Categories
Fantasy

Vows of Gold and Laughter (Book Review) by Edith Pawlicki

Thank you so much to By the Book VBP for having me on the bookstagram tour for Vows of Gold and Laughter!  I recently read Edith Pawlicki’s debut novel called Minerva, and was extremely excited to see this second novel! I received a lovely finished paperback in exchange for a bookish feature and honest review!

This is an adult fantasy set in a rich world that focuses on Asian mythology, a whole lot of magic, and realizing one’s self worth despite what fate seems to have to store.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Vows of Gold and Laughter
  • Series: The Immortal Beings, #1
  • Author: Edith Pawlicki
  • Publisher & Release: Indie, 04/02/21
  • Length: 442 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for adult fans of the genre!

Here is the book blurb from Amazon:

The meeting of four lonely immortals will change them – and the world.

High in the Heavens, an immortal court celebrates the betrothal of Jin, Goddess of Beauty, and Xiao, God of Pleasure. But as soon as the vows are made, the Sun Emperor collapses from a death curse.

Raised away from the Sun Court after her mother’s murder, Jin is called a useless goddess, but she is now the emperor’s only hope. The curse’s cure is locked in the Underworld, and even though the court dismisses him as a hopeless alcoholic, Xiao vows to help his betrothed find the lost key.

They hire a thief who is more interested in stealing the groom than recovering the key, and begin their search at the legendary grave of the Great Warrior – only it turns out he never died. Tens of millennia old, he is a master of everything but his own heart.

Their journey takes them from the icy peaks of the White Mountain and the lush banks of the Kuanbai River to the palace of the Sea Dragon and the halls of the Moon Deer, through court intrigue and bloody battles, power struggles and magical traps. Heaven, Earth, and the Underworld will forever celebrate their triumphs – and mourn their mistakes.

This is an indie novel that really deserves all the hype of a traditionally published piece of work.  Pawlicki takes us all over the fictional world, into various palaces and homes of the immortals from the Heavens to the Underworld, on a quest to save a despicable ruler, through two love stories and complicated friendships, as well as on a journey of self-discovery than can only be achieved through learning the truth about the past.

The Worldbuilding is richly described, with colorful palaces and equally colorful immortals.  Quite literally because the most powerful gods are colors.  We learn the physical lay of the land, the fauna, weather, food, music, and many local and court customs that help flesh out the world.  It was definitely a little overwhelming at times but there are diagrams to help remember what is where and who is who.

The Characters: The characters are very much part of the world, as Pawlicki realizes and brings to life a full pantheon of Gods and Goddesses, deities, and immortal beings.  There are four main characters who each have their own major flaws to work through, and it is a joy to watch them interact and learn how to work together.  The banter is pretty entertaining at times, and other times quite serious.  The thief, the warrior, the beauty, and…. well I guess the alcoholic, but he’s really a giant cinnamon roll and pretty powerful in his own right.  

I did get absolutely lost in the characters at times though, like without the diagram I would have been lost.  This is where I docked a star – I love all four of the main characters but it was kind of hard to figure out who else was going to be important and who to pay attention to.  The author absolutely did a stunning job bringing so many characters to life though.

The Magic: Is based on colors, and what colors or essences will respond to each deity.  This is pretty cool because it creates a lot of Earth-based magic, building, and transformative abilities which were cool too.  There is also darker and shadow magic which I imagine we will see a lot more of in book two.

Themes: I touched on themes up top, but the main one seemed to be realizing your own self value and embracing who you are.  Each character had to learn what they were capable of, and even the most accomplished ones still had lots of learning to do.  I also docked some points for a recurring ongoing of sexual repression vs expression, and I get it since Xiao was the god of pleasure but don’t really come to fantasy for that discussion.  I believe, as well as because of the ages of the characters, that this is why the book was targeted for adult readers.  There are also themes of found family, family ties, sacrifice, justice, betrayal, civil war, and everything else you would expect from bickering Gods and Goddesses that are full of personality.

Overall: I definitely recommend this one for anyone interested in mythology, fantasy, asian themes, and anyone that loves a gorgeous cover. Thanks again to By the Book VBP and the author for my copy, all opinions are my own!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

A Dragonbird in the Fern (ARC Review) by Laura Rueckert

Thank you so much to North Star Editions via NetGalley for the digital early copy in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

A Dragonbird in the Fern  is a debut YA fantasy, fast paced and full of magic. I think we can all agree that the cover is absolutely stunning as well.  Check out the book and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: A Dragonbird in the Fern
  • Series: N/A
  • AuthorL Laura Rueckert
  • Publisher & Release: North Star Editions, 08/03[2021
  • Length: 392 Pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of the genre!

Here is the book blurb:

When an assassin kills Princess Jiara’s older sister Scilla, her vengeful ghost is doomed to walk their city of glittering canals, tormenting loved ones until the murderer is brought to justice.
While the entire kingdom mourns, Scilla’s betrothed arrives and requests that seventeen-year-old Jiara take her sister’s place as his bride to confirm the alliance between their countries.Marrying the young king intended for her sister and traveling to his distant home is distressing enough, but with dyslexia and years of scholarly struggles, Jiara abandoned any hope of learning other languages long ago. She’s terrified of life in a foreign land where she’ll be unable to communicate.

Then Jiara discovers evidence that her sister’s assassin comes from the king’s own country. If she marries the king, Jiara can hunt the murderer and release her family from Scilla’s ghost, whose thirst for blood mounts every day. To save her family, Jiara must find her sister’s killer . . . before he murders her too.

The Plot&Story: the book blurb does a great job of summarizing the book.  Jiara is betrothed in her older sister’s place, and must overcome her dyslexia in a strange land while learning the language, winning over the people as a good queen, and solving a murder mystery.  I loved the who-dunnit aspect and it was a true race against the clock as Scilla’s ghost got more and more violent, going as far as killing someone.  The book is very fast paced as well, not repetitive, and there is blessedly little inner monologue so I was able to read it quickly and rate it 5 stars with no issues.

Themes: The book was a little heavier than some YA plots, as Jiara is married at the start of the book and juggling issues that many older characters generally face.  She is overcoming a disability while investigating and avenging her sister’s death.  There is betrayal on a massive level, lots of plotting, and she must adjust to married life as a 17 turning 18 year old.  I liked the themes of family ties, found family, double dealing, international relations, and learning about new cultures and religions while still hanging on to what made Jiara who she is.

Bravo too for Rueckert showing the male in the marriage being the one hanging onto honor and personal beliefs in the marital relations department.  In King Raffar’s country, adults are considered age 18 and he was absolutely not going to touch Jiara before then, and I just loved that.  There was also a lovely found family aspect but let’s do that when we talk about the …

Characters: Jiara is a strong young lady, absolutely determined to succeed in establishing international relations, peace, as well as finding her sister’s murderer.  On top of that heavy load she is severely dyslexic, so learning a new language is nearly impossible but she perseveres.  I feel like she should have just explained to people that she had a real issue, instead of letting them all assume that she just didn’t like to read, but it was Rueckert’s way of showing how people treat those with learning disabilities I guess

King Raffar didn’t have a huge role but I loved his boyish charm and awe for magic despite his originally gruff appearance.  He is a truly kind and honorable person, and I liked that he was there to support Jiara.  He seemed to be the only one NOT getting in her way.  The guards seemed to adopt Jiara after a while too, like Freyad and the other soldiers, and it was really nice to watch them come around to her.  Most of the side characters did something or another that was special and they are a great lot

The Magic and Worldbuilding: For a standalone novel there was an immensely satisfying amount of world building and magic.  The magic was in the form of vengeful ghosts, as well as Watchers and deities that had a small but critical role in the book.  The giant ferns, playful mounts, and magically lit up lake were small touches in a well described world including scenery descriptions, wildlife, food, weather, architecture to some degree, and cultural things.  I loved that everyone had tattoos too.

Overall: I can definitely recommend this one for young adults, and it easily crosses over into that new adult phase too I think since she is out on her own and missing home, and adjusting to married life.  My favorite parts were the magical touches, Raffar’s personality, the fact that Jiara just NEVER gave up, and trying to figure out who committed the murder.  This is an extremely fast-paced standalone and I loved it enough to preorder a signed copy!
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
audiobooks Fantasy

The Great Hunt (Book/Audiobook Review) by Robert Jordan

If you guys read my chat about The Wheel of Time, book 1, The Eye of the World you know that I found it slow to get going and both under/over whelming in general, but ultimately worth the reading experience.  

