Category Archives: Fantasy

The Hundredth Queen by Emily R. King

As an orphan ward of the Sisterhood, eighteen-year-old Kalinda is destined for nothing more than a life of seclusion and prayer. Plagued by fevers, she’s an unlikely candidate for even a servant’s position, let alone a courtesan or wife. Her sole dream is to continue living in peace in the Sisterhood’s mountain temple.

But a visit from the tyrant Rajah Tarek disrupts Kalinda’s life. Within hours, she is ripped from the comfort of her home, set on a desert trek, and ordered to fight for her place among the rajah’s ninety-nine wives and numerous courtesans. Her only solace comes in the company of her guard, the stoic but kind Captain Deven Naik.

Faced with the danger of a tournament to the death—and her growing affection for Deven—Kalinda has only one hope for escape, and it lies in an arcane, forbidden power buried within her. – Goodreads

Ahhhh. This was one of those reads where everyone seems to love it, but I really didn’t care about it.

For one, the instalove was nauseating. Kalinda lives in seclusion from men for her life, and the first man she sees inevitably turns out to be her love interest within about five minutes. This occurred in the first chapter or two of the book, so I was already annoyed.

I was also annoyed because the first chapter details Kalinda as unattractive, a poor fighter, and generally unremarkable. However, in the first few chapters, she defeats a stronger fighter and is called beautiful by several other characters. What? I’m confused.

Basically the entire book was about girls fighting each other to win over the affections of a dude. I finished it, but I didn’t love it and probably won’t recommend it. 2/5 on Goodreads.

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Cage of Deceit by Jennifer Anne Davis

Sixteen-year-old Allyssa appears to be the ideal princess of Emperion—she’s beautiful, elegant, and refined. She spends her days locked in a suffocating cage, otherwise known as the royal court. But at night, Allyssa uses her secret persona—that of a vigilante—to hunt down criminals and help her people firsthand.

Unfortunately, her nightly escapades will have to wait because the citizens of Emperion may need saving from something much bigger than common criminals. War is encroaching on their kingdom and in order to protect her people, Allyssa may have to sacrifice her heart. Forced to entertain an alliance through marriage with a handsome prince from a neighboring kingdom, she finds herself feeling even more stifled than before. To make matters worse, the prince has stuck his nosy squire, Jarvik, to watch her every move.

Jarvik is infuriating, bossy and unfortunately, the only person she can turn to when she unveils a heinous plot. Together, the unlikely pair will have to work together to stop an enemy that everyone thought was long gone, one with the power to destroy her family and the people of Emperion. Now the cage Allyssa so longed to break free from might just be the one thing she has to fight to keep intact. In order to save her kingdom, she will have to sacrifice her freedom, her heart, and maybe even her life. – Goodreads

I think I’m part of the minority, but I wasn’t head over heels for this book. I know, I know.

I like Allyssa — she was an alright MC. However, in true YA fantasy fashion, Allyssa is doomed to take part in an arranged marriage, which eats up most of the first half of the book. Though I can obviously understand not WANTING to be forced into an arranged marriage, Allyssa’s apprehensions come off as angsty and whiny, to a point where she deliberately puts her own safety (and that of her friend) at stake to go gallavanting into the night. She’s a badass, she can fight — I will give her that.

The “plot twist” is something you can spot from a mile away. It’s apparent from the moment it shows up and the first clue is given. I won’t delve into it anymore, but I was annoyed at how easy it was to figure out.

Also, side note, since I’m on a rant — I understand the name of the book is Cage of Deceit, but holy shit. If I had a dollar for everytime I read the words ‘gilded cage’ or literally just ‘cage’ in a metaphorical context,  I would have enough money to buy many books.

This was a miss for me, but don’t let my pessimism discourage you — Jennifer is a good writer and I will read other work from her in the future. I rated this a 2/5.

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My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows

22840421The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane is about to become the Queen of England. – Goodreads

I just finished this and had to log-on ASAP to write a review — this is by far one of my top five favorite books of the year (so naturally I had to write it before 2016 timed out).

I’m not sure what initially drew me to this book — I think it came through as a Kindle deal or something. When I saw that Cynthia Hand lives in my town, I figured, eh, I like historical fiction, I suppose I’ll drop a couple of bucks for a fellow Idahoan.

Could not put down, to a point of the boyfriend complaining about how I look at my Kindle more than him (ironic, because he got it for me for Christmas). It IS a 500+ page book, though, so it took a small chunk of time to read (not complaining — I loved the book, and thus loved the length).

First things first (and our dear narrators let us know from the get-go) – this is not an entirely accurate depiction of history. In fact, it’s a bit more of a historical/fantasy mashup, with the Tudors, shapeshifters, and the like thrown in.

The story is told from three points-of-view — Jane, Edward and Gifford. Jane is a firey redheaded bookworm. Edward is the king, who is quite immature and has no idea how to run a kingdom (he’s also dying). Gifford is a lord’s son, who happens to turn into a horse.

Edward, who is dying, names Jane the next in line for the throne and mandates her marriage to Gifford (at the suggestion of his royal advisor, who is Gifford’s dad). Now, Jane and Gifford know of each other, but know nothing about each other — needless to say, they’re not pleased with their marriage.

The humor in this book — that’s what hooked me and what made it so enjoyable. I loved how occasionally the narrators would butt in with a quip or comment — it always fit, and was used sparingly.

I really enjoyed the character development — the three POVs worked well and I enjoyed all three characters. They had dimension and their chemistry was fantastic.

I also enjoyed the worldbuilding. Though set in old England, the fantasy elements with the Verities and Edians worked well.

The writing was also fabulous — in fact, I completely forgot the book was written by three different people.

5/5 for sure!

L

Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill

28114396Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force. – Goodreads

When I first started reading this, I was like, awww yeah. I love me some YA fantasy.

And then I found myself getting progressively more and more annoyed. At first I thought Brita was a badass (don’t get me wrong, she is — she can definitely handle her own) but one moony-eyed look from the dude she loved and she’s twitterpated and dumb. I also felt that as a reader, I wasn’t really shown that Britta was as strong of a heroine as I was told.

So yeah, I was annoyed.

The book started fairly slow — I was into it, but it took a while for the storyline to really get moving. Britta is trying to find her father’s murderer, which involves some adventuring, getting captured multiple times, running from her jailers, etc.

I don’t know. I just thought it was predictable and the romance was dull. The worldbuilding was okay, but I never really felt pulled in. I rated this a 2/5 on Goodreads.

I received a copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

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A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

23203252I am Henrietta Howel. The first female sorcerer. The prophesied one. Or am I?

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she is brought to London to train with Her Majesty’s sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she’s the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city–and the one she loves? Goodreads

I knew nothing about this book before requesting it. Sure, I read the description – but I’d never heard of the author, and I was a little bit nervous from reading the description.

No need to worry. This book was fabulous.

Henrietta can set herself on fire. That’s cool, but not in a time when witches are burned at the stake. She keeps her abilities a secret, until she is discovered — not as a witch, but as a sorcerer. She’s sent to study with Her Majesty’s sorcerers in an effort to destroy the Ancients, a group of magical creatures who slaughter people.

The worldbuilding was freakin’ awesome. I enjoyed the magic — it’s split between witches, sorcerers and magicians. There’s some history laid out in the book behind the three. London is surrounded by a ward which helps protect the people inside from the Ancients. The people in the slums outside of London are SOL, though.

The pacing was fantastic — I read this pretty quickly and stayed up late too many nights reading it.

I enjoyed Henrietta as a main character — she was strong, independent and didn’t rely on a man to get her out of any situation (I am slightly sad about the lack of romance, though).

There were lots of questions that were left unanswered at the end of the book. History of the Ancients, Henrietta’s father, the ivy on her stave, etc. I wished those had been answered, but hello, that’s the point of a series, amiright?

Overall, excellent read and I look forward to the second installment! 4/5 on Goodreads!

Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review A Shadow Bright and Burning in exchange for an honest review. 

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The Shadow Queen by CJ Redwine

23299513Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart. – Goodreads

I really enjoyed this book. I wasn’t IN LOVE with it, but it was a fun, quick read that was very refreshing after being in a reading slump for so long. It definitely made me realize how much I miss the Fantasy genre, that’s for sure.

I have one tiny gripe with the book, and it’s a personal problem…so I’ll get it out of the way and get on to the positive aspects of the book, which are far more numerous. I hated the names. Hated them. They felt made up and forced — Ravenspire, Lorelai Diederich, effing’ Kolvanismir Arsenyevnek…I could not stand the names. Again, tiny gripe.

I loved the characters, names aside. Lorelai was strong and confident and embodied many characteristics that I appreciate in a strong female MC. I also really liked Kol — rather than treating Lorelai like a damsel in distress, they were a team. Irina was a fabulous villain, especially because the POV would occasionally switch to her. The only character who lacked significant development was Leo, Lorelai’s brother…I’m hoping more is coming on him in future installments, because he fell flat for me.

The worldbuilding was great, especially between Ravenspire and Eldr. I could clearly picture the two, the magic system, etc.

There is some romance, but it’s not the primary focus on the story. It’s a little instalove-y, but not enough to turn me off.

In all, this is a great retelling of Snow White — if you enjoy magic, retellings, light romance and strong female leads, check this one out. I rated it a 4/5 on Goodreads.

L

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Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

21414439In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.

Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.

Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she’s a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden – lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult’s true powers are hidden even from herself.

In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls’ heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch. – Goodreads

Just when I was starting to get gripey about the lack of wonderful suck-you-in-and-don’t-let-you-go-until-you’re-done fantasy YA — this sucker jumped out and got me.

I literally hermit-ed myself away in my room and didn’t talk to people just so I could read this. I even tried to draw it out over the course of several days to minimize my book hangover. It didn’t work.

The premise and description of this book sound kind of lame, but don’t let that sway you. It was awesome. In this world, some people are born with witch abilities. Some witches can manipulate fire, water, or wind. Some can see people’s lifethreads (the threads that signify how people are feeling and who they are). Other witches, like Safi, can sense when someone is telling the truth. The bad guy is a Bloodwitch, and he basically can track you once he smells your blood. Also, his eyes turn red. So naturally I pictured him as Darth Maul.

There’s a treaty, people are out to snatch up Safi (because knowing whether or not someone is telling the truth is pretty damn handy), there’s war, mystery, sexual tension, and all of that fun jazz.

I liked how the love angle was played in this. It wasn’t instalove, and there was certainly tension. It didn’t develop quickly, which was a nice change.

The worldbuilding was fantastic. I can still vividly picture Merik’s ship, the forest, the villages—the description was just right.

I honestly can’t stop gushing about this. I thought giving myself some time between reading the book and writing the review would make me calm down, but the hype is there for a reason. Pick this puppy up. Adding it to my favorites and giving it a 5/5.

L

Hotel Ruby by Suzanne Young

HRStay Tonight. Stay Forever.

When Audrey Casella arrives for an unplanned stay at the grand Hotel Ruby, she’s grateful for the detour. Just months after their mother’s death, Audrey and her brother, Daniel, are on their way to live with their grandmother, dumped on the doorstep of a DNA-matched stranger because their father is drowning in his grief.

Audrey and her family only plan to stay the night, but life in the Ruby can be intoxicating, extending their stay as it provides endless distractions—including handsome guest Elias Lange, who sends Audrey’s pulse racing. However, the hotel proves to be as strange as it is beautiful. Nightly fancy affairs in the ballroom are invitation only, and Audrey seems to be the one guest who doesn’t have an invite. Instead, she joins the hotel staff on the rooftop, catching whispers about the hotel’s dark past.

The more Audrey learns about the new people she’s met, the more her curiosity grows. She’s torn in different directions—the pull of her past with its overwhelming loss, the promise of a future that holds little joy, and an in-between life in a place that is so much more than it seems…

Welcome to the Ruby. – Goodreads

I LOVE Suzanne Young‘s Program series but hadn’t read any of her other books, so I was really anxious to dig into this… and I HATED it. It was extremely disappointing and overall just… underwhelming. There was a solid foundation for a really good story – but it got muddled and there was way too much going on that the reader has to keep straight.

The basis for this book is actually very interesting – a hotel that you can never leave and all the mystery surrounding it. That has so much potential! I think where it got bogged down, was the back story… what lead up to them being there. It felt like she was trying too hard to make it make sense and it really just… didn’t. At least not for me. The characters were also allover the place… it’s hard to explain but it made the story take more effort to get into than I’d like.

Overall, I gave Hotel Ruby 1/5 stars on Goodreads. I had such high hopes for it and I think that was it’s downfall. I will say that my favorite part of the entire thing was the ending – when Audrey finds out the truth. That was definitely a good twist!

K

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Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

20983362passage, n.
i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.
ii. A journey by water; a voyage.
iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.

In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them— whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are play­ing, treacherous forces threaten to sep­arate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home . . . forever. – Goodreads

I read Alexandra Bracken’s Darkest Minds and enjoyed it well enough — but this has definitely become my favorite Bracken read. I’ll admit — the initial buzz around it had me nervous because I was worried that it raised my expectations, but in lived up to the buzz.

The POV alternates between Etta and Nicholas (third person). It gives us a well-rounded view of the emotions and what’s going on. It also got me completely attached to both characters.

Etta is from our era. She’s a violinist, and has no idea she’s a traveler until a series of events unfold to hurtle her back through time. Nicholas is an eighteenth-century sailor, who is also a traveler. Fate (and a common cause) brings them together.

The worldbuilding was great, and bits of it were fed instead of being completely dumped. I loved how the entire book was filled with different times and places. It also made me think about how the timeline would work, and what would happen if a wrinkle were to occur. Bracken did a great job at explaining how passages work and how time traveling works.

The characters were fantastic. Etta was sweet, tough and likeable—definitely a strong female lead who cares about the world and what the astrolabe means to it. Nicholas was a complete gentleman and so sweet, despite how people treat him based on the color of his skin. I felt for him immediately and hated the Ironwoods more and more as he shared his story.

The romance was also great. It wasn’t exactly instalove, but it did bloom quickly. If you’re not a fan of romance, this book probably isn’t for you. The romance was just as prevalent as the primary plot.

My only gripe with the book is Bracken’s writing. Her writing is beautiful, but I do feel that her writing is very fluffy—the book is 500-ish pages, but I feel that it could have been pared down to 350-ish. There were many long, flowery paragraphs that didn’t add much to the story but prose. Because of this, it felt very slow in parts of the story.

The ending was also terrible — only because it’s a major cliffhanger and you have no choice but to impatiently wait until the second book is released.

In all, I rated this book a 4/5 and highly recommend it!

L

Thank you NetGalley and Disney-Hyperion for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review!

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Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker

BTWIt’s an oppressively hot and sticky morning in June when Sterling and her brother, Phin, have an argument that compels him to run into the town swamp—the one that strikes fear in all the residents of Sticks, Louisiana. Phin doesn’t return. Instead, a girl named Lenora May climbs out, and now Sterling is the only person in Sticks who remembers her brother ever existed.

Sterling needs to figure out what the swamp’s done with her beloved brother and how Lenora May is connected to his disappearance—and loner boy Heath Durham might be the only one who can help her. – Goodreads

First off, I LOVE when I read stories that I haven’t read some version of a million times before (and this is far more rare than you’d think) and that’s exactly what happened with Beware the Wild. It is such a unique story, told with absolutely amazing detail, and to top it all off there’s a slight creepiness to the entire thing. Needless to say, I loved it!

While overall, I loved the story and the details that Parker included, there were a few things that irked me. First off, the story behind Phin & Sterling & why he’d gotten so angry, etc. took forever to fully come out. That was frustrating, when the entire story revolves around Phin getting so angry that he takes off. The other thing that sort of drove me mad, was that Sterling couldn’t just be happy for her brother… she had to make his decision about her, and quit eating and was basically a ridiculously melodramatic teenager who wanted the world to revolve around her. That’s EXTREMELY annoying. Suck it up, be happy for him, and do your best without him. It’s not like her mom & step-dad weren’t good people or wouldn’t support her. Goodness gracious.

Other than those points, the story was wonderful. Lenora May was very much the character you wished you could hate but for some reason can’t and Heath was adorable. Sterling was relatable for the most part, especially her desperation in trying to get her brother back.

This magic-filled world of swamps in Louisiana is definitely one I want to return to, and I just saw on Goodreads that Parker is coming out with a second book in February! I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

I rated Beware the Wild 4/5 stars on Goodreads, and definitely recommend it if you’re looking for something a little different. The writing is by far the best part of the book!

K

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