Jack made a deal with the devil 500 years ago. He doesn’t remember much about that. Or when he was alive. Now he spends his days as a Lantern, one of the watchmen who guard the portals to the Otherworld, which is full of dangerous creatures. And he watches Ember, a young witch who lives in his town.
Ember is curious about Jack. And the Otherworld. She wants to get to know both. When Jack refuses to take her there, she runs away with a mysterious and charming vampire with ulterior motives. But Jack knows someone powerful is after Ember—and her power—and he’ll stop at nothing to keep her safe.
I loved the steampunk feel of The Lantern’s Ember. And you have to love Jack, the Lantern. That pun alone made it worth the read, along with the Headless Horseman similarities. Ember and Jack both are pretty naïve, but her wonder at the Otherworld shines through every page. A magical read!
New York Times-bestselling author Colleen Houck’s newest novel is The Lantern’s Ember.
(Galley provided by Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s in exchange for an honest review.)
The Stone Plague has tormented England for years. There is no cure. In most cases, it means death. For a lucky few, it means a life of despair and being shunned and beaten. Thomas Fawkes has the plague, but it’s dormant, hidden behind his eye patch, and almost no one knows.
Except his father, the legendary Guy Fawkes, known for his bravery and courage. But he abandoned Thomas after his son got the plague, and all Thomas wants from him is his own mask—so he can graduate and make his way in the world using his color power as a Keeper, one who bonds with a single color power. Keepers are beaten and killed now that an Igniter king is on the throne, so Thomas trusts no one.
When his father doesn’t show up, Thomas is kicked out and abandoned. Angry, he makes his way to London, and finds his father embroiled in a plot to kill the king and Parliament, destroying Igniter power forever and putting a Keeper on the throne. But Thomas starts to see that things aren’t as his father believes, and with the help of a classmate, an Igniter girl with more power than he’s ever seen, he learns the truth. Now Thomas must decide between his father and the girl he loves—and his choice is a death sentence for one.
I found the magic system in Fawkes fascinating and unique. Thomas is a troubled character searching for the truth amid many obstacles. His relationship with his father—the notorious Guy Fawkes—is complex and nuanced, and the exploration of English culture is vivid and probably uncomfortably accurate. I highly enjoyed reading this adventure.
Nadine Brandes loves Harry Potter and Oreos. Fawkes is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.)
Hope Diaz lives in New York City. She spends her time swimming, studying, and caring for her mother, who has dementia. She doesn’t have time for parties, so when she receives a mysterious invitation to one, she doesn’t really care. It seems like every other senior in the city got one, so it can’t be all that special. Until she realizes that everyone else can only see a single sentence on the invitation…and she sees more.
Soon, Hope finds herself on Mount Olympus, a guest of the gods, as she and other challengers prepare for a competition that will grant them their greatest wish. Hope doesn’t want immortality. She just wants to go home and take care of her mother.
But leaving Olympus isn’t an option and Hope soon finds out that not everything—or everyone—is as it seems.
Olympian Challenger isn’t a completely unique concept. I’ve seen lots of comparisons to Percy Jackson and Hunger Games. Sure, there are similarities. It’s difficult to write anything that has nothing in common with any other book ever written. But Olympian Challenger is its own story.
Hope is an interesting character, and the friendships she forges on Olympus are intriguing and inspiring. I enjoyed seeing the gods and the heroes through her less-than-impressed eyes. While the plot lags in places and does skimp on details at times, the writing is solid, and I’m interested in reading the second book.
Astrid Arditi lives and writes in Brooklyn. Olympian Challenger is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.)
Tilla has finally made it to safety in the city of Lightspire. She’s there with her boyfriend, Zell, and her best friend, Princess Lyriana—safe from her rebelling, murderous father (she’s his illegitimate, disposable daughter), who’s intent on overthrowing the king. But the whispers and accusations follow her even as she attends the prestigious University.
Life in Lightspire isn’t what she imagined, but she does her best to fit in…until she stumbles on the body of one of her friends and sees a mysterious mage with deadly powers. Tilla’s friends won’t listen to her—what she saw is treason, and she’s already under suspicion due to her father.
But Tilla knows what she saw and is determined to find out the truth. Things don’t make sense: not the secretive cult causing trouble in Lightspire, not how her father’s army is beating the invincible Lightspire mages, and certainly not the secrets those closest to her are keeping.
I haven’t actually read Royal Bastards, which is the first book in this series. And that did not make much difference at all in reading City of Bastards (although it might have explained the title a little bit). Although the setting is pretty traditional for fantasy, Tilla (and Lyriana) is a surprisingly modern teenager, complete with getting drunk and how open she is about her physical relationship with Zell. (So, if you’re expecting “traditional” fantasy/medieval values, that’ll be a shocker.) Her observations give the story an edge and settle the reader firmly in her point-of-view, so we’re just as shocked as she is at the murder and betrayal she experiences. I loved these characters, and I intend on going back and reading Royal Bastards to catch up.
Andrew Shvarts was born in Russia but grew up in the U.S. City of Bastards is his newest book, the second in the Royal Bastards series.
(Galley provided by Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review.)
Rielle Dardenne has lived with a horrible secret since she was five years old: she can control all seven of the elements of magic, not just one. Rielle tells no one, not even her best friends, Prince Audric and Ludivine, his fiancée. But when assassins ambush Audric, Rielle unleashes her magic to save his life, revealing her secret.
To prove which of the prophesied queens she is—the Queen of Light or the Blood Queen—Rielle must face seven trials, trials that will test her loyalty, her power, and her control. Her only ally is the voice in her head—Corien, one of the angels who has supposedly been vanquished. Rielle is determined to prove herself the Queen of Light, but Corien makes her question who she really is.
A thousand years later, Eliana is a bounty hunter, forced to work with the Empire to keep her family safe. Until her mother vanishes, and Eliana will do anything to find her, even ally herself with the Wolf, the mysterious man who is hiding secrets that will change Eliana’s world forever.
I’ve seen a lot of opposing reviews on Furyborn. It seems most people either love it or HATED it. I enjoyed it a lot, although the switching from Rielle’s to Eliana’s POV confused me a few times (a thousand years apart, and the world is essentially the same). I liked the strong female characters, and the female friendships were great, too. I didn’t learn much about the magic system, but it intrigued me. This is the first in a trilogy, and I can’t wait to read more!
Claire Legrand was born in Texas but now lives in New Jersey. Her newest novel is Furyborn.
(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review.)
Leila hasn’t had an easy life. Bounced from foster home to group home, the only constant she’s had is her best friend Sarika. Now Leila is adopted, and she loves her new home, even if she’s still waiting on the other shoe to drop and her new parents to decide they don’t want her.
To make new friends, Leila joins an environmental group at a local high school, and soon finds herself chatting with the cute leader of the group, whose ex-girlfriend is determined to make trouble for Leila and Sarika.
Then the voice in Leila’s head starts demanding her attention, and her coping methods no longer work. On impulse, she follows the voice’s direction to a grove deep in the local park. The grove is a place of old magic, and Leila discovers the truth about herself, and a danger that threatens the entire city.
A YA book about environmental issues? Yes, please. Throw in a diverse cast of characters who also fight against racism, and that upped my interest even more. I loved the premise of this novel, and the magical element made it even more promising. With Leila’s fears and insecurities from being adopted front and center, there was a lot going on in this book.
However, Leila and Sarika weren’t consistent enough to make them completely believable to me. Leila had a wonderful strength, was very outspoken and strong-willed, yet sometimes she seemed so naïve and childish in her thoughts and actions. Sarika was brazen towards others, although she showed her softer side to Leila. Their friendship was amazing, but then they’d throw in an f-bomb or two, and it seemed totally out-of-character, as if the cussing was just to make them seem more adult. Gratuitous profanity just didn’t fit the rest of their character. Actually, all of the teenagers had this dichotomy of personality, so their actions and personality were never cohesive. I never got a good sense of the why behind this erratic behavior.
Eric Smith is an author and literary agent. The Girl and the Grove is his newest novel.
(Galley provided by Flux in exchange for an honest review.)
Jasminda lives in an isolated cabin in Elsira, where her Earthsong, though weak, makes her an outcast—as does her being half Elsiran and half Lagrimaran. She has no one, and she prefers it that way, as too many people have always treated her like trash. When a dangerous group of soldiers from nearby Lagrimar invade her home to escape a storm, she must convince them she’s not a danger—and that she’s one of them.
Their prisoner, Jack, captures her attention. His mission to prove that the Mantle between Elsira and Lagrimar is about to fall at the hands of the True Father almost cost him his life. Only Jasminda’s power kept him alive, and now he needs her help to escape, and to save all Elsira.
As the power of the True Father grows stronger, Jasminda and Jack must uncover the secrets of The Queen Who Sleeps if they are to stop his despotic power from overwhelming their land. But the enemies they face are not just outsiders, and they must choose between what they want and what they must do if they are to survive.
Because I choose to read books on whether the plot is appealing to me (okay, and depending on how much I like the cover), I didn’t realize going in that this book is, as the author says, “a fantasy romance about brown people.” I also didn’t really pay attention to this fact while reading it, and only noticed while reading some of the publicity surrounding it, and the author’s site. However, the truth of what it is lent the story some incredible nuances and layers that brought the entire world to vibrant, shimmering life.
I was hooked from the very first page. Jasminda is a strong character, but she’s hiding her hurts behind many protective layers because society just isn’t receptive to her existence. So, she lives alone, survives on her own, and is determined to continue living life the way she sees fit. Until fate steps in and turns her world upside down, when she meets—and saves—Jack, a soldier on an undercover mission, pursued by enemy soldiers, who turns himself in to keep Jasminda safe.
The worldbuilding is complex, and I love how the history is layered in with flashbacks. This helps to give a very real feel to the setting. I loved the diverse cast of characters and read this straight through in one sitting. Can’t wait for the second book!
Leslye (L.) Penelope is an award-winning writer. Song of Blood and Stone is her debut novel.
(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)
Circe is the daughter of Helios, god of the sun and the mightiest Titan. Her mother is both cruel and alluring. Circe is not like either of them. Nor is she like her three siblings, striving for power and fame.
Circe prefers the company of fragile mortals to that of the powerful—and cruel—gods. In her search for companionship, Circe discovers she does have power: that of witchcraft. Her power to transform her rivals into monsters makes the gods fear her, and she is banished by Zeus himself to a deserted island.
There, Circe learns her craft, growing in power and knowledge as she comes to know some of the most famous individuals in mythology: The Minotaur, Medea, Daedalus, and especially the mighty Odysseus. But Circe draws the anger of one of the most powerful god in existence, and it will take all of skills and cunning to survive—and to decide if she will be a god, or a mortal.
I’ve always loved mythology, and I knew a tiny bit about Circe from a year spent studying mythology in high school (Thank you, Mrs. Skidmore!), but this novel is a riveting and personal journey into Circe’s life. Her treatment at the hands of the gods made me sad—kind of like the behavior of a lot of society these days—and her fumbling attempts to find friends and figure out her own truths drew my sympathy.
I loved reading about mythology from an insiders’ view—I truly felt I was part of the tale, experiencing Circe’s pain, grief, horror, and happiness right along with her. Well-written and engrossing, this book is a journey readers will love to take!
Madeline Miller is the award-winning author of The Song of Achilles. Her newest novel is Circe.
(Galley provided by Little, Brown, and Company in exchange for an honest review.)
Title: Sky in the Deep Author: Adrienne Young Genre: YA Rating: 5/5
Seventeen-year-old Eelyn grew up fighting beside her family and her Aska clansmen in their rivalry with the Riki clan. All she does is train and fight as she tries to keep herself alive and kill as many enemies as possible. Then she sees her brother on the battlefield, fighting with their rivals, a brother who died five years before.
Her father doesn’t believe her, but Eelyn sees her brother again, and is captured by him and his best friend, Fiske, in an effort to keep her alive. Her only choice is to spend the winter as a slave and escape in the spring to return home.
As she lives with the family who made her brother one of their own, Eelyn struggles to adapt to being surrounded by the enemy. Fiske thinks she’s dangerous, as do most of the clan, but she starts to see the Riki as more than just warriors. When the village is raided by a clan from legend, it is up to Eelyn and Fiske to get the Aska and the Riki to work together. Together, they have a chance, but they will both fall if they cannot work together against their common enemy.
This was a fantastic book! I read it straight through in one sitting, unable to put it down. Eelyn is a complex character dealing with the upheaval of everything she’s ever believed—and betrayal where she never imagined it. This is a brutal, violent world, and Eelyn is a brutal, violent warrior, but her entire world changes as her eyes are opened to possibilities beyond the traditions her people have believed in for generations.
I cannot speak highly enough of this book!
Adrienne Young was born in Texas, but now lives in California. Sky in the Deep is her debut novel.
(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)
Title: The Fairies of Sadieville Author: Alex Bledsoe Genre: Fantasy…ish. Rating: 4/5
When graduate students Justin and Veronica find an old film cannister with three words on it, “This is real,” they aren’t prepared for the film inside, which shows a girl transforming into a winged fairy. Justin is desperate to find a topic for his thesis, so the two set out to find the mysterious Sadieville, a town that vanished off the face of the earth over a century ago.
In rural Tennessee, everyone seems to have secrets. Secrets that point to the Tufa, a clannish group with dark skin, dark hair, and white teeth. They all look similar and they seem to have an unusual affinity for music. But not everyone likes Justin and Veronica asking questions, although Tucker Carding seems happy to help them—for reasons unknown.
Soon, Justin and Veronica find a secret, hidden for years, that will have all the Tufa asking a question they never dreamed of: if they could go back to their homeland of Tir na nOg, would they?
I should probably say that this is the first Tufa novel I’ve read. That really didn’t matter, as I was able to follow the story/history with no problems at all. This read like smart literary fiction with a fantasy element. The setting here is tremendously well-done, with Appalachia full of living, breathing life on every page. I really enjoyed reading this, and highly recommend it!
Alex Bledsoe grew up in Tennessee and now lives in Wisconsin. He’s the author of the Eddie Lacrosse novels, the Firefly Witch novels, the Memphis Vampires novels, and the Tufa novels. His newest novel, The Fairies of Sadieville is the final Tufa novel.
(Galley provided by Tor Books in exchange for an honest review.)