An Affair of Poisons by Addie Thorley

Title: An Affair of Poisons
Author: Addie Thorley
Series: N/A
Pages: 391
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Release Date: February 26th 2019

      “No one looks kindly on the killer of a king.
      After unwittingly helping her mother poison King Louis XIV, seventeen-year-old alchemist Mirabelle Monvoisin is forced to see her mother’s Shadow Society in a horrifying new light: they’re not heroes of the people, as they’ve always claimed to be, but murderers. Herself included. Mira tries to ease her guilt by brewing helpful curatives, but her hunger tonics and headache remedies cannot right past wrongs or save the dissenters her mother vows to purge.
      Royal bastard Josse de Bourbon is more kitchen boy than fils de France. But when the Shadow Society assassinates the Sun King and half of the royal court, he must become the prince he was never meant to be in order to save his injured sisters and the petulant dauphin. Forced to hide in the sewers beneath the city, Josse’s hope of reclaiming Paris seems impossible―until his path collides with Mirabelle’s.
      She’s a deadly poisoner. He’s a bastard prince. They are sworn enemies, yet they form a tenuous pact to unite the commoners and former nobility against the Shadow Society. But can a rebellion built on mistrust ever hope to succeed?”

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“These are not birds and butterflies like before, but winged dragons and three-headed serpents that are so much more threatening, so much more tangible. They roar and gnash their teeth as they slither through the clouds. From half a block away, I can see each glittering scale of crimson, green, and gold.”

Addie Thorley’s An Affair of Poisons while not necessarily the most groundbreaking historical fantasy, is nonetheless an enjoyable read with likable leads. Mirabelle has spent her life training to be an alchemist, hoping to earn a place in the Shadow Society. Her mother is leader of the Shadow Society, a organization built on helping the common people who are often neglected by the nobles. When Mira unknowingly concocts a poison used to assassinate the king of France, she is forced to see her mother and the society in a whole new light. She strikes an unlikely alliance with Josse, the bastard son of the king who is determined to protect his sisters no matter the cost. Together they must figure out a way to unite the commoners and nobility and overthrow the Shadow Society.

Thorley’s writes really descriptive writing that immediately had me falling into the story. While An Affair of Poisons has a historical backdrop (though the author does take political license), it is the combination of poison-making and magic that make this world so captivating. From healing tonics used to stave hunger pains to a poison called Viper’s Venom meant to make a person’s death slow and agonizing, the practice of alchemy can be used for good or terrible evil. There is also a magical element to this world that I wished had been explored more. Mira helps enhance the magic of one of the members of the Shadow Society, making his illusions corporeal and his magic even more dangerous than before. Unfortunately, the novel sort of dances around how Mira was able to do this and I was surprised that although we get a lot of detail when it comes to her making poisons, this portion of the novel isn’t delved into deeper.

Mira spends most of the novel struggling between what is right and what she’s been taught. She’s always been under the impression that the Shadow Society stood for the people first and foremost. I loved her journey as she finds an identity apart from her mother and embraces a different path. My only issue is that Mira spends so much of her life navigating her mother’s callousness, including how she withholds approval from both her daughters, turning them into rivals that compete for her attention. Yet it takes Mira far too long to accept that her mother is more interested in power than in taking care of commoners. I really enjoyed Josse’s character. Being a bastard son of a king, he has never had the same kind of privileges as his brother, the heir. Still, I love that Thorley has Josse confronting his own privilege. While he has been relegated to working in the kitchens, he still has never gone hungry and even though he hasn’t taken advantage of it, has had opportunities to better himself. There are so many different familial relationships in this one, but I loved that each one was so complex and so important to each character’s arc.

Addie Thorley’s An Affair of Poisons is a promising debut that’s fast-paced and perfect for those who enjoy historical fiction with a touch of fantasy.

★★★

(3/5)

Blog Tour | ARC Review & Giveaway | The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

I am delighted to be a part of The Gilded Wolves Blog Tour for Wednesday Books. Roshani Chokshi has always been an author who has wowed me with her writing. When I heard of this latest release, I was beyond ecstatic. It’s my pleasure to bring you an ARC review of The Gilded Wolves and an opportunity to win a copy of the book from the publisher. Details at the end of the post.

