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.


The Black Mage: First Year by Rachel E. Carter

22907405Before the age of seventeen the young men and women of Jerar are given a choice –follow tradition, or pursue a trial year in one of the realm’s three war schools to study as a soldier, knight or mage…

For 15-year-old Ryiah the choice has always been easy. Become a warrior and leave the boring confines of her lowborn life behind. Set to enroll in the School of Knighthood on the eve of her next birthday, plans suddenly shift when her twin brother discovers powers. Hoping that hers will soon follow, she enrolls with Alex at the Academy instead –the realm’s most notorious war school for those with magic.

Yet when she arrives Ry finds herself competing against friend and foe for one of the exalted apprenticeships. Every “first-year” is given a trial year to prove their worth –and no amount of hard work and drive will guarantee them a spot. It seems like everyone is rooting for her to fail –and first and foremost among them Prince Darren, the school prodigy who has done nothing but make life miserable since she arrived. – Goodreads

You know what the best feeling in the entire world is? Getting completely sucked into a literary world. That being said, it’s often followed by the most dismal feeling in the world: finishing said book and longing for another.

I’m going to admit a weakness as a reader (I’m a little bit ashamed to admit it, but I’m hoping someone does the same and therefore won’t judge me too harshly): I judge books by their covers. I mean that in a literal and metaphorical sense. For example, I looked at this book’s cover and immediately decided the title was too Harry Potter-esque* and the subhead too swirly. Paired with the $.99 pricetag (which, unbeknownst to me, was simply because of a sale)…and I wasn’t too sure. However, I read the summary, read a few reviews, and was intrigued. So I hit that one-click purchase button to beam it to my Kindle and was on my merry reading way.

The first chapter immediately launches the reader into an action packed scene with bandits, running, and kidnapping. While a little jarring, it did a great job at capturing my attention and explaining the setting—Ry and her twin brother, Alex, are on their way to a magical academy to become mages.

By chapter two, I was hooked. I finished the book as quickly as I could, and was seriously distraught when I found out on 2/16 that the second book wouldn’t be released until 2/17. Reader’s dilemma: do I start a new book or just wait? I had more anxiety over this than I’d care to admit.

I seriously love the shit out of fantasy. I can’t get enough. I grew up with JK Rowling, Tamora Pierce, Gail Carson Levine, and Ursula Le Guin. The librarians knew me by name and gave me ARCs when ARCs were seriously uncool. I love a strong, kickass heroine who values her success over a boyfriend. Ry did not disappoint.

I truly enjoyed the characters in this book—with the exception of Prince Darren, who is a royal douchebag. I think he’s supposed to grow on you, but I’m sorry…no. Ryiah is awesome. She’s confident, resilient and determined, but has those insecurities that all of us have. They were present, but never really held her back. By the end, I really felt like I knew Ry, but also her brother, her best friend, Ella, and several other students.

The worldbuilding was okay, but the magic was better. I appreciated that magic-wielders have limited energy reserves, which makes them more human and real. I also liked the complexity of casting, and that they actually have to hone their skills. Ry is more adept at casting when she’s inflicting pain on herself, which I found interesting.

I rated this a 4/5 because Darren seriously aggravated me (also I got really tired of the word ‘non-heir’) and because I wanted to know more about the world—I know there are highborns and lowborns, but I had no idea what the landscape was like, how big the kingdom was, who the rivals were, etc. I would have liked to know more. I highly recommend to those who enjoyed Throne of Glass, Protector of the Small, etc. I’m currently reading the second book sincerely hope the third will be out soon. I believe the $.99 deal is still going on until the end of February, so check it out on Amazon!

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* I mentioned Harry Potter—I would like to say: the book was nothing like Harry Potter. Sure, they go to a magical school and some teachers are bigger asses than others, but other than that—nothing Harry Potter about it!


Defy & Ignite by Sara B. Larson

17406847Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can’t prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

I bought Defy for two simple reasons: I follow Sara Larson on Instagram and enjoy her posts, and it has a sword on the cover. Shallow and blind, but true. I didn’t even read the summary.

So I plunged forward, wincing when I realized it was another girl-posing-as-a-boy-soldier-oh-no-nobody-knows story. I paid cold hard Amazon cash for it, 17928184though, so I continued, comparisons and memories of my favorite series as a kid, the Protector of the Small, racing through my head.

That nonsense stopped at Chapter Four, at which point I was completely absorbed, all traces of Alanna and regret gone from my mind. Alexa was nothing like Alanna, and her story was no different. The only similarity was the whole posing at a boy shtick. I read Defy and its sequel, Ignite, in less than two days. I literally sat on the couch Sunday afternoon and started (and finished) Ignite in one sitting.

It’s no secret: I love fantasy. My favorite kind of fantasy books are the ones that sweep you up and off into their world, a trait that these books certainly possess. Though several “twists” were very predictable (and the instalove was a little bit nauseating at times),  I truly enjoyed these books and can’t wait for the third to be released.

For starters, the characters were fantastic. Though some (IE, Alexa and Damian) were more complex than others (IE, Jealous Rylan), I enjoyed getting to know their strengths and weaknesses. The worldbuilding was fantastic as well, and I could clearly picture the palace set in the middle of a dark jungle. The magic concept was also good, though I hope it’s fleshed out a little more in the third book.

If you’re looking for a quick, easy fantasy read that will keep you turning the page, look no further! I rated both books 5/5 on Goodreads.

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The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

16069030I was so-so for the first half of the book and completely enamored with the second half. Hear me out!

Kestrel is the daughter of a powerful military general. She’s of an age where she has two choices: get hitched or join the military. In a casual outing to a slave auction with a friend, she pays a substantial amount of money a hottie slave boy, mostly because the auctioneer said he could sing.

The Valorian enslaved the Herrani after conquering them a decade prior. The Valorian are esteemed for their military prowess and pride, whereas the Herrani were a peaceful, docile people.

The world-building in The Winner’s Curse was fantastic. It was spread out evenly, rather than being dumped on the reader at once during the first chapter. I never felt overwhelmed with info, and enjoyed the small details sprinkled throughout the story.

The first half was slightly boring and mildly irritating, primarily because Kestrel was indecisive and a weak heroine. She seems spineless, preferring to play the piano rather than defend her country as her father wishes her to. Arin, the slave she purchased, was extremely prickly and mean—but Kestrel still wanted to hang out with him.

The second half was the redeeming factor—Kestrel grew a spine, Arin softened up, and sh*t hits the fan. There were several plot twists that I wasn’t expecting. I felt all of the feels and swoons for Kestrel and Arin, though I was angry at both of them and felt the same mix of emotions they felt.

Overall, I thought it was a great fantasy story with complex characters, plot construction, and world building. I rated it a 5/5 on Goodreads, despite the lacking first half—I’m incredibly excited for the second book, The Winner’s Crime, to come out in March!

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