reviews
Disintegration (Malfunction Trilogy #2) by JE Purrazzi - book review
18, Jun

5/5 stars

This second installment of the Malfunction series (first book reviewed here) is gritty, dark, hilarious, and inventive. It picks up where Malfunction lets off - the Hub is hurtling through space to find Timur, a planet that is hopefully habitable for the last of humanity left after the Wreckers have destroyed Earth. 

 

Menrva is placed into a leadership role that she didn’t ask for. And hard decisions await her. Leading isn’t easy, as she soon finds out. Cowl is on the edge, as usual, and starts an uprising that sets the Hub in turmoil. And Bas? Oh, Bas. He’s unraveling at the seams. The side characters continue to shine, including Titus (oh how I love you), Capricorn (oh how I hate to love you), Dennis, and Viktor. The main antagonist, Eris, is well fleshed out, and oh so scary. She’s one of my favorite “bad guys” I’ve ever read.  

 

As per usual with Purrazzi, the genius lies in character development, believable storylines, and mayhem galore. Strong themes of friendship, identity, and what makes us human continue to light up the pages. The action is nearly nonstop, sending the reader through a tailspin with barely any rest. Each character has motivations, and although the book takes place in only one setting, the worldbuilding feels seamless and consistent. 

 

5/5 stars! Fans of science fiction, dystopian fiction, relatable and strong characters, and terrifying beasts are sure to devour this series. The last installment is already out, so be on the lookout for my review of Connection. 

 

For the Wolf (Wilderwood, #1) by Hannah Whitten - book review
12, Jun

4/5 stars

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Orbit for the ARC of this book.

"The First Daughter is for the Throne. The Second Daughter is for the Wolf."

For the Wolf is a fantastic read. From the characters, to the plot, to the worldbuilding, it had me riveted from the opening pages to the last pages. It follows the story of twin sisters, Neve and Red. From the beginning of their lives, they knew their place in the world. Born to the Queen, Neve knows she is destined to rule after her mother's passing. Red knows she is destined for the Wilderwood as a sacrifice to the Wolf, to entreat him to release the Five Kings - this world's gods - back into the world. They have been imprisoned for many centuries. So down through the ages, the Second Daughters born have all been sent to the Wilderwood when they are marked, usually as they pass into adulthood. 

From the outset, it's clear that each sister will do their duty. Once Red's mark appears, she faces her fate with courage. Neve is determined to try to save her, but Red will do what needs to be done. Their country of Valleyda serves as the religious center of the world, where priestesses worship and wait for the Second Daughter to be born. Valleyda is the only country to border the Wilderwoood, and they wait, hoping that one day the Wolf will find the sacrifice sufficient. As the story unfolds, it comes to the reader's attention that the Wolf is certainly not what the legends say. 

The magic in this book is quite well done. It centers around the Wilderwood being a sentient thing, and it's magic can be used by those who touch it's borders. There are sentinel trees that serve as a sort of stopper, to keep the Shadowlands from seeping into the world of man. But the sentinel trees are rotting, and the Wolf, using the magic of the Wilderwood, tries as much as he can to stop the rot. Yes, the Wolf is a man. Eammon, to be exact. Eammon spills his blood into the forest, but the rot is spreading faster than he can bleed. The legends about him are only partially true. He's a great character - sacrificing himself to keep others safe, while trying to maintain as much humanity as possible. But the Wilderwood is slowly becoming a part of him. 

Enter Red. She can use the Wilderwood magic, but in a different way than Eammon. Together, they try to fight the monsters that come from the full rot of sentinel trees. Their relationship is complicated, at first. Eammon keeps her at a distance, determined to not grow too close to her, for he knows that the Second Daughters don't last long before they are consumed by the forest. But as time goes on, their relationship grows closer. How could it not? 

On the other side of the forest, Neve tries desperately to save Red. She enlists the help of a priestess, Kiri, who is more than what she seems. She wraps Neve up into her plans, and the book takes a decidedly dark turn with Neve's story. 

I don't want to give too much away, but trust me, when it all comes together, it is entirely satisfying. One complaint I had was the pacing of the the book. It got a bit bogged down in the middle chapters - a lot of character development happens, especially with Eammon and Red - but Neve's chapters were a bit too slow for my tastes. It's necessary, to some extent, but I would have liked to see Neve hold up a bit more and not get so roped in to Kiri's plots. She becomes so hyper focused on saving Red that she misses a lot of telltale signs that Kiri has certain nefarious ideas. 

For the Wolf has hints here and there of being a Red Riding Hood retelling, mixed with Beauty and the Beast. As far as fairytales go, this blows most retellings that I've read out of the water. This will be an author I will certainly keep track of, and I will be reading the follow-up as soon as it's available. 

4/5 stars. Fans of retellings, romance, intricate magic with a lot of darkness, and character driven books are sure to like this one. It's now available

The Jasmine Throne (The Burning Kingdoms #1) by Tasha Suri - book review
19, May

4/5 stars

 

This is my first introduction to Tasha Suri's work, and after reading it, I immediately bought Empire of Sand (which has rave reviews). The Jasmine Throne is a fantastic read. Thanks to Orbit (who have published my two favorite reads so far this year... they are on a roll!) and Netgalley for this ARC. 

It follows the story of Priya, a maidservant with a complex past, and Malini, a princess in exile. From the very first pages of this book, the characters come alive. Malini refuses her brother's, the Emperor, command to submit herself to be burned. He then places her in exile at a holy temple, the Hirana. The Hirana was once a place of magic, and pilgrims would often visit. Now, it's mostly derelict. Something once took place there, something horrible, and now it serves as Malini's prison, set atop a cliff and a relic of a dark history. Priya volunteers to clean the Hirana, and it's clear she has a story there, something she has blocked from her memory. When Priya and Malini meet, quite by accident since Malini was allowed no visitors, it's clear that their paths will be intertwined. Priya manages to convince Malini's jailor that the Princess needs someone to protect her. She is granted unfettered access to the Princess. What begins is a tale of a complicated friendship, which turns into love, which turns into loyalty. Priya and Malini were brought together by happenstance, but they are bound together by an inextricable tie.   

The worldbuilding in this story is phenomenal. The world feels real, and the setting is much like India. There are flowers (lots of flowers!), rich color, and a culture that is steeped in religion and lore. The nation has been overcome by Parijat, a vast Empire spanning across the world. There are rebels fighting for independence, and nobles trying to maintain the status quo with the Empire. The politics is straightforward enough, without being too dull. The magic is utterly unique, with a river as the centerpiece that can be accessed only by those with a unique ability to pass through said waters without being consumed. They grow in their magic each time they pass through, so that those who can survive three times are powerful, nearly unstoppable. 

Priya finds herself in a struggle - the rebels want to use her. Malini has her own motivations to use her, primarily to escape. And Bhumika, who Priya works for, is more than what she seems. With ties that bind her, Priya must strive to maintain her own identity. Malini must overcome physical and mental illness to try to unseat her deranged brother from the throne. Together, perhaps they can meet their own goals without sacrificing the core of who they are.

This is a story of identity, and finding who they really are, when all is said and done. Their romance was done quite well, without being overbearing. And my goodness, the waterfall scene... well, you just need to read it yourself. 

This book checked a lot of boxes for me. My one complaint was that the ending was dragged on too long. There were a few chapters I felt could have been condensed and more cohesive. And there is one huge plot point that I found very disturbing - but I don't want to spoil it for anyone. If you read this book, you'll know.

4/5 stars. Fans of fantasy with unique settings, engaging characters, beautiful prose, and lesbian romance are sure to devour this incredible tale. 

 

Amazon.com: The Girl and the Mountain (The Book of the Ice 2) eBook:  Lawrence, Mark: Kindle Store

4.5/5 stars

 

 

Abeth is a land of ice, far as the eye can see. Yet standing in the middle is the Black Rock, and there are fables and stories of a crescent of green. Yaz has certainly heard the stories, and has even seen the green lands in a dream-like state. And she wants to go there. 

 

The Girl and the Mountain picks up where The Girl and the Stars (review here) lets off. Yaz has made it out of the underground, from the city of the Broken, where demons lurk and monsters hunt. She has brought some friends with her… but they were separated. And she has been taken hostage by an ancient order of priests who keep the ice tribes under their thumb. Her friends are intent on rescuing her. But the Black Rock is more than what it seems. 

 

Much like the city of the Broken, the Black Rock is full of dizzying corridors and houses ancient rooms full of secrets. Yaz and her friends must face, yet again, the mysteries of the unknown. And as Yaz’s understanding of her power grows, so does the danger. For there are those who would seek to use her to their own ends, and not just the priests. Where The Girl and the Stars introduced the idea of city-minds, and metal creatures, and a possible alien intelligence, The Girl and the Mountain expounds on these ideas. The reader has some questions answered. But it also raises more questions. What exactly are these city minds? To avoid spoilers - well, they are more than what they seem. 

 

As usual, Lawrence’s ability to weave character development with plot with unique magic is almost unparalleled. Each character has a unique voice, with differing motivations. The magic, of course, is a bit different than the previous series set in this world, but with very similar ideas. Or maybe a better way to say it, is that the magic is the same with different aspects highlighted on the ice. And the plot? For a lowly being like myself, there were moments where I couldn’t quite follow what was going on, that’s how complicated it was. But the slow reveal makes the pay off well worth it. 

 

Yaz remains a very solid main character. There are parts of her that make her one of the most unique characters I’ve ever come across. Her motives are pure, and she’s a strong, somewhat flawed, person. Her loyalty gets her into trouble. But then it gets her out of trouble, too. And the addition of a metal-made dog was one of my favorite things in this book. Who doesn’t love a furry (or in this case, not so furry) sidekick? 

 

The themes of friendship, loyalty, and making hard choices will be familiar friends to fans of Lawrence’s work. No one does it better than he does. 

 

4.5/5 stars for this stellar follow-up. I highly recommend this series, as well as the Book of the Ancestor series also set in this world.

 

 

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3.5/5 stars

 

Power is a dangerous game.

 

Red Queen follows the story of Mare - she lives in a world divided by blood. There are the Silvers, whose blood makes them stronger than the Reds, and who rule this world. The Reds are the working class, subjugated by the Silvers, living in hovels and generally mistreated and despised. 

 

Through a series of events, Mare is before the most popular and powerful Silvers. And she has a magic she shouldn’t have - she’s a Red, after all, and only Silvers have magic. Yet it’s undeniable. The king must somehow maintain the status quo, and claims Mare is a long-lost Silver daughter to a deceased general, and betroths her to his youngest son. 

 

This is a YA fantasy with a dystopian feel, told from a first person POV. There were some tropes that are present in nearly every YA book ever written. A love triangle, a heroine who is more than she thinks she is, with odds stacked against her. Yet I found the politics to be quite enjoyable, with Mare having to catch up quickly to what comes naturally to Silvers, as they are born within the political intrigue and it comes second-nature to them. Mare must forge alliances, fight the conniving Queen, decide who she can trust, and take a stand on what she believes. 

 

The characters are, for the most part, exactly what you would think they’d be in a YA book. Handsome, sigh-worthy princes. An evil “step mother” queen. A jealous rival. Yet I don’t mind these tropes, although the jealous rival was a bit overdone. Mare, as far as main characters go, was readily likable. As the story progresses, so does her character, and she’s finally put to the test in a climactic ending that does justice to the author’s talent for plot and storyline. 

 

The best parts of the book were the action scenes and the politcal drama. It could have done with a bit less romance - but that’s preference. The side characters could also have been fleshed out more. Otherwise, this is an enjoyable read.

 

3.5 stars. Fans of YA fantasy will enjoy this, especially if you’re into the common tropes.

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3.5/5 stars

 

I've been ruminating on this review for a while now. Initially, I wasn't sure how I felt about this book, so I sat on it, waiting to see if my feelings changed. After consideration, I decided I really did quite like this read, although there were some things that had me thinking. I suppose that's what makes a book memorable; making readers think, and dwell on, your story. 

The Frozen Crown initially caught my interest because of the gorgeous cover, and it was a debut from an author I had never heard of. I really enjoy finding new author's to watch out for, and I'll definitely be following this series. 

The Frozen Crown follows the story of Askia, an ousted princess from her kingdom who must win her country back by forging political alliances to keep her country from utter ruin by a horde that has descended on her people. But she carries a secret - she can see and communicate with the dead, a nearly forbidden magic that could mean her death by a religious group intent on stamping out magic whenever and wherever they can. She meets (or rather, re-engages) with a prince from a neighboring country, and convinces him to bring her back to his father's court so she can beg for their aid against her enemies. If she can't find help soon, her people will be annihilated. 

The strongest point of this story is the politics. The author really delves into the interweaving court dynamics as Askia must learn to conform and perform to save her people, as well as continue to hide her secret magic. She forges alliances while learning to set aside her normal method of dealing with people - that is, a straightforward personality that isn't quite suited for the life of a politician. She learns secrets of her past that could change everything, she learns to handle her magic, and has multiple ways she could handle saving her people. But which is the best path? One thing that I really liked about Askia was her willingness to do whatever is necessary to save her people, often at her own expense. 

As far as characters go, Askia certainly had things going for her. She's bold, tenderhearted, brave. However, one of my main complaints is that she isn't all that... unique. Her voice is a bit stale - typical might be a better word for it. The tone is certainly YA, which doesn't bother me, but like lots of YA female characters, she's got a chip on her shoulder, has to manage several love interests, and as per usual, is beautiful. She is also full of self-doubt, and is in her own head much of the time. She fits the trope, and I would have liked to see something that wasn't so... tropish. My other complaint is the side characters - the prince, the queen, the king, Askia's friends, the politicians... I would have enjoyed it more if they were expanded upon. But since this story is told in first person, one of the downfalls is that we are only in Askia's head, and therefore side characters can be a bit challenging to flesh out. 

My other complaint is the ending. I'm sure many people won't have a problem with it, or will be surprised by it, but I could see it coming from a mile away. It's certainly a cliff hanger in some ways, which I don't mind, but I will keep it spoiler free. That is to say, this was just personal preference. Most readers, I'm sure, will like it. 

3.5/5 stars for me, and a for a debut author, I was impressed. If you enjoy political YA with a strong female lead, fun magic, typical and maybe not-so-typical romance, then grab this story. 

 

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5/5 stars

The first book in this series, We Ride the Storm, was on of my favorite reads in 2019. I eagerly looked forward to this follow-up, and it was everything I wanted it to be. 

The story picks up almost immediately after the previous book ended. It follows the POV from the previous characters - Rah, Cassandra, and Miko - and adds a new POV with Dishiva, one of my personal favorite characters from the previous book. I was pleasantly surprised that we got a look into her world, and it expands the story in unique ways. Cassandra, however, still remains my favorite character. There are questions answered in this story that were left unanswered by the first book, and mysteries are revealed in utterly satisfying ways. 

The characters remain a strong point in this author's writing. There voices are unique, so you always know who you are following. Their character arcs are well done. Miko is on the run, with no solid place to land and followed by her trusty general. She must find allies to help her win her empire back, but who can she trust? She tries to stay hidden from her enemies, and is joined by Rah through happenstance. Rah's character arc remains consistent. He is unwilling to change his Levanti ways, like his brother Gideon has, who has declared himself Emperor of the new combined Empire. Rah is unbending and brittle, stubbornly refusing to give up his identity, and it has far-reaching effects. There is something admirable about his stubbornness, though it does get him into trouble. Cassandra has been sold to a Witchdoctor, who performs experiments on her to try and learn all he can about She, who is living in Cassandra's body. Just who is this She? How expansive are Cassandra's dual souls? Who actually belongs in control of Cassandra's body? Who was there first? I must say, Cassandra's chapters remained my favorites, because time after time, Madson manages to make the unveiling of the mystery utterly captivating, dragging the reader along with some bread crumbs, and making each new reveal so satisfying. Dishiva has been made the head of Emperor Gideon's bodyguards. She's caught up in the political machinations of this new Empire, and is torn between her loyalty to Gideon and her loyalty to the old Levanti ways. Which will win out?

The worldbuilding is, much like the first book, spot on. The magic is unique, especially concerning Cassandra. And the interweaving of politics, cultures, action, moral dilemmas, interpersonal relationships, and character development once again left me in awe. Madson has created an immersive reader experience, one that you don't often find so seamlessly. 

A huge 5/5 stars. Do yourself a favor and pick up this series. You won't be disappointed.  

 

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4/5 stars

 

I was first introduced to J.A. Andrews when I read Dragon's Reach as a judge for SPFBO. I thoroughly enjoyed that book, and always had plans to dive into The Keeper Chronicles at some point. Well, that point has come. And I wasn't disappointed. 

A Threat of Shadows follows the story of Alaric, desperate to find a cure for his wife, Evangeline, who has been bitten by a poisonous snake. Alaric is a Keeper, part of a group who are tasked with preserving the land's histories, and who use magic to do so. From the outset, I identified with his quest. His strong love for his wife is endearing, and Alaric has stopped at nothing to do everything he can for her. The story picks up with Alaric having already done things he regrets, and he has stepped away from his role as Keeper to the queen. He stood at her right hand, involved in the running of the kingdom, and the various political intrigues that naturally come with his role. 

But now, it's been a year since he was at court. In the course of the first few chapters, Alaric joins a group of treasure seekers. Yet only he knows the treasure they seek; a stone, with memories hidden. And one of those memories is the antidote to the poison coursing through his wife. Among this group is a young man, an elf with strong magical powers, a dwarf, and a curious wizard. Andrews does interpersonal relationships between characters quite well, and this was one of the best parts of this book, too. The elf in particular was fascinating, funny, and an intriguing character. She is the last of her kind, and for unknown reasons has joined this band of treasure seekers. There is a hint of mystery to her, and the reader is drawn into her story. 

The worldbuilding is quite good, although I wish it had been a bit more solid. Andrews' strong point is characters, so the worldbuilding seems to take a back seat at times. There are, however, terrifying beasts and even a dragon (yay!) that make the world more fascinating. At one point Alaric finds himself back at court, and the politics are well done. 

The magic system was pretty typical, but I didn't mind. The magic users are drained of strength, as is often the case in fantasy settings, and are viewed with a healthy dose of fear and suspicion by the commonfolk. What I did find refreshing was the ability for users to keep their memories in unique Wellstones, therefore prolonging the histories of the world. I quite liked it. 

All in all, A Threat of Shadows is well done, well written, and strong on characters. I plan on continuing this series in the future. 4/5 stars, and fans of epic fantasy with well-developed characters are sure to enjoy it. 

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3.5/5 stars

I saw this book floating around on social media and decided to give it a shot. I mean, look at that cover! I know, I know, you're not supposed to choose a book based on its cover, but... look at it!

Anyways.

This story follows the main character Nimona, who is bound by a magical contract to the Trust. It was originally her father's contract, but it was passed on to her when he couldn't meet its demands, and was thrown into prison. The contract then fell to her, as his next of kin. The Trust is a bit complicated; it's head is the Queen, and she controls a strong portion of magic to force others into contracts, usually ones that can never be met, to have complete dominance over those who are unfortunate enough to find themselves under her thrall. 

Nim is one such unfortunate, and her primary handler is Calum, son to the Queen, and who will one day take over the Trust. He is a sadistic SOB who delights in the pain and torture of others, and the power that magic gives him. 

I had a few gripes with this story, I'm not going to lie. The magic is a but hard to understand and isn't explained all that well. The source is a mystery, and the wielders have this magic have unexplained powers, particularly over contracts. Contracts are made when something valuable to the person comes into the possession of the Trust. Yet this magic also seems to have the ability to influence others psychologically, making them drawn to it, as well as physically, although this isn't explained how. My other gripe was the worldbuilding, which was virtually nonexisten. The story takes place in a city, below the city, and primarily in the home of Nimona and the rooms of the seneschal to the King. 

This leads me into the strongest part of this book. The characters are extremely well done. Their interactions are priceless, the dialogue snappy and downright funny at times. The relationship between Nim and the seneschal, Warrick, gave me all the feels, as did the interactions between Nimona and her friends, servants, and the seneschal's errand boy, Wesley. This was by far the heart of the book, and ultimately will be the reason I continue with the series. I adored them all, even Calum. He's an intimidating, well-written bad guy. 

Although the magic could have used some more explanation, and the worldbuilding needed a lot of work, this book was very well done. 3.5/5 magical contract stars, and fans of YA, excellent characters, well-done romance, and who don't mind inner-head dialogue will be sure to like this. 

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3.5/5 stars

*Minor spoilers below*

The Fire Prince picks up where The Sentinel Mage leaves off (read my Sentinel Mage review here). Harkeld has successfully taken down the first curse stone, and he now heads to the second, this one in the marshy jungle. He's pursued by Fithian assassins, and joined by the mages who have vowed to try to keep him safe. After all, only he has the blood in his veins to stop this curse from spreading across the whole world. The mages have a vested interest in making sure he gets to his destination. 

Innis has a strange connection to Harkeld. They dream together, and in these dreams, their relationship is much more intimate than in "real" life. As it turns out, only healers tend to have this connection, and Innis finds herself drawn ever more to Harkeld, even when she is shapeshifted into Justen. But the secret can't last forever. Will Harkeld eventually find out that Justen isn't real? An accident happens, and it is revealed that Justen is also a shapeshifter. It throws Harkeld into a trajectory of mistrust and feeling deceived. What else are the mages hiding?

Jaume continues on with the Fithian assassins, unsure of what the future holds. All he knows is that he has finally found a place of safety with them. He is unsure of their plans, and assumes it involves helping the prince to end the curse. Little does he know they plan to do the exact opposite. How will he respond when he knows the truth? My heart ached for him. He's only eight, after all. And he's finally found comfort with this band of assassins. His story line was the most compelling for me, and his character arc was well executed by the author. 

Brigitta must escape. Her brother is a ruffian at best, a conniving murderer at worst. Her brothers are in danger, too, and so she enlists the help of the ever-present armsman, as well as her servant turned friend. But their plans don't go as, well, planned. I was thoroughly engaged in her escape attempt, as well as the following aftermath. 

This series is shaping up to be well done, indeed. The character arcs were well done, and the writing crisp and clean, and the plot, although predictable, wasn't boring. MY complaint mainly lies with the worldbuilding and the magic system, which are both a bit simplistic. But otherwise, I will definitely be getting the last book in the series. 

3.5/5 throwing stars, and fans of clever characters, romance, and complicated friendships/relationships are sure to like this series.