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BOOK REVIEW: The Smoke Thieves

I had heard lots about this book, and that it was a great high fantasy novel that is perfect for fantasy fans. Heck, it even says “perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo” on the back – and you know I’m a huge Bardugo fan. However, I just think this book wasn’t for me. It took me forever to read, and I found myself not wanting to read it before bed which is bizarre for me. But hey, I suppose I can’t love every book I read!


In Brigant, Princess Catherine prepares to marry a man she’s never met while her true love, Ambrose, faces the executioners block. In Calidor, downtrodden servant March seeks revenge on the prince who betrayed his people. In Pitoria, Edyon stands at a crossroads: family and fortune one way; destruction, the other. And in the barren northern territories, Tash is facing her demons – literally.
As the kingdoms’ alliances shift and shatter, these five young people find their futures inextricably linked by a mysterious bottle of demon smoke, and the unpredictable tides of war. Who will rise, who will fall, and who will unlock the secrets of the smoke?


As you know, I love a good book map, it helps me when I check from time to time to see how the characters are progressing, and how far they’ve travelled.There was a map inside the front pages. However, this was quite a disappointing one, as everything looked very bunched together. I love seeing impressive maps, and this one just let me down.

The majority of The Smoke Thieves is spent with characters walking, riding, or sailing to other places. The amount of times characters stopped to get provisions for the ‘long journey ahead’ was astonishing – it seemed like every break in the action was for Edyon to gather more ham and cheese, or for Tash to get bread for the road, or for March to get more clothes and more water and a pony, and more bloody food. It got old very quickly. I know lots of high fantasy is spent with characters travelling, and of course we need to see them get their provisions but…this often? It became tedious and with me wanting to see the characters finally finish their journeys.

My favourite character was Tash, and her chapters were actually quite good fun. She’s an energetic young girl, driven by her love of boots and her fondness from being away from her past. Tash is fast, and regularly outruns demons with the assistance of her work partner, Gravell, who is a demon hunter and trades the rare but illegal smoke that they produce. Her chapters were great, and when she does meet some of the other characters in the book she is sly, untrusting and full of confidence, which only makes her more likeable. The demons were fascinating actually, with quite ambiguous descriptions that led me to believe they looked humanlike – perhaps the demons are humans that have lost their way? They were interesting and curious creatures!

This can’t be said for the other characters. Ambrose was unlikeable and far too righteous for my liking, and Catherine was pretty much your typical princess; betrothed to a prince from another region and in love with her royal guard. Their romance was every bit Disney perfect – they were in love at first sight which of course means everything. March was dull and a firm follower with no personality of his own – which meant he was just there most of the time hanging around. Edyon started off quite likeable, but just became more and more an irritating character who, of course, fell in love with March immediately. There was too much insta-love in this, despite it hardly being acted on. Characters only had to witness another person and that was it.

The background characters weren’t much better, and when they were they were dispatched almost instantly. There was a character who I really enjoyed whenever he was on the page, only for him to die at the end and not even get to say a final word. Ugh. There was also a few repetitive sayings – I lost track of how many times they said ”sheriff’s men’, and the word sheriff just seemed to jar with me along with the rest of the world. Not quite sure why but I felt like it didn’t flow with the world I was meant to be reading. I just think this was a bit too regal for me, and far too much planning, not enough doing.

Final thought: A tedious travel through the world of The Smoke Thieves. 2/5

 

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BOOK REVIEW – Noah Could Never

Huge thanks to Scholastic for sending out a review copy of Noah Could Never for me! If you know me, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of the first book and this one is no exception. So buckle in, because I’m going to be reviewing the book that made me both laugh out loud and cringe from secondhand embarrassment. Warning for mild spoilers in this review!


Noah and Harry have gone from friends to boyfriends, but is Noah ready for the difference? It doesn’t help that a group of French exchange students have descended onto Little Fobbing, including sexy Pierre Victorie, who appears to have his eye on Harry. Meanwhile, Noah is paired up with a girl who, outrageously, is German NOT EVEN FRENCH!!

But that’s not all: Noah’s being followed! By mysterious strangers in a black car! Is it because:

  1. Noah’s dad and secret half-brother have stolen Gran’s fake diamonds?
  2. His PE teacher is getting suspicious cash infusions from Russia?
  3. A drag queen is hiding out at Noah’s house after a bare-knuckled drag feud?
  4. Noah’s made some questionable life choices involving protein powder?
  5. Or ALL OF THE ABOVE?!

Once again, this book proved to be a riot to read. Simon James Green perfectly writes humour in YA, and I found myself giggling so many times! The characters are once again very well written, with Gran proving to be a great source of knowledge and comfort – she’s like an agony aunt but without a filter. Whenever she is on the page, you’ll have tears in your eyes from either laughing or being fondly touched by her words. Another character I fondly loved was that of Bambi, drag queen extraordinaire. Bambi is hilarious, and knows exactly how to make Noah feel awkward or embarrassed. She’s dead set on taking the London drag scene by storm, knowing it’ll be far away from the feud she’s started with the other queens. Out of Bambi getup, Mick is every bit as a riot as his alter ego. The scene in London where Noah and Harry are taken aback by how comfortable gay people are in Soho was so sweet to see, and I think definitely helped Harry’s confidence as well as Noah’s.

Noah and Harry’s relationship has kicked up a notch. They’re still coming to terms with being a couple, which is super cute. They enjoy kissing and cuddling a lot, and are very much the poster boys for young love. Noah is full of self-doubt, however. He worries he isn’t attractive enough for Harry, and that Harry could choose someone better than him. At these moments I wanted to really hug Noah tight, as those feelings are truly awful for him to be experiencing. Of course, in true Noah fashion, he decides to join the gym instead of talking about his feelings with Harry. His internal crisis continues when the French exchange students arrive, and Harry is of course paired with Pierre, the most handsome of the bunch who also happens to be gay. Noah is determined to not let him get between himself and Harry, but his diversion tactics start leading down a very wrong path indeed…

There are also many scenes where I held my head in my hands and screamed “Why, Noah?! WHY?!” He can be so dim at times, which is what makes his character so endearing. He’ll get himself into awkward and uncomfortable situations and won’t fess up or get help until it’s far too late. There is a moment where he lies to Harry and as soon as he did it, I wanted to shove the words back into his mouth. Noah is one of those speak now, think later type of characters, which you can see does start to get on Harry’s nerves. Despite this, I think they’re a truly loveable and wonderful couple, and this book proves that there is much more to see about their relationship!

Final thought: Oh, Noah. How wonderful and dim you are. 5/5

 

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AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Simon James Green

EXCITING POST ALERT!
To celebrate the release of Noah Could Never, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to interview one of my favourite authors, Simon James Green. Simon is the author of Noah Can’t Even and Noah Could Never, two brilliant YA books about discovering yourself and having a laugh while you’re at it. They’re full of British humour, touching moments and first love. Simon joins me on the blog to talk about what’s in store for Noah in the next book…

simonjamesgreen
 
Hi Simon! Thank you so much for letting me interview you!
 
Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you were the plumber. Well OK, since you’re here I suppose we may as well chat. Hi! 
 
For those who haven’t read the books, could you tell us a little about them?
 
Noah Can’t Even follows geeky Noah Grimes, whose world is thrown into disarray when his best mate, Harry, kisses him at a party. As if dealing with his sexuality wasn’t enough, Noah’s also taking flak about his mum’s Beyoncé tribute act, his missing dad, and assorted mysteries about his secret half-sibling, mum’s new lover, and the father of Jess Jackson’s baby. It’s a riotous sort of book, full of laughter and mayhem, but at its heart it’s about a teenage boy who just needs to work out who he is, and whether he’s brave enough to be that parson. In the sequel, Noah Could Never, things become even more bananas when the French exchange students turn up, (one of whom clearly fancies Harry), and a drag queen takes up residence in Noah’s house, after a bare-knuckled drag feud. And then it all kicks off big time when Gran’s diamonds go missing, and Noah needs to get them back – something which involves a road trip to London and a very bad goose! But the sequel also explore what it means to be in a relationship, and is still a lot about Noah working out who he is and navigating his way through his increasingly confusing life. I tried to write books that were funny, but also had a lot of heart. 
 
Which of your characters is the most enjoyable to write?
 
Definitely Noah. The books are basically told from his POV anyway, so I’m always in his head when I’m writing, and it’s a pretty funny place to be. I’ve become very fond of him, even when he makes ridiculous decisions, and I love writing his dialogue. But Harry is also fun to write, because he’s so adorable and cute, and I always love writing Noah’s mum’s stuff, just because of her personality and the fact she’s a good match for Noah and refuses to take any of his shit. 
 
Who do you think the best audience for your books is?
 
Anyone who is, or has ever been, a teenager, and anyone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously and enjoys a laugh. Of course, I particularly hope the book resonates for LGBTQ+ teens, because I really felt that audience needed more books which dealt with issues they might face in a funny way. 
 
Could you give us a little insight into what your writing process is?
 
Because both books contain quite a strong mystery element, I plan those parts quite thoroughly. I plot out when various clues and red herrings are set up, and when they get paid off. Because the plots are quite intricate, I find that isn’t something I can just write and hope for the best. The relationship stuff, I plan the overall arcs for, so I know which characters might get together and what their emotional journeys will be, but I don’t plan exactly how they get there – I let that happen naturally as I write them. So, for me, writing is a mixture of planning and more spontaneous stuff. 
 
Which scene in either book did you enjoy writing the most?
 
In Noah Could Never, it’s probably the scene with the cheese. You’ll know it when you read it. It’s very, very naughty, and yet not naughty at the same time, because it’s totally about cheese… and yet somehow seems more than that! Any scene that involves both Noah and Harry together is also enjoyable to write, as they’re both so cute together – and in book 2, it was really nice to be able to write more of that sort of stuff. 
 
Thinking about diversity, the books about Noah and his life nail it quite well. This is a book the members of my book club wished they had as young teenagers. Do you think books about LGBT+ characters are still few and far between?
 
Well, it’s much better than it was and what’s been lovely is seeing how much more attention LGBTQ+ titles are getting now. I think the success of certain titles has hopefully shown that these books have the capacity to break out and appeal to the mainstream because, regardless of sexuality, they are damn good stories, with characters people relate to, love and get behind. Moving forwards, I would like to see a greater variety of stories: yes, we still need coming out stories, and stories where LGBTQ+ issues are front and centre of the plot, but we also need to see stories where sexuality is more incidental. And we need balance – we need sad, funny, tragic, adventure, thrillers – everything! 
 
What about in films and TV? Do you think that with the release of the film Love, Simon that people will begin to change for the better?
 
I think that sort of thing helps, but it’s also easy to get wrapped up in our cosy YA bubble, which is generally full of some of the nicest, most open, accepting people you will ever find, and forget that LGBTQ+ people still face abuse, violence and threats on a daily basis, all over the world – and in the UK too. So, there is work to do, and all forms of media play a part in that, but we’re not there yet. But I do believe we are moving in the right direction, and we shouldn’t forget that a film like Love, Simon getting such widespread acclaim and attention, playing in major cinema chains, and making millions at the box office, that’s a massive bloody achievement and something that just wouldn’t have happened even ten years ago. I hope that’s not a one-off and there are plenty more like it. 
 
Finally, do you think there will be more on the horizon for Noah and Harry?
 

Noah Could Never ends in a really nice place, but I could always write more about those boys! So, never say never, anything’s possible, and depending on how this sequel goes, and what Scholastic want, and if the TV show happens, there’s always the possibility of more…

 


Noah Could Never is out today! Hurry along to your nearest bookshop to pick up a copy!

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PRIDE MONTH: LGBT+ Masterlist

Hello there lovely readers! As it’s Pride month, I wanted to put together a list of books that have great LGBT+ representation in them. I’ve teamed up with fellow blogger Molly to bring you an extensive list of different titles. We’ll be splitting the list up across our blogs to share as many titles as possible! We’ve each read a fair amount of these books, but please comment should you want more information on a particular title and we can chat to you more!

Without further ado, here is part two of our LGBT+ Masterlist!



Rage by Julie Ann Peters;
portrays an abusive, high school lesbian relationship.

