Categories
Fantasy

ARC Review: The Buried World by Jeff Wheeler

  • Title: The Buried World
  • Series: The Grave Kingdom, #2
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North – June 23, 2029
  • Length: 335 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⚡ yes for fantasy and magic readers

Thank you so so much to 47North via NetGalley for my e-ARC of The Buried World by Jeff Wheeler!! After reading both Muirwood trilogies, both Kingfountain trilogies, and the Mirrowen books, I can firmly say that Wheeler is becoming one of my favorite authors and I was so thrilled to be able to review this.

Here is the description from Amazon:

The young warrior Bingmei pits her courage, combat skills, and very life against a brutal tyrant’s dark magic in the follow-up to Wall Street Journal bestselling author Jeff Wheeler’s The Killing Fog.

The orphaned Bingmei didn’t choose to be a hero. She has no wish to cross the Death Wall to save the world. But she has awakened Echion, emperor of the Grave Kingdom and Dragon of Night, and it is her destiny to defy him. From his imperial city of ancient sorcery and immortal darkness, Echion conspires to fulfill his own destiny: vanquish Bingmei, revive his queen, and rule together for another eon unchallenged.

Traversing a labyrinth of caves and mountains, Bingmei and her band of allies prepare their defense against a fateful war they cannot win. But when they are overcome by Echion’s terrible power, Bingmei is left vulnerable to a ruthless assassin…one with orders to capture, not kill.

Before he destroys her, Echion craves something more than Bingmei’s soul. Only she has the power to resurrect Echion’s ancient queen, Xisi, whose evil is matched only by his own. Once reunited, their dark shadow will fall like a shroud over the realms. To be a savior, Bingmei must first survive what she has unleashed, and to survive she must begin to understand the seeds of power she’s never learned to control.

The Buried World picks up where The Killing Fog left off, and I will keep this spoiler free so don’t worry. If you read The Killing Fog and felt that it was a little long, rest assured that The Buried World is considerably shorter and moves along at a quick pace.

These books are a slow burn for sure though, Wheeler takes time to build this world and it’s mythology, revealing the legends over time and also taking time to build the characters.

Bingmei had a lot of self discovery and acceptance and personal hurdles to overcome in this novel. She had to lead the ensign while making decisions based off her own instincts…which after book 1 were obviously hard to trust. I loved the friendships and relationship building in this, even between the siblings and the members of the ensign. This is 100% one of Wheeler’s most intricate groups of characters. A little brutality, a little redemption, he puts his characters through the ringer and I just love love love the determination and resolve that the remaining group has mustered.

Have I mentioned how much I love Rowen yet? I like know he’s the other half of the phoenix and wish it would just happen already.

Wheeler also mentions in the afterword that he was inspired by accounts of near death experiences and dreams to write Bingmei’s death sequences. From someone who deals with a lot of death, I really like how he had handled this so far. Wheeler tends to get preachy sometimes but he has done a really good job sticking to the made up mythology of The Grave Kingdom, without bringing a lot of Christianity into this…yet.

I also just want to mention how much I love magical walls – the Death Wall is right up there with the D’yer wall in the Green Rider books, and the Wall in the Old Kingdom books. There is just something magical about walls built on the blood and bones of our ancestors.

All in all – as much as I love this there is something keeping it from being a 5 star read. I think it just burns a tad bit slow for me in some places, then starts racing towards the end. I would call it a 4.5 star and definitely recommend for fantasy fans and people looking for clean reads, clean fantasy, Christian fantasy.

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Book Review: The Kinder Poison by Natalie Mae

  • Title: The Kinder Poison
  • Series: Yes – The Kinder Poison #1
  • Author: Natalie Mae
  • Publisher & Release: Razorbill – June 16, 2020
  •  Length: 416 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for fans of the genre

Thank you so much to Bookish First and Razorbill for my finished copy of The Kinder Poison!  It is a gorgeous hardcover and for my fellow book sniffers, has that great sawdust smell 😂

Here is the description from Goodreads:

Perfect for fans of Victoria Aveyard and Holly Black, this enthralling fantasy adventure follows a teenage girl chosen to be the human sacrifice in a deadly game between three heirs who will do anything for the crown.

Zahru has long dreamed of leaving the kingdom of Orkena and having the kinds of adventures she’s only ever heard about in stories. But as a lowly Whisperer, her power to commune with animals means that her place is serving in the royal stables until the day her magic runs dry.

All that changes when the ailing ruler invokes the Crossing: a death-defying race across the desert, in which the first of his heirs to finish—and take the life of a human sacrifice at the journey’s end—will ascend to the throne and be granted unparalleled abilities.

