Categories
Fantasy

Iron Garland by Jeff Wheeler (Book Thoughts)

It looks like Wyrd & Wonder month is turning into a binge of the Harbinger series by Jeff Wheeler.  They are quick reads thankfully because I am dying to jump into Deadhouse Gates because yes, Malazan is life now LOL.

Iron Garland is the first book I have blogged this month that is eligible for the Wyrd & Wonder bingo board, so…. I am using it for the prompt “Don’t leave the path”.  While it’s not in a woodland connotation, the first reason is that the world of Lockhaven and high society is so strict in societal norms for women that a single misstep in a dance, a single breach of propriety, crossing the wrong person, any small thing can derail a woman’s prospects. Stay on that path! The second “path” is that of the Mastons. There is a very different set of beliefs and guidelines for Mastons (think like religious norms with divine guidance) that also set a strict path for these people.  While the Knowing won’t abandon people for making mistakes and learning from them, it gets harder and harder to get back on the right path after straying due to the way society and debt is structured, plus the influence of the Myriad ones.

Now that I’ve talked about the prompt, let’s briefly talk about the book! Spoiler free of course. My reviews for the series so far are linked at the bottom!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Iron Garland
  • Series: Harbinger #3
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North – November 2018
  • Length: 353 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 absolutely keep the series going

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:

For three years, Sera Fitzempress has been a pawn in a gilded prison—the floating manor of Pavenham Sky. Disgraced and exiled from society, she has been isolated from the downtrodden she’s determined to liberate. But although Sera may seem subservient on the outside, the stubborn princess has only become emboldened.

Now in charge of her family’s estate, Cettie Pratt has grown into an independent young woman, although she continues to be tested by the high society of the clouds. Advancing in the magic of the Mysteries, Cettie is also a useful tool of defense during turbulent times. However, as more of Cettie’s mysterious past comes to light, her greatest challenge may be a reckless stranger with a dark secret.

The fog of war is drawing in, and with it comes a startling new enemy who may unravel secrets that both women would prefer stay hidden. But their secrets may be the only way to stop the coming darkness…

Ok I know I didn’t love Mirror Gate so much but Wheeler brings all the stops out in Iron Garland.

Wheeler assumes now that we are familiar enough with both the Harbinger and Kingfountain worlds to drop all pretenses and world building fluff and tell the story.

Sera absolutely shines in this one.  It is the growth and power I have been waiting for from her! Three years have passed since she was figuratively imprisoned at Pavenham Sky, and as much as we hate to admit it, Lady Corinne gave her the tools she needed to succeed at court.  I was thrilled to see Sera at Kingfountain and I think Prince Trevon will be interesting going forward as well.

One exciting thing is that Wheeler tells us something about an old Kingfountain legend – the Maid of Donremy – that I won’t share for spoiler alerts but it brings the entire war of hard feelings into perspective and raises a lot of thoughts too.

Cettie is powerful as well in this novel and I am both happy and sad for her.  I think we all knew by now that Cettie was to be the Harbinger, that’s not a spoiler, and it was joyful to see her stand up to her adopted siblings and come into her own as Keeper of Fog Willows.  Towards the end though, was she losing her mind? It is entirely out of character for Cettie to ignore a prized possession going missing and someone clearly meddling with her business items.  There is absolutely no way she wouldn’t have confronted anyone about this or pursued it until she had answers, I just don’t believe it.

Action wise – the book opens with a ghastly murder, contains the end of a war, a hunt for a Fear Liath, and some absolutely stunning duplicity towards the end.  The cliffhanger is as equally alarming as the beginning and the book hardly slows down in between. This is what I expect from Wheeler, nothing less at this point!

Lastly I should mention the new residents of Gimmerton Sough, the manor next to Fog Willows – I can’t say too much but the foreshadowing throughout the early part of the novel is obvious and real. You don’t know exactly what the foreshadowing is pointing to but you know to be very, very alert for issues and when they start popping up, oh my 😭 I am so worried for my Fitzroy siblings that I’m going to start Prism Cloud today

Can you think of any books where characters must stay on a literal or figurative path??


The Harbinger Series:

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

Mirror Gate by Jeff Wheeler (Book Thoughts)

I saved my Mirror Gate review to fall on the Wyrd & Wonder prompt 5-Star Fantasy! It wouldn’t be a fantasy reading month if I didn’t finish and feature at least one book by Wheeler. See my review links for prior books in the series at the end!

While I didn’t give Mirror Gate 5 stars (sorry but I already read Muirwood) – I can constantly rely on Jeff Wheeler for clean, wholesome fantasy that keeps me absorbed from cover to cover. More often than not his books breeze 5 stars for me. 

**One last note before talking about the book – holy cow did anyone see the release day numbers for Druid?? It slammed #1 in both epic and historical fantasy for both book and Kindle form!! Wheeler’s fans were READY for it!**

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Mirror Gate
  • Series: Harbinger #2
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North, August 2018
  • Length: 349 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes to this world colliding series

Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

Wall Street Journal bestselling author Jeff Wheeler continues his wondrous Harbinger series in which two young women unite as two worlds approach the brink of war…

Though relations between Princess Seraphin Fitzempress and her father have been strained, Sera’s royal position has remained unchallenged. Filled with self-doubt, she struggles to grasp the Mysteries—her greatest trial yet.

An education in the enigmatic magic is a necessary one, should Sera plan to rise in her station and invoke her powers during war. But the emperor’s death now leaves both Sera and her ambitious father eligible for the throne—a contest the prince regent intends to win. Even if it means an alliance with a rival empire.

Sera’s hope lies in Cettie, a waif raised in the world below, whose life has intertwined with Sera’s in the most unexpected ways. The Mysteries come easily to Cettie, and her studies have begun to yield new insight into her growing powers. But those same powers put Cettie in the path of those who would destroy her.

Now as the threat of war ignites and an insidious sickness spreads throughout the kingdom, Sera and Cettie will need to gather their courage and fight for each other’s lives…and for the future of their endangered world.

Mirror Gate jumps about 4 years into the future after Storm Glass left off. Cettie and Sera are about to take the test at Muirwood Abbey, but dark machinations are working against them.  There was more action and excitement in this book than the first one!

With the Emperor now dead, Sera’s father will scheme up literally anything to get her out of his way to the throne. Unfortunately the odds are against her as war also brews with Kingfountain(!) and she just doesn’t have the experience needed to step into office yet

“I apologize if I’ve embarrassed you, Mr. Skrelling,” she said. “I think it for the best if you depart and compose your feelings”

– Cettie

I love Cettie. She brought back a lot of old Muirwood memories including the cruciger orb, kestrals, the myriad ones, and even a kishion. While it was nice to revisit this lore, my gut told me to dock a star for rehashing old ideas instead of bringing in new ones, regardless of how it all ties together.

I liked seeing Cettie & Sera and think the page time recapping Muirwood lore would have been better spent showing their growing relationship or time at the Abbey, vs catapulting them 4 years ahead to BFF status.

There’s a new character named Juliana who was just amazing! She is utterly fierce and added a lot to the plot, action, and banter

“Hang the Aldermaston!” Juliana barked. Doctor Redd covered his eyes, shaking his head worriedly.

One thing I especially liked was how Wheeler brought back an idea that @niseam_stories also wrote extensively on – that bizarre, harmful, misleading thoughts may either come from outside influence or our mind trying to play ticks. We should be wary and critical of those thoughts. 

The mind could only think of one thing at a time, and she had every right to control what those thoughts would be

Wheeler is big on thoughts influencing actions.

One thing I didn’t like was in one of the Aldermaston’s lectures, Wheeler got lost in the theology and dropped a few phrases like ‘second life’ that needed explanation. Also while the colliding world theme was cool, it was kind of hard to see Kingfountain as a conquering nation of zealots, with submarines? How long after Trynne’s storyline did this occur?

Overall: betrayal, political machinations galore, more betrayal, more intrigue, and all of the above is exactly what I love about these books. I picked it apart but really immensely enjoy this world. 

The end left the characters in interesting places and I am extremely excited to read the next book in the series. War is beginning, Sera is trapped, and Cettie is learning how deep found family truly runs.

Kate Rudd is an amazing narrator too, I hope she keeps narrating all of Wheeler’s books!

The Harbinger Series

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

Storm Glass by Jeff Wheeler (Book Thoughts)

Hi book friends! I have had an absolutely phenomenal reading time in April, including finally starting the Harbinger series.

Look at that cover, do you even need any other incentive to pick up the series?

I flew through Storm Glass in about a day with a mix of reading and listening.  I like Wheeler’s books because they are entertaining and interesting while not being overly complicated, making for quick reads.

Read if:  regency England with a steampunk twist imposed on a fantasy setting of floating  estates sounds good!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Storm Glass
  • Series: Harbinger #1
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North, June 2018
  • Length: 367 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 for clean fantasy fans

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:

Theirs is a world of opposites. The privileged live in sky manors held aloft by a secretive magic known only as the Mysteries. Below, the earthbound poor are forced into factory work to maintain the engine of commerce. Only the wealthy can afford to learn the Mysteries, and they use their knowledge to further lock their hold on society.

Cettie Pratt is a waif doomed to the world below, until an admiral attempts to adopt her. But in her new home in the clouds, not everyone treats her as one of the family.

Sera Fitzempress is a princess born into power. She yearns to meet the orphan girl she has heard so much about, but her father deems the girl unworthy of his daughter’s curiosity.

Neither girl feels that she belongs. Each seeks to break free of imposed rules. Now, as Cettie dreams of living above and as Sera is drawn to the world below, they will follow the paths of their own choosing.

Both girls will be needed for the coming storm that threatens to overturn their worlds

So I finally got around to starting the Harbinger series, and I’m not disappointed at all. I always make a point of reading the author’s note of a book first, so I knew a little bit about what to expect including that Wheeler wanted to write a historical fiction but ended up imposing that setting into another fantastically built fantasy world.

Imagine the strictest social hierarchy, privilege versus poor, strict governesses, early discovery, factories, even zeppelins.  I think it was interesting that Wheeler started bringing technology and steampunk vibes into a book and one of the main themes is how the characters take new science and incorporate it into their world view. Is it Mystery (magic) or mystery (something yet to be discovered)?  I also liked how these themes are tied directly to the magic in the world.

I love the world building, the rich estates and gardens, waterfalls, and how they contrast with the dirt poor factory districts below teeming with sickness and poverty.

How can you beat a system designed to keep the poor poor, the rich in debt, and everyone except the tip-top of the Elite in check? Hmm

Cettie and Sera are both great protagonists and I can’t wait to follow them through the series. Each is a strong-willed young woman and for once I think that Wheeler actually made children (think around 12, preteen,) seem age appropriate.

Cettie came from the Fells, one of the poor factory districts, and is adopted into a rich floating family estate by a kind military leader. Sera is a princess (!!!A descendent of Maia and Collier about 200 years down the line!!!) who will eventually battle her father for the Empire.

There are whole bunch of Side characters that are worth mentioning too, including Cettie’s new adopted siblings and an estate keeper who is easily as evil as Umbrage!

The plot is quick moving, there is not much down time at all.  There are some hints that end up being obvious and I’m sure some obvious points will turn into surprises later on in the series.

This is also a series that ties into the Muirwood books, in that it takes place in the same world and Muirwood Abbey plus an Aldermaston have a cameo at the end.  I am excited to see more of this setting in the next book.  There is also a Kingfountain tie-in and a mention of a Bhiku, I believe from the Dryad-Born series. I think it’s wild to try to envision all these stories taking place in the same world.

