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 Young Adult

Book Review: The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

  • Title: The Shadows Between Us
  • Series: no
  • Author: Tricia Levenseller
  • Publisher & Release: Feiwel & Friends – February 2020
  • Length: 333 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ yes but not for the advertised age group

Thank you to Shelf Love Crate for featuring this book in the monthly box. I am loving the alternate cover.

Here is the description from GoodReads:

Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:

1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.

But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?

So here we are with my second Levenseller book.  Let’s start with the age recommendation: Amazon states that 13-18 is the reading level, but do we really want to show 13 year olds a promiscuous character that doesn’t care if she sleeps with 1 or 100 men?  I believe Alessandra is only 18 as well, and it started when she was 15.  I know that kids see and hear a lot worse online but is this really the message that high school girls need to see?

So Levenseller’s main takeaway from the book is that she wants to empower women.  Alessandra is a cunning character, definitely a Slytherin, who has no problem lying, deceiving, murdering, and using her feminine wiles to seduce, marry, then murder the king.  She definitely empowers the other women at court to be their own people, and learns about the power of friendship.  I just don’t love the message of using men for their money and trinkets and power, and a 13 year old isn’t going to be able to think through the “sexually empowered” vs “trollop” argument that is made.  So parents – be warned.

For an adult, I can totally get behind the morally gray, Slytherin romance.  I did enjoy watching them get closer.  Kallias and his dog are everything in the whole book, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bookish King let his dog sleep in the bed before.  100% love this guy even if I am kind of blanking on what to make of his shadow magic. I expected it to be a dark magic but it was more regenerative than anything.

Also nothing else about the entire book was magical, and I’m not sure how I feel about only one person having magic when the rest of the world is entirely benign.  No one really seems to covet the magic either except those in the line of ascension – plus the king is kind of a (very nice but also brutal) tyrant.

Plot wise, I was never unable to put the book down but it did keep a steady pace.  I wasn’t bored but wasn’t 100% engaged either. Just like with Warrior of the Wild, I never felt like anyone was ever in real danger and Levenseller loves convenient and magical healing abilities. I enjoyed a good morally gray slow burn on the court proceedings.  The intrigue level was appropriate for a stand alone.  I didn’t really like how she threw guns and electricity into an otherwise obviously historical fantasy with kings, carriages, peasants and the like.

Overall … I don’t know.  I give it a three point five and am tempted to round down for GoodReads.  It’s rather unique for a young adult book.  I would recommend for teens and adults alike as long as they’re aware of the content, it could be a good conversation starter.

Have you read it? Want to discuss it? I kind of do! Drop a comment below

Categories
Fiction Paranormal

Book Review (and tour stop!): Gisela’s Passion by Astrid V.J.

  • Title: Gisela’s Passion
  • Series: Elisabeth and Edvard – prequel. Reads fine as a standalone.
  • Author: Astrid V.J.
  • Publisher & release: New Wings Press, November 2019
  • Length: 312 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ more than likely

Today is my Instagram tour stop!! Thank you to the author and BookFox tours for the electronic copy to share with you guys!  If you head on over to http://www.instagram.con/onereadingnurse you can find my entry point to the giveaway for a signed copy.

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Ever since she can remember, 18-year-old Gisela Winry has wanted to dance. Her strict father sees dancing as the path to immorality, licentiousness and debauchery. Devastated at his wrath after she secretly auditions and wins the title harvest queen of Ylvaton, Gisela turns to her best friend, Hilarion, who proposes a path she cannot take. With their friendship broken, Hilarion retreats to the solace of the forest where he lets his hatred and jealousy fester.

Meanwhile, Gisela meets Vincent, a young nobleman seeking to escape his dead brother’s shadow. Will Gisela be able to uphold her family honour and get to do the one thing she’s always been passionate about? Will Vincent’s chance encounter with the lovely harvest queen from a tiny village become more meaningful than earning his father’s approval? And will Hilarion fight for the love of his life or give in to the darkness within him.

Immerse yourself in the life of the common people of Vendale in this prequel to the Siblings’ Tale. Gisela’s Passion is the retelling of a lesser-known Slavic folk tale which is better known in its incarnation as a French ballet.

Romances in any form are usually not my go-to reads, but Giselle (the folktale and ballet) is a tragedy above all else. I’m glad that I gave it a shot!

Gisela loves to dance and is otherworldly in her talent. All she wants is to be the harvest queen at the festival, to have one chance to do something of her own before settling into domestic life.  Her father has a hatred of debauchery though and is more concerned about choosing her husband and having the vineyard tended.  Women were property in that era and not much more.

The writing felt like a stage play at times. It is vividly descriptive of the sun and sights and scenery, as well as people’s actions.  I am sure this was intentional and very well done.  Other than one (pretty cringey) sex scene the book is clean and pretty straightforward.

If you have read the Elisabeth and Edvard books and read this as a prequel, the ending makes sense I think.  I hadn’t read them and found myself confused at the sudden mention of elves, mages and magic at all at the end of the book.  I knew there were spirits involved but the magic hadn’t been mentioned prior to the ending and it came as a shock.

At the end I wish Gisela would have quit making excuses for the men, even in the old world I think women deserved a LOT better.  This is a gorgeous retelling of the ballet / folk tale.  Whether you like romance, tragedy, theatre or ghosts, I would recommend this to pretty much anyone.

Here is the link to the book on Amazon: