomy in a relevant way while still managing to remain lighthearted and fresh.

Review: Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee

Gyen Jebi isn’t a fighter or a subversive. They just want to paint.

One day they’re jobless and desperate; the next, Jebi finds themself recruited by the Ministry of Armor to paint the mystical sigils that animate the occupying government’s automaton soldiers.

But when Jebi discovers the depths of the Razanei government’s horrifying crimes—and the awful source of the magical pigments they use—they find they can no longer stay out of politics.

What they can do is steal Arazi, the ministry’s mighty dragon automaton, and find a way to fight…

Rating: 3.5/5

Review

Firstly, Phoenix Extravagant is exactly the kind of book we need more of – queer, anti-colonial fiction (with relatable automaton dragons!). I really enjoyed this book for the most part, and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for something original and fresh in the SFF genre. There were a few elements that didn’t necessarily work for me, but may not bother others so much depending on the type of story they’re looking for.

What I liked:
  • The discussion of colonialism, which is at its most powerful when this book talks about the importance of art. Phoenix Extravagant deals with the occupation of not!Korea by their not!Japanese neighbours, who enforce their rule through the use of automatons that are animated by the painting of code-like calligraphy on masks, which are then attached to them. This requires the destruction of art to make magic pigments, and there are lots of conversations about the links between art and culture, and how destroying artworks erases a significant part of a group’s cultural identity. Some of these scenes gave me chills, and I appreciated the exploration of such an underrepresented element of colonialism in this work.
  • The protagonist, Gyen Jebi. Jebi is a nonbinary artist who isn’t much interested in who rules their country as long as they can paint, until they come to understand exactly how much pain has been inflicted by the process of colonisation, and how much of themself they’ve come to give away in an effort to conform. Jebi seems to be a conflicting character among other early reviewers, but I really liked them – I found the story of someone who isn’t a fighter until they have to be much more realistic than always reading about characters who were born with a weapon clutched in their tiny fist, and appreciated how much Jebi clung to their pacifist ideals, wrestled with the consequences of their actions, and tried to find creative, non-violent solutions where possible.
  • Arazi. Seriously, I related to this animated machine so much that it’s embarrassing, and thought his wry observations brought some much needed levity to this book.
  • This book does such a great job with portraying the diversity of the queer experience in general. As noted, Jebi is nonbinary (in an f/nb relationship, you love to see it), their sister is bisexual, and their love interest’s parents are in a normalised polyamorous relationship. What I appreciated most is that this book doesn’t dwell on the specifics of Jebi being non-binary: people use their preferred pronouns automatically and without fuss, and none of the intimate scenes give any indication as to Jebi’s biological sex.
What didn’t always work for me:
  • Some of the fantasy elements didn’t feel well integrated. I thought the idea of flying a dragon to the moon was a metaphor, until people started implying it wasn’t. There were also lots of small fantasy elements that didn’t seem to matter to the plot (e.g. one of Jebi’s friends is a gumiho, but this was referenced in a throw-away line and had no real consequences).
  • The big issue for me was pacing – not a lot happens in the first half of this book, but the plot ratchets up in the second half. However, by the end, there are lots of plot points left unresolved. That’s true of how most colonial conflicts happen in real life (battles vs wars and all the rest), but it was emotionally unsatisfying. This really felt like a book crying out for a sequel we don’t seem to be promised as of yet. I also would have liked to have spent more time fleshing out the relationships between Jebi and Vei (their love interest) and Bongasunga (their sister) as I wasn’t 100% emotionally invested in either.
  • The villains are mostly faceless, and I had no sense of their motivations beyond them being dedicated to the colonial cause. Again, this is true to real life in that most oppressors are just part of the system (and this book really hit home with how the system can dehumanise people slowly), but it made it harder to connect to Jebi’s story and the broader revolution narrative.

Overall, this is a book that made me think, and that has a lot of uncanny parallels to current events in many countries around the world, but it didn’t always click for me as a story. However, it’s exactly the kind of book I hope we see more of in the future.

Note: I received an ARC from Rebellion in exchange for a review. Phoenix Extravagant will be released on 13 October 2020.

Review: Evie and the Pack-Horse Librarians by Laurel Beckley

As an assistant editor at the prestigious Hanhat Publishers, Evie Southiel is entrusted with fine-tuning the manuscripts of the company’s most important authors. Her skills as a book witch allow her to manipulate the stories she reviews and bring them to life.

When her girlfriend steals the secret manuscript of Hanhat’s best-selling author and leaks it to the press, Evie is exiled to become a journey carrier with the Pack-Horse Librarians in the eastern mountains.

Timid city mouse Evie doesn’t know the first thing about surviving in the wilderness, riding a horse, or dealing with the rugged mountain folk and coal miners surrounding the town of Hevis. She does know books, though, and she’s determined to do the best job she can. But that goal is jeopardized when her horse gets spooked on her first solo run, sending her tumbling out of the saddle and into a mysterious woman’s life.

