Sunday, April 17, 2022

Book Series Review: "Dragonwatch" by Brandon Mull

Series Title: Dragonwatch
Author: Brandon Mull
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Reading Order & Individual Ratings:
  1. Dragonwatch - 4.5 // 5 stars
  2. Wrath of the Dragon King - 4.5 // 5 stars
  3. Master of the Phantom Isle - 4.5 // 5 stars
  4. Champion of the Titan Games - 4.5 // 5 stars
  5. Return of the Dragon Slayers - 4.5 // 5 stars
  6. Legend of the Dragon Slayer (companion)
Overall Rating: 4.5 // 5 stars

Let me just start out by saying that this series was a delight, I had so much fun reading it, and I look forward to returning to it again in the future! Okay, now that that's out of the way, let's get into the actual review.

So Dragonwatch is the sequel/spin-off series to Fablehaven, which is a series that is all about two kids who find out that their grandparents' house is actually on a magical preserve and grandparents interact with magical creatures every day. Obviously it's a bit more complicated and exciting than that, but at the very core that is what Fablehaven is about. Before I get into Dragonwatch, I want to warn that I cannot write this review without spoiling certain aspects of that first series. 

Dragonwatch is set just a few months after the events of the final Fablehaven book. Things have quieted down and our characters are mostly chilling after an intense couple of years. But, unrest among the dragons is brewing and only intensified after they were given a taste of freedom. That's where this series picks off, with Kendra and Seth on a new mission to save the world. 

This series was a delight. It was also very different than Fablehaven. For me, a lot of my feelings and thoughts around the first series come from reading the books as a child. In contrast, I am in my early twenties having just finished Dragonwatch so the feelings and experiences are different for both series. However, there remains a lot of nostalgia even with these new books that definitely made this sequel series fantastic. 

The main thing I liked about this series was getting to be back with these characters and this world. As I read this when I was really young, this has always been a very vivid, magical world for me and I've always connected hard with the characters. That made it very easy for me to fall back into this world, especially as I reread Fablehaven right before reading this series. 

Kendra and Seth have gotten a little wiser and a little older, but they still remain the same characters I grew to love and look up to as a child. Their younger cousins are introduced to this series and it's a very interesting dynamic to have Kendra and Seth be the experienced ones this time around. I found it really fascinating to watch how their characters have evolved and taken on these new roles. I honestly also expected Seth to take the forefront in this series, so when there was a pretty equal balance between Kendra and Seth, I was pleasantly surprised as Kendra has always been my favorite since I was nine years old. 

Of course, not only do Kendra and Seth return, but we also get a whole host of return side characters that I was so excited to see. Now, there were some side characters who I wish had gotten more page time but I am just happy to have more content with these characters in general. I also know that Kendra and Seth couldn't have grown and done the things they did if all of these side characters were present 100% of the time. 

I would say my favorite characters to see return were Warren, Tanu, Vanessa, Newel, and Doren. Of course, we have plenty of other side characters and new ones. There were some really great new characters that I loved reading about and being introduced to. The cast of characters is now quite large for this world. 

Apart from getting to spend more time with these characters and this world, one of the main things I loved about this series is getting to explore what was previously unexplored. This refers to not just new preserves and parts of the magical world but also legends and lore and types of magic and the like. It was fascinating and I would love an updated Caretaker's Guide that incorporates all of this new knowledge. 

I could live forever in this world and I don't think we would be able to explore it to its fullest extent, and that is really fascinating to me. Brandon Mull has taken our modern world but made it so much more magical than it already is. 

The plot itself was interesting and I could see the similarities to other Brandon Mull books I've read. However, the way this story was told was different from Fablehaven which I think both worked and didn't work in ways. Obviously it sets it apart as a new series that doesn't need to be a carbon copy to be interesting. On the other hand, it was a bit difficult to go from the high stakes of the last Fablehaven book to the events of this first book in Dragonwatch

This is not to say that the plot is unengaging or boring but the stakes feel lower. The big climax in the first book is less intense than any before in this world. And for me that made the first book feel more like part one with the sequel being part two of the same book. That's not to say it was boring, but it felt less complete than the other books.

