How is January treating you? I feel like its passing us by pretty quickly and I’m able to spend lots of time wrapped in my favourite knitted blanket reading and blogging! I’ve been waking for work each morning, going for a walk with a coffee and then getting back to have breakfast and read a chapter or two of my current read before work, which is really setting my mornings up nicely, but is also helping me dive through my TBR, which massively helps as there are so many of them! Are you able to find more time for reading if you’re in lockdown?
I’ve managed to read 4 books so far in 2021 and today I am sharing with you the first one I finished this year. It’s a brand new debut due to be published just a few days away on 21st January (eek!) – so if you like what you read below, preorder today!
SECRETS OF THE STARCROSSED, BY CLARA O’CONNOR
So when the lovely people at One More Chapter said that they had a few proofs of this one to share I jumped at the chance to grab a copy! This is the first book in a trilogy called ‘The Once and Future Queen’ by Clara O’Connor.
I absolutely love fantasy book series such as Twilight, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) and this one sounded right up my street.
“Two starcrossed lovers fight to ignite the spark of the rebellion.
What if the Roman Empire never fell?
What if the Caesar still ruled London?
What if the Celtic Thrones still stood beyond its walls?
What if their ancient elemental power still thrummed through the Ley lines woven deep within the land..within earth, air and water?
What if someone or something unleashed it?”
I read this and was like ‘ALL THE YESES’. I absolutely adore ‘what if’ questions in history. There are so many things that happened before we were born that have shaped the lives we have today. What if they had had different outcomes, what would our lives look like? This is basically a world which O’Connor is exploring in this book- and in this fictional modern day world we are unleashed in, London (Londinium) has its usual landmarks, but it’s completely under the Roman rule of Caesar Magnus XVII. The rest of Britain is split into the Celtic Thrones, and whilst there is a treaty between the kingdoms, there is a stark difference between London and the rest of Britain. Those under the Celtic rule are seen a little like GOT Wildlings, uncivilised and in touch with nature. It is of course known in history that the Romans were technologically advanced for their time and in this story that has transpired into a lot of high technology used by those in power to spy on their citizens. Those in the Celtic Thrones do not have a high degree of technology and much of it does not work across the border, because what they do have, is magic.
So to put that into context, we’re reading a dystopian, sci fi fantasy romance, the first in it’s trilogy. EEK! I was beyond excited to see where this one would lead to.
The idea of Britain being in modern day but with London as a separate world (as it often feels anyway as a northerner).. was interesting to me. We are introduced to our main character, Cassandra, the daughter of a powerful merchant in London. Here, arranged marriages are still the norm and her betrothed is one of the most eligible bachelors in town, a hot doctor by the name of Marcus. Being who she is, she is educated in a certain manner, there are expectations on her social conduct and she is expected to vote on the decisions required for those punishable in the Mete, the forum where people suspected of crimes were given punishments or mercy by the crowd of jurors. Of course in this world, they use technology to do so, so it’s a little like ‘ask the audience’ on Who wants to be a Millionaire. The major crimes in this city are theft and in such a highly technological advanced city – hacking. I loved this idea as it brought together the old and new worlds in a way I could easily visualise, however I did feel that this was very much alike to ‘The Capitol’ in The Hunger Games in that the crowd seemed very thirsty for blood. The book is described as ‘Panem meets Grishaverse’ and I certainly could see the likeness.
The plot takes us through a kind of unravelling in Cassandra’s life, from the perfectly well behaved upper class student who believes in the Roman rule, the code of conduct and all that it stands for.. to a moment of inexplicable lust and attraction to a classmate, a classmate with some very illegal technology in his pocket, who is about to turn her life and everything she knows about herself and her world, upside down forever. A rebellion rumbles as a strange sickness sweeps through the population..
Firstly, I thoroughly enjoyed the world created by the author. Sentinels in the street, public judgements and punishments, interesting characters, different worlds within one island. I loved that the author has used history and fantasy to create this fictional world and it felt very real and plausible. However – I didn’t actually feel that there was enough of the Roman rule vibe for my liking. I genuinely don’t think we saw anything about the current ruler, Caesar Magnus once. I wanted a lot more of it, a lot more control and fear amongst the residents. It would definitely have created a lot more atmosphere for the plot that unfolds and the spiralling world of Cassandra – I feel like the ideas were more tiptoed around than thoroughly explored.
I also felt that whilst the characters needed to build up their development and relationships with one another, some of the pacing did feel a little too slow in my opinion. I personally was more interested in the backstory, technology and I definitely wanted to see more of the mete, but perhaps thats just personal taste.
I thoroughly enjoyed the 3 main characters, they each have distinctive personalities and the character of Devyn is very strong. However the supporting roles were just names on a page for me, I didn’t feel that they had particularly any true emotion behind them and they didn’t feel like real people. That being said, it’s a trilogy and I do think the author was focusing more on developing the relationships between the main characters to be able to carry them through the other books, I guess the side characters aren’t that important. But I say it again.. where is Caesar Magnus XVII?!
However, the ending was a heart racing, page turning, dramatic scene. It’s thrilling, daring and so exciting. It has absolutely made me want to pick up the next novel in this series, because I HAVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS!! Which is exactly what you need in a book series.
CAN’T PUT IT DOWN RATING: 4/5
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I’ll be very excited to read the second, however the lack of presence by the current ruler didn’t make any sense to me and unfortunately did impact my enjoyment during the read. If this is a book of rebellion against order then I need to see the face or feel more of the person holding the keys to the power. I also wanted more flesh added to some of the sideline characters and as I’ve written, for my personal taste there was a little too much slow romance and not enough fear building action which we found at the end. However, the world the author has delivered is fascinating and it’s definitely one I want to explore more of. The strange sickness sweeping through the nation also felt very apt..
I would 100% recommend reading if you’re a lover of The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones.
Where to Buy:
Kindle pre-order price, £0.99
Amazon Paperback pre order price: £7.37
All prices correct at time of writing.
Note – this book was sent to me by the publisher as part of their PR/AD campaign. This review is completely honest and entirely my own.
WASHED DOWN WITH:
So I’m obsessing with loose leaf again at the moment. My friend bought me an amazing cup for Christmas which means that I can now brew loose leaf in one cup, I don’t have to make loads of tea in a teapot and I can keep switching tea without a fuss. It’s so easy to clean, safe to say I love it! I’ve been drinking some ‘Yoga Tea’ which is a really calming herbal infusion. It was purchased for me as a gift from a loose leaf store which has sadly closed down since. I’m not even sure what’s in it because the ingredients aren’t listed, but its very zen! However you can still get this cup and I definitely suggest you look at buying one if you like loose leaf tea or want to start drinking more if it but don’t like the mess of a teapot!
Tealyra Venus Double Wall Cup Infuser – buy here
Well, that’s it for my reviews this week! What’s your thoughts on this one? Has it piqued your interest? Or is there only one dystopian Rebellion filled world for you? Comment below!
I know our lives are all over the place at the moment, but if you can find just 5 minutes a day or a chapter at a time, you’re still reading and you will still feel the amazing mental health benefits which we all need right now. Enjoy your downtime!
Until the next chapter,
Socials (Instagram/Facebook/Goodreads/Netgalley): @papyrusandpeppermint