Tag: fantasy

Book Review: Spin the Dawn, by Elizabeth Lim

spin the dawn
Image belongs to Knopf.

Title:  Spin the Dawn
Author:  Elizabeth Lim
Genre:  YA, fantasy
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Maia Tamarin works as a seamstress in her father’s shop. She’d love to become a tailor, but she’s a girl, so marriage is the only thing in store for her. Even better if her future husband is wealthy enough to help her family out of their poverty.

But Maia still dreams of making beautiful clothes, and when a messenger from the emperor arrives commanding Maia’s father to the palace to compete for the position of imperial tailor, Maia disguises herself and joins the competition, knowing she’ll pay with her life if anyone discovers her secret.

The treachery and lies in the competition are one thing, but Maia draws the attention of Edan, court enchanter, whose dark gaze sees everything. Maia’s final task is to sew three dresses:  from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. Maia has no idea how to accomplish this. She just knows she must.

I enjoyed this book immensely! I like the Mulan-like concept of Maia disguising herself as a son in order to save her family, but this is its own tale. Maia’s battles are more subtle—and just as deadly—and the magic here is woven so skillfully through the setting and the characters that it all just worked for me. Highly recommend!

Elizabeth Lim graduated from Harvard and completed her graduate studies at The Juilliard School. Spin the Dawn is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: The Evil Queen, by Gena Showalter

the evil queen
Image belongs to Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press.

Title:   The Evil Queen
Author:   Gena Showalter
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

In Enchantia, fairy tales are real, but they are prophecies of the future. Everly Morrow is raised in the real world and has no idea she’s a princess until she starts to commune with mirrors. Then the truth comes out:  Everly is destined to become the Evil Queen.

Except it’s not that simple. Everly meets Roth Charmaine—Prince Charming—and can’t deny she’s attracted to him. But as a sorcerian, she only draws his hate. As their fairy tale unfolds, she faces countless betrayals as she fights to save her family while deciphering the truth.

I generally love Gena Showalter’s novels, and I loved the idea of The Evil Queen. However. I found this one to be not up to Showalter’s usual high quality. Parts of it were very rough and juvenile—and I’ve seen lots of comments to the effect of “remember it’s YA so that’s okay”—but YA should still be well-written, and the characters should be believable and fully fleshed-out. These seemed very one-dimensional to me, and several times they completely did a 180 without us seeing any character growth to account for that. Everly was frankly quite annoying and egotistical and Roth wasn’t much better. I guess I just expected better from an author I generally love—and whose young adult books I love. I did like the actual answer for who each character was supposed to be in the fairy tale.

Gena Showalter is a bestselling author. The Evil Queen is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Fireborn, by Katie MacAlister

Fireborn
Image belongs to Kensington Books/Rebel Base Books.

Title:  Fireborn
Author:  Katie MacAlister
Genre:  Fantasy
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Deo was born to fulfill a prophecy and save the world. Allegria is supposed to be just a priestess. Hallow is just an apprentice without a master. That was before invaders appeared in the land of the Starborn, threatening the entire world.

Now Allegria has left the priesthood for a chance to battle the enemy and wield the power of the sun. Hallow becomes the leader he always dreamed of becoming. And Deo wrestles with the power of the invaders, a power he doesn’t understand. Together, the three of them are the only ones who stand a chance at defeating the enemy and saving their world.

I loved the characters in this novel! I empathized with all of them (except whiny, angsty young-Deo.) and loved watching their growth. This books has everything from romance to comedy to magic, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Katie MacAlister is a bestselling author. Fireborn is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Kensington Books/Rebel Base Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Romanov, by Nadine Brandes

Romanov
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:  Romanov
Author:  Nadine Brandes
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

The history books say I died.

They don’t know the half of it.

With Russia in revolution, the Romanov family are held as hostages by the Bolsheviks. For Nastya—Princess Anastasia—this new world is bewildering and frustrating. Her loving family is intact and together, but they are constantly guarded by soldiers. They are barely allowed to go outside. They are constantly under watch. She doesn’t understand why the world is so bloody and dangerous, she just knows it is.

There is an element of truth in what the people say about the Romanovs, but Nastya is not a spellcaster. If she was, she could heal her brother’s hemophilia and her mother’s illness. She could stop herself from falling in love and mend her sister’s broken heart. And she could keep her family from being executed.

But this isn’t the lies spoken about her family by the Bolsheviks. This is her life. And the truth is far stranger than the history books say.

I’ve probably seen the Disney movie Anastasia at some point, but I don’t remember it, and I’ve certainly read bits and pieces about the Romanovs, none of which I remembered before picking this book up. I had no problems understanding what was going on or starting the story after the Romanovs are taken hostage. The love in this family is remarkable and portrayed so well. All the characters are well-done, but Nastya herself is both struggling and strong, and her determination to help her family is something to behold. I enjoyed this read immensely.

Nadine Brandes is the author of the Out of Time series. Romanov is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Thomas Nelson via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: A Pack of Blood and Lies, by Olivia Wildenstein

 

a pack of blood and lies
Image belongs to Twig Publishing.

Title:  A Pack of Blood and Lies
Author:  Olivia Wildenstein
Genre:  YA/New Adult, paranormal
Rating:  4 out of 5

Ness is almost 18 when she’s forced to return to Boulder. She intended to forget about what happened there, forget about what happened to her mom, and forget all the domineering men in the werewolf pack that had no room for a female. She was happy to think she’d escaped with only her memories.

But now she’s back in boulder and those memories are standing before her. One of them is a friend, but one of them is Liam Kolane, son of Heath, the cruelest man she’d ever imagined. Now Heath is dead, and no one dares challenge Liam for the right to rule the pack.

Except Ness, who isn’t going to let him win without a fight. A fight to the death—if she can convince her heart that’s an acceptable cost.

I found this pretty predictable in most ways, but I enjoyed the read. Lots of chauvinistic alpha males swaggering around, but there are some glimmers of redeeming qualities among them. Coming from a patriarchal society, it’s understandable, even if mildly infuriating.

Bestselling author Olivia Wildenstein lives in Switzerland. A Pack of Blood and Lies is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Twig Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Devouring Gray, by Christine Lynn Herman

the devouring gray
Image belongs to Disney-Hyperion.

Title:  The Devouring Gray
Author:  Christine Lynn Herman
Genre:  YA, fantasy
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

When seventeen-year-old Violet Saunders’ twin sister died, her world ended. Her mom moving to the tiny town of Four Corner, New York was just the icing on the cake. Things are…odd in Four Corners. The town is mostly forest. People practically worship Justin Hawthorn and his sister, May. And everywhere you look are secrets.

Like the weird grey landscape Violet sometimes catches glimpses of from the corner of her eye. Or the flashes of her sister’s blue hair. Or the dead bodies found in the past few months. Not to mention the Beast.

Everything in Four Corners is about power:  who has it, who doesn’t, and doing anything necessary to keep what you’ve got. But there are even more secrets here than Violet suspects, as power in town is balanced on the tip of a knife, and where it falls will change everything.

This story is told from multiple points-of-view, which made it intriguing. The setting is dark and gloomy. The characters are dark and broody. The history of the town is—you guessed it—dark and troubled. And that absolutely works for this story. I loved this atmospheric read—but I have no desire to visit Four Corners.

Christine Lynn Herman was born in NYC but raised in Honk Kong and Japan. The Devouring Gray is her new novel.

(Galley courtesy of Disney-Hyperion via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Lovestruck, by Kate Watson

lovestruck
Image belongs to Flux Books.

Title:  Lovestruck
Author:  Kate Watson
Genre:  YA, fantasy
Rating:  4 out of 5

Kali is sixteen and convinced the Fates control everything, so what’s the point of even trying? That’s not a good attitude for a cupid-in-training, but Kali wants to be a Muse, so she’s phoning it in anyway. Until she breaks the cardinal rule for cupids—don’t poke yourself with the arrow—and falls in love with Ben, her hot, mortal target.

The God of Love is going to kill her—even if he is her dad.

Desperate to escape her fate, Kali will do anything to reverse the unbreakable spell: sneak out to see the Oracle, defy the gods (and the big-G-Gods), help her mentor…all while dating the (mortal) love of her life and trying not to break her best friend Hector’s heart.

The Fates have nothing on her.

Lovestruck is a quick read, and I really enjoyed it. I love the idea of the gods of mythology having jobs and lives and interacting with humans, and the cupid set-up is great—and makes just as much sense as falling in love possibly can. Despite being the daughter of a big-G-God, Kali’s feelings and thoughts are entirely human—and entirely teenage. Why am I here? What’s the point of life? Is that a cute boy? I thoroughly enjoyed all the characters and would love to read more set in this world.

Kate Watson was born in Canada and now lives in Arizona. Lovestruck is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Flux via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Blog Tour for Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan and Author Interview

WickedSaints_BlogTourBanner_AFTER 4.2

Today I am happy to be a part of the blog tour for Wicked Saints, by Emily A. Duncan, which hits stores today! I have a quick interview with the author, then a review of Wicked Saints, which you should definitely go read if you enjoy dark, atmospheric books with complex mythology and magic systems.

Emily A. Duncan
Emily A. Duncan

Author Interview

Q: Tell me a little bit about Wicked Saints.

A:  Tired monastery girl who can talk to the gods! Anxious morally dubious blood mage boy! Exhausted traumatized prince! An assassination plan! A holy war! Eldritch gods! Lots and lots of blood!

Q: Where did your inspiration come for writing Wicked Saints?

A:  Video games and metal music! Specifically, Skyrim in regards to the video games, but it was also fueled by my deep love for metal.

Q:  What is your absolute favorite, read over-and-over again, book?

A:  I mean, I’m very vocal about how much I love the Grisha trilogy, but to answer this slightly differently, the book I’ve reread the most is Til We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis.

Wicked Saints_Cover FINAL
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  Wicked Saints
Author:   Emily A. Duncan
Genre:  Fantasy
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Nadya is a cleric who can commune with all the gods—unheard of—living in a remote monastery. Kalyazin has been at war with Tranavia for a long time, but the war has never touched the monastery. Until it does, in the form of Tranavian soldiers led by Serefin, High Prince and blood mage. As her friends die around her, Nadya escapes into the wilderness.

She meets Malachiasz, a defector with dark secrets that Nadya isn’t sure she can trust. But Nadya’s powers may be the only thing standing in the way of destruction, so she heads to the seat of Tranavian power, desperate to find a way to stop it. Serefin, used to drinking and fighting, has been called home by his father, but Serefin finds the king in the midst of a horrifying scheme to gain immortality and ultimate power.

Nadya, Serefin, and Malachiasz will have to trust each other if they have any hope of stopping the coming darkness.

Wicked Saints is dark and atmospheric, with a creepy and cold setting reminiscent of Russia. The magic systems are dark and bloody, and there aren’t a lot of happy feelings in this book. I was fascinated from the first page, although I wouldn’t recommend reading it if you’re depressed at the time. Treachery, hatred, lies, deceit…all run through the pages of this novel like blood, until you can’t see what’s coming next.

Emily A. Duncan is a youth services librarian. Wicked Saints is her new novel, the first in the Something Dark and Holy series.

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

Book Review: A Soldier and a Liar, by Caitlin Lochner

a soldier and a liar
Image belongs to Swoon Reads.

Title:  A Soldier and a Liar
Author:  Caitlin Lochner
Genre:  YA, fantasy
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Lai is a Nyte, a supernaturally gifted teenager with abilities that frighten the Etioles without abilities—but with numbers and power on their side. Lai is in prison:  by her own choice and for her own reasons. Going back to the military is not what she had in mind, but when a chance to join a special team of Nytes comes her way, she decides that it might suit her own agenda perfectly, if she keeps the truth of her power to herself.

She joins Jay, an uptight perfectionist haunted by his father’s expectations, Al, whose short temper keeps her own secret hidden, and Erik, a surly amnesiac desperate to find out who he really is. Their team has a chance to stop the rising rebellion between Nytes and Etioles, but will the secrets they’re hiding destroy their team before they can?

This is a dystopian story, but without the dystopian feel. The focus is on the two groups, Nytes and Etioles, and the conflict and rebellion between them. Each of these characters has secrets, big ones, and keeps everyone at a distance to keep their secret safe. This novel is about finding trust—for yourself and those closest to you—even in the face of danger. An enjoyable read not bogged down with romance and flirting (although there is a teensy bit).

Caitlin Lochner lives and teaches in Tokyo. A Soldier and a Liar is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Swoon Reads via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Mist, Metal, and Ash, by Gwendolyn Clare

mist, metal, & ash
Image belongs to Imprint/Macmillan.

Title:  Mist, Metal, and Ash
Author:  Gwendolyn Clare
Genre:  YA, fantasy
Rating:  4.0 out of 5

In an alternate Italy, Elsa can create new worlds by writing in books. Special writing. Special books. Special talent…and one that puts her in danger when political extremists steal a book that can change the very nature of the world itself.

In the wake of a horrific betrayal, Elsa has one goal:  track down the book before the extremists can use it to wreak havoc. Getting revenge on her betrayer will be just a bonus. But Elsa doesn’t realize the secrets she’ll encounter along the way, some of which she’s even kept from herself.

I love steampunk, but I don’t actively seek it out—I don’t know why. I have not read the first book in this duology, Ink, Iron, and Glass, but I highly recommend doing that, as I spent the first third of the book being highly confused. I ended up loving the world and its nuances:  differences from our own, but some similarities, too. There’s a lot of action here, and a bit of romance, but it’s all woven together seamlessly. I like the intrigue with Casa as well.

Gwendolyn Clare is a scientist and a writer. Mist, Metal, and Ash is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Imprint/Macmillan via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)