Categories
Fantasy Paranormal Suspense

ARC Review: The Hollow Gods by A.J. Vrana

  • Title: The Hollow Gods
  • Series: The Chaos Cycle Duology, #1
  • Author: A.J. Vrana
  • Publisher & Release: The Parliament House, 7/28/2020
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ most likely

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

Here is the description from GoodReads:

A perfect story for contemporary fantasy readers who love their narratives razor-sharp and their secrets dark and deadly.

Black Hollow is a town with a dark secret.

For centuries, residents have foretold the return of the Dreamwalker—an ominous figure from local folklore said to lure young women into the woods and possess them. Yet the boundary between fact and fable is blurred by a troubling statistic: occasionally, women do go missing. And after they return, they almost always end up dead.

When Kai wakes up next to the lifeless body of a recently missing girl, his memory blank, he struggles to clear his already threadbare conscience.

Miya, a floundering university student, experiences signs that she may be the Dreamwalker’s next victim. Can she trust Kai as their paths collide, or does he herald her demise?

And after losing a young patient, crestfallen oncologist, Mason, embarks on a quest to debunk the town’s superstitions, only to find his sanity tested.

A maelstrom of ancient grudges, forgotten traumas, and deadly secrets loom in the foggy forests of Black Hollow. Can three unlikely heroes put aside their fears and unite to confront a centuries-old evil? Will they uncover the truth behind the fable, or will the cycle repeat?

The Hollow Gods is a solid debut from author A.J. Vrana.  I feel like the mood of this book is the most important aspect.  It is a dark, atmospheric read, and fits right in to the block of literature that tackles ancient legends in small towns, superstition, possession, and dreamscapes.

The book tackles three unique points of view.   Kai is definitely my favorite, the man who is a wolf, because his moods and foul mouth are just so memorable.  He has a lot of reasons to be angry, not even to mention an ancient spirit that likes to run him in front of buses and the like.  I did not like Mason at all, honestly if you can’t handle death don’t be a doctor, especially an oncologist.  All I heard was WHINE whine WHINE and I wanted to smack him.  It must be different in Canada because in the United States, a resident doctor wouldn’t be left in sole custody of a patient like that.  It might have also been an artistic stretch but I spent the entire book wanting to smack him.

The legend of the Dreamwalker was brought out in small bits and pieces throughout the story.  I think the townspeople are definitely crazy but what can you do when an evil entity is influencing mass hysteria?  Miya is the third character and she grew on me, especially once she truly became a main character and began interacting with Kai.  I hope that the second novel talks more about how Kai and Ama (the other wolf) even exist, they definitely aren’t werewolves … they are just what they are.  The raven was an interesting character too, there is a lot of ground that could be potentially covered in the next book.

Vrana’s writing is perfect though, she spent the entire novel capturing the dark atmosphere required for a book like this.  It was never creepy, and I was never scared, but still managed to capture that ancient wisdom and brash moody feel.   I think it is super interesting too that the author studied supernatural literature related to violence for her doctorate –  the interest and accuracy and thoughtfulness for which this is captured throughout the pages is quite evident.

Additionally, all of the characters have to deal with their own tough issues of personal inadequacy, grief, and discovering their places in the world.  If they like it or not, they are tied together and I did enjoy watching them all work through their issues.

So why am I only giving it 3.5 stars? I can’t explain it but I tuned out a few too many times.  There was a lot of dreamscape action before I figured out what was going on that made me lose interest, and I felt like she took a long slow approach to get there.  I am 100% definitely going to read the next book though and have no problem recommending this to fans of legends, supernatural, witch hunts, and animals in folklore.  It releases July 28th so add it to your TBR now if it sounds up your alley!

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

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Book Review: The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

  • Title: The Shadows Between Us
  • Series: no
  • Author: Tricia Levenseller
  • Publisher & Release: Feiwel & Friends – February 2020
  • Length: 333 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ yes but not for the advertised age group

Thank you to Shelf Love Crate for featuring this book in the monthly box. I am loving the alternate cover.

Here is the description from GoodReads:

Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:

1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.

But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?

So here we are with my second Levenseller book.  Let’s start with the age recommendation: Amazon states that 13-18 is the reading level, but do we really want to show 13 year olds a promiscuous character that doesn’t care if she sleeps with 1 or 100 men?  I believe Alessandra is only 18 as well, and it started when she was 15.  I know that kids see and hear a lot worse online but is this really the message that high school girls need to see?

So Levenseller’s main takeaway from the book is that she wants to empower women.  Alessandra is a cunning character, definitely a Slytherin, who has no problem lying, deceiving, murdering, and using her feminine wiles to seduce, marry, then murder the king.  She definitely empowers the other women at court to be their own people, and learns about the power of friendship.  I just don’t love the message of using men for their money and trinkets and power, and a 13 year old isn’t going to be able to think through the “sexually empowered” vs “trollop” argument that is made.  So parents – be warned.

For an adult, I can totally get behind the morally gray, Slytherin romance.  I did enjoy watching them get closer.  Kallias and his dog are everything in the whole book, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bookish King let his dog sleep in the bed before.  100% love this guy even if I am kind of blanking on what to make of his shadow magic. I expected it to be a dark magic but it was more regenerative than anything.

Also nothing else about the entire book was magical, and I’m not sure how I feel about only one person having magic when the rest of the world is entirely benign.  No one really seems to covet the magic either except those in the line of ascension – plus the king is kind of a (very nice but also brutal) tyrant.

Plot wise, I was never unable to put the book down but it did keep a steady pace.  I wasn’t bored but wasn’t 100% engaged either. Just like with Warrior of the Wild, I never felt like anyone was ever in real danger and Levenseller loves convenient and magical healing abilities. I enjoyed a good morally gray slow burn on the court proceedings.  The intrigue level was appropriate for a stand alone.  I didn’t really like how she threw guns and electricity into an otherwise obviously historical fantasy with kings, carriages, peasants and the like.

Overall … I don’t know.  I give it a three point five and am tempted to round down for GoodReads.  It’s rather unique for a young adult book.  I would recommend for teens and adults alike as long as they’re aware of the content, it could be a good conversation starter.

Have you read it? Want to discuss it? I kind of do! Drop a comment below

Categories
Fantasy

Blog Tour: The Lost City by Amanda Hocking!

The Lost City - Cover Art

Thank you so much to Wednesday Books for the opportunity to participate in the blog tour for The Lost City by Amanda Hocking!  Before I jump into the review, here are the book’s quick facts!

  • Title: The Lost City
  • Series: Omte Origins #1, in the world of the Trylle
  • Author: Amanda Ticking
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, July 7th 2020
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Rating & recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for fans of modern fantasy

Here is the description provided by the publisher;

Amanda Hocking, the New York Times bestselling author of The Kanin Chronicles, returns to the magical world of the Trylle Trilogy with The Lost City, the first novel in The Omte Origins—and the final story arc in her beloved series.

The storm and the orphan

Twenty years ago, a woman sought safety from the spinning ice and darkness that descended upon a small village. She was given shelter for the night by the local innkeepers but in the morning, she disappeared—leaving behind an infant. Now nineteen, Ulla Tulin is ready to find who abandoned her as a baby or why.

The institution and the quest

Ulla knows the answers to her identity and heritage may be found at the Mimirin where scholars dedicate themselves to chronicling troll history. Granted an internship translating old documents, Ulla starts researching her own family lineage with help from her handsome and charming colleague Pan Soriano.

The runaway and the mystery

But then Ulla meets Eliana, a young girl who no memory of who she is but who possesses otherworldly abilities. When Eliana is pursued and captured by bounty hunters, Ulla and Pan find themselves wrapped up in a dangerous game where folklore and myth become very real and very deadly—but one that could lead Ulla to the answers she’s been looking for.

This is my first book by Hocking and I had no trouble picking up the storyline.  I also read the glossary and index first, which by the way is a total gem.  Have no worries if this is the first of the Trylle books that you read.

I haven’t read a lot of modern fantasy, with modern music and computers and technology, so The Lost City was interesting in that aspect.  The trolls live alongside humans, kind of like how the wizarding world shares but is totally separate from the muggles.   Once I got used to trolls in modern places I was able to enjoy the book quite a bit.  Some of the trolls are more human-like than others. It was fun to learn about their quirks such as hoarding, and preferring bare feet.

The characters were a good lot as well.  Ulla has a tough streak that I applauded.  Pan is just a nice guy.  Eliana is …. interesting, while Hannah and Dagny were fun.  I am docking my star for characters seeming to act out of line at times though, such as the entire ending.  Cute but like – really?

I thought the pacing was really even too. No part dragged and it was difficult to put the book down towards the end.  I would totally recommend for modern fantasy fans who enjoy a twist of legend and magic in their reads! While the book is not specifically YA, the content seems entirely appropriate for readers of any age as well.

Thank you so much again to Wednesday Books for the opportunity to be on the blog tour!!

 

Author Bio

Amanda Hocking NEW--credit Mariah Paaverud with Chimera Photography-1

AMANDA HOCKING is the author of over twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book.

Categories
Fantasy Middle Grade Young Adult

Book Review: Na Cearcaill by Alpha Four

  • Title: Na Cearcaill
  • Series: Far Forest Scrolls #1
  • Author: Alpha Four (A4)
  • Publisher & Release: Far Forest Scrolls – August, 2018
  • Length: 292 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fantasy fans

Thank you so much to We Read Fantasy giveaways, Presstinely, and Far Forest Scrolls for my copy of Na Cearcaill!  I have been spamming these books all over Instagram and it’s way, way past overdue to make it to the blog!

Here is the description from Amazon:

Decades after invaders led by the White Wizard stormed across the Dark Sea and ravaged Verngaurd, the world is once again on the brink of war. Yet, this time, something is different. An evil is leaching its way across the land precisely as magic is waning and time-honored alliances are fracturing.

A dusty prophecy whispers a glimmer of hope, a soft rustle against an avalanche of darkness. With the world engulfed in war and chaos, a small group of friends set off on a quest to discover the source of all magic, the key to stopping the advancing evil. The voyage proves much tougher than they could have ever imagined.

The overwhelmed band of heroes find themselves spiraling down an insane quest as the world around them crumbles. If the terrifying trials meant to protect the ancient scrolls don’t kill them, the eccentric and unimaginable guardians just might.

This is an interesting take on the Chosen One theme with a heroic young girl that can talk to animals.  The full description confused me a bit because I didn’t really see much by way of a search for any source of magic, but there was a solid introduction to the Knights and their squares and the political machinations in play in the empire.  Once a quest does take off it is absolutely action packed…..with an abrupt ending that made me glad I had book 2 on standby!

There are all the proper fantasy elements like elves, knights, dwarves, dragons, and all sorts of other monsters, ghosts, and wights, all with the author’s twist. The book has funny bits like an insane fat guy eating belly button treasure and a corpse falling down stairs, managing to  carry a lighter tone throughout despite heavier subject content and a ton of sage wisdom.  There are some darker themes too like orphans, splitting alliances, deaths and devastation, with the overwhelming evil threatening to start another cycle. I think older readers will enjoy the philosophical parts.  There is really a little bit of something for every fantasy fan too.

One of my favorite parts are the illustrations – there are so many hand drawn pictures by the author, plus tons of the more traditional kind.  The printed images are absolutely stunning too, I spent so much time staring at them! One can tell how much love and thought was put into the visual presentation of the book.

There are quite a few characters that once again, hold a little bit of something for everyone.  The young chosen one is (probably) Bellae, a seven year old with the ability to communicate with animals.  Her brother is a bit of a jealous twit, and her best friend is a bullied oaf that everyone in the group loves.  There are a lot of characters with some funny, some stern, some wise, and it was a little hard for me to keep them all apart but the pictures helped a lot.  The teamwork is awesome.

Battles, intrigue, friendship and one epic quest are found in this book and it ended way too soon.  The book is pretty entirely appropriate for middle grade and young adult as well – there is one scene where a brain was sucked out Starship Trooper style but otherwise the entire book was extremely benign.  Would highly recommend for fantasy fans!

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 do. Seriously.

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!