Categories
Adventure Fiction Young Adult

Book Review: Fable by Adrienne Young

In my quest to read more books that I already own, I picked up Fable by Adrienne Young as my second physical book this year!  I enjoyed Young’s Sky in the Deep duology quite a bit, and wasn’t disappointed here either

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Fable
  • Series: Fable, #1
  • Author: Adrienne Young
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books,  September 2020
  • Length: 361
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for YA adventure fans

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men.

As the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home seventeen-year-old Fable has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.

Fable takes you on a spectacular journey filled with romance, intrigue and adventure.

Let’s start with The Plot and Story: I liked the story quite a bit. Fable is abandoned by her father after a shipwreck, and has to find her way first back to him, and then to a life of her own.  There is plenty of danger and storms on the high seas, as well as tension on the ship to keep things interesting.  The reader learns the twists and secrets along the way, as there was no info dump and we learn about the world as Fable sees and remembers it. I was never compelled to keep reading at any point but was never bored either.  Young is one of those authors who sacrifices a lot of potential action and exciting events for character time, which caused Fable to lose points from me

The Characters: Like I said, Young spends more time on her characters than anything else, so I will go there next.  Thankfully they are good characters.

Fable is a great example of showing, not telling, how bad-ass a character is.  She survives on the island of thieves through pure determination and skill, then holds her own on a crew of suspicious traders.  We are never told, she just acts, and that is what separates a true leading lady from all the Mary-Sues of the literary world.  I like her!

West is a mystery and we get the sense that he still has a lot to uncover.  His crew is a great lot once you get to know them, with limited banter but you know they’re a family.

Saint, her father and the most influential of the traders, is also a mystery but he will come back in book two, I’m sure.  They had one nice moment towards the end though and I felt almost bad for him!  Fable’s scar though- geeeez.  At least he did give her the tools to succeed.

The World:  The world is called…..oh wait, it’s not.  The area of the sea is generally referred to as “The Narrows,” but Young really did not focus on world building.  There are multiple regions mentioned with people that may be influential in book two, but the map only shows the places on West’s trade route and the country is given no name.  There is so much world building you can do with traders (ask Garth Nix) but Young follows the belief that YA readers want characters, so we don’t get that.

The area/country isn’t given leadership either, in some books featuring traders there is one person at least overseeing things, or the guilds have power.  Some powerful trader lady elsewhere is mentioned but not as leadership.  There are trading guilds in another area, which I love, but they aren’t expanded on so we don’t know how they run,  just that for example,The Merchant’s Guild can revoke trade licenses.  Saint is the most prominent trader and has a lot of political influence, and there is an antagonist, Zola, but without much background he just seems like a jaded cartoon villain.  There isn’t much on local customs and traditions at all except for the sailor who feeds the birds

Setting: The towns/cities/islands are described pretty well, as well as life on the boat at first anyway, and I think her best world-building came in the descriptions of the seas and the storms.  There is one scene where they go underwater, everything is silent and the lightning illuminates bodies and the ship breaking….  ….setting is where the book makes up a lot of brownie points, the ocean and Fable’s memories are well told.

Young still hasn’t learned how to tell time either.  Sky in the Deep was notorious for passing time in an impossible manner, and this is no different.  A journey that should take a few days happens….oh….lets say they get there in the morning, including a break to drop anchor for a few hours at least.  Someone’s severe wounds are healing and apparently it either happens in three days, or more time passes and she doesn’t show it well.

Overall: This is YA, and thr teens probably don’t care if the action is a little bit anticlimactic or just glazed over at times,  because the characters kiss instead, right? It was still a good story though and I’ll be reading my ARC of book 2, Nameless, soon due to the cliffhanger at the end! Would recommend for fans of young adult adventures, and books that take place on the seas!

Categories
Fiction Historical Fiction Young Adult

Book Review: Now I Rise by Kiersten White

Happy new year! I had always meant to read The Conqueror Saga one after the other, but life happens, and now I have finally finished Now I Rise!  You can see my review for book one, And I Darken, HERE

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Now I Rise
  • Series: The Conqueror Saga, #2
  • Author: Kiersten White
  • Publisher & Release: Delacorte Press, June 2017
  • Length: 476 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Lada Dracul has no allies. No throne. All she has is what she’s always had: herself. After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lada is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her blood-strewn path. Filled with a white-hot rage, she storms the countryside with her men, accompanied by her childhood friend Bogdan, terrorizing the land. But brute force isn’t getting Lada what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed brings little comfort to her thorny heart. There’s no time to wonder whether he still thinks about her, even loves her. She left him before he could leave her.

