What We Devour by Linsey Miller

Book Cover

Publisher: Sourcebooks, Sourcebooks Fire

Date of publication: July 6th, 2021

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, LGBTQIA

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Format Read: Unedited ARC

Received From: Publisher

Goodreads Synopsis:

Lorena Adler has a secret—she holds the power of the banished gods, the Noble and the Vile, inside her. She has spent her entire life hiding from the world and her past. She’s content to spend her days as an undertaker in a small town, marry her best friend, Julian, and live an unfulfilling life so long as no one uncovers her true nature.

But when the notoriously bloodthirsty and equally Vile crown prince comes to arrest Julian’s father, he immediately recognizes Lorena for what she is. So she makes a deal—a fair trial for her betrothed’s father in exchange for her service to the crown.

The prince is desperate for her help. He’s spent years trying to repair the weakening Door that holds back the Vile…and he’s losing the battle. As Lorena learns more about the Door and the horrifying price it takes to keep it closed, she’ll have to embrace both parts of herself to survive.

First Line:

It was an honor to work with the dead, but Rylan Hunt – four stone, fifty two inches, eviscerated, my notes read – had died two days before his thirteenth birthday, and no funeral rites would fix that.

What We Devour by Linsey Miller

I had to take a couple of days to process What We Devour before I wrote the review for it. Normally, I don’t do that. I can sit down and write my review and be on my way. But with this book, I had to let everything that happened process before I could even entertain writing this review.

What We Devour is a dark fantasy. Before this book, when I thought of dark fantasy, I thought of Anne Bishop’s The Black Jewel series. I went into reading What We Devour, thinking it would be somewhat like those books. I was wrong, very wrong. This book took dark fantasy and ran with it.

There are several trigger warnings that I am going to address upfront. Trigger warnings are taken directly from Goodreads: self-harm (mainly cutting), murder (mass and child), sacrifices, executions, factory-related accidents and death, child neglect and abuse, filicide, references to siblings’ death, multiple scenes with death, mass suicide, violence, and blood.

What We Devour is a fast-paced book. From the beginning scenes, where Lorena is prepping a burial body, this book doesn’t stop at those frantic last scenes. The author doesn’t sugarcoat what Lorena is or what she can do. She also doesn’t sugarcoat The Heir, his mother, or anyone else in the book. I read through the book believing that 90% of the people introduced were psychopaths. I mean, if you could create or destroy, wouldn’t you be? Wouldn’t your abilities drive you mad, even with the bindings? I know it would for me.

The world that What We Devour is set in is a bleak, brutal world. Children, more often than not, outlived parents. If you were a wrought (noble or vile), you were often bound, against your will, to the court. You could also be brought up on false charges and sacrificed to The Door. As I said, it was a brutal, terrible world to live in.

I felt terrible for Lorena. All she wanted was a quiet life in Fellhollow, being the town’s undertaker. Instead, she is forced to reveal that she is a dual wrought and then forced to research for The Heir. She is forced to make terrible decisions and face some very uncomfortable truths about people she loved. By the end of the book, though, she did what she thought was right…what she thought would protect the people of her country. She couldn’t stop the inevitable, but she could save as many lives as she could.

The Heir was 100% a psychopath. But I don’t think he was a natural-born psycho. Instead, he was a made one through the abuse of his father and mother and by the power of his Vile wrought. I did have sympathy for him, though. He wanted, in the worse way, to close The Door so that the sacrifices would stop. He wanted someone to understand him.

What We Devour kept me on my toes reading. There were several twists in turns in the plotline that took me by surprise. Just a warning, don’t get too close to any of the characters (except Lorena). They are all expendable.

I loved the fantasy angle of the book. The author created a world that repulsed me, but at the same time, it intrigued me. Her explanation of Vile and Noble, how the wroughts were made, The Door, and what would happen when The Door was opened had me hooked.

