Tag: fantasy

Book Review:  This Vicious Grace, by Emily Thiede

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   This Vicious Grace   
Author: Emily Thiede
Genre: YA, fantasy  
Rating:  5 out of 5

Three weddings. Three funerals. Alessa’s gift from the gods is supposed to magnify a partner’s magic, not kill every suitor she touches.

Now, with only weeks left until a hungry swarm of demons devours everything on her island home, Alessa is running out of time to find a partner and stop the invasion. When a powerful priest convinces the faithful that killing Alessa is the island’s only hope, her own soldiers try to assassinate her.

Desperate to survive, Alessa hires Dante, a cynical outcast marked as a killer, to become her personal bodyguard. But as rebellion explodes outside the gates, Dante’s dark secrets may be the biggest betrayal. He holds the key to her survival and her heart, but is he the one person who can help her master her gift or destroy her once and for all?

This was such a fantastic read! Alessa’s snark is so much fun—and it only gets better when Dante shows up. I really loved their interactions and banter. The world and culture were quite unique to me, and, while it isn’t really a culture I’d want to live in—or visit—the world-building was vividly realized and fascinating to read. I highly recommend this, and I can’t wait to read what happens next.

Emily Thiede lives in Virginia. This Vicious Grace is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  Ordinary Monsters, by J. M. Miro

Image belongs to Flatiron Books.

Title: Ordinary Monsters   
Author: J. M. Miro
Genre:  Fantasy
Rating:  4.0 out of 5

England, 1882. In Victorian London, two children with mysterious powers are hunted by a figure of darkness —a man made of smoke.

Sixteen-year-old Charlie Ovid, despite a lifetime of brutality, doesn’t have a scar on him. His body heals itself, whether he wants it to or not. Marlowe, a foundling from a railway freight car, shines with a strange bluish light. He can melt or mend flesh. When two grizzled detectives are recruited to escort them north to safety, they are forced to confront the nature of difference, and belonging, and the shadowy edges of the monstrous.

What follows is a journey from the gaslit streets of London, to an eerie estate outside Edinburgh, where other children with gifts—the Talents—have been gathered. Here, the world of the dead and the world of the living threaten to collide. And as secrets within the Institute unfurl, Marlowe, Charlie and the rest of the Talents will discover the truth about their abilities, and the nature of the force that is stalking them: that the worst monsters sometimes come bearing the sweetest gifts.

This took me a long time to read. It’s long, and I didn’t find it very fast-paced, even though there’s a lot going on. I thought it was fairly dark and a bit depressing, and there are echoes of other books I’ve read in there. There were a few loose threads, too, like Alice’s backstory, that just kind of stopped and I didn’t feel were resolved. Possibly for the rest of the trilogy?

J. M. Miro is from the Pacific Northwest. Ordinary Monsters is the first book in The Talents trilogy.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour:   Breaking Time, by Sasha Alsberg

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

TitleBreaking Time  
Author:    Sasha Alsberg
Genre:    Fantasy
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

When a mysterious Scotsman appears out of nowhere in the middle of the road, Klara thinks the biggest problem is whether she hit him with her car. But, as impossible as it sounds, Callum has stepped out of another time, and it’s just the beginning of a deadly adventure.

Klara will soon learn that she is the last Pillar of Time—an anchor point in the timeline of the world and a hiding place for a rogue goddess’s magic. Callum is fated to protect her at all costs. A dark force is hunting for the Pillars, to claim the power of the goddess—and Klara and Callum are the only two standing in the way. Thrown together by fate, the two have to learn to trust one another and work together…but they’ll need to protect their hearts from one another if they’re going to survive.

This was a decent read. Nothing too unique, but nothing completely cookie cutter, either. I enjoyed Klara’s personality and I liked Callum, but sometimes his dialogue sounded like he was from the 1500s—appropriate—and sometimes it sounded like he was the boy next door—not appropriate at all and threw me out of the story. A quick read, but one I never really felt like the stakes were very high in—despite the supposed consequences of the plot.

Sasha Alsberg lives in Massachusetts. Breaking Time is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:   Kagen the Damned, by Jonathan Maberry

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:    Kagen the Damned
Author:    Jonathan Maberry
Genre:    Fantasy
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Sworn by Oath

Kagen Vale is the trusted and feared captain of the palace guard, charged with protection the royal children of the Silver Empire. But one night, Kagen is drugged and the entire imperial family is killed, leaving the empire in ruins.