On the other hand, the plot within this series was definitely more of a plot across five books rather than five books with interconnecting plots like Fablehaven seemed to be. This was enjoyable and I felt that it aged up the series a bit as you had to reflect on past books a lot more. I really liked that. 

While the main feelings I had at the end of each book were that I loved it, I also had a slight feeling of wanting more that never went away even with the final book. I loved them and I had such a fun time. I think being an adult who is no longer the target audience and who now reads such complex fantasy may be the reason for this feeling so it's definitely not a critique of the series. I am no longer the target audience no matter how much I love this world.

Overall, this was such a great series. I spent so long thinking that the stories in this world were done. To get another long series with so much more magic and adventures was a childhood dream come true. I could live forever in this world. I would read dozens of books about these characters, the adventures, the lore. It's just a fascinating world that I am so happy to have discovered all those years ago. 

It was also very bittersweet to finish this series. I finished this spin-off series in just a few days, but I've spent so much time with this characters that a final ending (supposedly) is very conflicting. It's a wonderful journey we've been on and I was so grateful to have this new one with them after having loved this world for over ten years. But Brandon Mull also said this is likely Kendra and Seth's final ending and that makes me a bit sad. However, I would also read any spin-off book about the side characters or the origins of this world in a heartbeat. 

This series was such a joy and, especially when paired with Fablehaven, will be one that I return to for years and years to come. I look forward to introducing my niece to these book and to rereading them when I miss the world and going on all these adventures again and again. But for now and until I picked back up Fablehaven again, I say goodbye. 

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Friday, April 15, 2022

Book Review: "Neon Gods" by Katee Robert

Title: Neon Gods
Author: Katee Robert
Series: "Dark Olympus" #1
Genre: Adult Romance
Page Length: 380 pages
Publication Date: June 1, 2021
Rating: 4.5 // 5 stars

Hands up if you like romance or Greek mythology? Boy do I have the book for you...

I first encountered Neon Gods last summer when it got big on BookTok. I've had it on my TBR since then, but the timing to read it never felt right. I wanted to wait until I was reading it because I was interested, not because I wanted to fit in. And, well, that time finally came. 

This book was everything I wanted and expected it to be. It hit my expectations dead on, which sometimes doesn't happen in a book. However, it also didn't exceed my expectations which is something I always wish for. That being said, this was a strong novel that kept me engaged from the first page.

So, let's dive into it then. The main thing I liked about this book was the main character. I liked our narrator, I liked her character voice, I liked that she was strong but also accepted help when she needed it. I just liked her a lot. When it comes to the love interest, I enjoyed him. I think he's a lot more nuanced than a lot of romance leads tend to be a lot of the time. But I mostly enjoyed him when he was interacting with the main character.

The romance itself was great. I liked how it seemed to grow naturally. It felt, to me, that even if there was insta-lust at the beginning the emotional elements of the relationship grew on their own. And we actually got to see some of that formation rather than these characters just being instantly in love and as close as can be. Obviously I read romance books for the romance, and this one didn't disappoint. 

When it comes to most romance books, I always kind of expect some level of steam to them. But I also have to be in the mood for steamy books and I'm not always wanting to read these types of scenes. I purposefully waited until I was in the mood for this kind of spice before reading this book because I didn't want the necessary steamy scenes to negatively impact my reading when they otherwise would make it better. Since I did wait until I wanted them, I really enjoyed them. I won't get too deep into the sexual dynamics in this book but, honestly, it all was great and very much what I'm into reading about. 

What honestly sets this romance book apart for me from so many others that I've read is the world, the relationships outside of the love pairing, and the plot. This is such an interesting world based in Greek mythology and I'm so fascinated with the world and society itself outside of any romance plot lines. I would probably read a book that had no romance in it that was set in this world purely because it fascinates me so much.

The plot itself was a little similar to some romance books but because of the way the world and society are set up, it seemed unique while reading it. Even if looking back it has familiar elements, the way it was done for me was unique as someone who doesn't read a lot of dark romance or mafia romances. If I read more of this type of romance, which I always enjoy but don't reach for nonstop, I would probably have found the plot a little less original. But, because I don't read this as often it was perfect. 

