Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

ARC Review: The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi

Guys it’s finally here and I am so glad to be able to share it finally!!  Thank you so much to Wednesday Books for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!

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Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Silvered Serpents
  • Series: The Guilded Wolves #2
  • Author: Roshani Chokshi
  • Puisher & Release: Wednesday Books, September 22, 2020
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 oh yes for fans of YA fantasy, magic, and heists

Here is the synopsis:

Returning to the dark and glamorous 19th century world of her New York Times instant bestseller, The Gilded Wolves, Roshani Chokshi dazzles us with another riveting tale as full of mystery and danger as ever in The Silvered Serpents.

Séverin and his team members might have successfully thwarted the Fallen House, but victory came at a terrible cost — one that still haunts all of them. Desperate to make amends, Séverin pursues a dangerous lead to find a long lost artifact rumored to grant its possessor the power of God.

Their hunt lures them far from Paris, and into the icy heart of Russia where crystalline ice animals stalk forgotten mansions, broken goddesses carry deadly secrets, and a string of unsolved murders makes the crew question whether an ancient myth is a myth after all.

As hidden secrets come to the light and the ghosts of the past catch up to them, the crew will discover new dimensions of themselves. But what they find out may lead them down paths they never imagined.

The most important thing to know is that The Silvered Serpents is 100% inarguably better than the Gilded Wolves. I honestly didn’t love that book as it was overdone with prose and long scientific ramblings. Chokshi speeds it up in this followup – Holly Black apparently offered advice on spicing things up a bit and it definitely worked.

There is still some chattering about puzzles and math, but the book becomes generally a lot more readable. There is still a lot of “purple prose” but descriptions are entirely more concise and the action flows so much better.  I admire Chokshi for keeping the advice and criticism from book one in mind and making this a better sequel.

The Silvered Serpents has plenty of it’s own merits, including the elevation of Laila to my list of top 5 favorite YA heroines ever. She pulled an Inej and loudly, proudly declared that she was not responsible for the soul, fixing, or happiness of some ruined asshole. I mentally dropped the book and started clapping because Laila is amazing. She is the group’s caretaker, the cement, the big sister that they all need.

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Chokshi gives her young readers credit, something that a lot of YA authors aren’t doing. Authors: please spare teens and other readers the endless repetition and pining and terrible inner monologue rambling that I have seen in a lot of recent novels. The YA genre deserves the reading comprehension level that this book offers. The only thing that slowed the book down for me was how in some chapters it seemed like she had the thesaurus open and was going for the most obscure words possible. To some extent vocabulary in young adult novels is very important, but there is a point where it slows the story down and just gets unnecessary. She clumps them together too and it threw me off just a bit.

These characters have fixed themselves in history firmly as my favorite heist crew. Enrique and Zofia essentially carried the book for me character wise, along with Hypnos’ antics and Laila’s amazingness. I am shipping these people SO hard

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The plot itself is more interesting as well, the crew is tracking down the Sleeping Palace and The Divine Lyrics, which can make gods or break the world depending on how the artifact is wielded. The architecture, traps, obstacles, and magic in this book had me HOOKED. So did some of the historical references, such as the pogroms. Chokshi is bringing in history and lore that actually make sense to the time period and that is awesome.

One other point that I admire is that this book is a meditation on love, masking as grief. Masking as horror. Concern. Banter. Cake and poison. I fully enjoyed reading her discourses on both grief and love in their various forms of expression and think they are both important themes for young adults. I would hand these books to any kid, totally just RIGHT for the target audience.

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My best advice is that even if you struggle reading The Gilded Wolves, read this. It gets better. 100% 5 stars all day long

Categories
Fantasy

Blog Tour! Review: Tuyo by Rachel Neumeier

0830201150_HDR~2Thank you so much to Storytellers on Tour for letting me join the tour for this wonderful book!  A gorgeous finished copy was provided in exchange for a feature and honest review.

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Tuyo
  • Series: Standalone?
  • Author: Rachel Neumeier
  • Publisher & Release: Indie – May, 2020
  • Length: 410 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes!

Here is the synopsis:

Raised a warrior in the harsh winter country, Ryo inGara has always been willing to die for his family and his tribe. When war erupts against the summer country, the prospect of death in battle seems imminent. But when his warleader leaves Ryo as a sacrifice — a tuyo — to die at the hands of their enemies, he faces a fate he never imagined.

Ryo’s captor, a lord of the summer country, may be an enemy . . . but far worse enemies are moving, with the current war nothing but the opening moves in a hidden game Ryo barely glimpses, a game in which all his people may be merely pawns. Suddenly Ryo finds his convictions overturned and his loyalties uncertain. Should he support the man who holds him prisoner, the only man who may be able to defeat their greater enemy? And even if he does, can he persuade his people to do the same?

This book literally ticked every box I can think of in an epic fantasy.  Strong character arcs, detailed setting and world building, culture, enemies to friends, family bonds, political motivations, military strategy, and even one super snarky stallion.

Ryo is left as a sacrifice and ends up a captive, guest, translator, of the warlord for which he was left.  Ryo experiences a massive amount of culture shock when he is thrown into life with the Lau.  So much of the narrative is Ryo comparing the Lau to his Ugaro people, and it’s just an unbelievable character arc as he learns to judge men by their actions, not their birth.  I loved the grand theme of overcoming cultural differences to fight larger enemies.

Aras, the Lau Warlord, is a great character too.  He, in turn, isn’t familiar with many Ugaro customs, and it’s just a very character driven read as the two men, then two nations, learn about their common enemy and forge a working bond.  The friendship bonds are even better!

The setting and world are closely detailed as well.  From the frozen mountains and forests of the tribes to the summer lands of the Lau, I thought the author did a phenomenal job tying each group’s culture and legends into the climates that so define them.  To quickly touch on the magic: think psychological warfare on steroids, with some light elemental skills as well.

One of my favorite aspects was how she went deep into cultural customs on both sides.  The over politeness and certain rituals of the Ugaro tribes struck me as extremely well thought out, and the Lau had their own norms.  Some of my favorite scenes were the great meetings towards the end, but part of that was how much I just loved Ryo’s family.  Especially his father.  I let out a few “HA”‘s courtesy of the family dialogue 

Family and honor among friends played a huge role too.  Without going into too much more detail, I will just say again in general that the relationships in the book are so intricately started and built upon, until the end result was something really special.

In short: I feel like I’m rambling and not doing the book justice at all.  If you like strong families, culture, overcoming cultural biases, enemies to friends, setting and relationships, and magic throughout…. You need this book.  I definitely plan on checking out the author’s works too.

I hope you’ll check out the other stops on the tour by visiting https://storytellersontour.online/2020/07/30/tour-schedule-tuyo-by-rachel-neumeier/ !  The author information and book links are available there as well!

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Categories
Fantasy Fiction General Fiction Paranormal

Book Review: Out of the Nowhere by K.B. Elijah

Thank you so much to the author for sending me a gorgeous finished copy of her anthology of short stories/novellas!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Out of the Nowhere
  • Series: Moments in Time Anthology, #2
  • Author: K.B. Elijah
  • Publisher & Release: Self – May, 2020
  • Length: 335 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Yes for anyone 14+

An excerpt from the synopsis:

Out of the Nowhere: An android, a vampire, a time-traveller and Death himself walk into a bar. It may sound like a joke, yet this meeting is anything but…

Each of these novellas tells a great story with a beginning, a punch, a twist, and an ending, and most had a good laugh in there somewhere too. It is notable that anthology #1 does not need to be read prior to this one!

Death is featured as a normal guy running an office building. He is addicted to sweets and his wife is a vet. I just loved his two stories so much, especially the recap at the end where the book draws it’s title from – Out of the Nowhere.

Some other fun stories include a pirate fighting off the curse of an indignant ghost, which had me laughing quite a bit at the end. These shorter stories really connected over a short period of time which doesn’t always occur.  Another features a man trying to go back in time to save his brother, who learns a few things about fate and public nudity.

How about a god hog-tied to a horse, accidently sacrificed to another god? I can not believe how many hilarious, serious, unique things she came up with in such a short number of pages.

