Tag: fantasy

Book Review: Fable, by Adrienne Young

fable
Image belongs to Wednesday Books.

Title: Fable
Author: Adrienne Young
Genre:   4.5 out of 5
Rating: Fantasy, YA

As the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home seventeen-year-old Fable has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.

I was intrigued by this from the very first page. Fable is clearly a better person than me, because if I’d been abandoned—basically to die—by my father four years ago, I wouldn’t have gone back looking for him like I cared. It did make her a strong person, though.  The parts on the sea were well-done and vivid, and the land-based settings were vivid and realistic.

I liked all the characters and their relationships were believable. There’s enough escalating tension here to keep me reading late into the night, and I can’t wait to find out what happens in the second book. I saw a post pointing out the similarity between West and The Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride and now I can’t unsee that…which isn’t a bad thing. I liked the adventure-filled atmosphere and the setting was fascinating.

Adrienne Young is a New York Times-bestselling author. Fable is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Where Dreams Descend, by Janella Angeles

where dreams descend
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: Where Dreams Descend
AuthorJanella Angeles
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost.

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told.

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide.

I was engrossed in this tale from the very beginning. The dark, dreamy world where Kallia and the Master live is magical, but not happy, and nothing is as it seems. There are so many tangled layers in this story—many of them sprouting thorns or teeth—and I was never sure what was real and what wasn’t, which made for a captivating read.

Kallia is so brash and determined, of course I wanted her to succeed. Even the “secondary” characters—the Circus—were bright and larger than life, and I was fascinated by everyone. I can’t wait to read the second book!

Janella Angeles lives in Massachusetts. Where Dreams Descend is the debut novel in her Kingdom of Cards duology.

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

Book Review: The Morning Flower, by Amanda Hocking

the morning flower
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: The Morning Flower
Author:  Amanda Hocking
Genre: YA, fantasy
Rating: 3.0 out of 5

When Ulla Tulin took her internship at the Mimirin, the only mystery she thought she’d have to solve was that of her birth parents. After a girl named Eliana gets kidnapped while in her care, Ulla knows she has to find out the truth of who Eliana really is—and the only way to do that means traveling to the Omte capital, the place she suspects her mother is from.

Ulla didn’t expect that when she arrived she would discover the identity of a Skojare man who crossed paths with her mother—a man who could very well be her father. When the head of the Mimirin learns Ulla’s father is connected to the Älvolk, a secret society who believes they were tasked with protecting the First City and the only ones who know its location, he sends Ulla and Pan to Sweden where they find him living among the Älvolk. But all is not what it seems with the Älvolk and their urgent quest to find the Lost Bridge to the First City leaves Ulla feeling uneasy—and possibly in danger.

I like the idea of the troll mythology—although they’re basically humans living secretly among other humans—but I just don’t think Hocking is the best author for me to read. This felt really slow-paced to me, with a lot of unnecessary details and plot points, frankly. And the “romance” was a non-starter.

Ulla spends the whole book trying to figure out who her parents are, then her dad basically comes out of nowhere, knowing he’s her dad and offering her all the secrets of the Älvolk without hesitation, including taking her to their secret city? This was completely unbelievable and came across as heavy-handed deux ex machina.

Amanda Hocking is a YA author. The Morning Flower is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Lobizona, by Romina Garber

lobizona
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  Lobizona
Author:  Romina Garber  
Genre:     YA, fantasy
Rating:     4 out of 5

Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who’s on the run from her father’s Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.

Until Manu’s protective bubble is shattered.

Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past–a mysterious “Z” emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.

As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it’s not just her U.S. residency that’s illegal. . . .it’s her entire existence.

This was quite an interesting read. Parts of it felt like I’d fallen into a dreamscape, parts of it felt a tiny bit clichéd, but it was original enough to capture my attention at the start and keep me reading.

It was probably the characters themselves I found clichéd—the mean girl, the brainiac, the hot athlete—but several of the other characters were unique enough to make this a pleasure to read. I did not figure out the big reveal ahead of time and I definitely want to read more.

Romina Garber was born in Buenos Aires and raised in Miami. Logizona is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Rightful Queen, by Isabelle Steiger

the rightfulqueen
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  The Rightful Queen   
Author: Isabelle Steiger
Genre:   Fantasy
Rating:   4 out of 5

The Rightful Queen returns readers to the territories of Lantistyne. Imperator Elgar has brought war to the continent once again, and the rogues of the Dragon’s Head, once forced into his service, are scattered to the winds, wracked by tragedy and struggling to reunite.

While a cornered King Kelken grows increasingly desperate, Arianrod Margraine, the brilliant but outmanned marquise of Esthrades, devises a plan to stretch Elgar’s forces thin and turn the tide of battle in their favor. But when the sheltered queen of Issamira is driven from her throne by a long-simmering plot and the use of forbidden magic, Arianrod faces an even more pressing crisis.

Adora Avestri is more than the rightful queen of Issamira, more even than the key to defeating Elgar on the field—she has drawn the attention of beings older than Lantistyne itself, who possess hidden knowledge Arianrod has long desired. But if the queen and the marquise hope to survive long enough to learn it, Adora must find the strength to claim her birthright once and for all, and Arianrod must match wits and magic with a foe she has never before encountered: an equal.

I haven’t read the first book in this series. Sometimes, that’s not a problem at all. Sometimes, it’s impossible. This time…I should have read the first book—it would have made getting the politics straight and keeping the characters sorted out much easier—but I was still able to enjoy this book.

I enjoyed the diverse cultures and characters—no cookie-cutter types here. I was intrigued by all the storylines, which is unusual for me with an ensemble cast, but I enjoyed reading them all. The cultures where quite varied and detailed, and I was fully immersed in the world and the story.

Isabelle Steiger lives in New York. The Rightful Queen is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Entangled Secrets, by Pat Esden

entangled secrets

Title:   Entangled Secrets
Author Pat Esden
Genre:   Fantasy
Rating:   3 out of 5

The Northern Circle coven’s future is in question once again. But this time, hearts and souls are on the line, making the stakes higher, the magic more crucial, and the battle more fateful than ever before . . .

Pregnant and alone at twenty-one, Chandler Parrish sought refuge within the Northern Circle coven’s secluded complex. Never revealing the identity of her child’s father, Chandler has raised her now eight-year-old son, Peregrine, in peace, and used her talent as an artist and welder to become a renowned metal sculptor. But her world is shaken to the core when Peregrine shows signs of natural faerie sight—a rare and dangerous gift to see through faerie glamour and disguises that could only have come from his father’s genes. Worse yet, the boy has seen a monstrous faerie creature trailing Lionel Parker, a magic-obsessed journalist determined to expose the witching world.

But the very man who threatens the witches’ anonymity may also be key to healing Chandler’s long broken heart. As dangerous desires and shocking secrets entangle, new faerie threats and demonic foes close in on the coven and High Council. Loyalties will be tested. Fierce magics will be called upon. And Chandler will have to face her past to save all she holds dear: her coven, her child—and perhaps even her own soul.

This is the first book of the Northern Circle Coven series I’ve read…and probably the last. I loved the parts talking about the metal sculpting, because I find that fascinating, but the rest of this was just “meh” for me. I’m not a fan of insta-love, and that’s exactly what this felt like to me. This is probably a case of the book just not being a good fit for me, not an actual problem with the book, but I didn’t really care for this. I’ve gotten away from reading paranormal romances like this, so I probably should have skipped this for that reason alone.

Pat Esden lives in Northern Vermont. Entangled Secrets is her newest novel.

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

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.)