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Friday, April 12, 2024

Five popular book recommendations that are worth your time

If you’re looking to read a popular book series but aren’t sure where to start, here are some suggestions 


By NATALIE SALTER — arts@theaggie.org 


If you’ve engaged with any online reading communities — whether on Instagram, YouTube, TikTok or any other social media site — you’ve likely heard certain books cycle into discussions very often. It can be hard to decipher which books are worth checking out and deserve the praise they receive — so here is a list of five popular books that are just as amazing as their fans claim they are.


“The Cruel Prince” by Holly Black (2018)

Holly Black’s “The Folk of the Air” trilogy, starting with “The Cruel Prince,” is set in a lush and dark faerie realm filled with peril and intrigue. Jude Duarte is a mortal girl swept away by her foster father, one of the dangerous Folk, and made to live in the land of Faerie. Surrounded by bloodthirsty and cunning fae, Jude must fight to fit in, and her strong will puts her at odds with the youngest prince of the land, Cardan. When Jude becomes entangled in a complex political scheme involving Cardan and his siblings, each vying for their father’s throne, she discovers a new side of the Folk, as well as an opportunity to rise in power herself.

Black has crafted a brilliantly woven story that combines a complex succession crisis, fascinating worldbuilding and heart-wrenching romance into one novel. Every character is deeply compelling, and their relationships with one another are handled with precision and attention, each interaction feeling fleshed out and unique. It’s no wonder that “The Cruel Prince” has become a classic of the dark fantasy genre and is worth every praise it receives in literary communities.


“Once Upon A Broken Heart” by Stephanie Garber (2021)

How far are you willing to go for love? When hopeless romantic Evangeline Fox has her heart broken by her first love, she turns to drastic measures — making a deal with the immortal Prince of Hearts to stop her lover’s wedding to another. However, magical deals come with steep costs, and when Evangeline finds herself thrust into the center of a powerful prophecy, she comes to find that the Prince of Hearts may be her unlikely ally. Though her trip to the Magnificent North initially feels like one of her childhood tales of magic and adventure, Evangeline discovers that happily ever after is not always what it seems.

“Once Upon A Broken Heart” is the first of a magnificent trilogy for which Stephanie Garber has received high praise. The novel’s enchanting universe, full of fantasy that feels like a fairytale brought to life, makes the perfect backdrop for a story of twisted curses, destined quests and true love. Once you fall into the world that Garber has crafted, you will never want to leave, and this bewitching trilogy provides unforgettable magical adventures that you’ll truly fall in love with. 


“Six Of Crows” by Leigh Bardugo (2015)

If you love a good heist, then Leigh Bardugo’s “Six Of Crows” is the book for you. The novel follows six distinct characters: Kaz, a talented criminal harboring a dangerous grudge; Inej, an acrobatic thief; Jesper, a witty sharpshooter with a penchant for gambling; Nina, a powerful magic user; Matthias, a highly trained soldier forced to question his own country; and Wylan, a demolitions expert and runaway. These six unlikely companions find themselves at the head of a near-impossible mission to break into the world’s most highly guarded fortress, and the complex relationships they develop may save their lives.

Bardugo’s universe is incredibly compelling, and the characters she writes are genuinely unforgettable. Once the action in “Six Of Crows” starts, it is impossible to put the book down. The secrets, needs, desires and fears carried by each character make them deeply nuanced and enjoyable to read about. This book is the first of a duology, and its follow-up, “Crooked Kingdom,” is just as incredible, making it a worthy choice for your next literary adventure.


“The Poppy War” by R.F. Kuang (2018)

R.F. Kuang’s popular book, “The Poppy War,” is a great choice if you’re interested in an East Asian-inspired fantasy universe that draws influences from real-world history. “The Poppy War,” as the name suggests, is a wartime novel. Rin is a war orphan raised by a criminal family hoping to sell her into marriage. Seeking to avoid this fate, she studies relentlessly and aces the Keju, a test that ensures her a spot in her nation’s most prestigious military academy. Finding herself an outcast, Rin must fight relentlessly to succeed, all whilst a war brews that could change the course of history forever. 

Kuang’s novel navigates difficult topics that directly reflect real history with care and mindfulness. Though certainly a darker read than the other entries on this list, “The Poppy War” is compelling and engaging. You might have to take your time reading this novel, as the subject material can be hard to swallow, but what makes Kuang’s book a worthwhile read is the insight it will give you into the real world. It is the sort of book that sticks with you long after reading, and if you want more of Kuang’s universe, it is the first of a stunningly well-written trilogy.


“The Priory Of The Orange Tree” by Samantha Shannon (2019)

Once you open Samantha Shannon’s “The Priory Of The Orange Tree,” you’ll discover a fascinating and carefully crafted universe that makes it a worthy entry into the halls of literary fantasy fame. In the nation of Inys, lady of the court Ead has a secret quest — to protect the country’s Queen Sabran from the assassins who seek to end her bloodline. Ead hides her magical abilities and affiliation to the enigmatic Priory in order to stay close to Sabran’s side. Across the sea, orphan Tané is given a life-changing opportunity to become a dragon rider, but she hides a secret that could cost her entire future. When a great evil thought long dead begins to rise once more, these three women find their lives entwined in the quest to banish the darkness for good.

Given its massive size, Shannon’s novel can be a daunting read. Still, even new readers of fantasy will find themselves engrossed in the interweaving story threads that make up Priory’s many pages of memorable and diverse world building, taking influences from across the real world. Likewise, Shannon presents heroes that are easy to love and villains that are easy to hate whilst also providing them with the complexity necessary to create compelling stories and relationships. If you have lots of time on your hands and want to take on a bigger read, pick up Priory — you certainly won’t regret it.


Written by: Natalie Salter — arts@theaggie.org



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