The end of What We Devour left me sitting with my mouth open. Everything that happened took me 100% by surprise. The author didn’t resolve any storylines. Instead, she left me wanting to read book 2.

What We Devour is a dark fantasy that had me hooked from page 1. I enjoyed reading it!!

I would recommend What We Devour for anyone over the age of 21. There are violence, blood, murder, and suicide references. See above for a complete list of triggers.

After the Fire by Will Hill

After the Fire

4 Stars

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Date of publication: October 1st, 2018

Genre: Young Adult, Thriller

Where you can find After the Fire: Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Goodreads synopsis:

The things I’ve seen are burned into me, like scars that refuse to fade.

Before, she lived inside the fence. Before, she was never allowed to leave the property, never allowed to talk to Outsiders, never allowed to speak her mind. Because Father John controlled everything—and Father John liked rules. Disobeying Father John came with terrible consequences.

But there are lies behind Father John’s words. Outside, there are different truths.

Then came the fire.

My Review:

When I started reading After the Fire, I was thinking that this was going to be a run of the mill Young Adult book. You know, a book where the plucky heroine saves the day. She solves the mystery and gets the bad guy. When I started reading After the Fire last night, I thought that I would get to 30-40% before going to sleep. Yeah, that didn’t happen. Instead, I was up until almost 12am, devouring this book. I got emotionally invested. I needed to find out what lead up to the fire. I needed to know what would happen to Moonbeam.

After the Fire is Moonbeam’s story. Moonbeam is a survivor of a raid on her cult’s compound. Unlike the other children that were saved, she has secrets. Secrets that eat away at her soul. Secrets that need to come out. Recovering from the raid at a children’s psychiatric hospital, Moonbeam must tell what life was like inside the compound. She also needs to tell them the events that led up to the raid. But can she? Can she overcome everything that has been beaten into her? Or will Father John’s hold on her extend into this new life?

I wasn’t a fan of how the book was broken up at first. There was Before the fire and After the fire. Before detailed how life was at the compound. How Father John and his Centurions dealt out savage punishments. How everyone walked on eggshells because they didn’t want to be the next one in the box. It was a frightening and oppressive existence. After detailed, Moonbeam’s time in the hospital, recovering from wounds attained in the raid. But more importantly, she is being helped mentally to adjust to being Outside. They also want her to tell them about what led up to the raid and what happened when she went into The Big House while it was going on. Like I said earlier, I wasn’t a huge fan of it at first but as I read the book, I realized that there was a flow to the book. All Before scenes were told in therapy sessions. After I realized that, the book flowed nicely for me.

The characters in this book were layered. I like that in a character. I like being able to peel back the layers to see what made that character up. Take Luke for instance. When he is introduced, I thought that he was an innocent victim. But as the book went on and more of Luke’s personality was revealed, I realized that he had been 100% indoctrinated. That began when Father John took over. By the end of the book, I felt bad for him. Even though he did some atrocious things Before and After, he was still a child that had been abused.

I despised Father John. He was the epitome of evil. He took child brides (which disgusted me). He turned Luke into a fanatic that about flipped his wig when he wasn’t accepted into being a Centurion. I thought he got what was coming to him during the fire.

The secondary characters made this book what it was. They were very well-developed. I will say that I was upset with what happened to Nate. I actually groaned and said “Nooooo” when it was revealed what happened.

The end of the book filled me with hope. The author did a great job of wrapping up all the storylines. He did a fantastic job at letting the reader know that deprogramming from a cult takes months, not weeks. He showed me that those kids could go on to live normal lives. But most of all, he showed me what happened to Moonbeam. The afterword was worth the read.

What I liked about After the Fire:

  1. Not your typical YA book
  2. Layered characters
  3. The end of the book

What I disliked about After the Fire:

  1. How the book was broken up at first
  2. Luke (even though I pitied him)
  3. Father John

I gave After the Fire a 4-star rating. This is not your typical YA book and I liked that. It had layered characters (main and secondary). I loved the end of the book. What I disliked about the book didn’t have a huge impact on my rating. They were personal feelings. I didn’t like how the book was broken up when I started reading it. I didn’t like Luke or Father John.

I would give After the Fire an Older Teen rating. There is no sex. There is language. There is violence. The scene of the raid and of a man being almost starved to death in a box can be triggers. I would recommend this book to anyone over the age of 16.

I would reread After the Fire. I would also recommend it to family and friends.

I would like to thank Sourcebooks Fire and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review After the Fire.

All opinions stated in this review of After the Fire are mine.

**I chose to leave this review after reading an advance reader copy**

Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

Mask of Shadows by [Miller, Linsey]

Title: Mask of Shadows

Author: Linsey Miller

Publisher: SOURCEBOOKS Fire

Date of publication: September 5th, 2017

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult, LGBTQIA

Number of pages: 352

POV: 1st person

Where you can find this book: Amazon

Book synopsis (via Goodreads): 

Sallot Leon is a thief and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class―and the nobles who destroyed their home.

When Sal steals a flyer for an audition to become a member of The Left Hand―the Queen’s personal assassins, named after the rings she wears―Sal jumps at the chance to infiltrate the court and get revenge.

But the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. And as Sal succeeds in the competition, and wins the heart of Elise, an intriguing scribe at court, they start to dream of a new life and a different future, but one that Sal can have only if they survive.

My review:

I was pretty excited to read Mask of Shadows. When I first read the blurb on the NetGalley posting, it caught my interest. The last fantasy novel I read with a genderfluid character was The Farseer/The Tawny Man/The Fitz and The Fool series with The Fool being the genderfluid character (and before anyone asks, I have read all of those series plus 2 that aren’t listed).

I actually liked Sal. She/He/They thought on his/her/their feet. The fact that she/he/they wanted to become Opal and went for it was great. Her/His/Their other reason for becoming Opal (finding the lords who refused to help her homeland and assassinating them) was pretty valid too. She/He/They thought that if she/he/they became Opal, that she/he/they could take on the lords as a side job.

I did think that the audition was a little reminiscent of The Hunger Games….but only, and stress only when the members of The Left Hand told them that it was a free-for-all. Once the auditioners were whittled down from 23 to 8, the free for all ended and they started to be eliminated by The Left-Hand members or the remaining people were disqualified. Any similarities to The Hunger Games were ended. I mean, I read The Hunger Games and they battled it out to the last person (well, last two people in Katniss and Peeta’s case). Not here. The Left-Hand members decided who was going to be Opal and let the remaining two people (in this case, it was referenced that there were more at previous auditions) go.

The masks kinda bothered me, though. I don’t like masks. I have a phobia about things covering my face and even reading about them skeeved me out. They had to eat with those things on and I can only imagine what the insides looked like….puke. So yes, I spent almost the whole book being grossed out and praying that the masks will go away…lol.

I also liked the romance between Elise and Sal. It was sweet and totally forbidden. I actually had a huge smile on my face during those scenes. Sal really had no clue on how to act because Elise was an Erland and he/she/they hated the Erlands with a passion because of what happened to his/her/their homeland. I also liked Elise’s personality. She was spunky and she definitely not afraid to stand up for who and what she believed in.

The main plot, the audition, ended the way I thought it would (giving nothing away). But the secondary plot about Sal and her/his/their obsession with getting even with the Erland’s took a very surprising, and sad, turn. Want to find out….read the book.

The end of the book was definitely a cliffhanger. As much as I dislike cliffhangers, this one worked and I really can’t wait for book 2!!

How many stars will I give Mask of Shadows: 4

Why: I enjoyed reading this book and it definitely kept me engrossed.

Will I reread: Yes

Will I recommend to family and friends: Yes

Age range: Late Teen

Why: Violence

**I chose to leave this review after reading an advance reader copy**