Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

ARC Review: The Stolen Kingdom by Jillian Boehme

Thank you so much to Tor Teen for the digital ARC ofย The Stolen Kingdomย via NetGalley!ย  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: ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ 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 kingโ€™s second son, has always been uncomfortable with his position as the spare heirโ€”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.ย  This is the legacy passed down through generations to the current king.

The plot/story:ย the plot ran at breakneck pace, again making it a great standalone.ย  A rebel lord has decided to replace a true descendent of the first king on the throne to seize power.ย  He finds a magic wielder and a plot to murder the ruling family is put into action.ย  Will the corrupted magic even allow this?ย  The current king is away while his sons entertain the heir’s wedding party.ย  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,ย  who doesn’t want the throne OR the dark magic of his father, is the other point of view.ย  They are both drawn unwillingly into this insane queen maker plot.ย  There is instant attraction between them, but then it buds slowly over months.ย  I liked this tiny bit of romance.ย  Both characters had full arcs as they realized how tied to the kingdom they are, and the side characters were great too.ย  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: The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Thank you so much to the publisher for my ARC of The Gilded Ones in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Gilded Ones
  • Series: Deathless, #1
  • Author: Namina Forna
  • Publisher & Release: Delacorte Press, 2/9,/21
  • Length: 422 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸโšก probably for YA readers who don’t get too hung up on details

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.

So… This is a nicely brutal tale about girls with demon heritage being tortured and bled for their Golden blood, then eventually murdered via the religious Death Mandate for their kind.  I was really excited to see religious purity in a book until I quickly realized it was an oppressive, not pious set of laws.

The women are relegated to male servants per the Infinite Wisdoms, until Deka is brought to the Capitol city to train in the emperor’s army of demons, alaki, which will defeat these Deathshrieks.  There is a huge reverse info dump at the end of the book but we don’t learn much about them, or the history of the empire until that time.

Quickly about the writing: anyone wanting to write first person present tense needs to read this book, she is one of the rare authors ( or has a beast editor) that doesn’t cross tenses!

Here is an itemized list of the issues I had with the world building, in no particular order:

1) The book started in a cold weather climate, but everyone is wearing delicate ceremonial dresses. Finally on the journey to the capitol the author remembers that it’s cold and they need furs

2)once the girls are brought to the Warthu Beta (training house) – things happen SUPER fast in the weapons and martial arts training. I’m supposed to believe that in two weeks they go from clueless to clever swordsmasters? Come on, show us some of that training. It’s like a ridiculous fast forward and magically they are all warriors.

3) so the Jatu recruits and female Alaki are supposed to pair up and be battle/life buddies. The whole book focuses on male to female/demon animosity – but- there is really no bonding at all shown between the pair, they just kind of become trusting fireside bffs one night after those mysterious training weeks pass

4) instalove – oh my gosh the kid back home called her pretty, ONE TIME, and later looking back she said she loved him ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚ I can almost ship Keita and Deka but we needed that bonding time that wasn’t shown

5) the plot and twists read VERY closely to Skyhunter which came out earlier this year – oh yes very monstrous monster bad guys, very inhuman indeed

6) dumb animal names – Ex: leopardan – it’s a fantasy world, either come up with fantasy names or call it a stupid blue leopard. I did like Ixa the shapeshifting not-cat though

7) if the One Nation is literally an entire hemisphere (I’m guessing Russia, Asia, irish&etc, and Africa), why so much land grabbing? The scale of land required to produce four separate races like that is essentially an entire hemisphere, now within one nation, and that should be shown on the map.

8) feeding off #7 – I would have liked a brief explanation of life during the rule of The Gilded Ones – is Forna omitting it because the entire history is a lie and life was terrible back then? Or are we supposed to just believe that they were fair/awesome rulers and take it at face value? The jatu did manage to unite an entire hemisphere though, the goddesses might have created a women’s world with oppressed men for all we know, and they could have been right to fight back. Either way, uniting a whole hemisphere under one nation is pretty impressive and not addressing this is a huge plot hole.

9) lack of setting – I get that describing sand dunes is stupid but most of the descriptions were of people and animals. What about the jungle, the common areas, even the food? Some scenes had scents described. Setting is what connects to the atmosphere…of which there wasn’t much of one.

I mean it’s not even a bad story, or a story you read every day. I like the idea of torturing someone to death nine times and teaching them to survive, but these YA authors aren’t thinking their worlds through very well and I don’t think that ‘character driven’ OR that it’s a Young Adult book is a good excuse not to at least cover world building basics. Everything I addressed up there could have been fixed without much extra page space.

The good things included female friendships, teachers (whose potential were mostly wasted as no lessons were really shown), shapeshifting pets, snarky horse-people, and… A not really happy ending. It’s an ending fitting for the story even though it got a little sappy for the tone leading up to it.

I did like the main group of girls too, Britta and Belcalis were about as different as two people can get and they still made a fast group of allies, friends with Deka. There’s an unconventional amount of grimdark suffering and it’s kind of terrific.

Overall? Honestly not a bad read just poorly executed at times. Could be a standalone but there’s at least one more book coming. It releases 2/9, and I am pretty neutral on recommending it as the good story and the lack of world building make it a wash. I’ll read the next one though.

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:  ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸโšก    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!