Tag: fantasy

Book Review: Blessed Monsters, by Emily A. Duncan

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

TitleBlessed Monsters
AuthorEmily A. Duncan
Genre:  Fantasy
Rating:  5 out of 5

The girl, the monster, the prince, the queen.

They broke the world.

And some things can never be undone.

I’ll admit, the blurb for this novel is a big sparse, but the novel itself is not. Like the rest of this trilogy, this is a very dark and fantastical story. Dark. Very dark. The cultures, the history, the people, are all brimming with life and magic and so vibrant they leap off the page.

But this is not a fluffy bunny story (and if there were any fluffy bunnies, they’d probably die a gruesome and tragic death immediately). Instead, it’s full of chilling sensory details (seriously, maybe read this on a hot summer day) and definitely read the other two books first. This is a compelling and engrossing novel, just don’t expect sweetness and light.

Emily A. Duncan is a bestselling author. Blessed Monsters is her newest novel, the final installment in the Something Dark and Holy series.

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

Book Review: Odin’s Child, by Siri Pettersen

Image belongs to Arctis.

TitleOdin’s Child
AuthorSiri Pettersen
Genre:  Fantasy
Rating:  5 out of 5

15-year-old Hirka has always been an outsider in the world of Ym: she’s the only person without a tail, and the only one unable to access the Might, a current of power that runs through the earth.

Her differences become more and more of a concern as the date approaches for the Rite—the ceremony where everyone is to be blessed by the all-knowing Seer and the Council of powerful families who rule in His name. With only a few weeks until the Rite, Hirka discovers the shocking secret behind why she is tailless and Mightless: she is not from this world. As an infant, she was brought through an ancient stone circle known as a Raven Ring, and as long as she’s in Ym, the passageway between worlds remains open inviting terrifying creatures called the blind to follow.

No one can know the truth of Hirka’s identity, especially not Rime, her childhood friend who just might become something more. But is Rime is hiding secrets of his own?

I was enthralled in this from the very first page! Hirka is a fantastic character, and I couldn’t wait to see what she’d do next. The mythology and culture in this book is so well-done it all felt natural, like I was watching familiar scenes play out before my eyes, yet it’s quite unique and not like anything I’ve seen before. Vivid characters and setting bring this story to life, and I cannot read to read the rest of the trilogy!

Siri Pettersen lives in Norway. Odin’s Child is the first of the Ravneringene/The Raven Rings Series.

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

Book Review: Namesake, by Adrienne Young

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

TitleNamesake
AuthorAdrienne Young
Genre:  YA
Rating:   5 out of 5

Trader. Fighter. Survivor.

With the Marigold ship free of her father, Fable and its crew were set to start over. That freedom is short-lived when she becomes a pawn in a notorious thug’s scheme. In order to get to her intended destination she must help him to secure a partnership with Holland, a powerful gem trader who is more than she seems.

As Fable descends deeper into a world of betrayal and deception she learns that her mother was keeping secrets, and those secrets are now putting the people Fable cares about in danger. If Fable is going to save them then she must risk everything, including the boy she loves and the home she has finally found.

I have read—and loved—everything Adrienne Young has published, and I was so excited to read this. And it did not disappoint! I read it straight through in one siting, and I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next! Lots of action, intrigue, betrayal, adventure, and a bit of romance makes this unputdownable!

Adrienne Young is a bestselling author. Namesake is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press 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 and Blog Tour: The Iron Raven, by Julie Kagawa

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

TitleThe Iron Raven
Author Julie Kagawa
Genre:  YA, fantasy
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

You may have heard of me…

Robin Goodfellow. Puck. Prankster, joker, raven, fool… King Oberon’s right-hand jester from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The legends are many, but the truth will now be known as never before, as Puck finally tells his own story and faces a threat to the lands of Faery and the human world unlike any before.

With the Iron Queen Meghan Chase and her prince consort, Puck’s longtime rival Ash, and allies old and new by his side, Puck begins a fantastical and dangerous adventure not to be missed or forgotten.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read anything set in this world. Like, a really long time. But I remember Puck. He was always a character I loved. So, it was fun to read his story. The voice of this novel is perfect for his story, too.

Of course, all of faerie—and the human world—is at stake (it wouldn’t be a Kagawa book if it weren’t), but seeing the “old” Puck, a.k.a Robin Goodfellow, was the most unsettling part of this novel. Seeing Meghan and Ash again was great, too, but I think I need to go back and re-read all the other books again, so I feel a bit more up-to-speed. This was an excellent read. A touch of nostalgia, but Puck is front and center—and larger than life.

Julie Kagawa is a bestselling author. The iron Raven is her newest novel, the first book in The Iron Fey:  Evenfall.

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

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.)