I stuck with the #WoTAlong2021 and absolutely flew through book two, The Great Hunt.  The pacing was better, it was more interesting in general, and Robert Jordan spent more time giving the main characters personalities and making them into people I care about! I’m so glad I stuck with the read-along!

I have so many theories that I want to talk about, but the problem is spoilers.  Because THIS IS SPOILER FREE, I will mostly write this review to tell anyone that if you read The Eye of the World and are not sure about the series, GIVE IT ONE MORE BOOK!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Great Hunt
  • Series: The Wheel of Time, #2
  • Author: Robert Jordan
  • Publisher & Release: Tor Books, November 1990
  • Pages: 705 (MMPB edition)
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 I think fantasy fans should at least try the series

Here is the synopsis, with spoilers blocked out:

Robert Jordan’s #1 New York Times bestselling epic fantasy series, The Wheel of Time®, continues as Rand al’Thor and his companions set out to retrieve a powerful magical artifact from The Dark One’s Shadowspawn in The Great Hunt.

For centuries, gleemen have told the tales of The Great Hunt of the Horn. So many tales about each of the Hunters, and so many Hunters to tell of…

Now the Horn itself is found: the Horn of Valere long thought only legend, the Horn which will raise the dead heroes of the ages.

And it is stolen.

In pursuit of the thieves, Rand al’Thor is determined to keep the Horn out of the grasp of The Dark One. [[*Someone –  cough spoiler hidden*]] has also learned that he is The Dragon Reborn—the Champion of Light destined to stand against the Shadow time and again. It is a duty and a destiny that requires [[this person]] to uncover and master magical capabilities he never imagined he possessed.

The world magic is explained in more detail, the male vs female halves of the magic and we also learn a lot more about the Aes Sedai, the magic wielders.  I really liked meeting the Amyrlin Seat and learning that she is a real person, as well as how deep some of the treachery runs within the White Tower.

Another high point was watching Rand, Egwene, and Nynaeve all learn about their inherent magics.  The girl power in book two was real, and Nynaeve won me over.  Min and Elayne become real people as well and there are huge spoilers as far as who Rand will marry later on, which I kind of appreciated.

There is a lot more world building too – both macro and micro.  It doesn’t come in huge info dumps this time though, but much more spread out, so I think generally it was a much more readable novel.  The pacing was just SO much more even and I cared about all of the chapters.

RJ showed a bit of a darker side to his writing as well here, as evidenced by Egwene’s time with the damane, the seanchan, and everything about “the strangers”.  An interesting subplot and I’m sure it’ll come up again before the series is done.

Other cool things were meeting other ogiers, and EVERYTHING ABOUT THE END!! Everything!  I felt like I was riding right along with Hawkwing, cheering for Perrin carrying the battle standard, and watching the battle in the sky along with the townspeople.  Perrin probably had the quietest role in the book, but came through in a HUGE way when a brave face was needed.  Somehow I think he’s going to end up staying a quiet hero in the series.

A note on the audiobook: I had an exceptionally difficult time understanding Michael Kramer in book one, but this time it was much clearer.  Either he got feedback and enunciated a little more or they managed to increase the quality of the recording, but it was 100% much better. Kate Reading is phenomenal with the women’s chapters too.  Total running time is approx 25 hours, and I listened to the edition released in 2011 by Books On Tape.

Next month we will read Book Three, The Dragon Reborn, and I can’t wait!

Categories
Fantasy

Dragon Mage by M.L. Spencer! Book Tour with Giveaway!!

Thank you so much to Storytellers On Tour and M.L. Spencer for having me on the tour for Dragon Mage!

This is a truly exceptional work of fantasy and I 100% believe that anyone with even a casual interest in fantasy *needs* to grab this book!

Gorgeous wraparound cover 😍

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Dragon Mage
  • Series: Rivenworld, #1
  • Author: M.L. Spencer
  • Publisher & Release: Stoneguard Publications – 01/08/21
  • Length: 982 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 oh yes, to any fantasy fans

Here is the synopsis provided:

Aram Raythe has the power to challenge the gods. He just doesn’t know it yet. Aram thinks he’s nothing but a misfit from a small fishing village in a dark corner of the world. As far as Aram knows, he has nothing, with hardly a possession to his name other than a desire to make friends and be accepted by those around him, which is something he’s never known.

