This took me a lot longer to finish despite my reckless claim to post this soon after the first part… mainly because I got a bit sick in the middle of last week and couldn’t get my brain to work right. Apparently it’s been so long since I got sick that I forgot how annoying a simple cold is when you’re writing. But anyway, here I am and here we go.
The first half of my #YARC2019 update featured contemporary novels. This one, however, will talk about the asian books I read that fall under the genre of fantasy/high fantasy. As I said a couple of times before, the older I get, the more appreciative I am of fantasy books. I actually struggle to balance out my monthly TBR since only a fraction of my unread books aren’t fantasy in some way.
Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
The hype for this book was inescapable. Not that I don’t understand it, of course. I mean, lesbians in a Asian-inspired fantasy? How could anyone possibly resist?
Set in a fictional land where humans, half-demons, and demons uneasily live side by side, Girls of Paper and Fire tells the story of Lei, a young girl forced to be one of the demon king’s concubine. Lei, determined to protect her family, does what she can to survive the Hidden Palace. But the unthinkable happens: she falls in love. More dangerous still, Lei falls in love with mysterious and beautiful Wren, another of the demon king’s concubines.
Okay, first off, the worldbuilding in this book was divine. You can really feel like Lei’s world had a rich (and bloody) history and I adored it. The story took me on an emotional roller coaster that I’m not sure I’ve fully recovered from. I swear my heart was in my throat during the climax. God, that last page…
Girls of Paper and Fire is a fantastic read however readers should know that it deals with heavy subjects. The foreword has a content warning for sexual abuse so please proceed with caution.
Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tabon by Edgar Calabia Samar
Fulfilling my longstanding goal of improving my Filipino reading comprehension skills, I bought the three books of the Janus Silang series a month or so back. Best decision of my life, I reckon. I knew that this book series was going to be great because of all the praise and love I’ve heard about it but I still had no idea how floored I was going to be after this book.
The first book, Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tabon (Janus Silang and the Tiyanak of Tabon) introduces us to the fourteen-year-old titular character and his dangerous destiny. When an evening of playing TALA Online ends with Janus the only survivor, he is thrown into a perilous mystery that’s as old as the world itself. Teenagers from all over the country have died seemingly without cause and Janus must find answers before it’s too late.
If I had better Filipino reading skills, I’m pretty sure I would have gobbled this book up in less than a day. It’s weird and eerie and ominous – I don’t think I’ve been this uneasy while reading a book in a while. I guess it’s because this is literally a little too close to home for comfort. Also, I liked Janus on the very first page. He’s such a good kid that I genuinely felt for throughout the book.
I’m not sure if there’s an official English translation for this book so I guess I can’t really recommend this for my international friends. But if you’re a Filipino or can speak/understand Filipino, this is a great YA book to pick up.
Descendant of the Crane by Joan He
Last, but definitely not the least, one of my most anticipated reads for 2019, Joan He’s Descendant of the Crane! The past few high fantasy books that promised me “political intrigue” really disappointed me and I had nearly lost hope in ever enjoying that sort of book this year but thank god this book was brought to my radar by book Twitter.
In Descendant of the Crane, Princess Hesina of Yan knows that her father, the king, was murdered despite what everyone else says. Seeking the truth leads Hesina down the path of treason, controversy, and heresy but she knows she must find her father’s killer, even if it means bringing her country to its knees.
What separates this book from all the other fantasy books that disappointed me this year was that Descendant of the Crane really knew how to convey just how high the stakes were. I really felt that Hesina was in constant danger because she was. Nowhere was safe and no one could be trusted. There are actual consequences for Hesina’s actions and her enemies are astute and ruthless. They’ve been playing the game long before she was born so it made sense that she wouldn’t be able to outsmart them just like that. Queens don’t have nearly as much power as people have been led to believe.
If you love high fantasy, especially Asian-inspired ones, mystery, and court intrigue, Descendant of the Crane is definitely your book!
And that’s it for this round of #YARC2019 book reviews! My Sequel Sunday for this month (Shadowblack by Sebastien de Castell) will be up either this week or the next. Hopefully I’ll get it done sooner rather than later because I’m scheduled for three blog tours this month and I’d really prefer to focus on the individual books in the coming weeks.