ARC REVIEW: A DOWRY OF BLOOD BY ST GIBSON

the book cover for A Dowry of Blood by St Gibson
  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 250 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: October 4, 2022
  • PUBLISHER: Orbit Books
    CONTENT WARNINGS: Emotional abuse, blood, toxic relationship, sexual content, physical abuse
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab for the dark, sumptuous feeling

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

SYNOPSIS

A lyrical and dreamy reimagining of Dracula’s brides, A DOWRY OF BLOOD is a story of desire, obsession, and emancipation.

Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things. Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets.

With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death. 

[Note: I wrote this review at the end of July.]

I really meant to save this book until closer to October for spooky season reasons, but uh, I’ve been desperately waiting for the opportunity to read it that it just sort of…opened itself on my Kindle. And before I knew it, I was like…50% of the way through it, and well, why stop now when it’s so good? And it is, it really, really is. A Dowry of Blood is a dark, sumptuous retelling of Dracula’s wives, and how their lives fully revolve around a monster of a man. It’s not a very long book, but by the end of it, you are fully rooting for the wives.

Despite not mentioning Dracula by name, there is no way this book is about anyone other than him. He is the vampire, so who else could it possibly be? The whole of the book is told in first person by Constanta, in a sort of diary/letter format. Constanta tells the story of her life with Dracula, and how it started out wonderful, and gradually (or not so gradually) it turned into a nightmare. Magdalena, Alexi, and Constanta are Dracula’s wives (and husband). All four of them are in a poly relationship with one another. It was lovely, reading about how much they cared for one another. As time passes (and oh it does, hundreds and hundreds of years), Magdalena, Alexi, and Constanta all come to realize they are no longer in a relationship, but a dictatorship.

And then, things change. Suddenly, everything is bitter, and they find it hard to live their lives without showing their resentment for Dracula. It’s hard not to resent him, as a reader. He keeps them locked away, not allowed to mingle with humans, not allowed to participate in the world. How could anyone live like that? Especially people who have been around for hundreds and thousands of years.

The writing in A Dowry of Blood reminds me of the darkest, deepest chocolate. Delicious, bitter, and sweet all at once. It is gorgeous, dripping from the pages like the blood the vampires must survive on. This book will leave you wanting more, so much more, but it ends on a perfect, perfect note. Five stars. Highly, highly recommend this one, especially if you love vampires at their best, and most classic form.

A DOWRY OF BLOOD comes out OCTOBER 4, 2022.

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

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

ARC REVIEW: NOTORIOUS SORCERER BY DAVINIA EVANS

the book cover for Notorious Sorcerer by Davinia Evans
  • STAR RATING:  3.5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 400 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: September 13, 2022.
  • PUBLISHER: Orbit Books
    CONTENT WARNINGS: Violence, suicidal thoughts
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  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

Since the city of Bezim was shaken half into the sea by a magical earthquake, the Inquisitors have policed alchemy with brutal efficiency. Nothing too powerful, too complicated, too much like real magic is allowed–and the careful science that’s left is kept too expensive for any but the rich and indolent to tinker with. Siyon Velo, a glorified errand boy scraping together lesson money from a little inter-planar fetch and carry, doesn’t qualify.

But when Siyon accidentally commits a public act of impossible magic, he’s catapulted into the limelight. Except the limelight is a bad place to be when the planes themselves start lurching out of alignment, threatening to send the rest of the city into the sea.

Now Siyon, a dockside brat who clawed his way up and proved himself on rooftops with saber in hand, might be Bezim’s only hope. Because if they don’t fix the cascading failures of magic in their plane, the Powers and their armies in the other three will do it for them.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this book. Unfortunately, it took me a long time to understand what was going on in Notorious Sorcerer. I’m talking at least 30% of the way into the book. I was totally and completely lost all because there was little to no explanation of the world the story is set in. Right away, the author throws around terms like we’re supposed to know what they mean — I Googled and could find no real-world equivalent for a good many of them. Notorious Sorcerer desperately needs a glossary or index of character names and terms right at the beginning of the book. There’s no shame in one of these — I love learning tidbits of the world before diving in. If there had been some explanation for frequently used terms, I think I would have enjoyed this book a hell of a lot more.