Title: The Gilded Wolves
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Series: The Gilded Wolves, #1
Pages: 464
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release Date: January 4th 2019
**I received a copy of this book from the publisher which does not influence my review**

      “Set in a darkly glamorous world, The Gilded Wolves is full of mystery, decadence, and dangerous but thrilling adventure.
      Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.
      To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much.
      Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.”

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     “A creaking sound lit up the silence. Séverin jerked his hand back. Too late. The bear’s teeth lengthened in a blink, forming narrow little bars. Enrique took one look at Séverin’s trapped hand, turned pale, and bit out a single word: ‘Shit.'”

With The Gilded Wolves, Roshani Chokshi has constructed a unique fantasy heist novel that also functions as a commentary on cultural theft under the guise of historical preservation. Séverin Montagnet-Alarie thought he knew his place in the world, as heir to House Vanth. But when the other heads of the Houses of France turned him away, denying him his rightful place as the next patriarch of House Vanth, Séverin made it his mission to steal back what had been taken from him. With a team of smart and unusually gifted individuals, Séverin has caused a myriad of trouble for the Order of Babel, the organization in charge of the Houses of France, stealing back artifacts belonging to his own House and returning stolen cultural artifacts to their countries and peoples of origin. When Hypnos, patriarch of House Nyx offers Séverin a second chance at claiming his inheritance in exchange for stealing a mysterious artifact from another House, Séverin’s blind ambition lands him and his crew in the middle of a conspiracy that will test each character’s resolve and pit them against a dangerous organization.

The Gilded Wolves has one of the best casts of characters I’ve come across. I love how each character has their own personality, set of skills, and way of perceiving in the world. Chokshi excels at creating characters whose cultural and sexual identities are incredibly important to them. Identity is the driving force behind all of their motivations and heavily influences how they see themselves. Séverin is obsessed with reclaiming his birthright and isn’t afraid to take dangerous risks in order to do so. Though a natural leader, he isn’t always honest with himself and holds the faulty belief that if he can just become patriarch, he’ll have everything he’s always wanted. Tristan is Séverin’s closest companion, having grown up in a number of foster homes alongside him. Tristan is more interested in his pet tarantula than his adopted brother’s schemes, but they are both fiercely protective of one another. Laila is in her element when she is either in the kitchen baking or taking care of others. Masquerading as a courtesan becomes incredibly resourceful as she is able to gain access to places that would otherwise be closed off to Séverin and his crew. Laila’s past is the most mysterious. Save for Séverin, no one knows of her ability to read memories tied to objects. This gift, or perhaps more aptly a curse, is tied to her origins that even she doesn’t quite understand.

One of my favorite things about this group of characters is the witty dialogue and no one exemplifies this more than the young historian Enrique. From the get-go, he had me in stitches. His humor is always a breath of fresh air and I really like that Chokshi’s doesn’t sacrifice the rest of his character for the sake of comedic relief. Enrique not only has a passion for history, but for his country’s freedom. The Philippines has been under Spain’s thumb for the last 300 years and Enrique wants to be part of helping his country gain independence. Zofia is more adequate when it comes to making bombs than making friends. Some of the most rewarding scenes in this one involve Zofia and Laila. The latter shows incredible patience, slowly helping Zofia come out her shell. The final character is the enigmatic Hypnos, the young patriarch of House Nyx, who was once childhood pals with Séverin. Hypnos is both arrogant and charming. Though regarded as more of an enemy at first, Hynpos feels draw to Séverin and his friends, to their camaraderie, for there’s no denying that Hypnos’s easy smiles actually hide a loneliness underneath.

If you like fantasies rooted in history, Chokshi’s latest novel is the one for you. Chokshi pays close attention to detail, bringing not only her characters, but this world to life. It took a little bit of time for me as a reader to be comfortable moving through this intricate world, but once I did, it was one I wasn’t quite ready to let go of with the closing pages. Forging was an aspect that I really wanted to explore more of. There are individuals in this world able to manipulate matter and the mind, the latter of which is highly regulated as it includes the ability to control minds and create illusions. The former takes on many forms, including the ability to manipulate metal and stone into different forms, even lifelike creatures.

If you like tragic heroes, found families and impossible heists, Roshani Chokshi’s The Gilded Wolves is one you don’t want to miss. I’ll be spending the next year eagerly anticipating the sequel and reeling from this one’s gut-punch of an ending.

4/5

★★★★

PRAISE FOR THE GILDED WOLVES

“Chokshi has created an inclusive and authentic cast with obvious chemistry and affection for one another and infuses the tale with witty banter and twists. A delectably intriguing adventure for all teen shelves.” School Library Journal, Starred Review

“Evocative writing, sumptuous set pieces, and vividly sketched, authentically flawed characters distinguish this immersive tale of found family and star-crossed romance. Kaleidoscopic narration complements the intricate, high-stakes plot and allows Chokshi to showcase numerous aspects of her richly imagined universe all the way to the closing cliff-hanger.” Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows and Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code converge in this dazzling new fantasy… An opulent heist adventure that will leave readers voracious for more.” Kirkus, Starred Review

“Chokshi delivers a thrilling, gritty new fantasy set in an alternate nineteenth century Paris… Chokshi shines as a master storyteller in her newest novel; the setting, world building, plot, and conflict are all staggering. However, the elements that perhaps shine the most are the history, riddles, mysteries, and science, woven together in a world brimming with power and magic.” Booklist, Starred Review

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: ROSHANI CHOKSHI is the New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen, A Crown of Wishes, and Aru Shah and the End of Time. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Shimmer, and Book Smugglers. Her short story, “The Star Maiden,” was longlisted for the British Fantasy Science Award.

It’s time for a GIVEAWAY. Enter to win a copy of The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi. Click on the Rafflecopter link below to enter, details below.

A Rafflecopter Giveaway

Giveaway Details:

  • Giveaway runs from January 16th at 12:00 am through January 22nd at 11:59 pm (PST)
  • Open to US residents only
  • One lucky winner will win one a copy of The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
  • Winner will be selected randomly and emailed (you have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen)
  • You must provide your name and shipping info, so I can send it to the publisher
  • Prize will be provided by the publisher

Mini Reviews: These Ruthless Deeds + These Vengeful Souls

MiniIt doesn’t happen often, but I love when you revisit a book that you didn’t love the first time around, only to discover how enjoyable it is upon a second reading. I reread Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas’s These Vicious Masks a couple of months ago because I had bought the second from Book Outlet and didn’t want to give up on the series even though the first didn’t blow me away. But with a reread, I ended up falling in love with the story and characters. And after finishing the second, I felt the pressing need to buy the third. It only seems appropriate to pair the final two books together in this edition of mini-reviews. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: These Ruthless Deeds
Author: Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas
Series: The Vicious Masks, #2
Pages: 320
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: March 14th 2017 

      “England, 1883. Still recovering from a devastating loss, Evelyn is determined to use her powers to save other gifted people from those who would harm them. But when her rescue of a young telekinetic girl goes terribly wrong, Evelyn finds herself indebted to a secret society devoted to recruiting and protecting people like Evelyn and her friends.
      As she follows the Society’s orders, healing the sick and embarking on perilous recruitment missions, Evelyn sees her problems disappear. Her reputation is repaired, her friends are provided for, and her parents are newly wealthy. She reunites with the dashing Mr. Kent and recovers the reclusive Mr. Braddock (who has much less to brood over now that the Society can help him to control his dangerous power). But Evelyn can’t help fearing the Society is more sinister than it appears…”

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“Perhaps grief was my companion now, to be dragged behind me as intrusive and burdensome as a heavy trunk.”

I recently revisited Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas’s These Vicious Masks and ended up enjoying their historical fantasy debut so much more the second time around, so much so that I immediately dove into the second installment, These Ruthless Deeds. Upon discovering that she, along with others, are gifted with special abilities, Evelyn Wyndham soon discovered the lengths people will go to to control those with unusual powers. Still reeling from the loss her sister Rose and the disappearance of the enigmatic and alluring Sebastian Braddock, Evelyn throws herself into doing the only thing she is sure of: rescuing others like herself. Her mission leads her to the mysterious Society of Aberrations, a team of gifted individuals who recruit those like Evelyn and help them develop and control their abilities. With new and old friends at her side, Evelyn soon discovers that nobody, including this Society, is what it seems. I love how willful and stubborn Evelyn is. She can’t afford to be easily taken in because of what happened to her sister, but still holds out hope that those like herself can find a place in this world. Sebastian remains one of my favorites in the series. Tormented by his ability to absorb energy from others, causing illness and even death, Sebastian is always trying to outrun himself. The prospect of learning to control his abilities is almost too good to be true, but Sebastian is desperate. I loved every scene with Evelyn and Sebastian. Not only do their powers cancel the other’s out (Evelyn having the ability to heal), but their personalities compliment one another. Evelyn and Sebastian have an undeniable chemistry that had me on the edge of my seat, waiting for them to finally figure things out between the two of them. Another standout character for me is the charming Mr. Kent. I loved all the humor he brought to the story and though I do wish he would have realized sooner that Evelyn only wanted friendship from him, his presence brought much-needed lightheartedness to the novel. These Ruthless Deeds ends with quite a bang which had me scrambling to buy the third. Please note that a character does contemplate suicide in this installment.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★


Title: These Vengeful Souls
Author: Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas
Series: These Vicious Masks, #3
Pages: 304
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: February 20th 2018

      “England, 1883. On the run with the grieving Sebastian Braddock, Evelyn wants two things: to be reunited with her friends, and to get revenge on the evil Captain Goode. Not only has he misused his and Sebastian’s powers to rack up a terrible death toll, but he’s also completely destroyed any hope of Evelyn or her friends regaining the life they once knew.
      Evelyn is determined to make Captain Goode pay for what he’s done, but is her revenge worth risking the lives of Sebastian and her friends? Or is it better to flee the city and focus on staying alive? And with the Captain spreading lies about Sebastian in an attempt to flush them out of hiding and turn the populace against them, does she even have a choice at all?”

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“I felt my head lifted up and my neck bared, somewhere distant between all the pain. Tears streamed down my face and my body twitched uncontrollably. I wondered if this would, at least, put an end to my torture.”

These Vengeful Souls, the final book in Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas’s historical fantasy series, These Vicious Masks, is packed with action as Evelyn and company make one last stand against the nefarious Captain Goode. There’s an added wrinkle in this final book where the public has become aware of individuals with these amazing and dangerous abilities. Goode uses people’s fears to turn them against Sebastian in particular and the handful of allies he has left. Both Evelyn and Sebastian carry loads of guilt; Sebastian because his power was manipulated, resulting in ballroom full of dead people and Evelyn because she had a chance to stop it, but chose to save her sister. Evelyn wants to put an end to the war between Goode and those who no longer wish to be his pawns. Unfortunately, Evelyn is prone to rash decisions, driven by love and a need to protect those around. She often chooses to go in alone rather than put her friends in danger. Despite mistakes Evelyn makes in this one, I loved that she eventually got to a place where she learned to trust those around her to help her in taking down Goode. Seeing Evelyn and minor characters like Rose, Mr. Kent, Miss Chen, etc, come together and work as a team was really rewarding. It’s a testament to their development as characters. I feel like Sebastian never really got a moment to breath throughout this series and I really wanted this for him. It’s hard to blame him for brooding all the time when he never really had much to celebrate. I really wanted to see him get a handle of his powers and in general, I wanted to see more happy moments for all the characters, but that probably says more about my attachment to them than anything else. Overall, this has been a really enjoyable historical fantasy series that I’d recommend to fans of the genre.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★

The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Title: The Beautiful Ones
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Series: N/A
Pages: 327
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Release Date: October 24th 2017

