Categories
Fantasy Middle Grade Young Adult

Book Review: Protagonist Bound by Geanna Culbertson

     Thank you so much to the author for a review copy in exchange for an honest review! A while back I won a hard copy of the second book in the series in a giveaway, and she was nice enough to provide the prior novel too!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Protagonist Bound
  • Series: Crisanta Knight, #1
  • Author: Geanna Culbertson
  • Publisher & Release: BQB Publishing – 2016
  • Length: 462 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Yes for middle grade/YA and fans of good clean fantasy fiction and fairytales

Here is the synopis:

The next generation – the children of Snow White, Cinderella, and others – have lives and stories of their own. And not just long ago and far away but (sort of) here and now! Enjoy!

I was going to be a great protagonist. At least that’s what my mom, Cinderella, kept telling me. I, however, had my doubts. Unlike most main characters at Lady Agnue’s School for Princesses & Other Female Protagonists, I was opinionated, bold, and headstrong. Moreover, for a princess, I had a lot of issues. I’m talking vicious nightmares about people I’ve never met, a total stalker prince, and a Fairy Godmother for an enemy.

But I digress. Because here’s the thing about living in an enchanted realm of fairytale characters, crazy junk you never planned on happens all the time. One minute you could be practicing fainting exercises in Damsels in Distress class, sword fighting in a field, or flying on a Pegasus, and the next, BAM! Your book has begun and you’re saddled with a prophecy that changes everything.

I still don’t know if I will be a great protagonist one day. But I know one thing about my fate, for certain. Despite what The Author and the antagonists have in store for me, whatever it costs. . .I’ll be the one taking charge of my own story

     I think the synopsis says it all.  The children of our favorite fairy tale characters are learning how to be protagonists.  The females don’t have great prospects as far as Crisa is concerned, and she is determined to write her own fate and be something more than a legacy character.

     It’s a good concept and there is plenty of world building to set the stage for the series.  Descriptions of the land, food, societal expectations, and animals are awesome.  We even get a peek into some of the other kingdoms and I like the world of Book so far.  If flying horses and a fairy godmother agency aren’t enough to interest you, maybe the mysteries and antagonists are?  I’m quite curious about them since we only got a glimpse in this first installment.

     The characters are a tight group of friends who each have their elements of surprise too.  SJ is brilliant at potions, Blue is a daring young lady, and Crisa just wants to be her own person.  I liked the teamwork and banter between the friends.  There are some boys in the group who seem to act like pretty typical teenage boys, and I’m curious to learn more about the new boy in the group, Daniel.  Crisa got to learn all about how frustrating teenage boys can be🤣  Thankfully without the romance elements.  Crisa’s romantic prophesy sounds terrible to her so far, so we’ll see how that turns out.  

     For a good, fairly wholesome, clean read that I would happily recommend to any age group at all, definitely check out this series.  The series and its various books have been recognized by a number of independent book awards for everything from girl-power to excellence in young adult literature, and I think it’s all well deserved.  I am told that each book holds more action than the prior so I’m excited to read the next one soon!

Thank you again to the author for my review copy, all opinions are my own

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
Contemporary Fiction Paranormal Young Adult

Book Review: Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Watch Over Me
  • Author: Nina LaCour
  • Publisher & Release: Dutton Books for Young Readers, Sept 15th 2020
  • Length: 272 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for fans of contemporary!

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Mila is used to being alone. Maybe that’s why she said yes to the opportunity: living in this remote place, among the flowers and the fog and the crash of waves far below.

But she hadn’t known about the ghosts.

Newly graduated from high school, Mila has aged out of the foster care system. So when she’s offered a job and a place to stay at a farm on an isolated part of the Northern California Coast, she immediately accepts. Maybe she will finally find a new home, a real home. The farm is a refuge, but also haunted by the past traumas its young residents have come to escape. And Mila’s own terrible memories are starting to rise to the surface.

My Thoughts:

Thank you so much to the publisher via Bookish First for the finished copy in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Watch Over Me is a deeeeeply atmospheric young adult contemporary read, with a paranormal/magical realism twist involving ghosts and residual hauntings related to trauma.

Mila becomes too old to remain in foster care, and goes to teach on a farm in northern California where the owners have fostered 40+ children. The interns cook, clean, teach, tend to the farm and children, and everyone lives in a structured environment and seem like one big amazing family.

Then there are the ghosts. Ghosts of children playing in the yard. A dancing ghost that plays the piano. A ghost that re-enacts Mila’s past traumas?

The less I think about the ghost element, the more I enjoy the book. It doesn’t make a ton of sense to me to bring residual hauntings to actual life, but I understand it in a symbolic sense. The theme of residual hauntings due to trauma is deep and difficult and handled so well by LaCour, and these resilient kids who have been through so much. There is a literal but symbolic gesture of embracing the lost and detached part of oneself that still deserves love and belonging and healing.

I loved the little kids, especially Lee, the farm family, and the whole found family theme in general. The farm atmosphere was so real that I always felt like I was walking in the chilly air next to the characters, or joining them at dinner or in the family room.

It’s a shorter and quick book that kept me rapt the entire time, and if I had more time it could have easily been read in a day.  A similar book that I read this year, and the review is here somewhere, was Echoes Between Us by Katie McCarty.

Content for gas lighting, housefires, parental abandonment, child abuse, sex overheard and then imagined in no explicit detail, two naked girls in a bath tub with nothing sexual occurring, one usage of the word f**k, near drowning, personal injury, ghosts, and pain related to ghostly encounters

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 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.

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 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!