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 Young Adult

ARC Review: The Stolen Kingdom by Jillian Boehme

Thank you so much to Tor Teen for the digital ARC of The Stolen Kingdom via NetGalley!  This is a great standalone YA fantasy, with everything from a king killer plot to just a twist of romance!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Stolen Kingdom
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Jillian Boehme
  • Publisher & Release: Tor Teen, March 2nd 2021
  • Length: 332
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 sure for fans of YA fantasy!

Here is the description from GoodReads:

For a hundred years, the once-prosperous kingdom of Perin Faye has suffered under the rule of the greedy and power-hungry Thungrave kings. Maralyth Graylaern, a vintner’s daughter, has no idea her hidden magical power is proof of a secret bloodline and claim to the throne. Alac Thungrave, the king’s second son, has always been uncomfortable with his position as the spare heir—and the dark, stolen magic that comes with ruling.

When Maralyth becomes embroiled in a plot to murder the royal family and seize the throne, a cat-and-mouse chase ensues in an adventure of dark magic, court intrigue, and forbidden love

This book to me is exceptionally well done as a stand alone fantasy.

The Magic: My favorite magic systems are the ones tied to the land, tied to a Kingdom, because they not only make sense to me but add so much to the richness of the world building.

A pure, healing magic, was given to the original King of Perin Faye by the land’s deity. Corrupted into dark and destructive magic when it was stolen, it twisted a king killer into something terrifying.  This is the legacy passed down through generations to the current king.

The plot/story: the plot ran at breakneck pace, again making it a great standalone.  A rebel lord has decided to replace a true descendent of the first king on the throne to seize power.  He finds a magic wielder and a plot to murder the ruling family is put into action.  Will the corrupted magic even allow this?  The current king is away while his sons entertain the heir’s wedding party.  The first son/heir is incredibly important as the stolen magic requires a vessel at all times.

Maybe a better question is, will Maralyth play along with this scheme of murder or will she fall for the prince?

The Characters: I liked the characters! A vintner’s daughter, Maralyth, has hidden her magic but doesn’t really know why it is considered illicit. The second prince, Alac,  who doesn’t want the throne OR the dark magic of his father, is the other point of view.  They are both drawn unwillingly into this insane queen maker plot.  There is instant attraction between them, but then it buds slowly over months.  I liked this tiny bit of romance.  Both characters had full arcs as they realized how tied to the kingdom they are, and the side characters were great too.  Why not throw in an insane and terrifying king, and funny guard? There is banter for days between them all.

The World: so much magic and lore. I wish she had discussed the religion more, although it only played a side role it would have added to the lore. There was more than enough world building for a standalone for sure. Food, wealth distribution, bit of history, economy, political structure, plus two sides of the same magic. Betrayal and a tiny bit of intrigue too.

Very low content as well, just a FEW kisses and a bit of poison and swordfighting.

I just can’t get over how the magic was tied to everything in the plot, I kind of feel like this is how fantasy magic should be! Plus strong, brave, funny characters, and plenty of action, this book was a huge win for me!

Check it out, again it publishes March 2nd!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

ARC Review: House of Dragons by Jessica Cluess

Wow, thank you so much to Random House  for the free advanced copy of House of Dragons in exchange for an honest review! This book was published in 2020 so it’s out there for anyone interested! I see the sequel is coming soon so maybe they still had a few arcs lying around to send out, but I’m happy to help generate buzz!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: House of Dragons
  • Series: House of Dragons, #1
  • Author: Jessica Cluess
  • Publisher & Release: Random House Books for Young Readers, May 2020
  • Length: 438 pg (arc was longer, not sure where the changes occurred)
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for all YA, fantasy fans

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Five royal houses will hear the call to compete in the Trial for the dragon throne. A liar, a soldier, a servant, a thief, and a murderer will answer it. Who will win? Three Dark Crowns meets The Breakfast Club with DRAGONS.

When the Emperor dies, the five royal houses of Etrusia attend the Call, where one of their own will be selected to compete for the throne. It is always the oldest child, the one who has been preparing for years to compete in the Trial. But this year is different. This year these five outcasts will answer the call…

THE LIAR: Emilia must hide her dark magic or be put to death.

THE SOLDIER: Lucian is a warrior who has sworn to never lift a sword again.

THE SERVANT: Vespir is a dragon trainer whose skills alone will keep her in the game.

THE THIEF: Ajax knows that nothing is free–he must take what he wants.

THE MURDERER: Hyperia was born to rule and will stop at nothing to take her throne.

I finally found something to fill that Green Rider sized hole in my heart. This book is everything I wanted Crown of Feathers to be, except those books were terrible. Sentient dragon mounts!!

Lets start with…

The Characters: I was in love from the start with these characters. I thought it would be hard to keep track of five different points of view, but each competitor has such an extremely distinct voice and personality that it was quite easy.

From murderous, bloody Hyperia to dorky Ajax, smart and bookish but also incidentally deadly Emilia, conflicted Lucian, and brave Vespir, I just can’t get over what a random but amazing group they made.  They each excelled in certain challenges and it was interesting to watch them form tentative alliances, or not.  I felt like this was a pretty legit feeling group of teens put together.

Dragons are a huge part of the empire as well and each mount is a character in itself.  One of my favorite fantasy themes is sentient, bound mounts! The dragons are like big dogs and so friendly and funny, but also cunning when they need to be, and they hold some of the coolest moments of the book.

Imagery, setting, world building: Ever wonder what a huge golden hydra looks like, flying with the sun rising behind it and fire rumbling in it’s gullet? Let Cluess show you!  She has a knack for vivid imagery, including sights, smells, noise even.

