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!

Categories
Middle Grade Paranormal Science Fiction Young Adult

ARC Review: Catalyst by Tracy Richardson

  • Title: Catalyst
  • Series: The Catalysts, #2 (reads as a standalone though!!)
  • Author: Tracy Richardson
  • Publisher & Release: Brown Books Publishing Group: June 2, 2020
  • Length: 248 pages
  • Rating & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for younger readers

Thank you so much to Books Forward for my advanced copy of Catalyst by Tracy Richardson!  This is the second book in a series but reads as a standalone with no spoilers, so no worries there.

Here is the description from Goodreads:

Marcie Horton has a sixth sense. Not in the “I see dead people” way, but . . . well, maybe a little. She feels a sort of knowing about certain things that can’t be explained – an intuition that goes beyond the normal. Then there was that one summer four years ago, when she connected with a long-departed spirit . . . But nothing that incredible has happened to Marcie since.

This summer, Marcie is spending time working at Angel Mounds, the archeological dig her mother heads, along with her brother, Eric, and his girlfriend, Renee. The dig is the site of an ancient indigenous civilization, and things immediately shift into the paranormal when Marcie and her teammates meet Lorraine and Zeke. The two mysterious dig assistants reveal their abilities to access the Universal Energy Field with their minds-something Marcie knows only vaguely that her brother has also had experience with.

Marcie learns how our planet will disintegrate if action is not taken, and she and her team must decide if they are brave enough to help Lorraine and Zeke in their plan to save Mother Earth, her resources, and her history. It looks like the summer just got a lot more interesting.

This book contains a lot of really great messages for young readers, first and foremost the environmental consequences of our actions.  Marcie and her team are dealing with an energy company that wants to expand fracking in the area, and there is a great amount of info about that and other environmental disasters.

Marcie has an interesting character arc as well.  She knows there is something about the world that she can sense, but isn’t sure what it is.  With the help of Zeke and Lorraine, two grad students on the dig, Marcie and the other teens learn about the Universal Energy Field and the implications of the fourth, fifth, and dimensions beyond.  Leo is the other main character and provides the opposing point of view on fracking, as his father works for the energy industry.   Their relationship is interesting because it pretty accurately portrays how teens have trouble with opposing viewpoints, and how to talk around issues and make compromises. I really shipped them.

I’m also Greek and ran cross country and share a name with the alien space ship…so…yeah, there are those things too.  I liked Marcie a lot.  The book reminds me of The Celestine Prophecies, which I was obsessed with in high school, and I’m really glad that this generation of young readers gets a book like this too.

The book turns from fairly normal, to paranormal, to sci-fi Jesus in a spaceship REAL quick, and I loved it.  I thought the context of spiritual leaders made sense, since it would be pretty egocentric to assume that the gods and goddesses and religious leaders are only dedicated to one planet.  The sci-fi element is definitely a bit out there in left field but it worked for me.

The book is relatively short at 248 pages.  The pacing is pretty even and I’m sad that it took me so long to start because once I did, I read it in two sittings.  I was never bored at all. I would totally and fully recommend this for teen readers as an environmentally and self-conscious read that has some great examples of conflict resolution and interpersonal relationships within the team.

The paperback releases on September 22nd, while the Kindle version released on June 2nd.

Have you read it? Want to discuss it? Let me know!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Book Review: The Kinder Poison by Natalie Mae

  • Title: The Kinder Poison
  • Series: Yes – The Kinder Poison #1
  • Author: Natalie Mae
  • Publisher & Release: Razorbill – June 16, 2020
  •  Length: 416 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for fans of the genre

Thank you so much to Bookish First and Razorbill for my finished copy of The Kinder Poison!  It is a gorgeous hardcover and for my fellow book sniffers, has that great sawdust smell 😂

Here is the description from Goodreads:

Perfect for fans of Victoria Aveyard and Holly Black, this enthralling fantasy adventure follows a teenage girl chosen to be the human sacrifice in a deadly game between three heirs who will do anything for the crown.

Zahru has long dreamed of leaving the kingdom of Orkena and having the kinds of adventures she’s only ever heard about in stories. But as a lowly Whisperer, her power to commune with animals means that her place is serving in the royal stables until the day her magic runs dry.

All that changes when the ailing ruler invokes the Crossing: a death-defying race across the desert, in which the first of his heirs to finish—and take the life of a human sacrifice at the journey’s end—will ascend to the throne and be granted unparalleled abilities.

With all of the kingdom abuzz, Zahru leaps at the chance to change her fate if just for a night by sneaking into the palace for a taste of the revelry. But the minor indiscretion turns into a deadly mistake when she gets caught up in a feud between the heirs and is forced to become the Crossing’s human sacrifice. Zahru is left with only one hope for survival: somehow figuring out how to overcome the most dangerous people in the world.

Tons of sibling rivalry, a magical and dangerous race, a taste of political intrigue, and some interesting family dynamics are all aspects that drew me to – and kept me interested in the book while reading.

The sibling rivalry is the base for the entire plot, so lets start there.  One of the three has to make it across the desert first and complete the sacrifice in order to become the new ruler.  First we meet Sakira who might love to party and appear reckless, but is ruthless and refuses to be dismissed.  Kasta is the eldest and has a paranoid darkness about him. Jet is the second son, not wanting the kingdom but determined to see his sister safely in charge.

The history between the siblings and the Royal family make up most of the background and world building of the book.  The book is SO character driven that it makes most sense to talk about those relationships.  They are complicated, real, interesting, and all competing for their father’s approval, as well of that of the nation and the innate power given by completing the human sacrifice.

Each sibling is competing with a team of 2 helpers, and the dynamics within the groups are all so different and equally entertaining.  Kasta I think had the most interesting group, including a demon shifter named Maia.  Her story is totally heartbreaking and between her demon aspect and Kasta’s insanity, they set up the main twist for book 2.  The best part was that for every twist and turn and bit of character development…..right until the very, very end, I had NO damn idea who was going to win that race.

The race itself isn’t all that interesting, the groups do have some hurdles to overcome but most of the barriers come from the sibling detaining each other or trying to kidnap the human sacrifice, Zahru. I haven’t talked about her yet because she’s literally a stable girl that snuck into the palace, and somehow is the bravest person ever. She has no interesting backstory, no anecdotes like the siblings have, no life story that indicates where she got her cunning from….and I docked a star for yet another boring lead.  Thankfully the siblings carried it.

Each sibling really was truly and uniquely interesting enough to make me keep reading the book quickly.  I liked Jet a lot, he is the main male character (ish) and I might have liked to stroll in the starlit desert with him too. Ha.

Just to touch on the magic system – almost everyone is born with some magical talent in the land of Orkena.  From animal whisperers to sound benders and firespinners, everyone has a place.  There was nothing terribly extraordinary about this but some of the individual talents were cool.

There was a lot of vivid imagery and good scenic descriptions of everything from clothes to horses to the land.  I like Mae’s writing style because there is just enough prose and banter to make her story seem real, but not enough to make it purple and boring.  I wish there was more world building – but this book had to focus on establishing the character background and future political rivalries as well as the Crossing itself.  The history that mattered was there, some quite brutal, but what about the mood of the people in general? The surrounding nations that are brewing this war/conflict going forward?

All in all, definitely a great read if you like sibling rivalries, friendships, banter, danger and magic, with a twist of romance, all swirled into one cunning race for the future of the kingdom.  I would definitely recommend it.

Thank you again to Bookish First and Razorbill for my copy, all opinions are my own!

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

Categories
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!