I ordered anthology #1 immediately upon finishing and can’t wait to read more from the author!!

Do you like anthologies?  Have you read any good short stories or novellas recently?

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Book Tour! Wings of Fate by Skye Horn

Thank you so much to Bookfox Tours and Skye Horn for having me on the Bookstagram tour for Wings of Fate! An E-Book was provided in exchange for an honest review and all opinions are my own.

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Wings of Fate
  • Series: Kingdoms of Faerie #1
  • Author: Skye Horn
  • Publisher & Release: Self – May 17, 2020
  • Length: 284 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ yes for fantasy romance fans

Here is the description from GoodReads:

In a world without magic, Thea is ordinary, but everything changes when she discovers she is a lost princess from a kingdom in Faerie. 

Now, a land Thea never knew existed expects her to become queen—but only if she can stop her villainous father who sits on her throne from releasing the Goddess of Death first. As darkness spreads across the Kingdoms of Faerie, Thea must prepare for the battle ahead by mastering the magic that runs through her veins with the help of the Fae who brought her home—a guardian sworn to protect her with his life.

With proper training, Thea might able to stop her father, but saving her kingdom may cost her heart.

Purely for entertainment value, I enjoyed reading through this book.  There are themes of soul mates, sisterly love and forgiveness, found family, and blood ties, among many others.  There is constant action or light romance, so the book reads pretty quickly and doesn’t give a chance to get boring.

Thea is a young woman who seems drawn to her destiny, which is to become the queen of a Faerie Kingdom.  I was a little confused because her father, even though he is an evil tyrant who wants to wipe out humans, seems to be the rightful king and has been for quite a while.  The book made it sound like he was an imposter and the throne was Thea’s,  but I think the majority of humans and fae just wanted the heir to take over.

The legends were my favorite part of the book for sure.  It is based loosely on the celtic legend around Aine and Morrigan.   I went a bit down the rabbit hole trying to link them in mythology as more than a potential aspect, but – as I said, at face value, the book is quite entertaining.

I think soulmates and fate are interesting concepts.  Sometimes they translate as insta-love.  Not my most favorite trope but there was a good bit of soul searching involving Kieran and Thea around old traditions that might prohibit a relationship.  I think I would have had an easier time believing their love if it wasn’t quite so instant, but I have read enough fated bond books to put it aside and say “ok so they fell in love in two weeks.”

Overall though the storyline was pretty well thought out, entertaining, and fast-paced.  Some of the cruelties inflicted by the king, Thea’s father, really made my blood boil.  The sisterly forgiveness and redemption themes are strong and good.  The relationships between the various orphans and their protectors carried the book a long ways for me as well.  Like best side characters ever. Plus did I mention a unicorn?

If I was rating purely for entertainment I would give it 5⭐, and will definitely check out book 2 to see what that sneaky Morrigan is up to.

Thank you guys again for having me on the tour!!

Skye Horn can be found online at https://skyehorn.com/

Categories
Fantasy

Book Tour Stop!! I, Exile by David Samuels

Thank you so much to Storytellers On Tour for having me on the book tour for I, Exile by David Samuels! This is a fast-paced fantasy adventure about old magic and a heist gone wrong, that turns into so much more!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: I, Exile
  • Series: A Thief’s Tale #1
  • Author: David Samuels
  • Publisher & Release: self – 02/29/2020
  • Length: 229 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ for fantasy and adventure fans!

Here is the description from Amazon:

Exiled into a wasteland because of a heist gone wrong, Emelith vows to hunt down the one responsible. Except not all is what it seems in the haunted realm of the Cauldron.

Classic Swords & Sorcery meets cinematic 90’s action (Tomb Raider, The Mummy, Indiana Jones) in this rollicking thief’s tale.

I, Exile was a perfect read for me right now.  It is a shorter book with nearly non stop action, and not all the wordy fluff that comes with a lot of fantasy books.  Don’t get me wrong, I love fluff, but sometimes a fast-paced adventure is a great change of pace.

Emelith is the main character, a thief who is captured during a heist and then exiled out into the wastes.  She is bent on tracking down and having the head of her partner for the heist having backfired.  I would have liked to know more about her abilities and why she is such a great thief, but Emelith’s diplomatic skills and personal growth in the story are two things I really like about her character.  The strongest women can admit when they’re wrong and learn from their misconceptions and I love seeing that in books.  As a 30 something I definitely appreciate a slightly older main character as well.

After meeting a tribe of exiles led by an old sorceress, Emelith starts to realize that there is so much more to everything than meets the eye.  I liked the banter between the tribe, most of the characters, and especially Ruso the dog, who takes an instant liking to Emelith. 

An ancient necromancer trying to gain his soul back, giant worms and spiders, heat and sun and cold, plus some nasty blue monsters are just a few of the things the tribe must face as they journey in pursuit of Emelith’s possessed partner.  It was interesting to read about the magic possessed by the sorceress as well as the necromancer/lich, we get a history and back story but not too much small detail.

Samuels does a great job with setting and geological descriptions as far as giving us a context for the story.    He really packed quite a lot of world building and setting into a short book. 

My biggest and really only issue with the book was the language.  Some times there was tribal language and slang appropriate to the setting and culture, and sometimes there was modern slang which to me just doesn’t fit in a fantasy.  Also a cannon was mentioned where for the rest of the book, only magic and swords and bows were used with no mention of firepower.

Overall I totally recommend to fans of fantasy adventures and mixed casts of characters. I was never bored at all while reading and I can’t wait to see where Samuels takes this series.

Here is the link to the tour webpage, I hope you will consider checking out the other hosts and finding more information about the book here! https://www.storytellersontour.online/2020/07/24/tour-schedule-i-exile-by-david-m-samuels/

Categories
Fantasy

ARC Review: The Immortal Words by Jeff Wheeler

Quickfacts:

  • Title: The Immortal Words
  • Series: The Grave Kingdom, #3
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North – September 22nd 2020
  • Length: 347 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fantasy and clean readers ❤

Thank you so much to 47North via NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!  I was so excited to be able to read The Grave Kingdom Series as ARCs and I am just mind blown by the end of the trilogy

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

As kingdoms fall, brave young warrior Bingmei fights to fulfill a prophecy and save what’s left of the world from the coming darkness. Should she fail, Echion, the diabolical Dragon of Night, and his queen will hold sway over the next thousand years. With Echion comes his unstoppable army of dragons—powerful, vengeful, and under his control.

Accompanied by her loyal friend Quion, Bingmei journeys toward her last hope. It lies among the savage beasts just beyond the ancient Death Wall—an uninhabited realm from which no one has ever returned alive. Bingmei’s mission is to find the phoenix shrine and learn the Immortal Words that will allow her to harness eternal magic. With Echion and his legions in pursuit, Bingmei must choose her words wisely to break Echion’s spell and accept her fate.

Bingmei knows what she must do. She must join the ranks of the dead as well. For a fearless and selfless warrior, it’s the ultimate sacrifice. But Bingmei is about to discover that even in death, the greatest sacrifices are yet to come.

First off – if you want to read my review for book #2, that can be seen at https://onereadingnurse.com/2020/07/01/arc-review-the-buried-world-by-jeff-wheeler/

So yeah… I knew this was going to be an epic conclusion but I was not expecting half of the things that happened in this book.  To keep things spoiler free, let me just say that this is another fantastic series conclusion by Wheeler and he didn’t at all take it in the direction I thought he would.

I can’t honestly say that The Grave Kingdom series was my favorite by Wheeler, but it’s truly a work of art. I can always count on Wheeler for wholesome fantasy reads, strong women with incredible character arcs, and all sorts of lore, myths, and found families. Even in an Asian based fantasy he twines in an underlying Christian message. It was nice that he wasn’t preachy in these books, and I felt like the Phoenix and the Dragon could have carried a few different allegories.  I would love to ask him if he was thinking about any specific reference regarding the interactions of the Phoenix.

