Elspeth needs a monster. The monster might be her.
Elspeth Spindle needs more than luck to stay safe in the eerie, mist-locked kingdom of Blunder—she needs a monster. She calls him the Nightmare, an ancient, mercurial spirit trapped in her head. He protects her. He keeps her secrets.
But nothing comes for free, especially magic.
When Elspeth meets a mysterious highwayman on the forest road, her life takes a drastic turn. Thrust into a world of shadow and deception, she joins a dangerous quest to cure Blunder from the dark magic infecting it. And the highwayman? He just so happens to be the King’s nephew, Captain of the most dangerous men in Blunder…and guilty of high treason.
Together they must gather twelve Providence Cards—the keys to the cure. But as the stakes heighten and their undeniable attraction intensifies, Elspeth is forced to face her darkest secret yet: the Nightmare is slowly taking over her mind. And she might not be able to stop him.
Rachel Gillig’s One Dark Window is a fantasy series opener of a kingdom in which a dark magic is spreading like an infection. Magic in this realm is facilitated by Providence Cards, in the vein of tarot cards, and the magic has a price. These Providence Cards were created by an ancient king with magic bestowed upon him by a primeval forest spirit, and this magic caused a rift with the spirit, who in turn cursed the realm with a foreboding mist that’s eating away at the realm’s lands and causing fevers in its people.
In order to stop this mist, twelve of the cards are needed to break the curse and one of them is missing. Elspeth, the main character, had the fever as a child and was possessed by the Nightmare, and, as a result, she has powers she does not know how to control.
I enjoyed the characters so much, especially the slow burn of a relationship between Elspeth and Ravyn and the banter between Elspeth and the Nightmare. The possession of the Nightmare in Elspeth reminded me a bit of Artemisa and the Revenant in Margaret Rogerson’s Vespertine (which was a surprising read for me, and has fully marked Rogerson as one of my favorite YA fantasy writers). The use of the Providence Cards in a dark fantasy setting threw me back to the Gamecube game Lost Kingdoms in which a dark fog begins to consume a kingdom and the character uses magic cards to summon spirits and monsters. It’s not a game many I know seem to remember, but it was one of my favorites that I rented several times over (I could never find a copy that was affordable to me at the time)!
This is a lush, dark fantasy debut that hints at what’s to come while offering an engaging and romantic story that left me ready for the sequel!!
May was a solid reading month for me, and I read eight books! The Once and Future Sex was a great introduction to women’s medieval history and provided a jumping off point if you wanted to get started with reading beyond a men’s-focused frame of reference. Some Dukes Have All the Luck was an addictive read that I couldn’t put down once I started it and made me want to read this author’s backlist immediately!! Deanna Raybourn’s Silent in the Grave is her debut, and I can see a lot of the threads that would become evident in her Veronica Speedwell series (which I also love and need to catch up on). The Crane Husband is a solid novella and once I’d recommend to those really interested in fairy tale explorations, while The Witch’s Heart was a bit of a disappointment because Loki as a character in that felt… juvenile. One can be a trickster without seeming like a one-trick pony. Ash Princess is a solid series opener, so I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy as I’m trying to read more of what I have on my kindle. The only two that were less than great, but not bad, were The Death of Vivek Oji (I was not expecting some of the elements as I’d not really seen them spoken about in some of the reviews I read, and I felt the incest took away from the impact of the story) and Our Share of Night (seemed a bit too long in the middle and dragged, and the best part of it was in the last quarter of the book or so).
🌠 The Once and Future Sex, by Eleanor Janega 💖 Some Dukes Have All the Luck, by Christina Britton 🌠 The Death of Vivek Oji, by Akwaeke Emezi 💖 Silent in the Grave, by Deanna Raybourn 💖 The Witch’s Heart, by Genevieve Gornichec 🌠 The Crane Husband, by Kelly Barnhill 💖 Ash Princess, by Laura Sebastian 🌠 Our Share of Night, by Maria Enriquez
I read eight books in April! Leech was delightfully creepy, though I don’t really know where the Wuthering Heights comps came from except maybe for the atmospheric/on the moors remote sort of vibe. I really enjoyed Vo’s The Chosen and the Beautiful as a stand-alone work and as a companion to The Great Gatsby. Neill’s The Bright and Breaking Sea was so much fun, and I hope there’s more after the sequel that I can’t wait to read. I read Fangs on a break at work, and I thought it was cute. I also finished up my listening to The Old Kingdom trilogy on audio with Abhorsen. It still remains one of my favorite series of all time, and I feel like I could read it over and over again while getting something new out of it each time. One Dark Window is a series/duology opener with a card-based magic system that I really enjoyed and found fresh in the wake of a lot of romantic fantasies lately. The only book I found myself disappointed in was The Witch and the Tsar, a Baba Yaga retelling with none of the bite I expect from Baba Yaga. As Death Draws Near was a fine series continuer, but not one of my favorites of the series. I got the next book from the library as I am trying to get caught up on series I enjoy reading and are still active!
