Queens, Graces & Empresses – Fantasy Mini Reviews

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I read alot of Fantasy over the summer this year, and so I am finally here to talk about some of those books and what I thought of them.  Today I have three fantasy books that all featured strong female protagonists to review, and to share my thoughts about.  I had very different opinions about all of these books, and so it was particularly interesting for me to discuss them all in the same post and to see how my thoughts compared across the books.

So here are some more mini reviews!


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The pace of this book is alot slower than I expected.  It takes a good half, if not three quarters of the book for the story to really get going and for the pace to begin picking up, and so I definitely struggled to get through these earlier sections at times.  I went into this one expecting alot more action and fighting between our three queens, whereas this book looks alot more at the preparation before the battle really starts, and all of the plotting that goes with it.

That said, once this became obvious I did begin to really enjoy the politics and schemes that were woven throughout this story.  We got to see each individual queen and those around her prepare in different ways and face challenges simultaneously to each other, often without the other two knowing what was really going on.  I loved exploring the truth of the rumours about our queens as we got to follow all of them, as well as seeing how each of them reacted to a certain event or information.


One thing that is definitely going to keep me reading is this beautiful world.

I adored this magical island setting we had that was so cut off from the outside world.  It was like a fantasy world stranded in the middle of our history, and I loved all of the glimpses we got at the world away from Fennbirn.  I am definitely curious to see if the later books delve more into the history of this island and the world around it.  The different types of magic was also something I loved reading and learning about, as it combined more common ideas of magic, such as controlling the elements, with more unique types with Katherine’s poison and the animal companionship that comes with being a naturalist.

(tw: Violence)



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This is a small book that packs a big punch.

I adored the way this book presented the oppression of women and fought it from the start.  The history behind it gave a different layer to this story that alot of other similar books where women are seen as inferior don’t have, as there was thought put into why the world was the way it was.  Both Serina and Nomi are trapped in two very different cages, and so I loved watching both of them try to fight and break out of their respective prisons throughout this story.

Although I did love both sisters, Serina was definitely my favourite.  Her growth through this 300 page book was astonishing, and so perfectly done that it felt like the most natural thing in the world for a former Grace to soon be fighting for her worth and refusing to be pushed around.  She learns to channel that determination and will power she gained through her training to be a grace into helping others and trying to make a better place for her and those around her.  Buts whats even more amazing is that despite the situation she is thrust into, she still doesn’t sink down to the savagery of the island, or allow it to change her morals, even if it is dangerous to do so.


That said, I did also enjoy Nomi’s character and her storyline, but nowhere near as much as Serina’s, which is why I am so excited about how this first book ended.  Her character just seemed to have a lot less growth and actually become a little more timid as the story progressed, particularly compared to her sister.  Her storyline was also a little more predictable and so didn’t hook me as much as Serina’s.

The writing and pacing of this story was also perfectly done, with the plot never feeling rushed or too slow.  Overall, this story was one that I loved flying through and reading about these two strong sisters who I can not wait to see more of in the sequel.

(tw: Violence, Death, Murder, Attempted Rape)



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This is one of my most recent reads, and one I am still a little conflicted on whether its my fault for not getting the most out of this book or whether it was just the story itself.

The first, and main, reason I am debating this is because I never felt fully engaged with this story as I did with the first one.  I always usually have to make sure that I am focused on listening to an audiobook for the first hour or so, but after that I don’t really have to think hugely or worry about my mind drifting away from the story, something that happened alot with this one.  Due to this, I don’t know whether or not it was the format that made me not engage, or just the story itself, as I was much more invested in the start compared to later on.  The further we got into this story, the more I began to lose interest in the long journey to collect relics our characters went on, and it was only at the end when I really began to want to continue listening to see what would happen next again.

I also found the plot so much more predictable and boring than the first book, which is understandable to a point as this is a retelling.  That said, I still would have appreciated a few more twists and turns that I didn’t see coming as any changes made to the original didn’t interest me too much or make the story any more exciting to me.

Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix Cover

That said, some of the plot twists towards the climax of the story I did find very effective, and helped to engage me back into the story.  This was definitely the point in the story where things finally picked up and it was much more interesting and action-packed than the rest of the book had been, and so I am glad that I did get some sense of satisfaction in this ending.

Finally, I think generally I prefer the villain or anti-hero centered story to your fairytale retelling that tends to include a more typical and dare I say boring protagonist.  I adored watching Xifeng struggle with her emotions and her desire to become Empress through evil acts, and so overall just found her to be such a complex and interesting character to read about and follow.  In contrast, Jade was much more mellow at the start and seemed to remind me too much of other YA protagonists as I didn’t find anything about her that stood out to me, or made me want to particularly root for her.

(tw: Violence, Death, Murder, Torture)



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Have you read any of these – what did you think?  Do you agree with my thoughts?



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