      “In a world of etiquette and polite masks, no one is who they seem to be.
      Antonina Beaulieu is in the glittering city of Loisail for her first Grand Season, where she will attend balls and mingle among high society. Under the tutelage of the beautiful but cold Valérie Beaulieu, she hopes to find a suitable husband. However, the haphazard manifestations of Nina’s telekinetic powers make her the subject of malicious gossip.
      Yet dazzling telekinetic performer and outsider Hector Auvray sees Nina’s powers as a gift, and he teaches her how to hone and control them. As they spend more and more time together, Nina falls in love and believes she’s found the great romance that she’s always dreamed of, but Hector’s courtship of Nina is deceptive.
      The Beautiful Ones is a sweeping fantasy of manners set in a world inspired by the Belle Époque.

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“Hector raised his hands, the candle flames rising with them, and with one movement of his arms they merged into a prodigious ball of fire that he then snuffed out with a clap of his hands, causing several spectators shriek because, for a moment, it seemed like he was about to scorch himself.”

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s The Beautiful Ones is a character-driven novel that combines fantasy and romance in a eloquent story rapt with emotion. Antonina “Nina” Beaulieu has been invited to stay with her cousin in Loisail for her first Grand Season. The city is a far cry from Nina’s home in the country, but she can’t help but see its appeal when she meets the mysterious Hector Auvray. A gifted telekinetic, Hector has risen to prominence performing for audiences across the globe. When Hector begins courting Nina, she’s convinced that they are meant to be. Hector, however, has a ulterior motive, one that will bring Nina’s world crashing down.

Moreno-Garcia juggles three perspectives and does a masterful job of fleshing out each character, making them feel real to the reader and allowing each to have their strengths as well as their faults. Nina is more comfortable trying to catch beetles and butterflies than a potential husband. Not the kind of young woman that suitors line up for in a city like Loisail, Nina finds rules regarding etiquette to be stifling. It doesn’t help that her telekinetic ability often manifests at inopportune times. While those in Loisail can appreciate such a talent as a means of entertainment, it is not something suitable for ladies to display. Nina is markedly younger than the other two characters and it very much shows. Hopelessly romantic and naive about the world, Nina is easily taken in. She believes the very best about people because she has never been exposed to those who would use others for their own gain. Her inexperience opens her up to plenty of heartache. Though her openness was one of the first things I admired about her, her growth as a character made me appreciate her even more. I loved that Moreno-Garcia took the most humble of the three characters and allowed her to develop and show strength unparalleled.

Hector is not a character that you immediately fall in love with. Yes, in some ways, he can be seen as simply a tragic figure. Coming from nothing, Hector has managed to accumulate the kind of wealth that people in Loisail are either born with or marry into. While trying to recognize this dream, he ended up losing his first love in the process. His choice to court Nina only as a means to get close to another instinctively made me bristle. That being said, his is a really rewarding character arc as he is forced to confront his own naivety. Even as a grown man, he still has a lot to learn. Hector learns to see the past and present how they are and now how he wishes them to be.

At times I wanted to dislike Valérie wholeheartedly, but Moreno-Garcia has created such a complicated character that it’s difficult not to admire her in some way. Valérie was pressured into marrying Nina’s cousin Gaeten in order to save her family from financial ruin. But lest you think she is some tragic figure, Valérie is also vain, resentful, and prone to jealousy. She often regards Nina with disdain because, unlike her, Nina has more freedom to choose who she marries. Nina also has the love of her cousin, something Valérie doesn’t necessarily want, but which her proud personality demands. She’s an incredibly manipulative person who is much more comfortable being cruel than sentimental. For her, loving someone means they have power over her and she refuses to be under another’s thumb. There’s no way to justify Valérie’s every decision, but because she is such a well-developed character, I understood why she did the things she did and this ultimately made her an exceptional antagonist.

The Beautiful Ones showcases just how versatile and gifted a writer Silvia Moreno-Garcia is. The world she builds is very easy to fall in love with and my only criticism is that I wanted to see more of the telekinetic aspect. Still, there are few books that leave me feeling completely satisfied and The Beautiful Ones is one of them.

5/5

★★★★★