One comment I want to make is to reply to a few people saying they feel that reading this series is like reading the Book of Mormon: …. Ack, I get it but I don’t feel it, yet at least.  Historically the human race makes sense of the world and each individual reality through stories, faith, folk tales, fantasy, but the point is: stories.  Even if part or much of the books is an allegory, the vibe I get is that the characters are deeply attuned to learning and some, like Cettie, are more in concert with the Mysteries (faith, magic, sentience, etc) than others.  I know Wheeler can get preachy (what do you expect from a pastor?) but as I said, I’m not feeling it here, simply a story making sense of the world’s history as he sees it, and I personally love the science and faith intertwining into the characters world view.

Long story short: magic, danger, excitement, propriety and society, learning, debt and tithes, more magic, found family to the max,  and willful young women ready to take on the hierarchy!

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

Star Mother (Book Review) by Charlie N. Holmberg

My head is still hurting from a few recent extremely dense reads. Looking for something lighter I turned to Holmberg, an author I can count on for a faster paced, magical read without too many details bogging it down – and was not disappointed.

Her latest duology, Star Mother, came out this winter and I have had it on my radar. I love her books when I need something cute and addictive without investing a wealth of brain power.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Star Mother
  • Series: Star Mother #1
  • Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North, 11/01/21
  • Length: 268 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌞🌞🌞🌞 for romantic fantasy fans or an intro to fantasy

Here is the synopsis via Amazon:

A woman’s heart proves as infinite as the night sky in a breathtaking fantasy by Wall Street Journal bestselling author Charlie N. Holmberg.

When a star dies, a new one must be born.

The Sun God chooses the village of Endwever to provide a mortal womb. The birthing of a star is always fatal for the mother, and Ceris Wenden, who considers herself an outsider, sacrifices herself to secure her family’s honor and take control of her legacy. But after her star child is born, Ceris does what no other star mother has: she survives. When Ceris returns to Endwever, however, it’s not nine months later—it’s seven hundred years later. Inexplicably displaced in time, Ceris is determined to seek out her descendants.

Being a woman traveling alone brings its own challenges, until Ceris encounters a mysterious—and desperate—godling. Ristriel is incorporeal, a fugitive, a trickster, and the only being who can guide Ceris safely to her destination. Now, as Ceris traverses realms both mortal and beyond, her journey truly begins.

Together, pursued across the Earth and trespassing the heavens, Ceris and Ristriel are on a path to illuminate the mysteries that bind them and discover the secrets of the celestial world.

The Plot: This is a fast paced story about a mortal woman who chooses to bear a child of the Sun. I fully enjoyed her journey and watching her develop relationships with both the Sun and *the quintessentially complicated  dark/mysterious/brooding man who is quite a mystery*.  The plot is pretty unique and I enjoyed the idea of the story and lore behind it.

The Magic: In regular Holmberg fashion, she gives the reader just enough lore to understand the world and appreciate the magical elements. The magic held by the celestial beings and their legends felt very folklore ish to me.  The book avoids a few complicated rabbit holes (Time not making sense, for one example), by saying that the Gods only need to know certain things. Then the tides and universe run on Starpower – so it’s something different but all vaguely explained.  I liked the idea of interacting with the Gods and demigods and how they are formed! Ristriel had the most interesting magic by far but talking about it gets spoiler real quick!

World Building: I would like to see more world building in general, but Holmberg mainly tells us the main ideas we need to know for the story to make sense.  I did like the descriptions of the Sun Palace and patriarchal society.  If someone prefers characters and action to world building this will be a perfect book.

The Characters: Ceris was introduced as a prankster with an immature but great sense of humor and I liked her from the start. I don’t want to give too much away about Ristriel.  He was dodgy about who and what he was and I think Ceris let it go a little too quickly.  I also have to admit that while I definitely rooted for and wished each character well as individuals – I didn’t see the chemistry between them.  The Sun was honorable and offered many times to do the right thing by Ceris (from a Christian standpoint anyway) and I liked his lore/legends as well. I hope the next book offers more of the Earth and Moon!

