Tag: fantasy

Book Review:  Little Thieves, by Margaret Owen

Image belongs to Macmillan.

Title:   Little Thieves
Author:   Margaret Owen
Genre:   Fantasy
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Vanja Schmidt knows that no gift is freely given, not even a mother’s love–and she’s on the hook for one hell of a debt. Vanja, the adopted goddaughter of Death and Fortune, was Princess Gisele’s dutiful servant up until a year ago. That was when Vanja’s otherworldly mothers demanded a terrible price for their care, and Vanja decided to steal her future back… by stealing Gisele’s life for herself. 

The real Gisele is left a penniless nobody while Vanja uses an enchanted string of pearls to take her place. Now, Vanja leads a lonely but lucrative double life as princess and jewel thief, charming nobility while emptying their coffers to fund her great escape. Then, one heist away from freedom, Vanja crosses the wrong god and is cursed to an untimely end: turning into jewels, stone by stone, for her greed. 

Vanja has just two weeks to figure out how to break her curse and make her getaway. And with a feral guardian half-god, Gisele’s sinister fiancé, and an overeager junior detective on Vanja’s tail, she’ll have to pull the biggest grift yet to save her own life.

Confession: I almost stopped reading this about 15 times in the first 20%. It just started out so slow, and Vanja just wasn’t a very likable person at all. Fortunately, she started learning and changing after that, so she became more tolerable. After that, I enjoyed this story immensely.

The setting was vividly wrought, and the culture was fascinating to me, with the mythology woven seamlessly in, adding depth and nuance to the story. In the end, this ended up being a fantastic read filled with magic, danger, and romance.

Margaret Owen grew up in Portland, Oregon. Little Thieves is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Macmillan in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour:  The Keeper of Night, by Kylie Lee Baker

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title:   The Keeper of Night
Author:   Kylie Lee Baker
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Death is her destiny.

Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough has been collecting souls in the London streets for centuries. Expected to obey the harsh hierarchy of the Reapers who despise her, Ren conceals her emotions and avoids her tormentors as best she can.

 When her failure to control her Shinigami abilities drives Ren out of London, she flees to Japan to seek the acceptance she’s never gotten from her fellow Reapers. Accompanied by her younger brother, the only being on earth to care for her, Ren enters the Japanese underworld to serve the Goddess of Death… only to learn that here, too, she must prove herself worthy. Determined to earn respect, Ren accepts an impossible task—find and eliminate three dangerous Yokai demons—and learns how far she’ll go to claim her place at Death’s side.

The premise of this was excellent, and the writing was solid, too. The characters, however, didn’t really work for me. Ren herself was distant and cold—not human, I get it, but almost impossible to relate to—and I didn’t really care for her. Her brother just came across as weak 99.5% of the time. And Hiro, well, obviously he had secrets. Why on earth was Ren so surprised to find that out? The culture and mythology were rich and detailed, and I enjoyed that very much, but the characters just detracted so much for me.

Kylie Lee Baker grew up in Boston. The Keeper of Night is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Inkyard Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour:  Luminous, by Mara Rutherford

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title:   Luminous
Author:   Mara Rutherford
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

A witch who must learn to harness her power–or risk losing her loved ones forever. 

Liora has spent her life in hiding, knowing discovery could mean falling prey to the king’s warlock, Darius, who uses mages’ magic to grow his own power. But when her worst nightmare comes to pass, Darius doesn’t take her. Instead, he demands that her younger sister return to the capital with him. To make matters worse, Evran, Liora’s childhood friend and the only one who knows her secret, goes missing following Darius’s visit, leaving her without anyone to turn to.

 To find Evran and to save her sister, Liora must embrace the power she has always feared. But the greatest danger she’ll face is yet to come, for Darius has plans in motion that will cause the world to fall into chaos–and Liora and Evran may be the only ones who can stop him.

I really loved Rutherford’s previous duology, but this just didn’t quite measure up for me. So many layers of lies and misinformation that I was never quite sure of the truth about core concepts from the world itself. I liked Liora herself, but the other main characters were inconsistent at best. Some bits felt clunky and uneven, and there was a bit of deus ex machina thrown in for good measure.

Mara Rutherford is from California. Luminous is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Inkyard Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Forestborn, by Elayne Audrey Becker

Image belongs to Macmillan-Tor/Forge.

TitleForestborn
AuthorElayne Audrey Becker
Genre:  Fantasy, YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

TO BE BORN OF THE FOREST IS A GIFT AND A CURSE. 

Rora is a shifter, as magical as all those born in the wilderness–and as feared. She uses her abilities to spy for the king, traveling under different guises and listening for signs of trouble. 

When a magical illness surfaces across the kingdom, Rora uncovers a devastating truth: Finley, the young prince and her best friend, has caught it, too. His only hope is stardust, the rarest of magical elements, found deep in the wilderness where Rora grew up–and to which she swore never to return. 

But for her only friend, Rora will face her past and brave the dark, magical wood, journeying with her brother and the obstinate, older prince who insists on coming. Together, they must survive sentient forests and creatures unknown, battling an ever-changing landscape while escaping human pursuers who want them dead. With illness gripping the kingdom and war on the horizon, Finley’s is not the only life that hangs in the balance.

It took me a little bit to ground myself in this world, but I enjoyed the read a lot. I enjoyed how Rora grew from being shy and unsure of herself to confident and strong. The setting was fascinating to me, and while I don’t usually enjoy politics, in this case they were and integral—and well-done—part of the story. This is a solid fantasy read.

Elayne Audrey Becker was born and raised in Georgia. Forestborn is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Macmillan-Tor/Forge in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  The Rot, by Siri Pettersen

Image belongs to Arctis Books.
  • Genre:   Fantasy
  • Rating:  5 out of 5

To protect her homeland of Ym, Hirka left it behind. She traveled through the raven rings, a stone circle that can be used as a portal, to an unfamiliar world. A world without the Might, a world where none of the people have tails, a world that seems rotten at its very core. That world is modern-day Europe.

Hirka was supposed to fit in with humans here. And her departure was supposed to be save Ym from the invasion of the blind. Yet none of that has happened. Instead, Hirka finds herself just as much of an outsider among the humans as she was among ymlings—even more so when she discovers that she has blood of the blind running through her veins. Meanwhile back in Ym, Rime—now the Ravenbearer—is fighting an ongoing battle against the blind, not to mention against his fellow Councilors, as well as with his own despair over losing Hirka.

Separated by worlds, unsure who to trust, and hunted for reasons they cannot understand, both Hirka and Rime must find a way to stop a thousand-year-old evil from destroying not only Ym, but every world in existence.

I love this series! Phenomenally well-written, engrossing, and just plain fascinating, I wanted to binge-read the entire thing (except for you know, responsibilities). I liked how Hirka and Rime are forced to grow while being separated by worlds, yet their bond remains strong and sure. I cannot recommend this highly enough!

Siri Pettersen is from Norway and is an award-winning author. The Rot is her newest novel, the second book in The Raven Rings series.

(Galley courtesy of Arctis Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Requiem of Silence, by L. Penelope

Image belongs to St.Martin’s Press.

TitleRequiem of Silence

Author L. Penelope

Genre:  Fantasy

Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Civil unrest plagues the nation of Elsira as refugees from their old enemy Lagrimar seek new lives in their land. Queen Jasminda is determined to push the unification forward, against growing opposition and economic strife. But the True Father is not finished with Elsira and he may not be acting alone. He has built a powerful army. An army that cannot be killed. An army that can only be stopped by Nethersong and the help of friends and foes of Elsira alike.

Former assassin Kyara will discover that she is not the only Nethersinger. She will need to join the others to harness a power that can save or end Elsira. But time is of the essence and they may not be ready by the time the True Father strikes.

Sisterhood novitiate Zeli will go to the reaches of the Living World to unlock a secret that could save the kingdoms. When armies meet in the battlefield, a new world will be forged. Whether by the hands of gods or men, remains to be seen

I’ve really enjoyed the Earthsea Chronicles series, and I’m sad to see it end. I love how all the cultures are blended together and explore their differences as well as their commonalities. The characters and settings are vibrant and detailed, and the storyline has been wonderfully explored in-depth, making this a series I highly recommend.

Leslye Penelope lives in Maryland. Requiem of Silence is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: A Dragonbird in the Fern, by Laura Rueckert

Image belongs to North Star Editions/Flux .