Wheeler is an exquisite world builder as well, from setting to food to weather and the smells of conscience, I truly enjoyed the world of The Grave Kingdom.  Each region had it’s own character, each city it’s own personality and feel, customs, traditional food, and animal guardians, and I think truly that this is Wheeler’s best developed world yet.

Plus I got my OTP wish.  Oh I was so happy I almost cried a little bit for these characters at the end. The books contain a wonderful cast of characters including a snow leopard and a blind king.  Bingmei went from a little girl to a fledgling leader to a strong, thoughtful, powerful woman who was able to decide that humanity was worth saving.  There was a wonderful open ending that echoes the book’s message of good balancing evil in the cycles of the world. It makes me think maybe there may be another trilogy in the world at some point and I would be totally on board with that.

My only issue was a bit of confusion involving Rowen and the Phoenix, I think Wheeler got lost in the mythology a bit and didn’t quite explain Rowen’s role in the grand scheme of things adequately.  Specifically when, why, and how was he chosen, plus  when did he become the Phoenix?  Couldn’t he have just busted out of the prison long before he did? It was slightly incongruous.   Also the fighting scenes were getting pretty repetitive by the end of book 3.

If you are looking for a truly epic fantasy series set in an Asian based world, with dragons, phoenixes, lore, love, loyalty, and found family, this is the book for you.  I was so happy and proud of the entire quonsuun and thought that the ending just was priceless.

The Immortal Words, the epic conclusion of  The Grave Kingdom series, releases 9/22.

Categories
Fantasy Mysteries Young Adult

Blog Tour Post! Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles

Where Dreams Descend_Cover

  • Title: Where Dreams Descend
  • Series: Kingdom of Cards #1
  • Author: Janella Angeles
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, 8/25/2020
  • Length: 451 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⚡ Maybe

Here is the description from GoodReads:

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Thank you so much to Wednesday Books for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles.  They provided a free e-ARC for review purposes.

First off, the description of this book sounded entirely amazing and I knew I had to read it.  A murdery magic mystery set against an icy world and a circus? Ok sign me up.

Lets start with the world building and atmosphere: I didn’t understand the world. There were a handful of repetitive questions being asked, over and over, about the history of the town, with absolutely no answers given. The air of mystery surrounding the world was extremely shallow because only the surface of the Town’s history was ever scratched.  The physical description of the buildings, districts, and weather were good, with literally no other world building outside of the immediate setting.  The town is described as a cold and icy place, but is it supposed to mirror the rest of the island or continent?  For all we know the island is an isolated incident of magic. 

I can’t deal when authors expect the reader to be psychic – if the characters *KNOW* something, maybe we should be told that information? Jack kept saying “they” and we never know who “they” are and no one ever says what’s going on. It happened between the women at the circus a few times too. I really wanted to DNF the book at times because I think it’s just bad writing that all this mustery became boring.

The characters were not much more interesting.  Kailla wants to get out of her life as a club performer, and is determined to ruin herself in order to impress a small group of magicians in the Town in order to have an opportunity to perform.  Yes, fine, prove yourself to the boy’s club.  Her motivation seemed lackluster and overdone in such a tiny setting. Also it didn’t make sense that if women weren’t really allowed to do show magic, only work magic, why was a women in charge of the magic police? Next up, what the heck is even going on with Demarco? We read over 400 pages and literally learned nothing of substance about him until the end, and then it’s just more mystery.  Another brooding dark character who repeats his own inner monologue 500 times. I don’t love the recent YA trend of using repetition to make books longer.  Jack was another evasive twit and supposedly the villain of the piece.  The only characters I even remotely liked were the circus women, and Kailla’s assistant there who was nice and straightforward and a good friend.  

I understand that the author’s goal was to create a huge mystery but if all we get is repetition and angst with no substance, it is just boring.  I also didn’t get the little bit of romance very much, it’s hard to ship two characters who are both so evasive and I didn’t really understand why brave and fearless Kailla was suddenly so afraid of Jack during the middle chapters.

The plot had a few action points but the author dropped them pretty quickly in favor of the characters just angst-ing at each other some more. I won’t lie that I ended up skimming, a lot.