Additionally, the characters had relationships (friends, family, etc) outside of the main romance pairing and it was nice to see these explored and discussed. I think not only did it add depth to this book, but it also made me care about the characters that we're going to be seeing featured in future books set in this world. 

Overall, this book was great. I was sucked in from the first page and read it in one sitting. I loved the world and enjoyed the characters a lot. I am excited to see how the rest of the series goes and can only hope that they are as good, if not better, than this first book. 

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Sunday, April 10, 2022

Unboxing: Fairyloot's "Threads of Fate" (March 2022)

Another month...another Fairyloot unboxing. Fairyloot has been smashing it so far with the boxes this year and March was no exception. This box was beautiful and I'm quite happy with it. Like usual, not every item is a favorite but I don't think I've ever had a box where that's been the case. So, without further ado, here is my unboxing for March's "Threads of Fate" box. 

The first item this month was a woodmark inspired by Circe by Madeline Miller and designed by @avendellart. Woodmarks are absolutely gorgeous and I'm thrilled to add another one to my slow-growing collection. I haven't yet read Circe but it is on my TBR and I've enjoyed everything else I've read from Madeline Miller. Even if I don't like the book, this woodmark is stunning enough that I would use it anyway. 

The next item was a sticker sheet inspired by the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater and designed by @vvivaa. I have read the first book in this series and it was just okay. However, I've lately been wondering if I should give the series another chance. But, for now, I don't have much use for this item. Whereas some items can be used no matter the fandom, stickers of book characters are pretty specific. I'm not sure if I'll end up giving this series another go so I'm not sure if I'll end up keeping these.

Up next was a cushion cover inspired by Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko and designed by This cover is absolutely stunning! Coincidentally, I recently ended up needing a new pillowcase for our couch pillows and I had yet to pick up a replacement. This one has some gorgeous colors and the back is just the design without text so it can serve as a neutral item if needed. I plan on reading Raybearer within the next few months and if I love it I'll definitely be happy to have this pillowcase.

The next item was a tea tin inspired by the book of the month, The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh designed by @chattynora. This is actually the third tea tin I've gotten from Fairyloot and I'm always happy with the quality of it. These are great for little knickknacks (bookish or otherwise) and are great for keeping out dust and whatnot. I just hope that I like this book enough to want to keep this. I also am looking forward to the day that I have proper bookshelves again and can properly display this with my books.

The last item was a foiled deck of playing cards inspired by characters from four stories and designed by @naiivu. According to the spoiler card, "the artwork on the Diamonds suit is from Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim, Spades are from Jade Fire Gold by June CL Tan, Clubs are from Only A Monster by Vanessa Len, and the Hearts are from Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan." All of these stories were previous Fairyloot books and the art is beautiful. I do like a good playing card deck and this will definitely get used. 

The tarot cards of the month are from a new celestial deck (the old deck ended in February). This month's cards were illustrated by @arx28 and are The Fool and The Magician, featuring characters Xingyin and Wenzhi from Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan. I do quite like the artwork on these but I wish the Fairyloot tarot cards were designed a bit differently this time. I wish they were sized differently and a bit higher quality considering the fact that they're doing another entire tarot deck after spending the last few years on it. As long as the artwork stays high quality, though, I am interested in collecting these this time.

The book of the month was The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh. This edition features an exclusive cover, two coloured stencil sprayed edges, artwork on the endpapers, foil embossing on the hardcover, and is signed by the author. Included was also an author letter with an art print designed by @naiivu on the other side. This book was one I was looking forward too and I'm in love with the edition. I can only hope that I enjoy this book as much as I hope I will. 

Overall, I liked this month's box quite a lot. I will be using most of the items (minus the sticker sheet, which is a small item anyway) and the book is stunning. I'm also quite enjoying Fairyloot's recent trends of including items inspired by their monthly books. I think it's a great way to incorporate new fandoms rather than repeating the same big ones (like Schwab, Clare, SJM, even though I'll never say no to SJM). 

I am skipping April's box because I'm not as interested in the theme or books as of yet and need to save some money. However, they've announced the May theme and I am quite looking forward to that one (the items and the book!). 

What do you think of March's box? Let me know in the comments!

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Friday, April 8, 2022

Unboxing: Fairyloot's "To the Moon and Back" (February 2022)

This is my third Fairyloot box since I re-subscribed and, I have to say, it's my favorite. This is one of my favorite Fairyloot boxes of all time, in fact. The book this month is not only one that I've been looking forward to for a long time, but it's also stunning. Though there were a couple items I just felt neutral about, the main items are absolutely gorgeous and completely make up for any neutral feelings I had about others. The February box features five items, the monthly collectible tarot cards, and an absolutely stunning book. Let's go ahead and dive in! 

The first item this month was a pair of socks inspired by The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern and designed by @jezhawk. This is one of the items that I'm more neutral about because I haven't read this book and don't have it on my immediate TBR. On the other hand, I do love socks and these will most definitely get used despite me not having read the book. 

Up next was a necklace inspired by Crescent City by Sarah J. Maas designed by Fairyloot. This is one of my favorite books and I'm in love with this necklace. It's just discreet enough to wear about without people knowing it's a fandom item. It's also beautiful and very simplistic, which is exactly my style. This is a perfect item for me as well because I just read the second Crescent City book in February.

The next item was a pair of metal bookends in a fandom-neutral celestial theme that were designed by @jezhawk. I was so excited when these were announced and, I have to say, these definitely are even better than I anticipated. They are stunning and seem to be very high quality. I also have a bookshelf right now that doesn't have sides so bookends are 100% needed and I'm happy to actually have a use for them. 

The fourth item was a tote bag inspired by the book of the month, Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan, designed by @rosiethorns88. This is a beautiful tote bag but I don't think it's very practical for me for everyday use. I don't think I would use it while out and about in the city or when grocery shopping but I would use it when going to book conventions/events or while moving. Plus, I like that Fairyloot has been including items inspired by the books each month the past few months. 

Lastly, there was an art print inspired by Wicked Fox by Kat Cho and designed by @cyt_draws. Well, there was supposed to be one included but my box was missing it. I'm okay with that, though, as I haven't yet read the book and art prints aren't as important to me as bigger items. I was able to get in touch with Fairyloot, though, and had a replacement within a few days! It did come bent and dinged but that's okay as I was able to mostly flatten it out. 

The tarot cards this month were the Queen and King of Pentacles and were designed by @lizzart_zardonicz. They're inspired by Red Rising by Pierce Brown and feature Mustang and Darrow. Like with January, I haven't yet read this book series but it is on my TBR and these cards are stunning. I don't particularly like a monthly tarot card, though, and would prefer a different item. However, I will use these as mini art-prints for Red Rising instead so they will still get used.

The book of this month is Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan and it is absolutely stunning. I was really excited when I got saw the announcement for this month as I was hoping they'd do this book. And this edition absolutely blows me away. This edition features an exclusive cover, digitally sprayed edges, artwork on the endpages designed by @gracezhuart, foil embossing on the hardcover designed by @gracezhuart, and is signed by the author. Additionally, there is a character art print designed by @rosiethorns88 on the backside of the author note that is stunning.

Overall, I am very happy with this box. The book itself is absolutely stunning and I'm so happy to have a copy of it (especially when people are reselling it for twice as much as I paid for the box). It was a bit touch and go when the shipping carrier lost a bunch of my packages but, thankfully, they found them and finally delivered them at the beginning of March. 

I think that while all the items aren't to my taste, the ones that are make up for the others. I am thrilled to have the necklace and bookends and will definitely find a use for the other items. But, for me, the value in this month's box definitely comes from the gorgeous edition of Daughter of the Moon Goddess. Now I can't wait to see what they do for March...

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Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Unboxing: Fairyloot's "Monsters Within" (January 2022)

I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed January's box. I was very excited for the book but the items didn't appeal to me at first. When they arrived, however, I realized I liked them a lot more than I thought I would. I think this came from the fact I was more interested in the book than the fandoms, but I am quite glad the items are useful enough for me to enjoy otherwise. 

