Categories
Fantasy

Blog Tour! Review: Tuyo by Rachel Neumeier

0830201150_HDR~2Thank you so much to Storytellers on Tour for letting me join the tour for this wonderful book!  A gorgeous finished copy was provided in exchange for a feature and honest review.

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Tuyo
  • Series: Standalone?
  • Author: Rachel Neumeier
  • Publisher & Release: Indie – May, 2020
  • Length: 410 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes!

Here is the synopsis:

Raised a warrior in the harsh winter country, Ryo inGara has always been willing to die for his family and his tribe. When war erupts against the summer country, the prospect of death in battle seems imminent. But when his warleader leaves Ryo as a sacrifice — a tuyo — to die at the hands of their enemies, he faces a fate he never imagined.

Ryo’s captor, a lord of the summer country, may be an enemy . . . but far worse enemies are moving, with the current war nothing but the opening moves in a hidden game Ryo barely glimpses, a game in which all his people may be merely pawns. Suddenly Ryo finds his convictions overturned and his loyalties uncertain. Should he support the man who holds him prisoner, the only man who may be able to defeat their greater enemy? And even if he does, can he persuade his people to do the same?

This book literally ticked every box I can think of in an epic fantasy.  Strong character arcs, detailed setting and world building, culture, enemies to friends, family bonds, political motivations, military strategy, and even one super snarky stallion.

Ryo is left as a sacrifice and ends up a captive, guest, translator, of the warlord for which he was left.  Ryo experiences a massive amount of culture shock when he is thrown into life with the Lau.  So much of the narrative is Ryo comparing the Lau to his Ugaro people, and it’s just an unbelievable character arc as he learns to judge men by their actions, not their birth.  I loved the grand theme of overcoming cultural differences to fight larger enemies.

Aras, the Lau Warlord, is a great character too.  He, in turn, isn’t familiar with many Ugaro customs, and it’s just a very character driven read as the two men, then two nations, learn about their common enemy and forge a working bond.  The friendship bonds are even better!

The setting and world are closely detailed as well.  From the frozen mountains and forests of the tribes to the summer lands of the Lau, I thought the author did a phenomenal job tying each group’s culture and legends into the climates that so define them.  To quickly touch on the magic: think psychological warfare on steroids, with some light elemental skills as well.

One of my favorite aspects was how she went deep into cultural customs on both sides.  The over politeness and certain rituals of the Ugaro tribes struck me as extremely well thought out, and the Lau had their own norms.  Some of my favorite scenes were the great meetings towards the end, but part of that was how much I just loved Ryo’s family.  Especially his father.  I let out a few “HA”‘s courtesy of the family dialogue 

Family and honor among friends played a huge role too.  Without going into too much more detail, I will just say again in general that the relationships in the book are so intricately started and built upon, until the end result was something really special.

In short: I feel like I’m rambling and not doing the book justice at all.  If you like strong families, culture, overcoming cultural biases, enemies to friends, setting and relationships, and magic throughout…. You need this book.  I definitely plan on checking out the author’s works too.

I hope you’ll check out the other stops on the tour by visiting https://storytellersontour.online/2020/07/30/tour-schedule-tuyo-by-rachel-neumeier/ !  The author information and book links are available there as well!

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Categories
Fantasy

ARC Review: The Immortal Words by Jeff Wheeler

Quickfacts:

  • Title: The Immortal Words
  • Series: The Grave Kingdom, #3
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North – September 22nd 2020
  • Length: 347 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fantasy and clean readers ❤

Thank you so much to 47North via NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!  I was so excited to be able to read The Grave Kingdom Series as ARCs and I am just mind blown by the end of the trilogy

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

As kingdoms fall, brave young warrior Bingmei fights to fulfill a prophecy and save what’s left of the world from the coming darkness. Should she fail, Echion, the diabolical Dragon of Night, and his queen will hold sway over the next thousand years. With Echion comes his unstoppable army of dragons—powerful, vengeful, and under his control.

Accompanied by her loyal friend Quion, Bingmei journeys toward her last hope. It lies among the savage beasts just beyond the ancient Death Wall—an uninhabited realm from which no one has ever returned alive. Bingmei’s mission is to find the phoenix shrine and learn the Immortal Words that will allow her to harness eternal magic. With Echion and his legions in pursuit, Bingmei must choose her words wisely to break Echion’s spell and accept her fate.

Bingmei knows what she must do. She must join the ranks of the dead as well. For a fearless and selfless warrior, it’s the ultimate sacrifice. But Bingmei is about to discover that even in death, the greatest sacrifices are yet to come.

First off – if you want to read my review for book #2, that can be seen at https://onereadingnurse.com/2020/07/01/arc-review-the-buried-world-by-jeff-wheeler/

So yeah… I knew this was going to be an epic conclusion but I was not expecting half of the things that happened in this book.  To keep things spoiler free, let me just say that this is another fantastic series conclusion by Wheeler and he didn’t at all take it in the direction I thought he would.

I can’t honestly say that The Grave Kingdom series was my favorite by Wheeler, but it’s truly a work of art. I can always count on Wheeler for wholesome fantasy reads, strong women with incredible character arcs, and all sorts of lore, myths, and found families. Even in an Asian based fantasy he twines in an underlying Christian message. It was nice that he wasn’t preachy in these books, and I felt like the Phoenix and the Dragon could have carried a few different allegories.  I would love to ask him if he was thinking about any specific reference regarding the interactions of the Phoenix.

Wheeler is an exquisite world builder as well, from setting to food to weather and the smells of conscience, I truly enjoyed the world of The Grave Kingdom.  Each region had it’s own character, each city it’s own personality and feel, customs, traditional food, and animal guardians, and I think truly that this is Wheeler’s best developed world yet.

Plus I got my OTP wish.  Oh I was so happy I almost cried a little bit for these characters at the end. The books contain a wonderful cast of characters including a snow leopard and a blind king.  Bingmei went from a little girl to a fledgling leader to a strong, thoughtful, powerful woman who was able to decide that humanity was worth saving.  There was a wonderful open ending that echoes the book’s message of good balancing evil in the cycles of the world. It makes me think maybe there may be another trilogy in the world at some point and I would be totally on board with that.

My only issue was a bit of confusion involving Rowen and the Phoenix, I think Wheeler got lost in the mythology a bit and didn’t quite explain Rowen’s role in the grand scheme of things adequately.  Specifically when, why, and how was he chosen, plus  when did he become the Phoenix?  Couldn’t he have just busted out of the prison long before he did? It was slightly incongruous.   Also the fighting scenes were getting pretty repetitive by the end of book 3.

If you are looking for a truly epic fantasy series set in an Asian based world, with dragons, phoenixes, lore, love, loyalty, and found family, this is the book for you.  I was so happy and proud of the entire quonsuun and thought that the ending just was priceless.

The Immortal Words, the epic conclusion of  The Grave Kingdom series, releases 9/22.

Categories
Dystopian Fantasy

Book Review: Tears of Alphega by W.N. Cleckler

  • Title: Tears of Alphega
  • Series: The Wisprian World, #1
  • Author: W.N. Cleckler
  • Release date & Publisher: July 2018 from Whisper Press
  • Length: 354 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐💫 yes

Hi everyone! I have no excuse for taking so long so post this particular review on the blog! The author sent me the gorgeous foil edition a while back in exchange for an Instagram feature and review.  Anyway, with my apologies, here we go!  Let me first say that even though I read this weeks ago, I remember is fairly vividly which is saying a LOT already!

Here is the longer description from Goodreads, which helps summarize a book that is quite difficult to summarize:

The Wisprian World is set in the era before the Ice and Stone Age, before the fall of Adam, before “the beginning”. The earth became formless and empty…meaning it previously had form and wasn’t empty. Before Eden was spoken into existence, Wispria was whispered into being. This series is certain to make it’s mark and impact on your life- whether you love daring adventure, alternative-histories, theological viewpoints, stories of hope, new heroes & villains, or tales of redemption, The Wisprian World book series is for you. With intriguing characters that are sure to touch your heart and challenge your spirit, also locations and insights of a world forgotten that’s paving the way for an entirely new viewpoint and theory as to whom may have preceded us, then you are in for an other-worldly gift.

Meet people who are just like us, the likes of whom may have lived long before us, who had extraordinary circumstances arrive at their doorstep while living out their simple, daily activities. Read about the sixteen year-old Cantiq sisters, Harmody and Melony, who are fishing for their dinner when a mysterious solar eclipse-like event changes the very nature of their existence. Join a young man, Sage, grieving the loss of a father he accidentally murdered who meets that strangest pair of travelers who will in turn save his life from himself and those who oppose him. All of this is seen and told from the viewpoint of Alphega watching over his beloved creation and crying tears of divine empowerment to sustain his people against overwhelming and grave dangers and foul creatures out to obliterate them.

This book really does truly have a little bit of something for everyone.  Yes it is alternate theology but it is also an epic fantasy.  Good vs evil prototypes and a false idol starting a war against Alphega/heaven.  This book is the start of that adventure – what caused that eclipse? A group of highly unique characters come together under extreme circumstances to learn about the imposter, rally a group of seven blessed adventurers, and hopefully book two will start the war.

What I liked the most is how much Cleckler obviously loves these characters.  He puts them through hell, their villages  pillaged by violent rapey demons, death of family in front of their eyes, devastation of forces, and other very dark things, but also gives them courage, the will to fight, interesting back stories, help from the animal world, and the support structure they need to move forward.  There is a magical horse turned unicorn, a bear who’s loyalty knows no bounds, and then Alphega who sees the pain of the characters and grants them a tear, or they find a piece of the magical stone gate that shattered that gives them an additional ability.  Each character has carefully drawn artwork as well and it’s obvious that each one was written with great thought.  They aren’t perfect characters, they are flawed but learn from their mistakes and are also given time to grieve appropriately for said mistakes, and tend to go forward stronger.

Speaking of the art, it is absolutely lovely.  The map, chapter head letters, and character artwork is all exquisitely well done.  Here is a direct link to the authors Instagram for an example of the character art!  https://www.instagram.com/p/B9j3GVzgTEy/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

At first it was a bit hard to tell where the book was heading, and then I realized that we were meeting the characters.  I wasn’t sure if it was more a collection of short stories or what, as the opening chapters lacked a tad bit of cohesion, and that is where my star rating came in.  Once the characters some together the quest is quite awesome and I love how they all have to do their part and keep pulling for each other.

Potential Easter Eggs: There may be a nod to Star Trek: TNG, because Lore is Data’s evil archetype.  I didn’t see any specific references but when I hear “Lore” in an archetypal sense, I think of the androids, especially when he was trying to play the real Data.  Also a potential nod to a book in Skyrim (my character has a library) where tears formed an artifact, but I will never find it or recall the name.   Lastly there is some secret message hidden in the pages but I have NO idea where it is or what I’m looking for, if anyone reads this and finds it, please tell me!!

I do definitely recommend this to fans of anything from theology to epic fantasy, you will LOVE the magic and lore and I definitely prefer the religious over/undertones to some of the other messages I get these days!

Thank you so much again to the author for the book, I am anxiously awaiting the next installment!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Book Tour! Review: Trial by Obsidian by Naomi Kelly

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

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

Here is the description from Amazon:

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

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

Hiding is no longer an option.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The author can be found on Instagram @NaomiKellyWriting

Here is the link to the book on Amazon: