Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Book Review: Divine Blood by Beck Michaels

  • Title: Divine Blood
  • Series: Guardians of the Maiden #1
  • Author: Beck Michaels
  • Publisher & Release: Pluma Press, June 2020
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ yes for fans of the genre

Thank you so much to Beck Michaels for sending me a copy of Divine Blood to read and review! This gorgeous book had me in some serious cover love when she advertised for readers!

Here is the description from Goodreads:

The Shadow demon nearly took everything from Dynalya Astron, and it would soon return for more. When she discovers a way to fight back, she must go on a perilous journey and risk it all for those she holds dear.

Along the way, she meets Cassiel, a Celestial Prince with magic blood and wings as black as his heart. He wants nothing to do with Dyna until he learns she could lead him to a place he has been searching for all his life.

But reaching their destination is not as easy as they thought, nor are they the only ones who search for it. With danger at every turn and harrowing secrets between them, the quest will require much more than determination. They must fight for what they desire—or die trying.

For fans of Throne of Glass, The Cruel Prince, and The Lord of the Rings comes Beck Michael’s debut novel with remarkable characters, a budding romance, and gripping action. Divine Blood is the first book of an Epic Dark Fantasy series that explores the depths of loss, acceptance, and the true meaning of courage.

I enjoyed my time spent in the world of Urn.  The world building is extremely well done. The book has both the map of the kingdom AND of the entire continent! It is hard to write books that contain epic journeys, with towns 90+ miles apart, and maintain a proper time and distance and bonding between characters and events, and I think this is a uniquely strong writing element in fantasy that she handled very well.  Between the length of the journey and the motley group, I was getting Lord of the Rings vibes.  She also describes beautiful trees and fauna, mountains and scenery.  In the towns we get a good idea for the general feel of things, the individual political scenarios, and small details like foods and currency even.  There are only local swears like “God of Urn!” and nothing that detracts from the immersion.  Like I said, I really appreciate the world building so far.

The description should really say for fans of ACOTaR, Cassiel is perfect to fill that Rhysand shaped hole in everyone’s heart.  The characters are the central aspect of the book, and make up a motley crew for sure.  Dynalya is the foreseen maiden of mage descent, trying to save her family and village from a demon that takes children.  Also she is a magical healer so YAY! Zev, her cousin, is a lycan with a temper.  Cassiel is a handsome prince.  Each has their own struggles and feelings of inadequacy and lack of acceptance to overcome.  The book spans quite a number of miles travelled and the characters grow on each other at a seemingly appropriate rate.  The only thing that bugged me was how Dynalya changes between the points of view – she is portrayed as super brave in her chapters but in the other POVs she is treated like a 6 year old precious flower with no self preservatio.  I have to agree more on the stupid human that can’t be alone in the dark at age 19 portrayal, than the brave woman one, it just seems like a huge change.

The other characters include an elf with some seriously amazing magic, a torn commander who is working for an evil mage (p.s. these 2 are my favorite characters, Rawn and Von), and a sassy sorceress who also has some awesome magic.  All sorts of magical races from minotaurs to elves to werewolves are in this book, and Dynalya ends up with six guardians so I can’t wait to see who else pops up in book 2.

My only real qualm with the book is a few (maybe 5 total) blatant editing mishaps, they are few and far in between though and I hate to bring it up but it distracts me so much from the pace of things.  The other enjoyment issue for me was the pacing – the plot pulls back and meanders in the middle half to build the characters and world while they travel.  I do enjoy these things and there was plenty of action thrown in too, but it wasn’t a compulsive read until the last quarter.  I guess to summarize: this is more of a classic fantasy and I’m only truly docking a star for Dyna’s bipolar portrayal, none of these other reasons.

As far as content: The romance was kept clean and slow burning, there is a brush of lips and some light hand holding only.  Only local swearing and nothing vulgar.  Some violence and gore mostly including werewolf attacks and stabby battles or magical murders.  I would put this in the ‘clean reads’ category!

So yes – I do fully recommend this for fantasy readers who enjoy a romantic twist in a well built world.  It is one of those rare ones that really truly has something for everyone.

 

Beck Michaels can be found online at:

https://beckmichaels.com/

https://www.instagram.com/beckmichaels_writes/

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

ARC Review: Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft

  • Title: Down Comes the Night
  • Series: Standalone?
  • Author: Allison Saft
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, 3/2/2021
  • Length: 400 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ for YA

Thank you to Wednesday Books via NetGalley for the wish-granted early read of Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft.

Here is the description from GoodReads:

A gorgeously gothic, deeply romantic YA debut fantasy about two enemies trapped inside a crumbling mansion, with no escape from the monsters within.

Honor your oath, destroy your country.

Wren Southerland is the most talented healer in the Queen’s Guard, but her reckless actions have repeatedly put her on thin ice with her superiors. So when a letter arrives from a reclusive lord, asking Wren to come to his estate to cure his servant from a mysterious disease, she seizes the chance to prove herself.

When she arrives at Colwick Hall, Wren realizes that nothing is what it seems. Particularly when she discovers her patient is actually Hal Cavendish, the sworn enemy of her kingdom.

As the snowy mountains make it impossible to leave the estate, Wren and Hal grow closer as they uncover a sinister plot that could destroy everything they hold dear. But choosing love could doom both their kingdoms

Overall this is a decent standalone? fantasy/romance, and seems to be pretty YA appropriate. The advertised age range is 13-18 on Amazon and I can see that.  The description gives away the first couple huge plot twists though, so there’s that.

Let’s start with the world building. The religious and political bits are pretty well explained, even the military structure, but the humanitarian bits are totally missing. Saft mentioned pollution and a black river multiple times but hardly mentions the industry causing it at all. (A train and steamboat are mentioned). What’s causing all that pollution? Factories? When asked about what Danu holds over Cernos (strong with technology), all they ever say is Magic. Is the industry stronger? Steam or iron? Why neglect this and just say “magic”? Also how do the people feel in the city? What do they eat even? The world was flat.  Vesria and Cernos were both better described than Danu. On a micro level though, the Colwick house was described excellently, ominous and dark and huge, and so was the North Tower.  I thought all those clocks were a pretty chilling touch!

The plot is fairly well done with a war between two countries that seems mostly based on lies and a generations old power struggle. Why are they really fighting though? I couldn’t find any real good reason except religious differences and some contested land of which the value was never mentioned. It just seemed like needless killing. The plot kept moving at a solid pace. I did skim quite a bit where the main character was just endlessly pining over another character.

As far as content, the most they ever actually do is kiss and make out and I THINK there was off page intercourse, but I wasn’t sure. Either way there is so. Much. Pining.

The actual action and plot kept moving along pretty quickly though. The action was fairly steady, with plenty of suspense and even a murder mystery involved. Lots of close calls, narrow escapes, murders and poisoners, even a dastardly political plot. The book reminded me of Stalking Jack the Ripper…. Just a little bit.

As far as the characters, I do like Wren and Hal. I think if Saft was going to leave those two together there wasn’t much point in doing the whole Una thing, but it did give Wren something to keep working towards even if the relationship was horrible. I didn’t like how Una kept belittling her, like right or wrong she was just being mean. I don’t understand the collarbones thing either, I guess we will soon find out how many fans have collarbone fixations. Wren is wishy washy and kind of an idiot but it was interesting watching her grow as a character. Hal was just sad but seemed to have a much older view of the world than his age.

I loved all the medical bits, I think the author almost has to be somewhere in the medical field. Some of the medical analogies were a stretch or just weird, but I enjoyed it all the same. This is where the SJtR comparison came from. My only real issue was ….. If a corpse has been expired, you really cant draw blood from it. That was the only thing that didn’t make sense. Magical healers are one of my favorite fantasy things though.

Anyway: yes I would recommend this to those who enjoy fantasy romance, enemies to lovers, and aren’t bothered by some light homosexual content. I am kind of hoping this ends up being a duology or trilogy. When not picking it apart it’s a solid read, although I hope a few of the plot holes get shored up in the final version. 3.5 rounded up to four stars.  The book comes out in March so there’s plenty of time to preorder or request on NetGalley if anyone wants to read it sooner!

Thank you again to Wednesday Books for my early copy! All opinions are my own

 

 

 

******below this line is a LIGHT spoiler that is the biggest plot hole in the book! So only read if you want to discuss it******

 

 

Final warning!!! Turn back now!!!

 

 

 

 

******ok******

 

 
Here it is the biggest plot hole: when Wren was talking to the queen and Una about Lowry, and the queen didn’t believe he had attacked Danu troops… WTF Byers’ corpse was sitting in the basement. Why not just walk them down there? Why not show Una? For all the bitching and needling and complaining and self loath she has over Byers, they totally neglected his corpse once Wren found him. Huge oversight IMO.