Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

ARC Review: Firefrost by Camille Longley

  • Title: Firefrost
  • Series: Flameskin Chronicles #0
  • Author: Camille Longley
  • Publisher & Release: self published? Sept 21st 2020
  • Length: 340 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ for fantasy fans

Thank you so much to BooksGoSocial via NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

So we have a classic enemies to lovers story, set against the snowy and magical Ulve Mountains.  The Flameskins are a race of people who coexist with a demon called a pyra, and once their soul is fully consumed they essentially turn into demons.  The nonmagical people and army of Tokkedal are attempting to eradicate this army of fire demons, a war which was been ongoing.  With atrocities like cutting out the hearts of, and then burning flameskins being commonplace, the hatred and prejudice and fear of the nonmagical citizens runs deep.

The world building was really quite well done.  We learn all about the snowy and inhospitable mountains, their legends, and the people who inhabit them.  How they live, what they eat, how they feel in regards to the ongoing war.  The political aspects got a bit confusing because even though a Tokken King was mentioned several times, a queen ended up being in power?  Other than that I enjoyed the world quite a bit, especially the place at the end.  Cough no spoilers.

The magic includes the Flameskins who have their demons, or mages that have similar skills but must use a stone to achieve them.  There is so much intricate detail about the pyras and mages and their respective curses, that I was pretty impressed for the first 40% of the book.  Even the history and prejudices and course of the wars were pretty interesting, as were all the ways in which the fire could be used.  From firesharing to Saint Katerine and her powers, there were a very wide range.

The characters are a bit of another story. Sol is her village’s huntress, and ends up on a confusing journey of survival with a Flameskin commander named Kelan.   They have to rely on each other for guidance, food, warmth, and emotional support while more or less having to escape both armies and everyone else they meet.  Their goals change as they go, but safety is hard to find in a world where there is no place to be together.

Can they trust each other? Should they hate each other or jump into a bedroll? Can Kelan fight off his Pyra and stay human despite the fact that Sol is a bit of a moron and forces him to use it all the time?  The relationship and inner monologue between them got so repetitive during the 35-70% part of the book that I just had to skim at times.  There were no new revelations and yet every few pages I had to read about their very repetitive feelings and confusion towards each other.  1.5 stars docked right there, I would have just preferred a shorter book or to spend those pages maybe hearing more stories about the mountains, the Saints for sure, or literally anything else.

Kelan was a pretty interesting and complex  character, while Sol just drove me nuts until she got her sh!t together and figured out which side to be on.   I get that watching your pa cut out a Flameskin’s heart would have lasting effects, but it took her a very long time to come off her high horse and work cooperatively with him to survive.

I was on an easy 5⭐ course until I hit the middle of the book doldrums that some of the early reviews mentioned.  There was still action going on but just so much repetition. This looks to be a prequel book to the rest of the series, taking place 100ish years before the next book occurs, so there was just no reason for it.  I once again encourage YA authors to give their readers some credit and back off the repetition.

Fans of enemies to lovers, found families, adopted families, fire magic, superstition and lore, keep an eye out for this one!  It releases September 21st!

Have you read this one? Want to discuss it? Leave a comment below!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Book Review: Divine Blood by Beck Michaels

  • Title: Divine Blood
  • Series: Guardians of the Maiden #1
  • Author: Beck Michaels
  • Publisher & Release: Pluma Press, June 2020
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ yes for fans of the genre

Thank you so much to Beck Michaels for sending me a copy of Divine Blood to read and review! This gorgeous book had me in some serious cover love when she advertised for readers!

Here is the description from Goodreads:

The Shadow demon nearly took everything from Dynalya Astron, and it would soon return for more. When she discovers a way to fight back, she must go on a perilous journey and risk it all for those she holds dear.

Along the way, she meets Cassiel, a Celestial Prince with magic blood and wings as black as his heart. He wants nothing to do with Dyna until he learns she could lead him to a place he has been searching for all his life.

But reaching their destination is not as easy as they thought, nor are they the only ones who search for it. With danger at every turn and harrowing secrets between them, the quest will require much more than determination. They must fight for what they desire—or die trying.

For fans of Throne of Glass, The Cruel Prince, and The Lord of the Rings comes Beck Michael’s debut novel with remarkable characters, a budding romance, and gripping action. Divine Blood is the first book of an Epic Dark Fantasy series that explores the depths of loss, acceptance, and the true meaning of courage.

I enjoyed my time spent in the world of Urn.  The world building is extremely well done. The book has both the map of the kingdom AND of the entire continent! It is hard to write books that contain epic journeys, with towns 90+ miles apart, and maintain a proper time and distance and bonding between characters and events, and I think this is a uniquely strong writing element in fantasy that she handled very well.  Between the length of the journey and the motley group, I was getting Lord of the Rings vibes.  She also describes beautiful trees and fauna, mountains and scenery.  In the towns we get a good idea for the general feel of things, the individual political scenarios, and small details like foods and currency even.  There are only local swears like “God of Urn!” and nothing that detracts from the immersion.  Like I said, I really appreciate the world building so far.

The description should really say for fans of ACOTaR, Cassiel is perfect to fill that Rhysand shaped hole in everyone’s heart.  The characters are the central aspect of the book, and make up a motley crew for sure.  Dynalya is the foreseen maiden of mage descent, trying to save her family and village from a demon that takes children.  Also she is a magical healer so YAY! Zev, her cousin, is a lycan with a temper.  Cassiel is a handsome prince.  Each has their own struggles and feelings of inadequacy and lack of acceptance to overcome.  The book spans quite a number of miles travelled and the characters grow on each other at a seemingly appropriate rate.  The only thing that bugged me was how Dynalya changes between the points of view – she is portrayed as super brave in her chapters but in the other POVs she is treated like a 6 year old precious flower with no self preservatio.  I have to agree more on the stupid human that can’t be alone in the dark at age 19 portrayal, than the brave woman one, it just seems like a huge change.

The other characters include an elf with some seriously amazing magic, a torn commander who is working for an evil mage (p.s. these 2 are my favorite characters, Rawn and Von), and a sassy sorceress who also has some awesome magic.  All sorts of magical races from minotaurs to elves to werewolves are in this book, and Dynalya ends up with six guardians so I can’t wait to see who else pops up in book 2.

My only real qualm with the book is a few (maybe 5 total) blatant editing mishaps, they are few and far in between though and I hate to bring it up but it distracts me so much from the pace of things.  The other enjoyment issue for me was the pacing – the plot pulls back and meanders in the middle half to build the characters and world while they travel.  I do enjoy these things and there was plenty of action thrown in too, but it wasn’t a compulsive read until the last quarter.  I guess to summarize: this is more of a classic fantasy and I’m only truly docking a star for Dyna’s bipolar portrayal, none of these other reasons.

As far as content: The romance was kept clean and slow burning, there is a brush of lips and some light hand holding only.  Only local swearing and nothing vulgar.  Some violence and gore mostly including werewolf attacks and stabby battles or magical murders.  I would put this in the ‘clean reads’ category!

So yes – I do fully recommend this for fantasy readers who enjoy a romantic twist in a well built world.  It is one of those rare ones that really truly has something for everyone.

 

Beck Michaels can be found online at:

https://beckmichaels.com/

https://www.instagram.com/beckmichaels_writes/

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

ARC Review: Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft

  • Title: Down Comes the Night
  • Series: Standalone?
  • Author: Allison Saft
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, 3/2/2021
  • Length: 400 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ for YA

Thank you to Wednesday Books via NetGalley for the wish-granted early read of Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft.

Here is the description from GoodReads:

A gorgeously gothic, deeply romantic YA debut fantasy about two enemies trapped inside a crumbling mansion, with no escape from the monsters within.

Honor your oath, destroy your country.

Wren Southerland is the most talented healer in the Queen’s Guard, but her reckless actions have repeatedly put her on thin ice with her superiors. So when a letter arrives from a reclusive lord, asking Wren to come to his estate to cure his servant from a mysterious disease, she seizes the chance to prove herself.

When she arrives at Colwick Hall, Wren realizes that nothing is what it seems. Particularly when she discovers her patient is actually Hal Cavendish, the sworn enemy of her kingdom.

As the snowy mountains make it impossible to leave the estate, Wren and Hal grow closer as they uncover a sinister plot that could destroy everything they hold dear. But choosing love could doom both their kingdoms

Overall this is a decent standalone? fantasy/romance, and seems to be pretty YA appropriate. The advertised age range is 13-18 on Amazon and I can see that.  The description gives away the first couple huge plot twists though, so there’s that.

Let’s start with the world building. The religious and political bits are pretty well explained, even the military structure, but the humanitarian bits are totally missing. Saft mentioned pollution and a black river multiple times but hardly mentions the industry causing it at all. (A train and steamboat are mentioned). What’s causing all that pollution? Factories? When asked about what Danu holds over Cernos (strong with technology), all they ever say is Magic. Is the industry stronger? Steam or iron? Why neglect this and just say “magic”? Also how do the people feel in the city? What do they eat even? The world was flat.  Vesria and Cernos were both better described than Danu. On a micro level though, the Colwick house was described excellently, ominous and dark and huge, and so was the North Tower.  I thought all those clocks were a pretty chilling touch!

The plot is fairly well done with a war between two countries that seems mostly based on lies and a generations old power struggle. Why are they really fighting though? I couldn’t find any real good reason except religious differences and some contested land of which the value was never mentioned. It just seemed like needless killing. The plot kept moving at a solid pace. I did skim quite a bit where the main character was just endlessly pining over another character.

As far as content, the most they ever actually do is kiss and make out and I THINK there was off page intercourse, but I wasn’t sure. Either way there is so. Much. Pining.

The actual action and plot kept moving along pretty quickly though. The action was fairly steady, with plenty of suspense and even a murder mystery involved. Lots of close calls, narrow escapes, murders and poisoners, even a dastardly political plot. The book reminded me of Stalking Jack the Ripper…. Just a little bit.

As far as the characters, I do like Wren and Hal. I think if Saft was going to leave those two together there wasn’t much point in doing the whole Una thing, but it did give Wren something to keep working towards even if the relationship was horrible. I didn’t like how Una kept belittling her, like right or wrong she was just being mean. I don’t understand the collarbones thing either, I guess we will soon find out how many fans have collarbone fixations. Wren is wishy washy and kind of an idiot but it was interesting watching her grow as a character. Hal was just sad but seemed to have a much older view of the world than his age.

I loved all the medical bits, I think the author almost has to be somewhere in the medical field. Some of the medical analogies were a stretch or just weird, but I enjoyed it all the same. This is where the SJtR comparison came from. My only real issue was ….. If a corpse has been expired, you really cant draw blood from it. That was the only thing that didn’t make sense. Magical healers are one of my favorite fantasy things though.

Anyway: yes I would recommend this to those who enjoy fantasy romance, enemies to lovers, and aren’t bothered by some light homosexual content. I am kind of hoping this ends up being a duology or trilogy. When not picking it apart it’s a solid read, although I hope a few of the plot holes get shored up in the final version. 3.5 rounded up to four stars.  The book comes out in March so there’s plenty of time to preorder or request on NetGalley if anyone wants to read it sooner!

Thank you again to Wednesday Books for my early copy! All opinions are my own

 

 

 

******below this line is a LIGHT spoiler that is the biggest plot hole in the book! So only read if you want to discuss it******

 

 

Final warning!!! Turn back now!!!

 

 

 

 

******ok******

 

 
Here it is the biggest plot hole: when Wren was talking to the queen and Una about Lowry, and the queen didn’t believe he had attacked Danu troops… WTF Byers’ corpse was sitting in the basement. Why not just walk them down there? Why not show Una? For all the bitching and needling and complaining and self loath she has over Byers, they totally neglected his corpse once Wren found him. Huge oversight IMO.

Categories
Fantasy Paranormal Suspense

ARC Review: The Hollow Gods by A.J. Vrana

  • Title: The Hollow Gods
  • Series: The Chaos Cycle Duology, #1
  • Author: A.J. Vrana
  • Publisher & Release: The Parliament House, 7/28/2020
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ most likely

Thank you so much to BooksGoSocial via NetGalley for the eARC of The Hollow Gods in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Here is the description from GoodReads:

A perfect story for contemporary fantasy readers who love their narratives razor-sharp and their secrets dark and deadly.

Black Hollow is a town with a dark secret.

For centuries, residents have foretold the return of the Dreamwalker—an ominous figure from local folklore said to lure young women into the woods and possess them. Yet the boundary between fact and fable is blurred by a troubling statistic: occasionally, women do go missing. And after they return, they almost always end up dead.

When Kai wakes up next to the lifeless body of a recently missing girl, his memory blank, he struggles to clear his already threadbare conscience.

Miya, a floundering university student, experiences signs that she may be the Dreamwalker’s next victim. Can she trust Kai as their paths collide, or does he herald her demise?

And after losing a young patient, crestfallen oncologist, Mason, embarks on a quest to debunk the town’s superstitions, only to find his sanity tested.

A maelstrom of ancient grudges, forgotten traumas, and deadly secrets loom in the foggy forests of Black Hollow. Can three unlikely heroes put aside their fears and unite to confront a centuries-old evil? Will they uncover the truth behind the fable, or will the cycle repeat?

The Hollow Gods is a solid debut from author A.J. Vrana.  I feel like the mood of this book is the most important aspect.  It is a dark, atmospheric read, and fits right in to the block of literature that tackles ancient legends in small towns, superstition, possession, and dreamscapes.

The book tackles three unique points of view.   Kai is definitely my favorite, the man who is a wolf, because his moods and foul mouth are just so memorable.  He has a lot of reasons to be angry, not even to mention an ancient spirit that likes to run him in front of buses and the like.  I did not like Mason at all, honestly if you can’t handle death don’t be a doctor, especially an oncologist.  All I heard was WHINE whine WHINE and I wanted to smack him.  It must be different in Canada because in the United States, a resident doctor wouldn’t be left in sole custody of a patient like that.  It might have also been an artistic stretch but I spent the entire book wanting to smack him.

The legend of the Dreamwalker was brought out in small bits and pieces throughout the story.  I think the townspeople are definitely crazy but what can you do when an evil entity is influencing mass hysteria?  Miya is the third character and she grew on me, especially once she truly became a main character and began interacting with Kai.  I hope that the second novel talks more about how Kai and Ama (the other wolf) even exist, they definitely aren’t werewolves … they are just what they are.  The raven was an interesting character too, there is a lot of ground that could be potentially covered in the next book.

Vrana’s writing is perfect though, she spent the entire novel capturing the dark atmosphere required for a book like this.  It was never creepy, and I was never scared, but still managed to capture that ancient wisdom and brash moody feel.   I think it is super interesting too that the author studied supernatural literature related to violence for her doctorate –  the interest and accuracy and thoughtfulness for which this is captured throughout the pages is quite evident.

Additionally, all of the characters have to deal with their own tough issues of personal inadequacy, grief, and discovering their places in the world.  If they like it or not, they are tied together and I did enjoy watching them all work through their issues.

So why am I only giving it 3.5 stars? I can’t explain it but I tuned out a few too many times.  There was a lot of dreamscape action before I figured out what was going on that made me lose interest, and I felt like she took a long slow approach to get there.  I am 100% definitely going to read the next book though and have no problem recommending this to fans of legends, supernatural, witch hunts, and animals in folklore.  It releases July 28th so add it to your TBR now if it sounds up your alley!

Have you read it? Want to discuss it? Drop a comment below!

Categories
Fantasy

Blog Tour: The Lost City by Amanda Hocking!

The Lost City - Cover Art

Thank you so much to Wednesday Books for the opportunity to participate in the blog tour for The Lost City by Amanda Hocking!  Before I jump into the review, here are the book’s quick facts!

  • Title: The Lost City
  • Series: Omte Origins #1, in the world of the Trylle
  • Author: Amanda Ticking
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, July 7th 2020
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Rating & recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for fans of modern fantasy

Here is the description provided by the publisher;

Amanda Hocking, the New York Times bestselling author of The Kanin Chronicles, returns to the magical world of the Trylle Trilogy with The Lost City, the first novel in The Omte Origins—and the final story arc in her beloved series.

The storm and the orphan

Twenty years ago, a woman sought safety from the spinning ice and darkness that descended upon a small village. She was given shelter for the night by the local innkeepers but in the morning, she disappeared—leaving behind an infant. Now nineteen, Ulla Tulin is ready to find who abandoned her as a baby or why.

The institution and the quest

Ulla knows the answers to her identity and heritage may be found at the Mimirin where scholars dedicate themselves to chronicling troll history. Granted an internship translating old documents, Ulla starts researching her own family lineage with help from her handsome and charming colleague Pan Soriano.

The runaway and the mystery

But then Ulla meets Eliana, a young girl who no memory of who she is but who possesses otherworldly abilities. When Eliana is pursued and captured by bounty hunters, Ulla and Pan find themselves wrapped up in a dangerous game where folklore and myth become very real and very deadly—but one that could lead Ulla to the answers she’s been looking for.

This is my first book by Hocking and I had no trouble picking up the storyline.  I also read the glossary and index first, which by the way is a total gem.  Have no worries if this is the first of the Trylle books that you read.

I haven’t read a lot of modern fantasy, with modern music and computers and technology, so The Lost City was interesting in that aspect.  The trolls live alongside humans, kind of like how the wizarding world shares but is totally separate from the muggles.   Once I got used to trolls in modern places I was able to enjoy the book quite a bit.  Some of the trolls are more human-like than others. It was fun to learn about their quirks such as hoarding, and preferring bare feet.

The characters were a good lot as well.  Ulla has a tough streak that I applauded.  Pan is just a nice guy.  Eliana is …. interesting, while Hannah and Dagny were fun.  I am docking my star for characters seeming to act out of line at times though, such as the entire ending.  Cute but like – really?

I thought the pacing was really even too. No part dragged and it was difficult to put the book down towards the end.  I would totally recommend for modern fantasy fans who enjoy a twist of legend and magic in their reads! While the book is not specifically YA, the content seems entirely appropriate for readers of any age as well.

Thank you so much again to Wednesday Books for the opportunity to be on the blog tour!!

 

Author Bio

Amanda Hocking NEW--credit Mariah Paaverud with Chimera Photography-1

AMANDA HOCKING is the author of over twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book.

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Book Review: The Kinder Poison by Natalie Mae

  • Title: The Kinder Poison
  • Series: Yes – The Kinder Poison #1
  • Author: Natalie Mae
  • Publisher & Release: Razorbill – June 16, 2020
  •  Length: 416 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for fans of the genre

Thank you so much to Bookish First and Razorbill for my finished copy of The Kinder Poison!  It is a gorgeous hardcover and for my fellow book sniffers, has that great sawdust smell 😂

Here is the description from Goodreads:

Perfect for fans of Victoria Aveyard and Holly Black, this enthralling fantasy adventure follows a teenage girl chosen to be the human sacrifice in a deadly game between three heirs who will do anything for the crown.

Zahru has long dreamed of leaving the kingdom of Orkena and having the kinds of adventures she’s only ever heard about in stories. But as a lowly Whisperer, her power to commune with animals means that her place is serving in the royal stables until the day her magic runs dry.

All that changes when the ailing ruler invokes the Crossing: a death-defying race across the desert, in which the first of his heirs to finish—and take the life of a human sacrifice at the journey’s end—will ascend to the throne and be granted unparalleled abilities.

With all of the kingdom abuzz, Zahru leaps at the chance to change her fate if just for a night by sneaking into the palace for a taste of the revelry. But the minor indiscretion turns into a deadly mistake when she gets caught up in a feud between the heirs and is forced to become the Crossing’s human sacrifice. Zahru is left with only one hope for survival: somehow figuring out how to overcome the most dangerous people in the world.

Tons of sibling rivalry, a magical and dangerous race, a taste of political intrigue, and some interesting family dynamics are all aspects that drew me to – and kept me interested in the book while reading.

The sibling rivalry is the base for the entire plot, so lets start there.  One of the three has to make it across the desert first and complete the sacrifice in order to become the new ruler.  First we meet Sakira who might love to party and appear reckless, but is ruthless and refuses to be dismissed.  Kasta is the eldest and has a paranoid darkness about him. Jet is the second son, not wanting the kingdom but determined to see his sister safely in charge.

The history between the siblings and the Royal family make up most of the background and world building of the book.  The book is SO character driven that it makes most sense to talk about those relationships.  They are complicated, real, interesting, and all competing for their father’s approval, as well of that of the nation and the innate power given by completing the human sacrifice.

Each sibling is competing with a team of 2 helpers, and the dynamics within the groups are all so different and equally entertaining.  Kasta I think had the most interesting group, including a demon shifter named Maia.  Her story is totally heartbreaking and between her demon aspect and Kasta’s insanity, they set up the main twist for book 2.  The best part was that for every twist and turn and bit of character development…..right until the very, very end, I had NO damn idea who was going to win that race.

The race itself isn’t all that interesting, the groups do have some hurdles to overcome but most of the barriers come from the sibling detaining each other or trying to kidnap the human sacrifice, Zahru. I haven’t talked about her yet because she’s literally a stable girl that snuck into the palace, and somehow is the bravest person ever. She has no interesting backstory, no anecdotes like the siblings have, no life story that indicates where she got her cunning from….and I docked a star for yet another boring lead.  Thankfully the siblings carried it.

Each sibling really was truly and uniquely interesting enough to make me keep reading the book quickly.  I liked Jet a lot, he is the main male character (ish) and I might have liked to stroll in the starlit desert with him too. Ha.

Just to touch on the magic system – almost everyone is born with some magical talent in the land of Orkena.  From animal whisperers to sound benders and firespinners, everyone has a place.  There was nothing terribly extraordinary about this but some of the individual talents were cool.

There was a lot of vivid imagery and good scenic descriptions of everything from clothes to horses to the land.  I like Mae’s writing style because there is just enough prose and banter to make her story seem real, but not enough to make it purple and boring.  I wish there was more world building – but this book had to focus on establishing the character background and future political rivalries as well as the Crossing itself.  The history that mattered was there, some quite brutal, but what about the mood of the people in general? The surrounding nations that are brewing this war/conflict going forward?

All in all, definitely a great read if you like sibling rivalries, friendships, banter, danger and magic, with a twist of romance, all swirled into one cunning race for the future of the kingdom.  I would definitely recommend it.

Thank you again to Bookish First and Razorbill for my copy, all opinions are my own!

Have you read it? Want to discuss it? Drop a comment!!