What Lada needs is her younger brother Radu’s subtlety and skill. But Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople—and it’s no diplomatic mission. Mehmed wants control of the city, and Radu has earned an unwanted place as a double-crossing spy behind enemy lines. Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence—but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself—but if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him?

As nations fall around them, the Dracul siblings must decide: what will they sacrifice to fulfill their destinies? Empires will topple, thrones will be won . . . and souls will be lost.

The Story: The story itself is equally if not more interesting and engaging than book one.  There is absolutely no down time between the siblings and the skirmishes prior to the siege, Lada’ s bloody path, and all the political maneuvering (aka murdering) heheh.

‘Let them come,’ she said. ‘I will drink their blood and dance on their corpses’

The Characters:  Lada is razing cities, striking fear and seeking allies to take back Wallachia.  She gains some unlikely allies including John Hunyadi (an interesting historical figure), and a slimy politician that unbeknownst to Lada, thinks he can control her once she’s in power 😂 funny, right?  Lada is an unholy terror and I love her.  She is also very human in this book, once running out of the woods in her undergarments as she was trying to warn her men and forgot to get dressed 😂 another funny point was when they had to go on a treasure hunt to see if her castle actually even had a Treasury.  White is trying to make Lada more relatable, lonelier, more vulnerable, which contrasts so sharply with her brutal, impaling, murdery side.  The character arc is amazing in this book.

Perhaps she will find a balance”

“No. She will go down in flames and blood”

Radu is as whiny as ever, serving as a spy in Constantinople as Mehmed’s forces are getting ready to engage in the famous siege.  Now there’s not one, but two men that he has to constantly whine about and decide which one to betray.  When Radu isn’t being a terrible, cutthroat spy, he’s whining.  Radu once again gets the star docked from the book, even if he is a decent spy.

Hunyadi might have been my favorite side character for his fatherly advice to Lada and that whole wonderful beautiful alliance.  Constantine and Radu’s party in Constantinople really do a good job showing two sides of a conflict, how both are human and led by great, but terrible men.

Hold hands with the devil until you are both over the bridge

The Setting: the new setting is Constantinople, which is perfectly portrayed as a dying city.  In the one biblical/paranormal sequence of the book, there is a flood, followed by the light of God physically leaving the church and then bloody crescent moon when it should have been full.  Gave me the chills.  White does a great job with the moral and religious concerns of both sides, I mean who are the infidels in this case?  The wall and the siege and the desperation just felt so real, as did Lada’s trek through the borderlands seeing what the Boyars did to her country

It was always jarring to hear the Ottomans referred to as the infidels, because that was what they called the Christians

One quick note on the audiobook: at one point I wanted to keep reading and found the audiobook on Libby – it sounds like it’s read by a native speaker, which threw me off only because her pronunciations were so different than what I had been reading in my head that it threw me off.  I did listen long enough to get a better sense for the dialect but honestly didn’t love her as a narrator.

Put his body on a stake in the Square as proof that I keep my promises

Takeaway: The scope of these books is unbelievable and just so well done.  I love both dark and alternate history and the combination is first rate.  So much conflict, amazing characters, and all out war just makes these books unputdownable.  Book three, Bright We Burn, is definitely being read soon.

Categories
Fiction Historical Fiction Young Adult

Book Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

This is a book that I actually read last year in a buddy read, but since I am finishing the series now I think it makes sense to bring the old reviews onto the blog here!  The Conqueror Saga is generally an antihero retelling of Vlad the Impaler taking Wallachia (now Romania) back, Mehmed II’s (The Conqueror) reign as the Ottoman Sultan, and eventually the clashing of the two parties.  And I Darken starts Lada and Radu off as young kids, sent to live with the Ottomans as bargaining chips, aka hostages.  They grow up with the young heir to the Empire, Mehmed ….

Quick Facts:

  • Title: And I Darken
  • Series: The Conqueror Saga, #1
  • Author: Kiersten White
  • Publisher & Release: Delacorte Press, June 2016
  • Length: 486 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes!

Here is the summary from GoodReads:

No one expects a princess to be brutal, and Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

This is everything I could ever want in historical fiction.  Right from the start, Lada is a feral and passionate child and I was sucked into the book immediately.  The short chapters made it hard to put down for a very, very long time.

