Last of the Talons by Sophie Kim (BOOK REVIEW) || It has all the good tropes!

I’m glad this is the first book in a planned trilogy but it also means I have to wait like two years for the series to be complete! But I can see myself not waiting for the series to be finished and just reading when the sequel comes out. And plus Sophie Kim has an adult fantasy series coming out soon, so that’ll be cool too!

Disclaimer: I received this e-arc through the publisher and Netgalley, and in exchange for a free and honest review. The book cover and details are taken from Goodreads and the content warnings are taken from The Storygraph; from me reading the book, or from others’ reviews. I try my absolute best to find the cover art/designer but unfortunately I am not always able to do so. The page numbers/audio hours are taken from the version that I’m reading from (if an e-arc, the Kindle version then). The featured image is my own. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Last of the Talons - Sophie KimTitle: Last of the Talons
Author: Sophie Kim
Narrator: Jaine Ye
Series: #1
Audio Hours: 15 hours, 16 minutes
Year Published: 2022
Publisher: Recorded Books (Audiobook), Entangled Teen (Other)
Cover Art/Designer: Elizabeth Turner Stokes (cover design), Ashley Mackenzie (cover illustration)
Genre: Young Adult ~ Fantasy ~ Mythology ~ Retelling ~ Action and Adventure ~ Romance
Stars: use thisuse thisuse thisuse thisuse this
Links: Goodreads || The Storygraph
Copy: Audio review Copy (Netgslley)
CW/TW: (Taken from The Storygraph) Graphic: Violence, Death, Blood. Moderate: Addiction, Murder, Drug abuse. Minor: Fatphobia, Death of parent 

After the destruction of her entire Talon gang, eighteen-year-old Shin Lina—the Reaper of Sunpo—is forced to become a living, breathing weapon for the kingdom’s most-feared crime lord. All that keeps her from turning on her ruthless master is the life of her beloved little sister hanging in the balance. But the order to steal a priceless tapestry from a Dokkaebi temple incites not only the wrath of a legendary immortal, but the beginning of an unwinnable game…

Suddenly Lina finds herself in the dreamlike realm of the Dokkaebi, her fate in the hands of its cruel and captivating emperor. But she can win her life—if she kills him first.

Now a terrible game of life and death has begun, and even Lina’s swift, precise blade is no match for the magnetic Haneul Rui. Lina will have to use every weapon in her arsenal if she wants to outplay this cunning king and save her sister…all before the final grain of sand leaks out of the hourglass.

Because one way or another, she’ll take Rui’s heart.

Even if it means giving up her own.

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I think this year either I really like the first book of the series (this book, The Stardust Thief, The Girl from the Well) or I dislike it/dnf it (Lightlark, The School for Good and Evil). Luckily, this definitely wasn’t the case with this book. I went in expecting an interesting plot and characters. What I got was something much more. A fascinating, intriguing plot, rich world-building, and compelling characters.

I liked that it had a bit of a retelling and I really liked that the book was inspired by Korean mythology. I liked that I had to look up what different terms meant (or that I sometimes didn’t have to because context clues were enough). Though I had an audio copy so I looked at others’ reviews for the spelling first. Next time I’ll definitely read a physical/ebook version so I know how to say and spell the words (because I’m not familiar with them).

Lina, being the main character, was well-written and lively, and fun to follow. She loves her sister, Eunbi, so much that she’s literally willing to try to kill a Dokkaebi Emperor – a powerful spirit in Korean mythology. When she speaks of her sister, it’s of love and affection and you can understand her reason for doing all this. You want her to complete the task because it means she’ll see her sister again. There’s a bit of chronic pain representation in the book because Lina’s left leg is damaged from a (knife) injury, and I’m guessing nerve damage too, by the sound of it. The pain she felt when she landed wrong or fell and hurt her leg – I felt that all throughout – in fact I think my legs were also reading the book and wanted to join in.

At first I thought it was another immortal falls for the 17-20 girl (Lina’s 18 or 19) book – but turns out that Dokkaebi age much slower than humans – so he’s technically twenty, and also centuries old 😄. I much prefer that than an actual immortal – vampire or something, interested in a barely legal person.

The Dokkaebi Emperor, Haneul Rui, was a fantastic character. He’s witty, mysterious, and intriguing and I think like that Lina liked that, even though she won’t admit that. I liked him from the get-go, so I kept telling Lina to just kiss him 😄. Of course she didn’t listen to me! The book’s main trope is enemies-to-lovers and it delivers on that plenty. I mean Lina literally has to kill him so she can return a prisoner and then her sister will be safe. And I loved seeing it slowly turn from ooh I want to kill you to fine you’re slightly tolerable and then we started the path of hmm I’m starting to like you which leads very quickly into the path of I want to protect you because I love you route. Another trope I loved seeing was the who hurt you trope, done by Haneul Rui. I think even before he realises he likes her he doesn’t want to see her get hurt. But, he also knows that she can take care of herself, which I could tell he also liked.

The world-building is spectacular and lush. I never felt bored with the writing because I always wanted to know more about everything. The world, the characters, the food (always the food). It was a rich reading experience as there was so much to take in and enjoy thoroughly. The mythology and culture were interspersed so well with fantasy but I think Korean mythology and its culture has a lot of roots in fantasy. Kim did a stellar job at that, I could really see how much work and research she put into the novel.

Jaine Ye was a great narrator and I’ll definitely look out for her other books as well. I liked that she sounded young because Lina is young! I could tell that Ye enjoyed the time she had narrating the book – I don’t know how to explain that I could hear it but I could. It’s just that some narrators sound like they’re a bored reading the book and that makes listening to the book harder (especially when audiobooks are my main format now).

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I was really impressed for a debut novel as to how polished and well-written it is. I can only hope that Kim’s future novels are even better. Are you a fan of the enemies-to-lovers trope as I am? Or a fan of fascinating wold-building – definitely pick this book up!


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