Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson (Book Thoughts)

I group read Sorcery of Thorns finally and was able to chat about it finally.  I valued the group’s perspective and it helped me put my finger on how I felt about the book too.  P.S. I read 6 whole books off my shelves this month!!

This is a great YA fantasy that had lots of YA inconsistencies. I’m trying not to think about it too hard

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Sorcery of Thorns
  • Series: n/a
  • Author: Margaret Rogerson
  • Publisher & Release: Margaret K. McElderry Books – June 2019
  • Length: 464 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for YA Fantasy fans and books about books

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:

All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire, and Elisabeth is implicated in the crime. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.

Alright so overall, without over thinking this, I enjoyed it for the most part as a YA fantasy.  It’s mostly fast paced with plenty of action, magic books, and demons who are the best characters.

It’s a magical gaslight era fantasy where books are living things with breakable hearts and women aren’t held in very high regard. Sorcery has a bad reputation, as do grimoires, and the main theme of the book is about uncovering the nature of things despite their appearances or what society says.  Knowledge is power – a great YA theme.

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The characters are… Ok.  Elisabeth is literally a strong, tall, hard to kill woman, and Rogerson avoided MarySue-ing her by not bringing other girls into the picture in comparison.  Her special traits ended up having a feasible explanation.

Nathaniel is supposed to be a typically dark, brooding man, but even in completely inappropriate situations (danger, levity, middle of a battle) he always seems flippant and ready to banter.  He did have some extremely serious moments but then would snap out of it real quick and I mean heck he just wasn’t believable 90% of the time.

The banter was funny though, like legitimately funny so it’s hard for me to layer this enjoyable comic dialogue over some of the scenes it was occurring during.  The dark scenes at night though – ok, ok, there were some good ones.

Now I’m joining everyone else who thought Silas saved the day entirely.  All my highlights were Silas related.  If for no other reason besides magic books, read the book for Silas.

P.S. hello we have another Garth Nix copycat.  Silas in cat form and Silas in general really reminded me of Mogget. Can anyone think of a white cat/demon/magic familiar before Mogget? I can’t for sure, but can name about 5 since!

I also didn’t love the sorcery magic but the demon to owner magic was cool, and, omg the books.  If you’re not reading for Silas, read for the books. Books and atmosphere.  Rogerson loves atmosphere and went over the line at times with purple prose, but sometimes I enjoyed it.

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Anyway – I did the positives first, now let me do the negatives. I docked a star because while it was super YA even in the most serious moments – or most of them anyway – the characters went from like two quick kisses, to clothes off, mad quick, in a gaslight fantasy era where I’m sure Elisabeth would have had reservations.

Gaslight – think stagecoaches and insane asylums and women being diagnosed as insane because they read books. Which then becomes SUPER INCONSISTENT because some of the library directors are women, as are lots of the apprentices and wardens and librarians.  Now we know the libraries aren’t cut off from social prejudice because they don’t like sorcerers, but they randomly allow women in while a huge point was made elsewhere that women were treated …. poorly.  It is the biggest plothole inconsistency ever.  Plus it’s apparently totally cool for Elisabeth to just live with Nathaniel and ignore all social norms, right lol.

Sooo I’m trying hard to stick with 4 stars and not overthink this because I did enjoy it while reading.  I didn’t love it but for a YA audience I think it’s a good bet

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor (Book Thoughts)

My entire adventure into YA fantasy started because of Bookstagram. Strange the Dreamer was put on that reading list very early and I’m glad I finally had a chance to read it. A solid follow-up to the DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE series -which I apparently never blogged about – let’s take a look at what I loved (and didn’t love) about Laini Taylor’s magical book

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Strange the Dreamer
  • Series: Strange the Dreamer, #1
  • Author: Laini Taylor
  • Publisher & Release: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – March 2017
  • Length: 544 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐for those who like lush fantasy worlds where the romance may or may not make sense

Here’s the synopsis from Amazon:

From National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor comes an epic fantasy about a mythic lost city and its dark past.

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around–and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared his dream chose poorly. Since he was just five years old, he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the form of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? And who is the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams?

In this sweeping and breathtaking novel .. the shadow of the past is as real as the ghosts who haunt the citadel of murdered gods. Fall into a mythical world of dread and wonder, moths and nightmares, love and carnage.

The answers await in Weep.

Alright I don’t want this to turn into a 5 page long essay so I will hit the mainstays –

The Worldbuilding: One thing I’ll say for Laini Taylor is that she is a master of lush world building.  The settings are so vividly described, the buildings and architecture, weather, terrain, food, mood of the citizens, everything you could want from the micro world building is present.

On a larger macro level, there is also lots of history and custom given.  Many stories and folklore and popular legends are given through Lazlo’s storytelling, which really adds another dimension to the world

One of the main mysteries – where the Gods came from and what they are doing -will likely be discussed in Muse of Nightmares. 

The Characters: speaking of the Muse of Nightmares – let’s do characters next. I really applaud Taylor for starting the book out the way she did –

How can you turn away from a book after learning that a blue girl falls out of the sky?  Sarai and the other godspawn had a complicated and interesting dynamic.  Their imprisonment and survival chipped the humanity away from some, while it seemed to flourish in others.  I liked Sarai and felt for Minya, they were all just surviving in the world of their parents. And wearing their underwear. 