Rating: 3/5

Review

Take the recent trend of historical novels about the Kentucky horse-back librarians, only make it fantasy. This novella ticked a lot of the boxes for things I love in books: nerdy librarians who understand the importance of children’s books; a diverse, all queer cast; snooty cats; horses; adorable children; and a really sweet love story. If you like any of those things you’ll probably enjoy this novella at least a little.

The prose flows easily and Evie is a very relatable heroine; I was definitely wincing in sympathy after her long days on horseback. There is also a genuine sense of community in the remote towns Evie visits as a librarian, and it’s nice to read a story full of people of colour and queer people working together to create safe and happy spaces.

However, the flip-side is that this book tries to do far too much for a novella, and I really wish it had been longer. There were a lot of characters introduced (particularly in the first half of the book), and we didn’t really get to know any of them enough to warrant trying to keep track of all the various names. I also wish the magic system had been more explored – the fact that Evie can manipulate books was a big draw for me, but limited time is spent on this aspect of the story in favour of the broader story, including the development of a romance. (I won’t say too much about the romance for fear of spoiling it, but there are some fantasy elements there, as well).

This book is definitely worth a read, provided you temper your expectations for the shorter format and accept the limitations of the genre.

Note: I received an ARC from NineStar Press, an amazing LGBTQ+ focused small press that I wasn’t aware of before receiving a copy of this book. I’d highly recommend checking them out.

Review: Fable by Adrienne Young

For seventeen-year-old Fable, the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home she has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one, and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father, and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him, and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.

Rating: 4.5/5

Review

This book is among the best young adult novels I’ve read in 2020. The gorgeous cover caught my attention immediately (and is also among my favourite covers for the year), and I’m glad the content didn’t disappoint.

To start with, the eponymous Fable is such a fabulous character, and I found myself rooting for her from the beginning – she’s so determined, and she’s so willing to see the good in others and do the right thing by them, even though she has no reason to trust people. I though this book did a great job of highlighting both Fable’s strengths, and her vulnerabilities and weaknesses. I also loved the romance; it was there from the beginning, but at no point did it veer into insta-love territory or overwhelm Fable’s personal journey. Watching West’s icy exterior slowly crack open was worth the wait.

I also though the attention to detail in terms of the setting was incredibly well done This book really captured the atmosphere of being on the high seas, and I could also feel the wind and taste the salt water in the air. I’m also incredibly curious about Isolde’s gem magic and the role that plays in the story; I really hope we get to learn more about this aspect of the culture in the sequel.

Finally, the pacing and tension were excellent. Every time something good happened, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, and well… we got there in the end. That cliffhanger was something else.

I binged the last half of this book in an evening, and am already on the edge of my seat waiting for the sequel.

Note: I received an ARC for Wednesday books in exchange for a review. Fable will be released on 1 September 2020.

Review: Ashes of the Sun by Django Wexler

Long ago, a magical war destroyed an empire, and a new one was built in its ashes. But still the old grudges simmer, and two siblings will fight on opposite sides to save their world in the start of Django Wexler’s new epic fantasy trilogy.

Gyre hasn’t seen his beloved sister since their parents sold her to the mysterious Twilight Order. Now, twelve years after her disappearance, Gyre’s sole focus is revenge, and he’s willing to risk anything and anyone to claim enough power to destroy the Order.

Chasing rumors of a fabled city protecting a powerful artifact, Gyre comes face-to-face with his lost sister. But she isn’t who she once was. Trained to be a warrior, Maya wields magic for the Twilight Order’s cause. Standing on opposite sides of a looming civil war, the two siblings will learn that not even the ties of blood will keep them from splitting the world in two.

Rating: 4/5

Review

I’m an only child who loves stories about other people’s complicated sibling relationships, which is what originally drew me to this book. Ashes of the Sun alternates between Gyre and Maya’s POVs, and while we don’t see a lot of them interacting with each other in this book, the set up for the broader conflict was fantastic and still kept me engaged all the way through. There are a lot of complicated – and legitimate – feelings on both sides, that will need to be worked through once Gyre and Maya are both in the same place at the same time.

The author notes Star Wars as an inspiration, which is clear in the world-building, most notably in the role of the Twilight Order, which is made up of heirs of the former magic-wielding Chosen, and is responsible for protecting the Republic, as well as use of lightsaber like weapons. It does occasionally feel derivative, but this book takes the premise to a really interesting place and pokes at the moral questions Star Wars never really wanted to explore – at what point does protection become a form of subjugation in its own right? And how ethical is it for a single group to regulate the use of magic, even if they use it for the greater good? With one sibling on each side of this divide, I look forward to seeing them wrestle with these questions in future books.

In addition, this book features a really sweet f/f romance (and a less sweet, but highly entertaining m/f one) and a begrudging ally (my favourite kind). There are also the plagueborn: mutant, ever-evolving creatures that the Twilight Order defends its citizens against, and which I literally pictured as giant, plague-ridden rats. While there are no plagues in this book, it’s probably an unfortunate time for your main monsters to have such connotations.

If I have one complaint, it’s that this book could have been 50-100 pages shorter – the fight scenes are a little more detailed than they need to be, and some events feel rather drawn out. (Anyone who’s read Wexler’s Shadow Campaigns series is likely to already be familiar with this particular issue).

I highly recommend Ashes of the Sun and am looking forward to the sequel.

Note: I received an ARC from Head of Zeus. Ashes of the Sun was released on 21 July 2020 (October 2020 in the UK and Aus).

Review: The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

A desperate orphan turned pirate and a rebellious imperial daughter find a connection on the high seas in a world divided by colonialism and threaded with magic.

Aboard the pirate ship Dove, Flora the girl takes on the identity of Florian the man to earn the respect and protection of the crew. For Flora, former starving urchin, the brutal life of a pirate is about survival: don’t trust, don’t stick out, and don’t feel. But on this voyage, as the pirates prepare to sell their unsuspecting passengers into slavery, Flora is drawn to the Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, who is en route to a dreaded arranged marriage with her own casket in tow. Flora doesn’t expect to be taken under Evelyn’s wing, and Evelyn doesn’t expect to find such a deep bond with the pirate Florian.

Soon the unlikely pair set in motion a wild escape that will free a captured mermaid (coveted for her blood, which causes men to have visions and lose memories) and involve the mysterious Pirate Supreme, an opportunistic witch, and the all-encompassing Sea itself.

Rating: 2/5

Review

Warning: This review contains some mild spoilers.

The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea was among my most anticipated for 2020: a sapphic pirate story that promised to actively grapple with colonialism sounded right up my alley. Not to mention the gorgeous cover…

Unfortunately, everything about this book felt unpolished. I could see what the author was trying to do, but unfortunately the pieces never fully came together. To list a few of my gripes: the instalove between Evelyn and Flora was entirely unbelievable; the plot devices that brought them into the same orbit were flimsy; and the magic system was only introduced halfway through the story, and its origins were never properly explained.

Of course, there were a few shining moments in the darkness. This book shows one of the main characters exploring their gender identify, and I am glad to see more nonbinary representation in YA fiction.

By far my biggest disappointment, however, was how The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea tackled colonialism and slavery. I should note outright that these are just my views, and there are plenty of positive reviews on this subject, but the exploration of these issues didn’t work for me.

My main criticism is that there was a clear disconnect between the message Tokuda-Hall wanted to portray – that colonialism is bad – and how the characters who deliver that message behave. The really bad characters all meet horrible ends, but Evelyn and Flora, who also uphold and benefit from the system in different ways, are never forced to acknowledge the consequences of their actions.

Evelyn starts this book by abusing her power over her maid and lying about to her maid’s face about how she feels. Later, Evelyn is horrified by the revelation that her parents are looking to expand the empire at all costs, but only because she’s surprised that they’re evil and dared to make her a pawn in their imperial game. Apart from them failing in this particular endeavour to colonise another land, there are no consequences for her family, or for the imperial system as a whole. Flora, meanwhile, is a literal slaver (and also black, which was a weird dynamic), but never really grapples with that choice except to note that she does what she has to survive. It’s only seeing the girl she loves become enslaved that prompts her to change her mind.

I’m sure there are people much more knowledgable than me who may have differing views on how The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea dealt with these issues, but this book left a weird taste in my mouth.

Note: I received an ARC from Candlewick Press.

Review: Camelot by Giles Kristian

Britain is a land riven by anarchy, slaughter, famine, filth and darkness. Its armies are destroyed, its heroes dead, or missing. Arthur and Lancelot fell in the last great battle and Merlin has not been these past ten years. But in a small, isolated monastery in the west of England, a young boy is suddenly plucked from his simple existence by the ageing warrior, Gawain. It seems he must come to terms with his legacy and fate as the son of the most celebrated yet most infamous of Arthur’s warriors: Lancelot. For this is the story of Galahad, Lancelot’s son – the reluctant warrior who dared to keep the dream of Camelot alive . . . 

Rating: 3.5/5

Add Camelot on Goodreads

Review

I loved Kristian’s Lancelot when I read it last year, and I was incredibly excited to get an ARC of the sequel, Camelot! While you can read Camelot as a standalone, I recommend reading Lancelot first for the best experience. Galahad’s struggles with living up to his father’s legacy are very much informed by the characterisation of Lancelot (who doesn’t appear in this book). It’s also nice to see a number of the characters from Lancelot return, including an expanded role for Merlin, who is cunning and unpredictable to the last.

Of course, some things are the same in this sequel: most notably, Kristian’s incredibly evocative way with words, which bring Britain to life and make it easy to picture both the scenery and the horrors of weather and war.

However, this is also a very different kind of book. Where Lancelot covers the main character’s journey from birth to death, Camelot starts when Galahad is 20, and only tells a very small portion of his tale. Galahad is much less sure of himself and his place in the world than Lancelot … which made the middle third of this book a little tedious, as there’s a lot of wandering around on various missions and puzzling things (and feelings) through. However, the reader’s patience is largely rewarded by the end, as Galahad comes to terms with what he wants from life.

Overall, I really enjoyed Camelot. Kristian hasn’t announced any plans (that I know of) but I wouldn’t be at all opposed to reading more in this world.

Note: I received an ARC from Bantam Press in exchange for a review. Camelot will be released on 14 May.

Review: Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran

When teenage queen Lia inherits her corrupt uncle’s bankrupt kingdom, she brings a new spymaster into the fold … Xania, who takes the job to avenge her murdered father.

Faced with dangerous plots and hidden enemies, can Lia and Xania learn to rely on each another, as they discover that all is not fair in love and treason?

In a world where the throne means both power and duty, they must decide what to sacrifice for their country – and for each other … 

Rating: 4/5

Review

This was an excellent debut (and an all round great read). I joked after I read this book about how much I wanted a sequel (and I still do). However, Queen of Coin and Whispers did actually work well as a standalone and I hope some other YA authors out there take note: a single, tightly plotted book can be a good thing.

The characters were generally well-rounded and interesting. I enjoyed Xania’s POV more than Lia’s (partly because her being the spymaster gave her more to do, as much as I loved Lia trying to smite everyone with her stare), but both characters had unique personalities and voices. And the romance was chef’s kiss.

Queen of Coin and Whispers grappled strongly with the consequences of making Difficult Choices, not only for yourself but what it means for those trying their best to love you. Not to mention, so much mutual pining and longing looks and hand-holding… the first part of this book was slow-burn at its best.

There were a few small things that meant it wasn’t quite a 5-star book for me. Most notably, I thought the world-building was somewhat thin, and I didn’t have much of a sense of the history of the various kingdoms, but given that this was clearly written as a romance set against a fantasy backdrop, that didn’t bother me as much as it might have in a more clearly fantasy-oriented book.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone looking for a sweet, slow-burn f/f romance.

Note: I received an ARC from The O’Brien Press in exchange for a review. Queen of Coin and Whispers will be released on 1 June 2020.

Review: Dangerous Remedy by Kat Dunn

Camille, a revolutionary’s daughter, leads a band of outcasts – a runaway girl, a deserter, an aristocrat in hiding. As the Battalion des Mortes they cheat death, saving those about to meet a bloody end at the blade of Madame La Guillotine. But their latest rescue is not what she seems. The girl’s no aristocrat, but her dark and disturbing powers means both the Royalists and the Revolutionaries want her. But who and what is she?

In these dangerous days, no one can be trusted, everyone is to be feared. As Camille learns the truth, she’s forced to choose between loyalty to those she loves and the future.

Rating: 2.5/5

Review

The concept behind Dangerous Remedy – assemble a ragtag bunch of outcasts in the middle of the French Revolution and then add magic – is a fun one, and I expect it will draw a lot of readers in. I did, in fact, have a lot of fun: the setting was fantastic and I loved all the little nods to history that were included. You don’t need a good knowledge of the French Revolution to follow this story, but there are lots of extra nuggets to enjoy if you do.

Additionally, the dialogue made me laugh out loud at several points, though it occasionally did veer past funny and into unrealistic and cheesy. The queer rep (including the explicit bi rep) was also great, and it was nice to read a historical novel that didn’t constantly dwell on how hard it was to be queer at this point in time.

Unfortunately, the execution of this idea could have benefited from some more work. This book races through each plot point, changing direction as quickly as the French Revolution itself often did, and there was often no time to reflect on what had just happened or to fully engage with the characters’ reactions. Various characters’ backstories were hinted at but never really fleshed out, and I found it really hard to connect with any of the main characters on more than a superficial level. Additionally, while this is marketed as fantasy, this often felt more like straight up historical fiction. Olympe – the girl our intrepid squad rescues – has magical abilities that mean she’s wanted by every high ranking law enforcement officer in Paris. However; the exploration of why Olympe has such powers or what they could be used for never really goes beyond the superficial, and I would have liked to see more of the characters investigating her strange talents and trying to understand them.

Overall, while Dangerous Remedy showed plenty of promise, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations and, with so many books out there to enjoy, I’m unlikely to personally pick up the sequel.

Note: I received an ARC from Zephyr. Dangerous Remedy is available from 5 May.