Ferryman by Claire McFall – Review

Dylan has escaped a horrific train crash unscathed.

Except she hasn’t.

The bleak landscape around her isn’t Scotland. It’s a wasteland haunted by wraiths searching for human souls. 

And the stranger waiting for her isn’t an ordinary boy. Tristan is a Ferryman, tasked with transporting her soul safely to the afterlife, a journey he’s made a thousand times before. 

Except this time, something’s different.

Torn between love and destiny, Dylan realises she can’t let Tristan go, nor can she stay with him. Eventually, inevitably, the wraiths would capture her soul and she would be lost forever. 

Can true love overcome the boundaries of death?

Ferryman is a thought-provoking and truly original story of a love that refuses to be limited by death. This stunning, award-winning debut novel is being reissued to coincide with the publication of the eagerly-anticipated sequel, Trespassers.

Thank you so much to Edelweiss for the copy of this rerelease, which is the first in the Ferryman series! When I started the novel, I had no idea there would be a continuation, but I am so excited to see where these characters go next. Ferryman has the potential to be a Twilight for the new age of readers– what with the ageless Tristan and the born-again Dylan. Their love story crosses planes and will leave you absolutely breathless. 

We meet our protagonist, Dylan, as she goes about her life– though it’s all about to change. She has recently found her birth father and has made plans to go and meet him. However, when she gets on the train to make it to him; it crashes. At first, she wakes up and walks out, thinking she is a survivor. Dylan meets Tristan and he tells her to follow him and she does, assuming he’s taking her toward help. It doesn’t take long for her to realize something is very wrong. Not only are they trekking through what looks like the Scottish countryside with no other humans in sight, but dark, howling figures follow the two travelers when night falls. Dylan finally acknowledges the fact she’s dead and then interests herself in her caretaker, who turns out to be a ferryman for the dead.

Through their journey, Dylan falls deeper and deeper for the boy who has transferred so many lives to the other side. What’s more– Tristan finds himself falling for this ‘pure soul’ that makes him feel human for the first time. What ensues is an engrossing tale about how far one will and can go for a love that transcends life, death, and in-between. Readers will find themselves unable to set this book down; needing to know what Dylan will do next. In addition, the sneak peek of the second in the series will whet their whistles for the fate of Tristan. I recommend this book to any fan of Stephanie Meyer or Cassandra Clare. You’ll come for the romance but stay for the absolutely unique lore!

5/5 stars

I’m the Girl by Courtney Summers – Review

The new groundbreaking queer thriller from New York Times bestselling and Edgar-award Winning author Courtney Summers.

When sixteen-year-old Georgia Avis discovers the dead body of thirteen-year-old Ashley James, she teams up with Ashley’s older sister, Nora, to find and bring the killer to justice before he strikes again. But their investigation throws Georgia into a world of unimaginable privilege and wealth, without conscience or consequence, and as Ashley’s killer closes in, Georgia will discover when money, power and beauty rule, it might not be a matter of who is guilty—but who is guiltiest.

A spiritual successor to the 2018 breakout hit, Sadie, I’m the Girl is a masterfully written, bold, and unflinching account of how one young woman feels in her body as she struggles to navigate a deadly and predatory power structure while asking readers one question: if this is the way the world is, do you accept it? 

Thank you to NetGalley for the copy of this evocative, mysterious, and clandestine eARC. I have read all of Courtney Summers’ work up to this novel, and she has never disappointed. It seems as though with every release, the subject matter gets more and more raw, and readers can absolutely feel every emotion within I’m the Girl as though they’re living it themselves. A spiritual sequel to Sadie (even having a nod to the novel in passing), this work is a long and hard look at manipulation, its consequences, the forms it comes in, and its aftermath. The narrative is a warning, but also a testament of the strength required to overcome.

Our protagonist here is Georgia Avis, who has had a lengthy and varied history with the road that leads to Aspera, a local lodge. When she was young, she came across the owner, Matthew Hayes, there– who told her she was beautiful. It was the first time she had heard such and believed it. This refrain played in her head for the rest of her life, prompting her to aspire to be a model; an endeavor that would leave her broken and bruised on the same fateful road… this time not alone. Georgia discovers Ashley James’ lifeless body, and even as her life gets indescribably complicated, her dreams begin to come true. She is found by Matthew’s beautiful wife, Cleo, and winds up on the radar of Ashley’s alluring sister, Nora.