The Story:  The story and plot kept moving pretty quickly throughout the book.  From Wallachia to Edirne to Constantinople, there was plenty of treachery, political intrigue, assassinations, friendships, brutality, and self actualization to keep the pages turning.

I could hardly ever put the book down as the power swung back and forth and everyone’s lives hung in the balance.

Between her father’s brutal nature and being introduced to people like The Head Gardener, who planted bodies on stakes in the Sultan’s square, the stage is set for Lada’s future.

The World: I think White does a great job with setting and world building.  Architecture, weather, language, enough geography to envision the land are all present.  So is the mood – the mood of each scene was so well permeated through the pages that I think it really sealed the world building for me.  I learned a lot about Islam and those customs as well, which was presented tastefully as a peaceful religion.

Another thing I didn’t know much about was how sultans behave, the hierarchy of the wives and harems, and warfare in that era.  I think White really blends facts into fiction well and without being boring.

The Characters: Lada is probably my favorite YA character of any series ever.  She is bent on taking back her homeland, and all other loyalties pale to that towards her Wallachia.   Watching her grow from a terroristic child to.. well.. A terroristic young woman, was a really interesting character arc.  She’s not untouchable and I really felt for her as she tried to iron out her adult feelings of happiness vs homeland, being a woman in a patriarchal society, and what she knows she deserves vs. what is offered to her.  Her military strategy and political cunning are believable and I just am rooting for her and her band of soldiers.

Radu, her brother, is terrible, neither character is meant to be liked but Radu was really truly terrible.  He was a scared, whiny child, who ends up hero worshipping Mehmed, then both siblings end up being in love with him.  Radu spent so much of the middle of the book just whining about Mehmed that I got sick of it and docked a full star.   Later Radu turns into a political worm, I mean spy, wait no I mean worm.  Lada was always terrible to him and I have a feeling she’s going to end up paying for it.

Mehmed was a spoiled brat but he eventually has to become the sultan, at age 15.  I don’t have much to say about him, he has to grow up quickly and make some tough choices once he learns how savage the world truly is.  They all do.  The side characters and political plotting, including Mehmed’s mother, are another strong point.  That woman is just savage!  Lada’s band of Janissaries have great banter too, and so does much of the dialogue.  The relationships in the book are interesting and generally complicated.

Misc: I want to gush about so many things related to these books but I can continue to do so in the next review.  I never feel like I do some of these books justice, and this is one of them.  The political intrigue and cunning is just so freaking intricate that it kept me rapt.  If Radu had been slightly less insufferable it would have been a solid 5🌟, even Lada riding off into the frozen wastes with her men can’t undo that for me

“The daughter of Wallachia wants her knife back.”

The authors note states that Vlad the Impaler as a woman makes for a more interesting story… And I totally agree.  She also points out that each of these characters is historically portrayed differently by the conquerors vs the conquered… another interesting story lens that (spoiler alert (not)) will be exploited more in the coming books.

Stay tuned for my review of Now I Rise, book two, hopefully coming tomorrow!

Categories
Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction Middle Grade Young Adult

She Plays We Win! A Coffee Table Book for Girls

Thank you so much to Dart Frog Books for my copy of She Plays We Win! It is a coffee table book of photography by Christin Rose, depicting young girls at sport along with quotes, advice, anecdotes, and brief interviews with some of the athletes!

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Here is the description from Amazon:

Description

When photographer Christin Rose started She Plays We Win in 2016, she set out to create a photo series that would celebrate the confidence and perseverance of young girls in athletics. The project grew exponentially with the help of social media as girls all over the country connected through a love for the game and formed a community to uplift and encourage one another.

Inspired by the positive influence of sports in her own formative years, Rose connects effortlessly with the young athletes and truly captures the hustle and heart of what it means to be a competitor. With She Plays We Win, The Book, Rose debuts her first comprehensive collection of work and has teamed up with the Women’s Sport’s Foundation to commit of the proceeds to help keep women of all ages in the game.

Bursting with life and color, this fun and interactive book is as bright and bold as the girls donning it’s pages. Real stories of trials and triumph from over 200 fearless young athletes and powerful images of sweat and sisterhood offer an inspiring read for women of any age.

My Thoughts:

This is a little different from what I usually feature on here but it’s such a great book for girls of any age.  The ones depicted are ages 7-14 and from all over the world, various races, various levels of poverty, and even a few disabled athletes are included!! I was thrilled to see equestrian sports (yes horse sports are sports!), boxing, hockey, skateboarding, and other less conventional sports for young girls as well as the more popular ones like basketball and track.

These amazing photos aren’t necessarily of state champions and record setters either, which is cool because it will be extremely relatable to readers.  These are just every day girls showing and supporting others in that sports are accessible, and a great foundation for life skills, hard work, fun, and following their dreams.

The book also states that a portion of the proceeds go towards the Women’s Sports Foundation!  So much girl power packed into this volume.  Definitely 100% recommend this book for any young girls, I wish I had it when I was a kid trying to play everything!

I hope you’ll check out the website to find out more about #ShePlaysWeWin , a movement and community empowering girls in sports!

http://www.sheplayswewin.com/

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Book Review: Heartmender by V. Romas Burton

Heartmender is a book that I saw making it’s Instagram rounds when the sequel came out this fall, from the same publisher as Dragon Blood!  I am all about clean reading books with wholesome messages, so I really want to thank Monster Ivy Publishing for taking on and publishing these awesome books!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Heartmender
  • Series: Heartmender, #1
  • Author: V. Romas Burton
  • Publisher & Release: Monster Ivy Publishing, September 2019
  • Length: 338
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟⚡ for essentially everyone

Here is the description from GoodReads:

In the land of Barracks, the economy thrives on the barter of their citizens’ most precious commodity—a human heart. Each year, the Heart Reign festival is thrown for those who have become of age to trade their hearts for their deepest desires. And this year is Adelaide Tye’s year to trade.

After despising Heart Reign for years, Addie endures her Extraction and discovers that her heart isn’t gray and dying, like all other hearts in Barracks, but bright red, alive, and teeming with power.

With a warning from the extractor of hearts, Addie rushes through Heart Reign to make her choice—trade her heart to Schism, the monster who took her brother years before, or go in search of the Mender—a mythical man said to purify hearts and save her own heart. Either decision will rip her away from the one man who has always been by her side.

Knowing there is only one real choice to make, Addie jumps through Schism’s red door and is thrust into a dark and dangerous realm where she is faced with making a trade she may not survive.

The story: Heartmender is about a world where people literally trade their hearts for just about anything. Wealth, beauty, love, clothes -they sell their souls for their greatest desire. One year, a monster comes to the town and offers a new trade: your heart, for an unknown choice. Addie’s brother jumps at this choice, for unknown reasons, and her life drastically changes.

The world: I think this is a really well built world. Weather, history, geography, myths and legends, food, social structure: it’s all there. Heart reign is well explained and I really, really absolutely love how the monster’s realm is described and crafted.

It pained me to dock any part of a star but I eventually had to, for something I call “world plausibility.” At first I joked that no one can live without a heart, and Burton laughed and said “all the heart surgery goes under ‘magic’.” I can deal with that, but it still has to be world plausible – like maybe the citizens have a second pacemaker or another organ that keeps them alive. Star Trek was really famously good at making bizarre medical stuff world plausible.

Characters: I liked Addie and her anxiety, and watching her becoming more confident as her choices were affirmed throughout the novel. Brave, selfless, loving, conflicted, loyal – all words to describe Addie. Claire and Silas seemed good characters too, and there were so many little mysteries to solve about them all that advanced as the story went on.

Christ/Life allegories: First off, the book is not preachy at all, although the Christ/Life allegories are hard to miss. As Addie travels through Schism’s realm, she has to overcome seven doors full of temptations and obstacles, that are clearly the seven deadly sins. Those who succumb to the temptations (gluttony, lust, etc) turn into terrible monsters. There are also multiple usages of darkness and light, the lantern/guide on Addie’s path, and asking for help when it’s needed. In the afterward, Burton makes note that sometimes the light may only show you a few steps at a time, but it never fully goes away.

The book’s main theme seems to be about choice, and it resonates. There is always a choice and one must consciously make the choice to continue moving forward. Regarding more doors and choices and Addie’s fears, my favorite quote of the novel is:

“Not all doors lead to darkness”

-The Heartmender

My personal takeaway: I struggle a lot with the outcomes of my life choices and sometimes find anxiety a barrier to making further choices, and I needed that message in my life. Addie has similar struggles with anxiety and moving forwards at times. Sometimes one’s choices DO lead to light and positive outcomes, and it’s better to keep fighting than to succumb to whatever temptation is keeping one stagnant or afraid.

Anyway – I digress – overall, this is definitely a great fantasy read with a largely wholesome message. I really can’t wait to read on to book 2 and get into the more questy, uniting the realm part of the storyline!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Book Review: Dragon Blood by Mary Beesley

Thank you so much to Monster Ivy Publishing for my gorgeous finished copy of Dragon Blood in exchange for an honest review! I’m so happy to have connected with a publisher that focuses on clean reads and can’t wait to read and share more of their books!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Dragon Blood
  • Series: Draco Sang Trilogy, #1
  • Author: Mary Beesley
  • Publisher & Release: Monster Ivy Publishing, November 2020
  • Length: 416 Pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 Yes!

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Cal, a hungry sixteen-year-old sick of mining the sand, wants to fit in and make his ma proud, but instead, his violent tendencies bring shame – And the truth. He’s the son of a Draco Sang. Carriers of the Dragon’s blood, the Draco Sang transform into half human, half beast, as they mature into adults. And if Cal can’t control the dark impulses of his dragon blood, he’ll grow into a man-beast – and he’ll be hunted.

Ferth, son of a Draco Sang chief and last of his class to grow claws, needs to prove his worth to his father, or he’ll be sent to the slave house. Hiding his human heart, he joins the army headed south to conquer the fertile human lands.

Neither brother feels they belong. Cal is human, fighting against becoming a beastly Draco Sang, while Ferth is struggling to push back his humanity and transform into a worthy Draco warrior.

Before ever meeting in open battle, Ferth is sent to kill Cal. But when he learns they are brothers, he must decide which loyalty is stronger, blood or country. And whether to finally give in to his humanity.

The story/plot:  This is an amazing story of two brothers on either side of a war, and the powers of nature vs nurture in one’s upbringing. I think the synopsis is a little spoilery – but it didn’t affect my reading, enjoyment, or surprise as I went along.  One of my favorite tropes is when siblings are on opposite sides of a war, so it did entice me to read the book originally.  Trust me, you know about as much as the brothers do as the book goes along.  The plot kept moving at a steady pace, the chapters were perfect lengths, and I really enjoyed the story in general.

The World: this is a young adult fantasy world where the Northern race, the Draco Sang, have animal personas. Similar to His Dark Materials, the more “human” Draco Sang have an animal partner, where the “beast” ones turn into something like the chimaera from Daughter of Smoke and Bone.  I promise you will actually like these White Wolves though.  To Cal and the humans on one side of the war, the Draco Sang are the monsters, the enemy. To Ferth and the rest of the Dragon descendents, the humans are weak, slaves, ripe to be conquered, and the Sang who reject their inner beast are at the highest level of blasphemy.

As well as a well developed conflict to set the stage for war, the world itself was so well developed.  The seasons change, the terrain is varied and well described.  I felt like I had a good handle on the layout and geography and climate.  There is food, camp roles, military strategy, wildlife, and many real life issues that deepen the level of world immersion.

The characters: I just can’t get over how well these characters are crafted and how each one transforms as their blood and family ties become less of a mystery. Cal isn’t meant to be liked at first, and Ferth is more of a lame but good guy, and they both quickly grew on me.  The inner conflicts are real and made sense, grappling with humanity vs inner beast.  It is an interesting study in nature vs nurture, with each brother having to reconcile his nature, his blood, with his own conscience, humanity, and upbringing. The secondary characters are a fully developed (but not overkilled) lot as well, and I love them. I know and hope we will be seeing a lot more of them in book two.

There is plenty of banter and loss and closeness and found family elements within Cal’s army unit.  I recently saw an Instagram question about which crew you would spend Christmas with? I would totally spend it with Cal, Ferth, his close little unit, the baby, and the entire military family.  It was just so heartwarming at the end.

And WHAT A BOLD ENDING!! I LOVE IT! No spoilers but oh my gosh I can’t wait for book 2 to come out!

Overall:  this is a great fantasy novel and it is entirely, completely appropriate for the young adult reading level. I also think the adults can enjoy it with no problem as I certainly did! I would totally recommend to anybody with even the slightest interest in the novel so far and for those seeking clean reads. Thank you so much again to Monster Ivy for my copy!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Book Review: Rise Above the Storm by Alpha Four

Hopefully everyone who celebrates had a great (socially distanced) Thanksgiving! I am thankful for all the authors who allow me to give their fantasy books a read and feature, and for their endless patience with my schedule and (now finally caught up, thankfully,) turnover time! Alpha Four is one of those authors and I hope you guys are adding his books to your TBR! Today I am featuring the Far Forest Scrolls book #3, Rise Above the Storm, and thank the author endlessly for my finished copy in exchange for a feature and honest review! All opinions are my own!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Rise Above the Storm
  • Series: Far Forest Scrolls #3
  • Author: Alpha Four
  • Publisher & Release: Far Forest Scrolls, August 2020
  • Length: 402 Pages
  • Rate & Recommend:  🌟🌟🌟🌟⚡    yes for fantasy fans 14+!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

The world tips into a barbarous conflict that threatens to drown the world in agony and bloodshed. The Chosen One is designated, but before the first quest is revealed the fragile League is already on shaky ground.

For a quick refresher on book one and book two, the reviews can be found in those clicky links!

The Plot: The Far Forest Scrolls books have been an overall slow burn for sure, but this book finally takes off running. All the major plot points and story lines from the prior books are connected and coming together in this installment. The elves have buried their dead in a most magical way (and I would have been bawling if I wasn’t already emotionally numb), and Bellae’s quest is finally underway. Now that the seeds of mistrust were sown in book 2, the initial skirmishes have begun in Verngaurd’s unavoidable civil war. I was impressed at how the White Wizard and dark warriors managed to completely break apart the alliances formed, giving the Proliates time to firm up their army and declare war. The political alliances and scheming were huge leading up to this, and despite Friar’s best efforts there seems to be no way to avoid war. The pacing in this book is excellent too, there wasn’t much downtime at all.

“If we keep our heart and stand together despite our fear, that is a victory”

-Friar

The Characters: The dwarves and eaglians are in the spotlight too now. I really liked Kainen and Arend and the other members of the League of Truth, which is now revealed to escort the chosen one on their quest. Or at least to the beginning of it. Despite gryphons in the sky and magicians trying to beat them off the path, I thought it was awesome that the dwarves and dragons and Eaglians were risking everything to protect Bellae and clear her way. Seeing her come into her maturity a bit (for a 7 year old) but also be appropriately vulnerable for her age made her seem very real. I think Lontas has a great character arc too finally. It was also nice to give Scelto some chapters and his own personality, which I enjoyed a lot. Jumeaux too. The other main part of Rise Above the Storm was allowing the side characters and other squires to experience the opposition and choose their heart’s alliance. Ritari and Luchar and the knights finally turned into real humans too and I feel a lot more invested in everyone’s outcome now.

“The future has the impressive ability of coming whether you want it to or not”

-Friar

The World: There isn’t much more I can say about the world, it is just absolutely amazing. Fully immersive. Terrain, temperature, weather, food, drawings and artwork of magical creatures and people, architecture, religion, politics, history, it’s all there. All of it. The forest of Creber was probably my favorite part as we got to see some of the traditions of the elves, including the burial rites. I mean even the smell of the dead. What does a blood spiral look like as a dragon rider falls? What about a flesh eating log or an eagle that just ripped apart a gryphon? A4 has you covered.

“There are many definitions of courage, but the greatest one I have heard? Marching forward, even full of fear, headlong into the darkness of the future”

-Vlug, the blue dragon

Continuing with much humor and wit, plus the trademark philosophical elements and more stunning artwork… and, darn it, another cliffhanger – I will be excited for news of the next book, I imagine next year. This is easily and by far my favorite of the series so far and I fully recommend the series to fantasy fans over the age of 14, due to some overly descriptive gore and death. Otherwise the books are fully appropriate with no foul language or romantic elements.

Have you read them? Want to read them? Have a favorite fantasy series? Drop a comment below!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Book Review: Hourglass of Destruction by Alpha Four

Happy pre-thanksgiving craziness to everyone!  I have been spamming the Far Forest Scrolls books on Instagram since I first read Na Cearcaill, see that review here.  I read book two, Hourglass of Destruction, a few months ago and just realized upon finishing the new release, Rise Above the Storm, that I never wrote about book 2 here!  I am so thankful to the author for providing finished copies for review purposes!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Hourglass of Destruction
  • Series: Far Forest Scrolls, book 2
  • Author: Alpha Four (A4)
  • Publisher & Release: Far Forest Scrolls, December 2019
  • Length: 294 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for fantasy fans!

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads;

Hope and jubilation are transient riding companions as the Knights and squires depart Castle Liberum for a tournament of nations. Those spurious emotions quickly evaporate, as a journey meant to unite the fracturing realms of Verngaurd promptly turns into a battle for survival.

