Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Happy publication day to Leigh Bardugo’s ‘Crooked Kingdom’, the sequel to the stunning ‘Six of Crows’! I’ve just finished this book and it was phenomenal! It was such a joy to spend more time with Kaz and his crew. I would definitely rate it five out of five stars.

Here’s an alphabet of reasons why you should be reading ‘Crooked Kingdom’ right now if you aren’t already!

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ACTION

 

‘Crooked Kingdom’ is action-packed. It’s ceaselessly exciting and a complete thrill ride from start to finish.

 

BACKSTORIES

 

In ‘Crooked Kingdom’ we learn more about each of the six main characters and we see their backstories, particularly Inej’s, Wylan’s and Jesper’s. These develop the characters further and make them even more 3D.

 

CLIFF-HANGERS

 

The novel is divided into numerous sections with different titles and between these sections, and between many of the chapters, there are tense cliff-hangers. These make the book impossible to put down as you are desperately eager and impatient to find out what will happen next.

 

DIALOGUE

 

The dialogue in ‘Crooked Kingdom’ is snappy and realistic – it never feels staged. Leigh Bardugo is a master at showing us what characters are doing through dialogue as well as through narration – for example, when Kaz tells Matthias to ‘stop gawking’. She gets the perfect balance between dialogue and narration through the novel. I also love the fact that each character has a distinctive personality and voice, to the extent that if the ‘said ….’ bits that inform you who is speaking were taken out, I would still know who was talking.

 

EMOTIONAL

 

Several sections of the novel are very moving – particularly chapters 14 and 39. I cried a couple of times while reading. I always think it’s amazing when a book makes you cry because it shows just how powerful the writing is. In fact, I felt very emotional when reading the whole book because it is the final novel in the duology and I did not want to have to say goodbye to the characters.

 

FUNNY

 

While some parts of ‘Crooked Kingdom’ are very touching, some are very funny. Nina and Jesper in particular bring lots of humour to the novel. When things get particularly dark, they lighten the mood. I loved this amusing bit of dialogue:

 

‘Do you know what Van Eck’s problem is?’

‘No honour?’ said Matthias.

‘Rotten parenting skills?’ said Nina.

‘Receding hairline?’ offered Jesper.

 

I also loved the scene where Nina tells Matthias the ‘Princess and Barbarian’ story – it was hilarious and they have great chemistry together.

 

GRIPPING

 

‘Crooked Kingdom’ hooks you from the first line and does not let go until the end. Actually, it doesn’t even let go then – you’ll still be thinking about it after you have turned the final page. It’s such a compelling and enveloping story. I found it impossible to put down.

 

HUSTLE

 

A few years ago, there was a TV programme in the UK named ‘Hustle’ about a group of grifters, and I absolutely loved it. Kaz and his crew remind me of the main characters from that programme, especially in the opening scenes of ‘Crooked Kingdom’ when they are all working together to pull off a con.

 

INEJ

 

To my delight, a few months ago I took a ‘Which Six of Crows Character Are You?’ quiz and Inej was the character that I got. Inej is my favourite character from this series, and indeed one of my all time favourite characters. She’s a quick-thinker and can get herself out of many scrapes. She’s resilient and strong in a manner which is quiet and understated but very palpable and admirable. She’s brave and loyal and I could read about her all day long.

 

JESPER

 

I liked Jesper in ‘Six of Crows’ but I didn’t love him. He definitely grew on me in this sequel. I loved the way that on the one hand he was fun, flirty and light-hearted, but there was another more serious side to him that was determined to make amends for his mistake in the first book.

 

KAZ

 

Kaz is one of the best characters I have ever read about. I have an incredibly vivid picture of him as I read – of the way he talks, the way he moves, the way he looks. He is such a striking and original creation, and he feels really believable because he has clear flaws as well as strengths. I felt very emotionally attached to him during both books, especially because of his back-story.

 

LONG

 

‘Crooked Kingdom’ is considerably thick, which is wonderful both because it gives time for a detailed and exciting plot and because I love spending time with these characters. What’s really impressive is that, despite its length, the novel never drags or feels slow. It’s perfectly paced.

 

MAP

 

I don’t know who designed the maps at the front of the novel, but they are stunning. I love fantasy books with maps. It’s great to be able to track where Kaz and his crew are on the map and to see where each character is from.

 

NINA

 

Nina is another striking character from this book and this series. I love her confidence and her ‘banter’ with Jesper, as well as her friendship with Inej and their mutual support. I really like the fact that this series has two very different but equally strong and brave female protagonists and a great female friendship.

 

OPENING

 

‘Crooked Kingdom’ will grab you right from the start. The opening, which is from the point of view of a character called Retvenko, is hugely tense and dramatic. I loved it!

 

PACE

 

As I said before, ‘Crooked Kingdom’ never drags. The pacing is superb – it’s fast paced enough that you will be turning the pages as fast as you can, but there is also time for reflection and character development as well as plot advancement. It’s not so fast-paced that it gets at all confusing, overwhelming or difficult to keep up.

 

QUOTABLE

 

‘Crooked Kingdom’ is beautifully written and there are so many striking and memorable lines in it, both in narration and in dialogue, from Kaz’s explanation of why he likes crows to Nina’s comment about fear being like a phoenix.

I loved the quote below:

 

‘He didn’t have to look to know she was beside him – silent, sure-footed. She could have outpaced him in an instant, but they ran in tandem, matching each other step for step.’

 

My favourite line of the whole book is the final line from the last chapter from Inej’s point of view – I think it’s a beautiful metaphor.

 

ROMANCE

 

The romances in this series are slow-burn. The romance never takes over – the plot comes first and the friendships are equally as important and enjoyable as the romances. That said, the romantic scenes that are in the novel are brilliantly written. Sometimes there’s sizzling chemistry; sometimes your heartstrings are being tugged at. My One True Pairing comes from this series.

 

SETTING

 

Leigh Bardugo has written five fantasy books set in the world of the Grisha now and I have adored them all. She has a wonderful imagination and her world-building is fantastic – very detailed, original and enveloping. I can always visualise all of the settings.

 

TENSE

 

‘Crooked Kingdom’ had me right on the edge of my seat throughout. There’s almost constant tension: the stakes are very high and the characters are always in dangerous situations. There’s a particularly tense set of scenes between Inej and a character called Dunyasha.

 

UNPREDICTABLE

 

‘Crooked Kingdom’ is full of twists and turns and you can never guess what is going to happen next. That makes it really exciting and addictive. There’s a particularly fantastic twist concerning an action that Kaz claims to have taken.

 

VAN ECK

 

The protagonists of the novel are very vivid and striking and so are the antagonists – in particular, Van Eck. In some of the novels I have read this year, the villainous character has not been very scary or alarming at all, but Van Eck is truly threatening and petty, particularly in the way he continually mocks Wylan’s illiteracy. I think it is really important for the antagonists to be just as developed as the protagonists, and ‘Crooked Kingdom’ certainly achieves this.

 

WRITING STYLE

 

I love Leigh Bardugo’s writing. It’s absolutely captivating and compelling, whether she is writing an action scene, an emotional scene or a romantic scene – or all three rolled into one. Her writing just keeps getting better and better with every book.

 

I’ve talked about how much I love the characters in ‘Crooked Kingdom’ and I have to say that Leigh Bardugo is, in my opinion, the best YA writer there is when it comes to characters. She has a real knack for creating striking, vivid and original characters that you grow very attached to. When someone asks me my favourite characters, her characters are always the first that come to mind.

 

XENOS

 

I must admit I really struggled to think of words that began with ‘x’ so I had to resort to my knowledge of Ancient Greek for this one! ‘Xenos’ means ‘stranger’ and I chose it because ‘Crooked Kingdom’ introduces some fabulous new characters. We also get to see some old friends, and it is wonderful to be reunited with them!

 

YEAR

 

I waited a year for this sequel and the wait was completely worth it! I did not disappoint me in anyway – in fact I am delighted to say that it exceeded my expectations!

 

ZERO

 

There were zero things I did not like about ‘Crooked Kingdom’. I loved every page of it and I know I will reread it countless times. It’s one of the best books I have ever read and I think that it is the best book Leigh Bardugo has written to date (although that’s a very hard call as all her books are amazing!)!

Waiting on Wednesday

There are so many yet-to-be-released books that I cannot wait for, from books which come out next month and have only a short wait left, to books that are still months away and come out next year. All of the release dates for these books are in my calendar and I am bursting with excitement for them.

I posted some of the books a couple of weeks ago, but I am joining in with the meme again today. Here are some more of the upcoming books I am most excited about!

Several of this week’s ones are the final books in series, so I have mixed emotions about them – on the one hand I cannot wait for them to come out because I know they are going to be amazing, but on the other hand I am not, and will never be, ready to say goodbye to these characters and for the series to be over!

 

  • Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake (September 2016)

Goodreads synopsis: Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.

Ever since I saw the synopsis for ‘Three Dark Crowns’, I have been very excited for it to come out. It sounds really intriguing, with the ruthless and competitive natures of the three sisters, and the stakes are really high. I think it is going to be a tense, unpredictable and gripping story rich in betrayal and scandal.

I also really like the fact that three different covers for the novel are being published in the UK, with each one representing one of the three sisters. I think the green cover with the snake is my favourite, but if I read the book and love it I will probably end up buying them all as they all look amazing!
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  • Mafiosa by Catherine Doyle (January 2017)

A blood war rages on the streets of Chicago.

Protected by an infamous mafia family, Sophie is living a dangerous lie, pretending to lead a normal life. But the deceit can’t last for ever. Her heart belongs to a killer and Sophie’s the prime target of a rival clan. She’s determined to seek revenge on her mother’s murderers, but can she pay the price – can she be a mafiosa?

The third and final instalment in the explosive YA Blood for Blood series which started with Vendetta and Inferno.

The Blood For Blood trilogy is one of my very favourite series. I raced through the first two books and absolutely loved both of them. In particular I loved the unpredictable and gripping nature of the novels, the snappy dialogue, the romance, and the friendship between Sophie, the main character, and her best friend Millie – there is such loyalty in their friendship and Millie is hilarious. However, what I love best of all about Catherine Doyle’s writing is the fact that reading her novels is like watching a thriller – you can imagine everything and it all plays out like a film in front of your eyes. ‘Mafiosa’ is sure to be a blockbuster finale!

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  • Dawn Study by Maria V. Snyder (January 2017)

New York Times bestselling author Maria V. Snyder brings her Poison Study series to its exhilarating conclusion.

Despite the odds, Yelena and Valek have forged an irrevocable bond and a family that transcends borders. Now, when their two homelands stand on the brink of war, they must fight with magic and cunning to thwart an Ixian plot to invade Sitia.

Yelena seeks to break the hold of the insidious Theobroma that destroys a person’s resistance to magical persuasion. But the Cartel is determined to keep influential citizens and Sitian diplomats in thrall and Yelena at bay. With every bounty hunter after her, Yelena is forced to make a dangerous deal.

With might and magic, Valek peels back the layers of betrayal surrounding the Commander. At its rotten core lies a powerful magician and his latest discovery. The fate of all rests upon two unlikely weapons. One may turn the tide. The other could spell the end of everything.

I’m so glad that Maria V. Snyder decided to write a continuation trilogy to the original Chronicles of Ixia novels. It has been a joy to be reunited with some of my favourite fictional characters. ‘Shadow Study’ and ‘Night Study’ were both gripping and brilliantly written and ‘Dawn Study’, the third and final novel of this continuation series, is sure to be no different. The ending of ‘Night Study’ set things up for an action-packed and emotional final novel, and I cannot wait to read it. Snyder’s Soulfinder novels always have the perfect mix of romance, action and humour, and there are always mini cliffhangers at the end of chapters that keep you ceaselessly turning the pages. Roll on January and ‘Dawn Study’!

Below is the US cover as the UK one is yet to be revealed.

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  • The Scarecrow Queen by Melinda Salisbury (March 2017)

The final battle is coming . . .

As the Sleeping Prince tightens his hold on Lormere and Tregellan, the net closes in on the ragged band of rebels trying desperately to defeat him. Twylla and Errin are separated, isolated, and running out of time. The final battle is coming, and Aurek will stop at nothing to keep the throne forever . . .

The first thing I have to say is that the cover of ‘The Scarecrow Queen’, the third and final novel in The Sin Eater’s Daughter trilogy, is absolutely stunning. The covers for the other two books were also beautiful, but this one is my favourite yet, and I am sure that the inside of ‘The Scarecrow Queen’ is going to be just as stunning and brilliant as the outside.

‘The Sin Eater’s Daughter’ was fantastic, but the sequel, ‘The Sleeping Prince’, was even better – full of twists and turns, amazing characters and thrilling scenes. I think that this third novel will be the best one yet. The Sleeping Prince is on the rampage and everything is going to come to a head. It’s going to be an explosive and breathtaking final book.

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  • Long Way Home by Katie McGarry (January 2017)

Seventeen-year-old Violet has always been expected to sit back and let the boys do all the saving.

It’s the code her father, a member of the Reign of Terror motorcycle club, raised her to live by. Yet when her dad is killed carrying out Terror business, Violet knows it’s up to her to do the saving. To protect herself, and her vulnerable younger brother, she needs to cut all ties with the club—including Chevy, the boy she’s known and loved her whole life.

But when a rival club comes after Violet, exposing old secrets and making new threats, she’s forced to question what she thought she knew about her father, the Reign of Terror, and what she thinks she wants. Which means re-evaluating everything: love, family, friends . . . and forgiveness.

Caught in the crosshairs between loyalty and freedom, Violet must decide whether old friends can be trusted—and if she’s strong enough to be the one person to save them all.

I am beyond excited for ‘Long Way Home’, the next instalment in Katie McGarry’s wonderful Thunder Road series, having loved both of the previous books. Chevy and Violet are my favourite characters, so I cannot wait to hear their story. Katie McGarry has a truly addictive writing style and I always race through her books. I have a feeling that ‘Long Way Home’ is going to be my favourite book of hers.

I am also really hoping that we will get to see both more of the Thunder Road characters from the other two books – Oz, Emily, Breanna and Razor – and more of the characters from Katie McGarry’s other series, ‘Pushing the Limits’, in this novel, as I love them all and would really enjoy seeing them again!

(Below is the US cover; the UK one is yet to be released)

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  • Traitor To The Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

The sizzling, un-put-downable sequel to the bestselling Rebel of the Sands!

Mere months ago, gunslinger Amani al’Hiza fled her dead-end hometown on the back of a mythical horse with the mysterious foreigner Jin, seeking only her own freedom. Now she’s fighting to liberate the entire desert nation of Miraji from a bloodthirsty sultan who slew his own father to capture the throne. 

When Amani finds herself thrust into the epicenter of the regime—the Sultan’s palace—she’s determined to bring the tyrant down. Desperate to uncover the Sultan’s secrets by spying on his court, she tries to forget that Jin disappeared just as she was getting closest to him, and that she’s a prisoner of the enemy. But the longer she remains, the more she questions whether the Sultan is really the villain she’s been told he is, and who’s the real traitor to her sun-bleached, magic-filled homeland.

Forget everything you thought you knew about Miraji, about the rebellion, about djinni and Jin and the Blue-Eyed Bandit. In Traitor to the Throne, the only certainty is that everything will change.

