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Illumicrate Unboxing

Illumicrate’s November Book Box – Review

Illumicrate ‘Clever Ruse’ Review

This is my fourth quarterly book box from Illumicrate and thus my one year subscription anniversary! It is also Illumicrate’s third anniversary box and they have created something really special to celebrate. I loved the theme announcement for this box as it sounded intriguing plus the artwork was gorgeous! There is a nice mix of fandoms that inspired items for the box including Caraval/The Night CircusWarcrossTo All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Throne of Glass and Mulan. Fandoms can be a little contentious as with so many book boxes out there right now some of the popular fandoms may feel overdone. I can understand that, especially for people who have multiple subscriptions running at the same time. Items inspired by any of the Sarah J Maas series seem to fall into the love or hate category but with Kingdom of Ash releasing this month I think it was nice to include a Throne of Glass item. To be honest, I think it will be a long time before I get bored of items based on the Throne of Glass or A Court of Thorns and Roses series, though it is always nice to have variety. I was really pleased to see Mulan on the list and it makes complete sense when we discover what the main book for this month is!


There are two books in the ‘Clever Ruse’ box. Originally Illumicrate were hoping to have the main featured book as well as an ARC (advanced reader copy) but it was unfortunately not possible. Instead of an ARC they have included a second book! Both book editions are exclusive to Illumicrate:

Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

Yay! I suspected this was the main book and it is awesome to have an exclusive hardback edition with sprayed edges! Here is the synopsis, which I think sounds great:

“Each generation, a competition is held to find the next empress of Honoku. The rules are simple. Survive the palace’s enchanted seasonal rooms. Conquer Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Marry the prince. All are eligible to compete—all except yōkai, supernatural monsters and spirits whom the human emperor is determined to enslave and destroy.

Mari has spent a lifetime training to become empress. Winning should be easy. And it would be, if she weren’t hiding a dangerous secret. Mari is a yōkai with the ability to transform into a terrifying monster. If discovered, her life will be forfeit. As she struggles to keep her true identity hidden, Mari’s fate collides with that of Taro, the prince who has no desire to inherit the imperial throne, and Akira, a half-human, half-yōkai outcast.

Torn between duty and love, loyalty and betrayal, vengeance and forgiveness, the choices of Mari, Taro, and Akira will decide the fate of Honoku in this beautifully written, edge-of-your-seat YA fantasy.”

Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce

Another exclusive edition! I have heard of Tamora Pierce but have never read any of her books. She is a well thought of author so I am very interested to form my own opinion of her latest book. Here is the synposis:

“Young Daine’s knack with horses gets her a job helping the royal horsemistress drive a herd of ponies to Tortall. Soon it becomes clear that Daine’s talent, as much as she struggles to hide it, is downright magical. Horses and other animals not only obey, but listen to her words. Daine, though, will have to learn to trust humans before she can come to terms with her powers, her past, and herself.”

Bookish Items

Illumicrate spoiler announcements revealed that there would be multiple fabric items in this month’s box, which I was very excited about! I have always found the items in their boxes to be of an extremely high quality. It is so sad when you like the design of an item only for it to fall to bits, which has never been the case with any of my Illumicrate items.

Circus Top Banner

I have been wanting a proper pin banner for ages! I have some pin badge cork bunting from a FairyLoot box but it is rather full and doesn’t display the pins in the nicest way. This banner is really thick and high quality. The metallic stripes sparkle in a way that makes it look smart instead of tacky. A really great item inspired by Caraval/The Night Circus.

Stag Amulet Necklace

An exclusive necklace inspired by Throne of Glass and created by one of my favourite bookish companies @fableandblack. The necklace will apparently bring out “your inner fire breathing bitch queen”. I don’t think that is a guarantee, however, I will remember not to lend it to my sister over Christmas just in case *snicker*. Unusually, Illumicrate decided to reveal the design for the amulet as one of the first announcement spoilers for the box on Instagram. They did hide it behind another picture but as I was not expecting it, I clicked through the pictures before reading the text saying their would be spoilers. My own fault though! Read first, admire pretty pictures later. The necklace is pretty but it is not one of my favourite designs. I am yet to be convinced about the green and rose gold together. I suspect it may grow on me. I am not sure how I feel about them revealing the design of the necklace in advance. I suppose that only those who want to see the design would be spoilered, assuming they read first unlike me. What do you think about a full design reveal in advance?

Diner Drink Cosy

A beautiful item inspired by To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and created by @gicatam. I have never used a drinks cosy before, probably because I rarely have hot drinks but I really want to use this item. I absolutely LOVE the design. It is the epitome of cute. It is thick and very good quality. An excellent addition, well done Illumicrate!

Warcross Bookmark

Who doesn’t love a woodmark? I really like the design that @chattynora has put together. The quote is from Warcross and is a great choice as I feel that you can enjoy the design even if you haven’t read the book yet. Some quotes can be very specific and you feel like you are missing out from not having read the book/don’t really understand the meaning behind the quote. The rainbow graduating colours are pretty and are glittery when they catch the light. Again, the item is very high quality. The wood has a double layer to reinforce it and make it strong. This is my favourite woodmark that I own now.

Mulan-inspired Scarf

The exclusive design is by @ruan0v0 and… just… wow. It is beautiful. I knew I would love the artwork for this item as Feifei Ruan also created the cover art for the books Descendant of the Crane and A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, which are STUNNING. The scarf is soft and silky though I am tempted to hang it up instead of wearing it! It would make a beautiful wall tapestry. I am in love with this item.


The extras in the box are from This Mortal Coil and The Poppy War. I already have the bookmark, which I like a lot so will pass my spare one on to a friend. I was surprised to find what was inside the envelope for This Mortal Coil – DNA origami! Origami is definitely in keeping with the box and I will have fun trying to put it together. Having the opportunity to download the first three chapters of This Mortal Coil for free by scanning the code on the front of the envelope is very cool! I have read the book and really enjoyed it so if you bought the box I would recommend you take advantage of the offer or pass it on to a friend who hasn’t read the book yet. There is also a discount code for @chattynora, which I will be taking full advantage of.

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This is my favourite quarterly Illumicrate box that I have received so far. The items in this box were very well curated and the designs are some of the nicest I have seen in any book box. The scarf in particular is wonderful. The item quality is definitely there as is the value for money. The only thing that I would change about the box would be to have an ARC as I know it is a big reason for people to buy the box on top of their other subscriptions. The Illumicrate team did try very hard though and it just wasn’t possible this time but adding a second book was a very good idea. It rounded out the box really well. I am really pleased with the main book selection! I was going to pick up Empress of All Seasons myself at some point so that worked out very nicely for me.

Are you an Illumicrate subscriber who received the ‘Clever Ruse’ box? What was your opinion? If you haven’t tried Illumicrate then I highly recommend them as a company. I really like that their boxes are quarterly rather than monthly as it makes it much more affordable. Their special edition boxes are OUTSTANDING and, in my opinion, the best on the market right now. The Starfall box I received earlier this year was superb. Fans of the Grishaverse will be pleased that they still have some Saints & Scars boxes left, which includes a special edition of King of Scars and over 10 officially licensed Grishaverse items. I think it will be a very special box. They also run a new subscription pin club! For more information about Illumicrate head of to their website here.

Thanks for reading.

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