But Aram is more. Much, much more

Unknown to him, Aram bears within him a gift so old and rare that many people would kill him for it, and there are others who would twist him to use for their own sinister purposes. These magics are so potent that Aram earns a place at an academy for warrior mages training to earn for themselves the greatest place of honor among the armies of men: dragon riders.

Aram will have to fight for respect by becoming not just a dragon rider, but a Champion, the caliber of mage that hasn’t existed in the world for hundreds of years. And the land needs a Champion. Because when a dark god out of ancient myth arises to threaten the world of magic, it is Aram the world will turn to in its hour of need

Awesome character art: check! Meet Aram!

It’s hard to encompass such a massive book, with so much going on, into a review like this

The plot & story: I find a few things unique about the plot, which for the book’s size, NEVER slowed down.  982 pages went by like nothing and I still wanted more of everything.  It is told from rotating points of view over the span of about 10 years, where Aram and Marcus start as village boys and eventually become great warriors, fighting a war against old evils

Add in a morally gray and complicated villain, some truly evil archons, dragons, void creatures, sentient horses, bound mounts, trials and training, so much lore, a split world that makes sense, and I am just barely scratching the surface of things you’ll find within the story.

It starts with a prologue where a dragon falls in battle, an unnamed man standing solo against a much greater mage: it hooked me.  This is an accurate description of my face once the prologue was explained in the book: 😭😭😭😭😭

The Characters: are actually some of the most interesting I have seen in fantasy. 

Aram is somewhere on the autism spectrum, seeing the world in colors and knots.  It was a joy, and sometimes a horror, watching him grow into his potential.  Warning: ML Spencer is not nice to these characters, she breaks your heart about 20 times.  I just loved Aram. He is a magic Savant, which hasn’t happened in 400 years and he has amazing innate magic

Marcus is the opposite of Aram… Someone impervious to magic.  Every mage needs a shield, right?  It was interesting to see this dynamic work together and how Marcus and Aram handled their individual and joint tragedies.  It’s quite hard not to love Marcus when he takes a beaten, bullied Aram under his wing as a boy

Sergan: just see this motherf*cker in action.  Will he redeem himself or just be an evil c*nt the whole time? You’ll have to read about how the sorcerers withOUT innate magic, obtain magical essence.

The dragons: to avoid spoilers just let me say that the dragons are amazing, with their own personalities, and their own battle scenes.  There are a lot of side characters but they all add something special to the story, even if you have to wait for it

The Magic: there are so many layers of magic in the book.  I don’t know that I’ve ever seen knot-based magical essence, and I was on board because it was a world-plausible explanation for Aram’s fixation with knots.  The magic validated him, and he validated the magic, and it was amazing.  There are also, then, obviously many dark ways to use magic… 

…and the world below’s innate magic.  The variations in the sorcerers abilities was interesting too. The good vs evil balances and Savant vs Impervious were both pretty cool ideas.

Ah cripe, what else … Plotting that you’d never guess.  Family ties.  Found family.  The cutest tiny hint of romance (100% clean) ever.  Did I say sentient quasi magic  horses? More evil plots? 1200 year old snarky old men?  Oh, warrior and mage training! Battles that never get boring?  Heart breaking tortures and no feelings spared on the paths to redemption, alternated with *just* enough warm fuzzies to make everything beautiful? Balance is everything in this novel.

Another character, named Calise, and her dragon… 😍

Just… You just have to read it. You really just have to read it

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/e832e98886/?

Enter the giveaway here!

Also do make sure to check out the other hosts so you can see their thoughts and interviews and other great content!

Categories
Fantasy

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

For YEARS now I have been so intimidated to start this huge, epic series of long books.  Especially with Bookstagram and the pressure to turn out many reviews of new books, it is a huge commitment to take on a series of books with 700-800+ pages each of tiny print.  It is interesting to note that when the book was first re released, it was split into two smaller books with larger print, and apparently marketed towards young adults.  (I ended up with a later edition MMPB with small print LOL). I don’t really think it’s a YA read, but the main characters ARE teens, and its fairly appropriate.