I absolutely loved ‘Rebel of the Sands’, the first novel in this series. I really enjoyed the fact the it was full of adventure and that there were lots of magical legends. It was a sandstorm of a story: it was fast-paced and action-packed, and it pulled me in from the very beginning and gripped me until the very end. I am sure that the sequel, ‘Traitor To The Throne’ will be no different. The cover is gorgeous, and the tagline ‘Beware the enemy within…’ is very suspenseful and has me bursting to know what will happen next for Amani. I can’t wait to read the next part of her story and to be reunited with all the characters.

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Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

  • Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

Rating: * * * * *

Series: #5 Throne of Glass

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Publication Date: September 2016

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those don’t.

As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

Aelin’s journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down?

NB – This review is shorter and slightly less specific than my usual ones because I’ve tried to keep it completely free of spoilers as I know a lot of fans of this series haven’t read this book yet. 

 

I have just finished ‘Empire of Storms’, the fifth installment in Sarah J Maas’ bestselling Throne of Glass series, and I absolutely loved every page of it. It has to be my favourite book of the series so far and it has zoomed all the way to the top of my list of my favourite books of this year (and probably my list of favourite books ever). It was epic and awesome, and now that I have finished it I just want to reread it all again and relive all of the emotions, tension and excitement.

‘Empire of Storms’ is the longest Throne of Glass book yet, with around 700 pages, yet in no place does it drag or feel slow. The 700 pages are packed with heart-pounding action and adventure. I was absolutely hooked and entranced for the duration. I could not put the book down, nor could I turn the pages fast enough. And even 700 pages did not feel like long enough, because I could read about these characters all day, every day. Each character in the novel has such a striking and vivid personality and I loved reading each of their stories. Lots of the characters are further developed and we get to know them really well. I particularly love all of the female characters in this series – each of them has their own unique kind of strength. I actually have a new favourite female character from reading this book.

Not only is there non-stop action and tension, but there is also fantastic and immersive world-building and we get to see lots of different parts of Erilea. There are brilliant and vivid scenes involving magic and magical creatures. There are lots of epic romances and friendships, too. There were a couple of things in ‘Queen of Shadows’, the previous installment in the series, that I was not quite sure about, but ‘Empire of Storms’ completely turned these around for me. There are also some really moving sections that will bring tears to your eyes. ‘Empire of Storms’ captures your imagination and your heart, just as Sarah J. Maas’ other 2016 novel, ‘A Court of Mist and Fury’ did. Sarah J. Maas has written two outstanding novels this year and what I love about her writing is that it just keeps getting better and better, more and more epic. With every book she pushes the boundaries of awesomeness – just when I think her books cannot be any more fantastic, they move on to a whole other level of amazingness that I didn’t know existed!

The final hundred pages of ‘Empire of Storms’ are thrilling and mind-blowing. There are so many twists and revelations, and Sarah J. Maas links these right back to the very beginning of the series. I love it when authors do that – when they have planned the series in advance so that they reveal something late on in the series and there have been hints about it right from the beginning, and it is like a puzzle all coming together and joining up.  It’s an explosive, emotional and jaw-dropping finale and it will have you bursting for the next book.

In short, ‘Empire of Storms’ is Maas-ively amazing (get it?!) and, in my opinion, the best book of the series to date and the best book of 2016 so far! I cannot praise it highly enough.

 

Girl Detached by Manuela Salvi

  • Girl Detached by Manuela Salvi (Translated from Italian by Denise Muir)

Rating: * * * * *

Publisher: Barrington Stoke (Bucket List Books)

Publication Date: September 2016

Format: Proof copy

Age group: Although this is targeted at YA, I would say that the content means that it is one for an older YA audience and I’d personally recommend it to those 16+. I would also forewarn about triggers for sexual abuse and grooming. 