Dark creatures spread roots of death and deceit, infecting ancient alliances, intent on turning the soil red with civil war. Can the Knights fight through the gathering enemy forces and turn back the coming storm before the sands of time run out?

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Hourglass Of Destruction picks up right where Na Cearcaill left off, in the middle of a plains battle. The dragons, dwarves, and allies survive despite heavy losses, and proceed to the Tournament of Flags, which is supposed to unite the allied kingdoms in games of strength and skill.

This book took on a much darker tone than book one. The allies are being driven apart by the Dark Warriors and evil White Wizard, certain sects framed for attacks in an effort to break alliances and ignite civil war. Seemingly successfully too.

The knights see just how deep the Proliates have nested into the cities, destroying libraries and reverting buildings into temples to their god Tallcon. How will the Knights and allies prevent war when it is so clearly brewing?

The treachery and betrayal and sadness ramp up as the knights suffer a huge loss among their own at the tournament. It was fun to see how the games took place, competitions and challenges are some of my favorite book events. Most of the action took place at the tournament so there is plenty of that, but also occurring is a deep exploration of the political meltdown that occurred and is occurring to shape the future of Verngaurd. The book also contains plenty of life wisdom, continuing that large philosophical contribution from book one

We finally meet Bellae’s protector as well, and learn more about the dragons. I love how the knights and squires lean on each other throughout the tournament, but there is still a level of detachment between the characters and the reader. I still love Bellae and Lontas and Finn, also Ritari is growing on me. I gotta say I saw it coming but the end of this one had me bawling.

Filled with plenty of amazing artwork and action for a book that only chronologically covers a few days, this is a great fantasy series for middle grade / YA / or anyone that likes their fantasy with a deep world build, plenty of battle and magic, and a philosophical twist.

Categories
Fantasy Middle Grade Paranormal Young Adult

ARC Review: The Door to Inferna by Rishab Borah

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

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Door to Inferna
  • Series: Elkloria #1
  • Author: Rishab Borah
  • Publisher & Release: Three Rooms Press, October 2020
  • Length: 236 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 sure for the middle graders!

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Fourteen-year-old Khioneus Nevula is beginning to realize something strange is going on. Adopted from unknown parentage, he has always been marked as different by his purple eyes.

Now a winter break that should have been nothing but goofing around with his best friends is haunted by some other presence—ghostly apparitions appear to him in the dark of night, the surface of his mirror ripples like a pool of water, and he dreams of a girl with a long blue braid who invents fantastical devices.

Drawn into a mystical land, he meets his twin sister, a proficient mage, a slightly mad scientist, and a princess. In this land where he is a prince, he finds himself and his friends caught in a war between the inhabitants of Elkloria and an ancient and powerful evil.

I am extremely impressed that a tween/teenager wrote this book.  He started when he was 11 and is now 16 so thats a huge accomplishment. That said – I can tell it was written by a youth, and, I think he did an absolutely phenomenal job. The story is nothing new, a teen gets whisked away to an alternate universe and finds out that he is more or less a “chosen one”.

That said, I like how he took an interplanetary and inter-dimensional route with the story line. I think the universes and dimensions and layers folded on top of each other (hints of a Wrinkle In Time almost) are super interesting. The transporters make things a bit convenient but hey – it’s for middle grade.

I think Borah does a pretty good job with world building too, the gadgets and architecture and spells and those talking doors are all pretty cool. I liked that we hear about the food, natives, some lore, and some of the religion / myths of the world too, it gives it depth.

The characters are pretty standard.  There are strong friendships, trust shown, also mistrust, overcoming that – and one awkward moment where one character had to put down a romantic awkwardness. I liked the found family element and how close the group of friends are though. Honestly the last page was the only part that threw me off, since at no other point was Khi worried about being or sounding truthful and that last paragraph just came out of nowhere.

Anyway – I 100% recommend for middle grade readers. Totally age appropriate, good descriptive language, easy to picture scenery, and a moderately diverse group of friends make this a great fantasy read for the age group. I think if he keeps writing, and I hope he does, that he’ll put out some great fantasy some day!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Blog Tour Stop! Born At Dawn by Christina Davis

     Thank you so much to TBR and Beyond Tours for having me on the tour for Born at Dawn!  First I’ll share the quick facts and synopsis, then a quick review and my favorite quotes (memorable moments) from the book!  Also make sure to scroll down and check out the other hosts, author info and book links!

