Tag: magic

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.)

Book Review: Kingdom of Sea and Stone, by Mara Rutherford

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title: Kingdom of Sea and Stone
Author: Mara Rutherford    
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Rating: 5 out of 5

Ever since Nor was forced to go to a nearby kingdom in her sister’s place, she’s wanted nothing more than to return to the place and people she loves. But when her wish comes true, she soon finds herself cast out from both worlds, with a war on the horizon.

As an old enemy resurfaces more powerful than ever, Nor will have to keep the kingdom from falling apart with the help of Prince Talin and Nor’s twin sister, Zadie. There are forces within the world more mysterious than any of them ever guessed—and they’ll need to stay alive long enough to conquer them…

I thoroughly enjoyed this book (And the one before it, A Crown of Coral and Pearl.). And I think the covers are gorgeous!

The world here is unique and distinctive, with different cultures, countries, and beliefs, and it’s fun to explore them with Nor. She knows what’s right and she does it, but she can see both sides of the issues. I love her strength even in the face of overwhelming odds, and her courage to speak up about wrongs—even when it can hurt her in the long run.

Adventure, magic, and a captivating setting all combine in this to make it almost impossible to put down!

Mara Rutherford was born in California but has lived all over the world. Kingdom of Sea and Stone is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Where Dreams Descend, by Janella Angeles

where dreams descend
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: Where Dreams Descend
AuthorJanella Angeles
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost.

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told.

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide.

I was engrossed in this tale from the very beginning. The dark, dreamy world where Kallia and the Master live is magical, but not happy, and nothing is as it seems. There are so many tangled layers in this story—many of them sprouting thorns or teeth—and I was never sure what was real and what wasn’t, which made for a captivating read.

Kallia is so brash and determined, of course I wanted her to succeed. Even the “secondary” characters—the Circus—were bright and larger than life, and I was fascinated by everyone. I can’t wait to read the second book!

Janella Angeles lives in Massachusetts. Where Dreams Descend is the debut novel in her Kingdom of Cards duology.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Lobizona, by Romina Garber

lobizona
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  Lobizona
Author:  Romina Garber  
Genre:     YA, fantasy
Rating:     4 out of 5

Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who’s on the run from her father’s Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.

Until Manu’s protective bubble is shattered.

Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past–a mysterious “Z” emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.

As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it’s not just her U.S. residency that’s illegal. . . .it’s her entire existence.

This was quite an interesting read. Parts of it felt like I’d fallen into a dreamscape, parts of it felt a tiny bit clichéd, but it was original enough to capture my attention at the start and keep me reading.

It was probably the characters themselves I found clichéd—the mean girl, the brainiac, the hot athlete—but several of the other characters were unique enough to make this a pleasure to read. I did not figure out the big reveal ahead of time and I definitely want to read more.

Romina Garber was born in Buenos Aires and raised in Miami. Logizona is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Rightful Queen, by Isabelle Steiger

the rightfulqueen
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  The Rightful Queen   
Author: Isabelle Steiger
Genre:   Fantasy
Rating:   4 out of 5

The Rightful Queen returns readers to the territories of Lantistyne. Imperator Elgar has brought war to the continent once again, and the rogues of the Dragon’s Head, once forced into his service, are scattered to the winds, wracked by tragedy and struggling to reunite.

While a cornered King Kelken grows increasingly desperate, Arianrod Margraine, the brilliant but outmanned marquise of Esthrades, devises a plan to stretch Elgar’s forces thin and turn the tide of battle in their favor. But when the sheltered queen of Issamira is driven from her throne by a long-simmering plot and the use of forbidden magic, Arianrod faces an even more pressing crisis.

Adora Avestri is more than the rightful queen of Issamira, more even than the key to defeating Elgar on the field—she has drawn the attention of beings older than Lantistyne itself, who possess hidden knowledge Arianrod has long desired. But if the queen and the marquise hope to survive long enough to learn it, Adora must find the strength to claim her birthright once and for all, and Arianrod must match wits and magic with a foe she has never before encountered: an equal.

I haven’t read the first book in this series. Sometimes, that’s not a problem at all. Sometimes, it’s impossible. This time…I should have read the first book—it would have made getting the politics straight and keeping the characters sorted out much easier—but I was still able to enjoy this book.

I enjoyed the diverse cultures and characters—no cookie-cutter types here. I was intrigued by all the storylines, which is unusual for me with an ensemble cast, but I enjoyed reading them all. The cultures where quite varied and detailed, and I was fully immersed in the world and the story.

Isabelle Steiger lives in New York. The Rightful Queen is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Mayhem, by Estelle Laure

mayhem
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Mayhem
Author Estelle Laure
Genre:   YA
Rating:   3.8 out of 5

It’s 1987 and unfortunately it’s not all Madonna and cherry lip balm. Mayhem Brayburn has always known there was something off about her and her mother, Roxy. Maybe it has to do with Roxy’s constant physical pain, or maybe with Mayhem’s own irresistible pull to water. Either way, she knows they aren’t like everyone else. But when May’s stepfather finally goes too far, Roxy and Mayhem flee to Santa Maria, California, the coastal beach town that holds the answers to all of Mayhem’s questions about who her mother is, her estranged family, and the mysteries of her own self. There she meets the kids who live with her aunt, and it opens the door to the magic that runs through the female lineage in her family, the very magic Mayhem is next in line to inherit and which will change her life for good. But when she gets wrapped up in the search for the man who has been kidnapping girls from the beach, her life takes another dangerous turn and she is forced to face the price of vigilante justice and to ask herself whether revenge is worth the cost.

I really loved the movie The Lost Boys, and I liked the idea of this book, but…this felt like it did more than take inspiration from The Lost Boys. Some thing were exactly the same as that movie, which both unsettled and disappointed me.

There’s a lot going on here: family issues/drama/secrets, the serial killer angle/mystery, the magic plotline, the romance, teen angst…While I enjoyed the writing, the plethora of things going on + the strong similarities with The Lost Boys made this an unsettling and somewhat disappointing read.

Estelle Laure was born in London but grew up in the United States. Mayhem is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Library of Legends, by Janie Chang

the library of legends
Image belongs to HarperCollins/William Morrow.

Title:   The Library of Legends
Author:   Janie Chang
Genre:   Historical fiction
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

China, 1937. When Japanese bombs begin falling on the city of Nanking, nineteen-year-old Hu Lian and her classmates at Minghua University are ordered to flee. Lian and a convoy of students, faculty and staff must walk 1,000 miles to the safety of China’s western provinces, a journey marred by the constant threat of aerial attack. And it is not just the refugees who are at risk; Lian and her classmates have been entrusted with a priceless treasure: a 500-year-old collection of myths and folklore known as the Library of Legends.

The students’ common duty to safeguard the Library of Legends creates unexpected bonds. Lian becomes friends and forms a cautious romance with the handsome and wealthy Liu Shaoming. But after one classmate is arrested and another one is murdered, Lian realizes she must escape before a family secret puts her in danger too. Accompanied by Shao and his enigmatic maidservant, Sparrow, Lian makes her way to Shanghai in the hopes of reuniting with her mother.

During the journey, Lian learns of the connection between her two companions and a tale from the Library of Legends, The Willow Star and the Prince. This revelation comes with profound consequences, for as the ancient books travel across China, they awaken immortals and guardian spirits who embark on an exodus of their own, one that will change the country’s fate forever.

From the very beginning, I was drawn into this story. I know zilch about this period of Chinese history, but I think it’s fascinating the Chinese government prized students so much in the midst of war. There are a lot of layers in this novel, all of them blended together seamlessly into an entrancing narrative sprinkled with magic in the midst of war.

Janie Change was born in Taiwan and now lives in Canada. The Library of Legends is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of HarperCollins/William Morrow in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Starborn, by Katie MacAlister

starborn
Image belongs to Kensington Books.

Title:  Starborn
AuthorKatie MacAlister
Genre:  Fantasy
Rating:  4 out of 5

After all the danger, fighting, and wars, peace now reigns in the seven lands of Alba. But Allegria and Hallow want to rescue their friend Deo, trapped in the shadowlands of Eris. And to do that , they need the three moonstones hidden years before.

As they search for the moonstones, they realize things aren’t quite as peaceful as they seem. Their captain—lifebound for many long years—warns them against heading to Eris by ship, but they are determined to rescue their friend. Even if it means their own deaths.

The banter and snarky humor make this a fun read, but I did feel some of the action was a bit rushed. I enjoyed the read, but it wasn’t as engrossing as the first one was, although if you need a dose of snarky humor and sarcasm, this is a sure bet.

Katie MacAlister is a best-selling author. Starborn is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: A Spell of Murder, by Kennedy Kerr

a spell of murder
Image belongsto Bookouture.

Title:  A Spell of Murder
Author:   Kennedy Kerr
Genre:  Mystery, fantasy
Rating:  4.0

Love’s Curiosities Inc. is a small shop full of odds and ends and curiosities that most people overlook. Temerity Love and her sister Tilda grew up there and now own it. Things have changed a bit since their parents owned the shop but magic still happens there. Tilda is a witch and Temerity is renowned for her ability to touch objects and see where they came from.

When a local schoolteacher is murdered by a poisoned cup of tea, an antique hand mirror is found nearby, and the local investigator asks for Temerity’s help finding the murder. Too bad his new protegee, grumpy out-of-towner Angus isn’t so open-minded. As Temerity starts asking questions, she’s determined to find out who killed the schoolteacher—with or without the help of the townspeople.

I really enjoyed this cozy mystery mixed with magic! The characters are unique and quirky, and the town was vibrantly alive, filled with a sense of history and stories lurking around every corner. The writing is solid, and I just sort of settled into this novel and enjoyed it.

Kennedy Kerr is an author with a love of all things Scottish. A Spell of Murder, the first book in the Lost Maidens Loch Mysteries, is her new novel.

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

Book Review: The Merciful Crow, by Margaret Owen

the merciful crow
Image belongs to Henry Holt and Co.

Title:   The Merciful Crow
Author:   Margaret Owen
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:   5 out of 5

Fie is a Crow—a caste of undertakers and mercy-killers immune to the plague and despised and persecuted by society. When her band is tasked with disposing of two royal bodies, they encounter the conniving queen who plans to cheat them of their pay and cost them even more respect. But Fie thwarts the queen—and discovers the two royal bodies aren’t exactly dead.

Instead, the crown prince and his clever body double have faked their own deaths to escape before the murderous queen can kill them. If they can make it to their allies, they have a chance at overthrowing the queen. They strike a deal with Fie:  if she sees them safely to their allies, the prince will protect the Crows when he’s king.

But the queen’s ruthless assassins are on their trail, and Fie might lose everything she cares about to fulfill the promise she made.

From the very first page, I was enthralled. I couldn’t put this book down, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I’ve never read anything like this and found the worldbuilding both vivid and unique. The magic system was odd—teeth?—but compelling, and I adored Fie as a character. She’s tough and prickly and fierce, but she can, eventually, see reason. I fell into this world headlong and did not want to leave.

Margaret Owen is an author and illustrator. The Merciful Crow is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Henry Holt and Co via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)