Books, Reviews, Uncategorized

ARC Book Review: Traitor to the Throne

Traitor to the Throne

Author: Alwyn Hamilton

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers (Penguin Random House)

Published: March 7, 2017

Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

For People Who Enjoyed: Wrath and the Dawn, The Grisha, Six of Crows, Star Wars, Rogue One, The Big Lie, Blame

This is a spoiler-free review!


I received this ARC from Goodreads and Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review! Yay! This was my first ever ARC, and as a genuinely fantastic read, definitely worth celebrating!

I completely forgot how much I loved this series. It’s been just over half a year since I read the first book, Rebel of the Sands, so I was pretty rusty on the previous events and who was who. Fortunately enough, Hamilton gives a solid Here’s What You Missed On Rebel of the Sands… in the opening chapter, which was both informative and didn’t feel like an unnecessary info-dump rehashing of what we already know.

I’d been warned by friends and various reviews that this book was different than the last and it had me worried. I went in with a deep love for Jin. He just about makes the series for me. Without Jin, I wasn’t sure if the plot could carry itself, because he carries half the charm. So when he wound up only showing up for about a fifth of the novel, it was disappointing, but I also didn’t find myself constantly looking for him or waiting for him to show up again. There was a delightful amount of action going on in the interim between Amani and Jin’s separations and their inevitable reunion. I almost forgot to wonder when I’d get to see their Han/Leia style snarky  banter again.

Which brings me to one of the cleverest things Hamilton has done with this novel. It’s difficult to imagine Amani without Jin and Jin without Amani, both as two halves of a romance, and as partners in the rebellion. Yet by doing away with Jin early on in the plot of Traitor, Hamilton proves that Amani can, in fact, survive without a man. Not only does she cleave Amani from her love interest, she tosses her out of her comfort zone in a very female dominated environment. She goes from the very equal roles shared between the men and women of the rebellion, to the extremely insular patriarchal harem of the Sultan. Hamilton recently did a promotional interview explaining her choices in tossing her into the harem, which nicely expresses precisely why I have so much respect for this choice. By throwing this strong, independent female character into this group of women placed in a feminine space exclusively for the male gaze, Hamilton’s prised apart the problematic nature of patriarchal society and how much more work we have left to do in the feminist fight to demolition it.

Rebellion’s never  been more relevant than now. When women are still fighting for reproductive rights in not only third world countries, but Western society today, we’re still fighting to be taken seriously in the modern world. And that’s exactly what Hamilton is reflecting here. She may not have started Rebel of the Sands with a particular real life fight in mind, but now she has one, and it gives her series so much meatier context. These women have no choice but to fight for their survival, whether it’s in the middle of the desert, fighting for justice, or fighting for the attention of the men that hold power over them. The women in Hamilton’s series are all united under the same struggle, regardless of their class.

I saw Alwyn Hamilton speak a handful of times while I was at YALC in July (hence the reason I read Rebel of the Sands in the first place) and at the time, her panel discussions on building a team of rebels was hypothetical and silly, goofy, fun. But now it’s real and she’s hitting the nail on the head. Hamilton is no dummy. The way she weaves her tales, builds characters, and gets her message across exudes intelligence. She knows exactly what she’s doing and it’s beyond a desert romance. It’s so much bigger now. It’s fighting for what’s right, no matter your gender, your class, your race… Fighting for truth, and justice…

For all.


Valentine’s Day? More Like Galentine’s Day!


(Originally published by The Martlet.)

Valentine’s Day: the one day of the year that indulges couples in sharing their love for one another through an abundance of Hallmark cards, flowers, and chocolates. It’s a holiday that is both loved and loathed by many.

Yes, it’s fun when you’re one half of a whole and you can plan a romantic evening with that special someone you care most about. But Valentine’s Day is less forgiving toward the unattached. On this particular day, you’re either single and ready to mingle, or elbows deep in ice cream to sooth your self-pity. There is no expected middle way. Thankfully, four years ago, the ever-delightful Amy Poehler brought single ladies an option to kick those forever-alone woes in the butt.

Season two of the NBC hit, Parks and Recreation saw the rise of what Poehler coined as Galentine’s Day: a day for women to celebrate female companionship. We live in a society where girls are continually taught that they need a man in their life in order to feel complete. A whole generation of girls grew up with Bella Swan as a role model—a character that would rather die than be without her boyfriend. Having a relationship is not the be all, end all of life. Sometimes it’s important to remember that your friendships can be just as gratifying, if you let them be.

Girls’ nights may sound like a cliché, but these are, in fact, essential marks on any woman’s calendar. It’s an opportunity to do those unapologetically feminine things: hair, makeup, nails, spontaneous living room dance parties . . . but at the heart of it all are the intimate and brutally honest conversations.

Girls’ nights are evenings where we let off steam, unpack all our baggage, and shoulder each other’s burdens for a while. Life is stressful and exhausting. We’re constantly guilt-tripped into believing we’re too fat, too ugly, too slutty, too bitchy, too prudish . . . the list goes on. So there is no surprise that ladies have a great deal to rant about.

And thankfully, our girlfriends get that. Thankfully as well, they’re even better at letting us know we’re leaps and bounds better than that. I don’t need a sparkly boyfriend to tell me I’m beautiful and amazing when I have about a dozen women in my life who can shout it louder and with more conviction.

So ladies, if you’re feeling lonely this February, don’t wallow alone. Remember the goddesses in your life who would set the world on fire for you. Remember all the times they caught you when you fell or the times they were there to listen at 2 a.m.

Send them a message of pure, unadulterated affection. Bombard them with inside jokes. Plan the biggest, most fun friend date you can think of. Days of celebrating women are few and far between; why not start with the ones who love you?

character appreciation

Fight Like a Girl


 Amazing Female Characters Who Aren’t Afraid to Stand Up to The Man

In honour of the women’s rights marches happening in Washington and all over the world today, here’s a celebration of some of my personal favourite kick ass girls in fiction.

The Ladies of Star Wars

It just wouldn’t be a rebellion without mentioning the women of Star Wars. I grew up with Princess Leia as my first hint at how strong and amazing female characters could be and now there are even more Star Wars ladies the latest generations of girls can look up to. Rey and Jyn Erso are both aspirational women who fight for what’s right. And now more than ever, girls need Leia, Rey, and Jyn. They speak up, they fight, they lead against white supremacists, members of an oppressive power group rising to prominence at a scary rate even today. Ladies, we are the rebellion. Pin up your hair, raise your fists, and fight.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer


Another fighter, Buffy Summers didn’t choose to become a slayer, but she takes the responsibility of protecting Sunnydale from the vampire and demonic population nonetheless. Joss Whedon first wrote her as a response to the dumb blond cheerleader stereotype. Buffy was one of the first mainstream examples of kick ass heroines. Buffy Summers is effectively a superhero. And that’s amazing. She’s allowed to be girly, she’s allowed to enjoy dating, she’s allowed to go out and dance. She’s allowed to be a girl. And when she’s ready to pass on the torch, she doesn’t just empower the next slayer, she empowers an entire generation of girls ready to fight for their world, both in the show and in reality.

The Ladies of Firefly

When asked why he keeps writing strong female characters, Joss Whedon famously said, “because you keep asking that question.” So many writers have stepped up and risen to the occasion since Whedon’s heyday, but at the height of his popularity, Joss Whedon gave us an amazing range of multi-faceted female characters. Kaylee, Zoe, Inara, and River of the Serenity crew are four such characters. Kaylee’s an engineer who loves frilly dresses, Zoe’s a fierce soldier, Inara’s an escort who knows her worth (thank you very much), and River’s a supergenius and a dangerous weapon. They all bring so much to the table and take no nonsense from anyone.

Leslie Knope, Parks and Recreation


Perhaps the most politically relevant female character to date, Leslie fights tirelessly against political corruption in America while lifting up the women in her life. Her position in the department of parks and recreation puts her in direct opposition to some pretty ignorant, self-interested, idiotic politicians who stand in the way of important progress. It’s not even a subtle stab at the realities of American politics today. But the fact is, with her teeming pile of binders and ceaseless hours spent writing speeches to speak her mind, Leslie gets stuff done. In a stark world where Trump won against Hillary, thank god Leslie Knope eventually becomes president of the united states one day. I look forward to that reality…

The Ladies of Brooklyn Nine-Nine


The amazing thing about about Brooklyn Nine-Nine is its diverse cast of characters. Not only are Terry and Captain Holt two black characters in positions of authority in the police force, but Amy Santiago and Rosa Diaz are both Latina women. Similar to Leslie Knope, Amy’s a nerdy binder wielding do-gooder, while Rosa is a no-nonsense badass. Both are pretty damn good police officers. Together, they fight crime. And let’s not forget Gina Linetti, who, you know, is better than you.

Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games


Say what you will about Jennifer Lawrence and the film adaptation of the Hunger Games series, but I stand by the fact that Suzanne Collins knew exactly what she was doing when writing this series. She wrote The Hunger Games as a response to real life instances of war such as Iraq and Vietnam and the result was the first instance I’ve ever seen of YA literature addressing PTSD and the horrors of war head on. There is so much going on in this series which gets closer and closer to the real world each year. The censorship and media sensationalism as well as capitalist corruption sets a mirror up to the face of modern society which refuses to get it. Katniss Everdeen is a reluctant face of rebellion, but she fights because she has no choice, because she is at the bottom of the totem pole while the upper classes take advantage of her and the lower classes for their entertainment and comfort. Take a look at Suzanne Collins’ work and take notes. Because this’ll be our reality soon enough. Let’s teach our girls to fight for their rights like Katniss did. Soon enough, they may not have a choice.

Mina Harker, Dracula


In a male dominated 19th century narrative, Mina’s stuck in a hard place. But she’s an example of where the fight for women’s rights come from. Mina’s what was referred to as a bluestocking, that is, a middle class woman who chose to take on secretarial work instead of taking up her position in the home. It was the first stirrings of women’s choice to support themselves and the precursor to the suffragette movement. There’s a lot of outdated rhetoric going on in Dracula from gay panic to emasculation and xenophobia, but at the heart of the novel stands a woman who gets stuff done when the men are rendered completely useless under Dracula’s thrall. When the men are all falling apart, Mina’s there, typing up notes for everything surrounding their fight against the big bad that will eventually lead to Dracula’s defeat. Mina’s subtle strength in the novel begs the question, where would men be without us pulling the strings in the background?

The Ladies of Six of Crows

A very recent addition to my list, Leigh Bardugo brings us Inej and Nina, who could not be more different from each other. Both are members of a dangerous band of outcasts. They call Inej the Wraith, for her climbing stealth and Nina, the Heart Renderer, for her ability to manipulate heart-rates. These girls could kill anyone in a moment’s notice and still have time to dream wistfully about sharing brunches full of waffles and chocolate strawberries. Bardugo’s bringing something else important to the table in making sure her readers know Nina’s a big girl. Fat’s no longer a bad word and Bardugo makes certain the girls reading this series know that.

Mako Mori, Pacific Rim


There are a lot of fun things going on in Pacific Rim, but Mako clinches it for me. She’s another lady placed in a male-dominated environment. In a reality where giant Godzilla-like monsters are  wreaking havoc on the world, there are shockingly few women stepping forward to power the giant robots built to fight them. And just when people think she’s not strong enough to step up to the occasion, she proves everyone wrong. Not only that, but the men in her corner encourage her to do so. Raleigh and Mako’s tag-team relationship works so well because they’re compatible without romance getting in the way. They’re drift compatible because they are equals and Raleigh delights in this knowledge. And hey, they save the world together. So who says men and women can’t work together for a bigger cause? Let’s lean into this gender equality a little more. Women’s strength is an asset.

Who are some of your favourite female characters? Which fictional ladies inspire you?