🌠 Leech, by Hiron Ennes 💖 The Chosen and the Beautiful, by Nghi Vo 💖 The Bright and Breaking Sea, by Chloe Neill 🌠 Fangs, by Sarah Andersen 💖💞 Abhorsen, by Garth Nix 🌠 The Witch and the Tsar, by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore 🌠 As Death Draws Near, by Anna Lee Huber 💖 One Dark Window, by Rachel Gillig
March was a lot of shorter books because Twilight is so slowly paced that it seemed like it took forever for me to get through! Which! First of all! Even me from two years ago would not have thought in 2023 I would have willing read Twilight and found entertainment in reading it!! It was a sort-of buddy read with a friend, and I wanted to giggle along with her, so I read it. I am not sure if I’ll continue the rest of them, but considering I was staunchly against reading it or even seeing the movies (I may end up going that route!! But who knows!!).
I like reading books before the movie adaptations come out, and I read Women Talking before seeing the film, and I think this is one of those cases where the movie feels like a more appropriate point-of-view for this kind of story. For it being about women talking, the book was narrated and seen from the point-of-view from a man, and the film focused more on the women speaking and telling their truths.
Reading Mysteries of Thorn Manor means I have read all that Margaret Rogerson has put out, and I don’t know when her next will be out! She’s one of my current favorite YA fantasy writers, and I have loved everything she’s written so far. A Prayer for the Crown-Shy is an excellent follow-up to A Psalm for the Wild Built, I was creeped out by Chuck Tingle’s venture into horror with Camp Damascus, and rereading The Great Gatsby was an experience! I can’t believe it had been ten years since I’d last read it, and I read it to refresh myself with the story before I read Nghi Vo’s The Beautiful and the Damned. I didn’t enjoy Six Wakes as much as I thought I would, but I am not sure if it was due to a reading slump or not. Overall, it was a decent month for reading!
🌠 Women Talking, by Miriam Toews 🌠 Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer 💖 Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty 💖💞 The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald 💖 A Duke in Time, by Janna MacGregor 💖 Mysteries of Thorn Manor, by Margaret Rogerson 🔮 Camp Damascus, by Chuck Tingle 🌠 A Prayer for the Crown-Shy, by Becky Chambers
I read ten books in February, and it’s the most of the year so far. It’s also the month where I read the most from the library, which is great because I am attempting to use the library and spend less on books this year. Part of that is because I tend to only read a lot of books once and then carry them on my shelves for years before they find new homes, and using the library gives me the opportunity to read the book once, enjoy it, and send it back right away. Reserving books and going into the branch to browse also scratches that shopping itch.
I didn’t have any real duds of a book this month, with all of these being 3-star reads and above. I may write a few reviews for these if I feel inclined too, but all of these are worth checking out for one reason or another. My favorites of the month are Margaret Rogerson’s Vespertine, Rin Chupeco’s Silver Under Nightfall, and Beth Revis’s Star Wars: The Princess and the Scoundrel. I’d been meaning to read Sister Outsider for quite some time, and I’m glad to have read it in February. The God of Endings and Silver Under Nightfall were two more additions to my vampire reads of the year, and I wasn’t aware that when I started The God Of Endings that it was about vampires. Khaw’s The Salt Grows Heavy is a delightfully creepy mermaid novella that shows us that even though there are scary bitey mermaids, there’s always something much worse out there. Johanna Lindsey’s When Love Awaits is a very dated historical romance with plotlines and themes that wouldn’t jive today, but as I want to familiarize myself with the genre, I wanted to read some older published works and I couldn’t put this one down. I was entranced, and part of that was due to it being set in medieval times. Overall, February was a great reading month!
🌠 The God of Endings, by Jacqueline Holland 💖 Vespertine, by Margaret Rogerson 🌠 Silver Under Nightfall, by Rin Chupeco 🌠 A Psalm for the Wild Built, by Becky Chambers 🌠 You Sexy Thing, by Cat Rambo 🌠 The Final Strife, by Saara El-Arifi 💖 Star Wars: The Princess and the Scoundrel, by Beth Revis 🔮 The Salt Grows Heavy, by Cassandra Khaw 💖 Sister Outsider, by Audre Lorde