Sodom Road Exit by Amber Dawn; Starla returns to live in the now ghost town she grew up in when a mysterious force begins to follow her. A queer paranormal thriller.

The Terra Cotta Bride by Zen Cho; An all female love triangle set in the Chinese version of hell.

Bait by Alex Sanchez; Told from the perspective of a 16 year old bully coming to terms with his abusive past after being arrested for assaulting a gay teen.

A Proper Young Lady by Lianne Simon; An adult romance book featuring a love triangle with an intersex woman at the centre.

When Fox is a Thousand by Larissa Lai; Part folklore, part fairytale, part historical fiction & part contemporary urban story told through three alternating view points.

Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark; A novel in verse about a genderqueer teen, Brendan.

Finlater by Shawn Stewart Ruff; Follows a young African American teen & his Jewish boyfriend in 1969. Also tackles bigotry & bullying.

M. Butterfly by David Henry Hwang; Follows a 20 year relationship between a French diplomat & his lover, a Japanese opera singer who, unbeknownst to him, is actually a man….and a spy.

In Another Place, Not Here by Dionne Brand; Two Caribbean women find brief refuge in eachother on an island in the midst of political uprising. F/F romance.

Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa; Based around 3 teens as they deal with relationships, mental illness & the foster care system.

From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun by Jacqueline Woodson; About a teen boy discovering that his mother is in a relationship with a woman.

Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin; Set in the 1920’s, follows 16 year old Garnet who after taking a job in a hat shop, gets caught up in a secret relationship with a beautiful flapper. F/F relationship.

Who is Vera Kelly? By Rosalie Knecht; Set in 1962 New York, this is the lesbian spy novel of your dreams.

Jaya & Rasa, a Love Story by Sonia Patel; YA that features trans, bisexual, gay and gender fluid characters

Cinder Ella by S.T. Lynn; Fairytale retelling with a black trans MC.

The House You Pass On The Way by Jacqueline Woodson; Follows a 13 year old, biracial girl trying to find her place in an all black town. A summer visit from her cousin sparks her to imagine what a queer future could look like.

The Second Mango (Mangoverse #1) by Shira Glassman; F/F fantasy, set in a Jewish fantasy world, demi-romantic character as well as loads more diverse characters!

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate; A bisexual Asian-American girl goes undercover to infiltrate an all male acapella group.

Pantomime by Laura Lam; The first book in a Victorian fantasy series featuring protagonist Micah Grey, who identifies as genderqueer, intersex & bisexual.

The Pros of Cons by Alison Cherry;Follows 3 girls who accidentally meet at a convention & become friends. Has characters that are non binary, pansexual & gay.

When The Moon Was Ours by Anna Marie Mclemore; A gorgeous magical realism novel with a trans MC & lesbian & trans side characters.

A Safe Girl to Love by Casey Plett; A collection of short stories focusing on trans women characters.

Bingo Love by Tee Franklin, Jenn St-Onge, Joy San & Cardinal Rae; A graphic novel of a same-sex romance that spans over 60 years. A chance meeting at church bingo in 1963 brings Hazel and Mari together. Through their formative years, these two women develop feelings for each other and finally profess their love for one another.

The Naked Civil Servant by Quentin Crisp; A comical and poignant memoir of a gay man living life as he pleased in the 1930s

Corona by Bushra Rehman; The MC is a Pakistani woman who grew up in a tight Muslim community & comes to terms with her sexuality.

Power & Magic- The Queer Witch Comic Anthology by Joamette Gil; A comics anthology about queer witches of colour for teens and adults containing 15 original stories blending fantasy, drama, humour, and romance.

Looking For Group by Rory Harrison; Looking for group for the quest of a lifetime. It features trans & gay rep as well as other representation.

Sub Rosa by Amber Dawn; Sub Rosa is a magical realist novel about a secret community of sex workers that use their mystical gifts to help keep each other safe and heal from past wounds. This book is a unique exploration of queer sexuality and trauma that defies the stigma and stereotyping of sex work.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt; In this striking debut, unfolds a moving story of love, grief, and renewal as two lonely people become the unlikeliest of friends and find that sometimes you don’t know you’ve lost someone until you’ve found them. With gay characters & discussion of AIDS.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell; A fantasy novel loosely based on Harry Potter. Simon Snow is about to face off with the biggest magical enemy, but he’s more concerned with where on earth vampire roommate Baz has got to. Includes bisexual MC and gay MC.

Simon VS the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli; Sweet YA romance, Simon is starting to fall in love with mysterious boy Blue over emails. He’s out to Blue but nobody else, but when a classmate blackmails him with these emails, life for Simon gets complicated. Adorable M/M love story.

Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green; Absolutely hilarious debut YA, dealing with confusion over sexuality and understanding yourself. Noah is pretty confident that he’s straight; he really, REALLY likes Sophie. But when best friend Harry kisses him at a party, Noah starts feeling confused about himself.

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman; Contemporary YA focusing on listening to yourself and doing what you feel is right in your life. Study obsessive Frances doesn’t allow herself to be herself, but meeting neighbour Aled changes that. Fantastic bisexual and asexual representation.

The Gender Games by Juno Dawson; Non-fiction book about the view of gender in society, as well as Juno’s own personal story about gender, and what it means to her. Includes insights from well-known gender, trans and feminist activists.

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson; Contemporary YA about two characters at different stages in their transition. David knows in his heart that he is a girl, but doesn’t know how to start understanding this, while Leo just wants to attend his new school to remain invisible. A fab story with MTF and FTM trans characters.

Fence by C.S. Pacat, Johanna The Mad and Joana Lafuente; Graphic novel series about fencing and fierce competition. Nicholas is determined to prove himself amongst the fencing elite, and especially against mysterious Seiji Katayama. Features gay characters.

They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera; Heartbreaking YA contemporary from Adam Silvera. Set in a world where you are notified of your death happening within the next 24 hours, the book brings together Rufus and Mateo, both determined to live their final day to the fullest. Bisexual MCs.

Love Is Love: A Comic Book Anthology (various authors); A collaboration piece to raise money for the victims of the Orlando Pulse club shooting. It honours the LGBT+ community and shows through many different artistic styles that the most important message is love is love.

Out Of The Blue by Sophie Cameron; A powerful fantasy/contemporary YA debut. Jaya is grieving after her mothers death, and is full of conflicting feelings including self-hatred and worry for the disappearance of her girlfriend. A book full of hope with an F/F romance.


Don’t forget to check out Molly’s blog post for the rest of the list! It’s been really good fun creating this list together, and I hope you managed to find some good books to add to your ever growing TBR…

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#SixForSunday – Rainbow Books

Hello lovely readers!

It’s been a while since I posted a #SixForSunday post – today I’ve been at work recommending and selling books to some lovely people. Now I’m home and chilling, which gives me the perfect time to write my post! This time, it’s rainbow books! To celebrate Pride month this June, here are 6 LGBT+ titles that I really love.


  1. I Was Born For This by Alice Oseman
    This book is truly excellent, and has wonderful representation too. A trans main character whose story isn’t focused on his transition, plus some bisexual characters too who aren’t portrayed as a stereotype. I completely enjoyed this book, and it’s become a top LGBT+ recommend.
  2. Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green
    This book is such a wonderful and funny read. Sometimes a lot of LGBT+ teen books deal with sad and depressing storylines, so it’s really nice to have a lighthearted coming out story full of lots of giggles!
  3. Simon VS The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
    Despite her most recent book being problematic, Becky wrote a fantastic book with Simon VS! It’s a wonderful coming-of-age story about figuring out who you are, and has a lovely relationship too!
  4. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
    Carry On is such a great book! With a wonderful enemies to lovers relationship, it’s certainly one of my favourite LGBT+ reads. It’s like a wonderful Hogwarts-esque read, with magic and romance!
  5. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue by Mackenzie Lee
    There’s a lot of stuff tackled in this book, and I love it for that reason. It’s such a well written novel with tons of shy love, anxiety, and cute boys being too stupid to realise they like each other!
  6. They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera
    This is a tear jerker! TBDATE is a really clever book, and made me cry when I read it. It also features a character who is confident with his sexuality and one who is coming to terms with his identity.

So those are my rainbow books! I know this post is incredibly late this evening but hey! At least you can add some wonderful LGBT+ reads to your list!

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BOOK REVIEW: Boy Underwater

I received a copy of Boy Underwater from Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review! This was a truly wonderful book about a young boy understanding the situations around him – and proving that children can handle a lot more than adults think.


Cymbeline Igloo (yes, really!) has never once been swimming. Not ever. Not once. But how hard can it be? He’s Googled front crawl and he’s found his dad’s old pair of trunks. He’s totally ready. 

What he’s not ready for is the accident at the pool – or how it leads his mum to a sudden breakdown. Now, with the help of friends old and new, Cymbeline must solve the mystery of why his mum never took him near water – and it will turn his whole life upside down…


This was such an enjoyable and realistic book. Cymbeline has an incredibly likeable voice – he’ll relate to every nine year old who reads this. He’s funny, a little rude at times, comments on things the adults do around him, and is far wiser than they give him credit for. Cym has never been swimming, and his mum will always give him an excuse against it. She’ll always seem secretive and upset too when swimming is mentioned, which Cym doesn’t understand. When he gets pushed into the pool during a school swimming trip, his mum finds out and panics which sends her into a breakdown, meaning Cym has to stay with his aunt. But he’s determined to find out why his mum gets so upset about water and swimming.

What follows is a heart-warming story about caring and understanding family situations. As Cym gets closer to the truth, he starts understanding his mums situation more, and just wants her to be well and happy again. He truly cares about her, which makes for some really lovely moments between the two characters. This book is actually quite important for parents too, as it proves that children can understand more ‘grown up’ things like grief and loss, as well as being able to process them. I think this is such an excellent read, and will make readers giggle – I did – as well as make them think too. I think it definitely stands with books like Wonder and Time Travelling With A Hamster – important and realistic children’s reads that kids will be able to relate to.

Final thought: Realistic, important peppered with humorous and relatable moments. 5/5

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GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW: Fence

Ah excellent, more artistic talents for me to fawn over. Seriously the art in Fence is amazing and it just makes me miss drawing so, so much. Who knows, maybe I’ll pick up the pencil again one day. But anyway, back to the review!


Nicholas, the illegitimate son of a retired fencing champion, is a scrappy fencing wunderkind, and dreams of getting the chance and the training to actually compete. After getting accepted to the prodigious Kings Row private school, Nicholas is thrust into a cut-throat world, and finds himself facing not only his golden-boy half brother, but also the unbeatable, mysterious Seiji Katayama…
Through clashes, rivalries, and romance between teammates, Nicholas and the boys of Kings Row will discover there’s much more to fencing than just foils and lunges.


Underdogs! I love a good underdog, especially when it seems like they’ve got a bit of a Tragic Backstory… and Nicholas seems to have one of those. Shunned by his biological father, Nicholas has had to struggle to get to where he is. Trading cleaning for training sessions, he’s managed to become quite a good fencer – enough to enter the regional circuit to try and qualify for national competitions. Unfortunately, on his very first bout he comes up against the mysterious Seiji, known for beating every single one of his opponents – usually with a perfect score. When Nicholas loses, he vows to beat him one day. Six months after the match, he is given that chance – when he starts at Kings Row school and is paired with Seiji as his roommate!

The art, as I’ve already said, is stunning. Bold, blocky colours, and strong panels make this a good fun read. Although a little on the short side – meaning I’ll have to wait forever for the next volume -, Fence was a really good read. There’s plenty of mystery surrounding the characters; why is Seiji so driven? Why was Nicholas outcast as a child? What is the deal with Seiji’s past? It’s definitely a drive to keep me reading the series.

Nicholas seems like a really well-written character – we see his blind determination to beat Seiji, as if he wants to prove something to himself and also to his father. There also seems to be a bit of jealousy towards his half-brother, who is able to bask in the glow of knowing his father and having access to the best fencing training imaginable. It’ll be interesting to see how Nicholas grows, and whether he is able to put aside his jealousy or whether it’ll consume him.

Final thought: Bold art, bolder fencing bouts, this is an exciting start to a series! 4/5