The world Davinia Evans sets up in Notorious Sorcerer is fascinating and deeply rich. However, I couldn’t place what culture she was basing things off of. And I know, not every fantasy book is based off of something in real life. It’s entirely possible this was just all in her head. But regardless, the city of Bezim reminded me a lot of Istanbul and Venice all mashed together. Evans name-drops certain alcoholic drinks that exist in real life, and mentions specific instruments and clothing styles just muddied the waters further for me. There is also the question of the law — alchemy is strictly illegal, but almost everyone gets away with it? Until things go south and then the inquisitors arrive to arrest people. Another confusing piece of the confusing puzzle.

It took much longer than it should have for me to get my legs steady in the world set up in this book. Once I did understand what was going on, I loved the story. The ending climax is fantastically well done. I really did love the characters as well — they all had very clear motivations, leaving few of them particularly flat or unexplored.

Siyon Velo is our main character. He is a supplier of alchemical ingredients. He is not an alchemist, but oh how he wishes he was. Siyon is poor, has no family, and does what he has to, to get by. He’s also extremely sassy. A brat, if you will. He reminded me of Locke Lamora in all good ways. But by the end of the novel, we’re really only given snippets of his past, leaving me (at least) wanting to know more about him. Zagiri and her sister, Anahid were extremely fun to read. They are complete opposites of one another, yet still care deeply for one another. Anahid, in particular, was my favorite. A high society woman finally figuring out she can get away with more than she thought. Izmirlian Hisarani, Siyon’s love interest, is left a little vague, but it mostly works. (I have some questions about what his arc is saying, honestly.) The various alchemists that dapple the pages are all equally entertaining and ridiculous.

Overall, my enjoyment of the book would have been vastly improved had I known what was going on sooner. If you’re willing to be lost for almost a quarter of the book, then you’re in for a wild ride.

PS: It bothers me that his coat is PUPRLE in the book, and very clearly bright red on the cover. 🤦🏻‍♀️

NOTORIOUS SORCERER comes out SEPTEMBER 13, 2022.

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

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

BOOK REVIEW: THE KINGDOMS BY NATASHA PULLEY

Book cover for The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley

STAR RATING: 3 stars
PAGE LENGTH: 448 pages
CW: Death, gun violence, slavery, animal death, child death
IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske for the male longing, or To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis for the time travel

SYNOPSIS

Joe Tournier has a bad case of amnesia. His first memory is of stepping off a train in the nineteenth-century French colony of England. The only clue Joe has about his identity is a century-old postcard of a Scottish lighthouse that arrives in London the same month he does. Written in illegal English—instead of French—the postcard is signed only with the letter “M,” but Joe is certain whoever wrote it knows him far better than he currently knows himself, and he’s determined to find the writer. The search for M, though, will drive Joe from French-ruled London to rebel-owned Scotland and finally onto the battle ships of a lost empire’s Royal Navy. In the process, Joe will remake history, and himself. 

The Kingdoms has been recommended to me about a million times over as a book that I would very much enjoy. It’s got the male x male romance, it’s got time travel, it’s got historical events. All things I’m extremely fond of. So why didn’t The Kingdoms work for me as much as I wanted it to?

One — I think I read it way too fast. This is a known problem for me, because I tend to zoom through a book and not savor it. I think if I had savored this one a little, I wouldn’t feel so entirely lost. I was having a great time with The Kingdoms until about 80% of the way through, and then I was LOST. I mean, I have no idea what was going on. I think perhaps if I do a reread I would catch things a little better, and maybe understand what was going on with the time-travel.

Highlight to reveal a SPOILER-FILLED discussion on my confusion. Seriously, do not read if you haven’t read this book.

So by the end of the novel, there are THREE timelines? How do none of these result in a paradox? Or do they? I am so very confused. The original Joe we start the novel with was Jem, right? And when he “wakes” up on the train, he ends up as a slave, taking the place of whatever original Joe started in that timeline. Where does Jem come from, then? And then where do Kite and Joe go at the end of the book? To Kite’s original timeline? SOMEONE PLEASE WALK ME THROUGH THIS.