When an assassin kills Princess Jiara’s older sister Scilla, her vengeful ghost is doomed to walk their city of glittering canals, tormenting loved ones until the murderer is brought to justice. While the entire kingdom mourns, Scilla’s betrothed arrives and requests that seventeen-year-old Jiara take her sister’s place as his bride to confirm the alliance between their countries.

Marrying the young king intended for her sister and traveling to his distant home is distressing enough, but with dyslexia and years of scholarly struggles, Jiara abandoned any hope of learning other languages long ago. She’s terrified of life in a foreign land where she’ll be unable to communicate.

Then Jiara discovers evidence that her sister’s assassin comes from the king’s own country. If she marries the king, Jiara can hunt the murderer and release her family from Scilla’s ghost, whose thirst for blood mounts every day. To save her family, Jiara must find her sister’s killer . . . before he murders her too.

I enjoyed this read. Jiara’s struggles with reading were captured beautifully, and I felt all of her embarrassment and pain. Her attempts to learn the language of her new husband and home grounded the story and made it relatable, even amidst the magic and strange cultures and settings. This was a solid read for a debut novel.

Laura Rueckert grew up in Michigan. A Dragonbird in the Fern is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of North Star Editions/Flux in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Mother of All, by Jenna Glass

Image belongs to Random House/Del Rey.

In the once male-dominated world of Seven Wells, women now control their own reproduction, but the battle for equality is far from over. Even with two thrones held by women, there are still those who cling to the old ways and are determined to return the world to the way it was.

Now into this struggle comes a darker power. Delnamal, the former King of Aalwell, may have lost his battle to undo the spell that gave women reproductive control, but he has gained a terrible and deadly magic, and he uses these new abilities to raise an army the likes of which the world has never seen. Delnamal and his allies seem like an unstoppable force, destined to crush the fragile new balance between men and women.

Yet sometimes it is possible for determined individuals to stem the tide, and it comes down to a unique triad of women–maiden, mother, and crone–to risk everything…not only to preserve the advances they have won but to change the world one final time.

I did not read the first book in this trilogy—not something that I recommend—but I was able to jump into book two without much problem. And, I very much enjoyed this book, the last in the trilogy. The magic system is unique as are the cultures and societies. Very strong female characters and some of the men are excellent characters as well—although some of them are total jerks. This is a solid fantasy read that I do recommend!

Jenna Glass has been writing since the fifth grade. Mother of All is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Random House/Del Rey in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Six Crimson Cranes, by Elizabeth Lim

Image belongs to Random House Children’s/ Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.

This was a fantastic read! I love that it’s a retelling of a fairy tale, set in a completely different—and vividly drawn—culture. Some of the brothers kind of blurred together for me; not a surprise, as for the most part they sort of played one part, but the other characters were distinct and believable.

Shiori herself was great. Her journey to realizing and embracing her strength was wonderful, and I loved how she thought for herself and didn’t just go along with what everyone told her. I was up late finishing this because I just couldn’t put it down.

Elizabeth Lin lives in New York City. Six Crimson Cranes is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Random House Children’s/ Knopf Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: What We Devour, by Linsey Miller

Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Lorena Adler has a secret—she holds the power of the banished gods, the Noble and the Vile, inside her. She has spent her entire life hiding from the world and her past. She’s content to spend her days as an undertaker in a small town, marry her best friend, Julian, and live an unfulfilling life so long as no one uncovers her true nature.

But when the notoriously bloodthirsty and equally Vile crown prince comes to arrest Julian’s father, he immediately recognizes Lorena for what she is. So she makes a deal—a fair trial for her betrothed’s father in exchange for her service to the crown.

The prince is desperate for her help. He’s spent years trying to repair the weakening Door that holds back the Vile…and he’s losing the battle. As Lorena learns more about the Door and the horrifying price it takes to keep it closed, she’ll have to embrace both parts of herself to survive.

I felt like I’d been dumped in the middle of a foreign county without a map, a dictionary, or the slightest understand of the culture or history. And, not in a “Hey, this place is cool!” way. The magic system was detailed—and unique enough—that I really couldn’t appreciate the story fully without some kind of background understanding. Same with the history and culture. Without understanding that the actual plot made little to no sense to me. Which made Lorena herself even more unlikable and unsympathetic. It’s too bad the solid writing was overshadowed by the confusion and dislike.

Linsey Miller grew up in Arkansas. What We Devour is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review.)