Every Brilliant Book I Read This Winter
Sorry I’ve been ignoring you all for a few days! I’m still not feeling up to heading back into the kitchen – I’ve been laid up with a food poisoning salmonella type thing the past few days – but I thought today would be the perfect opportunity to introduce you to all the brilliant books I’ve read this winter – an especially useful list if you’re a big eBook reader, or you fancy ordering a couple of new ones from Amazon in case you have to self isolate in the next few weeks. Oh, and if you’re looking for more bookish content, do follow me over on Lilac & Ink, my new book review Instagram I started as I really want to talk more about books – I know these quarterly roundups are really popular, but I know most people are here for the food, so I thought a separate feed was in order!
I got my (signed) copy of We Are Blood And Thunder* the same night as I got my copy of The Corset, my favourite book of 2019 as Kesia was going a reading at my book group on the same evening. I raced through it in just two (weekend) days getting lost in the world, the characters and the premise.
While there is a second book, We Are Bound By Stars* coming in June, We Are Blood And Thunder is rare as a young adult fantasy novel as it is a stand alone book – the second is going to be set in the same world, but with different characters. We Are Blood And Thunder follows two young women – one shunned from society for her so-called deformity and forced to work below ground tending to the corpses of the dead who has to flee for her life on an accusation of witchcraft, and a young mage who returns to her old home to save it from a magical storm cloud that is threatening the town and bringing a pestilence that had already claimed so many lives. Both stories weave together beautifully and there is a massive twist at the end. It’s a clever, enjoyable read, perfect if you’re into unique world building, strong female character and something you can cosy up with, a few candles lit during the last few darker days before we get to enjoy spring every day.
Sorcery of Thorns has magic, a magical library full of magical books, and a romance with a dark, supposedly dangerous and evil sorcerer. What more could you possibly want? This was my first ‘read’ (audiobook, which kept me company as I made great vats of curry to take to a New Years Eve party) after Christmas and one that I wished I had read a physical copy of so I could get utterly lost in it without getting distracted by the world around me. There is adventure, magical battles, romance, and of course, demonic books – what could possibly be better?
I think The Witch’s Daughter had been on my Amazon wish list when I saw it in the Christmas Audible sale so I downloaded it without realising that it was the second book in a series – I actually only found this out when I went to look for more from the author. But then I saw on Audible it is listed as the first, not the second, and then I realised that it honestly does not matter what order your read the Shadow Chronicles in – they’re brilliant, stand alone tales that don’t need to be read together.
The Witch’s Daughter seems like it jumps around a bit, until you realise that every story you’re told, every character you’re introduced to are connected in a really important way. The books I normally read are either fantasy, gothic or historical, and while the title makes this book seem more like fantasy, I’d actually recommend it to fans of the latter two categories more. You start with Bess, an old woman, a wise woman, a witch who had walked the earth for centuries moving into a new cottage in a new village, planning her garden, observing her neighbours, and selling her handmade soaps and herbal cures at the local market. She meets a teenage girl who seems drifting somewhat, and ends up attaching herself to Bess, helping her in the garden and at the market. Bess starts to tell her stories from the past, about a young woman whose family dies of plague and whose only way out of an accusation of witchcraft is to attach herself to a local warlock, another about a young nurse in the trenches during World War I, and another about a trainee surgeon working in Victorian London. The stories themselves are all engaging, enjoyable in their own right, and by the time you realise how they all fit together, you’ll realise you’re reading one of the best books you’ll pick up this spring.
If you had told me before I read (okay, listened to this book as part of my Audible subscription) this book that I would be recommending something about Welsh cattle drovers I would have thought you were mad, but The Winter Witch – supposedly the first book in Paula Brackston’s series) – was absolutely brilliant. This tale is as beautifully written as The Witch’s Daughter, and this time is a romance. Morgana is a young woman who does not speak. She leaves her mother to become the second wife of Cai, the head cattle drover – a widower, but who must have a wife to lead the drove. They’re an odd pair, and their life together, woven through both their thoughts and their communication through Morgana’s silence is strangely compelling. There is, of course a magical element to this – Morgana has magic, but not the showy kind, it is more earthy, nurturing. But she is not the only one in their village with power, and there are many who wish them ill. Morgana knows this, but because she won’t speak, she has no way of warning Cai.
The Winter Witch I don’t think is for everyone, but if you enjoy cross genre books and very good writing, do give this a go as I really, really loved it and savoured every last minute.
When I first picked up Throne of Glass in a bookshop a few years ago I put it down again as the back page description made it not really sound like my sort of thing – only that it was by Sarah J Maas whose Court of Thorns and Roses books I had just loved made me finally give it a go:
In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endover, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake. She got caught. Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament – fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassins heart be melted?
This series of books (there are eight of them in total!) is the main reason this list is so short this time around – I have been obsessively reading and taking them out of the library since the start of the year. Once you get out of the salt mines in the first few chapters you get everything that makes Sarah J Maas’ novels so brilliant (I’m so excited to get my hands on her new book, her first one for adults, Crescent City* which has just come out) – a rich, many layered magical world, loveable, compelling but still flawed characters, complicated love triangles, magic, and plot lines that twist, turn and have their roots buried where you never noticed them chapters, if not whole books before. There is a reason this is one of the best selling YA fantasy series out there; if like me you’re unsure about the premise but love the genre, I’m sure you’ll love these!
What brilliant fantasy, historical, gothic, or other novels have you been reading recently that you really think I should add to my reading list? Oh, by the way, if you’re on Goodreads I’ve finally become good at updating my profile so you can follow along with what I’m reading.