My very first blog post on this site was a negative one, and I like to think that I’m not a very negative person *all the time*, so for my second one I wanted to do something nice. See below for Ava being nice.
We’ll start with #1: Kiersten White
Kiersten White is not a book, she is, in fact, a person:
A super sweet human being, if I do say so myself (I am a huge fan of her books, and have met her several times, so I may or may not be ~slightly biased~).
The first Kiersten White book I ever read was And I Darken, which may have one of the most beautiful covers I’ve ever seen in my entire reading career. All three of these books have stunningly gorgeous covers, and I would’ve read them for cover lust alone had the description not been so juicy:
Seriously, how beautiful are those????? Answer: SO beautiful.
The inside of them, however? Even better. This trilogy follows two siblings, Lada and Radu Dracul. The series is historical fiction (no magic here, folks, but you’ll absolutely find a dragon in Lada, especially considering her last name is ‘dragon’). Lada is actually a gender-bent version of Vlad the Impaler, a ruler of Wallachia who was so cruel that he actually inspired the Count Dracula myth…but in And I Darken, this he becomes a she.
It was so refreshing to read a female character be unapologetically blood-thirsty and stay that way! There is clear character development for Lada in this series, but throughout the entirety of it, she stays true to her vicious roots (not without reason), which isn’t something you see often. Typically, we get subjected to a female character who suddenly finds The Dude Of Their Lives and rejects what made her so cruel in the first place. Naw.
Additionally, we are treated to the refined, sweet-heart-with-a-mind-like-a-steel-trap, Radu! Radu was historically known as Radu the Handsome, and I found myself absolutely loving his perspective; his love for his sister wars constantly with his desire to survive, and their relationship was easily one of the best pieces of this series. Additionally: sweet Radu is in love with a man, which just proves the idea that “when writing a historic book you can’t have gay people because they were prosecuted so it doesn’t make sense” is TOTAL NONSENSE. White stays true to the (abysmal) truth of the time, which was that homosexuality was a no-no; but the love between Radu and his husband is the purest, loveliest part of this series.
So three cheers for blood-thirsty women and handsome, smarty pants boyos.
Another book by Kiersten that I read this year and enjoyed immensely was one of her earlier stand-alones, The Chaos of Stars. The book follows the daughter of Egyptian gods Osiris and Isis, Isadora, as she struggles to separate herself from her ~super whacked~ family by going to live with her adult brother in California. There was a super fun blend of mythology within this book (the Egyptians weren’t the only people with polytheistic beliefs, after all), as well as the classic “finding yourself” arc and an absolutely adorable romance. Not to mention, would you look at that cover. I want to taste that cover; if that cover were music, it would be the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard. *Happy sigh* Anyway, this was the book that really made me fall in love with Kiersten’s writing. She’s so adaptive, can create so many different voices, and each time I read one of her books, I feel like I’m reading something from a totally different author. Nothing about her work feels recycled or old, which is why I would recommend any of her works to absolutely any reader (although The Chaos of Stars and And I Darken do remain my favorites). Also, if you’ve ever seen a certain beautiful quote roaming around, know that Kiersten wrote it! See below, and if you recognize it, high five to you!
The second book I believe to be super underrated is Seafire, by Natalie C. Parker.
This book is here to assuage anyone’s desires for girl pirates, an unbreakable sisterhood bond, and a skeezy villain that you can’t help but love-to-hate. Seafire really scratched an itch that I didn’t even know I had. Historically, books have often pitted girls against each other. Sisters are rivals, and girls within the same social circles become bitter enemies, rather than a team that could challenge the stars. I’m getting rather tired of that. Seafire fell into no such trap: the entire crew of the Mors Navis is made up of girls who have walked through hell with and for each other. They argue, but never in a devastating manner, and their willingness to sacrifice everything for each other was beautiful. Amidst a beautiful, engaging world with imagery that practically lets you feel ocean running over your toes, Seafire is definitely a book that should be added to everyone’s TBR.
The final book that I find completely underrated is Claire Legrand’s Furyborn.
The title alone gives me chills.
Everything about this book screams (upper) YA fantasy; there are dark angels, emperors, ancient journal entries, a wicked magic system, two badass girls for narrators (one is a queen, the other a bounty hunter of sorts), swoon worthy male characters, and luscious world-building and prose. Furyborn hit the bestseller list, but despite that, I haven’t seen much hype for this book. And that makes me sadder than you could imagine. This is just the kind of epic fantasy that you need to get your hands on when looking for a cure from any *cough* Throne of Glass hangovers you may be experiencing. Why? Because it’s bound to be your next obsession. I can’t emphasize enough the way this book made me feel; I laughed, I cried, I scratched my head, I screamed, I cried some more. The plot itself is completely badass and told from the perspectives of our amazing leading ladies, Rielle and Eliana. What’s so interesting about them, you might ask? They’re experiencing different timelines. Rielle’s POV comes 1000 years before Eliana’s, and Legrand manages to stitch together the connections between their lives without spoiling the whole thing, which is an incredible feat in itself. Furyborn is everything you’re looking for in an epic YA fantasy, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has a thing for battle, queens, and romance!