Another problem I had with The Kingdoms is that I really didn’t feel the romance between the two leads at all. They had chemistry together, sure, but there was no real…longing until the very end of the book. I didn’t feel romantic love between them for a long, long time in this book, and when I did it felt very out of nowhere? Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way. Who knows.

I did, however, enjoy seeing the historical elements of this book. Watching naval battles through Joe’s eyes was horrifying. The Napoleonic Wars happen right there on page, and the descriptions are both macabre and terrifying. It’s all really well done.

I love time-travel books, and I love when they include love in them, but The Kingdoms — as of my first read — has left me wanting some clarity. I’m not giving up on this book, though. I do plan to reread it and give it another go.

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

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

ARC REVIEW: DARK EARTH BY REBECCA STOTT

The book cover for Dark Earth by Rebecca Stott

STAR RATING:  4.5 stars
PAGE LENGTH: 336 pages
WHAT SERIES? This is a standalone.
CW: Blood, violence
IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Sistersong by Lucy Holland

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group for providing an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

In Dark Ages Britain, sisters Isla and Blue live in the shadows of the Ghost City, the abandoned ruins of the once-glorious, mile-wide Roman settlement Londinium on the north bank of the Thames. The native Britons and the new migrants from the East who scratch out a living in small wooden camps in its hinterland fear that the crumbling stone ruins are haunted by vengeful spirits.

But the small island they call home is also a place of exile for Isla, Blue, and their father, a legendary blacksmith accused of using dark magic to make his firetongue swords. The local warlord, Osric, has put the Great Smith under close guard and ruled that he make his magnificent swords only for him so that he can use them to build alliances and extend his kingdom.

For years, the sisters have been running wild, Blue communing with animals and plants and Isla secretly learning her father’s trade, which is forbidden to women. But when their father suddenly dies, they find themselves facing enslavement by Osric and his cruel, power-hungry son Vort. Their only option is to escape to the Ghost City, where they discover an underworld of rebel women living secretly amid the ruins. As Blue and Isla settle into their new life, they find both refuge and community with the women around them. But it is all too fragile. With the ruins collapsing all around them, Blue and Isla realize they can’t elude the men who hunt them forever. If they are to survive, they will need to use all their skill and ingenuity—as well as the magic of their foremothers—to fight back.

Did you know that after the Romans left Britain in 420, Londinium was left abandoned for over 400 years? And did you know that most of the people living in the area around the ruined city, thought it to be haunted, or bad luck, and therefore avoided the ruins? I had no idea. Rebecca Stott got the idea for Dark Earth after hearing about an archeologist who found a Saxon brooch buried deep within the Roman ruins. This outlier of history made Stott question who the woman was that dropped her brooch. What was she doing in the ruins? Why did she enter when so many did not?

It’s those, and many more questions besides, that Stott plays with in Dark Earth. Speaking of — the name of the novel comes from the stripe of dark earth that sits above all Roman ruins in London. This dirt comes from the 400 years that Londinium was unoccupied, where nature was doing her best to retake the land.

I wasn’t sure what to make of Dark Earth at first. Is it a fantasy novel? A retelling of history? A simple story, set on the backdrop of actual lore? I would say it’s all of these combined. There are definite elements of fantasy woven through this story, the biggest one being that one of the sisters, Blue, has the ability to see the future in her dreams. The retelling of history is a little murkier — it’s unclear when you read the book if some of these people actually existed or not. However, the story itself certainly seems plausible.

The two sisters are the daughters of a great smith, known for making fire-tongued swords. (I assumed this meant damascus steel, but I’m not sure if this is actually the case.) After a raid on their settlement leaves them without a mother, the sisters and their father are banished to an island in the Thames. There, their father is made to make more fire-tongued swords for the local chief/leader/king/person. All is well-enough, until their father dies. Then, everything goes wrong.

As for the characters, Blue is a dreamy sort of character, head in the clouds, sometimes not all the way there. She is the younger of the two sisters. Isla is the older of the two, and she’s much more serious. I frequently found Blue to be irritating, but I loved Isla. Honestly, most of the characters are not fleshed out. They are pretty bare bones, but it works in the story. I loved the backdrop of this novel, of learning how people must have lived during this time of history. It certainly seems like a bleak sort of life, one that I am glad I do not have to live. If you enjoy reading about history at all, you will enjoy Dark Earth by Rebecca Stott!

DARK EARTH COMES OUT JULY 19, 2022.

Add to your Goodreads, or preorder at your local indie bookstore, or at the following links:

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

ARC REVIEW: THE STARDUST THIEF BY CHELSEA ABDULLAH

  • STAR RATING: 4.5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 480 
  • WHAT SERIES? The Sandsea Trilogy
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? The Stardust Thief
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 3
  • CW: Death, Violence, Murder, Blood, Injury/injury detail, Death of parent
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: The City of Dusk by Tara Sim

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

SYNOPSIS

Neither here nor there, but long ago…

Loulie al-Nazari is the Midnight Merchant: a criminal who, with the help of her jinn bodyguard, hunts and sells illegal magic. When she saves the life of a cowardly prince, she draws the attention of his powerful father, the sultan, who blackmails her into finding an ancient lamp that has the power to revive the barren land—at the cost of sacrificing all jinn.

With no choice but to obey or be executed, Loulie journeys with the sultan’s oldest son to find the artifact. Aided by her bodyguard, who has secrets of his own, they must survive ghoul attacks, outwit a vengeful jinn queen, and confront a malicious killer from Loulie’s past. And, in a world where story is reality and illusion is truth, Loulie will discover that everything—her enemy, her magic, even her own past—is not what it seems, and she must decide who she will become in this new reality.

Inspired by stories from One Thousand and One Nights, The Stardust Thief weaves the gripping tale of a legendary smuggler, a cowardly prince, and a dangerous quest across the desert to find a legendary, magical lamp. 

This was an incredibly refreshing fantasy novel. Clearly inspired by stories from One Thousand and One Nights, The Stardust Thief is about a merchant, her bodyguard jinn, and the legendary relic they’ve been forced to pursue by the sultan.

Our main character is Loulie, the Midnight Merchant, who is known for selling magical relics in black markets. She is incredibly competent, no-nonsense, and seemingly quite independent. Her bodyguard, Qadir, has been with her since she was small, and does his best to keep her safe. Qadir is, without a doubt, my favorite character in this book. He’s quite serious, and mostly stoic. However, he loves Loulie with all his heart, and that comes across on page. He’s got a million and one secrets, and it was fascinating watching them all fall out as the story moves forward.

The other two main characters are Aisha, a dangerous thief, and Mazen, one of the princes. Mazen is an adorable cinnamon roll who needs to learn the ways of the world, but I still love him.

The writing in this book wove an absolutely beautiful tale set in an equally stunning setting. The landscape felt lush, and real. It is gorgeous. The Stardust Thief reads like someone is audibly telling you a story, and I loved it.

My one complaint is that the ‘romance’ between Loulie and the wali who’s name I literally cannot remember right now felt a little contrived. I wish we had seen more of them meeting or how they had fit together in the past, because as it is, it feels as if we were dropped into their relationship with absolutely zero context. I wasn’t a fan of this, and ultimately, I was rather happy when this plotline fizzled out. I figure there will be a romance eventually in this series, and hopefully that one will earned!

The Stardust Thief is an excellent start to a trilogy, and I hope that you’ll pick it up when it is released!

THE STARDUST THIEF COMES OUT MAY 17, 2022.

Preorder at your local indie bookstore, or at the following links:

AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE

ARC REVIEW: JUNIPER & THORN BY AVA REID

  • STAR RATING: 3.5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH:  368
  • WHAT SERIES? This is a standalone set in the same world as The Wolf and the Woodsman
  • CW: Cannibalism, eating disorder, emotional abuse, sexual assault, antisemitism, sexual content
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid

Thank you to Netgalley and Harper Voyager for providing an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

A gruesome curse. A city in upheaval. A monster with unquenchable appetites.