If you liked the Night Circus – lots of words amid a tiny bit of action action and a little playing hard to get – you’ll probably love this.

I believe the duology is redeemable in book 2 which is why even though this is a harsh review, I believe it is appropriate for the tour.  

Thank you again for allowing me to participate in the tour and bring you this book which releases on 8/25!

Mei Lin Barral Photography_Janella Angeles

About the author:

JANELLA ANGELES is a Filipino-American author who got her start in writing through consuming glorious amounts of fanfiction at a young age—which eventually led to penning a few of her own, and later on, creating original stories from her imagination. A lifelong lover of books, she’s lucky enough to be working in the business of publishing them on top of writing them. She currently resides in Massachusetts, where she’s most likely to be found listening to musicals on repeat and daydreaming too much for her own good. Where Dreams Descend is her first book.

Buy Link:https://read.macmillan.com/lp/where-dreams-descend/

Social LinksTwitter: @Janella_Angeles // Instagram: @Janella_Angeles

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

ARC Review: Firefrost by Camille Longley

  • Title: Firefrost
  • Series: Flameskin Chronicles #0
  • Author: Camille Longley
  • Publisher & Release: self published? Sept 21st 2020
  • Length: 340 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ for fantasy fans

Thank you so much to BooksGoSocial via NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

So we have a classic enemies to lovers story, set against the snowy and magical Ulve Mountains.  The Flameskins are a race of people who coexist with a demon called a pyra, and once their soul is fully consumed they essentially turn into demons.  The nonmagical people and army of Tokkedal are attempting to eradicate this army of fire demons, a war which was been ongoing.  With atrocities like cutting out the hearts of, and then burning flameskins being commonplace, the hatred and prejudice and fear of the nonmagical citizens runs deep.

The world building was really quite well done.  We learn all about the snowy and inhospitable mountains, their legends, and the people who inhabit them.  How they live, what they eat, how they feel in regards to the ongoing war.  The political aspects got a bit confusing because even though a Tokken King was mentioned several times, a queen ended up being in power?  Other than that I enjoyed the world quite a bit, especially the place at the end.  Cough no spoilers.

The magic includes the Flameskins who have their demons, or mages that have similar skills but must use a stone to achieve them.  There is so much intricate detail about the pyras and mages and their respective curses, that I was pretty impressed for the first 40% of the book.  Even the history and prejudices and course of the wars were pretty interesting, as were all the ways in which the fire could be used.  From firesharing to Saint Katerine and her powers, there were a very wide range.

The characters are a bit of another story. Sol is her village’s huntress, and ends up on a confusing journey of survival with a Flameskin commander named Kelan.   They have to rely on each other for guidance, food, warmth, and emotional support while more or less having to escape both armies and everyone else they meet.  Their goals change as they go, but safety is hard to find in a world where there is no place to be together.

Can they trust each other? Should they hate each other or jump into a bedroll? Can Kelan fight off his Pyra and stay human despite the fact that Sol is a bit of a moron and forces him to use it all the time?  The relationship and inner monologue between them got so repetitive during the 35-70% part of the book that I just had to skim at times.  There were no new revelations and yet every few pages I had to read about their very repetitive feelings and confusion towards each other.  1.5 stars docked right there, I would have just preferred a shorter book or to spend those pages maybe hearing more stories about the mountains, the Saints for sure, or literally anything else.

Kelan was a pretty interesting and complex  character, while Sol just drove me nuts until she got her sh!t together and figured out which side to be on.   I get that watching your pa cut out a Flameskin’s heart would have lasting effects, but it took her a very long time to come off her high horse and work cooperatively with him to survive.

I was on an easy 5⭐ course until I hit the middle of the book doldrums that some of the early reviews mentioned.  There was still action going on but just so much repetition. This looks to be a prequel book to the rest of the series, taking place 100ish years before the next book occurs, so there was just no reason for it.  I once again encourage YA authors to give their readers some credit and back off the repetition.

Fans of enemies to lovers, found families, adopted families, fire magic, superstition and lore, keep an eye out for this one!  It releases September 21st!

Have you read this one? Want to discuss it? Leave a comment below!

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.