Angel Mage by Garth Nix Blog Tour

Title: Angel Mage
Author: Garth Nix
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara.

A seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, summoning angels and forcing them to do her bidding.

Liliath knew that most of the inhabitants of Ystara died from the Ash Blood plague or were transformed into beastlings, and she herself led the survivors who fled into neighboring Sarance. Now she learns that angels shun the Ystaran’s descendants. If they are touched by angelic magic, their blood will turn to ash. They are known as Refusers, and can only live the most lowly lives.

But Liliath cares nothing for the descendants of her people, save how they can serve her. It is four young Sarancians who hold her interest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer cadet; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic. They are the key to her quest.

The four feel a strange kinship from the moment they meet, but do not know why, or suspect their importance. All become pawns in Liliath’s grand scheme to fulfill her destiny and be united with the love of her life. No matter the cost to everyone else

As a child who grew up reading Harry Potter, I was really into magical worlds, which I carried on until now. One of the books I’ve read was Sabriel by Garth Nix and I remember thoroughly enjoying the first 3 books in the Old Kingdom series, so when the opportunity came to be able to join a Garth Nix blog tour, I signed up right away and I have no regrets!

Garth Nix is so well-versed with world building in fantasy novels and he did not disappoint in Angel Mage. The book had a medieval vibe to it that went perfectly with the theme of the book, mages and angels. And even with the medieval setting, Nix’s world was very gender-equal, you mostly see women in the seat of power, a very racially diverse and colorful cast, which I absolutely loved. Props to Garth Nix for such a great setting and a vivid world setting that I could see scenes playing out in my head due to the details in his writing.

Another aspect of Angel Mage that I absolutely loved is the unique magic system. Selected people – also known as Mages – have affinity towards Angels and can make icons to call on to them. But there are also people who can be trained in the art and can call on to these angels for whatever they need, but at a cost for the summoner. Aside from the magic, the religion also heavily relies on this system. One would think that the Angel theme for this book would be somewhat like the famous Angel books a couple of years back, but the Angels here were used in such a unique aspect and very original.

My favorite part about this book is the characters. Lilath’s character was so rich and interesting. I love a good villain, and Lilath’s determination, craftiness and will-power had such a good progression, I was so captivated with her journey. At the same time, I absolutely fell in love with the four main characters – Simeon, Henri, Agnez, and Dorotea. The moment they all met, the fun started. I enjoyed all the funny interactions and conversation, and their journey was also very exhilarating to see. I also loved seeing their individuality, their personal ambitions and wants and motivations. They were very much like the Three Musketeers!

Although this a very information heavy book, I can understand how it’s not for everyone. There were times when the pace was very slow but if you’re willing to overlook this, then I highly suggest that you pick up Angel Mage. Personally, it reminds me of Mistborn or The Gilded Wolves, where there’s a crew or a group of friends out on a quest. If you enjoy these kinds of books, then you will enjoy this.

Special thanks to Jana of The Fantastic Flying Book Club, Katherine Tegen Books, and Garth Nix for a chance to be a part of the blog tour. Check out the full schedule on this blog post!

Grab your own copy of Angel Mage:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

creative content

Personally, I love listening to music while reading hence, here’s a playlist I made while I was reading Angel Mage!

favorite quotes

“He had found his place in the world, he felt, and the slant of his progress through life would now surely be ever upward.”

Angel Mage, Garth Nix

“You are my sister, my brothers. And always Musketeers, whether you will or not.”

Angel Mage, Garth Nix

“You know the old saying ‘What you don’t see doesn’t exist’?”
“No,” said the others.
“That doesn’t even make sense”

Angel Mage, Garth Nix

“You are my strange siblings, who I never thought to have, and value most highly.”

Angel Mage, Garth Nix

“The Maid of Ellanda had returned to Ystara, and soon all would be well.”

Angel Mage, Garth Nix

author information

Garth Nix has been a full-time writer since 2001, but has also worked as a literary agent, marketing consultant, book editor, book publicist, book sales representative, bookseller, and as a part-time soldier in the Australian Army Reserve.

Garth’s books include the Old Kingdom fantasy series, comprising Sabriel, Lirael; Abhorsen; Clariel and Goldenhand; SF novels Shade’s Children and A Confusion of Princes; and a Regency romance with magic, Newt’s Emerald. His novels for children include The Ragwitch; the six books of The Seventh Tower sequence; The Keys to the Kingdom series and others. He has co-written several books with Sean Williams, including the Troubletwisters series; Spirit Animals Book Three: Blood Ties; Have Sword, Will Travel; and the forthcoming sequel Let Sleeping Dragons Lie. A contributor to many anthologies and magazines, Garth’s selected short fiction has been collected in Across the Wall and To Hold the Bridge.

More than five million copies of his books have been sold around the world, they have appeared on the bestseller lists of The New York Times, Publishers Weekly and USA Today and his work has been translated into 42 languages. His most recent book is Frogkisser! now being developed as a film by Twentieth Century Fox/Blue Sky Animation.

Author Links:

Website | Facebook | Twitter

The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco Blog Tour

Title: The Never Tilting World
Author: Rin Chupeco
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication date: 15 October 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

Frozen meets Mad Max in this epic teen fantasy duology bursting with star-crossed romance, immortal heroines, and elemental magic, perfect for fans of Furyborn.

