Long time without writing here. Even though I am technically still in hiatus (from all social media and this blog). I had the absolute pleasure of receiving Illusionary before it was released, and I was asked if I wanted to be a part of the Blog Tour. Of course, I couldn’t say no. Illusionary is the sequel to Incendiary (which I reviewed here), and as you can tell I loved it so much, it’s been one of my most anticipated books of 2021 and May of 2021.
There’s so much I want to talk about this book, but as always I will try to keep it spoiler free as much as I can. I should mention though if you haven’t read Incendiary then a lot of things I will discuss from Book 2 will be spoilers.
So make sure you read that one or don’t mind the spoilers.
by Zoraida Cordova
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, Historical, Romance
Release Date: 11th May, 2021
Reeling from betrayal at the hands of the Whispers, Renata Convida is a girl on the run. With few options and fewer allies, she’s reluctantly joined forces with none other than Prince Castian, her most infuriating and intriguing enemy. They’re united by lofty goals: find the fabled Knife of Memory, kill the ruthless King Fernando, and bring peace to the nation. Together, Ren and Castian have a chance to save everything, if only they can set aside their complex and intense feelings for each other.
With the king’s forces on their heels at every turn, their quest across Puerto Leones and beyond leaves little room for mistakes. But the greatest danger is within Ren. The Gray, her fortress of stolen memories, has begun to crumble, threatening her grip on reality. She’ll have to control her magics–and her mind–to unlock her power and protect the Moria people once and for all.
For years, she was wielded as weapon. Now it’s her time to fight back.
6 reasons to read this book
*young adult historical fantasy/duology with a sprinkle of romance and a lot of action packed adventure
*pirates, villains, spies, magical system, magical quest (to save world), HEA, chosen one
*MC, Renata Convida is a fierce, bit jaded anti-hero with probably the worst power you can get
*slow burn, (childhood friends to) enemies to lovers, expect a lot of urst, uses the tropes, one bed!! fake marriage!!
*LI is the ‘you didn’t expect you would actually like him’ kind of jaded, moody,
*deals with political intrigue, uncovering secrets about yourself (and your magics), trauma, revenge, authoritarian regimes, xenophobia, wars, betrayal
cw for violence, sexual moments
Illusionary continues the story from THAT cliffhanger on Incendiary, Renata Convida and Castian are both on a quest to find the Knife of Memory that would restore peace to the nation and save everything. But along the way they won’t have to only try to escape from King Fernando’s guards, spies and untrustworthy people, they have to deal with their own complex, intense feelings for each other. Feelings that for Ren especially she would rather ignore. Not only that but since everything that happened with Justice Mendez, her powers, The Gray, her mind prison where are the stolen memories are stored, has seemingly disappeared. Now Ren has to fight to understand what is reality and what is not. To win this battle, survive and protect the Moria people she will have to find ways to control her magic and maybe finally unlock her power.
In the great iconic words of Luisa “Zoraida can have my soul in a jar, I have no use for it now”.
This book was in many ways a lot more intense than Incendiary, but in so many ways it was perfect, it was all about Ren and Castian’s character development and well their developing and deepening relationship. I should say even though the book does have romance, the romance at no point feels like it is overpowering the story. It is a fantastical quest with sprinkles of romance, that if you’re like me and love enemies who suddenly discover they are connected (because of whatever reasons), have to work together and also are secretly trying to deny how attracted (love love loveee) they are to each other,, then you’re going to love this book. I won’t talk too much about Ren and Castian together even though i’m literally stopping myself from gushing. I will say I loved the delicious tension between them, i loved their banter, i loved when they started to open up and discover how similar they were, and how much they needed each other. Also the moment where it all comes together I almost wanted to shout out loud and like fist bump, but it was almost 2am, so I stopped myself.
One main theme of this book was trauma, particularly, how Ren accepted, found ways to deal with her trauma and basically where she finds herself and her truth. I especially loved how her trauma was portrayed as a journey, and not just well magical solution and here you go bye years of trauma. Even at the end of the book, you could feel Ren was still trying to find ways to be okay with herself. Also, how her self-loathing, self-hate was showed in the book was so impactful, I swear I could feel it deep in my gut.
I also loved how Castian throughout this quest was at many points a source of support and comfort for Ren, now if you’ve just started reading the book or just read the first book you’ll be reading this making a face that you don’t believe me, but you’ll see. And when you get there it’s the best thing ever. Their relationship was
I should mention when I say this book was more intense, while it wasn’t action, action at many times since the book was more introspective, quieter, a bit more personal, it did feel more intense because we were dealing with Ren and her own personal demons. That said, there were many moments of action thrills. At times, this book felt like it was slowly slowly building each of the characters and their journey to reach an explosive end. I’m trying not to spoil too much, but I will say the ending followed kind of the same structure of the book where it felt explosive, but in an emotional way. Like you finally let out that breath you were holding (I had to use the cliche phrase, dont mind me).
I haven’t said much about the side characters which honestly had so much personality that they didn’t at all feel like filler characters, Leo who we previously knew from Book 1 joins Castian and Ren again. He was the perfect contrast to the broody main couple (:]). Lady Nuria who was already such an intriguing character, also from Book 1), and the cast of pirates and Whispers. I should mention Dez probably but honestly there were times I really disliked him, but by the end you’ll probably love him (or at least understand him).
There’s so much about this book that was perfect. I think I’m not exagerating when I say this book just has it all, and it does everything so well. It is the perfect conclusion to any series, and is now considered one of my comfort reads. I kinda feel like re-reading the whole series to capture those moments in my excitement I missed.
In summary, Illusionary, the Hollow Crown series is a perfect fantastical thrilling read that does not disappoint from Book 1 to the ending of Book 2.
Zoraida Córdova is the acclaimed author of more than a dozen novels and short stories, including the Brooklyn Brujas series, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge: A Crash of Fate, and The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina. In addition to writing novels, she serves on the Board of We Need Diverse Books, and is the co-editor of the bestselling anthology Vampires Never Get Old, as well as the cohost of the writing podcast, Deadline City. She writes romance novels as Zoey Castile. Zoraida was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and calls New York City home. When she’s not working, she’s roaming the world in search of magical stories.
I had so much fun reading this book, and I can’t thank Kate Keehan and everyone at Hodderscape for sending me the final copy of the book before it was released. Thank you to Zoraida also for making sure I would receive it.
That said, I am not yet sure if I’ll be back to review regularly, I have been in a bit of a reading slump lately, and even though this book was amazing in getting ready of it, I am still trying to slowly dip my toes into getting back to regularly reading and reviewing.
So I can’t make any promises this blog will come back from hiatus now or anytime soon, but thank you to those still reading and writing comments. I appreciate all of you!