Categories
Fiction Young Adult

ARC Review: Hood by Jenny Elder Moke

  • Title: Hood
  • Series: no. stand alone
  • Author: Jenny Elder Moke
  • Publisher & Release: Disney – Hyperion, June 9th 2020
  • Length: 320 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ for fans of the genre!

Thank you so much to Disney Book Group via NetGalley for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Hood is actually the first Robin Hood retelling I have ever read.  It follows Robin & Marien’s daughter, Isabelle, as she learns her parents’ true identities and discovers her place in the world.

Here is the summary from GoodReads:

You have the blood of kings and rebels within you, love. Let it rise to meet the call.

Isabelle of Kirklees has only ever known a quiet life inside the sheltered walls of the convent, where she lives with her mother, Marien. But after she is arrested by royal soldiers for defending innocent villagers, Isabelle becomes the target of the Wolf, King John’s ruthless right hand. Desperate to keep her daughter safe, Marien helps Isabelle escape and sends her on a mission to find the one person who can help: Isabelle’s father, Robin Hood.

As Isabelle races to stay out of the Wolf’s clutches and find the father she’s never known, she is thrust into a world of thieves and mercenaries, handsome young outlaws, new enemies with old grudges, and a king who wants her entire family dead. As she joins forces with Robin and his Merry Men in a final battle against the Wolf, will Isabelle find the strength to defy the crown and save the lives of everyone she holds dear?

I don’t know much about the actual historic time period but rotten kings and dashing outlaws and overcoming oppression always attracted me to the Robin Hood story.  Even with little to no historical knowledge, Hood makes a great story.  I loved seeing Isabelle grow in confidence and strength, and was so happy when she made a few choice excellent bow & arrow shots.

The characters are great, I never felt too attached to any of them but they are a witty, loyal bunch of mixed talents. The banter in Hood is definitely note worthy.  Isabelle’s romance probably could have been left out – I didn’t see any context to it – but the Robin and Marien love story was PERFECT. Truly perfect.  What a pompous ass Robin was 😂

The pacing was very well done as well, plenty of action spread out so that I never got bored.  I read the book in two sittings and enjoyed it fully.  Between the plot itself, the characters, and the absolutely excellent ending, I would definitely recommend this one to young adult readers and fans of these types of legends.

I docked the star for a tad bit of repetitive language and for not feeling the romance aspect at all.

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

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
Dystopian Horror Young Adult

Book Review: The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

  • Title: The Grace Year
  • Series: No, Standalone
  • Author: Kim Liggett
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books (October, 2019)
  • Length: 407 pages
  • Rating & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes

Here is the description from GoodReads:

No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

In Garner County, girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, to drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for a chance to grab one of the girls in order to make a fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

Thankfully I finally picked this one up! It was a buddy read with two Instagram friends and we had a great time talking about the book. There are a ton of good points for Book Club discussions and a lot of aspects left open to interpretation/imagination, which makes The Grace Year an ideal buddy read pick.

The plot is absolutely unique to me.  16 year old girls are sent out during their “Grace Year” to lose the magic that they are allegedly born with.  There is a definite Salem Witch Trials vibe as the men have total control of the society and can accuse women of magic at any time, resulting in hanging.

The book is definitely a bit violent at times, everything from bullying to hanging to men harvesting girls for body parts. There is scalping, missing fingers, and more than a few bloody crazy people to deal with.  I didn’t find it terribly graphic though, the grade 9+ (high school and onwards) actually seems appropriate.

Tierney is the main character and a black sheep of sorts among the other Grace Year girls.  She has survival skills and finds a nemesis in Kiersten, the leader of the pack of girls and….. I’ll argue that she’s the main antagonist too.  I didn’t really love the characters though and found the plot/story itself to be my main point of enjoyment.

The pacing is fantastic as well. I read the first half steadily and the second half in one sitting.  It just got too good to put down, even if I wasn’t connecting with the girls.  The little mysteries and end of exile, building team work, then the conclusion were all pretty engrossing.

I had a LOT of questions though, which again all make great book club discussions.   Where is this isolated town with such a Handmaid’s Tale type society? One main and lovely recurring theme is the use of flowers for language, since apparently a bunch of immigrants converged at some point, so where did they come from? Was this a planned, constructed society and how did it evolve? Also what time period is the book taking place in? Is the recurring life from death theme enough to explain the ending?  Did the love story really make any sense at all?

I liked the grim outlook of the book. A lot of young adult books aren’t written to be so desolate with only little shoots of hope poking through. I liked the grim realizations that the women and girls were too busy clawing for standing to help each other and have unity.  It is a very good but not very happy book and I think it’s absolutely great.

I guess the biggest question is – is the magic real?

I totally recommend for anyone 16+. I think it’s a little too much for younger readers but teens, definitely, and adults alike can enjoy this.  Be warned away now though if you hate open endings.

Thank you as always for reading! Have you read The Grace Year? Want to discuss it? Drop a comment!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Book Review: Warrior of the Wild by Tricia Levenseller

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

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

Here is the description from Goodreads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Fantasy Middle Grade Young Adult

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

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

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

Here is the description from GoodReads:

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

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

The stakes have never been higher.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

ARC Review: Dark Skies by Danielle Jensen

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

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

Here is the description from Amazon:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Categories
Fantasy Science Fiction Young Adult

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

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

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

Here is the description from Goodreads:

What would you do to save a sister?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Book Tour! Review: Trial by Obsidian by Naomi Kelly

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

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

Here is the description from Amazon:

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

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

Hiding is no longer an option.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The author can be found on Instagram @NaomiKellyWriting

Here is the link to the book on Amazon: 

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

ARC Review: Ruthless Gods by Emily Duncan

I have been sitting on this review for weeks and with the release now imminent, I should probably post it.  I believe the review is spoiler free for both books.

Thank you so much to Wednesday Books via NetGalley for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own.

I read Wicked Saints as an ARC last year and enjoyed the basis of the story, but if you all remember I just absolutely hate her writing style. I found Duncan’s writing repetitive to the nauseatingly “I need to skim” point of being terrible.  A good author would take that significant round of criticism from Wicked Saints and build a better novel in Ruthless Gods….but OH god was I wrong in thinking it would happen.  (My review of Wicked Saints

Here is the description for Ruthless Gods:

Darkness never works alone…

Nadya doesn’t trust her magic anymore. Serefin is fighting off a voice in his head that doesn’t belong to him. Malachiasz is at war with who–and what–he’s become.

As their group is continually torn apart, the girl, the prince, and the monster find their fates irrevocably intertwined. They’re pieces on a board, being orchestrated by someone… or something. The voices that Serefin hears in the darkness, the ones that Nadya believes are her gods, the ones that Malachiasz is desperate to meet—those voices want a stake in the world, and they refuse to stay quiet any longer.

The first thing to note is that book one was supposed to be Nadya’s (HAHAH), this is  Serefin’s (got it, he was no hero though) and book three is to be Malachiasz’s.  I don’t think Duncan is doing a great job of clarifying this but Serefin did have a very large, if not incidentally passive at times role in this book.  I will come back to him later on but do appreciate the title character having a firmer role.

So. Duncan’s writing. If I had to read “*one of 5 adjectives* + boy” one more time I would have DNF’d, and almost did. Again.  Duncan has the continent’s ENTIRE future political leadership trekking across the country together in this book and all they do is continue to pine and chase each other’s tails. Maybe the hunter couldn’t have done much politically but can we treat Serefin like the actual king of Tranavia? The entire trek could have been EPIC and brilliant and all we got was more of “blah blah I was betrayed blah and now I’m afraid but let’s kiss again…” and Nadya’s broken record just played, and played, and played.  The plot and mechanisms did advance but it took a lot of weeding through nonsense to get there.

Oh yeah, Nadya thinks that she learned but she really learned nothing from book 1 and she’s still terrible. She is changing but doesn’t seem to be internalizing any of her lessons, although Kostya comes back long enough to force some true self-reflection. That particular dynamic was surprising and one of the more interesting ones.  Nadya is basically a punching bag and while she knows it, she doesn’t seem to care.

Duncan did do a better job showing monstrosity versus just talking about it, but again it was so repetitive. I liked the shifting faces and did like her take on the gods and monsters and older beings, but she could have used Nadya’s broken record headspace to talk more about some of the Slavic lore she was throwing out in names and titles only. That is something I’d like to have read about.  Think Winternight Trilogy – if you’re going to mention the Chyerti why not talk about them?

Serefin was my favorite character again because he is amazing, even though Duncan turned him into the token “other” character. I really think Ostyia would have been enough in that department but she got sidelined plot wise. Serefin and his moths and his bad vision and his nonexistent brutality (talk talk talk, never shown) just make me happy, and I think he had the most interesting arc in this book. If nothing else Duncan did use his and Malachiasz’s time together to explain all of the Tranavian political hierarchy that was missing from Wicked Saints.  I fully enjoyed the parts in Serefin’s head where he was grappling with the God-Monster-Deity-Chyerti-Other.

The ending sounded cool but that last sentence…was a terrible word choice.  It sounded cool but ENTROPY doesn’t even fit, just say his name already.  It was almost enough of a cliffhanger to make me think about book 3, but the plot is not enough to cancel out Duncan’s writing. I will be waiting for the cliffnotes version.

Last but not least: the @OneReadingNurse infamous medical rant. Have you ever actually seen a pupil blow? I have. Someone having a stroke? A blown pupil is TERRIFYING, and having someone’s pupils “blow open” is A TERRIBLE choice of phrase for someone surprised or experiencing adrenaline. Not only that but I think it was used at least 3 times throughout the book and I just don’t understand why an editor didn’t clam this up

This is the second book this year that shut me down in the middle of a trilogy, *cough* Heart of Flames * cough*.  These are the authors that must not read their critical reviews and editorial advice at all.  I haven’t posted it yet but when I feature The Silvered Serpents, I will highlight and throw praises down on Roshani Chokshi for elevating her second book above and beyond the first in every conceivable way.  Duncan and Pau Preto need to learn from her!

In summary: if you liked Wicked Saints, read Ruthless Gods, if not or if you were on the fence, stay away. Ruthless Gods IS marginally better but I personally can’t do it for a third novel.

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

ARC Review: Of Silver and Shadow by Jennifer Gruenke

Thank you so much to North Star Editions: Flux for the ward via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Here is the description from GoodReads:

Ren Kolins is a silver wielder—a dangerous thing to be in the kingdom of Erdis, where magic has been outlawed for a century. Ren is just trying to survive, sticking to a life of petty thievery, card games, and pit fighting to get by. But when a wealthy rebel leader discovers her secret, he offers her a fortune to join his revolution. The caveat: she won’t see a single coin until they overthrow the King.

Behind the castle walls, a brutal group of warriors known as the King’s Children is engaged in a competition: the first to find the rebel leader will be made King’s Fang, the right hand of the King of Erdis. And Adley Farre is hunting down the rebels one by one, torturing her way to Ren and the rebel leader, and the coveted King’s Fang title.

But time is running out for all of them, including the youngest Prince of Erdis, who finds himself pulled into the rebellion. Political tensions have reached a boiling point, and Ren and the rebels must take the throne before war breaks out.

If you know me, you already know that all the And’s and But’s in the summary are driving me crazy; I do hope that this won’t be the books final description. It is a common error to start sentences like that (cough Caraval books) but we were always taught that it was not proper English.

Anyway!  Magic in the form of Silver has been outlawed in the country of Erdis for years.  The Kingdom’s bloody history includes a huge genocide of magic wielders and a systematic eradication of trade routes and immigration from areas where refugees fled.  The King is a murderous bastard, the crown prince is even worse, and the youngest prince is the snarky one that wants nothing to do with royalty.  He reminded me of Nikolai except he’s a pit lord, not a privateer.

The rebellion is seeking to overthrow the crown and has been planting seeds to do so since before Darek (this generation’s rebel  leader) and Ren were born.  The characters are pretty well described in the summary.  There is a lot of squabbling (or sexual tension) between a few of them, but the book has a lot of quite well done banter.  I just kept being reminded of Nikolai with the whole second prince syndrome.

Silver is just an innate ability like fire wielding or any other mage ability.  It seems to be the only magical ability in the kingdom.  Silver can be used for anything from lockpicking to torture to making a giant silver lion appear – like an illusion with substance.  The king uses it to torture people while Ren picks locks and destroys ships… I felt like we were deprived of a good mage fight.  I wanted to see silver vs silver in combat.  While it is a simple enough magic system, and a cool ability, it’s a bit underdeveloped.  Hopefully there will be more explanation in book two.

The world building is really excellent in some places.  The descriptions of the city, buildings, river, mood, political structure, and tension in the city were real.  We even got to see the festival, some food, and see some music and entertainment.   The characters used English slang though, in high quantity.  It isn’t a bad thing but I forgot this was a YA book while reading. There actually isn’t a lot of magic since only the Royalty and Ren wield it now, and seeing as there wasn’t other magic described in the world…. This isn’t quite low fantasy but the fantastical aspect is limited to silver wielding.

Speaking of age appropriateness: the tortures used in the book aren’t for the fainthearted!  I enjoyed reading a book with some teeth, but kind of had it in my head that I was reading an adult fantasy.  I enjoyed it though. Flaying skin and muscle, blood and arrows stabbed and sliced in unconventional ways, courtesy of Adley and Lesa.  I cringed a few times during torture scenes😳 As long as I’m talking about those two, they are a pair of women but the worst that they do is pine and kiss and pine some more.  Otherwise for romance, two characters hook up off page.  I kind of feel like if we get to read about Adley flaying off a guy’s skin, we could have read about Darek in bed, but to each their own.

The pacing of the entire book was good, fast, and then the last maybe 100 pages were BREAKNECK!! I could not put it down!

All in all I think older teens and young adults are a good audience for the book.  I actually enjoyed it as an adult. The most eye-rolling thing that happened was how often the two coupled pairs eyed each other before getting it over with, but some scenes definitely require a slightly more mature audience.

My original instinct was 5stars for the last part of the book – but overall I will go with a strong, strong four.  Thank you again to the publisher for the advanced read!