That said, I found a buddy read that is taking on one book per month and discussing it on discord as we go, so I said… WHY NOT! and jumped in.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Eye of the World
  • Series: The Wheel of Time, #1
  • Author: Robert Jordan
  • Publisher & Release: Tor Books, January 1990
  • Length: 814 pgs *mmpb versions with prologue and glossary included*
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 I think fantasy fans should give it a try, but there are many quest series with swords and sorcery out there

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and pass. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

When The Two Rivers is attacked by Trollocs-a savage tribe of half-men, half-beasts- five villagers flee that night into a world they barely imagined, with new dangers waiting in the shadows and in the light.

I…I can’t even begin to do a more coherent summary.  Five villagers, a sorceress, a warden, and a bard, end up on this insane quest to provide protection to the young man the dark, formerly defeated entity is seeking.  That said, “the Wheel spins as the Wheel wills”, and they end up on an epic adventure with plenty of danger, close calls, coming of ages, magic, mysteries, lore to be discovered, and countless other things.

I think, looking back, that without writing a five page essay, it’s impossible to talk about EotW … And I am appreciating the book a lot more.

The Worldbuilding: is amazing.  It goes beyond scenery and weather, beyond local customs and food, descriptions of architecture and magic, to the legends that shaped the world. So much of the lore is based on the repetition of ages and cycles and stories, and Jordan just gives us so many ancient legends that are both interesting AND relevant to the present day characters.  His descriptions, although long winded at times, fully paint the scenes and characters.

That said, it is a very plot driven book, which I love.  

The Characters: are MANY. It took me forever to get them all straight in my head, and it took a while to kind of determine who was going to be important or not.  I think the cast is way too large but the important characters do have very unique points of view in their chapters, told in third person present tense.  All I will say in summary is that the more time I spent with the characters, the more I liked them, but it took 3/4 of the book before I started to care.  Some are funny, some serious, some annoying, all very brave, and carrying the blood of legendary old lines

The Magic: makes sense.  It is explained in detail as the book goes on, with females bearing the load of magic.  It used to be equal, until the male sorcerers went crazy and broke the world.  Now the women have different affinities, but men who can channel the One Power are seen as dangerous, since their magic is still corrupted.  The book offers plenty of exciting magic, offensive and defensive, cool tricks, and plenty more.

EotW vs LotR: the comparisons made by many people  between The Eye of the World and Lord of the Rings are many, and totally obvious .., I mean RJ literally ripped off certain scenes. Ex: a dark rider almost spotting the protagonist hiding in a shrubbery, looking around slowly – and he barely changes certain names, ideas, possessive objects driving their holders crazy… It’s so obvious that I think it’s totally intentional in book one, although RJ also inserts his own world building and endgame into the story

Overall: it wasn’t until I sat down and tried to write a review, that I realized how insanely complex and incredible the book is.  I do think it’s one of many LotR-esque epic high fantasy novels out there, and the slow burn, lore based fantasy won’t be for everyone, but I do highly recommend giving it a try.  

 

Cover art by Darrel K. Sweet, who illustrated all but the final cover of the series
lovely inner artwork
The cover of the first installment when the books were split! Look at Rand and Egwene!
Categories
Adventure Dystopian Fantasy

Flame Riders (ARC) by Sean Grigsby

Thank you so much to Angry Robot for the early digital copy of Flame Riders by Sean Grigsby! This is a fast paced military fantasy, that is book 3 in a series but can be read as a standalone.  All opinions are my own!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Flame Riders
  • Series: Smoke Eaters, #3 
  • Author: Sean Grigsby
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, 06/22/21
  • Length: 320 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 for fans of military fantasy and action stories

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

The third and final instalment in Sean’s rip-roaring ‘firefighters meet dragons’ fantasy series

In the final instalment of the Smoke Eaters series, the New United States Army has taken over and America has devolved into a full-on dragon apocalypse. Smoke eaters are banned and have gone into hiding to avoid being held prisoner by the soldiers.

Guiellermo Contreras is a private in the NUSA, and when he’s accused of potentially being a smoke eater upon pain of death, he escapes and sets out to find the heroes who disappeared years before. But what he discovers is that the NUSA has been working on something unthinkable, and it’s going to take more than a few smoke eaters to stop them.

First off I just want to say that I may increase my initial rating once I’ve read the first two books!

Additionally the cover art is absolutely stunning for all three books.

This is a fast paced novel that occurs after some kind of apocalypse brought on by dragons, and apparently a Phoenix had something to do with it as well.

There is a ton of action and many fun fighting scenes where sci-fi and fantasy cross paths for hi tech battles of smoke eaters vs dragons.  I would have liked more info on the experiments being done and technology used by the two forces.

I liked the team of characters and banter quite a bit. Brannigan and Happy were my two favorites, although I couldn’t really get behind Guillermo (the main character). He had a good start and end but lost me in the middle after he kept freezing up and putting his teammates in danger. Brannigan was absolutely hilarious and I kind of definitely want to go back and read his book.

One thing that Grigsby did well was create a lingo and sense of team for the smoke eaters, using terms like “scaly” to refer to a dragon and there is a definite sense of cohesion within the crew.

There was some pretty coarse language as well but not too much more than I’d expect in a military based book.

My main thing was that while the book definitely could work as a standalone, there is no background to know why there are dragons everywhere, how they got there, or who the heck all the returning characters are.  I would definitely recommend for anyone looking for a hi tech fantastical military adventure, but would probably recommend reading the trilogy to meet the full cast of  heroes first.

tforces.thank you again to Angry Robot for the early read!!

Categories
Fantasy

Warrior’s Ransom (ARC) by Jeff Wheeler

Thank you so much to 47North via NetGalley for the early read of Warrior’s Ransom! I am a huge fan of the Kingfountain books, and this sequel to Knight’s Ransom (click here for that review) is another big winner for me. All opinions are my own!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Warrior’s Ransom
  • Series: The First Argentines, #2
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47North, 5/18/21
  • Length: 363 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🗡🗡🗡🗡🗡 yes for fans of the genre, or those interested in fantasy/medieval/clean fiction!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

A loyal knight is on a quest to save a dynasty from itself in the thrilling sequel to Knight’s Ransom by Wall Street Journal bestselling author Jeff Wheeler.

After a pilgrimage to the East Kingdoms seeking a blessing from the Fountain, source of the land’s magic, Sir Ransom Barton returns home in search of two dreams: Claire de Murrow, the heiress he loves, and a patron for his warrior skills. Unexpectedly, Ransom finds himself in the favor of Devon, the notorious Elder King. Brought into the ruler’s mesnie and given two wards of his own, Ransom is devoted to his privileged new position. He’s also privy to the running of the realm and to all its courtly intrigues—notably, the machinations of the king’s three remaining sons, all engaged in a manipulative battle to become heir to the throne.

As Ransom is thrust into the middle of poisonous family conspiracies and betrayals, allegiances are shattered, and Ransom fears he may end up serving his worst enemy—or worse, face exile for demonstrating loyalty.

Drawing on his developing powers, Ransom takes up arms against the dark forces coming in a war that will test the limits of his courage and determine the fate of the dangerous and fractious Argentine dynasty.

I read this book back before it was released, and honestly think it put me into a weeklong book and writing hangover.

You can read my linked above review for book one in the series, and know that I already love the characters and world so much.

The action in this one was pretty breakneck. I thought we were going to spend half the book on Ransom’s pilgrimage, and was pleasantly surprised to find him right back in Kingfountain trying to play peacemaker between the king and his sons again.

Intrigue, honor, knights and warhorses, and of course war…

What I especially liked about this sequel was how it examined everyone as a morally gray character. Ransom and the poisoner are two sides of the same coin, both with the potential for great evil. Ransom recognizes this and does his best to serve his king with honor, vs succumbing to the black morass of his war deeds and experiences.

Devon Argentine (the elder king) is absolutely an amazing character as well, he might be sadistic and dangling the kingdom in front of his sons, but I really think that he just wanted to ease one of them into a peaceful secession. Watching his arc in this book was more than a little bit heartbreaking. Message noted: thank your king / father /provider once in a while

I also love love love how honorable Ransom is towards women: in the age of publish all the promiscuity, Ransom was totally ready to marry that lady that kissed him in front of his men! But Clare, oh Clare… It’s time for some Clare in the spotlight.

Estian is back… Benedict is back… we gain a few new characters that are all really nice additions too, and the poisoner is absolutely terrifying in this one.

If you’ve read this far, you will learn what this book taught me… So Wheeler makes things really, really convenient for Ransom, almost to the point that it deducts from the story. He really doesn’t though: no one can deny that Ransom is a hero, brave as anything, and deserving of all his rewards. I think things happen conveniently because Wheeler wanted to set up a certain storyline going forward, and that’s where he put his intrigue and energy. I know a lot of authors do this, and I tend to deduct for it, but here I can pretty plainly tell what the real objectives of the story are.

If I think the author is just being lazy and having things fall into place, I can’t deal with it. I think this is the first book that is carried enough by it’s intrigues and action, that I can forgive the things handed Ransom in order to further the story along.

Lastly: I really liked how Wheeler is starting to explore some of the ancient legends of Kingfountain. I think after so many books he can afford to give us a little deep lore at this point, and I hope this continues in book two!

Dialogue, self reflection, great characters, and a plot of war between King and sons that will have your head spinning… Don’t forget Ransom’s terrifically ugly horse… I fully recommend the series to pretty much anyone!

Categories
Fantasy Mysteries Young Adult

Book Tour: Curse of Infiniti by Rachel Hetrick!

Thank you so much to Feather and Dove Tours, and Rachel Hetrick for having me on the book tour for Curse of Infiniti! This is a clean reading, fast paced, and compulsively readable fantasy novel with a mystery twist.

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Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Curse of Infiniti
  • Series: The Infinity Trilogy, #1
  • Author: Rachel Hetrick
  • Publisher & Release: Via Veritas Vita Press – November 2020
  • Length: 331 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟✨ yes for fans of the genre!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Can she collect enough fragments of her past before the nightmarish figure from her dreams catches up with her?

As she wakes up in a bedroom she doesn’t recognize, Ellayne becomes increasingly aware of one thing: she has no memories-no identity-no name. Dark figures not only haunt her nightmares, but also stalk her in reality. Ellayne finds herself on the run, chased by a hooded archer with deadly aim.

When the source of her memory loss is uncovered, Ellayne and the companions she’s made along the way must find a way to reverse the damage done to her by magic before she loses her memories again.

*If you enjoy escaping into enchanting worlds full of adventure, mystery, magic, and with a hint of romance, then pick up this story today and find yourself lost in the magical land of Phildeterre. (This is a clean novel appropriate for all ages).

I will first say that the book is definitely appropriate for all ages! The main character states she is 22 though so technically not a YA but I would still totally recommend for the age group.

The Plot & Story: This is a super fast paced read. Ellayne wakes up with no memories, and we pretty quickly realize that things seem fishy in the Black Forest. What follows is a twisty adventure as Ellayne escapes a mysterious and deadly pursuer, meets some boys who rival her own level of snark, discovers magic in the world around her…and eventually the fate of the royal family. How does it all the together?

Setting & World Building: I liked the Black Forest setting, and how well the trees and inhabitants were described. There was also some mention of food, buildings, and magic, although in whole I think the world, in the broadest sense, could have been fleshed out a little more. Three moons are a pretty visual, what else is unique and magical about the land? I especially liked a magic pub under a waterfall, and one overflowing bookshop! Is there any lore? There is plenty of room in a trilogy to grow the world.

I also liked the inhabitants, sirens and elves are described as well as magic runes and some unique jewelry. There is a good amount of history as well with magic vs non magic wielders…and a map. Bonus points for the map!

Usually I comment on the magic system but I feel like it’s spoilery, so just know that there is magic!

The characters: this is a novel driven by characters and plot. Ellayne is snarky, articulate, caring, and persistent, essentially everything I like in a main character.

“I’m not a damsel in distress.” Ellayne narrowed her eyes at him. “I’m a woman with a curse. There’s a difference.”

Ellayne

She meets and is rescued by two men who are best friends, and their snark almost rivals hers. The banter and dialogue had me cracking up and taking the time to enjoy the book.

“I’d classify myself as a tragically handsome elf with the passion of a young fairy and the wisdom of the oldest dragon.” He held out his hands and shrugged, raising an eyebrow. “But no,” he said with a wink. “I’m no saint.”

Armannii the Elf

There are also some hilarious side characters and evildoers, but I kind of feel like the less you know about the characters the better. It’s enough to know that they are likeable!

Misc: I kept thinking there was going to be a twist that no one saw coming, and she waited until the tail end of the book to drop it on us! I did really like this one, and can’t wait to read the sequels!


If the book sounds good to you, here are the purchase links!

On Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Curse-Infiniti-Trilogy-Rachel-Hetrick/dp/1953139000/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+infiniti+trilogy+by+rachel+hetrick&qid=1605760451&sr=8-1

On Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/curse-of-infiniti-rachel-hetrick/1137708335?ean=9781953139009

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Young Adult

Book Review: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Spinning Silver is yet another book that I have had forever and wish it hadn’t taken me so long to get to!  I love the Temeraire books and some how never got around to reading her others .. Until now

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Spinning Silver
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Naomi Novik
  • Publisher & Release:Del Rey, July 2018
  • Length: 465
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟✨yes for pretty much anyone!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. Hardening her heart, the young woman sets out to claim what is owed and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold.

When an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk–grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh–Miryem’s fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered. Set an impossible challenge by the nameless king, Miryem unwittingly spins a web that draws in a peasant girl, Wanda, and the unhappy daughter of a local lord who plots to wed his child to the dashing young tsar.

But Tsar Mirnatius is not what he seems. And the secret he hides threatens to consume the lands of humans and Staryk alike. Torn between deadly choices, Miryem and her two unlikely allies embark on a desperate quest that will take them to the limits of sacrifice, power, and love.

Part of me wants to just sit here and gush about Slavic/Polish fairytale tropes, or compare the magic in Spinning Silver to that in the Winternight trilogy, but I’ll mostly spare you and just talk about the book

The World-Building & Magic: Novik is such an amazing world builder.  We are in a cold winter country of Slavic inspiration, where the Boyars own everything and the Tsar is unfortunately possessed by a demon.  Frost vs fire/summer/chaos is a reoccurring theme in these tales and in this case it takes the form of a nameless, cruel winter king vs the flame demon.  The magic of the Staryk (including the King’s Road) is introduced slowly until the plot turns to their kingdom and the real magic is revealed.

I think giving glimpses of the magic was a great tactic to build the tale slowly and not overwhelm Miryem’s story at first.  The whole story has great descriptions though from the snow and weather to the people, lore, food, forests, animals and everything else.   A standalone doesn’t have room to drown in politics or religion but we are given enough of both to understand the country’s issues and power struggles as they relate to the book, also giving it a depth that many retellings don’t achieve.

A power claimed and challenged and thrice carried out is true

Staryk King

The Characters: as much as I liked the magic and world building, the characters are brilliant too. Miryem was always strong and smart, a true thorn in the villagers sides, and eventually an equal to the Staryk King. The trope is “headstrong maiden takes on Winter King.” Novik’s take on it was fresh and interesting to me and I didn’t even dislike him a tiny bit at the end. Their arc included much bargaining and begrudging respect and was generally fun to read

I wouldn’t hold myself that cheap, to marry a man who’d love me less than everything else he had, even if what he had was a winter kingdom.

Miryem

The rest of the characters, and there were many, all brought something interesting to the book. Women were the property of their fathers and husbands and Wanda totally transcended that to bargain for her own future. Irina surprised me by being cunning and strong when her people needed her. Stepon had a curious point of view in which he narrated a few interesting and exciting events, and I think there was a hidden significance there that was lost on me.

There were Staryk characters too that surprised me and Miryem’s parents were just lovely people. The found family aspect was ❤❤❤❤❤

Themes: oh gosh there were so many good themes, such as not judging people for their race or religion. Not taking people at face value. Keeping to your word and knowing the value of a bargain. Knowing your own self worth and standing defiant in the face of anything less. I think this is a really great young adult book as far as themes and content go.

A note on the audiobook: the audio is 18 hours long, distributed by Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group. Lisa Flanagan is amazing with the Slavic accents and distinguishing between the characters. It was hard though sometimes to tell which point of view was speaking at first – and that is the only fault I found with the book as well is that I think we should have had headers or new chapter titles with the name of the speaker. I really enjoyed listening though!

Overall: if you like tales with a twist of magic, fiercely strong female characters, Frost Kings and equally frosty moneylenders, lore and lyrical writing in a cold, cold world…. This is definitely your book!