Book Review, Books

Woven in Moonlight Review

Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez

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A book based on Bolivian history with moon magic? yes please! And that is just the short premise of it. We have Ximena who has been the Condesa’s decoy for most of her life, to the point she’d die for her. But she doesn’t have to die, only marry the enemy King who is intent on destroying the few leftover Illustrians and has taken over the country.

But King Atoc is corrupt and obsessed with a drug and using it to make money while makignthe population addicted to it and slowly destroying what he built after de-throning the Illustrians.

At first I was incredibly annoyed by Ximena and Catalina (the true Condesa), but the plot was what kept me wanting to find out. I could see bits of where the inspiration for the made up things in the story came from and it made it richer and more interesting.

I never really ended up caring too much about Ximena, though she does grow a lot through the book which helped as she realises not everything she has been told and knows is actually the full truth.

We get a lot about food, weaving and clothes but not enough about the politics, history or the magic. Moon magic, come on! I was dying to know more about it, but we only really find the weaving magic and what Catalina is meant to do via the stars. Not much more is mentioned other than some healing abilities and hiding things, but not detailed enough and it is almost as if magic is an afterthought and yet it is incredibly significant to the story, so it didn’t sit well in my head the disconnect between the importance of the magic and how easily it was brished off to the side unless it was plot important. Or got Ximena out of a pickle.

The animals were cute and having El Lobo be this kind of Robin Hood/Zorro figure was fun but it was easy to guess who was behind it and it felt a bit frustrating that his part in the story is only to prompt Ximena to do things or challenge her when she’s out doing the things. We only know of him as folk hero, and again, the book feels like it only birngs certain things in as needed without any concept, and given how Ximena is that felt not right that she wouldn’t do more about it before she’s “forced” to do something about it.

A few other choices of actions for some of the characters felt odd but otherwise it was interesting and I enjoyed the story and the ideas behind it. It was fun to read and it went by fast (it didn’t feel like a drag or a struggle to read).

Book Review, Books

Realm of Ash Review

Realm of Ash by Tasha Suri

The Ambhan Empire is crumbling. A terrible war of succession hovers on the horizon. The only hope for peace lies in the mysterious realm of ash, where mortals can find what they seek in the echoes of their ancestors’ dreams. But to walk there requires a steep price.

Arwa is determined to make the journey. Widowed by a brutal massacre, she’s pledged service to the royal family and will see that pledge through to the end. She never expected to be joined by Zahir, the disgraced, illegitimate prince who has turned to forbidden magic in a desperate bid to save those he loves.

Together, they’ll walk the bloody path of their shared past. And it will call into question everything they’ve ever believed…including whether the Empire is worth saving at all.

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How do you write a review for a book like this? Realm of Ash is the follow up (not exactly a sequel, but it does happen after) of Empire of Sand which I loved so much that it got me to draw again and do some fan art, into which I have spent countless hours because it needs to be as good as what I felt reading the book.

In Realm we follow Arwa as she joins a house for widows who do not want or can’t be a burden to their families. She is young and has survived a massacre. But she is also smart, conflicted and full of anger.

This book starts with strong women making the most in a society that doesn’t alway realise their value. And despite them having a limited way of doing things, the resourcefulness is amazing.

However, the main thing for me was how much Arwa fights against her Amithri blood and heritage, because she has been brought up to think it is tainted and foul. And the deeper she delves into this secret heritage and uses it as she attempts to help Zahir and the “heir” side they are meant to be helping, the more she realises that it was just convenient lies to trap her, and limit her, to rob her of who she is and could be.

That was a stunning thing to read as she moves through her anger and then fear and everything that comes as they desperately want to save the Empire (and how much she is conflicted internally as she finds that what the Imperial family wants isn’t the same as what is best for the Empire).

It is also a book full of court (empire in this case) politics, the complexity of families and relationships in general, and the power of hope. It is about identity, and about loss and grief (we already established books with grief in them are kinda my thing). And it is incredibly powerful.

As such, the book is hard to review without spoilers because it is so good but also to explain it in detail would be to rob those of the discovery and delight of it. All I can do is let you know that I loved it, and I will read anything Tasha writes because I need to, she has my readership through and through.

Book Review

Written in the Stars Review

This year I’ve been reading a lot more Own Voices books and trying to preorder more of those. So here is one. I have to say this review requires some Content Warning:

TW/CW: The book touches on forced marriage and the difficulties that happen around it. So it is brutal but good.

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Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

This heart-wrenching novel explores what it is like to be thrust into an unwanted marriage. Has Naila’s fate been written in the stars? Or can she still make her own destiny?

Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late.

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This is a difficult book, you know how some fantasy authors justify the violence in their fantasy made up world by saying it was like this in medieval ages and shenanigangs like that? Well, in this particular book, it is not making it up, this is the reality for some women in the world.

Naila’s story is an extreme one, where a trip to pay for being found to have a boyfriend against her parents wishes, turns into a never ending nightmare that translates into loosing her college entrance times and having ehr trip prolonged over and over. The reason being a forced marriage that she doesn’t want.

But the story doesn’t end when she marries, but rather it follows her and it was sad, cringey and brutal but also powerful and full of wonderful quotes that I kept wanting to frame somewhere (check out Goodreads, they have some good ones there).

I do have to say, it was difficult to read for me, but it was also kinda therapeutic and it was good.

Moon recommends

If you can, to give this book a chance and maybe check my previous reviews since I have been reviewing books that touch on hard topics like Making Faces or Always Forever Maybe.