Goodreads Synopsis: Aleksandra has issues with her voice. Stress makes her stutter, and her life is one of stress. She can only speak clearly on stage, freed by the words of the character she plays. Then, when Aleksandra befriends her new neighbour Megan, and through her meets charming, handsome Ruben, it seems she has discovered a doorway into a different world, and a different Alek. But Ruben wants Aleksandra to play a particular role for him, and it is one that will come close to destroying her. 

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I first heard about ‘Girl Detached’ at this year’s YALC (the Young Adult Literature Convention) and I received a proof copy of the book there. ‘Girl Detached’ was censored and banned from sale in Italy, but has been translated into English by Denise Muir (and I must say her translation is brilliant – it flows very well) and it is being published in the UK this year. The UK publishers believe that this is a story the world needs to hear and I completely agree with them. In three words, ‘Girl Detached’ is honest, powerful and heartbreaking.

‘Girl Detached’ tells the story of Aleksandra, a keen amateur actress who has lived with her gran for her whole life. After her gran’s death, she has to move back in with the mother who abandoned her and her new family, which includes a younger brother. Moving back into this house introduces Aleksandra to Megan, the pretty girl who lives next door and is always sneaking out of her window. Through Megan, Aleksandra is introduced to the charming, good-looking and influential Ruben, and her life begins to spiral out of control.

One of the things that really struck me about ‘Girl Detached’ was the skill of the character portrayals. Each character is very vivid and distinctive, from Megan, so eager to take Alek under her wing and to transform her and who seems outwardly very confident but can be bitter and lacks self-belief underneath, and her friends, who act hostile and competitively towards Alek, to Jonah, a fellow member of Alek’s theatre company who can be snide and irritating, and all the other members of the ‘Ship of Fools’ company. The scenes in the theatre company were probably my favourite – I loved it when Alek finally got her own back on Jonah for continually irritating her and sabotaging her performances, and I also loved the scene where Alek and Elektra were practising improvising because it was a time when she could really let loose and be completely free. The way that her fellow members of the theatre group reacted to the transformation Alek’ undergoes after meeting Megan really moved me. They are like a family to Alek.

Aleksandra herself was a protagonist to whom I was immediately attached. I loved her enthusiasm for Oscar Wilde and actually I felt that gave me something in common with her – like Alek, I acted in an Oscar Wilde play and really love his writing style. I found Alek’s ability to assume characters when acting to the extent that she lost her stammer fascinating. Her story is one that will tear at your heart strings because you are so attached to her.

‘Girl Detached’ is very hard-hitting and deeply moving. Parts of it will make you very sad and parts very angry; parts are very difficult to read because they are so horrifying and unsettling and that is why I would recommend it to the upper end of YA. The fact that it was censored in Italy probably serves to show just how well written it is – how impactful, thought-provoking and enlightening Aleksandra’s story is. Overall, ‘Girl Detached’ is a defiant, eye-opening and unforgettable novel that will stay in your mind long after you have finished reading. I predict that in a few decades’ time, it will become a classic.

 

 

The Deviants by C. J. Skuse

  • The Deviants by C. J. Skuse

Rating: * * * * *

Publisher: Mira InkScreen Shot 2016-09-02 at 20.37.28.png

Publication Date: Sept 22nd 2016

Series? – Standalone

Goodreads Synopsis:

When you set out for revenge, dig two graves

Growing up in the sleepy English seaside town of Brynston, the fearless five – Ella, Max, Corey, Fallon and Zane – were always inseparable. Living up to their nickname, they were the adventurous, rowdy kids who lived for ghost stories and exploring the nearby islands off the coast. But when Max’s beloved older sister Jessica is killed, the friendship seems to die with her.

Now years later, only Max and Ella are in touch; still best friends and a couple since they were thirteen. Their lives are so intertwined Max’s dad even sponsors Ella’s training for the Commonwealth Games. But Ella is hiding things. Like why she hates going to Max’s house for Sunday dinner, and flinches whenever his family are near. Or the real reason she’s afraid to take their relationship to the next level.

When underdog Corey is bullied, the fearless five are brought back together again, teaming up to wreak havoc and revenge on those who have wronged them. But when the secrets they are keeping can no longer be kept quiet, will their fearlessness be enough to save them from themselves?

I rushed to pick up a proof of ‘The Deviants’ at YALC, having heard glowing comments about C. J. Skuse’s new novel. Having read it a few weeks ago, I can confirm that the wonderful reviews I had seen were exactly right. ‘The Deviants’, a kind of YA version of Enid Blyton’s classic ‘Famous Five’ children’s books, is a fantastic mystery novel. It is one of the best books I have read this year, and, indeed, one of the best books I have ever read.

‘The Deviants’ is brilliant right from the opening. The first chapter is very mysterious and it hooks you straight away – a dead body is found on a beach. Then there is a section between the protagonist Ella and her boyfriend Max in the garden centre, which is very unsettling as we see the cracks in their relationship – Ella’s irritable mood, the fact that she does not remember an important date, the fact that the two of them are on different pages when it comes to intimacy, and Ella’s anger about where Max’s money comes from. C. J. Skuse establishes the mood and tension straight away. She also fills us with questions that we cannot wait to hear the answers to, especially with Ella’s comment that there are lots of things that even Max, whom she has been dating since she was thirteen and has been friends with for most of her life, does not know about her.

One of the main aspects of this novel that I absolutely loved was the way that each chapter ended. At the close of every chapter is a question or a comment from an unknown person who is talking to Ella. These comments fuel what Ella narrates next. This makes the book both really mysterious and very gripping.

Another aspect of the novel that makes it truly gripping and impossible to put down is the fact that there are twists and surprises dropped in that you will not see coming. A few of these surprises come from a character named Fallon who is one of the Fearless Five, and when she dropped these twists in I am sure my mouth dropped open and I was gawping at the book, so it is lucky I was not reading it in public! I read ‘The Deviants’ in two sittings and the only reason I did not read it in one was because I was exhausted and had to sleep. As soon as I got up the next morning, I rushed to start reading it again. I had to know what happened next.

Another strength of ‘The Deviants’ is that it is very vivid. Whether Max and Ella were on a date in the garden centre, or Ella was boxing and running with her coach Pete, or the gang were in Fallon’s kitchenette, I was picturing every scene as I read. The book truly captured my imagination.

I also loved the characters in ‘The Deviants’. Ella is a brilliant main character. She is fiercely loyal and will put herself on the line to protect her friends and she is talented and driven. She is very relatable because she has doubts and she has faults. She feels very 3D, as do Max and the other members of the Fearless Five. They are all gritty. I found the friendship and scenes between the members of the Fearless Five very moving. The part where Fallon tells Ella, to Ella’s extreme disbelief but pride, that Ella has inspired her and the part where Ella and Zane go to the island, because that area has a remoteness that will be useful to Zane at that point, especially touched me. This is one of those books where, after I have finished it, the main characters feel like old friends to me, for I have grown so attached to them over the novel’s course.

The ending of the novel is very well executed. Everything comes to a heart-stopping crescendo and it will have you right on the edge of your seat. The ending links back to the beginning in a really interesting and unpredictable way, as with ‘We Were Liars’ by E. Lockhart. In fact, ‘The Deviants’ is the perfect novel for fans of ‘We Were Liars.’ Upon finishing each of these two books, I felt the same thing – I wished that I could wipe the novel from my memory just so I could have the pleasure of reading it again for the first time.

The final thing that makes ‘The Deviants’ really special to me is the fact that as soon as I finished it, I passed it over to my sister so that I would have someone to talk to and fan-girl over it with. My sister had not read YA for a long time and she does not read that much fiction. ‘The Deviants’ changed that. She read it in a very short time, being as hooked by it as I was, and raved about it to me. She loved it as much as I did, and it has refuelled her love of reading.