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
Adventure Fantasy

Book Review: To Unite A Realm by Mary Beesley

Thank you so much to Mary Beesley for the finished Kindle copy of her newest book, To Unite A Realm!  This is an enemies to lovers story set in a very low fantasy world, so if you like adult fantasy romance… Check it out!  I read the book in two sittings and have no regrets at all.

My main point to keep in mind: the plot and characters totally carry this book, so if those are your preferred elements, read on!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: To Unite A Realm
  • Series: ?
  • Author: Mary Beesley
  • Publisher & Release: Boroughs Publishing Group, November 2020
  • Length: 252 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ for those looking for a quick read!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Through a prism of lies…

Vera Wilson, youngest daughter to the leader of her country – a county conquered by the tyrannical Grays – agrees to marry Angus Gray, heir to the throne of The United Realm. She hates him and everything his clan represents. But she has to protect her family and believes this marriage will keep them alive – unlike the friends the Grays have already murdered, one right in front of Vera. After a hasty ceremony and an awful wedding night, Vera travels to Alta Glenn, home to the Grays.

At first, life there is excruciating, but over time she learns that everything she’s been taught, everything she believes about the Grays and their clan is nothing more than a web of well-constructed lies. Almost too late, Vera protects Alta Glenn from impending disaster and realizes her husband is the exact opposite of what she expected him to be. Now, she doesn’t know if it’s possible for him to ever love her

The Story: I think the plot/story itself is a great idea.   A marriage to promote a peace between the rulers of a realm and a conquered landholding, the only catch being that the Grays are murderous, terrible people.

We follow Vera very quickly through her  meeting, marriage, and travel to her new husband’s homeland.  Once there, she starts learning the truth about how things really are in the Realm…and surprisingly the Grays aren’t the bad guys.  Well. Not the worst anyway.  The levels of betrayal and intrigue keep the story moving.  There is a side plot of a disease being used as biological warfare, to which a vaccine is available but controlled by Vera’s father.

The book progresses them rapidly from enemies to… well, you’ll have to read to find out if they become lovers.

The World: honestly the world just makes no sense whatsoever, but the plot is moving too rapidly to need that information.   The Realm apparently consists of multiple countries or landholdings.  One has colleges and labs and science and trains, another had an army and weapons stockpile, one seemed to have marshland and maybe boats, and the leading one, Alta Glenn, seemed to be a Scottish highland retreat community with only horses for transportation and the occasional revolver, although they did have electricity.   I don’t know how the heck those people obtained or stayed in power!

The only magic in the book consists of Euns, magic birds that are probably my favorite thing in the book.  They are sarcastic, murdery, able to talk, and act as lie detectors.  They are essentially giant murder parrots.  Although this isn’t enough for me to label the book an epic fantasy at all, I’ll give it low fantasy.

The mix of modern and old just doesn’t always make sense, even if the geography is fairly well described and gorgeous.  What were the streets of Alta Glenn even made out of, and how big is the place? I kept picturing a village vs a large town with a main shopping street… I loved the views out the windows though and the journey through the mountain passes.

…and a horse pops out a baby and weans it in a 3 month time period.  The other thing I REALLY needed more info on was the disease and bio warfare aspect, what was this thing? Manmade? Lab made? Where did it come from? It’s way too big not to elaborate!

Like I said – just don’t think about the world and enjoy the story.  If I hadn’t started thinking this would have been an easy 5 star book for how quickly I devoured it.  The characters and story are meant to just carry the book

The characters: Vera is the daughter of the ruler of the scientific country.  She has a huge character arc, showing strength and wisdom way beyond her upbringing.  Watching her get stronger and meld into the Gray family was lovely.

Angus… I mean he’s a man, but he means well I think.  Once the miscommunications are cleared up he gets SO much nicer.

Bear! Bear and Naira are supposed to be evil and terrifying but I really just need y’all to read the book and meet them yourselves.  There are a whole host of amazing Alta Glenn side characters that give the book a found family feel.

Content: the book is fairly low on content.  There is sex, between a faithful married couple, that is mostly closed door. It’s not entirely consensual at the start but they agree that they made their choices.  Otherwise there is some bloodshed, poison, a burned animal, and miscarriage.

Overall: I read the book in one day, so what can I say.  Great characters and plot are 100% enough to carry the book through the world that it exists in. 

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!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Blog Tour Stop! Born At Dawn by Christina Davis

     Thank you so much to TBR and Beyond Tours for having me on the tour for Born at Dawn!  First I’ll share the quick facts and synopsis, then a quick review and my favorite quotes (memorable moments) from the book!  Also make sure to scroll down and check out the other hosts, author info and book links!

Born Dawn

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Born At Dawn
  • Series: Da’Valia Trilogy – #1
  • Author: Christina Davis
  • Publisher & Release: Indie, November 15th 2020
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Length: 301 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes!

Here is the synopsis:

When a heist goes terribly wrong and the binding spell holding 17-year-old Neva’s powers at bay is shattered, the half-human thief knows she’s in trouble.

Neva has always hidden her Da’Valian heritage while working risky jobs to make a name for herself and serving at her family’s tavern, but she won’t be able to hide much longer. She can either risk the safety of those she cares about or seek out her mother’s people to gain control over her emerging powers.

The Da’Valia are beautiful, brutal creatures created by the god of war, and the austere Da’Valian soldier Astiand reluctantly agrees to take Neva to his clan under his protection. She makes unexpected friends, including the handsome fighter Emiliand, and a new enemy in the clan’s ruthless leader.

Spying on her guardian, the sly heroine quickly discovers just how deep she has stumbled into a dangerous, developing clan feud.

Will she be able to embrace who she is in time to keep her loved ones safe?

Overall I felt like I couldn’t read this book fast enough, and I know I can’t wait for the next book.  In a young adult fantasy era where authors tend to focus on terrible and repetitive inner monologues, Born At Dawn is a fast paced, plot driven book that manages to include a decent amount of world building and characterization as well.  

The species and clan relationships were well defined and the magic is definitely interesting as well.  I liked the flames and magic shields and ESPECIALLY the teamwork aspect of sharing both offensive and defensive magic.  The history of the Da’Valia was cool to learn about too, with the females born at dawn and a lighter color, and the males born at midnight of a darker coloring.  I wanted a little more history there but loved the concept.

My only two issues were that a lot of people and places and things had similar sounding names, so it was hard to keep apart – but there was a glossary in the back!  My other issue is why in the world, Neva, the main character who really is brave and resourceful and motivated and independent – would practically jump into bed with a jackass that lied and tried to keep her prisoner.  She seemed so much better than that!  (Note: only some kissing and horns stroking actually occured).  Oh…maybe the cover too- loved it, loved a glimpse of the city, but since Neva’s hair is long, where are her horns!! It was shorn when she was human to hide her ears!

I know I am supposed to focus on sharing my favorite quotes – but honestly I didn’t find many quotable passages.  A HUGE strength of the book was the consistently solid writing and it did not need purple prose to make it interesting or readable!  Nothing broke the flow of story for me and I loved the book for that reason!

So here are my favorite *spoiler free* memorable moments:

  • A time when Neva unleashed her inner power at a mountain in a very Alina Starkov-ish way, with the sun setting and the snow glowing orange – I cheered when she brought down an avalanche
  • A moment when Neva saw her mother’s ghost – a gift from the god of death – and while a little creepy, the ghost told Neva that she was “strong, powerful, and dangerous”
  • All the times that a hard-@$$ weapons master helped Neva, and the reasons she gave for doing so
  • The scene with my shippable couple – Neva and Emiliand – where they are practice fighting and having a conversation about being different breeds
  • And my favorite: the scene where Neva’s family and inner circle of thieves totally accepts her and Neva just feels so loved.  I had all the warm fuzzles for those people❤❤❤

I definitely can not wait for book two.  The clan battle is going to heat up and I hope Emiliand comes back, I just shipped that so hard.  I actually liked Neva’ s character which is rare for me in YA books and I want her to have an alliance – and romance? With someone who loves and fights for her, not imprisons her.

I also really hope for a Monazhi related prequel story at some point, the chapter intros weren’t enough!

Now that I have saved about the book forever – here is the link to the rest of the tour! I hope you will check out the other hosts!

TOUR SCHEDULE: Born at Dawn (Da’Valia Trilogy) by Christina Davis

About the author:

Christina_Davis

Christina Davis was raised in the Santa Cruz Mountains and is a California girl at heart. She spent much of her childhood in and out of hospitals and embraced reading as an escape. After being home-schooled through high school, she graduated summa cum laude from San Jose State University and attended NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute before embarking on a decade-long career in journalism. She enjoys chocolate, cosplay, coffee, and board games, but not necessarily in that order. She now lives in beautiful Monterey County with her husband and daughter.

Author Links:
Website: https://christinadaviswrites.wordpress.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ChristinaDavisWrites/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChristinaDWri
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChristinaDavisWrites

Book Links:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Born-Dawn-Fantasy-Adventure-DaValia-ebook/dp/B08CXRH4XL/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54981861-born-at-dawn