As Georgia attempts to unravel the puzzle of Ashley’s untimely demise with Nora and rises in the ranks at the Aspera with Cleo at her back– she also struggles with her burgeoning lust and love for both women. The queer aspect of this novel hits home for me as a pansexual woman, and so did hearing the line ‘the sight of a beautiful woman could be more for me than anyone’. Georgia being so scared to use her own power at first also invoked a kinship between myself and the protagonist; especially as she was being instructed as follows: “Don’t put a ceiling on what you’re meant to receive, Georgia.” By the end of the book, Georgia has seen the way the world is and is unafraid to push the limits of her place in it. I would recommend this book to anyone in need of empowerment, all lovers of whodunnits, and especially to young women finding their way in life.

5/5 stars

Enola Holmes and the Elegant Escapade by Nancy Springer – Review

Enola Holmes, the much younger sister of Sherlock, is now living independently in London and working as a scientific perditorian (a finder of persons and things). But that is not the normal lot of young women in Victorian England. They are under the near absolute control of their nearest male relative until adulthood. Such is the case of Enola’s friend, Lady Cecily Alastair. Twice before Enola has rescued Lady Cecily from unpleasant designs of her caddish father, Sir Eustace Alastair, Baronet. And when Enola is brusquely turned away at the door of the Alastair home it soons becomes apparent that Lady Cecily once again needs her help.

Affecting a bold escape, Enola takes Lady Cecily to her secret office only to be quickly found by the person hired by Lady Cecily’s mother to find the missing girl—Sherlock Holmes himself. But the girl has already disappeared again, now loose on her own in the unforgiving city of London.

Even worse, Lady Cecily has a secret that few know. She has dual personalities—one, which is left-handed, is independent and competent; the other, which is right-handed is meek and mild. Now Enola must find Lady Cecily again—before one of her personalities gets her into more trouble than she can handle and before Sherlock can find her and return her to her father. Once again, for Enola, the game is afoot.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Wednesday Books for the eARC of the delightful and intriguing second installment of the brand new Enola Homes series. Just like the first, it is an empowering and feministic view of the mysteries of Sherlock Holmes’ time. Through Enola’s eyes, we see the progression of women as the series goes on; such as with clothing or securing employment. Despite this, there’s a long way to go, but our protagonist pays no mind to the difference. She is bound and determined to make her way in the world, and help everyone she can while she’s at it.

In this novel, we follow the plight of Enola’s best friend, Cecily. She has been imprisoned by her own father in her family home, and once the young detective learns of her predicament– Enola breaks her out. What ensues from there is a sibling rivalry (with Sherlock having been contracted by Cecily’s mother to find her), the mystery of the ever flighty lady (as Cecily runs from the prospect of being thrown back to her father), and questions regarding Cecily’s mental health.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is as follows: “My dear lady, to be oneself is not misbehavior, unless one is criminally inclined.” Sherlock recites this to Cecily as she fears being left-handed will cause her to be reprimanded. Because of this panic, the lady’s mind splits, but her support system works hard to find a way back to normalcy. It’s a heartwarming tale about finding and being yourself, and taking every avenue to do so– no matter who stands in your way. Told from Enola’s spunky narration, readers will enjoy laughs as well as tenderness. I can’t wait for the next in the series!

5/5 stars

Darling by Mercedes M. Yardley – Review

Darling has its demons.
Cherry LaRouche escaped the claws of Darling, Louisiana at sixteen. When she is forced to return after her mother’s death, Cherry and her children move back into her childhood home where the walls whisper and something sinister skitters across the roof at night.
While Cherry tries to settle back into a town where evil spreads like infection, the bodies of several murdered children turn up. When Cherry’s own daughter goes missing, she’s forced to confront the true monsters of Darling. 

Thank you so much to Black Spot Books for the ARC of this novel that gives new meaning to the phrase ‘you can’t go home again’. Darling is anything but– and I mean this in the vein of the story as well as the town it’s named for. What Mercedes has created is an evocative peek into monstrous people and the places that make them. In these pages, we meet characters that pull your heartstrings; including some of the best representation I’ve seen for autistic children. We encounter broken people trying their best, and some who are trying to drag others down with them. There’s bullies, first loves, mysteries, killers, and bystanders. At the center of it all, there’s Cherry.

We meet our protagonist as she has received a haunting phone call from the city she grew up in, letting her know that her mother has passed away. This fact leaves Cherry unchanged; her maternal figure was unkind to her in her youth and they had not had a close relationship in some time. However, the news that Iris had left her daughter her childhood home rocked her world. Cherry has two children, and the house in Darling has been paid for in full (including all the bills) until five years time. She can’t say no to this prospect of giving her kids a better life as they are barely scraping by. Cherry runs into old friends, old enemies, and haunting memories once she’s back in Darling. The dark of the town doesn’t take long to seep into every nook and cranny of her home as children are going missing from all over– and one night, Cherry’s daughter joins them.

This whirlwind of a tale has so much heart and ferocity. Cherry has teeth and claws, and it is her strength that drives the plot. She endures so much between these pages, and it is a testament to a mother’s love, and the survival of spirit in the midst of trauma. Darling, the namesake, is a snapshot of how suffering can effect a person. Some, like Cherry, grow tougher for it. Others yearn for the taste of blood and to continue the cycle of hurt. In the end, it is those types that are the true fiends. I think that’s what Darling, the book, showcases best. You are not your anguish, but your reaction to it. The infection doesn’t waste any time infecting those around you.

5/5 stars

Trick or Treat, Alistair Gray by Lindy Ryan – Review

Award-winning picture book now an award-winning animated short film featuring narration by Mister Sam Shearon.
Alistair Gray loves Halloween.
When Alistair Gray attends his school Halloween carnival, he is disappointed to see his favorite night of the year has turned more silly than scary—all treats and no tricks.
But when he wanders alone into the dark the night before Hallow’s Eve, Alistair meets a spooky new friend that teaches him the holiday is about fun and fright…and that there’s more than one way to celebrate Halloween.

Thank you so much to Black Spot Books for offering me this eARC in exchange for an honest review, and to Edelweiss for providing me with a copy! I am well past my childhood days and have not had children of my own yet, but these factors did not hinder my enjoyment of Lindy Ryan’s spooky prose and Timea Gazdag’s haunting illustrations. I’m as much of a lover of Halloween as Alistair is, and often feel his pain once the season arises and the cutesy fall decor of hobby shops overwhelm the scares supplied in Spirit Halloween. It’s easy to forget that everyone celebrates differently, and sometimes it takes a lumbering specter with a jack o’ lantern for a face to remind you of it.

Alistair is taken aback by the many princesses and fairies roaming the halls of his school’s Halloween carnival, and begins to feel stuffy in his mummy attire. He wants the creepy vibes in his heart to be seen and realized on this day that feels like home to him. I relate to his plight; I have always been the ‘weird kid’ who enjoyed horror movies and gore, and was dressed as a vampire in elementary school for five years while all the girls around me were cheerleaders and humanoid cats. I saw my young self in Alistair, and this is a story that I hope to share with the younger generation to show them that it’s okay to be different– and more than okay to accept everyone else’s ways of being.

This tale winds the spine-tingling landscape of a Tim Burton work and the elegiac lyricsms you would expect to find under Lemony Snicket’s pen– making a story that children and adults alike can enjoy. I love the repeating of the phrase “fun AND fright”, reminding us all what Halloween… and LIFE… is about. I can’t speak enough good things about Alistair, and I will treasure the experience of reading it for a long time to come. Thank goodness it’s already August, because I am desperate for October’s coming.

5/5 stars

Classic Monsters Unleashed by James Aquilone – Review

Stories of famous monsters in a new horror anthology edited by James Aquilone and featuring Joe R. Lansdale, F. Paul Wilson, Jonathan Maberry, Ramsey Campbell, and many others.

Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Bride of Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dr. Moreau, the Headless Horseman, the Invisible Man, the Phantom of the Opera, the Wicked Witch of the West—they’re all here, in this collection of horror short stories that reimagine, subvert, and pay homage to our favorite monsters and creatures.

Written by the biggest names in the genre—including Joe R. Lansdale, F. Paul Wilson, Jonathan Maberry, Ramsey Campbell, Lisa Morton, Owl Goingback, Richard Christian Matheson, Seanan McGuire, Maurice Broaddus, Dacre Stoker, Linda D. Addison, Alessandro Manzetti, Tim Waggoner, John Palisano, Mercedes M. Yardley, Lucy A. Snyder, Gary A. Braunbeck, Rena Mason, and Monique Snyman.

And monstrously illustrated by Colton Worley and Mister Sam Shearon.

Thank you so much to Edelweiss and Black Spot Books for the eARC of this compilation of classic horror villains! I have to say, this was so much up my alley that I knew just from the title alone I would enjoy it. I didn’t know very many of the authors listed, but that was a feature and not a bug! It was so fun getting to know these storytellers in how they represented the monsters we all know and love! There are twenty-nine stories and one poem included in this novel; each with their own quirks and accomplishments.

The reader will find gender-swapping, modern issues, and many more surprises waiting in these retellings. Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Headless Horseman lead the pack here, but there’s so many more spooks waiting in the wings. If you’re a horror fan, I recommend it with the utmost confidence. The art alone will keep you up at night! I don’t want to spoil anything about this anthology, so my review will be brief and succinct. It is a well-fleshed out collection, however, I was saddened by the low count of female authors. It could have used much more representation, especially in the stories with female leads.

Despite that, the included writers did an impeccable job with the source material. As someone who was a fan of these tales before– I understood what each section was meant to be– but for the enjoyment of less horror-obsessed readers, an introduction of the original story may have been a good idea. Even so, I think these readers will enjoy the tropes and characters; they will just be new content to them. Halloween is shortly coming up, and I think this novel will be a fun one to read by the fireside in the dead of night. Overall, I say this endeavor was a rousing success.

5/5 stars

Home Field Advantage by Dahlia Adler – Review

In this sweet and funny new f/f romance from the author of Cool for the Summer, a cheerleader and the school’s newest quarterback are playing to win, but might lose their hearts in the process.

Amber McCloud’s dream is to become cheer captain at the end of the year, but it’s an extra-tall order to be joyful and spirited when the quarterback of your team has been killed in a car accident. For both the team and the squad, watching Robbie get replaced by newcomer Jack Walsh is brutal. And when it turns out Jack is actually short for Jaclyn, all hell breaks loose.

The players refuse to be led by a girl, the cheerleaders are mad about the changes to their traditions, and the fact that Robbie’s been not only replaced but outshined by a QB who wears a sports bra has more than a few Atherton Alligators in a rage. Amber tries for some semblance of unity, but it quickly becomes clear that she’s only got a future on the squad and with her friends if she helps them take Jack down.

Just one problem: Amber and Jack are falling for each other, and if Amber can’t stand up for Jack and figure out how to get everyone to fall in line, her dream may come at the cost of her heart.

Dahlia Adler’s Home Field Advantage is a sparkling romance about fighting for what – or who – you truly want.

Thank you so much to NetGalley for the eARC of this beautiful novel that puts the cheerleader/quarterback romance trope on its ear. There is nothing I love more than taking cliches and bringing them into the now– and Dahlia Adler succeeds so well with Jack and Amber. There are so many issues that come with this relationship, and the homophobia and misogyny that runs rampant in small Southern towns is heartbreakingly represented here. Even so, Dahlia managed to weave a lighthearted and captivating story through the perspective of our two protagonists. It is captivating and exciting, and gives me ‘I Kissed Shara Wheeler’ vibes but in Florida and with the teenage highs and lows of sports.

We meet Amber McCloud as she enters into her junior year of high school. She has high hopes to become captain of her varsity cheerleading team; a support for the football team who has just suffered an unspeakable tragedy. They lost their current quarterback in a car accident, so they have moved in a new one– Jack Walsh. To Amber’s (and the rest of the school’s) surprise, Jack turns out to be a girl. This knowledge causes chaos, and the cheerleaders and football players both rebel against her. Amber must then make a choice– does she riot with the rest of her team even if she doesn’t believe in what they’re rebelling against, or does she stick up for the compelling and adorable Jack? The sparks fly instantly between them, but can they rise above the teen drama so that their love can blossom?

I really loved this groundbreaking novel. It was amazing to see a girl on an all boy football team as someone who grew up in a small town in Alabama, always wondering why the guys were supposedly better than her. I wanted to have Jack’s confidence as a teenager, and her struggle to rise above all the red tape that stands in her way is utterly inspiring. There is so much representation in this book– not just for the LGBTQ+, but for anyone who has suffered from a miscarriage… AND frank conversation about sex and masturbation, which I think is incredibly important for YA readers to see. It doesn’t just normalize all these things– Dahlia writes them as they should be: just a part of life. We need more books like these, and I hope to read it in more of Dahlia’s work.

5/5 stars

Little Bird by Tiffany Meuret – Review

The skeletons in the closet have nothing on the one in your backyard.
Freshly divorced and grieving the death of her father, Josie Lauer has caged herself inside her home. To cope with her losses, Josie follows a strict daily routine of work, playing with her dog, Po, and trying to remember to eat a decent meal—and ending each night by drinking copious amounts of vodka. In other words, she is not coping at all.
Everything changes when Josie wakes to find a small shrub has sprouted in her otherwise dirt backyard the morning after yet another bender. Within hours, the vine-like plant is running amok—and it’s brought company. The appearance of the unwieldly growth has also heralded the arrival of a busybody new neighbor who insists on thrusting herself into Josie’s life. The neighbor Josie can deal with. The talking skeleton called Skelly that has perched itself in Josie’s backyard on a throne made of vines, however, is an entirely different matter.
As the strangely sentient plant continues to grow and twist its tendrils inside Josie’s suddenly complicated life, Josie begins to realize her new neighbor knows a lot more about the vines and her bizarre new visitor than she initially lets on. There’s a reason Skelly has chosen to appear in Josie’s suddenly-blooming backyard and insists on pulling her out of her carefully kept self-isolation. All Josie has to do is figure out what that reason is—and she has only a few days to do it, or else she might find herself on the wrong side of catastrophe.
LITTLE BIRD is a story about found family, no matter how bizarre.

Thank you so much to Black Spot Books for reaching out to me about the release of this short and captivating sophomore novel by Tiffany Meuret. I had never read anything by her before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the premise and the promise of a twisted fairy tale got my attention. It didn’t take long for me to be completely engrossed by the unique story and endearing characters, and I finished the novel in a span of a few hours. It was so hard to put down and I don’t think I took a conscious breath the entire time!

We enter Josie’s life just before it goes completely awry. She has a routine, a dog she loves, and a life that doesn’t take much effort. It couldn’t be said that she’s happy, but she’s making it along as best as she can. That is, until Skelly shows up. Josie notices a small shrub sprouting in her lawn one day, not thinking much of it. It isn’t until the vines that grow from it have completely taken over and brought a very odd visitor that our protagonist takes a secondary glance. An animated skeleton has taken up residence in Josie’s backyard, and it wants something from her. Skelly tells Josie she wants a story that she has never heard before told to her in three days… or else. Josie recruits the help of her new neighbor, Sue, and learns all she can about Skelly while also diving deep into her own mind. It is there that she finds the answers she seeks.

This book was a powerful read for me, as it dealt with the presence of trauma and the way that we cope with it. Josie, after her divorce and the death of her father in quick succession, had resigned herself to the life of a hermit. She hardly ever left the house; only ever speaking to Po (her chihuahua) and keeping the company of bottles of alcohol. With Skelly’s appearance, Josie has to take a hard look at herself– stripping down to her own vulnerable bones. She recounts the ultimatum her husband gave her before he left, the unanswered text that she sent her father after both men were gone, and how soulless her vocation makes her feel. Despite these things, she has arisen like a phoenix from the ashes and became everything her ex had asked of her– but for herself. Josie earned the nickname ‘Little Bird’. She was shoved from her nest and survived, but just needed to be taught how to fly. The once buried skeleton brought them both out of the shadows and into the light; making this the oddest and most beautiful found family novel I’ve read yet.

5/5 stars

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston – Review

From the New York Times bestselling author of One Last Stopand Red, White & Royal Blue comes a debut YA romantic comedy about chasing down what you want, only to find what you need…

Chloe Green is so close to winning. After her moms moved her from SoCal to Alabama for high school, she’s spent the past four years dodging gossipy classmates and a puritanical administration at Willowgrove Christian Academy. The thing that’s kept her going: winning valedictorian. Her only rival: prom queen Shara Wheeler, the principal’s perfect progeny.

But a month before graduation, Shara kisses Chloe and vanishes.

On a furious hunt for answers, Chloe discovers she’s not the only one Shara kissed. There’s also Smith, Shara’s longtime quarterback sweetheart, and Rory, Shara’s bad boy neighbor with a crush. The three have nothing in common except Shara and the annoyingly cryptic notes she left behind, but together they must untangle Shara’s trail of clues and find her. It’ll be worth it, if Chloe can drag Shara back before graduation to beat her fair-and-square.

Thrown into an unlikely alliance, chasing a ghost through parties, break-ins, puzzles, and secrets revealed on monogrammed stationery, Chloe starts to suspect there might be more to this small town than she thought. And maybe—probably not, but maybe—more to Shara, too.

Fierce, funny, and frank, Casey McQuiston’s I Kissed Shara Wheeler is about breaking the rules, getting messy, and finding love in unexpected places.

Thank you so much to NetGalley for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of Casey McQuiston’s newest triumph. I have been an avid fan of hers since ‘Red, White and Royal Blue’ came out— and with each release, I love her work more and more. I Kissed Shara Wheeler hit me where I live in the most beautiful of ways. As a queer woman from the middle of nowhere in Alabama, I felt as though this story was written for me. Chloe’s experience and my own differ in so many ways, but our hearts are the same. It was from the very first page that I was bound to the narrative, and that bond only strengthened as I made my way to its end.

Chloe Green has her life uprooted when her two mothers (Mom and Mama, as she calls them) move back to her mama’s hometown of False Beach, Alabama. Her mama was the talk of the town as a budding high school lesbian, and Chloe— already having discovered that she’s bisexual— enters into the same Bible-based school system. She finds a group of friends who support her, and she is wholly and unabashedly herself, much to the chagrin of the principal. While Chloe is unbothered by him, she is suddenly enraptured by his daughter— Shara Wheeler. This seemingly perfect girl corners Chloe and kisses her… right before she goes missing. We follow Chloe, Shara’s boyfriend, and the boyfriend’s ex-best friend as they attempt to decipher notes that Shara has left behind to lead them toward her final destination. This opens up all three of them to new experiences and unexpected relationships.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler explores sexuality, high school trauma, and the pros and cons of living in a small Southern town. Near the end of the novel, Casey writes, “But she also knows Alabama is more than Willowgrove. And if that’s true, maybe faith can mean more than Willowgrove, too”. I find this to be one of the most important lessons within these pages. People are so quick to write off the South because they think they are all close-minded conservatives. In the same vein, other people are ready to treat all persons of faith as though they are one of the few who use the written word of their god as an excuse to hate others. Humanity, such as the characters in this novel, is varied and more than you can see at a glance. I want to use Chloe’s tale to be kinder, to judge less. Because as Casey says in her Author’s Note, “There’s room for the good parts and the bad, the funny and painful and everything in between”. We contain multitudes, and Casey highlights this beautifully.

5/5 stars

In a Garden Burning Gold by Rory Power – Review

Twins imbued with incredible magic and near-immortality will do anything to keep their family safe—even if it tears the siblings apart—in the first book of a mythic epic fantasy from the New York Times bestselling author of Wilder Girls.

Rhea and her twin brother, Lexos, have spent an eternity helping their father rule their small, unstable country, using their control over the seasons, tides, and stars to keep the people in line. For a hundred years, they’ve been each other’s only ally, defending each other and their younger siblings against their father’s increasingly unpredictable anger.

Now, with an independence movement gaining ground and their father’s rule weakening, the twins must take matters into their own hands to keep their family—and their entire world—from crashing down around them. But other nations are jockeying for power, ready to cross and double cross, and if Rhea and Lexos aren’t careful, they’ll end up facing each other across the battlefield. 

Thank you so much to NetGalley for the eARC of the first novel in a rich, lively, and absolutely unique series. I am such a huge fan of Rory’s; I look forward to her new releases every year now, and she never disappoints– yet ALWAYS surprises. While her past two novels have had a common thread of strong female characters placed in an unknowable situation that they must then claw and dig their way into and out of, In a Garden Burning Gold gives us an important family dynamic that has been built over centuries, and a girl who feels pulled to risk it all… to the detriment of her twin brother who is dying to keep the reign of their father afloat.

We meet Rhea as she comes back from her most recent voyage– a marriage to a man that she had to sacrifice in order to bring about the change of the seasons. Each of Rhea’s siblings are charged with a similar gift, but only her twin’s effects the world around them as hers does. Lexos manipulates the tides and the stars from the observatory of their home, but he has also been tasked with being their father’s right hand man. Baba, as his children refer to him, is a man with a guarded heart and an iron fist. He passed down the powers that each of the Argyros line have: Rhea; the flow of the divisions of time, Lexos; the control of the skies above and the waters below, Nitsos; the understanding of mechanical workings, and Chrysanthi; the heart and soul of the meals they consume. After having lost their mother ages ago, this family of Thyzakos count on each other to survive.

It is in this beautiful world with all-encompassing lore that we are deposited, and it comes alive around us. However, we are unable to find respite enclosed inside the Stratagiozi’s walls– there are problems arising from every side of not only the country… but also within the family. Rory builds tension delightfully, and from different perspectives in the ruling line. We are shown the hardships effecting the individuals, but also the threats to the entirety of the household. There are moments of joy, burgeoning relationships, traitorous plots, and mistrust in each and every corner. This novel is a breathtaking set up to what is going to be a brilliant series; one that already feels to me more alive than those that have come before. There is world-building, but also undeniable intrigue that will leave you desperate for more. Get in on this journey from the start! You will not regret it.

5/5 stars