Tag: fantasy

Book Review: Goblin King, by Kara Barbieri

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

Title: Goblin King
Author: Kara Barbieri
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5.0 out of 5

Against all odds, Janneke has survived the Hunt for the Stag–but all good things come with a cost. Lydian might be dead, but he took the Stag with him. Janneke now holds the mantle, while Soren, now her equal in every way, has become the new Erlking. Janneke’s powers as the new Stag bring along haunting visions of a world thrown into chaos and the ghost of Lydian taunts her with the riddles he spoke of when he was alive.

When Janneke discovers the truth of Lydian and his madness, she’s forced to see her tormentor in a different light for the first time. The world they know is dying and Lydian may hold the key to saving it.

Torn between her feelings and her duty as the Stag, Janneke must bring her tormentor back to life if she has hopes of keeping her world alive. But the journey is long and hard and this time she won’t have Soren for company.

Lydian might be able to stop the worlds from crumbling, but reviving him may cost Janneke the life with Soren she’s tried to hard to build. After all, there can only be one King….

I loved the first book in the Permafrost series, White Stag, and Goblin King was just as good. Sometimes the second book in a series isn’t, so I was very pleased that did not hold true here. I find the setting and mythology compelling and vivid, and the characters, while brutal, are well-developed and believable.

Janneke has so many issues she’s dealing with it stresses me out! It’s a shame she had to learn the hard way not to keep secrets from people she cares about…I love even the secondary characters in this series! They’ve distinct and unique enough to keep my attention, even if I prefer reading about Janneke and Soren. Highly recommended!

Kara Barbieri likes adding mythology to her stories. Goblin King is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Among the Beasts & Briars, by Ashley Poston

Image belongs to Balzer + Brayin.

Title: Among the Beasts & Briars
Author: Ashley Poston
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4.2 out of 5.0

Cerys is safe in the kingdom of Aloriya.

Here there are no droughts, disease, or famine, and peace is everlasting. It has been this way for hundreds of years, since the first king made a bargain with the Lady who ruled the forest that borders the kingdom. But as Aloriya prospered, the woods grew dark, cursed, and forbidden. Cerys knows this all too well: when she was young, she barely escaped as the woods killed her friends and her mother. Now Cerys carries a small bit of the curse—the magic—in her blood, a reminder of the day she lost everything. The most danger she faces now, as a gardener’s daughter, is the annoying fox who stalks the royal gardens and won’t leave her alone.

As a new queen is crowned, however, things long hidden in the woods descend on the kingdom itself. Cerys is forced on the run, her only companions the small fox from the garden, a strange and powerful bear, and the magic in her veins. It’s up to her to find the legendary Lady of the Wilds and beg for a way to save her home. But the road is darker and more dangerous than she knows, and as secrets from the past are uncovered amid the teeth and roots of the forest, it’s going to take everything she has just to survive.

This story felt like an enchantment. I enjoyed the magic and the creatures in the woods—unique in concept and execution. Reading this, I felt like I’d stepped into the pages of a fairy tale.

However, none of the reveals came as a surprise to me. Some of it just turned out exactly like I expected, and there are hints that the next book will also have some things I just expect to happen. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve read so much fantasy over the years that certain things seem like they’re done a lot—or if the hints the author dropped were just a touch too heavy-handed. It doesn’t detract from the story, but it’s there.

Ashley Poston is from South Carolina. Among the Beasts & Briars is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Balzer + Brayin exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Midnight Bargain, by C.L. Polk

Image belongs to Erewhon.

Title: The Midnight Bargain
Author: C.L. Polk   
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Beatrice Clayborn is a sorceress who practices magic in secret, terrified of the day she will be locked into a marital collar that will cut off her powers to protect her unborn children. She dreams of becoming a full-fledged Magus and pursuing magic as her calling as men do, but her family has staked everything to equip her for Bargaining Season, when young men and women of means descend upon the city to negotiate the best marriages. The Clayborns are in severe debt, and only she can save them, by securing an advantageous match before their creditors come calling.

In a stroke of luck, Beatrice finds a grimoire that contains the key to becoming a Magus, but before she can purchase it, a rival sorceress swindles the book right out of her hands. Beatrice summons a spirit to help her get it back, but her new ally exacts a price: Beatrice’s first kiss . . . with her adversary’s brother, the handsome, compassionate, and fabulously wealthy Ianthe Lavan.

The more Beatrice is entangled with the Lavan siblings, the harder her decision becomes: If she casts the spell to become a Magus, she will devastate her family and lose the only man to ever see her for who she is; but if she marries—even for love—she will sacrifice her magic, her identity, and her dreams. But how can she choose just one, knowing she will forever regret the path not taken?

I ended up enjoying this a lot, although Ianthe seemed just a little bit too good to be true. I mean, handsome, rich, open-minded and for women’s equality in a society where it’s unheard of, willing to give up his status, wealth, and family? But I enjoyed reading about him—and his fabulous clothes—as he and Beatrice got to know each other better.

The society was well-done, if a bit horrifying, and the author didn’t get bogged down in the details, giving the reader just enough detail to bring the setting to life without smothering them with minutiae. I wanted to smack Beatrice’s little sister several times, but on the whole, I very much enjoyed this read.

C.L. Polk lives in Canada. The Midnight Bargain is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Emperor’s Wolves, by Michelle Sagara

Image belongs to harlequin/MIRA.

Title: The Emperor’s Wolves
Author:   Michelle Sagara  
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5 out of 5

As an orphan scrounging in the lawless slums, young Severn Handred didn’t have the luxury of believing in anything beyond his own survival. Now he’s crossed the river and entered the heart of the empire: the city of Elantra. When Severn is spotted tailing some lawmen of the Hawks—a not insignificant feat to go otherwise undetected—the recruiter for the Imperial Wolves thinks he should join their ranks. The Wolves are a small, select group that work within the Halls of Law, reporting directly to the Eternal Emperor. Severn hopes to avoid the law—he certainly had no intention of joining it.

In order to become a wolf—even on probation—Severn must face the investigators most dreaded throughout the Empire: The Tha’alani, readers of minds. No secret is safe from their prying, no knowledge can remain buried. But Severn’s secret, never shared before, is not enough to prevent the Wolves from adopting him as one of their own. All men have secrets, after all. Severn’s first job will be joining a hunt, but between the treacherous politics of the High Court, the almost unnatural interest of one of the Lords, and those who wish long-held secrets to remain buried forever, the trick will be surviving it.

I’ll start off by saying that I’m a huge fan of Michelle Sagara’s Chronicles of Elantra series—and Severn is one of my favorite characters. Reading this novel made me want to re-read that entire series…except I don’t have time right now. I love the voice in that series so much—and Kaylin is such a great character and finds herself in so many situations that keep my attention riveted.

Fittingly, the voice in this prequel spin-off isn’t the same. There are still hints of snark, but, as we’re following Severn, there’s not the same rushing-headlong-into-trouble-and-other-people’s-business plot going on here. Fantastic writing, setting, and characterization as the other series, but the action in this is more thought-out—whereas Kaylin rushes into everything, Severn actually thinks things through before acting.

I really loved seeing things from his eyes and learning more about his past and Kaylin’s. I can’t wait to read more in this spin-off series!

Michelle Sagara is an author, book­seller, and lover of liter­ature based in Toronto.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA in exchange for an honest review.)

Blog Tour and Book Review: A Golden Fury, by Samantha Cohoe

Image belongs to Wednesday Books.

Title: A Golden Fury
Author: Samantha Cohoe    
Genre: YA, fantasy
Rating: 4.0 out of 5

Thea Hope longs to be an alchemist out of the shadow of her famous mother. The two of them are close to creating the legendary Philosopher’s Stone—whose properties include immortality and can turn any metal into gold—but just when the promise of the Stone’s riches is in their grasp, Thea’s mother destroys the Stone in a sudden fit of violent madness.

While combing through her mother’s notes, Thea learns that there’s a curse on the Stone that causes anyone who tries to make it to lose their sanity. With the threat of the French Revolution looming, Thea is sent to Oxford for her safety, to live with the father who doesn’t know she exists.

But in Oxford, there are alchemists after the Stone who don’t believe Thea’s warning about the curse—instead, they’ll stop at nothing to steal Thea’s knowledge of how to create the Stone. But Thea can only run for so long, and soon she will have to choose: create the Stone and sacrifice her sanity, or let the people she loves die.  

The first half of this was fantastic: action and intrigue, a bit of romance, adventure…I feel like the second half got a bit off-track, with a dip into things I expected to happen. The writing is outstanding, and the setting was vividly drawn. The latter part of the book felt really similar to Lisa Shearin’s Raine Benares novels (without the humor) to me.

Thea is a bit naïve, so I could see some things coming which she clearly couldn’t, and her family left a bit to be desired. Her mom was on quite the power/control trip even before she went mad and her dad did not get off on the right foot with her.

Samantha Cohoe lives in Denver. A Golden Fury is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Kingdom of Sea and Stone, by Mara Rutherford

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title: Kingdom of Sea and Stone
Author: Mara Rutherford    
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Rating: 5 out of 5

Ever since Nor was forced to go to a nearby kingdom in her sister’s place, she’s wanted nothing more than to return to the place and people she loves. But when her wish comes true, she soon finds herself cast out from both worlds, with a war on the horizon.

As an old enemy resurfaces more powerful than ever, Nor will have to keep the kingdom from falling apart with the help of Prince Talin and Nor’s twin sister, Zadie. There are forces within the world more mysterious than any of them ever guessed—and they’ll need to stay alive long enough to conquer them…

I thoroughly enjoyed this book (And the one before it, A Crown of Coral and Pearl.). And I think the covers are gorgeous!

The world here is unique and distinctive, with different cultures, countries, and beliefs, and it’s fun to explore them with Nor. She knows what’s right and she does it, but she can see both sides of the issues. I love her strength even in the face of overwhelming odds, and her courage to speak up about wrongs—even when it can hurt her in the long run.

Adventure, magic, and a captivating setting all combine in this to make it almost impossible to put down!

Mara Rutherford was born in California but has lived all over the world. Kingdom of Sea and Stone is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Silvered Serpents, by Roshani Chokshi

Image belongs to Wednesday books.

Title: The Silvered Serpents
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5

Séverin and his team members might have successfully thwarted the Fallen House, but victory came at a terrible cost — one that still haunts all of them. Desperate to make amends, Séverin pursues a dangerous lead to find a long lost artifact rumored to grant its possessor the power of God.

Their hunt lures them far from Paris, and into the icy heart of Russia where crystalline ice animals stalk forgotten mansions, broken goddesses carry deadly secrets, and a string of unsolved murders makes the crew question whether an ancient myth is a myth after all.

As hidden secrets come to the light and the ghosts of the past catch up to them, the crew will discover new dimensions of themselves. But what they find out may lead them down paths they never imagined.

A tale of love and betrayal as the crew risks their lives for one last job.

I have not read The Gilded Wolves—the first book in this series—but that didn’t prove to be much of a problem, although I think reading that one first would give this one a nice depth. I like this setting and the worldbuilding was great, with the culture nicely developed but not dripping with too many tiny details.

There’s a nice mix of characters here. Séverin was kind of a controlling jerk, although I understand why. Laila was probably my favorite character, but the whole group was well-developed and realistic, and their interactions and conversations were just fun:  full of lots of exaggerated drama and sarcasm. This was an excellent read, albeit a bit dark, and I intend to read the first one, then re-read this one before the next book comes out.

Roshani Chokshi is a bestselling author. The Silvered Serpents is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Left-Handed Booksellers of London, by Garth Nix

Image belongs to HarperCollins Children’s Books/Katherine Tegen Books.

Title: The Left-Handed Booksellers of London
Author:  Garth Nix   
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

In a slightly alternate London in 1983, Susan Arkshaw is looking for her father, a man she has never met. Crime boss Frank Thringley might be able to help her, but Susan doesn’t get time to ask Frank any questions before he is turned to dust by the prick of a silver hatpin in the hands of the outrageously attractive Merlin.

Merlin is a young left-handed bookseller (one of the fighting ones), who with the right-handed booksellers (the intellectual ones), are an extended family of magical beings who police the mythic and legendary Old World when it intrudes on the modern world, in addition to running several bookshops.

Susan’s search for her father begins with her mother’s possibly misremembered or misspelt surnames, a reading room ticket, and a silver cigarette case engraved with something that might be a coat of arms.

Merlin has a quest of his own, to find the Old World entity who used ordinary criminals to kill his mother. As he and his sister, the right-handed bookseller Vivien, tread in the path of a botched or covered-up police investigation from years past, they find this quest strangely overlaps with Susan’s. Who or what was her father? Susan, Merlin, and Vivien must find out, as the Old World erupts dangerously into the New.

This was a fun book! Odd—delightfully odd—with great characters. I loved Merlin (and I can’t see him as anything except Johnny Depp in Willie Wonka). There’s a bit of mystery, some overtones of a thriller/murder mystery, and a whole lot of magic and legend in this book, giving it the feel of a fairy tale set in the modern—sort of—world. I definitely recommend reading this!

Garth Nix is from Australia. The Left-Handed Booksellers of London is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of HarperCollins Children’s Books/Katherine Tegen Books in exchange for an honest review.)

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.)