Tag Archives: fantasy books

BOOK REVIEW: THE LOST METAL BY BRANDON SANDERSON

the book cover for The Lost Metal by Brandon Sanderson

  • STAR RATING:  4ish stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 507 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: November 15, 2022 
  • PUBLISHER: Tor Books
    WHAT SERIES? The Mistborn Saga
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? The Alloy of Law
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 4 in this era, 3 in the era before
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, body horror, kidnapping
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  Mistborn era 1 by Brandon Sanderson, The Old Kingdom Series by Garth Nix

SYNOPSIS

For years, frontier lawman turned big-city senator Waxillium Ladrian has hunted the shadowy organization the Set-with his late uncle and his sister among their leaders – since they started kidnapping people with the power of Allomancy in their bloodlines. When Detective Marasi Colms, and her partner, Wayne, find stockpiled weapons bound for the Outer City of Bilming, this opens a new lead. Conflict between Elendel and the Outer Cities only favors the Set, and their tendrils now reach to the Elendel Senate – whose corruption Wax and Steris have sought to expose-and Bilming is even more entangled. After Wax discovers a new type of explosive that can unleash unprecedented destruction, and realizes that the Set must already have it, an immortal kandra serving Scadrial’s god, Harmony, reveals that Bilming has fallen under the influence of another god: Trell, worshipped by the Set. And Trell isn’t the only factor at play from the larger Cosmere-Marasi is recruited by offworlders with strange abilities who claim their goal is to protect Scadrial…at any cost. Wax must choose whether to set aside his rocky relationship with God and once again become the Sword that Harmony has groomed him to be. If no one steps forward to be the hero Scadrial needs, the planet and its millions of people will come to a sudden and calamitous ruin.

If you’ve been following me for a while on here, then you know that I’m quite a fan of Brandon Sanderson’s work. It’s not like I hide my opinion on his incredible talent, or his amazingly fascinating worlds or magic systems. Brandon Sanderson is a true genius at fantasy writing. There’s no doubt about it. I usually rave and rave about his latest books after I’m done reading them, but this time I find that I can’t do that.

The Lost Metal was good. It really was. A good ending to Mistborn, Era 2. So why do I feel just a little let down? I won’t spoil anything, I promise, but there’s a few things that just didn’t quite live up to my standards of Sanderson’s work. Which may be too high, honestly. I expect a lot from him, and maybe I should tone it down. ANYWAY.

I will admit that I did not reread the previous three novels before diving into this one. It’s possible that would have increased my enjoyment of this one. There’s a lot going on in this world, and it’s hard to keep things straight. ESPECIALLY when Sanderson introduces a lot of other cosmere-related characters in this book. (Aren’t sure what the cosmere is? A lot of Sanderson’s works take place in the same universe, and many of the characters are planet or world hoppers, meaning they can appear in more than one series. Confusing? You bet. But it’s also super cool to see a familiar face in a new series.) Sanderson took the cosmere up a notch in this book, and like I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’m not sure it worked for me this time.

So how come? Well, when you have to read all the other cosmere-related books (probably 10+ books at this point) to understand something, it can be a bit of a drag. AND THAT’S COMING FROM SOMEONE WHO HAS READ ALL THE OTHER COSMERE BOOKS. It’s a lot to be familiar with and remember, especially when you’re a heavy reader like me. So basically, I guess what I’m saying is this. The book was decent, it just had too many…details? I guess? That sounds ridiculous, and I’m aware of it.

ANYWAY, I love Wax, and I love, love, love Wayne. I’m so glad he was featured prominently in this one. Marasai is still fascinating, but I was THRILLED to see that Steris’s talents were finally put to use on a grand scale in this one. She deserved the spotlight and the recognition. Sanderson’s female characters never really disappoint — they’re all vastly different from each other, and I love that they’re not reduced down to love interests or wallflowers. I’ll definitely be picking up the next Mistborn era when it comes out, but with some hesitancy, I guess.

Did this review make any sense whatsoever? Who knows.

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ARC REVIEW: THE FOXGLOVE KING BY HANNAH WHITTEN

  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 400 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: March 7th 2023 
  • PUBLISHER: Orbit Books
    WHAT SERIES? The Nightshade Kingdom
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? The Foxglove King
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 3
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, body horror, kidnapping
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Thank you to Netgalley and Orbit Books for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

In this lush, romantic new epic fantasy series from New York Times bestselling author Hannah Whitten, a young woman’s secret power to raise the dead plunges her into the dangerous and glamorous world of the Sainted King’s royal court.

When Lore was thirteen, she escaped a cult in the catacombs beneath the city of Dellaire. And in the ten years since, she’s lived by one rule: don’t let them find you. Easier said than done, when her death magic ties her to the city.

Mortem, the magic born from death, is a high-priced and illicit commodity in Dellaire, and Lore’s job running poisons keeps her in food, shelter, and relative security. But when a run goes wrong and Lore’s power is revealed, she’s taken by the Presque Mort, a group of warrior-monks sanctioned to use Mortem working for the Sainted King. Lore fully expects a pyre, but King August has a different plan. Entire villages on the outskirts of the country have been dying overnight, seemingly at random. Lore can either use her magic to find out what’s happening and who in the King’s court is responsible, or die.

Lore is thrust into the Sainted King’s glittering court, where no one can be believed and even fewer can be trusted. Guarded by Gabriel, a duke-turned-monk, and continually running up against Bastian, August’s ne’er-do-well heir, Lore tangles in politics, religion, and forbidden romance as she attempts to navigate a debauched and opulent society.

But the life she left behind in the catacombs is catching up with her. And even as Lore makes her way through the Sainted court above, they might be drawing closer than she thinks.

I knew upon reading the synopsis of this book that it would be right up my alley. I knew it. And reader — I was right. I had been desperately waiting for my ARC copy to arrive in my email ever since Orbit had announced this book was coming. And I know I really should have waited until closer to The Foxglove King‘s publishing date to read it, but uh, I could not wait any longer.

Despite my ongoing reading slump, I found myself diving into The Foxglove King. It is so good. It reads like the best YA adventure novel out there — and I do not mean that as a dig in any way whatsoever. I know people like to rag on YA novels, but they are a lot of fun most of the time. The Foxglove King is NOT a YA novel, but it definitely has the same feeling. There’s a lot at stake here in the plot, and the three main characters are all pretty high up on the so-called totem pole, if you will.

We have Lore, who is something of a necromancer. She’s got a mysterious past that we don’t see very much of in this book, but I fully expect to see more of in the incoming books. I really liked Lore. She never took anything for granted, and was rather fully on her own side. But she also had real feelings, and dang do you feel sorry for her the more you read.

Next, we have Gabe, who is a duke/monk in a death…related…cult? It’s hard to explain without spoiling anything. I promise it makes total sense in the book. He’s got his own reasons behind everything that he does or allows to happen, and while I wanted to like him, and you really really do want to like him, he is so manipulated that you really aren’t surprised by certain things that occur.

Lastly, we have Bastian, the Sun Prince. I love, love, love Bastian. I’m a sucker for a pretends-not-to-care, parties-all-the-time, but-actually-cares-a-lot character. That’s Bastian to a T. I cannot wait to see more of him. His dad is the King (obviously) and wow, do you hate his dad as soon as you meet him.

And yes, there is a bit of a love-triangle situation going on between the three leads. I know who I’m rooting for, but we’ll see where it goes. The romance is NOT a huge part of the book, though, for those of you that are worried about it. It is very much a minor subplot. Lore is not at all worried about her heart when her death magic seems to be strengthening. She has her priorities straight, I promise.

I loved the magic that Whitten included. I love the little hints of the gods that we see — this was actually one of my most favorite parts of the book. The gods are dead, but not, and they seem to be influencing things to go a certain way. It is so vastly interesting, and mysterious without being infuriating that I am now waiting with bated breath for the next entry into this series.

THE FOXGLOVE KING comes out MARCH 7, 2023.

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BOOK REVIEW: THE BONE HOUSES BY EMILY LLOYD-JONES

the book cover for The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones
  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 352 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED:  September 24th 2019 
  • PUBLISHER:  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, grief, death of parent, animal death

  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones

SYNOPSIS

Seventeen-year-old Aderyn (“Ryn”) only cares about two things: her family, and her family’s graveyard. And right now, both are in dire straits. Since the death of their parents, Ryn and her siblings have been scraping together a meager existence as gravediggers in the remote village of Colbren, which sits at the foot of a harsh and deadly mountain range that was once home to the fae. The problem with being a gravedigger in Colbren, though, is that the dead don’t always stay dead.

The risen corpses are known as “bone houses,” and legend says that they’re the result of a decades-old curse. When Ellis, an apprentice mapmaker with a mysterious past, arrives in town, the bone houses attack with new ferocity. What is it that draws them near? And more importantly, how can they be stopped for good?

Together, Ellis and Ryn embark on a journey that will take them deep into the heart of the mountains, where they will have to face both the curse and the long-hidden truths about themselves. 

You all know how much I loved The Drowned Woods when I read it earlier this year. Pretty much immediately went and bought Emily Lloyd-Jones’s previous novel, The Bone Houses, as soon as I was done. I kept putting off reading it, though, because it seemed like the perfect book to read for Halloween.

I was right.

But dang, does this book pack quite the punch.

The Bone Houses is about medieval zombies. A bone house is a dead person that is still up and walking around. They can’t talk, or eat, or do anything like an alive person other than…wander around and try to hurt people. (Spoiler — not all the bone houses want to hurt you!) Ryn — our main character — lives in a tiny village seemingly in the middle of no where, surrounded by a magical forest. The bone houses generally stick to the forest, until one day…they don’t. Surprise!

The rest of the book is trying to figure out what magic causes the bone houses, why they’re suddenly coming out of the forest, and attacking the village. Ryn and her companion, Ellis, venture out on a quest to find some answers. Ryn is a no-nonsense young woman, and I loved her ability to do just whatever she needed to so things got done. Instead of being afraid or anxious, she just did things. No fuss. Ellis is a little wishy-washy at first, but his backstory is really profoundly well done. And I can’t NOT mention bone goat. What an amazing animal companion. Loyal even unto death.

The Bone Houses is a book about death, mourning, and how love does not fade when someone passes. This book made me cry more than once, but in a very healing way. It also made me hug my son so, so tight. I loved this absolutely beautifully written book.

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ARC REVIEW: A RESTLESS TRUTH BY FREYA MARSKE

the book cover for A Restless Truth by Freya Marske
  • STAR RATING:  4 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 400 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: November 1st 2022 
  • PUBLISHER: Tordotcom Publishing
    WHAT SERIES? The Last Binding Series
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? A Marvellous Light
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 3
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Sexual content, death, torture, Misogyny, racism
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  A Strange and Stubborn Endurance by Foz Meadows

Thank you to Netgalley and Tordotcom Publishing for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

Magic! Murder! Shipboard romance! The second entry in Freya Marske’s beloved The Last Binding trilogy, the queer historical fantasy series that began with A Marvellous Light

The most interesting things in Maud Blyth’s life have happened to her brother Robin, but she’s ready to join any cause, especially if it involves magical secrets that may threaten the whole of the British Isles. Bound for New York on the R.M.S. Lyric, she’s ready for an adventure.

What she actually finds is a dead body, a disrespectful parrot, and a beautiful stranger in Violet Debenham, who is everything—a magician, an actress, a scandal—Maud has been trained to fear and has learned to desire. Surrounded by the open sea and a ship full of loathsome, aristocratic suspects, they must solve a murder and untangle a conspiracy that began generations before them.

One of my absolute favorite books I read last year was the first book in The Last Binding series — A Marvellous Light. It took everything that I adore — historical romance, mysteries, meaningful gay relationships, magic, and steamy sex scenes — and pushed it all together in an absolutely fantastic mashup. When A Restless Truth showed up on Netgalley, I daren’t hope that I would be given access to an ARC. I loved A Marvellous Light too much, obviously, to be impartial to the sequel. Well, I was wrong — Tordotcom rather lovingly bestowed me access to an e-arc of one of my most anticipated books of the year. I think I squealed out loud when I got the approval email, actually.

So, drumroll — did A Restless Truth stand up to A Marvellous Light in my eyes?

Yes, and a tiny bit of no.

Yes…mostly, I suppose?

The entire book takes place on a massive ship heading across the Atlantic back to England. It’s possible that this hampered the book in my eyes — perhaps I missed the mad dash hurry travel scenes to get some other neatly magical location? Or was it the characters themselves that just didn’t stand up to Robin and Edwin? (This is what I’m leaning towards.) I love them both so much, that it would be very hard for anyone else to match them, honestly. While I did like Maud, and Violet, they just weren’t Robin and Edwin. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. It might also be the ending of the book that just didn’t shine quite as much as A Marvellous Light‘s. (I won’t spoil anything but repeating something happening to the characters three times is a bit much, in my eyes.) Whatever the reason may be — I’m still not entirely sure — I still did enjoy A Restless Truth very much.

More about the characters, now. Violet Debenham is an absolute marvel of a character — she is a magnificent scandal and she does not care who notices. She spends the majority of the book pretending to be behind a version of herself that she’s created in order to hide who she really is. She’s a lot of fun, but she does ring false for a lot of the book — on purpose. Maud Blythe is Robin’s sister who is determined with all her might to be a good person, in spite of her parents being absolutely awful people. Lord Hawthorne, I’m hoping will be one of the leads in the next book. He’s so very stoic, noble, and straight-backed I really want to see someone just totally tear him apart emotionally.

The mystery at the center of the plot was fantastic, though I do wish there had been a little more foreshadowing as to who was actually involved in the theft and murder. It feels like the twist comes out of absolutely nowhere, unfortunately.

Overall, I did enjoy A Restless Truth, just not quite as much as I loved A Marvellous Light.

A RESTLESS TRUTH comes out NOVEMBER 1, 2022.

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ARC REVIEW: EMPIRE OF EXILES BY ERIN M. EVANS

the book cover for Empire of Exiles by Erin M. Evans
  • STAR RATING:  4.5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 448 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: November 8th 2022 
  • PUBLISHER: Orbit Books
    CONTENT WARNINGS: Murder, death, kidnapping,
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Thank you to Netgalley and Orbit Books for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

Twenty-seven years ago, a Duke with a grudge led a ruthless coup against the empire of Semilla, killing thousands. He failed. The Duke was executed, a terrifyingly powerful sorcerer was imprisoned, and an unwilling princess disappeared.

The empire moved on.

Now, when Quill, an apprentice scribe, arrives in the capital city, he believes he’s on a simple errand for another pompous noble: fetch ancient artifacts from the magical Imperial Archives. He’s always found his apprenticeship to be dull work. But these aren’t just any artifacts — these are the instruments of revolution, the banners under which the Duke lead his coup.

Just as the artifacts are unearthed, the city is shaken by a brutal murder that seems to have been caused by a weapon not seen since the days of rebellion.

Since Quill is the only reliable witness to the murder, and no one in power believes his story, he must join with a young mage, a seasoned archivist, and a disillusioned detective to find the truth of the attack. And what they uncover will be the key to saving the empire – or destroying it for good. 

Empire of Exiles is one of the most wildly original fantasy books I’ve read in a long time. I had no idea what this book was really about when Orbit sent it my way, but wow. Take the typical fantasy novel, add a dash of locked-room, a dash of murder, and a splash a mystery and you’ve got this book.

So — a murder mystery set in something like a locked-room.

Is your interest piqued? How about I tempt you further?

Humans are, but one type of being in this world. There are beings with tentacles, beings with horns, and beings that I think can see in the dark? I’m not sure on that one, it wasn’t explained in detail. And lastly — there are beings called changelings who can turn into anyone. At all. At will. (See why the murder mystery is extra interesting in this one?) Basically — the world of Empire of Exiles is wildly diverse, and the beings included are so very different to what I’m used to in my fantasy books. It’s so refreshing to have some different types of beings than the usual elves, dwarves, orcs.

The setting itself is fascinating, and I really, really wish we had seen more of it. We really only see one corner of one city, and that’s it. Everything we see is set inside a massive salt wall and no one is allowed to go outside it. The wall was put up long ago to magically to protect everyone from the changelings. The changelings were taking over, and causing havoc, and so the wall was built to keep them out, forever.

And the magic system? Talk about another absolutely unique point to this book. Those who have magic are usually called ‘specialists’ and they specialize in one particular thing — some seen directly on page are bronze, glass, ink, or bone. Their abilities wax and wane throughout the year, and at certain times they are in danger of ‘spiralling’ — when their power goes extremely out of their control and they attempt to turn into whatever their medium is. It’s dangerous, and the author does a fantastic job of showing how this feels.

The characters are another great piece to this amazing puzzle, but I really don’t want to spoil too much about them for anyone so I’m going to sum them up very quickly: Quill – naïve boy who wants to help, Amadea – extreme mom friend, Yinii – precious cinnamon roll who I would protect with my life, Richa – a ‘detective’ type with actual morals. There are others, but these have the most page time, and they all are so fantastically well done.

It took me a tiny bit to sink into the book — you have to really follow what Evans sets up carefully — but once you’re there, you’re there. I loved this, and I can’t wait to see where Evans goes in the next one.

EMPIRE OF EXILES comes out November 8th 2022.

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BOOK REVIEW: A STRANGE AND STUBBORN ENDURANCE BY FOZ MEADOWS

the book cover for A Strange and Stubborn Endurance by Foz Meadows
  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 544 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: July 26th 2022
  • PUBLISHER:  Tor Books
    CONTENT WARNINGS: Rape, suicide attempt, animal death

  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: A Taste of Gold and Iron by Alexandra Rowland

SYNOPSIS

“Stolen me? As soon to say a caged bird can be stolen by the sky.”

Velasin vin Aaro never planned to marry at all, let alone a girl from neighboring Tithena. When an ugly confrontation reveals his preference for men, Vel fears he’s ruined the diplomatic union before it can even begin. But while his family is ready to disown him, the Tithenai envoy has a different solution: for Vel to marry his former intended’s brother instead.

Caethari Aeduria always knew he might end up in a political marriage, but his sudden betrothal to a man from Ralia, where such relationships are forbidden, comes as a shock.

With an unknown faction willing to kill to end their new alliance, Vel and Cae have no choice but to trust each other. Survival is one thing, but love—as both will learn—is quite another.

Byzantine politics, lush sexual energy, and a queer love story that is by turns sweet and sultry. A Strange and Stubborn Endurance is an exploration of gender, identity, and self-worth. It is a book that will live in your heart long after you turn the last page.

Before I get into my review any further, I do want to make note of the content warnings for this book. There is a rape scene on page. It is fairly detailed. It happens within the first five or six chapters. It is quick, but very easy to see coming. It should be fairly easy to skip over if this would trigger you. I’d give you exact page counts, but I apologize, I don’t have a physical copy.

With that out of the way, A Strange and Stubborn Endurance is an absolutely gorgeously written story. It took me a few pages to get used to Foz Meadow’s writing — it’s a bit flowery compared to what I’m used to — but once I sunk in, it’s like being surrounded by the most beautiful garden imaginable. The world is fantastic — built out just enough to make it feel large and different to our own. The cultures included are so very different, but felt well-rounded and real. But out of everything, I fell in love with the characters, most of all.

Velasin is our main character — most of the story is told through his eyes, in first person POV. He is dealing with some severe PTSD after his sexual assault at the very beginning of the novel. He’s unsure what his place is in the world, and he’s been thrust into an arranged marriage he wasn’t really interested in. He’s got a lot going on, and Meadows does a fantastic job of making the reader feel with him.

Caethari is the other main character — Velasin’s new husband. Despite never meeting Velasin before, he is immediately protective and worried over him. Caethari is a sweetheart — but he’s also quite a badass, too. He never underestimates his new husband, and does everything he can to reassure Velasin that the world they now inhabit is so much different to the one that Velasin grew up in. Caethari was my favorite.

The general gist of the novel is political intrigue. Someone is trying to hurt Velasin, and break the marriage between him and Caethari. A Strange and Stubborn Endurance is a highly political novel, with a romance on the side. (Compared to A Taste of Gold and Iron, another book I absolutely adored, which is a romance novel with some political intrigue on the side.) The romance takes its time forming in the book, which I was thoroughly a fan of. You really get the feel that Caethari and Velasin grow into their love instead of it happening right away. Yes, the story takes place over like…two weeks. Doesn’t matter. It feels plenty long in the book, I promise.

The reveal of who is behind all the stunts and murders is fantastic. I didn’t think the book would actually go there, but it DID, and it was the perfect choice. The ending and solving of everything happens flashbang quick, but is very satisfying. Five stars.

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BOOK REVIEW: SABRIEL BY GARTH NIX

The book cover for Sabriel by Garth Nix
  • STAR RATING:  Five stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 491 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: September 30th 1996
  • PUBLISHER: Harper Collins
    WHAT SERIES? The Old Kingdom Series
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Sabriel
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 6
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, death of parent, gore, body horror
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  Daughter of Redwinter by Ed McDonald

SYNOPSIS

Sent to a boarding school in Ancelstierre as a young child, Sabriel has had little experience with the random power of Free Magic or the Dead who refuse to stay dead in the Old Kingdom. But during her final semester, her father, the Abhorsen, goes missing, and Sabriel knows she must enter the Old Kingdom to find him.

With Sabriel, the first installment in the Abhorsen series, Garth Nix exploded onto the fantasy scene as a rising star, in a novel that takes readers to a world where the line between the living and the dead isn’t always clear—and sometimes disappears altogether.

How do I review a book that I’ve read so many times I’ve actually lost count? For starters — this is a warning that I probably won’t be as objective or unbiased as I could be, because at this point it’s pretty hard for me to be either of those things. The Old Kingdom is one of my absolute favorite series. I first picked up Sabriel in seventh grade. I was a wee pre-teen, and I just fell in love with this story. And I have to say — it’s held up pretty well for being close to thirty years old!

At it’s heart, Sabriel is about a young girl thrust into an awful situation, and how she grows and learns from her experiences. A coming-of-age story, to a T. What I’ve always loved is that Sabriel doesn’t really have YA main-character syndrome. She’s not really described as being better than other girls. She’s not described as beautiful when we first meet her. She’s just a teenager, a young woman about to graduate from her school. She’s shown to be competent, but not overly so, and there are more than a few times where she makes mistakes and owns up to them. Sabriel is an excellent role model for young girls.

I love the world, too, though we don’t get a huge sense of how big it is in this particular book. It gets explored much more in the subsequent sequels, so I won’t mention much of it here, other than to say that Nix does an excellent job of making the world feel old. We see the history in bits and pieces, the way the cities and towns are described, and how the people are living in them.

I’m also incredibly partial to the other characters in Sabriel, though my absolute favorite doesn’t appear until Lirael. Mogget is a pretty close runner-up, though. Talking animal companions are some of my favorites, always, and he is so mysterious and funny that you can’t help but love him. And then when you do find out what he is, oooh. It’s such a good reveal, though you don’t really understand the gravity of it until later books, again. Touchstone is another fascinating character — a berserker with royal blood. He and Sabriel fall in love very quickly, but they do spend the majority of their time together saving each other’s lives over and over.

The villain of this book, Kerrigor, is properly terrifying, with some serious oomph behind his threats. Who and what he is just sends shivers down my spine every time I read this book. And the way they defeat him? GOD, IT’S SO GOOD.

See how it’s hard for me to be unbiased? Anyway — I want to thank those of you that participated in my Sabriel Read-a-Long. It was so, so cool to see so many of you pick up this book for the first time. I loved reading your posts, and I’m so happy that so many of you seemed to really enjoy it! I hope you’ll read along onto the next two books, and that you’ll let me know what you think!

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BOOK REVIEW: ASHES OF THE SUN BY DJANGO WEXLER

the book cover for Ashes of the Sun by Django Wexler
  • STAR RATING:  3.75 stars, not quite four stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 592 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: July 21st 2020 
  • PUBLISHER: Orbit Books
    WHAT SERIES?  Burningblade and Silvereye Trilogy
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Ashes of the Sun
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 3
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Violence, Body horror, Gore
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

Thank you to Orbit Books for providing a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

Long ago, a magical war destroyed an empire, and a new one was built in its ashes. But still the old grudges simmer, and two siblings will fight on opposite sides to save their world, in the start of Django Wexler’s new epic fantasy trilogy.

Gyre hasn’t seen his beloved sister since their parents sold her to the mysterious Twilight Order. Now, twelve years after her disappearance, Gyre’s sole focus is revenge, and he’s willing to risk anything and anyone to claim enough power to destroy the Order.

Chasing rumors of a fabled city protecting a powerful artifact, Gyre comes face-to-face with his lost sister. But she isn’t who she once was. Trained to be a warrior, Maya wields magic for the Twilight Order’s cause. Standing on opposite sides of a looming civil war, the two siblings will learn that not even the ties of blood will keep them from splitting the world in two.

It took me longer than I’d like to really sink my teeth into Ashes of the Sun. It might be because it’s been a bit since I’ve read an epic fantasy, or it might be because this book is extremely slow to start. Nothing really happens for the first third of the book — no real insight into what the plot might be, no huge action, nothing like that. It’s primarily world-building, which is fine, considering this is the first book in a trilogy. However, y’gotta give me something. Despite that, I never really considered DNFing this, I just muddled through until it got interesting. The world is what kept me reading — Ashes of the Sun‘s setting is wildly unique. Set 400 years after a war, the world is broken, with vast differences in how classes live. The poor live deep underground, barely scraping an existence by, while the rich through extravagant parties without a care in the world. There’s magic, science, alchemy, and all sorts of fascinating creatures.

The two main characters — Gyre and Maya — are brother and sister. Throughout the book, their plotlines weave in and out from each other, which was a really cool way to piece the story together. I think, overall, I liked Maya’s storyline better. Maya is an apprentice of sorts, for the Twilight Order. She’s close to gaining her title, at the start of the book, and she’s doing everything she can to earn that privilege. She’s got a more of a welcoming personality, versus her very grumpy brother who just wants to end the Twilight Order. Their relationship was interesting – I truly can’t wait to see where it goes in the next books.

Brief, semi-aside — Maya is super gay. It was an excellent addition to the story. One that is not given any pause or a big spotlight. It’s just something that is. Her relationship with Beq was a lovely tiny side plot that I really liked reading.

My biggest beef with this book is that it wasn’t sure what story it wanted to tell for a long time. It’s not until like…halfway through the book that the main plotline actually comes into being. Like I said earlier — setting up for a trilogy takes a lot of work, but maybe this needed to go back to the drawing board a couple more times to really tighten it up. Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way, who knows. There was a lot of potential here, but a great deal of it went unused. (Though the plaguespawn and the horrors they represented were extremely cool.) You can tell the author is an enormous fan of Star Wars, and that that particular universe was…how shall we say…borrowed from quite frequently. I have nothing against that, as it was used in very cool ways.

The world and everything set up in Ashes of the Sun will definitely have me picking up the sequel, I just hope Blood of the Chosen is a little more well-rounded.

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PS – Don’t forget my Sabriel Read-a-long starts next week!

BOOK REVIEW: KINGDOM OF THE WICKED BY KERRI MANISCALCO

the book cover for Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco
  • STAR RATING:  3.5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 372 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: October 27th 2020
  • PUBLISHER: JIMMY Patterson Books
    WHAT SERIES?  Kingdom of the Wicked Series
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Kingdom of the Wicked
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 3
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, Murder
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

SYNOPSIS

Two sisters.
One brutal murder.
A quest for vengeance that will unleash Hell itself…
And an intoxicating romance.

Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin…desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister’s killer and to seek vengeance at any cost—even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, one of the Wicked—princes of Hell she has been warned against in tales since she was a child. Wrath claims to be on Emilia’s side, tasked by his master with solving the series of women’s murders on the island. But when it comes to the Wicked, nothing is as it seems…

I can see why those of you that loved The Cruel Prince really like Kingdom of the Wicked. The same sort of relationship sits at the heart of both stories — enemies to lovers, but also a deep sister relationship. Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of the enemies-to-lovers trope, but I can see why it’s so popular. And truly, I enjoyed Kingdom of the Wicked way, way more than The Cruel Prince. For those of you that don’t know, I liked the first book in that series, and then found myself hating the rest of it the longer I read. That series is beloved by many, but certainly not by me.

Kingdom of the Wicked stars Emilia and her sister, Vittoria. Or it would if Vittoria wasn’t murdered 50 pages into the book. This is the catalyst, what starts off everything else in the book. Maniscalco does a fantastic job with the emotions here — you really feel how absolutely gutted Emilia is by finding her sister’s body. Emilia, in her rage, grief, and confusion, ends up summoning what she thinks is a demon, but is really one of the seven princes of Hell, Wrath. I wanted to like Wrath a lot more than I did, just because the idea behind him is something really cool. Instead, he’s sort of a half-hearted, almost character. There’s not much to him, and I’m very much hoping that changes in the next books.

Emilia herself is genuinely irritating. She’s got all these thoughts about Wrath, and continues to think them despite being shown time and time again that he’s really not as bad as she thinks. Especially when it comes to her. She’s very stubborn, and not in the best way. She’s also very slow on the uptake of…everything. (That one might be because this is a YA book. Who knows.) Either way, Emilia is definitely at least part of the reason why this book didn’t work for me as much as I wanted it to.

Together, they’re all bickering and baring teeth and basically if they were cats, they’d constantly be hissing at each other. Until they aren’t, of course. There’s one make-out scene, but that’s it. Nothing spicier than that, not that I was expecting more as this is firmly within the YA genre.

The rest of the book is just sort of info-dumpy. This is the first book of a trilogy, so it makes sense, but also there had to be a more elegant way of getting the information to the reader than huge paragraphs included in the middle of action. There were a lot of convenient moments, and just awkward inclusions, too. (In this book, what purpose did the shapeshifters have? They do nothing. Why include them yet?) And not to mention, towards the end, there’s one ‘twist’ that I saw coming literally a mile away. Was anyone surprised by who ended up being Vittoria’s killer? Wrath’s brothers that we see are entertaining to the extreme, but I do wish we had learned more about how Hell works, exactly. It’s left extremely vague.

Despite my complaining, I did enjoy most of Kingdom of the Wicked, and I do plan to read onwards. Three and a half stars! Thank you to Destiny for buddy-reading it with me!

Add to your Goodreads, or order at at the following links:

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PS – Don’t forget my Sabriel Read-a-long starts next week!

BOOK REVIEW: KINGS RISING BY CS PACAT

  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 368 pages
  • WHAT SERIES? The Captive Prince series
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Captive Prince
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 3
  • DATE PUBLISHED:   February 2nd 2016 
  • PUBLISHER: Berkley 
    CONTENT WARNINGS: Sexual content, slavery, violence, pedophilia, incest, child death

  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Still got absolutely zero similar recommendations.

SYNOPSIS

Damianos of Akielos has returned.

His identity now revealed, Damen must face his master Prince Laurent as Damianos of Akielos, the man Laurent has sworn to kill.

On the brink of a momentous battle, the future of both their countries hangs in the balance. In the south, Kastor’s forces are massing. In the north, the Regent’s armies are mobilising for war. Damen’s only hope of reclaiming his throne is to fight together with Laurent against their usurpers.

Forced into an uneasy alliance the two princes journey deep into Akielos, where they face their most dangerous opposition yet. But even if the fragile trust they have built survives the revelation of Damen’s identity – can it stand against the Regent’s final, deadly play for the throne?

I think this series might be one of my new favorites. Hands down. The writing is absolutely phenomenal. The characters feel like real people — with wants, pasts, and dreams all of their own. I wasn’t sure what this series was going to be when I started it, but holy crap, guys. What a story.

CS Pacat does a phenomenal job weaving the storylines of our two leads, Damen and Laurent, into something absolutely breath-taking. Kings Rising is the end of a three book story, and it wraps everything up in a tidy little bow. You feel complete at the end, without feeling like the story got cheap, either. Everything makes sense. Everything ends well-rounded, and lovely.

The reveal at the end is just…UGH. It’s so good.

Laurent is a treasure of a character. You think you know who he is, but oh, you do not. (Though I am sad to say what was alluded in the previous book does turn out to be true. Poor Laurent.) He thinks about twenty-million steps ahead of everyone else, and it is a delight to watch him out think everyone else. Damen continued to be the best boy — doing what he thought he needed to to protect his people. Watching them realize they need one another was like candy. Watching them realize they loved each other was even better.

The two of them together are completely unstoppable. Please, if you’ve ever thought about reading this series, just do it. You won’t regret it.

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