Everless – book review

  • Everless by Sara Holland
  • Published 4th January 2018 by Orchard Books
  • 368 pages
  • Rated: 5/5 Blood-irons

“Time is a prison. She is the key.”
This book felt like it bled me dry – pun definitely intended! I binge read it in a couple of days and am waiting on tenterhooks for book 2! I received this book in the December Oh So Regal box from FairyLoot.


Everless is the debut novel by Sara Holland and is the first in a so far untitled series.
“In the land of Sempera, the rich control everything – even time. Ever since the age of alchemy and sorcery, hours, days and years have been extracted from blood and bound to iron coins. The rich live for centuries; the poor bleed themselves dry.
Jules and her father are behind on their rent and low on hours. To stop him from draining himself to clear their debts, Jules takes a job at Everless, the grand estate of the cruel Gerling family.
There, Jules encounters danger and temptation in the guise of the Gerling heir, Roan, who is soon to be married. But the web of secrets at Everless stretches beyond her desire, and the truths Jules must uncover will change her life for ever … and possibly the future of time itself.”

The concept of ‘time is money’ has been around since the Ancient Greek times and has slowly trickled its way through history when it was, albeit mistakenly attributed to Benjamin Franklin who’d used it in his 1748 essay Advice to a Young Tradesman. In the world of Everless, time literally is money; citizens go to have their blood bled, diminishing their life span, which gets melted down into blood-irons, the currency of Sempera. Those blood-irons are used for paying rent to the time collectors (read tax collectors) on behalf of the rich people who own all of the land and villages.
For me, Holland has struck gold (pun again intended, sorry not sorry) by weaving elements of our own realities into this fantasy environment. I’m not sure if she did this intentionally but Everless smacks of that old Robin Hood story of the rich stealing from the poor, something which can still be prevalent in many countries today. The idea of the elite and the 1% owning everything whilst we peasants have to ask permission or apply for licences just to be able to do simple things like drive, pay taxes on the wages and incomes we spent our own hours of life earning just to be able to afford a living, be registered at birth, have a National Insurance number, pay VAT on goods we buy in shops, who really does own the ground we actually walk upon…? The list is everless! I could go on forever with this! So as you can see, Holland really hit my nerve with her Semperean world where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, purely for the parallels that I read in it of our own lives on planet Earth.

Jules in the opening scene reminded me so much of Katniss Everdeen and Feyre Archeron, the way she hunts through the woods trying in earnest to find food to trade or sell. She has no self pity and enough sass to make her a believable and strong lead character, although at times, just a few, I feel that I’m more invested in her story and what is happening to her, rather than being concerned with the person that is Jules herself…if that makes sense?! Mostly, everything she does, whether out of naivety or her own admitted selfishness is for her Papa and the good of her friends and family. She has a determination and grit which desires to see a little bit of justice in the world, someone who is not afraid to stand up and fight for what they believe in whilst still retaining humility and nervousness about how she can accomplish what she needs to. Her story throughout the novel really intrigued me as it begun to unravel and although I guessed or had my suspicions of some elements within the plot, others pulled the rug out from under my feet and were so unexpected that I would actually gasp aloud whilst reading and immediately Snapchat my friend who was reading the book at the same time as me! Some of those moments…that is what I live for in a book! Fair play Sara Holland, you kept me on my toes!

The Sorceress and the Alchemist were great plot devices and well laid out. I loved how they merged with the characters within the story and it gave the book that traditional fairy/folktale feeling. It’s got me wondering whether theirs is an old tale which inspired Holland to write Everless or whether she’s just taken two well known character tropes and devised their narratives from that. Either way, I really enjoyed the dynamic that it brought to the story.

If you love a good ending which leaves you dangling off the precipice of the White Cliffs of Dover then Everless should satisfy that need. Towards the ending, the story increasingly quickens in pace, just as the world around Jules starts to unravel yet knit together at the same time! And then…bam! In the space of a few pages, again drop-jaw moment, something happens from out of the blue and you end up shouting, “I knew it!” out loud in front of your family and doing 😱 face multiple times as the book finishes in front of your very eyes! Ok, there are unanswered questions to do with minor characters which I’m not sure will be revealed in the second book as I don’t know how they would link to the main plot. Shoving that aside, if I had enough blood-irons I could spend eons raving about what I love in this story and I only hope that I’m not waiting lightyears for the next instalment!

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

Title: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns (Rise of the Empress Book 1)
Author: Julie C. Dao
Publisher: Philomel Books
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling
Release Date: 10th October 2017
Pages: 363

Wow! Forest of a Thousand Lanterns truly swept me up into an intriguing East Asian wonderland of politics, romance, betrayal and bloodshed. An exhilarating ride of the tussle between being true to yourself and following your destiny whether for good or for evil, ‘For that is the way of the world, Guma’s voice echoed. Some are given a rope to the moon, and others claw up the sky.’


Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is the debut novel from Julie C. Dao which follows the story of beautiful village peasant Xifeng (pronounced SHE-fung) on her journey through the empire of Feng Lu. Her majestic quest consists of fulfilling her regal destiny to become the Empress of Feng Lu, bestowed upon her by a set of mysterious card readings performed by her cruel aunt Guma; there’s just one problem – the current Empress of Feng Lu is not only still alive, but she is also the descendent of an ancient line of Dragon Lords who have ruled over the empire for many years. To add to this, the Emperor has numerous concubines including the formidable Lady Sun who has already provided the Emperor with a male heir. As Xifeng traverses from village peasant to member of Empress Lihua’s Court, she must wrestle not only with her life’s prophecy as told by Guma’s cards, but the very own desires of her heart, asking herself of the lengths she will go to and the sacrifices she will make in order to achieve her destiny.


From the Great Forest with its Tengaru inhabitants and hidden glades, to the Imperial Palace with its opulent elegance, to the hidden caves and tunnels buried beneath the Palace’s compound, Dao’s fantasy empire is magically brought to life through her exquisite world building and description. The presence of mythology and destiny is intricately woven throughout the narrative and heightens the aspects of magic within the story. The characters within the novel are equally well developed. A helpful glossary at the beginning of the book gives helpful pronunciation tips and provides a useful reference to all of the roles within the story.

‘“I am the moon and the darkness around it,” Xiifeng hissed in that ancient, ageless voice. “I am the Wind and rain and the ceaseless sea. I am time itself, and yours is running out.”’
Xifeng is a strong female character who has almost two separate halves; the ambitious yet familial village girl compared to the ruthless evil spirit which lingers deep down in her soul. Whether Xifeng is an anti-hero or an anti-villain depends entirely upon the reader’s depiction of her as a character. Her thought processes and actions are well-mapped by Dao and I found myself both supporting her and then vilifying her within a matter of paragraphs! Likewise, her relationship with Wey equally has you championing their union and then backing her whenever she decides that she needs to go it alone. At the Imperial Palace, the initial relationship between Xifeng and Empress Lihua appears at odds to the relationship between Xifeng and the formidable Lady Sun. Dao strikes the balance between Xifeng’s need to make alliances simply because she wants to make friends, as well as those unions which will enable her to further her own quest to make herself the Empress.


‘“I believe our lives have already been decided, and it is our purpose to make the choices that lead us to that fate.”’ Fate and the idea of Good vs Evil are two of the main themes which are prevalent through the contrasting elements and relationships within this story. Each aspect or event has its own flipside which keeps you on your toes and turning page after page to uncover the truths of the narrative. The tenderness and nobility of the Tengaru and their Forest deeply contrasts with Guma’s prophecies, the evil spirits and the disconcerting voices within Xifeng’s head. Dao also spins a web of political plots and subplots which leave you questioning who the real villains are and whether they are hiding in plain sight or disguised from view.

‘There are no coincidences, Guma always said. Everything that happens is meant to.’ And this book was definitely meant to fall into my lap. This Evil Queen retelling certainly keeps you on your toes and for me Dao has written a superb Yin and Yang type of book. For every good thing which happens, there’s almost always something else which happens to tip the scale and flip it onto its head, and it’s usually to do with Xifeng and the decisions she makes within the story. Just like in the story, I devoured the heart and lifeblood of this superb novel! A fabulous protagonist, beautiful East Asian setting, magic, evil, destiny all lyrically spun into a rich narrative; I cannot wait for Rise of the Empress #2!

Beauty of the Wildfire

Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popović
Published: August 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books
Pages: 405IMG_6790

‘Wicked Like a Wildfire’ was beautiful both inside and out. From the moment it revealed itself from my black Fairyloot bag as part of the Otherworlds box, my hopes and expectations were sky high and for me – it did not disappoint!

The story follows two sisters, Iris and Malina, who have to hide their ancestral, ‘gleaming’ magical abilities from the other residents of their coastal Montenegrin village, Cattaro. Iris has the ability to fractalise (I think I made that word up!) flowers and turn them into intricate glassworks whereas Lina is able to read or create moods and emotions through music, epitomising the idea of mood music. When their mother is mysteriously attacked and disappears, the two sisters must work together to discover the truth behind their powers and heritage along with the strange curse which haunts their family line.

Familial relationships are at the heart and soul of this book. Whilst I don’t have any sisters to relate Iris and Lina’s bond to, Popović did a brilliant job of conveying the deep meaning of sisterhood between different generations of characters within the book. This makes the lengths and sacrifices characters must face all the more believable. One relationship which did resonate with me was the one between Iris and her mother. Now whilst I wasn’t quite following the traits of Iris in my teenage years, the friction between the pair definitely brought about a sense of nostalgia for my own relationship with my mother. The battle between trying to be yourself yet match up to another’s expectation brought back quite a lot of feelings from my own childhood and instantly allowed me to connect with Iris.

Other relationships in the book are equally well developed and explored. The romance is not overdone or overshadowing of the main plot whilst still allowing the characters to move forward within the story. The diverse sexualities of characters are written with a subtle innocence which enables the sisters to be honest and true to themselves as well as giving them the courage to stand up for what they believe in and desire most.
One warning – keep a track of the names of the characters. Without giving any spoilers away, the character names are used as a brilliant plot device within the novel and I did have to make a conscious effort to try and keep up with which one was which!

To say this book is a feast for all the senses is a bit of an understatement. Now Wicked Like a Wildfire does have a kind of marmite feeling about it; if you absolutely devour description and world building then you should be enchanted by what Popović has written. The themes of magic and beauty which run throughout this whole narrative are enriched by the pure levels of sensory description which leap off every page. From every sight, to every taste, to every smell, Lana’s world really does come alive in your mind and completely encompassed me, so much so that I felt like I was there with them on their journey. Although set in the modern day, I imagine Iris and Malina’s world as something out of a pre-Raphaelite painting. The symbolism and descriptions from when they ‘eat the moon’ or gleam their magic is so kaleidoscopic and detailed that it becomes emblazoned in the back of your mind and the lightness of it drastically balances out the evil and darkness coming from the curse and villainous elements of the story.

I was thrilled when I found out that Cattaro is actually a real-life place and is known as Kotor in Montenegro. When reading books set in actual places I often Google some of the main landmarks and the setting, just to get a better picture of the character’s world. Appealing to my love of history and architecture, Popović has given stunning representations of locations such as the old town of Kotor as well as the religious buildings Our Lady of the Rocks and the Abbey of St. George on islets near Perast. Before reading Wicked Like a Wildfire, Montenegro was not really a place where I felt compelled to visit, however after Popović has so expertly brought the place to life on the page it has definitely been added to my travel bucket list.

Yes, the pace and detailed, descriptive nature of this book may not suit every reader, but there are many many things which I love about this story and the way it all comes together. I enjoyed the pace and the length of time spent building this magical world and the deep relationships between the characters; I enjoyed that I could explore the historical Montenegrin settings through the experiences of Malina and Iris, and writing which made it pop right off the page; I enjoyed the aspects of magic and the way it was intrinsically linked with beauty and nature; I enjoyed the fairytale-like qualities of the story and the elements of Balkan folklore which become prevalent towards the end; I enjoy that I have questions which are left unanswered at the end, but moreover, above anything else, I adored the sense of escape and wonder that this book allowed me to feel.

Roll on Fierce Like a Firestorm. If it’s anywhere near as good as Wicked Like a Wildfire, then I’m sure it will be one compelling ride!

Wicked Wicked to the core…

A Daughter of the Burning City review

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody
Published by Harlequin Teen
Hardcover edition, 384 pages

This book was featured in the July Tricksters box from Fairyloot and is the debut novel from Amanda Foody.


My July Fairyloot Tricksters unboxing

I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, however the look of a book is often one of the first things I’m drawn to whilst browsing a shelf or a webpage. The cover of DOTBC did not disappoint! I like the smoky, burning effects on the title lettering and the purple hues which provide a palette backdrop for the city and descriptions within the novel, from the setting of Gomorrah to the clothing and foods that feature throughout. Additionally, the pearlescent paper of the dust-jacket adds that little bit of extra shimmer to the overall presentation of the book.

The Plot
The story follows 16-year-old Sorina who is the adopted daughter of the festival proprietor. She has spent most of her life living in the travelling carnival city of Gomorrah which identifies itself with debauchery, magic, sin and burning desires. Sorina has a rare talent for creating illusions which come to life and with these characters she runs a Freak Show which horrifies and astounds visitors and guests. Although she has physically has no eyes, her magic enables her to see and it is through Sorina’s viewpoint that the story is told. Sorina’s world gets sent into turmoil when her (real-but-make-believe) illusions, which supposedly cannot die, start being murdered. As the city of Gomorrah itself begins to unravel when it visits new cities and finds itself unwelcome, Sorina must balance her investigation into tracking down the murderer of her family members with the lessons she needs to learn about proprietorship of the city and the political battles occurring in the world outside Gomorrah’s gates.

Foody’s world is truly like no other. From the outset of this book, you are told that Gomorrah is a dark place, it is ‘wicked, wicked to the core’ and the likening of the city to the biblical place of Gomorrah intrigued me and added to the visualisation of the city in my mind. But it is here that I reach my first ‘want’ that the book did not provide – I am a sucker for maps! Gomorrah travels around different cities in the Up-Mountains. Gomorrah itself has different locational parts to it: The Menagerie, Uphill, Downhill, Skull Gates, the Skull Market; there are so many parts to this world that I could not fully get invested into because I kept wanting to flip to a map which was not there. Perhaps I’ve been spoilt by maps in ACOTAR, TOG, Caraval and Roar; perhaps having one would have helped me to build the city of burning desires and the world it exists in inside my mind a little more…What I did like was the blueprint images of the illusions and the scrawling annotations from the killer etched over them. I struggled with the concept of the illusions being corporeal beings and the images really helped me to see them as living characters within the plot of the novel.

I would love to be able to say that I sussed out who the killer was fromthe very beginning, but I didn’t. I think I just went down the route of assuming that everybody was the killer! I started to guess what might be happening at Chapter 8, then as the story progressed and little hints and clues were divulged there became two suspects in my head of who the killer could be. The suspense really kept me going until the end and all was finally revealed.

As strange as this sounds, I’m not sure if it was the tense of the book that prevented me from becoming compulsively gripped or then again it may just have been Sorina’s voice. There seemed to be lots of elements to the story where I would have welcomed a little more depth. I kept wanting more knowledge about the Trade Wars andthe different cities that Gomorrah visited. The gimmick of the Lucky Coins was brilliant and I’d have loved more background into the former proprietors of the city whose faces adorned the coins.

Daughter of the Burning City is no carnival fairytale and would be perfect for those who like their fantasy a little more on the dark side. The unique characteristics of the illusions and the way they are interspersed with the characters was truly different to any other circus/carnival-esque tale I have read. The killer’s identity kept me clinging on until the end.  The strangnesses and peculiarities through Foody’s narrative left me craving for more descriptions and details of the world she had made. Although the plot of the story is resolved, I hope that Foody revisits her worldin the near future, until then I’m off to find some liquorice cherries to munch on!

Have you read DOTBC? I’d love to know your thoughts and discuss your ideas!









Into the breach…

After months of milling about and being indecisive I have finally bitten the bullet and started my own blog! Of course, with the school term starting again tomorrow this will probably end up being my first, last and only post…but as this blog is now a live reality who knows, it may be all the incentive I need to keep it going. Being the Instagram addict that I am, I noticed that quite a lot of bookstagrammers have blogs where they share their reading and book reviews. I guess I just wanted to jump on that bandwagon and share my reading too!

So, a little more about myself –
I’m a primary school teacher now into my 7th year of teaching, I honestly do not know where all those years have gone. My new class will be Year 4s (8-9 year olds) and I was told that the boys are already excited as they know about my massive love for Harry Potter. Proud Ravenclaw, always, and I still miss the very first Pottermore where you could explore the scenes, collect items and brew potions. Anyone else miss that too?

Clearly from the title of the blog, I’m a self-confessed reading addict. One of several inspirational teachers during secondary school told me that you should never go anywhere without a book in your bag. Ever since, I’ve always been known to cart something around with me amongst the other detritus in my handbag whether it be a slim Raymond Carver anthology or the weighty tome Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Hopefully, if the blog manages to stay alive, I’ll be able to share my reading experiences with you.
I will read pretty much anything I can get my hands on but my favourite genres would probably include Fantasy, Mystery, Thriller, Crime and I’m a sucker for a good conspiracy theory! I’m a monthly subscriber to the FairyLoot box. Roald Dahl and JK Rowling were my childhood heroes; Sarah J Maas is filling the void that the end of Harry Potter left behind (although I still have not read Empire of Storms!).

Other than teaching and reading –
I am a Club Member of the Shed at Gloucester Rugby. For such a small person, people are often surprised at how loudly I yell and cheer at the side of the pitch!
With the home of jumps racing on my doorstep it’s no surprise that I love my horse racing and am part of the Martin Keighley Racing Club which is so much fun and it’s great to be involved with such a friendly and welcoming stable.
Finally, I help to organise a Film Club within the Cheltenham area. We definitely make the most out of our Cineworld cards (although mine is now slightly mangled and broken as I had to use it to pry open my petrol cap the other day!) and will often see films at least once or twice per week.

I think that’s enough about me for now. Hopefully this blog will continue to be a mixture of posts about books, teaching, rugby, horses and films! Wishing all fellow teachers luck with the start of term tomorrow.

My first foray into the blogosphere is complete!