Lazlo is one of my favorite YA MC’s ever, except he is around 20 or so.  While completely appropriate, I think this book falls into that NA age category.

I love this quote almost as much as I love Lazlo. He was an orphan who was swallowed by the Great library. He is funny and has a wonderfully vivid imagination, is deeply caring, and might be “just a librarian” but definitely has a sense of adventure.  He always sought out the good that he could do regardless of whether or not it would benefit him in turn.

A lot of the side characters had important rules as well. No one was there just to be a plot device. Master Hyrrokkin was one of my favorites, just because his old man banter was not what you would expect from an ancient librarian.  It was also funny when his Warrior friends were giving Lazlo mistranslations and having him say silly things 

The magic:  tying into the world building, Taylor also created a lush magic system. Each of the god’s children had an ability, some of which were kind of cool. All the abilities were useful for survival. Sarai’s involved moths and Nightmares, and if that doesn’t make you interested in the book I don’t know what will.

What I didn’t love: I enjoyed the book immensely up until the point where the action was ready to boil over, and Laini grinds it to a full halt. A *screeeech*ing halt.  Then takes something like 10 chapters to expand on a true insta love – OMG HE *SAW* ME – gag. I hate insta-love. It was a cute sequence but I don’t think jumping at the first (second)? boy she’s ever interacted with constitutes a romance that I care about.  It just seemed like an excuse for Laini to add more magic into an already magical world, where that page time could have been spent trying to help keep the peace, keeping the action going, or literally anything else.  Seeing each other and being fascinated doesn’t constitute a romance, even if Lazlo did have a wonderful mind to spend time in. One other thing is that I actually spotted ‘The Twist’ this time, as soon as it was said. No spoilers but it’s pretty rare that I actually get the hint so I thought it was worth mentioning

Random:  I also liked that there were some harder themes tackled, such as survival

That’s how you go on. You lay laughter over the dark parts. The more dark parts, the more you have to laugh. With defiance, with abandon, with hysteria, any way you can – Sarai

And hard truths like justice

You think good people can’t hate? .. You think good people don’t kill? […} Good people do all the things bad people do, Lazlo. It’s just that when they do them, they call it justice – Sarai 

Don’t forget found family!

“You two idiots,” said Azareen, and Lazlo felt a curious twinge of pride to be called an idiot by her, with what might have been the tiniest edge of fondness

One final parting quote, even though half of the book is quotable-

“Dream up something wild and improbable. Something beautiful and full of monsters.”

“Beautiful and full of monsters?”

“All the best stories are.”

Overall – stupid “romance” in an otherwise  wonderful world.  The plot unravelled mysteries as it went and created (minus the block of “romance chapters”) a fantastic reading experience.  The banter had me laughing out loud, the writing is beautiful, and the magic felt real within the world. Check it out!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

The Lost Dreamer (Book Review) by Lizz Huerta

Thank you so much to the publisher via Bookish First for my finished copy of The Lost Dreamer by Lizz Huerta!

I’ve never read anything based off of MesoAmerican type culture so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. The story idea is a good one, and I enjoyed the read, but I think the overall execution hurt the end result. Let’s take a look at this newly released YA fantasy!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Lost Dreamer
  • Series: I *think* it’s going to be a duology
  • Author: Lizz Huerta
  • Publisher & Release: Farrar, Straus and Giroux – 03/01/22
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ for YA fantasy readers  – for adults I think it will read young

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

A stunning YA fantasy inspired by ancient Mesoamerica, this gripping debut introduces us to a lineage of seers defiantly resisting the shifting patriarchal state that would see them destroyed—perfect for fans of Tomi Adeyemi and Sabaa Tahir.

Indir is a Dreamer, descended from a long line of seers; able to see beyond reality, she carries the rare gift of Dreaming truth. But when the beloved king dies, his son has no respect for this time-honored tradition. King Alcan wants an opportunity to bring the Dreamers to a permanent end—an opportunity Indir will give him if he discovers the two secrets she is struggling to keep. As violent change shakes Indir’s world to its core, she is forced to make an impossible choice: fight for her home or fight to survive.

Saya is a seer, but not a Dreamer—she has never been formally trained. Her mother exploits her daughter’s gift, passing it off as her own as they travel from village to village, never staying in one place too long. Almost as if they’re running from something. Almost as if they’re being hunted. When Saya loses the necklace she’s worn since birth, she discovers that seeing isn’t her only gift—and begins to suspect that everything she knows about her life has been a carefully-constructed lie. As she comes to distrust the only family she’s ever known, Saya will do what she’s never done before, go where she’s never been, and risk it all in the search of answers.

With a detailed, supernaturally-charged setting and topical themes of patriarchal power and female strength, The Lost Dreamer brings an ancient world to life, mirroring the challenges of our modern one

Lets talk about execution first: A TON of names, places, abilities and different magics were thrown out at first with no background given, creating a lot of initial confusion. I see a lot of people agreeing that they started out without knowing what was happening or being able to keep track of characters, which can sour a book.  It definitely did for me until I got about 100 pages in and became more interested.

Many things are explained at some point but especially at the end I could just not keep track of so many minor characters.  Most big world building things were at least touched on at some point but per a typical YA, Huerta focused more on the characters than explaining the world 

I also wasn’t sure about describing everyone by their structure, hips, and build, but I read that as a nod to the Mesoamerican culture.  What she did describe very well was the natural world: flowers, animals, hidden temples,  smells, and some of the ceremonies and rituals.

The characters were decent.  I loved Saya’s story.  She deals with escaping abuse and finding family, discovering herself and her abilities, and watching her find joy in the world was awesome.  I loved her Singing abilities too and how it connected her with natural spirits.  In general, I think the different innate magical abilities of the clans were the best part of the book.

Indir, the first main character, felt like cardboard to me.  She clearly has some kind of social anxiety and never liked to leave the Temple.  She was a powerful Dreamer but seemed essentially worthless when it came to travelling or really doing anything 

That said, and needless to say I was SHOCKED when she randomly and very quickly became attached to a male warrior, and hooked up without much hesitation.  It was a means to the end for the story but that “romance” storyline became a WTAF thing real quick in a book that I would otherwise hand to a 12 year old

Thankfully – it was vague and more or less had to be inferred but still – I didn’t see it as consistent with Indir’s character at all. 

There is a big “twist” towards the end that – again – it was a good idea but I had to backtrack and consider the book from a new angle. I think when readers will appreciate the big reveal more than adults.  For me, the timelines should have been given along with the points of view and let people reason the twist out on our own if they hadn’t figured it out already

The end result was a starting point going forward for the next book with a LOT of background missing. I have so many questions about the meantime, like the book was getting too long and Huerta just found a way to wrap it up!

Even with the issues, I thought there were many good themes like dealing with the death of a relative for the first time, sisterhood, girl power, different beauty standards, choosing your family, being curious about the natural world – and many more.

Overall – I think this is a good series for teens.  Other than a 15 (I think) year old shy character having a sexual partner, there was absolutely no language and a bit of blood and violence but nothing explicit at all.  I would be ok with my teens reading this one!

 


As always, thank you again to the publisher for my free reading copy! All opinions are my own ❤

Categories
Fantasy Paranormal Young Adult

Edgewood (ARC Review) by Kristen Cicarelli – plus words for the publisher

Hey Wednesday Books… thank you for the review copy of Edgewood! All opinions are my own. (I do briefly review the book below, in a bold paragraph.  Bookish quick facts and synopsis below that).

I love y’all truly but we need to have a chat: this is this second pretty obviously “new adult” or at least “upper YA” book that I’ve read from Wednesday coming out this year and I’m having a moral conflict

I am over seeing these books advertised for the 13-18 age group. I strongly believe Amazon is heavily at fault for not having more specific age options for books – AND – I get that the “new adult” market is fuzzy.  The thing with these books though is that these characters are out of the house already, leaving home for careers and coming back home, and EVERY SINGLE BOOK I’ve read from you guys this year is pushing sex on that YA age group. I get that it’s a “crossover” imprint but still still STILL what message are you and the authors trying to send to young teens?  That is something the editors/publishers/authors can control and frankly as far as I’m concerned it comes down to integrity

I’m not ok with y’all trying to attract adults to these books too.  Send these books to the adult imprint. Edgewood would have had a market with the adult fae/fantasy romance crowd with a bit more spice.  With the two sexy scenes deleted it would have been at least suitable for teen/YA readers, if the themes weren’t still targeting that 18-22 crowd 

In a world where 16 and pregnant is a real TV show I know content is a moot point, but you wouldn’t believe how many people agree that this isn’t what teens need to be reading in Every 👏 Single 👏 Book👏. Heck I’ve got TEENS messaging me to say they agree and don’t want to feel that pressure.  

⭐⭐This isn’t a bad review, this is me having a conflict.  I think Edgewood is a great book. I love magical forests and mischievous fae and the theme of keeping the grandfather with memory issues safe.  Found family, remembering, dealing with dementia – all wonderful themes. Being your true self is beautiful.  I liked Emeline and Sable, Rooke and Hawthorne especially.  The book has great characters with real and very personal struggles.  There are darker themes too like curses and entrapment. With a little more spice Edgewood would have fit right in with that adult/NA fae romance genre. With 2-3 scenes deleted it would have been a YA masterpiece. There are some great themes for that 18-25 age group. Like really, I enjoyed the book immensely. I read it in 3 sittings. A lot of her similes read a little YA (x like y, x like y, x like y, sometimes more than one in the same sentence – otherwise I like the author’s style.) That said, HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO RATE IT AS A YA book when y’all are killing me content wise?⭐⭐

 I’m asking Wednesday to find a way to do better as a ‘crossover’ imprint and stop selling sex in every single book to young teens.  I know they aren’t the only publishers doing it but honestly – it’s most consistent that I’ve seen.

For now – I’m out on the YA reviews.  If I keep reading and buying YA books, fine, but I am not obligated to rate something I purchase with my own money and this stress will go away

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Edgewood
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Kristen Cicarelli
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, 03/01/22
  • Length: 400 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: for the 18-25 group sure, and I did enjoy it.  

Here’s the synopsis:

Edgewood has everything I love in a Kristen Ciccarelli book: lyrical prose, a romance that will hurt, and themes rooted in raw and intimate questions, making for a timeless tale.” – Joan He, New York Times bestselling author of The Ones We’re Meant to Find

Can love survive the dark?

No matter how far she runs, the forest of Edgewood always comes for Emeline Lark. The scent of damp earth curls into her nose when she sings and moss creeps across the stage. It’s as if the woods of her childhood, shrouded in folklore and tall tales, are trying to reclaim her. But Emeline has no patience for silly superstitions.

When her grandfather disappears, leaving only a mysterious orb in his wake, the stories Emeline has always scoffed at suddenly seem less foolish. She enters the forest she has spent years trying to escape, only to have Hawthorne Fell, a handsome and brooding tithe collector, try to dissuade her from searching.

Refusing to be deterred, Emeline finds herself drawn to the court of the fabled Wood King himself. She makes a deal―her voice for her grandfather’s freedom. Little does she know, she’s stumbled into the middle of a curse much bigger than herself, one that threatens the existence of this eerie world she’s trapped in, along with the devastating boy who feels so familiar.

With the help of Hawthorne―an enemy turned reluctant ally who she grows closer to each day―Emeline sets out to not only save her grandfather’s life, but to right past wrongs, and in the process, discover her true voice.

Haunting and romantic, Kristen Ciccarelli’s Edgewood is an exciting novel from a bold, unforgettable voice in fantasy.

“Darkly gorgeous and moving, Edgewood is full of curses and fae magic that will capture your heart and wrap it in thorns before setting you free again, forever changed. I devoured Edgewood whole and couldn’t put it down.” – Evelyn Skye, New York Times bestselling author of The Crown’s Game

Synopsis from Amazon.  I included the two plugs too because yes – honestly it’s a great read.  My issue isn’t with the book at all 

Pardon my rant as part of the review, do check out the book and let me know what you think!

Categories
Fantasy Romance Young Adult

A Far Wilder Magic (ARC Review) by Allison Saft

Thank you so much Wednesday Books for the free early digital read of A Far Wilder Magic by Allison Saft!  All opinions are my own!

This is a solid and enjoyable follow up to Down Comes the Night, Saft’s debut, although I had pretty similar issues with the two books as far as repetitive inner monologue and content for teens. I mostly enjoyed this read and would say yes for … Heck, 16+ with parental guidance probably

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: A Far Wilder Magic
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Allison Saft
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, 03/08/22
  • Pages: 384
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ yes for fans of slow burning, romantic books with low fantasy elements

Here is the synopsis:

A romantic YA fantasy perfect for fans of Erin A. Craig and Margaret Rogerson, about two people who find themselves competing for glory – and each other’s hearts – in a magical fox hunt.

When Margaret Welty spots the legendary hala, the last living mythical creature, she knows the Halfmoon Hunt will soon follow. Whoever is able to kill the hala will earn fame and riches, and unlock an ancient magical secret. While Margaret is the best sharpshooter in town, only teams of two can register, and she needs an alchemist.

Weston Winters isn’t an alchemist―yet. He’s been fired from every apprenticeship he’s landed, and his last chance hinges on Master Welty taking him in. But when Wes arrives at Welty Manor, he finds only Margaret. She begrudgingly allows him to stay, but on one condition: he must join the hunt with her.

Although they make an unlikely team, they soon find themselves drawn to each other. As the hunt looms closer and tensions rise, Margaret and Wes uncover dark magic that could be the key to winning the hunt―if they survive that long.

In A Far Wilder Magic, Allison Saft has written an achingly tender love story set against a deadly hunt in an atmospheric, rich fantasy world that will sweep you away.

A Far Wilder Magic is a solid, atmospheric story, set in a world with an interesting mix of modern and old fashioned elements. There is mystery, alchemy and magic, sexual tension out the wazoo, and a deadly fox hunt.

The time period confused me a bit, it wasn’t steampunk but the rich had cars.  There was alchemy but also electricity.  Guns were the weapon of choice while there were tenements and factories in the cities.  An age of immigration and innovation maybe, where old and new tended to mix was what I pictured, in a place like Dublin.  It was clear that the racial and religious lines drawn were Catholic, vs Irish and Jewish (I’m 99% sure), although they had other names and different religious objectives

There was not a ton of actual magic, although the Hala causing destruction and mayhem was interesting.  I liked that the Hala didn’t shy away from people.  The other magic involved the alchemy, but more as a natural talent that could be honed through study.  An alchemist and sharpshooter had to enter the hunt together – and I again think she could have done more with the magic, but I liked what was there.

The characters are sweet and I liked them.  Wes was my favorite because he stood up to the bullies and found it within himself to become a great alchemists, despite his multiple failures and implied dyslexia.  He hid all his vulnerability behind a wall of good looks, and I liked his character arc.

Margaret took a bit longer to crack, and I questioned quite a few of her choices like to let a strange teenage boy live in the manor, despite how much she needed help.  Margaret also crumbled or stood down in the face of religious and racial bullying, where Wes stood up and was more fed up with taking it.  Both are fierce characters in their own way, and I guess when you put the opposite sides of a coin together … You get a coin.

The book had good themes like overcoming prejudice, standing up to bullies, as well as believing in yourself, trusting others, not giving up, found family, and living your own life vs. staying in a parent’s expectations or shadow.

**I really liked the book, I just wish that the author wouldn’t interrupt action scenes for two pages of inner monologue that we know already. Let the action end first or it’s a very jarring shift in momentum**.

She did it at one crucial point where an animal was injured – you’re telling me the characters paused assisting the animal to sit and share monologue for so long? Then at the end of the fox hunt she broke a critical scene for … more monologue.  I will be honest that it took some skimming to get through those more repetitive parts.  I would have liked to see more from the fox hunt itself too.

There was quite a bit of action though, from sabotage to run ins with the Hala and training for the hunt.  There was also a snarky horse, which I can always appreciate!

Content wise: again this is young adult, and I will die on the hill that characters don’t need to go from first kiss to no clothes in one scene, ever. I mean hello the mom was right, I would have skinned them both alive had I walked in on that.  Please stop this trend of characters shacking up before the big end scene, it’s neither necessary nor something that all teens want to read in every single fantasy.  There is some other content regarding touching oneself, a teen girl reading smut, condoms.  I already touched on the religious and racial bullying, which is a good theme to confront and seems well handled, and a bit of gore. Amazon says age 14-18 but I would STRONGLY say 16+ for parents, regarding sexual content.

All in all, again, I truly mostly enjoyed this one. It’s a good book for fans of atmospheric, slow burn romances with low fantasy elements.  I would recommend for 16+ and new adult readers 

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Winterlight (Book Ramblings) by Kristain Britain

Hi guys! This post is something that I am just writing for me, myself, and I, and for anyone that wants to talk love and spoilers! When I reread the series prior to the final installment I would like to go through and write about my love for each book

If anyone doesn’t know, Green Rider is truly my favorite book series ever and I am beyond honored that Kristen Britain soft-yes’d me on joining the Sunday Brunch series! She shouted me out on Facebook and I literally died a little bit!

Anyway – feel free to read the quick facts and synopsis, but then I would probably stave off unless you have read Winterlight and want to talk theories with me!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Winterlight
  • Series: Green Rider #7
  • Author: Kristen Britain
  • Publisher & Release: DAW, September 2021
  • Length: 848
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 😭

Here is the synopsis:

This seventh novel of the Green Rider series follows the adventures of messenger, magic wielder, and knight Karigan G’ladheon as she fights to save king and country from dark magic and a looming war.

After her capture at the hands of Grandmother and the Second Empire, Karigan G’ladheon is making halting progress towards recovery. Karigan takes on increasingly dangerous missions, haunted by the specter of her torturer, Nyssa, and sinking ever further into the mire of her recollections of the past and the losses she’s sustained.

Meanwhile, the forces of the Second Empire are moving on Sacoridia and their primary target is a vulnerable garrison that guards a crucial mountain pass. Faced with new fatherhood and a country on the verge of war, King Zachary sends a contingent of soldiers and Green Riders to the pass–but his own recovery from the events of the north is not yet complete either.

Reunited with her fellow Riders at the pass, Karigan takes on a leadership role, but quickly finds that the Riders are not as she last left them. As tension mounts and war draws ever closer to the heart of Sacoridia, Karigan must discover what it truly means to be a Rider and a hero of the realm–and what sacrifices must be made to truly heal from her past.

Overall, after a disappointing read in Mirror Sight and Firebrand, Winterlight was a throwback to the earlier Green Rider books and just blew the past few efforts straight away.

Let’s start with the cover: that scene had me in TEARS, she is just a hero in every sense of the word and that she finally reunited with Condor was everything.  Even better was Fastion leaking a tear out on the hill when he saw what was happening!

The title – where it fit into the story – omg, Firebrand and Winterlight – I think the two titles are foreshadowing since Karigan is now royalty and obviously Firebrand is what the Eletians call King Zachary

“…my name is .. Sad Ice Light?”

– The real question is obviously, why did Jametari do that? What did he see? In an earlier scene where various future scenarios were playing out (p.247), the only future displayed for Karigan was that she would become a sleeper …

Skipping to the end, what suffering did the gods speak of? That ties into the sleeper theory, or the burning witch idea that that horrible priest threatened Karigan with.  I wanted more from the priest and Estora storyline too.

We still don’t know what Estora saw in Karigan’s Mirror Eye either, I wonder if it tied into her pushing them together towards the end?  I miss the Estora of the earlier books where she was just a girl in mourning, although she won me over as the Rose queen in this book.  I think she has redeemed herself and shown she is capable of being a great leader and queen on her own right.  P.S. that scene with them riding out and Karigan wearing the Rider Princess armor! Lol she named the horse Pumpkin!

More crazy things was the history of the Weapons, that magic free room in the castle depths.  I couldn’t believe that the Weapons WERE the scourge, how dark.  I also found myself supremely sad when many of our favorite Weapons (Ellen 😭) fell to the Lions at the battle.  It was uplifting to have Karigan and Zachary fighting back to back though.

Another overall favorite aspect was how Winterlight brought home so much Green Rider history and favorite, memorable moments, while still introducing plenty of new history and lore as well.  Remember the nightgown clad ride when Karigan was called? Hey, so do the soldiers.  When she first went through the tombs? Even bringing Tegan through the tombs this time felt special, as the horses were bobbing their heads to Lil and we experienced a rider without the ghostly connection’s reaction to the tombs.

I feel like I love the tombs, poor Agemon dealing with the horses walking through!

What else … Oh yes, all the new riders and their abilities!

Connly was being a dick but I get it, I think Karigan will be promoted again when they get Laren back.

OH YEAH WHAT THE HECK, WHERE DID STEVIC GET ALL THESE SPECIAL “SKILLS” from?? Is our favorite dad going to become a hero in this one as we discover his secret past?  Was all the silence and backing away from Karigan’s raising some secret wartime PTSD? I need to know!!

The end killed me too, the Beryl and Alton scene finally had me absolutely sobbing.  I always wondered what Alton’s end game was going to be, and now I think he’s going to become a fallen hero in the final installment.

Other than the history being brought back, my other favorite thing about the book was how it emphasized that no matter what she’s been through, Karigan at her core is still a strong, funny, relatable person.  Those scenes after the battle towards the end where everyone was regaining their strength and the Green Rider family was catching up again, I liked that lull to show their resilience.  It didn’t last long but it was meaningful.

Oh lord, Ghost Kitty eating the guy’s head *barf*

Anyway – anyway – anyway – these are the things I want to remember going forward –

  1. Gods – karigan’s endgame/suffering?
  2. Estora + priest – what happens with both of them? Do they turn evil together maybe?
  3. Alton lives?
  4. Zachary and Karigan – maybe we finally get resolution
  5. The Eletians – where does K as royalty come in?

I can NOT wait for the end, I never want it to come but I can’t wait 😭😥😍😢😕❤🐴

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

This Vicious Grace (ARC Review) by Emily Thiede

Thank you so much to Wednesday Books for the super early digital ARC of This Vicious Grace! My first selling point was that Tamora Pierce plugged it, and then I thought the synopsis was grabbing so I *ahem* definitely didn’t put down my TBR to read it.  A YA fantasy with a battle between the gods, a snarky bodyguard romance, and banter for days? Heck yes

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: This Vicious Grace
  • Series: The Last Finestra, #1
  • Author: Emily Thiede
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, 6/28/22
  • Length: 448 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Yes with a caution to my religious readers,  for religious interpretation and premarital relations

Here is the synopsis:

Three weddings. Three funerals. Alessa’s gift from the gods is supposed to magnify a partner’s magic, not kill every suitor she touches.

Now, with only weeks left until a hungry swarm of demons devours everything on her island home, Alessa is running out of time to find a partner and stop the invasion. When a powerful priest convinces the faithful that killing Alessa is the island’s only hope, her own soldiers try to assassinate her.

Desperate to survive, Alessa hires Dante, a cynical outcast marked as a killer, to become her personal bodyguard. But as rebellion explodes outside the gates, Dante’s dark secrets may be the biggest betrayal. He holds the key to her survival and her heart, but is he the one person who can help her master her gift or destroy her once and for all?

Considering how disenchanted I have become with YA fantasy recently, I did enjoy this one.

The population of the country has settled onto islands where the Goddess uses a pair of warriors to keep swarms of demons at bay.  This happens maybe once every 20 or so years, which gives the islands plenty of time to identify the next Finestra and Fonte, train them, and have them battle ready.

I thought the Italian inspired lore and names were cool.  Each chapter holds a proverb in the old language, and I made a game out of guessing the English translation before reading it.

The plot is fairly straightforward and fast paced.   We get some lore and history of Dea vs Crollo, the two deities engaged in this battle, and I honestly thought the religious lore and customs that developed as a result were extremely well done.  The populace lives the way they do as a result of the world they live in, namely extremely devout, hierarchal, and ready to save the wealthy when the demons come.

The worldbuilding is there on a micro level as well! We know the mood of the fortress, the city, the figures in power.  The weather and the hidden beaches.  What they eat and drink, the local customs, and how social structure is accomplished.

The magic? Pretty standard, it works on an energy type of system but becomes magnified and more powerful when combined with other people’s.

The characters were awesome.  Alessa is the Finestra, sheltered into solitude and waiting to find a Fonts, a battle partner, that she won’t kill by accident.  Dante is the bodyguard that she hires and he is just … ha ha way too much.  A bad boy with a bookish side.  The other fontes were funny and also good characters.  The banter for days is real.

Now let’s get into the stronger stuff: I think it’s awesome and important to explore the theme of interpreting your religion and making it work for you, and I think it’s something that many Catholic teenagers struggle with.  I think the author brought this into the book and also stressed the importance of friendship, community, working together, and not going life alone, all of which are A+++ themes.  THAT SAID, this is a YA book and I would have stopped the theme before throwing celibacy out the window, especially since it was with someone other than her intended (even though it was an arranged marriage).  I know that self realization through sex is like the cool topic in YA right now but I just hate the trope, and if I’m analyzing this from a Catholic standpoint the author definitely took a FANTASTIC theme … too far.

Also I would have liked to see one or two major character deaths since the ending is a huge and hugely devastating battle.  I never find it realistic when everyone ends up living.  The author copped out of one huge plot twist with a good save, a very good save, but I think I wanted more death.

Lastly: this is small details but the cover does not scream “fantasy”. I would not cover buy it as is, although I hope that doesn’t deter people

All in all: great plot, great pace, great world building on both a micro and macro level, and good themes even if one went beyond propriety. I would totally recommend it and definitely plan on owning a copy of both This Vicious Grace and it’s sequels

Thanks again to Wednesday Books 🖤 all opinions are my own

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Wolf Pack (ARC Review) by Mary Beesley!

Thank you so much to Monster Ivy Publishing for the ARC of Wolf Pack by Mary Beesley! The merch is lovely too!

This author has written four books now, and each one has had me hooked whether she is writing YA fantasy, romance, or adult fantasy.  Something about the themes that Beesley explores and her writing style has made her a favorite of mine, and Wolf Pack definitely reinforces that

My review of Book 1, Dragon Blood, can be found here 

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Wolf Pack
  • Series: Draco Sang #2
  • Author: Mary Beesley
  • Publisher & Release: Monster Ivy Publishing, 11/02/21 
  • Length: 312 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🐺🐺🐺🐺🐺 oh yes

Here is the synopsis:

Ferth has lost his only brother. Gone are his fur and claws. Hunted by his father, he seeks protection among his former enemies. Even with his familiar face, it’s a struggle to hide his wolves and his Draco sympathies from the humans.

Shale finds more than freedom in Elysium. She finds family. She has great hope for a bright future, but the Draco Sang army across the river is determined to take it all away. And the humans don’t have the power to stop them.

Thirro, a Draco Sang eagle, is desperate to prove his worth to his army chief. He’ll do anything for recognition, including hunt Ferth, his old best friend turned abomination, or take down Jade, his competition.

Jade has succeeded in life by striking first and fast. Show no weakness. She rises quickly through the ranks of the Draco Sang, but when she’s sent to hunt humans with Thirro, including a mission to kill Ferth, it isn’t so easy to let her arrow fly. And she isn’t so sure she has the right target in sight.


This lovely sequel to Dragon Blood takes place right where it left off. Where many trilogies suffer a second book slump, I think Wolf Pack was actually more engaging, easier to relate to, and at least as good, if not better than Dragon Blood.

Cultures clash, instincts are fought, and loyalties blur in this exciting sequel! 

Watching Ferth learn how to be human and find his new family was a stark contrast to the bloody battle scenes and Thirro’s madness. The two characters carried on the series’ theme of how much one’s blood and upbringing is responsible for their true selves. It was interesting to see what dark roads and moral ambiguities most of the characters navigated as they had to weigh their loyalties and choices. One other thing I have to mention are the wolves – their banter is EVERYTHING!

I mean really, it was so heartbreaking to see Cal and Lyko separated, and watching him start to rebound and form a bond with Rom was a highlight of the book.  Their banter was pretty epic, as was the family reunion.

I was floored by all the action as well. Wolf Pack containes more politicking and maneuvering and planning, which makes sense leading up to the conclusion, but the action and danger was there too.

A few new characters were introduced as well and they are providing an interesting base for book three.  Imanna could go in many directions and I loved her tiny and deadly self.

Beesley is never afraid to make our hearts hurt either, both books have ended in deaths and cliffhangers that had me wishing the next book was ready.

I 100% recommend the Draco Sang trilogy for any fantasy fans, fans of found families, clean fiction, and anyone looking for an exciting read!

Categories
Adventure Fantasy Young Adult

Crossbones (ARC Review) by Kimberly Vale

Thank you so much to Bookish First for the digital ARC of Crossbones! I claimed this one using my points, and all thoughts are my own.

I have not read a Wattpad book before. I own White Stag by Kara Barbieri but never got there – I’m curious to see if the quality of writing is similar, aka decent but falling a bit flat from what I’d expect. I’ll call this ‘the Wattpad stigma’ because it seems to be a real thing

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Crossbones
  • Series: Kingdom of Bones Trilogy, #1
  • Author: Kimberly Vale
  • Publisher & Release: 10/05/21, Wattpad Books
  • Length: 376 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🗡🗡🗡 Idk probably for Cinderella vs Pirate fans

Here is the synopsis:

Never trust a pirate.

The Blood Bell tolls, marking the death of the pirate king and the start of the Trials―a heart-stopping competition where the reward is the Bone Crown. Only one contender can claim the coveted island throne; each will gamble life and limb to win.

Captain. Sister. Maiden.
Csilla Abado yearns to prove her strength to the seasoned pirates who balk at her youth and to her elder sister who has always craved Csilla’s captainship. She will risk everything to become the first pirate queen, no matter the cost.

Dealer. Son. Legacy.
Kane Blackwater wants to leave behind the dirty gold and shady trades he’s made to keep his father’s ship, the Iron Jewel, alive. The Trials represent a new beginning―yet rumors of a secret heir are swirling, threatening his hopes of becoming the pirate king.

Stowaway. Daughter. Storm.
Lorelei Penny longs for nothing more than to avenge her mother’s death. Stowing away on the Iron Jewel was supposed to get her closer to the killer, but instead she finds herself caught up in the deadly battle where loyalty and desire collide.

Csilla. Kane. Lorelei. Each on a mission. The sea, however, has other plans. Dark tides are rising, and if they aren’t careful, they’ll surely drown.

You guys know that I will do anything for a good pirate story.   Now that I’m aware that this is supposed to be the first in a trilogy, I’m much more confident in my 🌟🌟🌟 rating

If it’s going to kick off a trilogy, I would expect much more in-depth world and character building, more lore, more everything.   The characters don’t need to rush from thing to thing and the author can take time to build relationships and such

The characters are a good lot but they don’t make great pirates.  They do say time and time again that they are meant to protect their homeland more than be ruthless brigands, but they seem more like YA cinnamon rolls than pirates.

Yes they have their ruthless streaks but they came together fairly easily in an alliance.  Are we just going to drop all of the terrible things that Kane has done?  What about Rove?  I want details!

There was a good foundation to the world building, but I want more on the entire Incendia vs Cerulia conflict.  More lore too, the gods and goddesses are an interesting basis but it all just wasn’t quite enough for me.

The trials seemed a bit anticlimactic too, plus for all of the times that it was said there were only 4 map pieces and each captain would get a piece – there were 5 captains.  

There were definitely positive aspects like the magic, I love when innate magic is attached to bloodlines or kingdoms.  I just felt like the whole book was skimming over the surface when, again for the start of a trilogy, there should be more depth.

The Scilla vs Rhoda thing was the most real relationship in the whole book for me, what a terrible betrayal by her sister.  The other relationships seemed fluffed together quickly.

I don’t know how to describe it either, but I just didn’t think the characters… Felt like pirates.  Rove and Kane did at least at the start, but Flynn definitely didn’t.  Neither did Scilla really, I needed more time at sea to show … pirating. 

I might give it one more book but I don’t know.  The ending felt more like Cinderella than pirates, and there are a ton of phenomenal pirate books out there right now

Once again thank you to Bookish First and Wattpad Books for the digital ARC!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Earth On Fire, Ocean of Blood (book thoughts) by A4

I was so excited when the fourth Far Forest Scrolls book released! I read it this October and figured that since I’ve been diligently reading from the start, I would post my spoiler free book thoughts.

There may be series spoilers – I think and hope not but it’s hard after four books to remember 😂

Series recap and reviews:

Na Cearcaill – 🗡🗡🗡🗡

Hourglass of Destruction – 🗡🗡🗡🗡

Rise Above the Storm – 🗡🗡🗡🗡🗡

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Earth on Fire, Ocean of Blood
  • Series: Far Forest Scrolls, #4
  • Author: A4 – Alpha Four
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 09/07/21
  • Length: 481 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨ I’m in for the series at this point, I do think it’s good for advanced young readers 

Here is the book blurb:

Pushed into civil war, the nations of Verngaurd descend into a series of devastating and fatal battles that leave the ground bloodied and in flames. Will Friar Pallium’s years of planning be enough to overcome the considerably larger army of nations arrayed against them? With an elaborate series of feints and ambushes planned, the only assured outcome is substantial death on both sides. With the Allies and the Confederacy focused on fighting each other, the Dark Warriors are all too happy to move in and conquer territory.

When the trials of their odyssey are finally revealed the League quickly discovers it will be longer, more strenuous, and infinitely more dangerous than they could have imaged. Bellae will have to face eccentric guardians of uncertain motives while struggling with the devastating loss of one of her companions—and her part to play in his tragic death.  

I like the concept, storyline, presentation, and artwork of these books so much.  What I’m struggling with is who to recommend them to, and also the pacing of the series as a whole.

The best line of this fourth installment was Bellae and the League of Truth – they finally started their quest and got so far as to find two sets of crystals.  The issue: it took four books to get here.  I get that it’s a slow burning series and epic quest, but I’m struggling with how long it took to get them here.

The guardians and the quest itself is awesome though.  Bellae is starting to crack a bit under the tragedy and pressure.  It’s truly unfortunate that she had to do this at her age since the quest was never intended for a child.  The other squires are such a good team and I like the other league members too.

Oh Crann, why though 😭

The other storyline was the beginning of the civil war – it was brilliantly thought out, including maps, but I honestly just tuned out at the length of the battle scenes.  The traps and prestidigitation were amazing and incredibly well thought out – but again, half of the entire book only covered the start of the war, and only a few encounters.  The cliffhanger though 😭

J think Luchar stole the whole book at the end with his diatribe prior to the final battle.  I think he secretly became my favorite knight and I’m just blown away by the depth he has hidden the whole time.  Half crushed or not, he’s joining that final battle.

Speaking of depth: I think this fourth book had the broadest emotional spectrum yet.  Oh I have both cracked up laughing and been absolutely bawling at points throughout the other books, but this one went straight to the dark pit of the Eaglian’s souls with black humor about Tallcon, death, and religious fanaticism, to the point that I found some of the exchanges truly terrifying.

So what do I think overall? These books are more about the journey than the speed. About the pearls of wisdom and range of emotions, and the author taking his time to get the story where he wants it to be.  It’s truly an indie project and I bet a labor of love, including the continuation of all the wonderful artwork in the book. 

This one still stays clear of language and romance, but continues with gore gore and gore in the war scenes.  It’s almost cartoonist at times but I still would strictly say 14+ with these and probably try them for boys trying to find fantasy books.

Lastly: I am just going to throw some of my favorite quotes here at the end!

Dreams, which can seem so hardy, even sturdy, within the fortified confines of our skull, acutely become fragile and vulnerable when exposed to the outside world. Each time we fight to achieve a dream, we uncover part of our heart. It takes courage to reveal a dream and diligent fortitude to achieve it

– Veneficus

 

At the end of the day, even those of us who have never fought in a war have battle scars, visible and invisible, repressed and haunting, external and internal, public and confidential. Regrets can cling to our souls like invasive dew

– a scroll

 

“When you’re fighting the wrong war, there can be no victory, no matter the outcome.”

-Friar

 

“In life, and on this quest, do not lose sight of the importance of the journey itself. Concentrate on your heart and dedicated effort. Those are the things you can control. Isn’t your best all that you, and the world, can ask?”

– Patuljak

 

“Just because I don’t worship your god does not mean that I have a lesser conviction, or right, to victory”

– Friar

And … Lastly:

“Even as the clouds of confusion rumble and turn black, I stand. I stand in front of uncertainty and scream, ‘I will know you.’ I will fight to know you. As long as I have breath, I will never let doubt or fear win. As long as I can move even one part of my body, I will fight, tear, and claw for Knight victory. When I heave my last breath, I leave no regrets.”

– someone I really hope survives