With all of the kingdom abuzz, Zahru leaps at the chance to change her fate if just for a night by sneaking into the palace for a taste of the revelry. But the minor indiscretion turns into a deadly mistake when she gets caught up in a feud between the heirs and is forced to become the Crossing’s human sacrifice. Zahru is left with only one hope for survival: somehow figuring out how to overcome the most dangerous people in the world.

Tons of sibling rivalry, a magical and dangerous race, a taste of political intrigue, and some interesting family dynamics are all aspects that drew me to – and kept me interested in the book while reading.

The sibling rivalry is the base for the entire plot, so lets start there.  One of the three has to make it across the desert first and complete the sacrifice in order to become the new ruler.  First we meet Sakira who might love to party and appear reckless, but is ruthless and refuses to be dismissed.  Kasta is the eldest and has a paranoid darkness about him. Jet is the second son, not wanting the kingdom but determined to see his sister safely in charge.

The history between the siblings and the Royal family make up most of the background and world building of the book.  The book is SO character driven that it makes most sense to talk about those relationships.  They are complicated, real, interesting, and all competing for their father’s approval, as well of that of the nation and the innate power given by completing the human sacrifice.

Each sibling is competing with a team of 2 helpers, and the dynamics within the groups are all so different and equally entertaining.  Kasta I think had the most interesting group, including a demon shifter named Maia.  Her story is totally heartbreaking and between her demon aspect and Kasta’s insanity, they set up the main twist for book 2.  The best part was that for every twist and turn and bit of character development…..right until the very, very end, I had NO damn idea who was going to win that race.

The race itself isn’t all that interesting, the groups do have some hurdles to overcome but most of the barriers come from the sibling detaining each other or trying to kidnap the human sacrifice, Zahru. I haven’t talked about her yet because she’s literally a stable girl that snuck into the palace, and somehow is the bravest person ever. She has no interesting backstory, no anecdotes like the siblings have, no life story that indicates where she got her cunning from….and I docked a star for yet another boring lead.  Thankfully the siblings carried it.

Each sibling really was truly and uniquely interesting enough to make me keep reading the book quickly.  I liked Jet a lot, he is the main male character (ish) and I might have liked to stroll in the starlit desert with him too. Ha.

Just to touch on the magic system – almost everyone is born with some magical talent in the land of Orkena.  From animal whisperers to sound benders and firespinners, everyone has a place.  There was nothing terribly extraordinary about this but some of the individual talents were cool.

There was a lot of vivid imagery and good scenic descriptions of everything from clothes to horses to the land.  I like Mae’s writing style because there is just enough prose and banter to make her story seem real, but not enough to make it purple and boring.  I wish there was more world building – but this book had to focus on establishing the character background and future political rivalries as well as the Crossing itself.  The history that mattered was there, some quite brutal, but what about the mood of the people in general? The surrounding nations that are brewing this war/conflict going forward?

All in all, definitely a great read if you like sibling rivalries, friendships, banter, danger and magic, with a twist of romance, all swirled into one cunning race for the future of the kingdom.  I would definitely recommend it.

Thank you again to Bookish First and Razorbill for my copy, all opinions are my own!

Have you read it? Want to discuss it? Drop a comment!!

Categories
Fantasy

ARC Review: The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso

  • Title: The Obsidian Tower
  • Series: Rooks and Ruin #1
  • Author: Melissa Caruso
  • Publisher & Release: Orbit Books, June 4th 2020
  • Length: 448 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes

Thank you so much to Orbit Books via NetGalley for my e ARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Normally I would give the summary from Amazon here but I really don’t like the published summary. Here is my own that I wrote!

Mages rule all powerful in the land of Vaskandar.  The most powerful are the witch lords, exercising total control over their domains.  As the granddaughter of the witch lord of Morgrain, Ryx would normally be in a position of high power, esteem, and social standing.  The only problem is her magic is “broken”.  Born into a family of Vivomancers who restore life, Ryx’s magic only seems to drain life from, therefore killing, anything or anyone she touches.

As the warden of Gloamingard, Ryx is responsible for the safety of all within.  Her family has had one main responsibility throughout the generations: guarding the mysterious magical artifact within the Obsidian Tower at the center of the castle. All of the Gloaming Lore basically states to keep the door sealed.

Already at the brink of war with diplomatic tension ready to snap, it would be a total disaster if something pushed the neighboring nations over the edge. What happens if the gate is opened? Who are the spies in the castle? What happens when hell is unleashed? Ryx is about to find out. Can she find help in the most unlikely places?

I like my summary better than the published one😂

So to begin, it should be noted that these books take place in the same world as the author’s Swords and Fire trilogy, although one does not need to read that first.

I absolutely loved the world and world-building.  The witch lords all have vastly different domains and I think Gloamingard castle is exquisitely well done.  Each witch lord built a bit of castle into the mix, so the resulting architecture includes everything from a hall made of trees to an entry made of bones.  I could ramble about Caruso’s architectural descriptions forever but to summarize: it’s magical and everything I ever wanted from a fantasy world.  The political structure, mood, diplomatic relations, expectations, pertinent lore, and even the castle staff all fit into the story so perfectly that I give Caruso a solid A+ for world building.  She even tackles smell, texture, temperature, and weather as well as the vivid visual descriptions.

As far as the magic system, land magic is one of my favorite types. The trees and animals and castle and land itself all respond to the witch lord’s magic and the cohesion (or discord) is felt throughout the pages.  I like when a family’s magic is tied to their domain.  The magic is well thought out, explained, explored, and thoughtful explanations are provided for when magical aspects hitch or go wrong.

Part of the mystery of the Obsidian Tower is: What’s inside? What IS it even?  There is a neutral sect of magic specialists called the Rookery, who come in to help Ryx work through the disaster that fell upon the castle.  I never expected these guys to become the focus but the characters are funny, thoughtful, stabby, studious, and…assassin-y? Who ARE these people? I loved finding out, seriously they are an amazing found-family type of crew and accept Ryx for who she is.

Who IS Ryx? She is a great main character.  Smart, resourceful, careful not to touch anyone, and a little too trusting.  Unfortunately I spotted the main double-crosser/spy in the story from a mile away but it was cute to watch.  Ryx is trying to sooth diplomatic relations between neighboring countries and the entire Tower disaster sends the political intrigue and plotting through the ceiling, and everyone knows how I LOVE a good bit of intrigue.  I also loved the witch lord, the Lady of Owls – Ryx’s grandmother.  Caruso  describes the grandmotherly bond and trust so well throughout the book that I almost teared up at one point when Ryx was trying to describe her feelings.  There are also demon characters (!!!!!) and a snarky fox-cat-chimaera-magical familiar that reminded me of Mogget from the Old Kingdom series.  With no spoilers I also was thrilled to see a possible enemies to lovers bit developing.

One other note on some of the content: I do tend to avoid a lot of the “other” that most people love reading about, but I pushed through this one because the content is done pretty seamlessly and is well integrated, and not too heavy.  There is a bi character but all she does is think some women are cute before starting to form a bond with a male.  There is also a same sex couple but all they do is stroke each other’s hair and blush, and I think one of the pair was supposed to be A-sexual which is also I believe where the author identifies.  Additionally there is a “they” character which confuses the shit out of me because I always think it’s multiple people on the page.  I did like the character though, super funny and bluntly honest to the point of being the comedic relief during tense situations.  The point is that the content is there. I felt like a lot of boxes were being checked but as I said, it was done pretty seamlessly and not a big deal.

If you like a fantasy world with equal parts political intrigue and stabbing, banter and friendship, diverse casts, hell itself and a whole lot of cool magic – definitely pick up The Obsidian Tower. I ordered the hard copy already!  I can’t say enough good things about the book and really do encourage all fans of fantasy to grab this immediately!

Categories
Contemporary Fantasy Middle Grade Young Adult

ARC Review: Dwarf Story by Professor W.W. Marplot

  • Title: Dwarf Story
  • Series: no – stand alone
  • Author: W.W. Marplot (G.D. Marplot)
  • Publisher & Release: Waxing Gibbous Books – June 30, 2020
  • Length: 404 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ for younger readers!

“I found a dwarf, and there is something funny growing in my yard”

So begins the story of Arty & Co! Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

First, Arty finds a sweaty, bearded ax-swinging warrior Dwarf scaring his dogs. Soon enough, Emma, Cry, and other middle-school friends also find fairy creature—Elves, Spriggans, Pixies, and a hoped-for Dragon—crashing into their normal homework-doing, backpack-carrying, phone-charging schooldays

Why are these magical beings here? What should be done? Is that ax sharp? Can Pixies be given aspirin? Arty, with his friends—and spying jerks and questionable strangers with long names—follow the clues and try to find out, even as things turn dark and dangerous. The mythical beings take sides.

The Gwyllion, that legendary Old Woman of the Mountains, has a sinister plan that will turn the neighborhood into a fantasy battleground.

Thank you so much to Books Forward for my copy of Dwarf Story! Arty woke up one morning and found a dwarf, thus starting a scientific adventure. Or an artistic adventure if you ask Emma. An awesome adventure if you ask Cry. The three friends each find their own fairy and have to navigate a war as an ancient force returns to reclaim Long Island!

This is a super cute middle grade fantasy, mixing modern with fantastic. There are dwarves, pixies, libraries, old books, giants, cell phones and a bit of everything for every reader.  The advertised age range is 9-14 and definitely qualifies as a “clean read” – AKA something I would personally hand a Catholic 10 year old.  There is also a good amount of basic learning in the story, an intro to some of  the Irish legends and fairy folklore in general.

Arty and Emma are the two main characters.  Arty is more scientific, and Emma artistic.  The book includes a lot of learning and more informational bits that are well tuned to younger readers.  Arty spends a lot of time reading books as he is putting the pieces together to learn about what’s happening with the fairy folk.  Some parts of this honestly might drag for some kids, and there are whole chapters where literally nothing happens, and the characters are complaining of being bored.  Generally with younger kids I would say axe all of this “boring” content, but it still reads quickly with short chapters, even at over 400 pages.  This is where I knocked the stars off the rating – a slightly older kid would be more tolerant of this where I can see a 9 year old maybe flipping until something exciting happens.

Despite the lulls in action, the pace and exciting bits are pretty well even throughout the book.  The end was a bit anticlimactic, with the biggest battle occurring mostly off-page, and the ultimate fight almost entirely glazed over in another characters recap of the action.  I understood how we were mostly just following Arty’s role, and the puzzle involved, but I would have liked to be in on more of the battle action even as a bystander, or another “Mary” chapter.

The characters split the chapters to tell what happened throughout, and I did like them all.  It was told in a 1st person POV but they were talking directly to the reader at times.  This is a great format for engaging kids too.  The other thing I liked is that the kids really did seem to act their ages (around 13) and I would recommend most for that middle-school aged group.

Overall I think kids will enjoy this, and it is entirely age-appropriate for any reader.  A great intro to fantasy and fantastical creatures that could really encourage kids to keep reading in the genre.

Thank you again to Books Forward for my advanced copy!! The book releases on June 30th and I would preorder now if I had kids!!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Book Review: Warrior of the Wild by Tricia Levenseller

  • Title: Warrior of the Wild
  • Series: no
  • Author: Tricia Levenseller
  • Publisher & Release: Feiwel & Friends, February 26, 2019
  • Length: 328 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ yes for YA readers

Tricia Levenseller is a huge “Bookstagram made me do it” author for me. I saw her books all over Bookstagram and then was pretty psyched when Shelf Love Crate included this book, what about a year ago? I finally read it though!

Here is the description from Goodreads:

As her father’s chosen heir, eighteen-year-old Rasmira has trained her whole life to become a warrior and lead her village. But when her coming-of-age trial is sabotaged and she fails the test, her father banishes her to the monster-filled wilderness with an impossible quest: To win back her honor, she must kill the oppressive god who claims tribute from the villages each year—or die trying.

The premise is right up my alley and I was excited to read it based off the initial question posed: How do you kill a god?

Rasmira hilariously failed the test required to become an adult and join a profession in her village.  I know it wasn’t supposed to be funny, but it really was.  She is a rather naive 18 year old who is slated to become the next village ruler, but she has a lot to learn about leadership.

After being banished to the Wild, she meets two exiled boys and they start a whole adventure together after gaining each other’s trust.  Rasmira learns a lot of hard lessons about trust and leadership and…. Well… Nothing says that the impossible tasks can’t be accomplished with a little help.

I think there are a lot of really good lessons in the book for YA readers. Trust and teamwork and leadership skills, fairness and humility and family.  There is a lot of witty banter as well which is always something I enjoy.

The world building was pretty intensive for a standalone.  A lot of animal names and plant descriptions were thrown out right at the beginning, as well as village customs and building models.  I had a solid image of the area even if there were a LOT of names tossed out in the first chapter or two.

Plotwise, there are a lot of individually good or cute or action packed scenes –  but the plot itself fell a little flat for me by the end.  The whole concept was well done and fairly unique as far as I can tell, but it just felt too easy at times.  Someone was grievously injured but there happened to be a magic regenerative salve handy? I guess everyone gets a mulligan.  There was one other scene where at the heat of battle, they stop to smirk and dust off their hands and I felt like it got a bit cartoon-ish.  Of they would be joking around while fighting off vicious, poisonous attackers.  That said, there were a lot of good monster fighting and god-challenging bits too and I did enjoy reading the mystery come unglued.

I am also now wondering if it was just my mood at the time of reading, but I think young adults will like this one more than adult readers.  Some YA I can really get into, but this, while a very solid book, was just not making my pulse race.  The pacing was very even though, I never felt bored for any long stretch and appreciated how the action was spread out evenly.

I don’t have a ton to say about the characters.  I was definitely rooting for them and I think a lot of readers might be able to relate to some of Rasmira’s struggles, such as trying to please parents or learning about bullies and how to trust at your own discretion.

Overall this is a very solid book and I would definitely recommend it for young adult fantasy readers, or those who enjoy survival stories. Another good woman-warrior-esque book is Sky In the Deep by Adrienne Young, which I think I enjoyed a bit more.

I do want to read more of Levenseller’s books and will be moderating a Shadows Between us buddy read on the Addicted to YA goodreads forum in July if anyone is interested, feel free to ask more for info if interested.

Thank you as always for reading! Have you read the book? Want to discuss it? Drop a comment!

Categories
Fantasy Middle Grade Young Adult

ARC Review: The Words of the Wandering by D.E. Night

  • Title: The Words of the Wandering
  • Series: The Crowns of Croswald #3. Will not read as a standalone.
  • Author: D.E. Night
  • Publisher and Release: Stories Untold Press, May 30, 2020
  • Length: 304 pages
  • Rate and Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ YES read the series

Thank you so much to D.E. Night and Stories Untold Press for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

Here is the description from GoodReads:

Ivy Lovely needs to look to the future but keeps being pulled back into the past…

As Ivy’s power grows, so does the Dark Queen’s intent to destroy her. Ivy has no idea where to find the third segment of the Kindred Stone, the stone which will restore all her queenly power. A circus ends in chaos, an enemy turns over a new leaf, a protector can’t be trusted. Can Ivy work with friends––new and old––to recover what was lost?

The stakes have never been higher.

It’s hard to talk about a third book in a series without giving away spoilers for the rest, so a I will just talk about this book’s unique aspects with no spoilers!

There is more world building from a historical standpoint in this third novel, as Ivy is teledetecting through a book sketched by her family’s scrivenists. I think it’s cool how art comes to life more too, sketching is a huge part of scrivenry but it takes on a new meaning with teledetecting, or interacting with the scene. The circus was a treat too and definitely one of my favorite scenes, but my top favorite favorite were the parts about coming home.

There are more magical creatures too, dragons play a larger role and some truly terrifying monsters. The invisitaurs come back too in a big way.

The pace is so much slower though than the prior novela, we see a lot of Quality Quills Club team building and new friendships forming. No quogo this time.

A lot of time is spent kind of growing Ivy up and making her stronger. The pacing took it’s time until the last 14% when the plot took off running and dropped an unbelievable cliffhanger. I neither love nor hate cliffhangers but feel like one or two more chapters would have been ideal?

My only other issue was the total lack of Fyn in this book, I am honestly shipping Glistle and Ivy at this point. ((((And seriously how did Fyn not know the thing…or does he? How did he show up right then unless he….??))))

I do like that this is a very clean read, there in one quick peckish kiss between characters and that’s about it!

Definitely 100% recommend this series to any fans of magic worlds. Totally appropriate for middle grade readers as well, I would happily hand this over to kids everywhere.

On a side note I will bring over my reviews for books 1 and 2 soon too, I just realized they never made it to the blog!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

ARC Review: Dark Skies by Danielle Jensen

  • Title: Dark Skies
  • Series: Dark Shores #2 (can be read first)
  • Author: Danielle Jensen
  • Length: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Teen
  • Release: May 5th 2020
  • Rate & recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes

Thank you so much to Tor Teen for the advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

Here is the description from Amazon:

A RUNAWAY WITH A HIDDEN PAST
Lydia is a scholar, but books are her downfall when she meddles in the plots of the most powerful man in the Celendor Empire. Her life in danger, she flees west to the far side of the Endless Seas and finds herself entangled in a foreign war where her burgeoning powers are sought by both sides.

A COMMANDER IN DISGRACE
Killian is Marked by the God of War, but his gifts fail him when the realm under the dominion of the Corrupter invades Mudamora. Disgraced, he swears his sword to the kingdom’s only hope: the crown princess. But the choice sees him caught up in a web of political intrigue that will put his oath – and his heart – to the test.

A KINGDOM UNDER SIEGE
With Mudamora falling beneath the armies of the Corrupter, Lydia and Killian strike a bargain to save those they love most—but it is a bargain with unintended and disastrous consequences. Truths are revealed, birthrights claimed, and loyalties questioned—all while a menace deadlier and more far-reaching than they realize sweeps across the world.

I will have to find my review of Dark Shores and post that too.  The two books occur at the same time and can be read in either order, although I enjoyed publication order. Here is a quick spoiler-free recap:  In Shores we read about Teriana and the Maarin traders, Marcus and the Cel legion, and the initial exploration and conquer of the Dark Shores.  Remember the puppet king of the Raiders and some larger threat that is revealed at the end? In Dark Skies, we follow Teriana’s friend Lydia who we briefly met before.  We learn the truth of the betrayal, see Lydia take another route to Mudamora, and meet Killian who leads the King’s forces.  This book starts in Cel but we learn a lot more about the Gods, the mystical forces, and the people of the Dark Shores.  The third book is going to be an amazing meeting of the two plot lines.

The pace is incredible. I read the first 300 pages kind of slowly but ended up taking the last half in a crazed four hour sitting where I don’t think I breathed or blinked.  The intrigue, assassinations, BLIGHT ZOMBIES, reckless chases, magical evil army leaders, more scheming, and a race against a huge deadly clock just made it impossible to stop.

The magic of the world was hinted at in Shores, but in Skies we learn all about it.  The God-Marked people each have an ability like strength, healing, growing/restoring, water breathing, and it seems they were meant to create teams of people.  A great theme this is, and I appreciate the idea that healing is a drain on someones life force.  The triage they use is so interesting.  The seventh god’s power is just terrifying and that will continue in book 3.

All I will say about the additional world building is that the desperation and fear are  real, the hurt is real, and the darkness is real.  The feelings of the people and the world seeping through the pages into the reader is what separates exquisite world building from the rest.

I 100% liked Lydia and Killian both a LOT more than Marcus and Teriana.  They have flawed but endlessly brave personalities, are good problem solvers, and are both loyal to no end.  I even liked princess Malahi for the most part, she had some admirable moments and the banter was hilarious between her and Killian and the female guards.  It’s hard not to root for every single character in the book, including Killian’s mother who is a rare gem.

The combination of great characters, more shippable romantic pairings, breakneck pace,  magic, and the intrigue of plots to end all plots make Dark Skies (and Dark Shores) a series that I absolutely 100% recommend to anyone with even the slightest interest in fantasy. Thank you so much again to Tor Teen for the advanced copy

 

Categories
Fantasy Science Fiction Young Adult

ARC Review: Sisters of the Perilous Heart by Sandra L. Vasher

  • Title: Sisters of the Perilous Heart
  • Series: Mortal Inheritance #1
  • Author: Sandra L. Vasher
  • Length: 414 pages
  • Publisher: Mortal Ink Press, LLC
  • Release: May 5th, 2020
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨ likely

Thank you so much to Xpresso Book Tours via NetGalley for the digital ARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!  Sisters of the Perilous Heart is a unique sci-fi / fantasy crossover novel that got delightfully deadly for the genre.  There is a tad bit of romance too, half of which is actually…cute.

Here is the description from Goodreads:

What would you do to save a sister?

As the last mortal kingdom of Kepler resists the Immortal Empire, its young queen faces a devastating attack. Queen Vivian is two minutes into her reign when an arrow pierces her heart and infects her with the Immortality Virus. But she has too much magic to become immortal and not enough to survive. She must find more magic fast, or she’ll die.

Meanwhile, another young mortal faces an uncertain future of her own. Carina is fleeing for her life, but her magic is a tracking beam for immortals. She must learn to harness and control it, or she’ll be captured and killed. Then she meets the queen of South Kepler.

Vivian needs Carina’s magic, and she can offer safe haven in exchange. But can Vivian trust this common girl? Carina isn’t on the kingdom’s registry of magicians. What if she’s a Northern rebel? A spy for the Immortal Empire? And will the truth be revealed in time to save them both?

Immortality is engineered by a virus strain in a future Earth.  Ships with Immortals are sent out to colonize other planets, and the events of the novel take place some 4000 years later.  Once we read through some boring-ish but important epidemiology stuff, this book became truly enjoyable. I will not say spoilers but the end of the book was BRAVE on the author’s part!

The world-building and history is extremely well done.  It comes in bits and pieces.  In the beginning things are a bit confusing, but by the end of the book the various Strains of Immortals and Mortals and mostly everything else makes sense.  The world itself is very well constructed with terrain, geography, architecture, food and dress that is very Earthlike at times.  We even get a glimpse into the Royal family, succession, and political maneuvering but the novel never felt info dumpy in the present-day chapters.  My favorite bit was to see the native citizens and some animals too.

The two main characters are both sweet and pretty relatable. Carina the girl from the brewery and Vivian, the Queen, poisoned two minutes into her rule. I liked these two, and the funny thing was that every single side character was a huge wildcard while the main characters stayed their courses.  The princes obviously have their own agendas, and who knows what’s going on with Carina’s travelling buddies.  A lot of character development was built around angst and hiding things, but teens in books rarely have open communication and that would make it too easy, right?  Poor Queen Vivian though I really liked her and everyone thinks she’s a monster because of her god-terrible mother.  I did like the dynamic between the trio of siblings – ha ha usually.  I repeat: pay attention to the side characters while reading!

The magic was pretty straightforward.  Certain Mortals in the Cardinal families have strong abilities in telekinesis and either heat or cold, while most people have some mild telekinetic skill.  They vary from the interpersonal threads similar to Truthwitch to moving objects, healing, sensing people’s where abouts, to being able to tear a building apart.

Quick note: once it got going the pacing is perfect.  I promise the plot and character twists toward the end are worth the reader’s time. Some is foreshadowed, some really isn’t.

Last but not least, the OneReadingNurse medical rant©! As a medical professional I am not sure how I feel about HIV+Flu mixing to cause the Immortality virus.  I feel like it would just … kill people.  I did like how much thought Vasher put into the etiology and epidemiology of the virus, but caution readers not to take it as advice on any specific modern day viruses.  I also think her magical healing makes sense – Danielle Jensen and Kristin Britain in the past have written similar magical healing elements – it takes ENERGY to heal! It would likely wipe out the healer, and I like how the energy transfer is acknowledged and realistic here!

Anyway! In summary: Miscommunication as a  plot device is not always a bad thing.  There is political intrigue, sibling banter, and a whole lot of ‘why murder me when you could have just asked’?  I liked the mix of modern, medical, and fantastic elements. I definitely recommend this book to both sci-fi and fantasy readers.  I rated 3.5 stars for the learning curve at the beginning and amount of time it took to clear up the different factions, and I didn’t like Carina’s group’s dynamic.  I definitely have 100% respect for the author for doing what she did at the end of the book 😉 and definitely need to read the next installment!

Categories
Dystopian Fantasy

Book Review: Tears of Alphega by W.N. Cleckler

  • Title: Tears of Alphega
  • Series: The Wisprian World, #1
  • Author: W.N. Cleckler
  • Release date & Publisher: July 2018 from Whisper Press
  • Length: 354 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐💫 yes

Hi everyone! I have no excuse for taking so long so post this particular review on the blog! The author sent me the gorgeous foil edition a while back in exchange for an Instagram feature and review.  Anyway, with my apologies, here we go!  Let me first say that even though I read this weeks ago, I remember is fairly vividly which is saying a LOT already!

Here is the longer description from Goodreads, which helps summarize a book that is quite difficult to summarize:

The Wisprian World is set in the era before the Ice and Stone Age, before the fall of Adam, before “the beginning”. The earth became formless and empty…meaning it previously had form and wasn’t empty. Before Eden was spoken into existence, Wispria was whispered into being. This series is certain to make it’s mark and impact on your life- whether you love daring adventure, alternative-histories, theological viewpoints, stories of hope, new heroes & villains, or tales of redemption, The Wisprian World book series is for you. With intriguing characters that are sure to touch your heart and challenge your spirit, also locations and insights of a world forgotten that’s paving the way for an entirely new viewpoint and theory as to whom may have preceded us, then you are in for an other-worldly gift.

Meet people who are just like us, the likes of whom may have lived long before us, who had extraordinary circumstances arrive at their doorstep while living out their simple, daily activities. Read about the sixteen year-old Cantiq sisters, Harmody and Melony, who are fishing for their dinner when a mysterious solar eclipse-like event changes the very nature of their existence. Join a young man, Sage, grieving the loss of a father he accidentally murdered who meets that strangest pair of travelers who will in turn save his life from himself and those who oppose him. All of this is seen and told from the viewpoint of Alphega watching over his beloved creation and crying tears of divine empowerment to sustain his people against overwhelming and grave dangers and foul creatures out to obliterate them.

This book really does truly have a little bit of something for everyone.  Yes it is alternate theology but it is also an epic fantasy.  Good vs evil prototypes and a false idol starting a war against Alphega/heaven.  This book is the start of that adventure – what caused that eclipse? A group of highly unique characters come together under extreme circumstances to learn about the imposter, rally a group of seven blessed adventurers, and hopefully book two will start the war.

What I liked the most is how much Cleckler obviously loves these characters.  He puts them through hell, their villages  pillaged by violent rapey demons, death of family in front of their eyes, devastation of forces, and other very dark things, but also gives them courage, the will to fight, interesting back stories, help from the animal world, and the support structure they need to move forward.  There is a magical horse turned unicorn, a bear who’s loyalty knows no bounds, and then Alphega who sees the pain of the characters and grants them a tear, or they find a piece of the magical stone gate that shattered that gives them an additional ability.  Each character has carefully drawn artwork as well and it’s obvious that each one was written with great thought.  They aren’t perfect characters, they are flawed but learn from their mistakes and are also given time to grieve appropriately for said mistakes, and tend to go forward stronger.

Speaking of the art, it is absolutely lovely.  The map, chapter head letters, and character artwork is all exquisitely well done.  Here is a direct link to the authors Instagram for an example of the character art!  https://www.instagram.com/p/B9j3GVzgTEy/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

At first it was a bit hard to tell where the book was heading, and then I realized that we were meeting the characters.  I wasn’t sure if it was more a collection of short stories or what, as the opening chapters lacked a tad bit of cohesion, and that is where my star rating came in.  Once the characters some together the quest is quite awesome and I love how they all have to do their part and keep pulling for each other.

Potential Easter Eggs: There may be a nod to Star Trek: TNG, because Lore is Data’s evil archetype.  I didn’t see any specific references but when I hear “Lore” in an archetypal sense, I think of the androids, especially when he was trying to play the real Data.  Also a potential nod to a book in Skyrim (my character has a library) where tears formed an artifact, but I will never find it or recall the name.   Lastly there is some secret message hidden in the pages but I have NO idea where it is or what I’m looking for, if anyone reads this and finds it, please tell me!!

I do definitely recommend this to fans of anything from theology to epic fantasy, you will LOVE the magic and lore and I definitely prefer the religious over/undertones to some of the other messages I get these days!

Thank you so much again to the author for the book, I am anxiously awaiting the next installment!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Book Tour! Review: Trial by Obsidian by Naomi Kelly

  • Title: Trial by Obsidian
  • Author: Naomi Kelley
  • Length: 242 pages
  • Pub date: August 2019
  • Publisher: Independent
  • Rate & Rec ⭐⭐ – hear me out though

Today is my stop on the Instagram book tour for Trial by Obsidian, and here as well is my full review! Despite my rating just hear me out on this one and make your own decision.

Here is the description from Amazon:

The poverty-stricken southern lands of Deshure have kept Juniper Obsidian hidden all her life. Her concealed identity kept her safe. Until now. The northern lands of Sinlara are home to the Chambers. Here rules are enforced and wars are waged, but since the end of the War fifteen years ago things have been quiet. That is until they get their hands on Juniper.

When an enemy who has an uncertain a past as she does a future offers her help, Juniper must question what really makes us who we are? Can she trust the man before her? Is there more to loyalty than a boarder? More to family than a blood-line? The time has come where she must learn to stand and fight.

Hiding is no longer an option.

In brief, the summary of the story is that the Sinlaran faction systematically eradicated the mage clans, of which a few individuals remain. One of them, the main character Juniper, is captured. A handsome defector from the “bad guys” helps her escape and then the plotting begins.

It really isn’t a bad story. I will bluntly say that my rating is because I have a hard time with books that have poor editing; even a friend proofreading would have made this much more readable. It had missing words, wrong words, punctuation, mixed tenses, a few spelling errors, it was not one small thing but a vastly unedited book. As a disclaimer: I read the Kindle Unlimited version, and there may be editions out with further editing as I haven’t seen this mentioned in many other reviews.

Putting the editing aside, the world building had a good start but was underdeveloped. I now think this is a standalone?  Still, aspects of the political structure, history of the clans, mood of the citizenry, even architecture, a little more fleshing of certain events at the beginning would have helped. While reading, I could kind of figure out the political structure as I went, but if this is geared towards young readers will they know the basic Greek alphabet? What about Sinlaran geography? Are we in the mountains or forest or plains? I just like a little more general world immersion in a novel where this was mostly character and action based.  Also on the immersion note, in a high fantasy world it’s not quite appropriate to bring in popular mythology, in this case Greek – lots of Greek themes but still, this is a made up fantasy world and they won’t believe in our myths.

About the pacing, this is a short book and the action did keep coming. It kept a decent pace once I pieced the world together from the choppy beginning, and never felt bored reading. The magic system is fairly basic, each clan had a specific gem or rock (Obsidian, garnet, etc) that they drew their powers from. The abilities varied as some could be healers, garnets had fire affinity, one clan seemed to be metal workers/crafters, and together they could feed off each other and be stronger which was a concept that I liked – bloodline vs element being present

As a romance heavy novel, the two main characters did a rather quick enemies to lovers. They bonded over proximity and shared experiences, which is great but why did Reuben practically worship Juniper? I did appreciate the aspect of feeling SEEN, and liked Reuben because his matter-of-fact-isms almost felt like a nod to Star Trek’s android Data, but it could be total coincidence. He was the only character who spoke like that so I wondered.

Reuben had a heck of a betrayal pulled over on him though, which was a curious and rude choice on the Alpha’s part. (The political structure looked like Brave New World, with alpha through delta in descending rank). The characters were definitely individually the best and most developed part of the book. Their motivations made sense if nothing else and I liked Juniper well enough too as the main character.

Long story short: if you are able to just read and let your mind wander over the editing mishaps and fill in a few plot points, this is a quick romp into a light fantasy world. I would compare the reading experience to early Morgan Rice (she got an editor at some point, I think) or Melissa de la Cruz (romance heavy with questionable development.) There is lots of kissing and off page sex but nothing too intense. There is again a chance that I managed to read an early version, as other reviews are stating that the book has great development so I might have missed something.

I would probably recommend for fantasy romance readers that are not hardcore fantasy buffs.

The author can be found on Instagram @NaomiKellyWriting

Here is the link to the book on Amazon: