Tag: fantasy

Book Review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn, by Melissa Bashardoust

girl, serpent, thorn
Image belongs to Flatiron Books.

Title:   Girl, Serpent, Thorn
Author Melissa Bashardoust
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

I liked the premise of this:  a princess who has never had human contact because her skin is poisonous makes a terrible mistake, endangering her family and her kingdom and putting them at the mercy of evil…but a sort of charming evil.

It was cool to see a fantasy culture like this—I thought it was very well-done—and I enjoyed the layers of details, like the stories from the past and the legends from Soraya family. Deception and secrets are threads running throughout the entire novel, and sometimes the reader is deceived just as much as Soraya is.

Melissa Bashardoust lives in California. Girl, Serpent, Thorn is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Lost City, by Amanda Hocking

the lost city
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books.

Title:   The Lost City
Author:   Amanda Hocking
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

Ulla Tulin was left abandoned in an isolated Kanin city as a baby, taken in by strangers and raised hidden away like many of the trolls of mixed blood. Even knowing this truth, she’s never stopped wondering about her family.

When Ulla is offered an internship working alongside the handsome Pan Soriano at the Mimirin, a prestigious institution, she jumps at the chance to use this opportunity to hopefully find her parents. All she wants is to focus on her job and the search for her parents, but all of her attempts to find them are blocked when she learns her mother may be connected to the Omte royal family.

With little progress made, Ulla and Pan soon find themselves wrapped up in helping Eliana, an amnestic girl with abilities unlike any they have ever seen before—a girl who seems to be running from something. To figure out who she is they must leave the city, and possibly, along the way, they may learn more about Ulla’s parents.

I haven’t read the Trylle series. If I remember correctly, I tried to read the first one and just couldn’t get through it. I made it through this one. I know the characters are trolls, but with a few exceptions, they just seemed like human teenagers.

Honestly, I found bits of this boring…and a few parts interesting. I wasn’t totally sold on the characters, but perhaps with a bit more exposure they’ll grow on me.

Amanda Hocking lives in Minnesota. The Lost City is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Dwarf Story, by W.W. Marplot

Dwarf Story Cover
Image belongs to the publisher.

Title:   Dwarf Story
Author:   W.W. Marplot
Genre:   Middle Grade
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

For Arty to miss a day of school, either he is very, very sick or a fairytale-character turf-war has begun in his backyard — such as what begins this particular Wednesday. First, he finds an ax-swinging, bearded, sweaty warrior Dwarf scaring his dogs. Soon enough, Emma, Cry and other middle-school friends also find fairy creatures — Elves, Spriggans, Pixies, and a hoped-for Dragon — crashing into their normal homework-doing, backpack-carrying, phone-charging schooldays. 

Why are these magical beings here? What should be done? Is that axe sharp? Can Pixies be given aspirin? 

Arty with his friends — and spying jerks, and questionable strangers with long names — follow the clues and try to find out, even as things turn dark and dangerous. 

The mythical beings are taking sides. The Gwyllion, that legendary Old Woman of the Mountains, has a sinister plan, turning the neighborhood into a fantasy battleground. One that awaits young heroes.

This is a middle-grade fantasy adventure that was a so-so read. And it’s not listed on Goodreads that I can find, so I can’t point you in that direction. I don’t read much middle-grade, so this may just be a case of being the wrong reader for the book.

I thought the premise was great, but the execution was lacking. I’m not the target audience, but solid-storytelling and logical plot progression should still be prerequisites for a good story, and this veered a bit off-track in places. Like the fact that none of the parents seemed at all concerned about what their kids were into. Or any of their siblings, for that matter. These kids had smart phones, but they were left to wander around without interference? That didn’t really make sense to me.

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

Book Review: What We Do for Truth, by C.L. Mannarino

what we do for truth
Image belongs to C.L. Mannarino

Title:   What We Do for Truth
Author:   C.L. Mannarino
Genre:   Fantasy
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

In Northam, Massachusetts, the world is falling apart. 17-year-old Zara de Jaager’s lost one of her moms to a vampire. The other is struggling to make things seem as normal as possible. And Scott Whitney, the only person who knows the truth about her mom’s death, has gone missing.

Zara’s read the notes. She’s studied the lore. She’s even made a connection between Scott’s story and a job her mom was working on. Except no one wants to talk about it. And when she finds out that there might even be an entire village of vampires existing under their noses, her family shuts her down. So Zara pushes back, hard. But when she realizes what’s at stake, she’s left wondering:  is taking up her mom’s job really worth it?

It’s been a while since I’ve read in this world, so it took me a bit to get up to speed. Honestly, Zara and her attitude were a stumbling block for me. I understand she’s grieving in the beginning and trying to find an explanation, but she was pretty hateful to everyone around her, and that made it very difficult for me to continue reading about her.

Lots of secrets in this book. Secrets are a given in books like this—well, a requirement, if the supernatural isn’t an open fact—so that wasn’t a problem. As I said, Zara was a stumbling block to me, and I think my mood/outlook on society when I was reading this really affected how I felt about the book.

C.L. Mannarino has been writing books since high school. What We Do for Truth is the third book in the Almost Human series.

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

Book Review: Of Silver and Shadow, by Jennifer Gruenke

of silver and shadow
Image belongs to North Star/Flux.

Title:  Of Silver and Shadow
AuthorJennifer Gruenke
Genre:  Fantasy
Rating:  5 out of 5

Ren Kolins is a silver wielder—a dangerous thing to be in the kingdom of Erdis, where magic has been outlawed for a century. Ren is just trying to survive, sticking to a life of petty thievery, card games, and pit fighting to get by. But when a wealthy rebel leader discovers her secret, he offers her a fortune to join his revolution. The caveat: she won’t see a single coin until they overthrow the King.

Behind the castle walls, a brutal group of warriors known as the King’s Children is engaged in a competition: the first to find the rebel leader will be made King’s Fang, the right hand of the King of Erdis. And Adley Farre is hunting down the rebels one by one, torturing her way to Ren and the rebel leader, and the coveted King’s Fang title.

But time is running out for all of them, including the youngest Prince of Erdis, who finds himself pulled into the rebellion. Political tensions have reached a boiling point, and Ren and the rebels must take the throne before war breaks out.

I was entranced by this book from the very beginning! Ren’s attitude and brashness is a little much at ties, but I feel that’s a growth opportunity to grow for her, and I did enjoy her sass. Even the secondary characters are vivid and vibrant—like the prince—and the settling felt realistic and almost-visible to me. A fantastic read!

Jennifer Gruenke grew up in California and now lives in Charlotte. Of Silver and Shadow is her debut novel.

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

Book Review: Queen of the Unwanted, by Jenna Glass

queen of the unwanted
Image belongs to Del Rey.

Title:  Queen of the Unwanted
AuthorJenna Glass
Genre:  Fantasy
Rating:  4 out of 5

In this world, women have no rights. If their husband or father decide they’ve disgraced their family—for anything from not having a child quickly enough to a sideways look—they are sent away, usually to one of the Abbeys, where they are forced to pleasure any man who desires. They have no rights. They have no futures. They have no magic. At least, they didn’t…

Alys is queen of Women’s Well, a new colony where women have equal rights after the Women’s War. But Alys can’t bring herself to care about anything besides the loss of her daughter—and her own desire for vengeance. Her mother gave her life for the spell that gave women magic, but Alys finds it hard to see past her personal tragedy.

Faced with opposition from men who still believe women have no rights, Ellin struggles to rule her land—and to change the status quo for men unused to women with power.

An abbess thinks she can reverse the spell that changed the world—but all she really wants is to keep the power she has gained through cunning and treachery.

Unless these women can find a way to work together, they will lose everything they have gained.

I haven’t read The Women’s War—yet—but I still had no trouble following what was going on in Queen of the Unwanted. (I would recommend reading the first book, though, as I’m sure this novel would be much richer with that introduction.) Excellent writing and worldbuilding, and a great mix of characters:  some I liked, some I disliked, some I actively hated. I recommend reading this—and I can’t wait to go back and read the first novel.

Jenna Glass has been writing books since the fifth grade. Queen of the Unwanted is her newest novel, the second book in The Women’s War series.

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

Book Review: Seven Endless Forests, by April Genevieve Tucholke

seven endless forests
Image belongs to Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR).

Title:  Seven Endless Forests
AuthorApril Genevieve Tucholke
Genre:  Fantasy
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

On the heels of a devastating plague, Torvi’s sister, Morgunn is stolen from the family farm by Uther, a flame-loving Fremish wolf-priest who leads a pack of ragged, starving girls. Torvi leaves the only home she’s ever known, and joins a shaven-skulled druid and a band of roaming Elsh artists known as the Butcher Bards. They set out on a quest to rescue Torvi’s sister, and find a mythical sword. 

On their travels, Torvi and her companions will encounter magical night wilds and mystical Drakes who trade in young men. They will sing rowdy Elshland ballads in a tree-town tavern, and find a mysterious black tower in an Endless Forest. They will fight alongside famous Vorseland archers and barter with Fremish wizards. They will feast with rogue Jade Fell children in a Skal Mountain cave, and seek the help of a Pig Witch. They will face wild, dangerous magic that leads to love, joy, tragedy, and death. 

Torvi set out to rescue a sister, but she may find it’s merely the first step toward a life that is grander and more glorious than anything she could have imagined.

I thought The Boneless Mercies—Tucholke’s previous book set in this world—was phenomenal, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one. The story opens with tragedy…and tragedy shadows the entire story. Parts of this are magical and enchanting, parts are inspiring, sad, evocative; basically the whole gamut of emotion lives here. The ending felt a bit rushed to me, but that was because it was more of a summary of events instead of actually telling the story (and to set things up for the next book, I imagine). Nevertheless, I highly recommend this!

April Genevieve Tucholke lives in Oregon. Seven Endless Forests is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Stone of Sorrow, by Brooke Carter

the stone of sorrow
Image belongs to Orca Book Publishers.

Title:  The Stone of Sorrow
AuthorBrooke Carter
Genre:  Fantasy
Rating:  4 out of 5

In a land of myth and ice, seventeen-year-old Runa Unnursdóttir is not the runecaster her clan has been hoping for. She spends her days daydreaming of sailing away and exploring the world instead of studying the runes and learning her spells. The villagers consider her odd, in looks and in manner. She’s nothing like her talented sister, Sýr, keeper of the sacred moonstone that ensures the village’s continued survival. But when a rival clan led by an evil witch raids the village and kidnaps her sister, Runa is forced to act. With a fallen Valkyrie by her side, and the help of a gorgeous half-elf Runa is not quite sure she can trust, the apprentice must travel to the site of an ancient runecasting competition to try to win back the magical gem. But the journey will not be easy; the three unlikely companions encounter malevolent and supernatural creatures at every turn. Somehow, Runa must summon the courage and strength to face her destiny, a destiny she never wanted. Or die trying.

I enjoyed The Stone of Sorrow. The setting and culture were interesting enough to keep my attention, even though there were parts where I felt like the character development was lacking a little. The setting felt familiar—because I’ve read a fair amount of Norse mythology—but not in an “Oh, this again?” sort of way. More a comfortable familiarity. I’m interested to read what happens next.

Brooke Carter is from Canada. The Stone of Sorrow is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Orca Book Publishers in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Ruthless Gods, by Emily A. Duncan

ruthless gods
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  Ruthless Gods
AuthorEmily A. Duncan
Genre:  Fantasy
Rating:  5 out of 5

Nadya doesn’t trust her magic anymore. Serefin is fighting off a voice in his head that doesn’t belong to him. Malachiasz is at war with who–and what–he’s become.

As their group is continually torn apart, the girl, the prince, and the monster find their fates irrevocably intertwined. They’re pieces on a board, being orchestrated by someone… or something. The voices that Serefin hears in the darkness, the ones that Nadya believes are her gods, the ones that Malachiasz is desperate to meet―those voices want a stake in the world, and they refuse to stay quiet any longer.

A lot of second novels are less impressive than the books they follow, but Emily A. Duncan’s Ruthless Gods is not one of them! This novel continues the story of Nadya, Malachiasz, Serefin, and the rest of their friends. It’s dark, cold, and compelling.

There’s a lot of blood, violence, and despair here, but there is also hope, albeit a tiny, trembling flame. The characters finally start to realize—truly realize—that what they’ve always thought to be truth may not necessarily be so, Compelling, mesmerizing, riveting…whatever your synonym of choice for “I couldn’t put this down!” is, Ruthless Gods is it.

Emily A. Duncan is a New York Times bestselling author. Ruthless Gods, her newest novel, is the second book in the Something Dark and Holy series.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Night of the Dragon, by Julie Kagawa

night of the dragon blog tour

night of the dragon
Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title:  Night of the Dragon
AuthorJulie Kagawa
Genre:  Fantasy
Rating:  5 out of 5

All is lost.

To save everyone she loves from imminent death, kitsune shapeshifter Yumeko gave up the final piece of the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. Now she and her ragtag band of companions must make one desperate final effort to stop the Master of Demons from using the scroll to call the Great Kami Dragon and make the wish that will plunge the empire into chaos.

Shadow clan assassin Kage Tatsumi has regained control of his body and agreed to a true deal with the devil—the demon inside him, Hakaimono. They will share his body and work with Yumeko to stop a madman, and to separate Hakaimono from Tatsumi and the cursed sword that trapped the demon for nearly a millennium.

But even with their combined skills and powers, this unlikely team of heroes knows the forces of evil may be impossible to overcome. And there is another player in the battle for the scroll, a player who has been watching, waiting for the right moment to pull strings that no one even realized existed…until now.

Julie Kagawa is one of those authors that I just know when I pick up a book she wrote, I’m going to be enthralled. The Shadow of the Fox series is no exception, and Night of the Dragon was a fantastic conclusion to this story.

The stakes kept getting higher and higher with every new scene and the challenges seemed ever more impossible. Yumeko is a lovely character who truly discovers her strength in this novel—and embraces it. Tatsumi is one of the best conflicted characters I’ve ever read—I mean, he shares his body with a demon—and his struggles are vividly rendered. The culture truly makes this story sing, and I loved every page of this novel!

Julie Kagawa is the New York Times bestselling author of the Iron Fey, Blood of Eden, Talon, and Shadow of the Fox series. She was born in Sacramento, California.

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