There was a LOT of world building to cover but Cluess gives us what we need.  The reader learns why the Emperor Trial exists, the reason for it’s structure, the main characteristics of each kingdom, politics and the main alliances, and where the Priests and magic orders fit in.  The magic itself had a great backstory too, but in current practice it came out under developed.

Besides vivid images and background, we see architecture, food, a few little tribal customs and lore, history and more, enough to give the world those little personal touches that shows me the author cares.

The Plot/Story: The selection of the competitors seemed like a huge fluke, or was it? I liked the plot from the get-go, watching each character be summoned and then the book just never slowed down.  I liked the Trials too, each test had thoughtful elements and catered to the strength of one competitor or another. Each was interesting and showcased the various strengths and weaknesses of the individuals.  The characters weren’t perfect either, I loved seeing the flaws and cracks come out.

The story had a subplot of betrayal and scheming which is always a bonus.  I would love to share some quotes from the characters and images but I have no idea what made it into the final copy.

My literal only qualm:  Some of the language – mostly spoken by Ajax – brought in modern slang and expressions with threw off immersion, but only slightly. Not enough to dock a star because it was funny and made Ajax relatable where he wouldn’t be otherwise.  Speaking of Ajax, I liked that the book nodded to boy problems (sticky balls anyone?) too, to give the guys something to read.  I love when I can recommend YA books to everyone!

Gosh what a fast paced and great story though, plenty of scheming, brutality, friendships, laughs, and stabbings to keep me rapt for the entire 500+ pages.

That cover too, omg that cover.

Absolutely can NOT wait for the sequel, I requested it and have my fingers crossed!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Book Review: Rise Above the Storm by Alpha Four

Hopefully everyone who celebrates had a great (socially distanced) Thanksgiving! I am thankful for all the authors who allow me to give their fantasy books a read and feature, and for their endless patience with my schedule and (now finally caught up, thankfully,) turnover time! Alpha Four is one of those authors and I hope you guys are adding his books to your TBR! Today I am featuring the Far Forest Scrolls book #3, Rise Above the Storm, and thank the author endlessly for my finished copy in exchange for a feature and honest review! All opinions are my own!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Rise Above the Storm
  • Series: Far Forest Scrolls #3
  • Author: Alpha Four
  • Publisher & Release: Far Forest Scrolls, August 2020
  • Length: 402 Pages
  • Rate & Recommend:  🌟🌟🌟🌟⚡    yes for fantasy fans 14+!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

The world tips into a barbarous conflict that threatens to drown the world in agony and bloodshed. The Chosen One is designated, but before the first quest is revealed the fragile League is already on shaky ground.

For a quick refresher on book one and book two, the reviews can be found in those clicky links!

The Plot: The Far Forest Scrolls books have been an overall slow burn for sure, but this book finally takes off running. All the major plot points and story lines from the prior books are connected and coming together in this installment. The elves have buried their dead in a most magical way (and I would have been bawling if I wasn’t already emotionally numb), and Bellae’s quest is finally underway. Now that the seeds of mistrust were sown in book 2, the initial skirmishes have begun in Verngaurd’s unavoidable civil war. I was impressed at how the White Wizard and dark warriors managed to completely break apart the alliances formed, giving the Proliates time to firm up their army and declare war. The political alliances and scheming were huge leading up to this, and despite Friar’s best efforts there seems to be no way to avoid war. The pacing in this book is excellent too, there wasn’t much downtime at all.

“If we keep our heart and stand together despite our fear, that is a victory”

-Friar

The Characters: The dwarves and eaglians are in the spotlight too now. I really liked Kainen and Arend and the other members of the League of Truth, which is now revealed to escort the chosen one on their quest. Or at least to the beginning of it. Despite gryphons in the sky and magicians trying to beat them off the path, I thought it was awesome that the dwarves and dragons and Eaglians were risking everything to protect Bellae and clear her way. Seeing her come into her maturity a bit (for a 7 year old) but also be appropriately vulnerable for her age made her seem very real. I think Lontas has a great character arc too finally. It was also nice to give Scelto some chapters and his own personality, which I enjoyed a lot. Jumeaux too. The other main part of Rise Above the Storm was allowing the side characters and other squires to experience the opposition and choose their heart’s alliance. Ritari and Luchar and the knights finally turned into real humans too and I feel a lot more invested in everyone’s outcome now.

“The future has the impressive ability of coming whether you want it to or not”

-Friar

The World: There isn’t much more I can say about the world, it is just absolutely amazing. Fully immersive. Terrain, temperature, weather, food, drawings and artwork of magical creatures and people, architecture, religion, politics, history, it’s all there. All of it. The forest of Creber was probably my favorite part as we got to see some of the traditions of the elves, including the burial rites. I mean even the smell of the dead. What does a blood spiral look like as a dragon rider falls? What about a flesh eating log or an eagle that just ripped apart a gryphon? A4 has you covered.

“There are many definitions of courage, but the greatest one I have heard? Marching forward, even full of fear, headlong into the darkness of the future”

-Vlug, the blue dragon

Continuing with much humor and wit, plus the trademark philosophical elements and more stunning artwork… and, darn it, another cliffhanger – I will be excited for news of the next book, I imagine next year. This is easily and by far my favorite of the series so far and I fully recommend the series to fantasy fans over the age of 14, due to some overly descriptive gore and death. Otherwise the books are fully appropriate with no foul language or romantic elements.

Have you read them? Want to read them? Have a favorite fantasy series? Drop a comment below!