There were five items included in this box. The first was a trinket dish depicting James Herondale, a character from The Last Hours series by Cassandra Clare. This dish was designed by @arz28. I think this trinket dish is absolutely stunning and quite high quality. I don't currently have a use for it, though I do think in the future I will definitely use it. At the least, I will display it on my Shadowhunter shelves once I have all my books out of storage. 

The next item was a tea towel featuring a quote from These Hollow Vows by Lexi Ryan that was designed by @stellabookishart. I actually just read this in February and really loved it so having some merch from it is quite exciting. This tea towel is really beautiful, though I don't think I will use it as a tea towel. However, I could see myself hanging it up as a tapestry type of decoration when I have my future library all set up. 

Up next was an enamel pin inspired by Scythe by Neal Shusterman designed by @azura.arts. I haven't yet read this book but it is on my near-future TBR. This enamel pin is absolutely stunning as well and I think I would display it even if I didn't plan on reading the books just because of how beautiful it is. I do hope to get to Scythe soon, though.

The fourth item was a puzzle inspired by August Flynn from This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab, designed by @lizzart_zardonics. This is yet another book that is on my TBR so I'm not yet very connected to this character. However, I do really love puzzles and this will get used whether or not I read the book immediately. 

The last item was a metal bookmark inspired by Aaron from Only a Monster by Vanessa Len, designed by @arz28. This is inspired by the book of the month and I'm really happy that Fairyloot have gone that direction. I quite like that if I love this book that I'll have merch for it already. Plus, the bookmark is quite high quality. 

The collectible tarot cards for this month were the Page and Knight of Pentacles designed by @lizzart_zardonicz and feature two characters from Red Rising by Pierce Brown: Cassius and Sevro. This is yet another series I have on my TBR. I have mediocre feelings about the tarot card collections, if I'm being honest, as I don't have much use for them and with we'd get a different item. But the Red Rising ones are also beautiful so I think I'll use them just as mini art-prints for the series. 

The book of the month is Only a Monster by Vanessa Len which is a book I was actually quite excited for. This edition features an exclusive cover, two-colour stencil sprayed edges, artwork on the endpages designed by @arz28, foil embossing on the hardcover designed by @arz28, and is signed by the author. There was also a character art print designed by @jessdraw.s on the back of the author letter. 

Overall, I am very happy with this box. Though there are some fandom-inspired items from books I haven't yet read, they are from books that are on my TBR so I am still happy to receive them. Additionally, these items are a lot more useful to me and quite beautiful. For me, the main reason I get Fairyloot's boxes nowadays is because it's cheaper to buy the box than to buy the books secondhand afterwards. Because I used to spend more money on just the books themselves, getting the full box for cheaper than secondhand just feels like I'm getting a bunch of bonus items with my book (even though that's not really how it works). This box was a little late but I am okay with that as I felt it was all worth it. I am absolutely obsessed with this edition and I can't wait to read Only a Monster

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Sunday, April 3, 2022

March 2022 Book Haul

Well, another month means it's time for another book haul. I truly did not expect to haul as many books as I did this month but...well...things happen. I will say, the main reason why this month's haul was so big was because I had a bunch of packages that got lost in February and only showed up the very first days of March. Plus, I had some preorders finally come through that were quite exciting. 

I picked up sixteen books this month, which is a huge haul for me recently. I am going to be severely cutting back in the upcoming months, though, and just trying to work through my physical and ebook TBRs (though I'll still be getting some books, of course). Without further ado, here's the sixteen books I got this month!

The first book I got this month was the Fairyloot edition of Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan. This is, without a doubt, one of the most stunning editions I have ever owned. It has an exclusive cover (with my favorite colors in the scheme), sprayed edges, artwork on the endpages, embossing on the hardcover, and was signed. I was so excited for this book and was hoping it would be gorgeous, and I'm just blown away by how well done it was. For an in-depth look at this edition, check out my unboxing for February's box here. 

The next two books I got were different editions of House of Sky and Breath by Sarah J. Maas. I picked up the international paperback edition and another standard UK edition. I ordered these in February and they were amongst the packages lost that didn't arrive until this month. I got another hardcover because I want to spray the edges to match the first book. The international paperback is also different from the paperbacks that will be released next year. This one is taller and floppier and just awesome. I'm just glad to have added these to my collection.

