Cover Image: In the Ravenous Dark

In the Ravenous Dark

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Member Reviews

Rating: 4.5/5 Mysterious Sigils

Format: ebook then switched to hardcover. I’d like to thank the author and Macmillan for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review!

To sum up:
“A pansexual bloodmage reluctantly teams up with an undead spirit to start a rebellion among the living and the dead.”

I mean, that sums it up pretty well! Notable characters are Rovan (the pansexual bloodmage), Ivrilos (sexy ghost warrior bound to Rovan), Lydea (hot princess with eyes on Rovan), Japha (non-binary, beautiful badass, and Lydea’s cousin). This quartet gets thrust together and must decide whether to trust each other in order to save their city.

What I enjoyed: 
This was such a dark, twisty, and sassy tale! I loved the writing style, Strickland is sharp, clever, and took this story to interesting and satisfying places! It does have mature content, so be aware younger readers, look up the content warnings beforehand (I’ll list a few below!). I thought the magic systems were complex and interesting. I loved the whole idea of Rovan’s magic being tempered by ancient grumpy ghost that feeds off her magic to stick around! I also super enjoyed the casual queerness in this story. It was so cool to see this Greek-Roman-inspired world without homophobia and fierce queer characters living their best lives in an opulent and dangerous environment. 

What was meh:
I actually didn’t realize it was a standalone until I got about ¾ of the way through and started to panic for these babies lol I think this book could have paced better as a duology because the last quarter felt a little rushed. I also felt like the magic outpaced the plot a little towards the end. Without going into spoilers, certain characters gain immense power very quickly and somehow are very good at it? I think the author had to do this in order for the climax to work, but if this had been broken up into two books then we could have seen them struggle with new abilities for a bit to make this more realistic. 

Overall, I loved this dark and sexy story. It’s got ghosts, political intrigue, awesome rep, powerful magic, cool fights, and spicy romance! I will definitely read whatever Strickland writes next and I hope we get to revisit these characters again! 

CW from the author: 
- Death (lots, major and minor characters)
-Death of queer characters, but most main characters are queer
-Parent death, on page and off
-Sibling death by suicide (off page)
-Fratricide
-Violence (lots)
-Blood (lots)
-Gore (not excessive, but there’s, uh, a scene or two for sure)
-Mild body horror
-Mild substance addiction (alcohol)
-Enforced gender roles
-Forced marriage and pregnancy (including rape, but the latter is off page, in the past, and not involving main characters)
-Threat of rape/abuse of the main character
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This one was a pleasant surprise, not really sure what my expectations were, but it turned out more intense and twisty than I expected it to be, turns out I couldn't put it down! I thought it would be my typical read and take a few nights to finish, but instead it kept me up most of the night, reading it pretty much in a single sitting. 

Before I continue: **Thanks to Imprint and NetGalley for an eARC in exchange for my honest review!** Also worth noting I also got the Illumicrate special edition of this book and its GORGEOUS! 

The Lowdown: With the magic of the ruling class heavily draped in secrecy (a little like the world in From Blood and Ash), appearances are somewhat deceiving as our heroine tries to suddenly navigate the political intrigue of a life at court after being outed as a rare Blood Mage (after a childhood spent hiding her magic in order to retain her freedom, Blood Mages basically belong to the Rulers), all while being bound to a spirit that can control her body and soul should she step out of line. Meanwhile she embraces her attraction to a Princess (while denying her growing attraction to her Spirit), as she digs into the mystery behind the magic and its connection to the rulers, and uncovers a connection between the realms of the living and the dead, one that could spell doom for them all.  

With ancient world almost Roman vibes, combined with a unique magical system/set-up and the inverse "under world" of grey desert scape and oozing blackness, the world building was on point. And like Armentrout's series she offers an interesting take/twist on vampiric themes. 

Touted as having a pansexual MC I was hoping this wasn't going to be a political statement to the detriment of the story (I read primarily to escape the real world and be entertained, and hate when political agendas make a plot feel forced), and it wasn't. Both love interests were natural and integral to the plot, although the FF was more physically based and the FM held more of the building romantic tension (a good enemies to lovers story arc) in terms of the plot. I appreciated the openness of love based on legitimate feelings regardless of a persons sex.  

Highly recommend, it definitely stands out as a unique, interesting, and entertaining fantasy in what can be an overworked genre sometimes. It's a fresh and exciting read.
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Blood magic, revolution, and queer romance collide in A. M. Strickland’s In the Ravenous Dark. What can I say about this Greek-inspired dark fantasy? It has a little bit of everything: vampires, dark conspiracies, undead spirits, and a whole lot of death. It’s incredibly intriguing from the first few pages. The book wastes no time dropping us directly into the action–and betrayal. Within the first chapter, the main character finds her entire world unraveling and her secrets exposed. At that point, things escalate very quickly into a conflict that spans the world of the living and the dead.

As someone who appreciates messy characters, this book does not disappoint. Rovan, the pansexual mage at the center of a royal intrigue, is impulsive, reckless, and sharp-tongued. I enjoyed her immensely, especially as she failed to temper herself against the palace royals around her. Her behavior, while often frustrating, never feels unwarranted.

Ultimately, I wanted more time with the characters to off-set the breakneck speed of the plot. Given how interesting they all are, I wanted to see them spend more time together. I wanted to see more of Rovan outside of her romantic pursuits or the royal plotting. Given how quickly we jump into the story within the first few chapters, the fast pace of the novel prevents the opportunity for contemplation. Transitions happen suddenly, often with a character drunk or knocked out. Then, the story jumps ahead by several days to the next important thing. The book lacks many smaller, more intimate moments that happen in between the big plot points.

The characters don’t get enough time to be still, especially as the narrative bounces from dark to light and back once again. However, the tonal shifts aren’t distracting so much as incomplete. If anything, I wanted more of those moments. I wanted a chance to explore Rovan, her love interests, and her friends in greater depth. I wanted to see her interact with the court-and society–to get a better feel of how she fits into the story.

As a reader, love triangles rarely appeal to me. Most of the time, they end up far too one-sided and predictable. Fortunately, Strickland sidesteps the concept entirely. She lets the characters take a different approach to the “traditional” forms of romance and relationships with delightful results. It’s great to see a fantasy world not confined by the social norms and expectations of our own. Even as the book dips into the rigid social and gender norms expected of Thanopolis society, there’s no constraints against queer relationships or polyamory. The book treats them as casually as any other romance.

Strickland shines in her worldbuilding abilities. Thanapolis, and its death-obsessed culture, feels grounded and realistic. Heavily inspired by ancient Greek culture with some philosophical elements, the world feels lived-in. Often a lackluster part of fantasy books, I loved the magic system of In the Ravenous Dark! Blood magic remains appropriately grim while still intriguing. With their bloodlines inked into their skin, blood mages are then bound to “guardians” who keep them loyal to the crown. The outside population sees them as powerful while they remain leashed by the religious power of the crown. When Rovan seeks to save herself from her fate, she finds out that there’s a lot she doesn’t know.

While this book is technically classified as Young Adult, it fits better as a New Adult novel as it contains sexual content and darker elements. As the synopsis suggests, there is a lot of death, bloodshed, and gore. While it’s never seen on-page, sexual assault is mentioned in the book. However, I don’t feel that it is egregious in any way, especially considering how these elements tie into the larger narrative.

In the Ravenous Dark is lush, brooding, and magical. However, I felt like the ending was tied up too neatly and too soon. It didn’t feel as if the characters had time to process their choices and how the resolution would affect any of them moving forward. The complex plot might have been better served by expanding the story into two books. However, I do appreciate a good stand-alone fantasy novel, and In the Ravenous Dark accomplishes just that.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and found myself appreciating the care taken with developing the world. I’d recommend it for anyone looking for a good dark fantasy novel with solid queer representation and a unique take on the darker elements of magic.
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I was quickly hooked as the book opened with Roven's dad sacrificing himself to try to conceal Roven's identity from the bloodmages sent to retrieve him and any family he might have. While the book initially held promise, my hope began to unravel as I delved into Thanopolis and the palace intrigue awaiting Roven. Although there is a lot to like about the book, I couldn't quite overcome the parts I didn't like. 

