ARC Review – Two Twisted Crowns

Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing one of my most anticipated fall releases, Two Twisted Crowns by Rachel Gillig. Last year’s One Dark Window was an unexpected favorite of mine. You can find all my thoughts about it in my review. What did I think of the conclusion to the duology? Read on to find out!

In the dark, spellbinding sequel to  One Dark Window , Elspeth must confront the weight of her actions as she and Ravyn embark on a perilous quest to save the kingdom—perfect for readers of Hannah Whitten’s For the Wolf and  Alexis Henderson’s The Year of the Witching.

Gripped by a tyrant king and in the thrall of dark magic, the kingdom is in peril. Elspeth and Ravyn have gathered most of the twelve Providence Cards, but the last—and most important—one remains to be the Twin Alders. If they’re going to find the card before Solstice and set free the kingdom, they will need to journey through the dangerous mist-cloaked forest. The only one who can lead them through is the monster that shares Elspeth’s head: the Nightmare.

And he’s not eager to share any longer.

***Thank you to Orbit Books and Angela Man for providing a copy of Two Twisted Crowns. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience. WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR ONE DARK WINDOW.***

Two Twisted Crowns had some massive shoes to fill because of how much I loved One Dark Window. My expectations were sky high, and this conclusion to the duology met them. It had everything I loved about the first book, such as the card magic, lush writing, and the gloomy forest, but also had a distinct vibe that set it apart in some ways from the first half of the story. It is definitely not a standalone, though. So, it is imperative to read One Dark Window first.

The main thing that set Two Twisted Crowns apart from its predecessor was its distinct lack of Elspeth for a lot of the book. The Nightmare was now in control of her body. One of the things I loved most about the first book was the dynamic and banter between the Nightmare and Elspeth, which was missing from most of this story. The love story between Ravyn and Elspeth also came to somewhat of a halt since she was no longer in control of her body. Some readers may not like this change, but I was fine with it because of everything else going on in the story.

Two Twisted Crowns largely focused on Elm and Ravyn, with Elm’s story being intertwined with Ione’s. The plot was split between the two, with Ravyn going into the forest to track down the elusive Twin Alders card in order to save his brother and bring back Elspeth. Whereas, Elm had to stay behind in the castle and deal with the aftermath of his brother’s grave injuries, which foisted more royal responsibility on his shoulders. I was riveted by the plot of Ravyn’s quest, but I became much more emotionally attached to Elm’s struggles to overcome the trauma of his past and build a happier future for himself and the kingdom.

The main romance in Two Twisted Crowns did surprise me a bit because I didn’t expect the two characters to get together. At times, it did feel like their development as a couple was included because the brakes had been thrown on the relationship between Ravyn and Elspeth. However, I did like Elm and Ione together and found the progression of their romance and emotional connection to be believable. They had some great moments and brought the best out in each other, which I always love. They both had to come to terms with the horror Hauth (seriously, fuck that guy) wrought upon them, and I liked getting to learn more about Ione through Elm’s eyes along the way.

Two Twisted Crowns explored the importance of balance and the power in putting aside revenge to break long-standing, destructive cycles. It also hammered home the point that nothing of value comes for free and illustrated how a constant lust for ‘more’ can consume someone’s life to the point of devastation. Most interestingly, though, the story examined how trauma can change some people into monsters and others into great leaders filled with empathy.

The world-building in Two Twisted Crowns provided so much knowledge about the history of the kingdom and its magic. I loved getting to know the Nightmare better and understanding his motivations on a more personal level. I still really liked the magic system, and everything came together in this story in ways that made all the mysteries make sense.

Overall, Two Twisted Crowns wrapped up this story really well and cemented this duology as one of my favorites. I cannot recommend it enough for anyone who enjoys gloomy fantasy with a side of romance. The covers of both books really do a fantastic job of representing the vibe of the duology. So, if the cover speaks to you, definitely pick these books up. All things considered, I rate this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Have you read Two Twisted Crowns (or One Dark Window)? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments.

ARC Review – The Jasad Heir

Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing The Jasad Heir by Sara Hashem, which is out today in the U.S. I was excited to get an early copy of this one. Just look at that cover!!!

Ten years ago, the kingdom of Jasad burned. Its magic outlawed; its royal family murdered down to the last child. At least, that’s what Sylvia wants people to believe.

The lost Heir of Jasad, Sylvia never wants to be found. She can’t think about how Nizahl’s armies laid waste to her kingdom and continue to hunt its people—not if she wants to stay alive. But when Arin, the Nizahl Heir, tracks a group of Jasadi rebels to her village, staying one step ahead of death gets trickier.

In a moment of anger Sylvia’s magic is exposed, capturing Arin’s attention. Now, to save her life, Sylvia will have to make a deal with her greatest enemy. If she helps him lure the rebels, she’ll escape persecution.

A deadly game begins. Sylvia can’t let Arin discover her identity even as hatred shifts into something more. Soon, Sylvia will have to choose between the life she wants and the one she left behind. The scorched kingdom is rising, and it needs a queen.

In this Egyptian-inspired debut fantasy, a fugitive queen strikes a deadly bargain with her greatest enemy and finds herself embroiled in a complex game that could resurrect her scorched kingdom or leave it in ashes forever.

***Thank you to Orbit Books for providing an advanced copy of the book. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

This book was SO GOOD! The tension. The angst. The secrets. The forbidden romance. It was the perfect combination, and I was hooked. The story also had so many of my favorite tropes, including dwindling magic, reluctant hero, and a contest of champions. I really loved the way the author utilized the unreliable narrator to slowly ratchet up the tension while also giving peeks into the complex history of this world that the main character would rather forget. It was truly brilliant and kept me on edge wondering what would be revealed next.

Sylvia was such an intriguing character. Her characterization was my favorite thing about this book. She was so complex. Her concept of self was a bit of a mess because the warring pieces of her psyche wanted very different things. Matters were complicated even further by her history of trauma, which caused her to experience selective amnesia. As a result, we slowly learned the things she’d forced herself to forget. It was fascinating to watch her assemble the pieces of her history and, as a result of this new understanding, stitch herself into a whole, new person with parts of both Sylvia and Essiya.

Arin was both similar to Sylvia and her complete opposite. So much of his personality was also the direct result of trauma. Rather than splitting into pieces and not caring about anything but himself, Arin solidified his identity around his national heritage and became militant in his beliefs about himself and his role. Much like Sylvia, he also closed himself off from others and established a strong need for control. The two of them together created such a riveting dynamic. She slowly chipped away at his regimented iciness while he helped create the necessary conditions for her to confront the past and forge a new version of herself. They had great banter and bounced off one another really well. The author did a fantastic job of crafting a slow stoking of the thick romantic tension between the two, and I ate it up. lol. I’m really curious to see how their relationship plays out in the next book. I have a feeling Arin will continue to have his rigid beliefs unravel in a mirroring of Sylvia’s arc in this book, but we’ll see.

I loved what the author did with the themes in this book. I was fascinated by its exploration of how our viewpoints can shape our understanding of historical facts and lead people to commit atrocities. It illustrated how nothing is quite as black and white as our beliefs may make them seem. At the beginning of the story, I thought I had a firm understanding of who the ‘enemy’ in the conflict would be. As Sylvia remembered and learned more about her past, the shades of gray became dominant and made me re-think my position multiple times. That’s not to say that the genocide portrayed in the book was excusable, but it definitely made it more understandable. I look forward to seeing what happens with these themes in the next book. Sylvia now has a huge decision to make about whether she will continue the cycle of violence and jockeying for power, and I wonder how the things she learned about her family and country in this story will influence her decisions.

Overall, this was a fascinating read with great characters, rich culture and world-building, and an impressive nuance in its exploration of powerful themes. I was on the edge of my seat for most of this story, and I cannot wait to dive back into this world for the sequel. Therefore, I rate this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

ARC Review – Lords of Uncreation

Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing a book that I’ve been waiting to read for so long, the epic conclusion of The Final Architecture series. Lords of Uncreation by Adrian Tchaikovsky completes this fantastic series in a satisfying way, although with a few bumps in the road. If you’d like to see what I thought about the first two books, check out my reviews of Shards of Earth and Eyes of the Void.

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