Born Dawn

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Born At Dawn
  • Series: Da’Valia Trilogy – #1
  • Author: Christina Davis
  • Publisher & Release: Indie, November 15th 2020
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Length: 301 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes!

Here is the synopsis:

When a heist goes terribly wrong and the binding spell holding 17-year-old Neva’s powers at bay is shattered, the half-human thief knows she’s in trouble.

Neva has always hidden her Da’Valian heritage while working risky jobs to make a name for herself and serving at her family’s tavern, but she won’t be able to hide much longer. She can either risk the safety of those she cares about or seek out her mother’s people to gain control over her emerging powers.

The Da’Valia are beautiful, brutal creatures created by the god of war, and the austere Da’Valian soldier Astiand reluctantly agrees to take Neva to his clan under his protection. She makes unexpected friends, including the handsome fighter Emiliand, and a new enemy in the clan’s ruthless leader.

Spying on her guardian, the sly heroine quickly discovers just how deep she has stumbled into a dangerous, developing clan feud.

Will she be able to embrace who she is in time to keep her loved ones safe?

Overall I felt like I couldn’t read this book fast enough, and I know I can’t wait for the next book.  In a young adult fantasy era where authors tend to focus on terrible and repetitive inner monologues, Born At Dawn is a fast paced, plot driven book that manages to include a decent amount of world building and characterization as well.  

The species and clan relationships were well defined and the magic is definitely interesting as well.  I liked the flames and magic shields and ESPECIALLY the teamwork aspect of sharing both offensive and defensive magic.  The history of the Da’Valia was cool to learn about too, with the females born at dawn and a lighter color, and the males born at midnight of a darker coloring.  I wanted a little more history there but loved the concept.

My only two issues were that a lot of people and places and things had similar sounding names, so it was hard to keep apart – but there was a glossary in the back!  My other issue is why in the world, Neva, the main character who really is brave and resourceful and motivated and independent – would practically jump into bed with a jackass that lied and tried to keep her prisoner.  She seemed so much better than that!  (Note: only some kissing and horns stroking actually occured).  Oh…maybe the cover too- loved it, loved a glimpse of the city, but since Neva’s hair is long, where are her horns!! It was shorn when she was human to hide her ears!

I know I am supposed to focus on sharing my favorite quotes – but honestly I didn’t find many quotable passages.  A HUGE strength of the book was the consistently solid writing and it did not need purple prose to make it interesting or readable!  Nothing broke the flow of story for me and I loved the book for that reason!

So here are my favorite *spoiler free* memorable moments:

  • A time when Neva unleashed her inner power at a mountain in a very Alina Starkov-ish way, with the sun setting and the snow glowing orange – I cheered when she brought down an avalanche
  • A moment when Neva saw her mother’s ghost – a gift from the god of death – and while a little creepy, the ghost told Neva that she was “strong, powerful, and dangerous”
  • All the times that a hard-@$$ weapons master helped Neva, and the reasons she gave for doing so
  • The scene with my shippable couple – Neva and Emiliand – where they are practice fighting and having a conversation about being different breeds
  • And my favorite: the scene where Neva’s family and inner circle of thieves totally accepts her and Neva just feels so loved.  I had all the warm fuzzles for those people❤❤❤

I definitely can not wait for book two.  The clan battle is going to heat up and I hope Emiliand comes back, I just shipped that so hard.  I actually liked Neva’ s character which is rare for me in YA books and I want her to have an alliance – and romance? With someone who loves and fights for her, not imprisons her.

I also really hope for a Monazhi related prequel story at some point, the chapter intros weren’t enough!

Now that I have saved about the book forever – here is the link to the rest of the tour! I hope you will check out the other hosts!

TOUR SCHEDULE: Born at Dawn (Da’Valia Trilogy) by Christina Davis

About the author:

Christina_Davis

Christina Davis was raised in the Santa Cruz Mountains and is a California girl at heart. She spent much of her childhood in and out of hospitals and embraced reading as an escape. After being home-schooled through high school, she graduated summa cum laude from San Jose State University and attended NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute before embarking on a decade-long career in journalism. She enjoys chocolate, cosplay, coffee, and board games, but not necessarily in that order. She now lives in beautiful Monterey County with her husband and daughter.

Author Links:
Website: https://christinadaviswrites.wordpress.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ChristinaDavisWrites/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChristinaDWri
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChristinaDavisWrites

Book Links:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Born-Dawn-Fantasy-Adventure-DaValia-ebook/dp/B08CXRH4XL/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54981861-born-at-dawn