To be honest, when I first picked this book up, I was a bit worried it was going to be another one of those dime-a-dozen fantasy novels with a girl who is strong and kick-butt and no real storyline. I was, however, pleasantly mistaken!

Hello everyone!

I am back with another review, today it is The Afterward by E.K. Johnston. Thanks so much to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me an ARC of this book for an honest review, as always, all opinions are my own.

This book follows a couple different perspectives and timelines, but it focuses on Olsa Rhetsdaughter, a petty thieve who steals to survive life on the streets and Kalanthe Ironheart, an apprentice knight who takes Olsa under her wing during their quest to find the godsgem and save the kingdom. A year has passed since Olsa, Kalanthe and four other knights, along with a mage, helped save the kingdom and restore peace. For Olsa, she earned enough money to buy her freedom from the Boss Thieves, but not enough to set her up for life off the streets. As she runs out of people to vouch for her pardoning, Olsa wonders which of her last thievery attempts will be her last. In order to become a full knight, Kalanthe has to pay her debt - which means marrying to a lord she has no desire to marry. As time seems to be running out for both girls, they have to decide how they want to live their lives - and if they can do so apart from one another.

Firstly, I really loved the way Johnston wove together this story. The writing style itself was really well done and I flew through the book, but I also really enjoyed the way she wove together the past and present storylines, as well as different character points of view. Often I find this gets a bit jumbled but I thought Johnston did a good job of keeping them clear. There were maybe one or two "before" moments where I had to think for a second who's perspective we were getting, but other than that I thought it was organized quite well.

I also want to talk about the diversity in this book. I don't know when the last time I read a book with such diversity, especially in terms of sexuality. The Quest consists of four knights, as well as Orla, Kalanthe, and a mage. One of the knights is perhaps what some would consider trans-gender or gender fluid, another is asexual, Orla is bisexual, and Kalanthe is a lesbian. This book also includes some racial diversity, Orla and one of the other knights, as well as another more minor character, are women of colour, including one who wears a headscarf. What I loved most about this diversity was that while it was talked about quite openly throughout the book, their sexualities or racial distinctions never became a plot point or a diversity box to be checked off. It was just a part of who they were, let's move on to the next task at hand.

I absolutely fell in love with all of the characters and thought that Johnston did a good job developing them, although it could be argued, some more than others. I would love to see a sequel or companion novel with these characters again, just to develop them a bit more and see more of their stories.

I fully understand that this book might be a lot for some people - there is a lot going on character-wise and it's hard to keep track of them all based solely on the number of important characters. The story itself doesn't necessarily have an action-packed vibe, most of the action comes from the "before" sections where we already know the outcome. The book really does focus on the characters, and I know that doesn't work for everyone.

Overall, however, I really loved this book and would highly recommend it to anyone and everyone!