With its sigils, blood magic, and bloodlines, the magic system was primarily the most interesting part of the book. I was entranced by the complexity of the system and wanted so much more information than was provided.  The romance is likely one of the most disappointing aspects of the book. Emotional depth is absent in each relationship pursued. Lust and attraction immediately transform into deep affection with the word love easily escaping from the mouths of those supposedly having fallen into it. I, on the other hand, was still trying to understand how and when love happened. 

The book moves at a fast pace, jumping from one event to the next. There were limited opportunities to relish what the book had to offer, with its greatest effect being my lack of connections with many of the characters.  I wasn't invested in anyone other than Rovan, and it didn't matter much to me what would happen to the rest of them. 

As much as I liked the magic system, I was a bit disappointed by the book. Despite enjoying parts of it, I thought it was lacking in certain areas, particularly the romance. It was difficult figuring out how to rate this because even with all the things I did like about it, I just kept thinking about how the execution was lacking. (2.5 stars rounded to 3 stars)
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3.5 
Things I loved:
Queer characters
Diverse characters
Blood magic
The found family element

Things I didn't love:
The ending was dragged out

Over all I really enjoyed this stand alone. The characters were badass, the magic was cool, and the representatives was "chef kisses." I thought Rovan was a strong lead character and the side characters really helped her move the plot along. My only qualm with the story is I felt like the ending kind of dragged out.
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I really enjoyed this book overall. I loved all the character dynamics and it was full of representation which was the best part. Definitely has alot of potential and cant wait to see where this story goes.
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With a premise promising a pansexual and polyamorous blood-mage, I was both really excited and, to be honest, nervous. A book that sounds so up my alley? How can it end? Well friends, this one has the found family trope we know that I love. AND a really stinking cool magic system. Do not mind me, I'll be over here swooning still.
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I am happy to report this novel lived up to its gorgeous cover! I am loving the gothic ya fantasy that is taking publishing by storm! It is easily one of my favourite genres. 

We follow Rovan, a pansexual bloodmage, who is very gifted in her magic. She grows up with this secret after her father was captured and killed for possessing the same magic and not turning himself in to the palace. 

Unfortunate for Rovan, she is discovered and thrust into royalty with a dead guardian she despises and a princess and her cousin (who is non-binary and asexual) that she befriends but cannot fully trust.

Soon Ivrilos, the guardian/handsome spirit, and Princess Lydea fight for Rovan’s heart. Meanwhile, Rovan is planning to betray them. 

This was witty, angsty, and tense! I absolutely loved this but oh my gosh I wish there was more! The magic system was unique and the politics really set the stakes. 

In the end, this is a great story of found family. I loved seeing how close these characters became and how they fought their individual battles. I also adored all the unquestioned queer representation!
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I just think that A.M. Strickland needs to be paid to write more amazing books like In The Ravenous Dark. From the first page, it was already engaging and enchanting. I can't believe how well the author kept the plot of the book moving towards an equally engaging finale.
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4.5 stars.
The story and writing were very entertaining. I found myself thinking about the characters when I wasn't reading because I was wondering what was going to happen next.
Excellent representation, a wide variety of sexualities, and gender presentations.
My biggest problem is that I feel like the story falsely equates pansexuality with polyamory. I love how accepting even some of the awful characters are, like accepting people for what they're born as is unquestionable.
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This was my first time read by A.M. Strickland and I wasn't completely sold on the synopsis and gorgeous book cover.

Rovan absolutely stole the show for me in this read, absolutely loved her character. I can't say that I agreed with all of her decisions, but she definitely leads with her emotions. And not really thinking of the aftermath, but she's not afraid and willing to go after anything she sets her heart on.

And the supporting characters, one of Rovan's love interests, Lydea, a mysterious ghost (such an interesting character) who gains a part of her heart, and Japha who brings all different elements to this fantasy read. I loved the queer found family part of this read and that was a big part of what drew me in.

I wish the fantasy part was talked about more because it didn't feel as built up like other books I've read. As you get closer to the end, things start to go in different directions and I often found myself unsure what was happening. The love between Ivrilos and Rovan, and Rovan and Lydea, felt a bit too quick. With the pacing from beginning to the end, they dropped the L-word by the end, but I just didn't feel between all of them ... yet. Being a romance reader, it seemed to come out of nowhere.

Overall, I did enjoy this one, some things needed to be fleshed out a bit more.But I'm looking forward to the next book by Strickland.
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BOOK REPORT for In the Ravenous Dark by A.M. Strickland

Cover Story: Look Close
BFF Charm: Yay
Swoonworthy Scale: 8
Talky Talk: Bloody Fantasy
Bonus Factors: LGBTQ+, Mysterious Loner Dude Ghost?, Blue Hair
Anti-Bonus Factor: Bad Men
Relationship Status: There's Something There

Cover Story: Look Close
Oh, that's a pretty cover with a pretty young girl. But wait, do those flowers form a … skull? Is she crying … BLOOD? LE GASP.

/end scene

(Theatrics aside, y'all know I love a good skull cover. Something about the girl says 1920s to me, which isn't plot-accurate at all, but I still dig this on the whole. Wish the title didn't cover up the chin, though.)

The Deal: 
When she was young, Rovan watched as her father was killed by the city's bloodmages and their terrifying guardian shades—dead beings who are connected to bloodmages to keep them under control. Since then, she's been very careful not to reveal her own powers, lest she be taken and forced to have a guardian … or worse.

But then one drunken evening turns into Rovan having to save someone from dying, revealing her true nature in the process. She's taken to the palace and forced into a life she never wanted for herself. A life she can't wait to escape.

BFF Charm: Yay
Rovan is a strong-willed, confident individual who knows what she wants and makes it happen. She chafes at authority, talks back to her elders, and is 100% that cool indie girl you see eating alone in the cafeteria each day, snarling at anyone who bothers her but making eyes at both the head cheerleader and the captain of the football team. She's the kind of person I'd love to be friends with, but I'm not so sure the feeling would be mutual, you know?

Swoonworthy Scale: 8
Rovan's never been one to shy away from a pretty face, of any gender. She's more concerned with how a person makes her feel, and I applaud her for being that open. (She might have a ways to go with how she makes others feel, but that's a different topic.) When she gets to the palace, she's immediately taken by the beautiful princess Lydea, but doesn't know if she's trustworthy. And there's also something about her guardian, the enigmatic and mysterious Ivrilos, that she doesn't want to poke too hard at. (I mean, the guy is dead and follows her everywhere.)

Rovan doesn't want to give in to either feelings, purely because she's more concerned with getting the heck outta Dodge. But she's also not one to forego a good time if one presents itself ...

Talky Talk: Bloody Fantasy
There are a lot of layers to In the Ravenous Dark, and the pile becomes thicker as the story goes on. From magic and family issues to vampires, zombies, and a secretive fae-like culture on the outskirts (possibly waiting to wage war), it's a little much at times, all the different elements at play. A couple of times I found myself thinking, "oh, of course this is also in this book." That said, Strickland weaves it all together surprisingly well—and quickly; In the Ravenous Dark is a standalone novel that actually stands alone. 

The characters are where Strickland truly shines, however; Rovan is so fleshed out it's hard to believe she's not based on a real person—even with the ability to do blood magic, natch—and the secondary characters jump right off the page. Their personalities are well-rounded from the very start, which helps set the pace for the very full story.

Bonus Factor: LGBTQ+
In the Ravenous Dark is a very inclusive novel, from a gender and sexual preference perspective. Rovan is pansexual, there are multiple queer relationships, one character is non-binary (and fabulously proud of it), and leanings toward polyamory. On the one hand, it adds to the "maybe too many layers" complaint about the book, but on the other it's really great to see such a diverse cast of characters.

Bonus Factor: Mysterious Loner Dude Ghost?
Ivrilos is a creeper—at first. He didn't exactly ask to be stuck to Rovan, but he assures her that "they need each other" and that "all will be explained in time." This pisses Rovan off to no end, and her passion for him starts as nothing but hatred. But he's actually somewhat kind, and he's not hard on the eyes (when he's not in his spooky see-through smoky ghost form), and maybe there's actually a way their relationship can be mutually beneficial. 

Did I mention that he's not at all hard on the eyes?

Bonus Factor: Blue Hair
As someone with natural blue hair,* it was fun to read about Rovan's blue-tinted tresses (and her father's gorgeous deep blue mane).

*I wish.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Bad Men
The bad men in this book are dangerous individuals with too much money and too much power. And they're the kind of men who will do anything to hold onto both, regardless of who they stomp over on the way. (Thankfully—SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT—this isn't a novel in which said bad men get away with it in the end.)

Relationship Status: There's Something There
Although you ended up being A Lot, Book, I like that about you. And I love the people you introduced me to in your stories; I'd love to spend more time with them. I might suggest that you tone it down for future first dates, but then again, I don't want to dim your light. You keep doing you, Book. I'm here for it.
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IN THE RAVENOUS DARK is dark, thrilling, creative in its world, and oh-so-entertaining! Rovan is an unwilling bloodmage just like her father, but she doesn't let her fate sit in the hands of her enemies. She fights back alongside lovers and friends, often straddling the line between life and death. And I especially loved how the pansexuality was woven in; it felt natural and casual, and didn't overtake the entire story. 

The one thing I wished there was more of was the world. It comes across as very Greek (esp with words like "agora" and "polis" used) to me, and there were subtle references to a goddess dotted throughout the story, but beyond the focus on death and the afterlife, that aspect of the world really wasn't explored. The world was unique but the Greek-inspired bits didn't feel fully fleshed out. Also, I had slight issues with the ending (namely that it felt rushed).

Overall, though, I loved IN THE RAVENOUS DARK, and I would recommend it to anyone who loves a dark fantasy with ghosts, queer rep, a world obsessed with death, and unforgettable characters!
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This book was pretty awesome. Fans of kingdom fantasy, along with fans of necromancer fantasy, will probably really dig this read. To me, it felt like the ultimate crossover of "Game of Thrones" with "Gideon the Ninth" -- which, I know, sounds nuts, but it really did work without going berserk! As with any kingdom fantasy, I get a little wary and weary of all the "who can I trust" plot elements, but it comes with the territory, I suppose. My favorite elements of this book, that kept me going and were really perfectly placed to keep giving me a taste to tide me over to the next part, were the parts about the Dark Kingdom and the afterworld and the binding of bloodmages to guardians. Really, this is the main part of the book, but the kingdom stuff really feels front and center as well. This book does have a fair bit of romancy stuff, as well, so heads up.
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4.5⭐

Wow. This was absolutely amazing!

I read very little of the synopsis (beyond the pitch) before going into this so a lot of this story took me by surprise. This book is hella queer, dark, gritty, and took me on a wild ride. I cannot wait to read more from A.M. in the future after devouring this fantastic fantasy!

This story follows a young woman who has hidden her abilities as a blood mage her entire life after witnessing mages kill her father for being unguarded. But after her powers are witnessed, she is whisked off to the palace, forced to bond with a spirit guardian, and then thrust in court politics. 

I adored each and every one of the characters in here. Roven can be a frustrating character at times, but it made her feel even more authentic as a 19 year old woman. She makes some selfish/poor decisions but I actually loved following an MC who didn't have all the right answers. She knows as little about politics and the world as the reader does going in, and she definitely doesn't figure it all out without trial. 

This book is so fantastically casually queer. This book is not about discovering sexuality or coming out in any way. Instead it's about living you life and loving whoever the hell you want. This book has on page pansexual rep, lesbian rep, non binary rep, asexual rep, and a poly relationship.

This story took a WILD turn I wasn't expecting around the halfway point. And I loved it even more for that. This book explores family, love (in all it's forms), and has an epic battle of good versus evil. 

There is SO much packed into this standalone. There is never a single moment or page that isn't revealing something or moving the plot along. In fact, there was so much in here that I almost wish it had been a duology. Because this plot was so intricate, I felt like lost a little time and ability to sit with the characters and watch their relationships develop. But at the same time, I love having a complete story in one book and having a new standalone fantasy to recommend. 

Bonus - the audiobook for this is fantastically narrated! I always worry that fantasy books will be more difficult to follow via audio, but that was definitely not the case with this one! Not only is the narrator amazing, but the world building is flawlessly woven into the story, so there's no overwhelming info dumping to get lost in. 

Overall I was blown away by this dark fantasy. The themes were much gritty and darker than I was expecting and I would definitely classify this on the upper end of YA fantasy. But it's fantastically written with a complex and lush world and unique, wonderful characters. 

This review is live on Goodreads and will be posted to my blog on 5/26 @ 9am
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What a ride! While this book started off in a political/tactical sort of way, it lunged into full throttle by the end. I will say, there are trigger warnings everywhere - a big one being the blood magic. The queer rep was refreshing and lovely. And the character arcs were wild! I couldn't believe some of the characters who I loved by the end. It was intense, at times shocking, and an all around action-fest!
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"My father has said it's not his bloodline that's killing him. Bloodmages in Skyllea aren't suffering the same fate. Something is wrong with Thanopolis, and it stinks of death. Maybe while I'm trying to survive life in the palace and find a way to escape both its walls and my guardian, I can also try to discover what's happening, so my father can survive his bloodline, too."

Rovan had done such a good job of hiding her powers. After her father, an unregistered bloodmage, was discovered and taken, grievously injured, when Rovan was 7, it's just been her and her mother, a weaver. Rovan, now 19, uses her small magical knowledge to aid her mother in making beautiful cloth, saving up for her dream of travelling to Skyllea, her father's home. But those plans are ruined when Rovan wakes one morning with Bethea, on top of the gazebo in the agora. Rovan makes her way to the ground safely, but Bethea slips, and without thinking, Rovan uses her best known sigil, move, to save her - gently moving all the blood in Bethea's body to lift her and pulling all the water from the fountain to catch her. Rovan is captured and brought to the palace.

Bloodmages have a bloodline of red sigils along their body, storing their magical knowledge. In Thanopolis, bloodmages must be registered, and it is expected that they will pass their bloodline on to their child with the greatest magical ability by the time the child is 20, a process that will kill the parent. Bloodmages also must be bound, wards to a guardian. The guardians are dead spirits who appear to others as dark shadows - unless they're materializing to protect or discipline their ward. 

In short order, Rovan's powers are confirmed and she is forcibly bound to Ivrilos, her father's guardian. Although she and her mother thought him dead, her father Silvean has been living in the palace since he was taken, married to one of the princesses. He is aged, much more than he should have given only the years that have passed. He has his suspicions that something is wrong with the way bloodmages function in Thanopolis; in fact, he originally came from Skyllea with a delegation who believed that the blight spreading over the world had its origins in Thanopolis. Now Rovan must live in the palace. If she obeys, attending lessons and social engagements, her mother may be released from where she is being held. Meanwhile, Rovan searches, for a way out, both from the city and from her bond, and for the truth.

Okay, first up: LOVE a fantasy standalone. Thank you. I felt like there was a good amount of worldbuilding and really like that this magical Grecian setting featured snarky characters with a modern way of speaking. There were some really great scenes that resulted from others not being able to see or hear one's guardian. As always, I love a deathy story. I wouldn't say there's necromancy here (though there are some practitioners of death magic), but I do think this would be a good read for fans of Gideon the Ninth, and possibly Reign of the Fallen. The rep here was lovely - a pan main character, lesbian love interests, and ace/non-binary important side character. There is romance here for sure, but also an emphasis on the importance of platonic friendships.

You may want to be aware before reading this one that there is death (lots, and of various family members), blood and violence (they're not called bloodmages for nothing), mention of abuse, and some gore.

Thank you to Macmillan and NetGalley for the eARC. In the Ravenous Dark was published May 18th.
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This was a 3.5-star read for me but I had a great time reading it and I know many others will love this. This was a super enjoyable read despite how dark it is (see content warnings!!!) I loved the queer representation in the book and the way that sexualities/identities were not looked down upon in this world. The main character is pansexual, there's a major nonbinary supporting character, a lesbian love interest, and an overall sense of acceptance of others' preferences.

I enjoyed the first half of the book more than the second. The second half felt a little too tropey and I won't mention which tropes so I don't spoil anything. But one major issue I had was insta-love. Normally, I can look past it but I had a hard time with this one. As much as I wanted to believe in these characters' love, I just didn't. One trope I did appreciate was found family. I'm a sucker for found family and I loved how it was done here.