Marlinchen and her two sisters live with their wizard father in a city shifting from magic to industry. As Oblya’s last true witches, she and her sisters are little more than a tourist trap as they treat their clients with archaic remedies and beguile them with nostalgic charm. Marlinchen spends her days divining secrets in exchange for rubles and trying to placate her tyrannical, xenophobic father, who keeps his daughters sequestered from the outside world. But at night, Marlinchen and her sisters sneak out to enjoy the city’s amenities and revel in its thrills, particularly the recently established ballet theater, where Marlinchen meets a dancer who quickly captures her heart.

As Marlinchen’s late-night trysts grow more fervent and frequent, so does the threat of her father’s rage and magic. And while Oblya flourishes with culture and bustles with enterprise, a monster lurks in its midst, borne of intolerance and resentment and suffused with old-world power. Caught between history and progress and blood and desire, Marlinchen must draw upon her own magic to keep her city safe and find her place within it.

WARNING: This is not a light-hearted fairy tale. This is the old, gruesome type of story. There is cannibalism. Kind of a lot of cannibalism, actually. There are mentions of rape and sexual assault. There is body horror. If any of these bother you, then do not read this book.

I’m not sure what I thought Juniper & Thorn was going to be about, but it isn’t what I read, that’s for sure. If I remember right, when I originally requested this ARC, maybe an adventure or possibly a strict retelling of a piece of folklore. It is a retelling, but damn it’s dark. To be fair, the original story that Juniper & Thorn is borrowing from is pretty dang dark, too.

Juniper & Thorn is about three witch-daughters of a great wizard. The eldest daughter is cruel, mean, and beautiful. The middle daughter is clever, and beautiful. The youngest daughter is plain, and meek. The wizard is (you guessed it) cruel and mean to his daughters, but powerful enough that they fear disobeying him. Each daughter has their own power that their father sells to the local townspeople so they can have money to eat. The father was cursed long ago to never be satisfied by anything – no food will fill his belly, no sleep will get him rested, and his daughters will never be good enough, etc, etc.

They live just on the outskirts of town, and are not allowed to leave the grounds of their estate. Of course, the very first thing they do in the novel is…leave the estate to go to town to see a ballet. This kicks off everything that happens — the youngest daughter is finally exposed to the real world, and falls in love with the main ballet dancer. While there, the three daughters overhear a conversation about men being found dead with their eyes, liver, and heart missing. This is important later. They return home, are eventually found out, and…well. The rest of the story happens, obviously.

I’m not entirely sure I enjoyed this book. The ending was extremely satisfying — it ends happily, surprisingly enough. It is written phenomenally, the story is told well, I just think the subject matter is not one that really vibes with me. Cannibalism is one of my extreme yucks, and there was… a lot of it in this book. However, if you’re into dark, gruesome fairy tales, I can quite easily recommend this book.

JUNIPER & THORN WILL BE RELEASED MAY 24, 2022.

Preorder at your local indie bookstore, or at the following links:

AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE

BOOK REVIEW: A MARVELLOUS LIGHT BY FREYA MARSKE

Rating: 5 out of 5.

SYNOPSIS

Robin Blyth has more than enough bother in his life. He’s struggling to be a good older brother, a responsible employer, and the harried baronet of a seat gutted by his late parents’ excesses. When an administrative mistake sees him named the civil service liaison to a hidden magical society, he discovers what’s been operating beneath the unextraordinary reality he’s always known.

Now Robin must contend with the beauty and danger of magic, an excruciating deadly curse, and the alarming visions of the future that come with it—not to mention Edwin Courcey, his cold and prickly counterpart in the magical bureaucracy, who clearly wishes Robin were anyone and anywhere else.

Robin’s predecessor has disappeared, and the mystery of what happened to him reveals unsettling truths about the very oldest stories they’ve been told about the land they live on and what binds it. Thrown together and facing unexpected dangers, Robin and Edwin discover a plot that threatens every magician in the British Isles—and a secret that more than one person has already died to keep.

Oh, this is an astoundingly lovely book.

I had heard vague things about A Marvellous Light, but going into it, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot. I figured I would probably enjoy it, as it had been sold to me as historical romance, plus a magical mystery/conspiracy. Now I love a good historical romance, and anything with magic is right up my alley, so this book was practically screaming my name.

A Marvellous Light takes place at the tail end of the 1800’s, in an England where magic exists, but is unknown to most. One of our heroes is Robin Blythe, a non-magical baronet who has been thrust into a job that deals with magic. Only problem is — he has no idea magic exists. On Robin’s first day at his new job, Edwin Courcey — a man who DOES have magic — shows up to get a report, expecting Robin’s predecessor. Said predecessor has been missing for several weeks, and no one has any idea where he’s gone. Here is where the mystery begins!

These two are such wonderful foils of one another, that it was an immense pleasure watching their relationship unfold. Edwin grew up with minimal amounts of magic, in a household where being nothing less than the best was unacceptable. He was brutally treated by his cruel older brother, and as such, turned into quite an icy, stoic individual who would much rather surround himself with books rather than people. Robin, on the other hand, grew up in a house where public appearances were so much more important than being your true self. His parents die shortly before the novel begins, leaving him and his sister in dire straits, as they have left all their fortune to charities and ‘projects’ rather than their children. Robin is a bright, confident man, who is rather quick to jump on the metaphorical grenade rather than have someone else get hurt. Robin was my favorite.

I’m not going to spoil anything more, other than to say this was such a fun book to read. The mystery is dealt out in lovely, delicious chunks leaving you wanting just enough to keep reading. The writing itself is absolutely gorgeous and just a tiny bit haunting in the best way.

I cannot recommend A Marvellous Light enough. Please go read it.

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

ARC REVIEW: THE HUNGER OF THE GODS BY JOHN GWYNNE

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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

SYNOPSIS

The Hunger of the Gods continues John Gwynne’s acclaimed Norse-inspired epic fantasy series, packed with myth, magic and bloody vengeance.

Lik-Rifa, the dragon god of legend, has been freed from her eternal prison. Now she plots a new age of blood and conquest.

As Orka continues the hunt for her missing son, the Bloodsworn sweep south in a desperate race to save one of their own – and Varg takes the first steps on the path of vengeance.

Elvar has sworn to fulfil her blood oath and rescue a prisoner from the clutches of Lik-Rifa and her dragonborn followers, but first she must persuade the Battle-Grim to follow her.

Yet even the might of the Bloodsworn and Battle-Grim cannot stand alone against a dragon god.

Their hope lies within the mad writings of a chained god. A book of forbidden magic with the power to raise the wolf god Ulfrir from the dead . . . and bring about a battle that will shake the foundations of the earth.

The Hunger of the Gods is just as entertaining, just as atmospheric, and awe-inspiring as the first book in this series, The Shadow of the Gods. It’s rare that a second book will live up to the first — I can think of maybe three off the top of my head — and it’s even rarer that the second book is better.

The Hunger of the Gods picks up literally RIGHT after TSOTG finishes. Seriously, there’s not even like…a day time-jump. Just bam, right back where we left off. Which is good, because some serious stuff had gone down. I didn’t want to skip ANY OF IT, so I’m glad there wasn’t a big leap forward. We’re left in a world where a “dead” god has been released from her prison, and is ready and eager for revenge. Lik-Rifa, the dragon god, has risen to power again. The world is not ready for her, and her unimaginable cruelty. She is terrifying.

I’m not going to give away any huge spoilers, because it would ruin the book for too many people. I’m just going to say this — whatever action you liked from the first book will be once again seen in this one. Not as a rehashing, but in addition to. It’s not repetitive or boring. Not at all. It’s non-stop action from cover to cover in the best way.

What is different in THOTG is that we get two new POV characters, both villains. This helps immensely in rounding out the feel of the book. Instead of just seeing what’s going on through the “good” characters, now we see more motivation and reasoning behind the villains’ actions. All the original POV characters return. We see Elvar grow into herself, and become who she is absolutely supposed to be. Varg realizes he does have a place in the Bloodsworn, and that he belongs there. Orka continues to be the absolute coolest woman in the novel. She deals with some supreme guilt and loneliness, and she too comes to some revelations as well.

The end of the book is a massive cliffhanger and I am NOT OKAY WITH IT AT ALL, JOHN GWYNNE. How dare you.

The Hunger of the Gods comes out April 12, 2022.

Preorder at your local indie bookstore, or at the following links:

AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE

BOOK REVIEW: THE SHADOW OF THE GODS BY JOHN GWYNNE

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Without a doubt, this is one of the best fantasy novels I have read in a long, long time. It’s not particularly unique or mind-blowing in any way, but it is so engrossing and well-written that I cannot stop raving about it to anyone who asks.

The Shadow of the Gods takes place in a HEAVILY Norse-inspired world where the gods are all dead after battling amongst each other in a Rangarok-style event. These gods had children, and these children are known as the Tainted amongst humans. Tainted people have similar powers to their god parent. The wolf-gods children howl, grow sharp teeth and claws, and are good at hunting. The bear-gods children go berserk, and are known as berserkirs. The fox-gods children are good-looking and cunning, etc. The Tainted are hunted, and treated as second-class citizens. Its not a good thing to be Tainted.

There are three POV characters in this book, and each one was so well-rounded and interesting that I was thoroughly engrossed in all three storylines. My favorite of the bunch, however, was Orka. Orka is a complete badass. She and her husband have a son, Breca, who ends up being stolen towards the beginning of the novel. She spends the rest of the book trying to find him, and kicks some major ass while doing so. I couldn’t help but picture her as Lagertha from Vikings the entire book.

John Gwynne’s writing is so atmospheric and detailed that you can see the book taking place in your head. This world is bleak, but beautiful. There’s no shortage of action, and some serious violence. Each POV character is a fighter, and the violence pretty much doesn’t end. However, it doesn’t feel gratuitous. It’s just a part of the world that this book takes place in. It’s a violent, bloody world, and we see the reasons behind it. The book moves along at a decent pace, and at no point was I bored. The ending of this book is phenomenal.

I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of the next book in the Bloodsworn Saga, The Hunger of the Gods. I’ll be moving right onto it next, because I cannot wait to find out what happens to these characters.

ARC REVIEW: FLINT AND MIRROR BY JOHN CROWLEY

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Thank you to Netgalley and Tor publishing for providing an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

“Crowley is generous, obsessed, fascinating, gripping. Really, I think Crowley is so good that he has left everybody else in the dust.”—Peter Straub

From award-winning author John Crowley comes a novel that masterfully blends history and magic in Flint and Mirror.

As ancient Irish clans fought to preserve their lands and their way of life, the Queen and her generals fought to tame the wild land and make it English.

Hugh O’Neill, lord of the North, dubbed Earl of Tyrone by the Queen, is a divided man: the Queen gives to Hugh her love, and her commandments, through a little mirror of obsidian which he can never discard; and the ancient peoples of Ireland arise from their underworld to make Hugh their champion, the token of their vow a chip of flint.

From the masterful author of Little, Big comes an exquisite fantasy of heartbreaking proportion.

I’m DNFing this at 32% of the way in. I hate to do it, I really do, but I am bored to tears reading this book. Flint and Mirror is written the way a particularly dry text-book is written. Everything is described matter-of-factly — there is little to no imagination used in the language. Now this might be because a great deal of actual history is used in this novel, but that doesn’t excuse the book being drier than the Sahara.

Flint and Mirror takes place back around the mid-1500’s during Queen Elizabeth’s reign. The Irish clans are fighting to keep their land, while Elizabeth and England are fighting to take Ireland for their own. Very little magic is weaved throughout that I saw during 32% of the book, but it is there.

There are little interspersed scenes of actual conversations between characters, but these are few and far between. The bulk of the book as far as I read, is just told to you. Very little showing or experiencing the actions at hand, just told as flatly as possible. Each paragraph is enormous, and sentences drag on and on before they get to the point. It’s possible that’s just how John Crowley’s work is, but whatever the reason, I did not enjoy how Flint and Mirror was written.

There are battles in this book! Mentions of fae-like creatures. Murder! Plots and schemes. By all accounts, this book should have been action-packed; it should have been a page turner. Despite all of that, all I wanted to do was put it down, so here I am, putting it down.

Flint and Mirror comes out April 19, 2022.

Preorder at your local indie bookstore, or at the following links:

AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE