ARC REVIEW: DEADBEAT DRUID BY DAVID R. SLAYTON

the book cover for Deadbeat Druid by David R. Slayton
  • STAR RATING:  3.5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 350 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: October 18, 2022
  • PUBLISHER: Blackstone Publishing
    WHAT SERIES?  The Adam Binder series
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? White Trash Warlock
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 3 as of right now
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Blood, murder, violence, suicidal thoughts
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, or The Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs

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

SYNOPSIS

The living cannot be allowed to infect the dead.

Adam Binder has lost what matters most to him. Having finally learned the true identity of the warlock preying on his family, what was supposed to be a final confrontation with the fiend instead became a trap that sent Vic into the realm of the dead, where none living are meant to be. Bound by debt, oath, and love, Adam blazes his own trail into the underworld to get Vic back and to end the threat of the warlock once and for all.

But the road to hell is paved with more than good intentions. Demons are hungry and ghosts are relentless. What awaits Adam in the underworld is nothing he is prepared to face. If that weren’t enough, Adam has one more thing he must do if he and Vic are to return to world of the living: find the lost heart of Death herself.

Deadbeat Druid just didn’t hit it out of the ballpark for me the same way the first two books in this series did. White Trash Warlock and Trailer Park Trickster both made my best of the year list for last year. (This was before I had a blog!) I think my biggest problem with this book is the setting. The majority of this book takes place in the Underworld. This is a huge change from the last two books — both of which spend a great deal of time in our world. I missed seeing the characters interact with familiar things, instead everything was twisted or changed due to the setting. This is a paranormal book — and with that (for me) comes expectations that this will mostly be in the real world.

I love Adam Binder as a character — someone who feels real, someone who worries about the same things I do, but also someone with a decent amount of magic. His journey has been an extremly rough road, but it hasn’t turned him into a mean person. Actually, a lot of the characters in this series have lived out hard, hard lives. Its the nature of the Binder family, I think. Slayton does a fantastic job making you feel for these people, and wanting them to either face the consequences of their actions, or get what they need most.

I also love Adam and Vic together. This was another reason why this book didn’t work as well for me. Vic and Adam spent most of this book separated. Actually, the whole plot of the book was Adam trying to get to Vic, but still. I missed their interactions badly.

Despite my so-so rating of this one, I do highly recommend the series as a whole. This is a gay paranormal romance series, and as I mentioned before, the characters are fantastic. Three and a half stars.

DEADBEAT DRUID comes out oCTOBER 18, 2022.

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

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

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.

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

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

BOOK REVIEW: PRINCE’S GAMBIT BY CS PACAT

  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 332 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 4th 2013
  • PUBLISHER: Berkley 
    CONTENT WARNINGS: Sexual content, slavery, rape, pedophilia, suicide

  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Still no recommendations, sorry friends.

SYNOPSIS

With their countries on the brink of war, Damen and his new master, Prince Laurent, must exchange the intrigues of the palace for the sweeping might of the battlefield as they travel to the border to avert a lethal plot.

Forced to hide his identity, Damen finds himself increasingly drawn to the dangerous, charismatic Laurent. But as the fledgling trust between the two men deepens, the truth of secrets from both their pasts is poised to deal them the crowning death blow…

However much I enjoyed Captive Prince, my enjoyment increased seemingly tenfold when it comes to Prince’s Gambit. There is so much more to love in this book — including the fact that the amount of sexual violence included is pretty much nil. (There definite mentions of it in the past, but I don’t think there was anything blatantly on “screen” as it were.) The plot moves forward a lot in this book, which I really liked. But my absolute favorite part of Prince’s Gambit, is the fact that we see Laurent become less of a figurehead or blatant trope in this book.

Laurent becomes an actual person, someone who you (gasp) actually kind of admire. He is a fascinating character that I really hope we continue to learn more about in the next book. Some of the things alluded to in his past are horrifying, and I really hope aren’t actually true. (I have a horrible feeling they are, though.) Laurent is someone who’s brain is always working, and watching his plans unfold was just so thrilling and entertaining.

Damen is still and continues to be a good person, looking out for everyone and trying his best to do what he can to help. His conscience gets the better of him in one part in this book. (Why didn’t you just go!!! Like, obviously I know why, but omg.) When it comes to Damen and Laurent, the TENSION between them was tangible, I swear. There is one semi-explicit sex scene, and it was glorious.

I have a feeling these books might be new favorites by the time I am done with the series. The writing is gorgeous — though a bit on the “fancier” side. (I have had to look up meanings of words more than once. Thank goodness for the dictionary on the Kindle!) The plot is fantastic, the world is unique, but familiar enough that it rings echoes of Rome and Greece, and the characters are just so well done.

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

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

BOOK REVIEW: CAPTIVE PRINCE BY CS PACAT

  • STAR RATING:  4.5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 240 pages
  • WHAT SERIES? The Captive Prince series
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Captive Prince
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 3
  • DATE PUBLISHED:  May 22nd 2012
  • PUBLISHER: Berkley 
    CONTENT WARNINGS: Slavery, Rape, Sexual assault, Pedophilia

  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: I’ve got nothing for recommendations similar to this one, sorry!!

SYNOPSIS

Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the rightful heir to the throne of Akielos. But when his half brother seizes power, Damen is captured, stripped of his identity, and sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave.

Beautiful, manipulative, and deadly, his new master, Prince Laurent, epitomizes the worst of the court at Vere. But in the lethal political web of the Veretian court, nothing is as it seems, and when Damen finds himself caught up in a play for the throne, he must work together with Laurent to survive and save his country.

For Damen, there is just one rule: never, ever reveal his true identity. Because the one man Damen needs is the one man who has more reason to hate him than anyone else…

Captive Prince is definitely not a book for everyone. It deals with being forced into slavery, into a (what I imagine is a Roman-inspired) culture where slaves are predominantly sex slaves. It’s not a light-hearted book. There is rape. There is torture. I just want everyone to know all of that right off the bat. Despite that, I really liked this book. Does that sound odd? I’m sure it does. It all makes sense in the story, and doesn’t feel particularly overdone in the setting.

Damen was the crown prince of Akielos, but once his brother kills their father, and seizes the thrown, well. Things don’t go so well for him. He’s given away to their country’s biggest rival, Vere, and eventually given to the prince, Laurent.

They do not get along.

Ever.

Wheeeeew. Watching them butt heads was very entertaining. I kept reading, waiting for the next horrific thing to happen to Damen due to Laurent. Damen was quite obviously my favorite. He is — as far as we know at this point in the story — a decent person who only wants to help the other people from Akielos that were sent as slaves along with him. Laurent is a cold-hearted snake most of the book. I can’t wait to find out how he shifts as the story goes on.

I do wish there had been slightly more world-building in the book, but it is on the shorter side. I was much more interested in the characters, anyway. Here’s hoping there’s more in the next books? Which I will 100% be reading ASAP. I already have them checked out from the library.

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

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

BOOK REVIEW: PARADISE LOST & FOUND BY JENNIFER KNIGHTLEY

Book cover for The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley
  • STAR RATING:  3.5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 410 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: June 14th 2022 
  • PUBLISHER: King & Knight Publishing
    CONTENT WARNINGS: PTSD, anxiety & panic attacks, mentions of surgery, sexual content

  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren, but this recommendation is a het romance.

SYNOPSIS

Falling hurts . . . even falling in love.

What happens if you meet the perfect person, in the perfect place, and then the holiday ends?

Paradise Lost & Found is the perfect beach read, exploring an LGBT romance set in a tropical paradise.

Honeymooning alone after being left at the altar, Adam Callaghan is hoping two weeks in a tropical paradise will clear his head and soothe the ache in his heart. But with the romantic setting weighing on him, Adam soon realizes he’s made a mistake. He’s about to throw in the towel when fate—and a mix up with the hotel’s reservation system—brings him together with the charismatic Kip Carter, a guest at the resort for his sister’s destination wedding. Sparks fly, and as they enjoy the island together, bringing out the best in each other and exploring emotional baggage they’ve both tried to bury deep, Adam grapples with the possibility of letting himself move on. But with the clock ticking on their time together, what will become of their burgeoning romance once their two weeks are up?

If you’re looking for a ‘slow burn’ summer romance with ‘only one bed’, elements of fake dating, and idiots in love that will make you want to dip your toes into the ocean, then this is the book for you.

If you’ve known me for awhile, you’ll know that I was hugely involved in the Steve Rogers/Bucky Barnes part of the MCU fandom. I still consider myself a part of the fandom, but I haven’t written anything vaguely resembling fanfic in a long, long time. Despite that, when I found out that a fandom writer was publishing a contemporary romance book based on one of their fics, well, I jumped at the chance to read it.

Paradise Lost & Found is a cute story, it really is. Adam (the Steve replacement) has been left at the alter by Vanessa (Peggy). Instead of losing money on the honeymoon, Adam goes on his own. While there he meets Kip (Bucky), who is there for his sister’s wedding. There’s a whole debacle with a room — they end up sharing one — and well, they fall in love over the course of a two week vacation. It’s adorable. The premise is solid.

Unfortunately, think it could have used another pass by an editor before being published. The book clocks in at a little over 400 pages, which felt much, much longer while reading. Paradise Lost & Found is dual POV, which I normally like. However, each time the book changed POVs, there was a rehashing of what had just gone on. This was completely unnecessary and made the book much longer than it needed to be. There were also frequent UK-isms in the text, which was slightly jarring as both Adam and Kip were from the US. A few examples off the top of my head: cooling box = cooler, tin = can, whilst = while.

On the romance side of things, Adam and Kip were steamy together, with rock-solid chemistry. You couldn’t help but feel how attracted they were to each other. This part of the book was top-notch. But I do wish the steamy scenes had actually been steamy, instead there was a lot of vague references, and some fade-to-black.

Overall, Paradise Lost & Found is a cute book. Cute, but not something I’ll probably pick up again for a long while.

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

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

ARC REVIEW: AUGUST KITKO AND THE MECHAS FROM SPACE BY ALEX WHITE

the book cover for August Kitko and the Mechas from Space by Alex White
  • STAR RATING:  4.5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 464 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: July 12, 2022.
  • PUBLISHER: Orbit Books
    CONTENT WARNINGS: Cursing, death, suicidal thoughts, sexual content, body horror
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

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

SYNOPSIS

When an army of giant robot AIs threatens to devastate Earth, a virtuoso pianist becomes humanity’s last hope in this bold, lightning-paced, technicolor new space opera series from the author of A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe.

Jazz pianist Gus Kitko expected to spend his final moments on Earth playing piano at the greatest goodbye party of all time, and maybe kissing rockstar Ardent Violet, before the last of humanity is wiped out forever by the Vanguards–ultra-powerful robots from the dark heart of space, hell-bent on destroying humanity for reasons none can divine. 

But when the Vanguards arrive, the unthinkable happens–the mecha that should be killing Gus instead saves him. Suddenly, Gus’s swan song becomes humanity’s encore, as he is chosen to join a small group of traitorous Vanguards and their pilots dedicated to saving humanity. 

If there’s one thing you need to know about me before we get into this review, it’s that when Pacific Rim came out in 2013, I went and saw it approximately 238472394 times in the theaters. I adore that absolutely absurd movie. It is fun all wrapped up in a Transformers movie, dipped in a kaiju movie. Is it supposed to be taken seriously? Absolutely not. Does August Kitko and the Mechas from Space scratch that same ridiculous itch? 100000%.

Giant robots come to Earth (and all the human-colonies) in an attempt to upload their minds and kill their bodies. Basically, they’re trying to wipe out the human race in whatever horrible, violent way they can. A few of these robots betray their cause and actually switch sides to help the humans fight off the other robots. But these traitors need humans to act as conduits — basically pilots. Is this sounding familiar at all???

One of the main characters — the aforementioned August Kitko — is a depressed, semi-sort-of-famous pianist. He is frequently mopey, but does his best to do what he can to help humanity. He is a fine main character. He does the job. The other main character, and Gus’s lover/joyfriend, Ardent Violet, steals the show. They are a non-binary rock star with an outrageous personality, and a fabulous sense of style. I loved reading their chapters, and frequently found myself wondering when they would be back on page. Gus and Ardent’s relationship is a little insta-love, a lot of teasing, but they really do care about each other, and it’s a joy to watch.

If you enjoyed Pacific Rim at all, if you like giant robots fighting other giant robots, then you will enjoy August Kitko and the Mechas from Space. The fight scenes are awesome, the chase scenes are scary, the tech described is just phenomenal. I can’t recommend this one enough.

AUGUST KITKO AND THE MECHAS FROM SPACE comes out JULY 12, 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: HIGH TIMES IN THE LOW PARLIAMENT BY KELLY ROBSON

STAR RATING: 3 stars
PAGE LENGTH: 160 pages
CW: Drug use, blood
IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Honestly, I am baffled to come up with anything similar to this — maybe any of T. Kingfisher’s books set in the World of the White Rat?

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

SYNOPSIS

Kelly Robson is back with fairies, scribes, and many many kisses in High Times in the Low Parliament.

Lana Baker is Aldgate’s finest scribe, with a sharp pen and an even sharper wit. Gregarious, charming, and ever so eager to please, she agrees to deliver a message for another lovely scribe in exchange for kisses and ends up getting sent to Low Parliament by a temperamental fairy as a result.

As Lana transcribes the endless circular arguments of Parliament, the debates grow tenser and more desperate. Due to long-standing tradition, a hung vote will cause Parliament to flood and a return to endless war. Lana must rely on an unlikely pair of comrades—Bugbite, the curmudgeonly fairy, and Eloquentia, the bewitching human deputy—to save humanity (and maybe even woo one or two lucky ladies), come hell or high water. 

High Times in the Low Parliament is an incredibly quick read. It’s not even 200 pages, so you’ll plow through this one if you’re anything like me. So…did I like it? Yes, and no. It’s kind of middling, for me. High Times in the Low Parliament is not a book that takes itself seriously. The main character, Lara, peddles and does drugs for most of the story, describing the hallucinogenic effects while dealing with what’s going on plotwise. She’s also frequently flirting with whoever is nearest to her. — Lara does nothing seriously the entire book. There’s some rather funny moments, however — I caught myself laughing out loud a few times while I read.

But despite laughing, I think my struggle with this book is that I don’t really understand what the point was. It’s not really a feel-good story, it’s not a love story, it’s not a real “fantasy” — by which I mean there’s no quest, no big baddie. And no, stories don’t need a point to be worth telling, but at the end of this one I was just left a little aimless.

The world building done by Robson in High Times in the Low Parliament is fascinating. There are no men in the entire world presented in this novella. Children are conceived when a woman asks for blessing from the natal fairy. Women do literally everything else. I thought this was a unique aspect of world-building, but I’m not sure why this choice was made. Did men ever exist? I did wonder while I read, but answers are not forth coming in the text.

I think High Times in the Low Parliament was not really for me. I just didn’t get it.

HIGH TIMES IN THE LOW PARLIMANT comes out AUGUST 9, 2022.

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: LOCKLANDS BY ROBERT JACKSON BENNETT

STAR RATING: 3 stars 😞
PAGE LENGTH: 496 pages
WHAT SERIES? The Founders Trilogy
WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Foundryside
HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 3
CONTENT WARNINGS: Violence, blood, death, torture, mentions of slavery

IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, or An Illusion of Thieves by Cate Glass

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

SYNOPSIS

A god wages war—using all of humanity as its pawns—in the unforgettable conclusion to the Founders trilogy.

Sancia, Clef, and Berenice have gone up against plenty of long odds in the past. But the war they’re fighting now is one even they can’t win.

This time, they’re not facing robber-baron elites, or even an immortal hierophant, but an entity whose intelligence is spread over half the globe—a ghost in the machine that uses the magic of scriving to possess and control not just objects, but human minds.

To fight it, they’ve used scriving technology to transform themselves and their allies into an army—a society—that’s like nothing humanity has seen before. With its strength at their backs, they’ve freed a handful of their enemy’s hosts from servitude, even brought down some of its fearsome, reality-altering dreadnaughts. Yet despite their efforts, their enemy marches on—implacable. Unstoppable.

Now, as their opponent closes in on its true prize—an ancient doorway, long buried, that leads to the chambers at the center of creation itself—Sancia and her friends glimpse a chance at reaching it first, and with it, a last desperate opportunity to stop this unbeatable foe. But to do so, they’ll have to unlock the centuries-old mystery of scriving’s origins, embark on a desperate mission into the heart of their enemy’s power, and pull off the most daring heist they’ve ever attempted.

And as if that weren’t enough, their adversary might just have a spy in their ranks—and a last trick up its sleeve.

Woof. Okay. I finished this book over the weekend while trying to get my teething 10 month old to sleep. [NOTICE: I wrote this review way back in February, when I finished the book. The published asked reviews to be held until 2 weeks before the book comes out, so here you have the review now.] Sadly, I wasn’t a huge fan of Locklands. If you read my reviews of the previous two books, you’ll know how much I enjoyed them. Needless to say, I am vastly disappointed in how this series ended. Those three stars I gave this book is me being generous.

Locklands is a hot mess compared to Foundryside and Shorefall. The prior two books felt like a natural progression. Shorefall raised the stakes the appropriate amount compared to the first book. The villain got scarier, the world got bigger and more dangerous. The characters developed and generally, it made sense that Shorefall followed Foundryside. Locklands’ problem is that it jumps ahead eight years after Shorefall. I generally do not like time jumps in books. They rarely do what the author thinks they do, and instead just make a series feel jumbled up and messy. We see little of those eight years, and as a result, you feel as if you’ve been dropped into the middle of something. You’re left confused and unsure for a while until things feel slightly more familiar.

There is a huge concept in this book that was extremely confusing to me when they first introduced it — the twinning of minds. It technically was introduced in Shorefall, but Sancia and Berenice pushed this even further in those eight years that we don’t see. The whole conversation/explanation in the text is only made more confusing by the diagram that’s included.

I’m really not a fan when authors introduce a phrase/saying/concept in the last book of a series, and then act like it was a huge part of the series from the beginning. Sancia and Berenice use the saying, ‘There’s no dancing through a monsoon,” over and over in this book. I think the author was trying to reiterate it enough to have some emotional impact on the reader. It didn’t really work on me, though it probably would have if this saying had been introduced in the prior two books.

That’s not to say there weren’t parts of this book that I enjoyed — I really, really liked learning more about Clef, who he was, and what he did that brought about literally everything. What a character. He’s deeply flawed, and at first you feel sorry for him, but by the end of the book everything you know about him changes. Crasedes Magnus, and Valeria/Trevanne get some serious character development, too.

In the acknowledgements at the end of this book, Robert Jackson Bennett shares that he wrote this book during the pandemic. I think that’s why this book is the mess that it is. I’m really disappointed in Locklands, and I hate to say that overall, I didn’t enjoy it.

Locklands comes out June 28, 2022.

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

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE