When I have the choice between reading another book or reviewing the one I have just read, I usually choose to read another one. As much as I adore shouting about books on my blog, reading is, after all, my first love!
Therefore, I have decided to do some mini-review posts to tell you about some other books which I have read and think you might enjoy.
The mini-reviews this time are all themed around Villains or Anti-heroes – some of the most fun people to read about in my opinion! These are the characters that, by all rights, you shouldn’t support, but you find yourself cheering on anyway!
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao
An East Asian fantasy reimagining of The Evil Queen legend about one peasant girl’s quest to become Empress–and the darkness she must unleash to achieve her destiny.
Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?
Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins–sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.
Xifeng is one of the most complex and nuanced anti-heroes that I have had the pleasure of reading in a while!
It took me some time to get into this story as, at first, I found all the characters being introduced hard to keep track of and it took a little while to get used to the writing style after that I devoured this!
Xifeng is a fantastic character – so flawed, unsure and realistic. I loved seeing how each decision she made took her closer to an inevitable outcome.
Can’t wait to read the next book now!
Vicious by V.E.Schwab
A masterful tale of ambition, jealousy, desire, and superpowers.
Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.
Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?
In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn’t automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question.
Iove stories about villains and superheroes and Victor is just the best – his sense of humour is so dry, yet he really cares about the people around him. Eli is charming on the surface, but has some pretty scary things about him once you delve deeper. Their rivalry is made all the more exciting because of the close relationship they once shared and the history between them.
Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly
Isabelle should be blissfully happy – she’s about to win the handsome prince. Except Isabelle isn’t the beautiful girl who lost the glass slipper and captured the prince’s heart. She’s the ugly stepsister who’s cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella’s shoe … which is now filling with blood.
When the prince discovers Isabelle’s deception, she is turned away in shame. It’s no more than she deserves: she is a plain girl in a world that values beauty; a feisty girl in a world that wants her to be pliant.
Isabelle has tried to fit in. To live up to her mother’s expectations. To be like her stepsister. To be sweet. To be pretty. One by one, she has cut away pieces of herself in order to survive a world that doesn’t appreciate a girl like her. And that has made her mean, jealous, and hollow.
Until she gets a chance to alter her destiny and prove what ugly stepsisters have always known: it takes more than heartache to break a girl.
First impressions: When I first saw this advertised I wanted to read it…yet I was cautious. I am a massive fan of fairytales and I love retellings. However, I have also been disappointed in the past by retellings that somehow don’t manage t capture the magic of the original. Luckily, Readersfirst were offering the option to read the first three chapters so I felt reassured that I would be able to read them and decide whether or not it would be worth reading…well, wow!
From the first line, let alone the first three chapters, I was blown away!
This is what I wrote then: “The writing is smart, fast-paced and instantly creates characters who the reader can connect with, vividly evoking them in just a few small details. I loved meeting the Fates and Luck/Chance in the prologue, then Isabelle and her sisters in the first chapter. I can just tell that I’m going to love this!”
Unfortunately, this now meant that I had to wait to read the rest of the book so I devoured it as soon as it appeared through my door a few days later.
I am happy to report that my first impressions were accurate and I absolutely adored this book. Both Isabelle and Tavi are interesting, well-rounded characters whereas Cinderella comes across as nice, but a bit bland.
See my full review here.
Renegades by Marissa Meyer
Secret identities. Extraordinary powers.
She wants vengeance. He wants justice.
The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies―humans with extraordinary abilities―who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone . . . except the villains they once overthrew.
Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice―and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.
New from Marissa Meyer, author of the #1 New York Times–bestselling Heartless, comes a high-stakes world of adventure, passion, danger, and betrayal.
I put off reading this for ages because of hearing so many mixed reviews. I adored the Lunar Chronicles and even quite enjoyed Heartless, but was nervous about this. I think it has suffered from following an immensely-successful series, as it is natural for people to make comparisons, but what you need to know is that it really is rather good!
The story follows Nova and Adrian, superheroes on opposing sides of a war won by the Renegades, Adrian’s faction. The winners have now taken complete control and most support them as they ended a conflict that cost numerous lives. Nova, an Anarchist, infiltrates the Renegades with the ultimate aim of bringing them down…only it doesn’t seem as black and white anymore, once she’s seen things from their perspective. Especially when Adrian really does seem to be a superhero for the people to rely on…
The variety of superpowers possessed by the Prodigies was fantastic and both Nova and Adrian are very sympathetic characters, which makes the promise of future heartbreak and betrayal even worse! At times the pace slowed, but the world was lovingly crafted and I will definitely be reading the next book!
Six of Crows Duology by Leigh Bardugo
Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone. . . .
A convict with a thirst for revenge
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager
A runaway with a privileged past
A spy known as the Wraith
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes
Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.
I don’t know what to say about this much-loved book that has not yet been said, but I truly enjoyed reading it, particularly as I love heist stories and found families. I didn’t especially enjoy the original Grisha trilogy, but the Dregs have my heart forevermore, so I would recommend giving this a go, even if you weren’t hooked by the Shadow and Bone story.
Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland—the infamous Queen of Hearts—she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.
Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.
Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.
In her first stand-alone teen novel, the New York Times-bestselling author dazzles us with a prequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
I think that I heard so many negative things about this before I read it that I went in with my expectations in the minus numbers…and was pleasantly surprised. It isn’t a perfect book by far, but I did find it an interesting read, especially as you can watch Cath’s character changing and see how her responses to events take her down certain paths. Definitely one for fans of Alice in Wonderland!
The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
No one believes in them. But soon no one will forget them.
It’s 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.
To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood.
Together, they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history–but only if they can stay alive.
I expected to like this but I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did!
It is perfect for fans of Six of Crows, but I didn’t find it to be a pale imitation as some reviewers have said.
Instead, I was immediately drawn in to the dynamic between the characters, for it is the characters and their relationships which is the true heart of this story. The setting in Paris is marvellous and every bit as magical as you might expect. The ‘heist’ storyline is tense and exciting…but it is the characters who will keep you coming back to read this again and to continue the series (There has to be another book after this, please – update there is – click here to see it!).
See my full review here.
Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo
Into the Crooked Place begins a gritty two-book YA fantasy series from Alexandra Christo, the author of To Kill a Kingdom.
The streets of Creije are for the deadly and the dreamers, and four crooks in particular know just how much magic they need up their sleeve to survive.
Tavia, a busker ready to pack up her dark-magic wares and turn her back on Creije for good. She’ll do anything to put her crimes behind her.
Wesley, the closest thing Creije has to a gangster. After growing up on streets hungry enough to swallow the weak whole, he won’t stop until he has brought the entire realm to kneel before him.
Karam, a warrior who spends her days watching over the city’s worst criminals and her nights in the fighting rings, making a deadly name for herself.
And Saxony, a resistance fighter hiding from the very people who destroyed her family, and willing to do whatever it takes to get her revenge.
Everything in their lives is going to plan, until Tavia makes a crucial mistake: she delivers a vial of dark magic—a weapon she didn’t know she had—to someone she cares about, sparking the greatest conflict in decades. Now these four magical outsiders must come together to save their home and the world, before it’s too late. But with enemies at all sides, they can trust nobody. Least of all each other.
I was very excited to read this so I was delighted to be sent a proof copy from the publishers (Thank you Hot Key Books!) . Creije is the most amazing setting and I loved reading about this dangerous city where you are either corrupt or stupid. Everyone has to think on their feet and stay sharp to stay alive. I liked how each individual character has a back story showing how they have survived the perils of the city and how they are all drawn together because it’s better to keep the most dangerous people safely where you can see them.
Tavia was a personal favourite, especially as we learn more of her back story and how she is linked to Wesley. I felt like I couldn’t really get a handle on him as a character as he makes some decisions seemingly out of nowhere – I am looking forward to seeing where this goes in the second part of the duology.
Karam and Saxony are both interesting characters too and their relationship was really sensitively and carefully drawn. The author spends time establishing each character and makes you care about them, before flinging you full-pelt into an adventure.
Definitely one to watch!
The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice
Lestat. The vampire hero of Anne Rice’s enthralling new novel is a creature of the darkest and richest imagination. Once an aristocrat in the heady days of pre-revolutionary France, now a rock star in the demonic, shimmering 1980s, he rushes through the centuries in search of others like him, seeking answers to the mystery of his eternal, terrifying existence. His is a mesmerizing story — passionate, complex, and thrilling.
My favourite book in this series is actually The Tale of the Body Thief (Book 4), largely because it focuses so much on Lestat. He is charismatic, beguiling and fickle. Some of his actions are despicable while others are praiseworthy. He is a complicated, twisted character and could definitely be considered an anti-hero!
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Twelve-year-old Artemis Fowl is a millionaire, a genius—and, above all, a criminal mastermind. But even Artemis doesn’t know what he’s taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit. These aren’t the fairies of bedtime stories—they’re dangerous! Full of unexpected twists and turns, Artemis Fowl is a riveting, magical adventure.
This is aimed at a younger audience than most of the others I have listed in this post and is a great recommendation for any 9+ readers you have who enjoy fantasy or are looking for something else to move on to reading after Harry Potter or Chrestomanci. Artemis Fowl is a genius, but he isn’t always entirely good. In many cases he is quite unlikeable…but you will find yourself wanting him to succeed anyway.
A special shout-out must also go to Cardan from The Cruel Prince by Holly Black as he is really an awful person, yet everyone loves him regardless!
Have you read any of these books?
Would you like to read any of them after reading this post?
Could you recommend any other books featuring charismatic villains or anti-heroes?
What are you reading at the moment?
Thanks for reading!