The next book I got was The Weeping Tide by Amanda Foody. This was the last of the packages that was lost in February that arrived finally. I am so incredibly excited to have this in my hands. Amanda is one of my favorite authors and the first book in this middle grade series was one of my top books of 2021. I have been eagerly anticipating this sequel. Additionally, this came out at the beginning of February and it took over a month for this copy to finally arrive to me so I'm just glad it's now here.

Then my preorder for The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake came in. This is the signed Waterstones exclusive edition with sprayed edges. I do have to admit, the edges aren't as nice as I'd hoped from the mockup. The coloring is much more vibrant yellow than a gold. However, I still like this edition and am hopeful that I'll enjoy the book just as much. 

When I went to pick up my preorder for The Atlas Six I also picked up a copy of Galatea by Madeline Miller. This is a short story of hers that has been published in a physical standalone format. It's quite a cute little book and the story itself was beautifully written, as to be expected from Madeline Miller. Now all I need to do is finally read Circe and another short story I'll have gotten through her fiction works!

Up next I got the new paperback edition of Rise of the Evening Star by Brandon Mull. This is the second in the Fablehaven series which is my favorite middle grade series. I reread them this month and got the idea to annotate the new covers. I only ended up buying this one though due to shipping timeframes. Either way, it's nice to have a representation of this series on my shelves here. I also just loved revisiting this series in March.

Then I got Poison Study, Magic Study, and Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder. These are the old UK editions but I actually really like these covers so I picked them up secondhand from eBay. The main reason I got them, though, is because I'm doing a big project for one of my postgrad courses with this series as the focus. I figured I should reread it so that I can be all set for that project. If I love it as much the second time as the first, I also will probably get the rest of the series at some point. 

Up next is Gallant by V.E. Schwab. This is the signed Waterstones edition with sprayed edges. It's an absolutely stunning edition and I much prefer it to the US one. While I like the US cover, I hate the sizing of it. I much prefer this cover and like that the UK edition is also a more standard size. I haven't read any of Schwab's works but they have appealed to me and I've been slowly stockpiling my favorite editions over the years. I've also heard great things about this one. 

Then I snagged the Illumicrate edition of A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth. This has pink sprayed edges and is signed. I just heard amazing things about this book and wanted to read it. When I checked eBay, I found this edition for less than the price of the standard edition from a brick and mortar store. Plus, it's signed, has sprayed edges, and is the only UK hardcover version. Hopefully I like the book as well!

Then I picked up Wrath of the Dragon King, Master of the Phantom Isle, and Return of the Dragon Slayers by Brandon Mull. These are books two, three, and five in the Dragonwatch series, which is the sequel series to Fablehaven. I've been wanting to read this series since it was first announced but hadn't gotten around to it yet. I already had the first book (though it's in storage) so I only picked up these ones. The fourth one wouldn't have arrived in time to read during my binge read, though, so I'll just pick that one up in the future when I have shelves again. 

The last book I got in March was the Fairyloot edition The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh. I was hoping that they were going to do this book and I'm quite happy that they ended up doing it. This edition has stenciled edges, embossing on the cover, artwork on the endpages, an exclusive cover, and is signed by the author. This edition is beautiful and I'm hoping that this book is as good as I hope it is. Plus, it's a standalone so I don't have the stress of trying to get a matching beautiful edition next year! For a complete look at all the exclusive elements, check out my March Fairyloot unboxing when it goes live here! 

Did you see any books you're hoping to read? Let me know in the comments down below! 

Thanks for reading!

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1. Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan (Fairyloot)
2. The Weeping Tide by Amanda Foody
3. House of Sky and Breath (UK HC)
4. House of Sky and Breath (intl pb)
5. The Atlas Six (signed Waterstones)
6. Galatea by Madeline Miller
7. Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star
8. Poison Study
9. Magic Study
10. Fire Study
11. Gallant (signed Waterstones)
12. A Dark and Hollow Star (signed Illumicrate)
13. Wrath of the Dragon King 
14. Master of the Phantom Isle 
15. Return of the Dragon Slayers
16. The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea (signed Fairyloot)