Themes: from the afterword, she wrote the book while in and coming out of a dark place. I liked the musings on faith and divinity, finding family, and keeping your promises.

One thing that did throw me was when a priest called Ceris out for abandoning her 100% fully CHOSEN mate with whom she had the star child – the choice and free will was highly emphasized too throughout the book – I thought he was right.  Coming from a Christian author I was very surprised to see Ceris freak out about her honor as a woman when one can’t argue that she should have stayed with the Sun, who had offered to make her a queen. Ris could have been paired with someone else and prior to this Ceris had been extremely loyal to her betrothed. I also loved the cover but I missed where there was a fox in the book! I think it should have been one of Ristriel’s forms!

All in all, I fully recommend for romantic fantasy fans, folklore, or someone wanting to try fantasy for the first time!

A few notes on the audio: through Brilliance Audio, I didn’t realize that Kristine Hvam did any narration for 47North authors! I am familiar with her from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, Ravenspire, and so many more. She is a well respected fantasy narrator (she does other genres too) and this is another solid performance from her.  As the kindle audio is weird, I read and listened about 50/50 to this book.  For sure, though, I definitely appreciate authors like Holmberg and Jeff Wheeler who make their books and audiobooks accessible to read and listen via Kindle Unlimited!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Wolf Pack (ARC Review) by Mary Beesley!

Thank you so much to Monster Ivy Publishing for the ARC of Wolf Pack by Mary Beesley! The merch is lovely too!

This author has written four books now, and each one has had me hooked whether she is writing YA fantasy, romance, or adult fantasy.  Something about the themes that Beesley explores and her writing style has made her a favorite of mine, and Wolf Pack definitely reinforces that

My review of Book 1, Dragon Blood, can be found here 

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Wolf Pack
  • Series: Draco Sang #2
  • Author: Mary Beesley
  • Publisher & Release: Monster Ivy Publishing, 11/02/21 
  • Length: 312 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🐺🐺🐺🐺🐺 oh yes

Here is the synopsis:

Ferth has lost his only brother. Gone are his fur and claws. Hunted by his father, he seeks protection among his former enemies. Even with his familiar face, it’s a struggle to hide his wolves and his Draco sympathies from the humans.

Shale finds more than freedom in Elysium. She finds family. She has great hope for a bright future, but the Draco Sang army across the river is determined to take it all away. And the humans don’t have the power to stop them.

Thirro, a Draco Sang eagle, is desperate to prove his worth to his army chief. He’ll do anything for recognition, including hunt Ferth, his old best friend turned abomination, or take down Jade, his competition.

Jade has succeeded in life by striking first and fast. Show no weakness. She rises quickly through the ranks of the Draco Sang, but when she’s sent to hunt humans with Thirro, including a mission to kill Ferth, it isn’t so easy to let her arrow fly. And she isn’t so sure she has the right target in sight.


This lovely sequel to Dragon Blood takes place right where it left off. Where many trilogies suffer a second book slump, I think Wolf Pack was actually more engaging, easier to relate to, and at least as good, if not better than Dragon Blood.

Cultures clash, instincts are fought, and loyalties blur in this exciting sequel! 

Watching Ferth learn how to be human and find his new family was a stark contrast to the bloody battle scenes and Thirro’s madness. The two characters carried on the series’ theme of how much one’s blood and upbringing is responsible for their true selves. It was interesting to see what dark roads and moral ambiguities most of the characters navigated as they had to weigh their loyalties and choices. One other thing I have to mention are the wolves – their banter is EVERYTHING!

I mean really, it was so heartbreaking to see Cal and Lyko separated, and watching him start to rebound and form a bond with Rom was a highlight of the book.  Their banter was pretty epic, as was the family reunion.

I was floored by all the action as well. Wolf Pack containes more politicking and maneuvering and planning, which makes sense leading up to the conclusion, but the action and danger was there too.

A few new characters were introduced as well and they are providing an interesting base for book three.  Imanna could go in many directions and I loved her tiny and deadly self.

Beesley is never afraid to make our hearts hurt either, both books have ended in deaths and cliffhangers that had me wishing the next book was ready.

I 100% recommend the Draco Sang trilogy for any fantasy fans, fans of found families, clean fiction, and anyone looking for an exciting read!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Heartrender (Book Review) by V. Romas Burton

Thank you so much to Monster Ivy Publishing for the ARC of Heartrender! This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year and I was so beyond thrilled to receive an ARC box in exchange for a feature and honest review!

Due to the nature of this being a review for the conclusion of a trilogy, I am going to try really hard to avoid spoilers but a series spoiler may be inevitable. What I would say is that if you read the first two books definitely read the third.  If you are seeking YA appropriate epic fantasy or allegorical fiction , clean content, this is definitely a good series for you ❤

Review of book 1: https://onereadingnurse.com/2020/12/14/book-review-heartmender-by-v-romas-burton/

Review of book 2: https://onereadingnurse.com/2021/06/30/heartbreaker-by-v-romas-burton-book-review/

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Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Heartrender
  • Series: Heartmender #3
  • Author: V. Romas Burton
  • Publisher & Release: Monster Ivy Publishing, 09/07/21
  • Length: 388
  • Rate & Recommend : 🌟🌟🌟 yes because at this point you probably read the first two books! This is a lovely series

Here is the synopsis:

Eman is gone. Silas is gone. Claire is gone.

When Addie returns to Ramni after her devastating encounter with Ophidian, she finds her heart broken from her recent losses. Yet, even though she is grieving, Addie continues her journey through the Twelve Lands of Decim to unite the Twelve Magisters. With the aid of Romen and Lyle, she travels to each Northern Land to find that Ophidian is no longer harvesting Decim’s hearts, but their souls. With this new power, Ophidian will be almost impossible to defeat.

Will Addie be able to complete her promise to Eman before darkness rules?

I think this was a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, although unfortunately by far the weakest of the three books in my mind.

One of my favorite parts was the character arcs, especially Addie finally trusting in Eman and the others enough to ask for help. The boys completely stole the show in this one though. Seeing Silas’ history put a lot of the rest of the series into context and it was the most interesting to me. His trials provided a lot of necessary background to understand various character’s actions and also explained the whole Rexus thing.

Lyle just took control of everything with his newfound powers and I think he’s going to make a great Elder.  It was also great to see Claire get some validation.  Addie’s ending bugged me a little bit, I kind of feel like she should be a magister or something too but it looks like she’s going to be relegated to… Well… Yeah no spoilers 😂

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A lot of the imagery, especially in Silas’  chapters, was excellent again in this book. The castle in the tree and the imagery of the Elders was very well done.

Something about the allegory has been bugging me though. The resurrection is a tricky thing to represent and I feel like where the allegory was broader before, the author just tried to get too specific here and missed.  Then again it is entirely possible that I could just be missing something. Not to say it’s not still a good read though. Jeff Wheeler did something similar at the end of a few of his trilogies where he just seems to get lost in his Theology.

I know that I’ve talked about the pacing of certain events in the prior two books, and the absolute frantic pace of the ending confused me here as well. I would have read a longer book to find out more about the missing magisters and Romen’s role, the time travelling, and a few other things.  Characters were popping in and out all over the place in the second half of this book in order to get everything ready for the conclusion, and it was just happening so quickly that I got confused.

This is a lovely series though and I would totally recommend this to anyone seeking light fantasy, clean content, allegorical fiction / fantasy!
❤❤❤

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Heartbreaker by V. Romas Burton (Book Review)

Two things prompted me to re-read Heartbreaker this month! The first is that I realized I never really adequately featured the book on bookish social media, the second is because I am SO SUPER LUCKY to have been chosen for an ARC box for book three, which will be out on September 7th!!

First off you should check out my review for book one, Heartmender, here, then proceed with this review if you’re interested!  I loved Heartmender for it’s lyrical mix of fantasy, adventure, clean content, and religious allegories that were not overpowering.  Heartbreaker sees the characters begin their journey in earnest, with all the growing pains of becoming a young hero.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Heartbreaker
  • Series: Heartmender, #2
  • Author: V Romas Burton
  • Publisher & Release: Monster Ivy Publishing, September 2020
  • Length: 338 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ yes for YA, fans of Christian fantasy/fiction, clean content seekers!

Here is the description from Amazon:

After finding out she is the Bellata–the prophesized warrior meant to save Decim–Addie, along with James, returns to Barracks to unite the Twelve Magisters. But as she discovers her old home in ruin, Addie stumbles upon Silas and Nana, the only people left in Barracks.

As Silas explains what happened, Addie remembers the special gift Eman entrusted to her. She gives the gift to Silas, only to learn that he’s the young blacksmith who fought through the Seven Choices, making Addie unsure of how to react to her old friend.

Dodging an attack from Schism, and another deadly ally to Ophidian, the group finally makes their way to Ramni, where a familiar face joins them–one Addie never wanted to see again.

If Addie can’t learn to balance her new power, successfully unite the Twelve Magisters, and figure out what’s going on with a new voice in her head, Ophidian will destroy all the twelve lands …

And she’ll never know who is capable of betrayal amongst her friends.

The Plot/Story: this second novel sees Addie and company out on a quest to unite the Magisters of Decim, gain their allegiance in the fight against Ophidian.  The plot is once again fast moving, with obstacles being overcome fairly quickly in order to advance the storyline.  Now that Addie has newfound confidence, responsibility, and a crew of friends & family to fight alongside her, what will happen? There is plenty of action, lessons learned, good along with the bad, but man – this one ends on a cliffhanger!

Themes: While Heartmender was about choices and the seven sins, Heartbreaker is about sacrifice and trusting in Eman’s plan.  He isn’t with Addie but his voice is still heard, his plan is known, and there is a super cool magical book that I am pretty sure is an allegory for biblical guidance, although I am not positive.  Other wholesome themes include friendship, trust, finding family, self worth, and trusting that one is never alone.

Continuing worldbuilding: One of my favorite parts was learning the back story of the antagonist, and how all of this evil came to be! A lot of questions from book one were answered in this, including questions about Addie’s family.  The author did a great job expanding on the world of Decim to include the other realms, inhabitants, issues, and even geography to make the world richer.

The Characters: Addie has some serious “coming of age” challenges to overcome.  She is the Bellata, so she should be independent, in charge, and unruffleable – right?  It was nice watching her learn to work with a team, test out her feelings for Silas, and start to come into her responsibility.  She also drove me nuts sometimes jumping to conclusions and blaming others, but it’s part of learning to socialize 

Silas is a good character in this one too but I can’t really say why.  He is a great protector to Addie and tests the group.  James and Nana and Claire ❤ also Damien … It is a good group.  

I think the reason I scored this one a little lower is because of how easily the answers to the puzzles come to Addie.  She races through the first few magisters and while it works to further the allegories and storyline, I think I would have liked her to be tripped up a little more.  The book makes up for that at the end though, how in the world are they ever going to get out of that situation??

At heart this is a complex story and I think it would make a great buddy read for readers of any age.  That targeted 13-18 range is totally 100% appropriate too.  In the coming weeks I will be posting about book 3 so stay tuned for that!!


Meet the author:

V. Romas Burton grew up bouncing up and down the East Coast where she wrote her first story about magical ponies at age seven. Years later, after studying government and earning an M.A. in Theological Studies, V. Romas Burton realized something even bigger was calling out to her–stories that contained great adventures and encouraging messages. Her debut novel, Heartmender, has won several awards including: First Place in Young Adult for the 2020 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Second Place in Juvenile/ Young Adult for the 2021 Illumination Book Awards and tied for Third Place for Young Adult Fiction- Fantasy/ Sci- Fi in the 2020 Moonbeam Children’s Awards. You can find future updates and news on her website: http://www.vromasburton.com

from Amazon
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!