Overall, I wanted MORE from this book. More fleshed out world building, more character/relationship development, and maybe a duology so things could have been less rushed in the end. Still, this was a fun read (despite the darkness) and there were even some laugh out loud moments. I definitely recommend this to fantasy fans who are looking for awesome queer rep!

CW: death, death of a parent, violence, blood, forced marriage, threat of rape/abuse
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This was such fantastic story! First off, I want to shoutout to Strickland for creating pansexual, non-binary and other characters fitting into the LGBTQ representation throughout the novel but in a way that was not forced and added so much more to the overall plot. Such a smoothly implemented coverall of acceptance, understanding and appreciation.

The worldbuilding is set between the kingdom of Thanopolis and the dark city of the underworld. Beautiful imagery and atmospheric writing crafted a well-developed ancient Greece/Rome-like world. The magic system helped add more to the worldbuilding with the descriptions of the shields preventing the encroaching deadly blight into cities. I appreciated how Strickland’s writing style creatively molds all of the plot points, world building and magic system together. Each aspect feeding off the other to create this novel. The magic system was really unique to me too. Bloodlines, mages, and this tethered connection to the underworld really set the feel for the darker portions of this novel.

The characters are everything. Absolutely everything for me. Rovan makes for an excellent pansexual MC with strengths, flaws and even an odd suave perceived carelessness that I appreciated. I did want a little more depth from her since she barricaded her feeling a lot in the beginning. Almost too long of a stretch before her walls break and the growth can seep in. I freaking adored the sarcastic banter between Rovan and her guardian, Ivrilos. It kept me grinning like a goof and having a few good snort laughs along the way. The way Strickland built the persona of Ivrilos was perfection. From start to finish the perception of him morphs and grows and created such a deeply crafted character. Honestly, I can’t decide who I loved more between Ivrilos and Japha! Japha is just downright exceptional. They really bring to light the non-binary persona and the beauty of their character. I loved the almost ace-like aspect to Japha along with the way their individuality shined next to all of the other characters. Quite literally the bright star of the group for me. I could seriously keep going on the characters. I loved their development and what each one added to the story.

This brings me to the one area I wanted less of and I believe it is truly personal preference. Inner monologue. I wanted more character interaction and less of the inner thought process. I tend to have this thought a lot with YA reads though and feel characters spend a tad too much time over-hashing or reiterating things in their head. For me this took away from adding more character depth, interaction and plot growth. Don’t let this sway you though. Like I mentioned, it is a personal preference. Between the characters and the twisting plot, I was hooked from start to finish. There are mild intimate scenes, hints of sexual abuse, some cursing and excellent LGBTQ representation as noted. This is a darker read with facets that focus on death, shades, cruel royals and the underworld. Truly one of the more unique reads of my year! Let’s not forget the plot twists!! Holy heck there were a few times I almost threw my kindle… I was THAT invested!

Thank you to MacMillan Children’s Publishing Group, Fierce Reads, NetGalley and A.M. Strickland for the opportunity to read and review this gifted digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I cannot wait to add this one to my shelves! True rating 4.5/5.
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I couldn’t get enough of this book. “A pansexual bloodmage reluctantly teams up with an undead spirit to start a rebellion among the living and the dead.” This blurb sums of the book so well, yet there are so many layers and discoveries throughout that made this an exciting read. 

While growing up, Rovan’s father tried to keep her magic under the radar. The magic attached to his bloodline is powerful, but not strong enough to protect his daughter from a  fate where she would be bound to an undead spirit. With her father out of the picture after being hunted down, Rovan was able to go years avoiding the life he desperately didn’t want for her. That is until doing the right thing leads to her discovery and capture. Her magic is exposed and she’s thrust into a life she despises. It’s in this new life that she finds love larger than what she thought was possible and a purpose only she could fulfill. To set things right, she must learn to trust the very people she sees as untrustworthy.

I typically don’t like love triangles, but this one I didn’t mind, and I actually found myself rooting for them both. The relationship between Rovan and Ivrilos reminds me of Bryce and Hunt from the book Crescent City. I liked the different characters, and I enjoyed seeing the development of their friendship/relationship. 

I also really liked the pacing of the journey and the twists. It kept me engaged and wanting more.

Thank you to NetGalley for an advanced e-ARC!
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