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T5W: Favourite Science Fiction and Fantasy Books

Welcome to the first instalment of the Top 5 Wednesday book meme that I’ve decided to take part in! This is a weekly meme that was created by Lainey of gingerreadslainey and is currently hosted by Sam of ThoughtsOnTomes. Every week, I will post my top 5 of that week’s theme. If you’d like to learn more about it or join in the fun, head over to the Goodreads group where all the discussions take place here.

This week’s theme is Favourite Science Fiction and Fantasy Books. I haven’t read a lot of sci-fi, but I am a massive fantasy fan, so it has been a huge challenge narrowing down my favourites to 5, but here we go!

1. Harry Potter – JK Rowling

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I don’t really think that this choice needs an explanation, but I’ll give you one anyway. The Harry Potter books were a defining series for me in terms of my reading habits. I remember being completely swept up by the world, the characters, the magic, the story, everything about it. It was the first book that made me genuinely wish that the world I was reading about was magic, even over a decade later, I have never stopped imagining what life at Hogwarts would be like, and every time I’ve gone back to it, the magic hasn’t worn off. It’s thanks to this book that I always return to fantasy, and this will always hold a special place in my heart.

2. Red Rising Trilogy – Pierce Brown

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This is the first sci-fi book I series I had ever read, and wow. This trilogy is truly epic. Everything is so well thought out, from the world, the politics, the social structure, family backgrounds, and then the story itself is unbelievable. I would have to put the book down after almost every chapter because I would be hyperventilating at the latest plot twist! I love how Brown takes the world and makes it bigger, brighter, and louder with every book, and I’ve never read battle scenes that are so vividly described so that I can see everything unfolding in my mind, and almost feel like I’m right there with the characters.

Also, it’s set on Mars.

3. Caraval – Stephanie Garber

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I loved the setting of Caraval and all of the magical aspects of the world, like the dress that changes to reflect the mood of the wearer, the potion that helps you to see more clearly, the mystery behind Legend. Garber is really excellent at intertwining the feeling of wonder with the feeling of fear and apprehension, so all the while, you are having fun reading about this world and the plot, and also terrified that it might all be a trick.

You can read my full review for this book here.

4. Rebel of the Sands – Alwyn Hamilton

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This book was so much fun to read! I love the setting, a mix between Arabian Nights and the Wild West, which basically means you have deserts and dunes interrupted by train tracks, and a main character who is a sharpshooter. As if this setting on its own wouldn’t have satisfied me, I really enjoyed the inclusion of mythical creatures like Djinni, horses made of sand, nightmare monsters, all great fun to read. This book has both an interesting setting, exciting plot, and characters that come to life on the page. I could read about Amani endlessly.

You can read my full review for this book here.

5. Crown of Midnight – Sarah J Maas

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While I have read the whole of the Throne of Glass series, but I chose not to put in all the books because I have mixed feelings about the series as a whole. However, Crown of Midnight, the second book, blew my mind and I still think that it is the best book in the series. It really picked up the story from the first book and upped the ante so much! There was so much action in this book, character development, and also, magic and fae. Although I might not love the Throne of Glass series too much, this book remains one of my top fantasy reading experiences.

So, there is my first #T5W post! This list was so hard to compile, not only because I love so many fantasy books and series, but also because I know that I have so many fantasy and science fiction books in my TBR list that I’m sure I will love! I’d be quite interested to re-do this list in a year and see how much this list has changed.

Are you a big fan of science fiction and fantasy? Comment below and tell me what your top 5 books are!

Book Reviews, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, YA Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Young Adult

Caraval – Stephanie Garber Review

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Taken from: @inkdropsbooks (Instagram)

Rating: ★★★★★

This book was one of my most highly anticipated releases of 2017 because I started hearing buzz about it months ago. Caraval promises magic and wonder and adventure, and it definitely delivers. This book had me hooked from start to finish, and I didn’t get bored at any point reading it.

Scarlett lives on an island called Trisda with her younger sister Tella and her cruel father Governor Dragna. Ever since she was a child, she has wanted to attend Caraval, a magical show hosted by the mysterious Legend. She wrote letters to Legend every year asking him to visit their island, but now Scarlett is going to be married, and all she yearns for is safety and security away from her father, which her fiance is offering. To her surprise, however, the very year Scarlett writes to tell Legend that she can no longer go to Caraval is the year that he invites her, her sister, and her fiance, but once she arrives, Scarlett is separated from her sister Tella. To find her, Scarlett must win the game, but not everything in Caraval is as it seems.

Scarlett is a wonderful protagonist, and I really enjoyed reading her journey as a character. At the beginning, despite wanting to go to Caraval since she was a child, Scarlett is too scared to go, and throughout the story, she is terrified of making a mistake, of ruining her life, of failure. Over the course of the novel, however, we see Scarlett start to take more risks, we see her take a ‘leap of faith’, and learn to dream again. I found this to be a really moving storyline, even apart from the sibling relationship at its core. I love that Scarlett and Tella are such different characters, but despite everything that happens in the story, they love each other more than anything. At times, Stephanie Garber makes you wonder if Tella is even a good character, but by the end of it, you realise that no matter their flaws, Scarlett and Tella love each other more than anything and they are willing to do anything to help each other out.

Caraval itself was so fascinating that it almost feels like a distinct character in its own right. Garber’s writing really brings it to life and I really loved the way that she described everything with colours and smells so that you felt like you were there with the characters. The game itself is so exciting to read as it is always changing, and I kept thinking of the plot as a bit like a mystical whodunnit set in a magical theme park. I loved the idea of all these different guests trying to solve this puzzle, and you trying to figure it out alongside them. The different performers in Caraval were a really interesting aspect to the book as you never really know who is a player like Scarlett and who is a performer, whether they’re telling the truth or whether it’s a ploy to get Scarlett to go down the wrong path. You’re trying to pick apart everything that happens and help Scarlett find the right answer.

It was also great fun to read about the actual magic itself. Stephanie Garber’s world-building was brilliant, but I like that you never feel like you’re having a load of information dumped on you and you have to try and understand how it all works. You simply get fed tidbits of magic as you go, from the dress that changes to fit Scarlett’s mood, the cider that helps you see clearly, and the fact that you don’t pay for things with money, but with secrets, lies, and dreams. The fact that the story takes place completely at night added another layer of intrigue, and the different settings in Caraval like the tunnels, the Castillo, and the dress shop made it feel a bit like a game of Cluedo. I had as much fun exploring the actual location of Caraval as I did following Scarlett as she tried to find her sister, and I hope that in the second book we get to see even more of Garber’s fascinating imagination.
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