Tag: magic

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 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.)

 

Book Review:  The Shadow Glass, by Josh Winning

Image belongs to Titan Books.

Title:   The Shadow Glass
Author:   Josh Winning
Genre:   Fantasy
Rating:  4.0 out of 5

Jack Corman is failing at life. Jobless, jaded and facing the threat of eviction, he’s also reeling from the death of his father, one-time film director Bob Corman. Back in the eighties, Bob poured his heart and soul into the creation of his 1986 puppet fantasy The Shadow Glass, but the film flopped on release and Bob was never the same again. 

In the wake of Bob’s death, Jack returns to his decaying childhood home, where he is confronted with the impossible — the puppet heroes from The Shadow Glass are alive, and they need his help. Tipped into a desperate quest to save the world from the more nefarious of his father’s creations, Jack teams up with an excitable fanboy and a spiky studio exec to navigate the labyrinth of his father’s legacy and ignite a Shadow Glass resurgence that could, finally, do Bob proud.

I should say, first of all, that I love the movie The Labyrinth. Yeah, it’s terribly cheesy, but still, magic. Not sorry. I found The Shadow Glass to be a lot of fun, frankly, even while being totally unbelievable (of course). It was just pure fun! It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it actually sees character growth and change, too. Spend a fun few hours reading this!

Josh Winning lives in London. The Shadow Glass is his debut novel.

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

Book Review:  A Far Wilder Magic, by Allison Saft

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   A Far Wilder Magic
Author:   Allison Saft
Genre:   YA
Rating:  4.0 out of 5

When Margaret Welty spots the legendary hala, the last living mythical creature, she knows the Halfmoon Hunt will soon follow. Whoever is able to kill the hala will earn fame and riches, and unlock an ancient magical secret. If Margaret wins the hunt, it may finally bring her mother home. While Margaret is the best sharpshooter in town, only teams of two can register, and she needs an alchemist.

 Weston Winters isn’t an alchemist–yet. Fired from every apprenticeship he’s landed, his last chance hinges on Master Welty taking him in. But when Wes arrives at Welty Manor, he finds only Margaret and her bloodhound Trouble. Margaret begrudgingly allows him to stay, but on one condition: he must join the hunt with her.

 Although they make an unlikely team, Wes is in awe of the girl who has endured alone on the outskirts of a town that doesn’t want her, in this creaking house of ghosts and sorrow. And even though Wes disrupts every aspect of her life, Margaret is drawn to him. He, too, knows what it’s like to be an outsider. As the hunt looms closer and tensions rise, Margaret and Wes uncover dark magic that could be the key to winning the hunt – if they survive that long.

To me, this culture was an odd mix of things from our current world and things that were just slightly skewed from that all jumbled together. It didn’t have an effect on my enjoyment of the story, just stating something that caught my eye (more than once). I liked the story well enough, but Margaret was a little too hateful at times—and constantly I’m-an-outsider-and-care-for-no-one-else—and Weston was a bit of a selfish brat, but they eventually worked well together. Weston’s family was fantastic. Margaret’s mom, not so much. This is a solid read, but I didn’t find it to be stellar.

Allison Saft lives on the West Coast. A Far Wilder Magic is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  Edgewood, by Kristen Ciccarelli

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Edgewood
Author:   Kristen Ciccarelli
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:  5 out of 5

No matter how far she runs, the forest of Edgewood always comes for Emeline Lark. The scent of damp earth curls into her nose when she sings and moss creeps across the stage. It’s as if the woods of her childhood, shrouded in folklore and tall tales, are trying to reclaim her. But Emeline has no patience for silly superstitions. 

When her grandfather disappears, leaving only a mysterious orb in his wake, the stories Emeline has always scoffed at suddenly seem less foolish. She enters the forest she has spent years trying to escape, only to have Hawthorne Fell, a handsome and brooding tithe collector, try to dissuade her from searching.

 Refusing to be deterred, Emeline finds herself drawn to the court of the fabled Wood King himself. She makes a deal—her voice for her grandfather’s freedom. Little does she know, she’s stumbled into the middle of a curse much bigger than herself, one that threatens the existence of this eerie world she’s trapped in, along with the devastating boy who feels so familiar.

 With the help of Hawthorne—an enemy turned reluctant ally who she grows closer to each day—Emeline sets out to not only save her grandfather’s life, but to right past wrongs, and in the process, discover her true voice.

I really loved this!  From the opening scene, when the forest encroaches on Emeline singing, to the mystery of what was really going on in the forest, I was captivated. I thought the setting itself was very cool, and the idea there was an entire secret world nestled up against Emeline’s neighborhood (Isn’t that what every kid imagines?). The characters were a lot of fun, and I enjoyed getting to know everyone. I found this highly entertaining and a true pleasure to read.

Kristen Ciccarelli is a bestselling author. Edgewood is her newest novel.

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

 

Book Review and Blog Tour:  The Iron Sword, by Julie Kagawa

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title: The Iron Sword    
Author:   Julie Kagawa
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   5 out of 5

As Evenfall nears, the stakes grow ever higher for those in Faery…

Banished from the Winter Court for daring to fall in love, Prince Ash achieved the impossible and journeyed to the End of the World to earn a soul and keep his vow to always stand beside Queen Meghan of the Iron Fey.

Now he faces even more incomprehensible odds. Their son, King Keirran of the Forgotten, is missing. Something more ancient than the courts of Faery and more evil than anything Ash has faced in a millennium is rising as Evenfall approaches. And if Ash and his allies cannot stop it, the chaos that has begun to divide the world will shatter it for eternity.

I really love anything the author writes in this world, and this was no exception. I enjoyed the continuing story of Ash and Meghan, although I did enjoy Puck’s POV very much in the last book. Lots of action, intriguing magic, and hints of romance made this a perfect mix that I practically devoured. Highly recommend!

Julie Kagawa is a bestselling author. The Iron Sword is her newest novel.

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

 

Book Review:  All of Us Villains, by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman

Image belongs to Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tor Teen.

Title:   All of Us Villains
Author:   Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:  4.0 out of 5

The Blood Moon rises. The Blood Veil falls. The Tournament begins. 

Every generation, at the coming of the Blood Moon, seven families in the remote city of Ilvernath each name a champion to compete in a tournament to the death. 

The prize? Exclusive control over a secret wellspring of high magick, the most powerful resource in the world–one thought long depleted. 

This year, thanks to a salacious tell-all book, the seven champions are thrust into worldwide spotlight, granting each of them new information, new means to win, and most importantly: a choice – accept their fate or rewrite their story.

 But this is a story that must be penned in blood. 

This was a pretty dark read. Every time I though I liked a character, they did something awful, stabbed someone in the back, killed someone…Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about this read. It’s well-written, with strong characters and lots of action, but it’s just so dark.

Amanda Foody lives in Boston. Christine Lynn Herman lives in Brooklyn. All of Us Villians is their new novel.

(Galley courtesy of Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tor Teen in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  Within These Wicked Walls, by Lauren Blackwood

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Within These Wicked Walls
Author Lauren Blackwood
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:  4.0

What the heart desires, the house destroys…

 Andromeda is a debtera—an exorcist hired to cleanse households of the Evil Eye. When a handsome young heir named Magnus Rochester reaches out to hire her, Andromeda quickly realizes this is a job like no other, with horrifying manifestations at every turn, and that Magnus is hiding far more than she has been trained for. Death is the most likely outcome if she stays, but leaving Magnus to live out his curse alone isn’t an option. Evil may roam the castle’s halls, but so does a burning desire.

I actually enjoyed this quite a bit! I found it creative and unique, and I loved both Andromeda and Magnus. There were a few places that seemed fairly abrupt, like some of the progression between scenes was chopped, and that felt a bit awkward, but this wasn’t enough to turn me off the book. Bits of this were quite creepy, but this was definitely an entertaining read.

Lauren Blackwood lives in Virginia. Within These Wicked Walls is her debut novel.

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

 

Book Review:  Little Thieves, by Margaret Owen

Image belongs to Macmillan.

Title:   Little Thieves
Author:   Margaret Owen
Genre:   Fantasy
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Vanja Schmidt knows that no gift is freely given, not even a mother’s love–and she’s on the hook for one hell of a debt. Vanja, the adopted goddaughter of Death and Fortune, was Princess Gisele’s dutiful servant up until a year ago. That was when Vanja’s otherworldly mothers demanded a terrible price for their care, and Vanja decided to steal her future back… by stealing Gisele’s life for herself. 

The real Gisele is left a penniless nobody while Vanja uses an enchanted string of pearls to take her place. Now, Vanja leads a lonely but lucrative double life as princess and jewel thief, charming nobility while emptying their coffers to fund her great escape. Then, one heist away from freedom, Vanja crosses the wrong god and is cursed to an untimely end: turning into jewels, stone by stone, for her greed. 

Vanja has just two weeks to figure out how to break her curse and make her getaway. And with a feral guardian half-god, Gisele’s sinister fiancé, and an overeager junior detective on Vanja’s tail, she’ll have to pull the biggest grift yet to save her own life.

Confession: I almost stopped reading this about 15 times in the first 20%. It just started out so slow, and Vanja just wasn’t a very likable person at all. Fortunately, she started learning and changing after that, so she became more tolerable. After that, I enjoyed this story immensely.

The setting was vividly wrought, and the culture was fascinating to me, with the mythology woven seamlessly in, adding depth and nuance to the story. In the end, this ended up being a fantastic read filled with magic, danger, and romance.

Margaret Owen grew up in Portland, Oregon. Little Thieves is her newest novel.

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