Generations of twin goddesses have long ruled Aeon. But seventeen years ago, one sister’s betrayal defied an ancient prophecy and split their world in two. The planet ceased to spin, and a Great Abyss now divides two realms: one cloaked in perpetual night, the other scorched by an unrelenting sun.

While one sister rules Aranth—a frozen city surrounded by a storm-wracked sea —her twin inhabits the sand-locked Golden City. Each goddess has raised a daughter, and each keeps her own secrets about her sister’s betrayal.

But when shadowy forces begin to call their daughters, Odessa and Haidee, back to the site of the Breaking, the two young goddesses —along with a powerful healer from Aranth, and a mouthy desert scavenger —set out on separate journeys across treacherous wastelands, desperate to heal their broken world. No matter the sacrifice it demands.

A demoness is what men call a goddess they cannot control.

Rin Chupeco, The Never Tilting World

First, let me just say I’ve been looking forward to reading The Bone Witch by Rin, but I had wanted to wait for the final book to come out before I started. I have been ecstatic to start reading Rin’s works because my friends have mentioned how great her world building and characters are. Lo and behold, some weeks ago, I was selected to be part of The Never Tilting World blog tour, and had the chance to meet Rin Chupeco herself during a book signing event in our local bookstore, Fully Booked. And there, I received my arc copy because Shealea also went for the signing.

I had the pleasure of meeting Rin Chupeco and listen to her talk about how she was a Filipina, who lives in Manila, but is internationally published. How the dream of being an internationally recognized writer is possible, without being in a foreign country. It was very uplifting and admirable. Here was a Filipina woman writer who made a name for herself in the international stage. So, I am so honored to be part of this blog tour.

Harper Teen suggested that this book is Frozen meets Mad Max, but Rin actually suggests that it is more Avatar: the Last Airbender meets Mad Max and I can’t agree more. The Never Tilting World is told in multi-perspectives, and two worlds.

In Aranth, there is no sun and the world is threatened by Ice and Water. Here, we follow TianLan, a talented healer/ranger and bodyguard, and Odessa, daughter of the goddess Asteria, a bookish but has an unknown illness sweetpea, both in a complicated The Bodyguard-esque lowkey f/f love affair, both determined and headstrong.

The second pair we follow is from the Golden City, where there is no water, only heat, sand, and sun. We meet Haidee, daughter of the Sun Goddess Latona, another sweetpea who wears her heart on her sleeve, with a great love for animals and mechanics. Then there’s Arjun, a hunter of the Clan Oryx, a cinnamon bun that needs to be protected with an amputated arm but can be BIG ENERGY fire-wielding strong man.

An attack in Aranth leads Asteria to plead to Lan to go on an expedition to the Brighthenge, also known as the endless abyss in the middle of the two worlds where the dark scary things crawl out of. Meanwhile, in the Golden City, the Silverguards are hurrying back to the castle with titan-like creatures at their tail. And with the sudden danger, a mirage appears to both Haidee and Odessa that urges them both to head to Brighthenge, where the eternal light and eternal darkness meet, and on their way there, the run into a band of cannibals, monsters buried in dark and deep places, storms, and, unwarranted dangers lurking in every nook and cranny.

“Some people are pretty good at masking their insanity.”

Rin Chupeco, The Never Tilting World

First thing that I really commend on this book is the world building. It is thoroughly done and well laid out. And the amazing part is the parallelism in the two worlds, where each perspective tells you the similar things happening in each world, but also working towards the same goal. Both sides of the world is very much unknown and unexplored by the main characters for the most part, but the plot didn’t make it feel too barren. I really enjoyed how it felt as if I was discovering what was out there along with the characters as they made their way to Brighthenge.

Another aspect of this book that I love is the elemental magic system! I am a sucker of these kinds of magic system, most of the characters have an element they master, but the goddesses can manipulate all the elements and they have “gates” they can open to harness energy and amplify their talents. I absolutely love this creative and unique magic system in The Never Tilting World!

The character development is the cherry on top of the beautiful whipped cream of this pie. Although, I adored one goddess over the other, I did enjoy both their arcs in this book. As they made their way to Brighthenge, there were many obstacles, internal and external for our protagonists. There’s Lan who’s suffering PTSD and mourning the loss of her friends while trying her best to protect her charge. Odessa has an unknown disease she has been suffering for a while, extremely sheltered and protected but determined to prove herself. Haidee who wants to be a mechanika and has a genuine want to help others, and uncover the truth of the past. Finally, Arjun who has suffered the unknown past and is determined to earn his revenge. And eventually, all their paths converge into one destiny. To save Aeon from destruction.

The book is told in a first person POV by 4 perspectives. And personally, I don’t enjoy 1st person POVs but I really enjoyed being in the head of each character, as well as seeing things unravel in their view point. The way Rin Chupeco told the story worked so well that the chapters felt so well woven, I was always looking forward to the next chapter. I even ended up playing a game with myself on whose POV I’ll be running into next! Personally, I love Arjun’s voice because 1.) sarcasm is my language of love and, 2.) he’s really funny and sweet, what a cinnamon roll.

Though there were moments that felt quite dragged out, I felt that these were important and necessary to have that deeper connection with the characters. Some people might not enjoy this, but personally even if they can be quite tedious at time, I understand how important they are to get a solid character jump off the pages. It also took me a while to understand the magic system, I wished there was a bit more to go into how the “gates” worked. And hopefully, we’ll get more in the sequel to this duology.

The Never Tilting World is a story about power, destiny, revenge, love, friendship and family. It is a unique and epic world that will have you swept away from the beginning. Rin Chupeco wrote such a brilliant book that makes you question the truth, will have you smitten with her amazing characters, and get you to love the rich world she wove together. And throughout the book, Rin leaves breadcrumbs for the sequel of this duology that will leave you with questions on what happened in the past and what’s going to happen next. In a way, I’m happy I got the chance to have the chance to read it in advance, but at the same time, having to wait for next year to get answers is thoroughly frustrating!

“…If we need another way to cure the world, we’re going to do it together, without anyone else suffering for it.”

Rin Chupeco, The Never Tilting World

Grab your own copy of The Never Tilting World:

 Amazon | Book Depository | Goodreads

creative photos

the never tilting world playlist

Here’s a playlist I came up with as I was going through The Never Tilting World. I hope you enjoy how I curated the playlist!


Rin Chupeco has written obscure manuals for complicated computer programs, talked people out of their money at event shows, and done many other terrible things. She now writes about ghosts and fantastic worlds but is still sometimes mistaken for a revenant. She is the author of The Girl from the Well, its sequel, The Suffering, and the Bone Witch trilogy.

Despite an unsettling resemblance to Japanese revenants, Rin always maintains her sense of hummus. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. Dances like the neighbors are watching.

Author links:
Author website | Goodreads | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter

Thank you to Shealea of Shut Up, Shealea, Caffeine Tours, Harper Teen, and of course Rin Chupeco for the chance to be part of The Never Tilting World blog tour. Check out the full schedule below:

to learn more about the tour and blog links, visit Shup Up, Shealea’s Follow Along post

There’s also a Twitter Chat hosted by Caffeine Book Tours on October 19 at 9AM EST or 9PM PH Time! Join us through this link if you have the time!

Coffee Talk: Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

“Hello, I hope somebody is listening”

Alice Oseman, Radio Silence

Radio Silence is my favorite YA contemporary book. There’s a big heavy statement for a bookworm to ultimately say, but there it is. I absolutely love this book that I do not even know where to begin. This was such an excellent story about making friends, exploring sexuality, and taking life by the balls and saying “I’m in charge”.

about radio silence

What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?

Frances is been a study machine with one goal. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside. Then Frances meets Aled, and for the first time she’s unafraid to be herself.

So when the fragile trust between them is broken, Frances is caught between who she was and who she longs to be. Now Frances knows that she has to confront her past. To confess why Carys disappeared…

Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.

Engaging with themes of identity, diversity and the freedom to choose, Radio Silence is a tor de force by the most exciting writer of her generation.

“I wonder- if nobody is listening to my voice, am I making any sound at all?”

Alice Oseman, Radio Silence

How’s the brew?

I’ll be honest, I’m a huge binger. Once I find something that I absolutely enjoy, (from authors, to music, directors, movies, you get the idea) I obsess over. So, when I found Kat (@paperbackdreams) on youtube with her refreshing humor and content, I was hooked. I binged her videos and was brought upon her obsession with Radio Silence.

And because in almost all of her videos, she couldn’t shut up about Radio Silence, I decided, it was time to read. Now, I have quite a few bookstore options where I live, and my work allows me to visit plenty of areas with bigger stores. And would you believe, around the metro, I couldn’t find a single copy of the book. Not. A. Single. One. And that was hella frustrating. So, I resorted to my good ol’ friend, Book Depository. The wait was killing me and I absolutely had to read Radio Silence. And the book gods heard my prayers, the book was available on audio on Scribd. I started reading in May, which was somewhat great timing for me and finished it right after my birthday.

The audiobook was really quite exciting, it’s a full cast and the voice actors were really great at telling the story. It was so immersive and I felt as if I was there with the Frances and Aled. As if I was Frances’ friend and she was telling me the events of her high school life. It was very dynamic and animated that I really suggest reading the audio as well. You can even read the physical book with the audio just for maximum effect.

My problem with audiobooks is that sometimes, I have a tendency to tune out the words and after a while, I have to tell my brain to actively listen. But because Radio Silence had such a fun narrator, I really enjoyed listening to it and actually ended up stopping what I had been doing just to listen. Aside from the engaging audiobook, Alice Oseman wrote this book in such a simple and yet complicated way. There was a basic premise, where Frances is determined to be Head Girl and go to Cambridge, and is completely obsessed over a podcast called Universe City, then she becomes friends with the maker and writer of the podcast called Radio. But beneath this top layer is complex roots that tackle friendships, individuality, sexuality, mental illness, expectations, and so much more.

“Every time I thought I’d worked out what I really enjoyed, I started to second-guess myself. Maybe I just didn’t enjoy anything anymore.”

Alice Oseman, Radio Silence

pouring a steaming cup

So, we get to the possibly spoiler-y parts as I gush about my favorite characters, particular details about the book and plot. But I will put spoiler warnings, I promise.

The number one thing that stood out to me about this book is the diversity. Radio Silence is practically the book that has the most colorful characters ever. We have Frances who is biracial (Ethiopian-American), Aled who is getting to know himself and his sexuality, Daniel who is a Korean immigrant, Raine who is an Indian, there is a whole lot of sexuality exploration in the between these characters. As much as I want to divulge information, it can be considered punishable by law… if spoiling was against the law.

Another thing about Radio Silence is the timeliness and authenticity. It spoke so much truth about the reality of millenials now. And what I mean by that is living in such a digitally wired life. Now, it’s quite normal to make friends on the internet, finding people who have the same interests as you, and sharing your talents online. But there’s also the dark side where people’s remarks and comments are hurtful and mean, how the internet can also be such a toxic place that can be detrimental to your mental health. How someone’s words that they typed into the world wide web can actually affect the person receiving the words thrown out there.

It also discusses the expectations of our parents and elders. As a Filipina millenial, I was lucky enough to have parents who were understanding and supportive. When I was younger, I was always under the impression that I had to be a doctor and I had to please my parents and follow their wishes. Always had the thought that I had to enter the top university in the Philippines or I would be a big disappointment. And I was fortunate enough to study what I was interested, enter the university of my choice, and work in the field that I want. And I know a lot of friends who didn’t have the choice that I had. Radio Silence tackles this sensitive aspect of growing up and making life changing decisions in such a beautiful and delicate way, I just have no words of how much I felt for that moment. I don’t wanna give away too much because, you need to read this book. I swear.

More often that not, I’m not a big fan of YA contemporaries because of Familial Relations. But in this book, Frances’ mother was such an excellent character. She was the supportive, loving and sweet mother that everyone deserves. Frances’s mom accepted and had her daughter’s back for all the decisions she had in life, she was encouraging even. And let’s be real, this is all everyone wants from parents while we were all on our way to adulthood. Another familial relationship is finding your own family. That family doesn’t have to come from blood relations only, you can find family through your friends as well.

Another excellent aspect of Radio Silence is how it encourages us to be our authentic selves and cultivate the multiple aspects of our being. What do I mean by that exactly? Let me explain from a personal point of view. When I was in high school, I used to write short stories and poems. And my mother appreciated that artistic part of me, she even encouraged me to continue writing. My father on the other hand, did not. He wanted me to concentrate on my studies, to be an engineer like him. Through this book, Alice Oseman shows us that we should definitely grow that artistic aspect of ourselves, regardless if we know what we want to be or not. That we should not just be defined by one thing in our lives, and to fight for these talents and art. Aside from that aspect, the book also sheds light on Mental Illness. It’s such a pressing issue, specially with the awareness in this generation. The characters in this book are so realistic that it shows the mutliple aspects of how mental illness affects a person. That it’s ok to love yourself first before giving yourself to other people. When I got to this part of the book, I realized why this book is so well loved because it is so well represented and can mean so much to everyone.

And finally, my most favorite part of Radio Silence is the friendships. The conception, fun and happy times, the struggles, misunderstanding, arguments, the hard parts, disappointments, sacrifices and selfishness. Aled and Frances’ friendship was so beautiful written, and platonically lovely. These two are the exact definition of a platonic soulmate. Alice Oseman showed us that friends can have good times, amazing moments, but they also have arguments and misunderstanding that stem from miscommunication or misreading of the situation. It rehashed a lot of my own issues with former friends and former people in my life, and makes me believe that my platonic soulmate is out there somewhere waiting for me as much as I was waiting for that person too.

I’d like it if someone were to rescue me very soon. Oh, I’d like that very much. I’d like that. I’d like that very much indeed.

Alice Oseman, Radio Silence

the taste and aroma

Radio Silence succeeded on making me happy, sad, nostalgic, lethargic and full. It was definitely a roller coaster ride going through the pages of the book. I’ve finished university and has been working for a couple of years now, definitely a full-fledged adult but the feelings Radio Silence evoked from me changed me in several ways.

After reading Radio Silence, I was encouraged to start writing and blogging again. It made me realize that the only person hindering my healing is myself and it has helped me slowly let go of things I was holding on so tightly to. That sometimes, there won’t be an answer or the answer won’t be what you expect or want to hear and that you should be okay with that. It also made me remember that life will always have good and bad times, and just because you feel like it’s always bad, you should celebrate your successes, no matter how small they are.

This book made me realize that, there are times when you feel how the weight of your world is so heavy, it seems like it will always be heavy but it doesn’t have to be heavy, and it’s okay to share the load. If you’re unsure about the future, that’s okay. You don’t have to. Take your time and make choices for yourself. It also gives me hope that, if you shout or send out words loud enough, someone will listen.

Book Reviews: Marrow Charms by Kristin Jacques

Thanks to NetGalley and Parliament House for an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

Title: Marrow Charm
Author: Kristin Jacques
Genre/s: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publication Date: October 1, 2019

‘In his pursuit of the occult, the Third Reich opened the Gate to a realm of magic and brought the world to ruin. The Gate was eventually closed, but They were already in our world and They were hungry.’

-The Lost History, Library of Avergard

Azure ‘Azzy’ Brimvine lives in a world decimated by magic, where humans have retreated underground from the overwhelming dangers of the surface. But Below is no safer than Above.

Magic borne plagues continue to eat away at the remaining human cities, a sickness that doesn’t merely kill, but creates aberrations from the stricken: people twisted by magic into something dark, dangerous, and powerful. It is an existence of fear and constant dread. When Azzy’s brother, Armin, is infected and cast out into the Above, she sets out after him, determined to be there for him no matter what he becomes.

The world Above is full of monsters, both wild and cunning, some more human than Azzy was led to believe. Armin is captured and bound for the Auction block of Avergard, a ruthless city of inhuman lords and twisted creatures. To reach him, Azzy must brave the perils of the Above and the chaotic life forms created by the Gate. To reach him, she must find allies and forge new bonds in this broken world.

And Azzy must reach him, before Armin’s new power is used to open the Gate once more.

For a Dystopian-Fantasy book, I never expected Marrow Charm to have such a lyrical, beautifully descriptive prose. It was probably one of the most excellent things I liked about this book. Kristin’s writing style is poetic but not tedious in any way. On the contrary, aside from being lyrical, the book is also dark, broody and atmospheric. It sets the overall tone and mood of the book. It also gets gory and creepy at times, which sets it at a different bar from the usual YA books. The horror themes are sensational, I specially love how Kristin describes the monsters, how they look and the terror they bring to the protagonists.

Another aspect of Marrow Charm that I enjoyed is the family relationship. Azzy and Armin are orphans, who were taken is by Brixby, the Apothecary of the Heap. The familial bond between Azzy and Armin are so admirable and beautiful, I absolutely adore these connections within YA books.

I’m gonna be honest, with the blurb I saw on GoodReads was so different compared to the actual story of the book. The blurb mentioned something of opening Gates but found very little to no mention of such things. However, the plot and story were really great despite this. I really enjoyed the fast paced plot and the unique world building, but would have loved for a deeper backstory on how the world ended. The magic system was also fascinating, but also needed more explanation and information.

Another aspect that I found iffy was when the perspectives suddenly shifted to multiple instead of only Azzy’s. I found it confusing and a bit of a whiplash at first because I wasn’t sure what head I was looking over at, but eventually I got over it due to the fast-paced nature of the book and the constant danger everyone was in.

Personally, I think the most important question this book poses is, what are the qualifications of humanity? As magic mutate and reconstructs human beings, do we call a cruel, normal person full of humanity, rather that someone who has changed physically but is compassionate and kind? Overall, I quite enjoyed it, there were personal preferences that made me read it a little slower and some scenes that got me wiggling in my seat as well. If you’re into YA and dark-atmospheric themes, I would definitely recommend for you to try it out.

Book Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

“Someone could call themselves a hero and still walk around killing dozens. Someone else could be labeled a villain for trying to stop them. Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.”

V.E. Schwab, Vicious

It’s still September, (and here I am hoping I can publish this review in September) so it’s #Schwabtember and I joined in the fun by reading Vicious for the very first time. I know, wow you’re like so late to the party. But, to be honest, for the longest time I have been looking forward to buying this book but once I had it in my shelf, I get extremely anxious thinking about reading it. And it’s simply because the hype was so up there for this book that I was so scared not to love it as much. But alas, here we are and I am still, certified Schwab trash.

The monumental, big elephant in the room question that this book poses is, What makes a hero and what makes a villain? Is it the perspective of what makes such a person? And meeting Victor Vale and Eli Ever also had me thinking of this question, until the present time. Vicious was the delicious twist to my guilty pleasure of hero/villain trope, but instead got thrown into a blender, mixed in with a dash of x-men, science, morality, religion and a hearty serving of Schwab brilliance, and we have this masterpiece.

If Eli really was a hero, and Victor meant to stop him, did that make him a villain?”

V.E. Schwab, Vicious

If you’ve read a A Darker Shade of Magic, you’ll know that that book is full of adventure, magic, and mystery. Vicious sets itself apart from the other Schwab books I have read so far, with a fast pace and a very character driven plot and I ate up every single moment of it. This book is a gripping and wicked tale of two friends, anti-heroes, superpowers and revenge. There is no big adventure, on the contrary, the events in the book spans out for only a couple of days, and flashbacks of the past. Every decision, every step that each character makes in Vicious affects their purpose, their future and the resolve of the story.

Usually, when we read books, we are used to finding affinity with the characters in the books. But in this case, I felt like the detachment works with Vicious. In a way, I was an audience to the thrilling events that unfolded with the characters decisions that ultimately led to consequences. Victor Vale and Eli Ever are some, if not the most morally gray characters I have ever encountered, so it was difficult to empathize with them, both of them were very ambitious individuals who was ready to embrace all the ugly and heinous things they will have to commit. At the same time, there was the constant intrigue towards Eli, what were the conditions of his past that drove him to what he was at the present time? I was craving to get to know him more beyond the mad genius that he was. And there was the rooting for Victor, even as he declared himself the villain, but there was still the I-know-you’re-good-((maybe))-so-I’m-rooting-for-you voice in my head.

The side characters of this book weren’t really like a filler role either. They were all equally important to drive the story forward. I specially love Sydney and Serena’s story. Where one sister is a necromancer, raising people and animals from the dead, and the other is a siren, she can command a person to do her bidding. The more that the story progressed, we see clearer of the motives behind their actions. Mitch was also a special snowflake, how he stuck around Victor and the irony of his character, really. I absolutely adored the dynamics between Victor, Sydney and Mitch.

Safe had ceased to be a place for Sydney. It had become a person. Specifically, safe had become Victor.

V.E. Schwab, Vicious

One of my favorite parts of this book is how Schwab formulated on how to tell it. She started with the present, Victor Vale got out of jail and he was looking for his dearest friend, Eli Ever, to destroy him. Then we see the beginning of their relationship, being roommates in Lockland University, how Eli got fascinated by EOs, and Victor following down the rabbit hole, then ultimately decided to play God that led to their present predicament. I really enjoyed how it wasn’t a quick give away on how things unfolded, but it was like Schwab left a trail of crumbs every chapter that led to the gingerbread house of revenge.

Ultimately, Vicious was such a great and refreshing read for me. I had different expectations but what I got was so much more than I asked for. And if you’re in the market for morally ambiguous antiheroes, then Vicious is the first choice in my bookshelf.

Coffee Talk: Red Rising Saga

Disclaimer: These are my own thoughts, possibly spoiler-y (I’ll have flashing red signs, I promise) and also, can possibly be an emotional mess.

Since I finished Morning Star last night, I have been thinking of how to start this conversation. I think, first I have to tell you, I have too many feelings about this trilogy. T O O M U C H. Way too much that it really overwhelmed me. And so, I think with every story, I should start at the beginning.

I was in a work event, having lunch with contest winners and a social media influencer and her manager. We were having conversations, talking about vlogging, our hobbies, until I blurted out that I love fantasy novels. I started raving about my current read (ehem trash for Shades of Magic series), and so the manager was so intrigued, we started talking about my love for books. She said offhandedly, she wants to send me some books because she doesn’t read fantasy, and I would probably enjoy them more. It was an amazing afternoon, despite the location of the restaurant being so far. I had so much fun. I didn’t really take to heart the comment about sending me books. But lo and behold, the next day, I had a stack of books waiting for me in the office, Red Rising, Golden Son, Morning Star, and a couple of other titles. At first, I didn’t think much of it and kept them on my ever piling bookshelf.

About The Trilogy

red rising

Red Rising is the first novel in the trilogy by Pierce Brown (the most evil man ever). The books are told in a first person POV, Darrow, and we follow him and his thoughts throughout the books. Darrow is a Helldiver in the mines below Mars, as his father and his father’s father before him. He is young, proud, and arrogant because a Helldiver is rare and their job is difficult. One night, after being so defeated by the system, Darrow goes home to his wife Eo, who takes him to some kind of a meadow, a forbidden area for Reds in their underground home. They find themselves arrested, and Eo is put to death when she refuses to back down and for singing a forbidden song. Distraught and devastated by his wife’s passing, Darrow commits another act punishable by death. He is saved by a rebel group called the Sons of Ares, and he was specially picked and recruited to be part of the rising. He then undergoes a transformation, from Red to Gold. Educated and taught of how to live, breathe, speak, and act like a true Gold. He is then sent to the Institute, an elite school for Golds to be honed into leaders. Through rigorous testing, The Board of Quality Control sends out invitations to qualified Golds that are illegal to turn down. And here is where is his adventure starts.

Darrow is immersed in the Institute, introduced as a Gold from far moons, from a family that was massacred, to make sure his story did not have any loopholes. The moment he entered, along with 1,000 other Golds, he was brutally attacked and was forced in a room with another Gold as the Passage, this process of selection is where weaker Golds are pitted against stronger ones. After this process, the remaining students get drafted into one of the thirteen houses, selected by their proctors. Darrow is the FirstDraft for House Mars. Everyone is then taken to their house castle, where they are told that they need to defend their own against the other houses, that they need to formulate a game plan to conquer the houses, and the last one standing will graduate as the Peerless Scarred, the students who get the best apprenticeship and jobs in the Society.

I won’t go further than that, I promise, because it will be a spoiler fest, but I think giving this much makes it all the more exciting to read. Because, when I got to this part, I never put the book down until I finished the damn thing. If you ask me to describe it in a sentence, I would tell you that Red Rising is The Hunger Games with 500% more violence, meets the adult version of Camp Half Blood.

Golden son

Now, to this gorydamn second book. Don’t get me wrong, I love Golden Son, probably my fave book so far in the series. This is the book that took my heart, stomped on it, hammered it, threw it to Mars, drilled through, got bitten by a pitviper, and returned to me, still beating.

Golden Son is set two years after Darrow graduates from the Institute. He is now a lancer of House Augustus, the ArchGovernor of Mars, one of the oldest Gold families in the Society. He is training in the Academy in Mars, hoping to secure a fleet to command. He has pledged loyalty to House Augustus, but is still secretly working for the Sons of Ares.

I want to say more, but for someone who hasn’t read the books, I think it will be too much information to share more about the story. If Red Rising was fast paced and exciting, then personally, Golden Son was so much more so. There are no swaths of nothingness or boredom. Every word, every line, and every paragraphs throttles the story forward and has a purpose. The world also expectedly expands further than what we knew of in Red Rising. We found out other moons, galaxies, and meet new families, new characters that make the plot flourish.

Darrow also had a great character arc in Golden Son. He had many moments of weakness and defeat. There was also that moment of him forgetting who he really is. Confusion of where the Red started and the Gold ended. We also see the reality of Golds and other colors, how they live and what the worlds are.

Morning star

And we are finally at the end of the trilogy. At this point, it’s really quite hard to give a non spoiler-y summary, right? So I’ll just quote from GoodReads:

Darrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society’s mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within.

Finally, the time has come.

But devotion to honor and hunger for vengeance run deep on both sides. Darrow and his comrades-in-arms face powerful enemies without scruple or mercy. Among them are some Darrow once considered friends. To win, Darrow will need to inspire those shackled in darkness to break their chains, unmake the world their cruel masters have built, and claim a destiny too long denied—and too glorious to surrender.

Brilliant ending to the trilogy. Surprisingly, I finished this quickly that the first two books, provided that I took a 2-week break from reading Morning Star, as per usual Pierce Brown fashion, it was fast paced, full of action, blood and war. And, personally, it was a good closure to an epic Trilogy.


Where do I start? Well, let me get back to my journey. I had the books in my shelf and a month ago, I decided that I wanted to pick up Nevernight, in time for the Darkdawn release. And Raf of The Royal Polar Bear Reads insisted that I read the Red Rising saga first. And because I’m weak when it comes to peer pressure, I decided to read them first. I had the books in my shelf anyway.

I have to be honest, when I started reading Red Rising, I was thoroughly confused. First, it was my first time reading a sci-fi novel, let alone an adult, post apocalyptic, dystopian, sci-fi novel. Second, the family houses and institute houses confused me at first, and it wasn’t until I was fully immersed in the book that I got the hang of it, plus with help from Raf and Jessie (@professionalbookie). Finally, first person POV books aren’t my cup of coffee, somehow I get extremely annoyed with the narrator. Nevertheless, these things didn’t hinder me from reading the books. I actually ended up enjoying Darrow’s POV as a narrator.

The first book was fun and exciting. Pierce Brown’s writing is fast paced, not a boring moment, even the conversations and Darrow’s pondering is amusing to read. Be warned, it can get gory at times because it is some kind of a war, and a survival of the fittest. There are friendships formed, funny moments, but there is also betrayal, lies, surprises, and blood. Plenty of blood. If you’re fond of reveals within reveals, within reveals, then you’re in for a treat with Red Rising.

Actually, the ending of Red Rising got me quite worked up. I didn’t like Darrow’s decisions but I was so curious with the other characters so I was excited to delve into Golden Son, not realizing that Golden Son was my catalyst, my complete undoing. I was reading Golden Son, and when I got to a certain point in the story, I just broke down. Completely devastated, sitting on the floor of my room, bawling my eyes out. I had to physically get the book out of my sight because it was giving me an anxiety attack. I had to stop reading for a full week before I had the courage to read it again. It was definitely an emotional journey finishing Golden Son.

I had to take a break again before I read Morning Star, 2 weeks to be exact. My friends were telling me to be ready emotionally and I knew I will never be actually ready so I just started reading, cold turkey. The first few chapters were fine, I was doing very well, until I reached page 84 and it was like I had a splinter all this time and I finally found tweezers to get them out. After that evening, I had a good cry and conversation with Raf then I really enjoyed finishing the book, despite the heartbreaks and the twists and surprised in the book.

Suffice to say, even if I had a great emotional turmoil, I really fell in love with this trilogy. Pierce Brown did a brilliant job with every aspect of the books. From the incredible and detailed world building, to the setting and world system of the book, and most specially the development of each character in the book.


In this section, I’ll talk about particular things about the book, plot, and characters so probably fair warning?

I’ve always found myself drawn to character driven books, not gonna lie. I’m probably one of the most emotional people you will ever get to know so it goes without saying, I’m a sucker for great characters. With the Red Rising saga, some of the more popular characters are Sevro au Barca, Cassius au Bellona, Darrow, etc. But I have different tastes in my favorite characters.

First standout for me is Tactus au Rath. In the Institute, he wasn’t really part of House Mars, he was actually in House Diana. And he wasn’t the best of Golds. Nope, he’s a terrible mofo who indulged in drugs, heavy partying, among other things. He finds himself in alliance with Darrow and Mustang, to take down another house. He gets shady and tries to take one of the girls, but he was punished by Darrow, 20 lashes to the back. Then, Darrow asks him to whip him for 25 more times. Tactus was obviously confused, because what? why? what’s going on? And this is where we see the change in him. He suddenly has great respect for Darrow, and had become part of his team.

Tactus is sarcastic, funny, and ambitious. He was a great friend to Darrow and their team. But as Golds go, Tactus was also suffering from his parents’ expectations. He wanted to enjoy being with his friends, but the pressure of making a name for himself was always there. ((SEMI SPOILER ALERT)) In Golden Son, Tactus finds himself in a pinch, because of Darrow’s failure, he was about to lose his position and contract with House Augustus. And on the first chance that he could, he turned around and walked away from Darrow. Darrow was devastated, he treated his friends as his family. And so when he saw Tactus again, he still tried to convince him to join their cause again. But sometimes, things were just too late.

I cried for Tactus. He was my favorite character because he was most true to himself. He was a Gold by and by, but when he allied himself with Darrow, he allowed a sliver of humanity for himself and his friends. He changed because he was surrounded by good people. And because of pressure from his family, he had to turn around from the good things he had and pursued something else. He might have liked it, he might not have, who really knows but Pierce Brown. In the end though, in his heart he knew that he belonged with Darrow and his friends. He just wanted to belong. He wanted to be among his friends.

Another favorite character of mine is Virginia au Augustus, also known as Mustang. She entered the institute as a Premier, which means she was assigned into a house without a draft. She encounters Darrow in a battle for her house, in which her house fails but she narrowly escapes. Then eventually, she finds herself allied with Darrow, they form an alliance and work together to defeat the other houses. Mustang encourages Darrow to change the system and change what it means to succeed in the Institute.

Mustang is charismatic, smart, emphatic, and a strong, independent woman. (sshh let me have this moment) She has no need of Darrow to protect her, to make plans for her, to think for her. She was wholly her own person and that really made me happy. I have a dislike for female characters that are so dependent, and Mustang is not most female lead characters. Plus, for a Gold, she is extremely… human. That’s the only way I can really say it. Her empathy and compassion makes her a cut above the rest. Though, she can be too headstrong and bull headed at times. Plus, there are also times where you don’t know where her loyalties lie.

Finally, I also thoroughly enjoyed The Jackal‘s character. Adrius au Augustus aka the Jackal is Mustang’s twin brother. He is one of the most complicated characters I have ever come across. He is a deceiver, a planner, evil (for the lack of any better terms), but he also craves company, and approval from people. Adrius is volatile and temperamental, he is emotionally driven than logic, compared to Mustang. He’s also shown to be very obsessive over people who have wronged him and to those he wants to have approval from. He is only loyal as long as it serves him some kind of reward, which for much of his life was the possibility of his father’s favor.

THE taste and aroma

Personally, I felt very attacked by this trilogy, in a bad and good way. And I know what you’re thinking, man what a drama queen! Well, yes I am, hello my name is Donna. But other than being a drama queen, I also have depression and anxiety issues. I’ve gone through so many things in my life that really scarred me. Things that I have been working on to pack in a bag and send away to migrate. Golden Son, in particular, brought to the surface some of the things that I have gone through.

I particularly had a self realization on how Darrow loves his friends so much, that he called them his brothers and sisters, his family. And just like Tactus, how I also craved for a family, someone who will be like my brother or sister. I was so affected because there were people in my past whom I treated like family, like a brother or sister, and eventually just broke that trust, stabbed me several times in the back and left me to bleed out. And, honestly, the stab wounds are still gaping open.

Red Rising trilogy has left me raw, wondering, when will I be able to bring down the walls again, find my tribe and let them in.

Comics Review: Tabi Po Isyu 1 by Mervin Malonzo

Thanks to bookstagram and my friends, I’ve recently delved into the world of Komiks (comics in English, if that’s not too obvious). Specifically, from local artists. Being a lover of local music and arts, I decide to dive into Mervin Malonzo‘s Tabi Po series when I found out that it was available during the Manila International Book Fair last September 11-15, 2019.

“Hindi ko alam kung ano itong aking nagawa. Subalit dahil dito naibsan ng kaunti ang aking dinadamdam na sakit.”

Mervin Malonzo, Tabi Po Isyu 1

Aswangs are famous mythical creatures from Philippine Folklore. The Aswang is a more broad term for creatures of the night. During my time, these were told to children to scare them off going out at night or staying out too late. As I went to university and found myself majoring in History, I soon found out that these mythical creatures date as far as pre-colonial era but more prominent as the Spaniards arrived during the 1500s. The Spaniards used the mythology to instill fear among the Filipino people as a means to subjugate them. But even as the American and Japanese colonization, more creatures like the Kapre were born during the World War II as a word-of-mouth propaganda to scare away the enemies.

First thing that came into mind when I got my copies of Tabi Po was, why Tabi Po? Mervin even signed my copies with the phrase “tabi-tabi po” which technically means, pardon or excuse me and is uttered by superstitious Filipinos when they enter a territory that is known to have the aswangs or even just passing by as a way of giving respect and acknowledging. Folklore tells us that there maybe consequences if you do not give respect to the spirits, hence we say “tabi-tabi po”. And most Filipino children are told to utter these words even if we’re not sure that there are spirits or elements nearby. It is a commonly long-held belief of the Filipino people, a belief that many of us were raised to abide by.

Tabi Po Isyu 1 starts off with a man named Elias that suddenly woke up inside a tree, without any memories of how he got there, and why. The only thing he remembers is a woman in his dream and a hunger. Physically, he was the same as any human being, except he didn’t have a belly button. And his hunger was consuming him.

But his hunger can only be sated by flesh and blood.

The book is set in the Philippine Spanish colonization era which sets the mood perfectly with the story. He was found by two other creatures that did not have any belly button, just like him, named Tasyo and Sabel. The three of them set off to join society, passing off as normal human beings by day, but capturing prey at night. Elias learned more on how to be an Aswang with the guidance of Tasyo and Sabel. Another noteworthy theme of the comic is religion. I know, it’s taboo but it’s such a significant part of Philippine History, specially during the Spanish era that I am so delighted that the comics feel so authentic, so distinctly Filipino.

Saving the best for last, let me tell you about the art. Oh, THE ART. It is so wonderfully done. I’m not an art expert but it looks so raw and the colors set the mood immediately. I love the facial expressions, the distinguished differences from the characters, and the plotting of each scene to the next is so well made.

Sad to say, Isyu 2 was not available during MIBF so I found myself ordering a copy online and now, I can’t wait to get my hands on it so I can read Isyu 3!

If you have any suggested komiks for me to grab and read, let me know! I’m glad to indulge in more local works!