Daughter of Darkness by Katherine and Elizabeth Corr – A Review by Bryony

Rating: 4 stars

Release date: 04/08/2022

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Author: Katherine and Elizabeth Corr

CW: Death, death of a friend (on page), ritual sacrifice, ritualistic use of dead bodies, ritualistic use of blood

The Underworld awaits…

Deina is trapped. As one of the Soul Severers serving the god Hades on earth, her future is tied to the task of shepherding the dying on from the mortal world – unless she can earn or steal enough to buy her way out.

Then the tyrant ruler Orpheus offers both fortune and freedom to whoever can retrieve his dead wife, Eurydice, from the Underworld. Deina jumps at the chance. But to win, she must enter an uneasy alliance with a group of fellow Severers she neither likes nor trusts.

So begins their perilous journey into the realm of Hades… The prize of freedom is before her – but what will it take to reach it?

Orpheus and Eurydice was a Greek myth I’d not heard of until the start of last year, but was one I quickly came intrigued by. Katherine and Elizabeth Corr took this myth in a really interesting direction, interpreting the myth in a really fun and unusual way.

I loved the world building in this. The Ancient Greek world combined with a Bronze Age one made for a really interesting setting, placing the ancient Gods and Goddesses in a different context. I enjoyed traveling through Greece as well as the Underworld, seeing how the legends manifested in this story.

I liked the inclusion of different groups of kind of acolytes/kind of followers for the Gods. They were given a sliver of their power to help with their duties and represent them on Earth. It kind of made the Gods seem more detached.

Deina was a great main character. She was smart and determined and she intensely believed in what she wanted. She also really loved her friends, and grew to love – or at least be loyal – those she didn’t initially like.

There was a great found family in this. A hatred and competitiveness turned into grudging admiration and teamwork. They came to trust each other as they learnt the strengths and weaknesses of those around them.

I did not expect some of the twists and reveals towards the end, so I think it’ll make for a really interesting sequel. I look forward to seeing how Deina continues to grow and what will happen next.

Her Majesty’s Royal Coven by Juno Dawson – A Review by Bryony

“If you look hard enough at old photographs, we’re there in the background: healers in the trenches; Suffragettes; Bletchley Park oracles; land girls and resistance fighters.”

Rating: 5 stars

Release date: 21/07/2022

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Author: Juno Dawson

TW: Transphobia, misgendering, racism, violence, injury, attempted murder, death, kidnapping, war, car accident, animal sacrifice, death of grandparent, death of parent, abusive relationship (hinted at, remembered)

Rep: Transgender SC, Black lesbian MC

Hidden among us is a secret coven of witches. They are Her Majesty’s Royal Coven. They protect crown and country from magical forces and otherworldly evil. But their greatest enemy will come from within.

There are whisperings of a prophecy that will bring the coven to its knees, and five best friends are about to be caught at the centre. Life as a modern witch was never simple… but now it’s about to get apocalyptic.

Prepare to be bewitched by Juno Dawson’s first adult series. A story of ancient prophecies and modern dating, of sacred sisterhood and demonic frenemies.

Her Majesty’s Royal Coven was a highly anticipated read for me. Written by Juno Dawson (who, admittedly, I have only read one book from before but I absolutely loved said book) about feminist witches, featuring LGBTQ+ characters, it was a combination I was confident in. Plus the audiobook is narrated by Nicola Coughlan (Derry Girls, Bridgerton).

I really enjoyed the book. It was easy to read, even whilst covering difficult issues (like transphobia and white privilege). Witches were scattered into the everyday, and it was fast paced so I wanted to keep reading.

The characters were such a huge aspect of the book, and I think they were really well developed. Each had a sense of identity and motivations, although there was certainly a sense of kinship and sisterhood between the women in this – a shared history and shared love (The Spice Girls).

I enjoyed that the narrators were (often) mothers, but that that didn’t define them. They loved fiercely, both those they already knew and those they came to know during the course of the book. Motherhood simply added another layer to their character.

I loved how Leonie was there to point out other flaws in HMRC. She challenged accepted cis white norms. It was realistic for her to have created her own alternate coven.

I liked that there was almost a sense of the mundane to the witchiness. Yes they are witches, but witches that have already fought a war, that are ready to move on. They live a normal life that being a witch is simply a part. It was enjoyable to see the characters teaching magic they already knew, and I liked how magic linked into science to make it feel more realistic.

Niamh and Theo’s relationship was amazing. I loved it so much. A queer child/parent relationship like this, I imagine, would be really comforting, so it was lovely to read it in this book. Niamh didn’t immediately get it right, but she tried *so* hard and she supported Theo as she made her own decisions. The topic is an uncomfortably still persistent issue, but I really enjoyed characters arguing with TERFs in a book about (young) witches.

The end threw a couple of big surprises in the air, so I’m really looking forward to reading another book in this series – I’m not sure how the book will be able to carry on from the end!

These Twisted Bonds by Lexi Ryan – A Review by Bryony

“I know what it’s like to be an orphan, and I know what it’s like to have your choices stolen from you by those who have so much power they can’t see anything beyond their greed for more.”

Rating: 5 stars

Release date: 19/07/2022

Publisher: Hodderscape

Author: Lexi Ryan

My night. My darkness. My power.

The thrilling conclusion to These Hollow Vows from New York Times bestselling author Lexi Ryan.

After Abriella’s sister was sold to the fae, she thought life couldn’t get any worse. But when she suddenly finds herself caught in a web of lies of her own making ­- loving two princes and trusting neither – things are not quite as clear as she once thought.

As civil war wages in the Court of Darkness, Brie finds herself unable to choose a side. How can she know where she stands when she doesn’t even know herself anymore? In this darkly romantic thrill ride, the more Faerie is torn apart from the inside, the clearer it becomes that prophecies don’t lie and Brie has a role to play in the fate of this magical realm – whether she likes it or not.

I really loved this sequel to These Hollow Vows. I fell into the world with the characters and I couldn’t put the book down.

In this book, we got to explore more of the Fae lands – both the parts we heard about in the first book and ones even the characters don’t know about. It allowed the reader to learn more about the history and the legends of the world, and the consequence they’ve had on everything else. We also got to witness ceremonies and traditions, which helped build a larger picture of this world.

I enjoyed the characters in this, both returning and new. They helped Brie find her place in this new world, and let her understand everything that had happened. I think Misha was a really fun new character, you could quickly tell how important he was to Brie.

I felt like the relationships in this are as important as the plot. It felt vital to explore both sides of the love triangle as both characters have come to be important to Brie, it wouldn’t have been right if she’d not had the chance to explore and resolve everything that she was feeling – it was complicated! I was pleased with how it was resolved, but also could feel the heartache throughout before it was.

The plot was constant, but I’m not sure it was high-stakes. There was always a sense of urgency and I always wanted to keep reading, but I think it was only at the end that I got particularly stressed – I didn’t expect to still be fretting about the book so close to the end. There were a lot of driving events and a lot of travelling to resolve problems, and there was an overall issue that needed to be resolved.

This was a great conclusion to the series and I’m sad that it’s now finished.

Her Dark Wings by Melinda Salisbury – A Review by Bryony

“I know, as clearly as if Cassandra herself had delivered the prophecy, that what Bree and Ali did to me won’t matter to anyone any more… She’ll always be young and beautiful and dead too soon, and that will eclipse everything. Every shitty thing she did and said, wiped away.”

Rating: 4 stars

Release date: 07/07/2022

Publisher: David Fickling Books

Author: Melinda Salisbury

CW: Death of friend, drowning, grief, cheating

HER DARK WINGS is a potent, passionate modern-day take on the Persephone myth.

On an island, near the entrance to the Underworld… Corey and Bree’s friendship has always been unbreakable. Or so Corey thought, until Bree betrays her in the worst way possible, and then Bree’s sudden death leaves Corey heartbroken and furious. But the Underworld calls to Corey too: enraptured by the passionate Furies, she is taken to the realm of a god who is unyielding, cold and irritatingly arrogant. It will change her, because the more she learns about herself, the more Corey’s own power stirs. But can she resist her darkness within?

I really enjoyed reading Her Dark Wings. It carefully blended Greek mythology into the everyday, and I liked a Hades and Persephone retelling that didn’t focus on the romance.

I thought the setting in this was great. I felt like you could never quite get a grasp on when it was set, and I liked that it combined modernity with a world in which people still celebrated the Greek Gods. It gave the setting a sense of timelessness and charm. But the island also felt claustrophobic, everyone knowing everyone’s business.

I really liked how the Greek gods were included, how they were just there and it wasn’t really a surprise. I liked seeing how Corey interacted with them, particularly Hermes and the Furies as it allowed them to flesh out into real characters.

This books explores a young person’s grief carefully, especially when paired with anger – yet it was always easy to read. Corey has to navigate two huge events in her life at once, so I like that the book really puts the emphasis on allowing her to work through her emotions. Corey and Bree are both really detailed characters, whose lives are unmistakably twisted. You could see their friendship stretching out behind them and there’s almost a void where it doesn’t stretch out any more.

I think it was amazing that this book explored friendships more than romances. With it being YA, I liked that it placed the emphasis on the former. Corey was allowed to grow by herself, both in the usual teenage way but also the Persephone-garden-goddess kind of way, with the support of the important people around her. It also made her decisions re the Underworld seem more consensual than the usual myth retellings.

The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi – A Review by Bryony

“She was not born to sparkle. She was born to burn.”

Rating: 5 stars

Release date: 23/05/2022

Publisher: Harper Voyager UK

Author: Saara El-Arifi

CW: Blood, death, poverty, torture, addiction, drug abuse, violence, emotional abuse

Rep: Queernorm society, F/F romance, non-binary/transgender SCs

The Empire rules by blood

Red is the blood of the elite, of magic, of control.

Blue is the blood of the poor, of workers, of the resistance.

Clear is the blood of the servants, of the crushed, of the invisible.

The Aktibar – a set of trials held every ten years to find the next Ember rulers of the Empire – is about to begin.

All can join but not just anyone can win; it requires great skill and ingenuity to become the future wardens of Strength, Knowledge, Truth and Duty.

Sylah was destined to win the trials and be crowned Warden of Strength. Stolen by blue-blooded rebels she was raised with a Duster’s heart; forged as a weapon to bring down from within the red-blooded Embers’ regime of cruelty. But when her adopted family were brutally murdered those dreams of a better future turned to dust.

However, the flame of hope may yet be rekindled because Sylah wasn’t made to sparkle, she was born to burn.

And it’s up to her whether she rules the empire or destroys it.

The Final Strife is an epic fantasy, full of rich world building and intricate characters. I fell in love from the first page (I’ve been in an ebook slump for a while, so the fact that I didn’t want to put it down from the start was a bonus).

I loved the world in this. The hierarchy is based on blood, when two of the main characters are trying to hide theirs. This allowed a plot in which the characters had to challenge preconceived beliefs, so they could grow and want to change the rules.

There was so much queer rep. I want to say there was X, Y and X, but it’s a queernorm society, so there are no labels. Instead, people just exist. In a world where character are already judged for the colour of their blood, it was refreshing to have characters just love who they wanted to. I did particularly like the F/F romance in this though, how the characters had time to develop their feelings, but also how this relationship was contrasted with another.

Although there was a romance in this, just as important were the friendships. It also really explored family – what’s made, what’s given, and what’s forced.

For a book with such a high-stakes plot, the characters were super important. There were three women at the heart of this and I loved each of them. They showed strength in their own ways and taught each other too. I liked that there were women who were smart with swords, smart with politics and smart with rebellion.

I really liked the Trials in this and how they ran alongside a rebellion. The book was exciting. I liked that the Trials tested different parts of the characters and allowed us to learn more about the world too.

The end of this presented us with some new twists, so I’m excited to see how they’ll be resolved and revisited in the sequels.

The Seawomen by Chloe Timms – A Review by Bryony

“None of us have a choice. All of us do things we don’t want to do. We shut our eyes and turn our heads and pray to God; we marry and we lie under men just to live another day.”

Rating: 5 stars

Release date: 14/06/2022

Publisher: Hodder Studio

Author: Chloe Timms

CW: Drowning, death, torture, implied rape, arranged marriage, pregnancy, religion, female subjugation, disfigurement, fire, death by fire, implied homophobia (past)

Everyone on this island has a story. This is mine.

Esta has known nothing but Eden’s Isle her whole life. After a fire left her orphaned and badly scarred, Esta was raised by her grandmother in a deeply religious society who cut itself off from the mainland in the name of salvation. Here, fear rules: fear of damnation, fear of the outside world and fear of what lurks beneath the water – a corrupting evil the islanders call the Seawomen.

But Esta wants more than a life where touching the water risks corruption, where her every move is watched and women are controlled in every aspect of their lives. Married off, the women of the island must conceive a child within their appointed motheryear or be marked as cursed and cast into the sea as a sacrifice in an act called the Untethering.

When Esta witnesses a woman Untethered she sees a future to fear. Her fate awaits, a loveless marriage, her motheryear declared. And after a brief taste of freedom, the insular world Esta knows begins to unravel…

The Seawomen is a fiercely written and timely feminist novel, at once gothic, fantastical and truly unforgettable.

I adored The Seawomen. I did not realise a book about kind-of-mermaids and female rebellion was missing from my life, but I’m so glad I’ve been able to read this.

Esta was a great main character. I think you could really read the conflict she was having about her situation because she was constantly trying to be better whilst also feeling deeply uncomfortable about what was happening. She didn’t try to drag anyone into her plans. I was so glad when she had the chance to be loved after spending so long being looked at with a black mark.

I thought the setting was clever – claustrophobic, haunting, dark. The characters were surrounded by unimaginable amounts of water but stuck where they were, with the people they already had. The lack of escape really worked.

I thought the religious aspect was a really effective way of trapping the characters too, and the way it was used to justify the actions of characters was not unbelievable. Even the rarely seen threat of the seawomen worked because they were monsters that constantly seemed to escape persecution.

I really really loved this. If you love books like The Handmaid’s Tale or The Mercies, you ought to try this too.

Merchants of Knowledge and Magic by Erika McCorkle – A Review by Bryony – BLOG TOUR

“My secret would plunge the world into chaos.”

“ How much is it worth?”

Rating: 3 stars

Release date: 08/04/2022

Author: Erika McCorkle

CW: Slavery, rape, injury, death, torture, male subjugation, gender discrimination, gender dysphoria

Rep: Asexual, intersex MC, LGBTQ+ side characters

On one of the many planes of the Pentagonal Dominion, priestess Calinthe trades in information, collecting valuable secrets for her demonic employer. Calinthe has a secret of her own: she’s intersex, making her a target for the matriarchal slavers of the Ophidian Plane whose territory she must cross in her search for hidden knowledge. But thanks to her friend Zakuro’s illusions, Calinthe presents as a woman — a comfortable, if furtive, existence in a world determined to bring her to heel.

But when, instead of a mere secret, the priestess uncovers an incalculably powerful artifact, Calinthe finds herself in a high-stakes negotiation with the same matriarchs who sought to enslave her. On the table: Calinthe’s discovery, a charm powerful enough to transform a mortal into a god… against a secret so deadly it could quell all life on every plane of the dominion. If Calinthe plays her cards perfectly, she and Zakuro could escape Ophidia wealthier than either of them ever dreamed possible.

But if she plays them wrong… she’ll learn slavery in her pursuers’ hands is a fate far worse than death.

Merchants of Knowledge and Magic was an immense fantasy book. In scale similar to the likes of Lord of the Rings and The Priory of the Orange Tree, this book spans realms and countries, each with magic systems, beliefs and religions. There were gods, goddesses and demons to worship, and various species to learn about. It was a book you could tell the author had spent plenty of time poring over.

Calinthe was a really unusual character – an asexual, intersex, human-dragonfly hybrid who deals in knowledge and secrets instead of money or goods. I found her premise really interesting and I liked the relationship she had with Zakuro. I didn’t find her a particularly engaging character (I did wish she’d show more emotions towards some of the “normal” things that happened in society, and to a particular event at the end of the book) however – although that could have been on me because I struggle to picture characters and so a human-dragonfly hybrid was kind of beyond me.

Although I liked that this was a queer norm, matriarchal society, it felt like the matriarchy went too far the other way. I didn’t feel comfortable with the slavery and sexual assault (the point, I know, but still) and personally didn’t think it needed to be as explicit as it was.

I don’t think the plot was particularly high-stakes until just before the end, so I struggled to get into the story. I think, if I’d not been reading this for a blog tour, I would have been able to read it at my own pace and fall into enjoying it rather than forcing myself to get through it for a deadline. I may pick up others in this series.

Erika McCorkle, she/her, lives in the Pacific Northwest of the USA. She is a creator of fantasy worlds and a voyager to the worlds created by others. She spends much of her free time writing, reading, watching anime, and playing video games, all usually of the fantasy genre. She has a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology and currently works the night shift at a blood bank, meaning she is most definitely a vampire.

When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill – A Review by Bryony

“Dragons were a subject avoided in any context. One would sooner arrive at church in one’s underpants or discuss menstruation with the mailman or chat about sex on the radio. It simply wasn’t done.”

Rating: 3 stars

Release date: 03/05/2022

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Author: Kelly Barnhill

CW: Death of parent/parental figure, cancer, child abandonment, misogyny

Rep: Lesbian MC

In a world where girls and women are taught to be quiet, the dragons inside them are about to be set free …

In this timely and timeless speculative novel, set in 1950s America, Kelly Barnhill exposes a world that wants to keep girls and women small – and examines what happens when they rise up.

Alex Green is four years old when she first sees a dragon. In her next-door neighbour’s garden, in the spot where the old lady usually sits, is a huge dragon, an astonished expression on its face before it opens its wings and soars away across the rooftops.

And Alex doesn’t see the little old lady after that. No one mentions her. It’s as if she’s never existed.

Then Alex’s mother disappears, and reappears a week later, one quiet Tuesday, with no explanation whatsoever as to where she has been. But she is a ghostly shadow of her former self, and with scars across her body – wide, deep burns, as though she had been attacked by a monster who breathed fire.

Alex, growing from young girl to fiercely independent teenager, is desperate for answers, but doesn’t get any.

Whether anyone likes it or not, the Mass Dragoning is coming. And nothing will be the same after that. Everything is about to change, forever.

And when it does, this, too, will be unmentionable…

Perfect for fans of THE HANDMAID’S TALE, VOX, and THE POWER.

When Women Were Dragons was a really fun twist on a serious subject. By using dragons in place of subjects best not to be discussed (ie. menstruation), the reader could see the ridiculousness of ignoring something that was (literally) a huge part of society. It completely neglected women’s lives because men were a little uncomfortable.

I loved that Alex was so interested in mathematics and science, whilst still being a family figure. Her relationship with Beatrice was heartfelt and I could really see her desperately trying to keep them together – I loved their bond of best friends, sisters, and more.

I think, given Alex’s interest in science, I was a little surprised there was less science to the book. The story is told as a combination of narrative and research papers, but the research is still very narrative. There was scope for scientific explanations and diagrams, but we didn’t get it. I understand that, as a society, they did not know everything about dragons yet, but I still feel like the opportunity was there and it wasn’t taken.

There was a really interesting point that transgender women could become dragons too, so it wasn’t just a biological phenomenon. It would have been really interesting to have explored this more.

Although I enjoyed this story and the moral it tried to share, I don’t think the story was particularly riveting. Nothing much happened to move the pace along.

Sistersong by Lucy Holland – A Review by Bryony – BLOG TOUR

Rating: 5 stars

Release date: 28/04/2022

Publisher: Tor Books UK

Author: Lucy Holland

CW: Invasion, death, death of family, injury, ritualistic dead body preparations, gender dysphoria, transphobia

Rep: Transgender MC

In a magical ancient Britain, bards sing a story of treachery, love and death. This is that story. For fans of Madeline Miller’s Circe, Lucy Holland’s Sistersong retells the folk ballad ‘The Twa Sisters.’

King Cador’s children inherit a land abandoned by the Romans, torn by warring tribes. Riva can cure others, but can’t heal her own scars. Keyne battles to be seen as the king’s son, although born a daughter. And Sinne dreams of love, longing for adventure.

All three fear a life of confinement within the walls of the hold, their people’s last bastion of strength against the invading Saxons. However, change comes on the day ash falls from the sky – bringing Myrdhin, meddler and magician. The siblings discover the power that lies within them and the land. But fate also brings Tristan, a warrior whose secrets will tear them apart.

Riva, Keyne and Sinne become entangled in a web of treachery and heartbreak, and must fight to forge their own paths. It’s a story that will shape the destiny of Britain.

Sistersong is a powerfully moving story, perfect for readers who loved Naomi Novik’s Uprooted and Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale.

Folklore retellings are one of my favourite sub-genres of fantasy, so I was optimistic for Sistersong. Before I knew it, I had fallen in love with this story.

Sistersong retells the folk ballad ‘The Twa Sisters’. I am not familiar with British folklore but loved how this story weaved together folklore into history, just as the characters weaved magic into the everyday, making it impossible to draw the two apart with causing a rip.

I really enjoyed seeing a country where the “old gods” were beginning to be lost to the new Christian one and how that affected day-to-day life – how it wasn’t as simple as switching from many to one, how there was conflict and consequences. I also found mention of the Roman and Saxon conquests really interesting as it managed to ground the story in history, making it even trickier to separate fantasy from reality. It also made the end of the book very fast-paced.

I adored the characters in this. They are imperfect, complicated and sometimes selfish. Our three narrators begin the tale as three sisters, unable to effect change. By the end, their impact and voices have grown, influencing the path the story took. It was so interesting to see them view themselves as powerless, so they came to appreciate their own worth. I especially liked how Keyne explored his gender and fought for it even when others disagreed – and how he fought for his land when everyone saw him still as only a girl. This story was about family and love, how those relationships are tested and challenged, and whether they can recover.

The magic in this felt ancient, almost creepy. Magic that drew from and affected the land. But I also liked the “little magic” too, the stories to sing a baby to sleep or to just wish for a sunny day. No one character was given all the power – all that believed in it could use it to varying degrees.

Sistersong is a haunting tale, lyrical in its narrative, and almost as dark and sad as classic folktales. I’m so glad I picked this up and I cannot wait to reread it!

Elektra by Jennifer Saint – A Review by Bryony

“If only I’d had the good fortune to be born a son, rather than a daughter.”

Rating: 4 stars

Release date: 28/04/2022

Publisher: Headline/Wildfire Books

Author: Jennifer Saint

CW: Death, death of a daughter, murder, murder of a parent, rape

The House of Atreus is cursed. A bloodline tainted by a generational cycle of violence and vengeance. This is the story of three women, their fates inextricably tied to this curse, and the fickle nature of men and gods.


The sister of Helen, wife of Agamemnon – her hopes of averting the curse are dashed when her sister is taken to Troy by the feckless Paris. Her husband raises a great army against them and determines to win, whatever the cost.


Princess of Troy, and cursed by Apollo to see the future but never to be believed when she speaks of it. She is powerless in her knowledge that the city will fall.


The youngest daughter of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, Elektra is horrified by the bloodletting of her kin. But can she escape the curse, or is her own destiny also bound by violence?

Jennifer Saint managed to, once again, beautifully capture the voices of Greek myth heroines, who have been denied the chance to tell their story before.

Elektra, the book’s namesake, is angry. She wants justice for her father and she doesn’t care who gets in the way. It’s difficult to know if she’s a sympathetic character, but she’s definitely determined.

Clymenestra: She is also angry. She seeks revenge for her daughter. But she also remembers her sister, Helen, and struggles to match the woman Greece’s army is fighting to return with the sister she loved dearly.

Cassandra is forced to live her whole life forgotten, mocked, ignored. Cursed by Apollo to tell the truth and have no one believe her, she’s forced to watch the future without the ability to prevent it.

The three narrators had unique voices and motivations, meaning they were easy to tell apart. I was really drawn into each of their stories and did not want to put the book down, especially as it was so easy to read.

The three women were also a really effective way of exploring a war from different angles – they experienced the war as a daughter waiting for a father to return, a wife left to run her husband’s estate, and a princess/priestess trapped in a war-torn city. I really enjoyed the different perspectives they offered. I think there are certain, male-centred parts of this book that are better known (i.e. Clymenestra’s rage at Agamemnon), so it was interesting to see them told from the women this time. It allowed us more opportunity to evaluate the reasons and ask whether we’d do the same.