Abandoned by the Gods

Haunted and broken, Kagen is abandoned by his gods and damned forever. He becomes a wanderer, trying to take down as many of this enemies as possible while plotting to assassinate the usurper–the deadly Witch-king of Hakkia. While all around him magic–long banished from the world—returns in strange and terrifying ways.

Fueled by Rage

To find the royal children and exact his vengeance, Kagen must venture into strange lands, battle bizarre and terrifying creatures, and gather allies for a suicide mission into the heart of the Witch-king’s empire.

Kings and gods will fear him.

This book took me a long time to read. Like, two entire weeks. The different cultures were so vivid and realistic, and I very much enjoyed that part of the story. The first third or so seemed to drag on a bit, although I liked Kagen enough to keep reading. I liked Tuke and his colorful language the most, though. Kagen spent a solid amount of time drinking himself into oblivion and feeling sorry for himself, so he kind of got on my nerves at times. I’d definitely keep reading this series though, just to find out how it all plays out.

Jonathan Maberry is a bestselling author. Kaen the Damned is his newest novel.

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

Book Review:   Herrick’s End, by T. M. Blanchet

Image belongs to Tiny Fox Press.

TitleHerrick’s End  
Author:  T. M. Blanchet  
Genre:    Fantasy
Rating:  4 out of 5

You did nothing. You were nothing. And so, you shall remain here, until the end of your days. As nothing.

Ollie’s only friend disappeared a few days ago, and now, he’s frantic to find her. But he doesn’t have much to go on until a mysterious note arrives which reads: “Still looking for your friend? I know where she is.” Unfortunately for Ollie, the trail leads to the last place he’d ever expect.

Somewhere dark.

Somewhere deep.

The kind of place where magic spills like blood, vengeance is merciless, and escape seems all but impossible.

Worse still, it soon becomes clear that someone-or something-was expecting him.

Now, time is running out.

If Ollie has any hope of ever seeing home again, he’s going to have to summon every last scrap of courage, smarts, and tenacity he can find. And none of it will matter if he can’t get some help. Fast.

Because Ollie might not know much about the vast underworld that’s ensnared him, but he does know this: He’ll never make it out alone.

I enjoyed this read. I found it creative and unique, if a little dark. I liked Ollie a lot, and I was fully invested in everything he went through. I thought the setting was great, and I’d definitely be interested in reading more set in this world—especially with Ollie.

T. M. Blanchet is a former reporter, editor, and columnist. Herrick’s End is her debut novel.

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

Book Review:  Veil, by Dylan Farrow

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Veil
Author:   Dylan Farrow
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:  3.8 out of 5

Shae’s entire world has been turned upside down, and everything she’s ever believed is a lie. More determined than ever, she sets out to the mysterious land of Gondal—a place forbidden to mention and resigned to myth—in search of a dangerous magical book that could alter the fabric of the world.

Following the trail of Ravod, the boy she thought she knew and trusted, Shae discovers there is far more to the young man who stole the Book of Days than she ever realized. Together, with her friends, Mads and Fiona, and a newfound ally in her fierce former trainer, Kennan, Shae crosses the borders of the only home she’s ever had and into a world ruled not by magic, but technology and industry — one fraught with perils of its own.

In a world shrouded in lies, Shae is desperate for answers and to restore peace, but who will lift the veil?

I did not read Hush, but that didn’t really prove to be a problem. I enjoyed the characters, but the last third of the books seemed a bit erratic and far-fetched. Interesting world and setting, it just didn’t totally work for me because it felt jagged, not like a coherent whole.

Dylan Farrow grew up in New York City and Connecticut. Veil is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:   In a Garden Burning Gold, by Rory Power

Image belongs to Random House/Ballantine.

Title:    In a Garden Burning Gold
Author:    Rory Power
Genre:  Fantasy
Rating: 4.2 out of 5

Rhea and her twin brother, Lexos, have spent an eternity helping their father rule their small, unstable country, using their control over the seasons, tides, and stars to keep the people in line. For a hundred years, they’ve been each other’s only ally, defending each other and their younger siblings against their father’s increasingly unpredictable anger.

 Now, with an independence movement gaining ground and their father’s rule weakening, the twins must take matters into their own hands to keep their family—and their entire world—from crashing down around them. But other nations are jockeying for power, ready to cross and double cross, and if Rhea and Lexos aren’t careful, they’ll end up facing each other across the battlefield.

This was…I’m not sure how to describe it. It felt very different from anything I’d read before, and the setting and culture were fascinating to me. This family was pretty horrible, for the most part. Their sister was actually nice, but very sheltered, the dad was horrible, their emo-ish brother was a bit much. I didn’t care for either twin initially, but Rhea grew on me as she started to become an actual person instead of some automaton who did everything her father expected. I’m interested to see where the next book takes them.

Rory Power is a bestselling author. In a Garden Burning Gold is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Random House/Ballantine in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  Savage City, by L. Penelope

Image belongs to Heartspell Media.

TitleSavage City
AuthorL. Penelope
Genre:   Fantasy
Rating:  3.8 out of 5

For Talia, death is only the beginning of survival…

 When a tragic accident cuts my lonely life short, instead of heaven or hell, I’m stolen away to a terrifying city of warring shifter clans—the Nimali and the Fai. The Nimali mistake me for their missing princess. Her father, the dragon king, is identical to my own. But in this world, he dotes on me with the love and affection I always craved. And in a land with no tolerance for outsiders, feigning amnesia and impersonating shifter royalty may be the only way to survive.

 For Ryin, falling in love is the worst kind of betrayal…

 As a Fai warrior in captivity, I’m forced to serve my enemy even as I plot their destruction. The lost princess returned much changed, now the heat between us crackles irresistibly. While helping her heal using my magical talents, I begin to question what I thought I knew about the Nimali. She remains as forbidden as ever, but she also might be the key to freedom for me and my people.

 Caught between two enemy factions balancing on the knife-blade of annihilation, our lies are the only thing keeping us alive, but they just might be our undoing.

This was a decent read, but I felt like the characters were pretty generic. I liked the prince better than the two main characters, so I might read more about him. I was interested enough to keep reading the story, but not so much I’m eager to read the sequel. I found the court intrigues in the midst of a world slightly skewed from our own to be a bit not realistic, but my main problem was I just didn’t really care about the characters that much.

L. Penelope was born in the Bronx and lives in Maryland. Savage City is her newest novel.

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

 

Book Review and Blog Tour:  A Forgery of Roses, by Jessica S. Olson

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title:   A Forgery of Roses
Author:   Jessica S. Olson
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

She’s an artist whose portraits alter people’s real-life bodies, a talent she must hide from those who would kidnap, blackmail, and worse in order to control it. Guarding that secret is the only way to keep her younger sister safe now that their parents are gone.

 But one frigid night, the governor’s wife discovers the truth and threatens to expose Myra if she does not complete a special portrait that would resurrect the governor’s dead son. Desperate, Myra ventures to his legendary stone mansion.

 Once she arrives, however, it becomes clear the boy’s death was no accident. Someone dangerous lurks within these glittering halls. Someone harboring a disturbing obsession with portrait magic.

 Myra cannot do the painting until she knows what really happened, so she turns to the governor’s older son, a captivating redheaded poet. Together, they delve into the family’s most shadowed affairs, racing to uncover the truth before the secret Myra spent her life concealing makes her the killer’s next victim.

I enjoyed this! Myra was a great character, and her relationship with her sister was just wonderful, and made the book really shine. This book is fairly dark from the first page, but there are spots of brightness. August is another of them. The author portrayed his debilitating anxiety so well, and I was never sure if he would conquer it, or it would conquer him. His family, meanwhile, was absolutely horrible. A lovely read!

Jessica S. Olson lives in Texas. A Forgery of Roses is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:   A Magic Steeped in Poison, by Judy I. Lin

Image belongs to Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends.

Title:    A Magic Steeped in Poison
Author:    Judy I. Lin
Genre:    Fantasy, YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

For Ning, the only thing worse than losing her mother is knowing that it’s her own fault. She was the one who unknowingly brewed the poison tea that killed her—the poison tea that now threatens to also take her sister, Shu. 

When Ning hears of a competition to find the kingdom’s greatest shennong-shi—masters of the ancient and magical art of tea-making—she travels to the imperial city to compete. The winner will receive a favor from the princess, which may be Ning’s only chance to save her sister’s life.

 But between the backstabbing competitors, bloody court politics, and a mysterious (and handsome) boy with a shocking secret, Ning might actually be the one in more danger.

I really enjoyed this read! The culture and world were fascinating, and I loved all the sensory details that brought it to vivid life. The characters were believable, and I really loved Ning and the friendships she formed—and the intrigues she landed in. I can’t wait to read the second book in the duology!

Judy I. Lin grew up in Canada. A Magic Steeped in Poison is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends in exchange for an honest review.)