The City of Brass – Review

“There’s no magic, no djinn, no spirits waiting to eat us up.”

Nahri doesn’t believe in magic. Even if proof exists in her ability to heal, both herself and others. It doesn’t matter. It’s just a part of her. Not a magical being there to grant wishes of her every whim. She’s just a con artist, hustling her way to something resembling a decent life in Cairo.

When one of her cons accidentally conjures Dara, a powerful djinn warrior, Nahri finds herself running from enemies she never knew existed, to a city she’s never heard of, to seek sanctuary from people she never believed in.

But once she reaches Daevabad, her life doesn’t become any safer. Court politics and centuries old tensions surround her at every turn. Nahri once dreamed of being a powerful healer. Of having wealth and luxury and fame. They do say, be careful what you wish for.

“The abilities that had once kept a roof over her head had become a curse, this connection with long-dead relatives she’d never known a plague on her life.”

The City Of Brass is one beautiful fantasy novel! Chakraborty brings the landscape of the Middle East to life with lush descriptions. You can smell the cedar chips burning in the rooms, and luxuriate in the sandalwood perfuming the air. Breathe in the jasmine and frankincense of the gardens, drink in the rose petals in the Grand Bazaar, while sipping sweet Hibiscus tea. Every texture, sound, scent and flavor is described simply yet effectively and it makes you yearn to surround yourself in the magic of scenery that Chakraborty weaves.

Along with the perspective of Nahri, we get Alizayd, a young idealistic Prince struggling to find his own way in the city. He wants to revolutionize what he sees as his father’s corrupt regime, but doing so isn’t as easy as he initially thinks. Choices he makes have devastating consequences.

Mystery surrounds Dara, but not just around him. The more Nahri learns, the more it seems like everyone has hidden agendas and secrets in the city of brass. Nahri wants to be left alone, but quickly learns that this isn’t an option. Whether she likes it or not, she is at the center of a war she doesn’t understand and can’t hope to control. Her friendship with both Dara and the young Prince only makes it more confusing and difficult for her.

“To keep walking a path between loyalty to your family and loyalty to what you know is right. One of these days, you’re going to have to make a choice.”

Both Ali and Nahri discover that not everything is what they thought, and that there are things happening around them that they can’t possibly begin to understand. They will have to re-examine everything they think they know and face choices more difficult than anything they’ve ever faced before.

The way Chakraborty presents the characters, it isn’t easy to pin a definitive good or bad on anyone. It is a complex society with a muddied history, and all sides make questionable choices both in the past and the present. Which makes the prospect of the next two books in the trilogy even  more exciting because I honestly have no idea which direction this story can go.

“She felt for him–truly. It was frustrating when someone upended your well-laid plans.”

I love when characters and plots reside firmly in the mucky grey area of moral ambiguity. Writing from the perspective of good versus evil is just too easy. I prefer a more complicated point of view, and starting with a con artist as one of the main characters places us dead center in murky.

Prince Ali is also fantastic writing and character development. He is righteous, but Chakraborty makes sure that he sees that even his beliefs aren’t black and white. That he must face hard truths in order to really stand behind his beliefs, and that his beliefs might end with just as much blood shed as he wants to stop. The similarities to current racial and religious conflicts are woven into his story line. Which gives the entire book a richer and more in depth texture.

Everything in this book is vivid and filled with beautiful writing. But the plot is well paced, with just enough world building and adventure to make you feel that you are well ensconced in the landscape with Nahri and Ali. And the mystery. Just when you think things are going to be resolved, new mysteries and intrigues are presented. The last few chapters of the book end in a maddening combination of satisfaction and immediately needing more. Have I mentioned that 2019 is WAY TOO LONG TO WAIT FOR THE NEXT BOOK?????

I absolutely loved the setting, and feel like I haven’t read enough fantasy in this area or with this particular mythology. I devoured this world, and fell in love with every single thing in this book. The City of Brass immediately became my new book obsession!

Anyone who loves good fantasy, with solid world building, breathtaking pacing, questionable characters and a whopping heap of adventure will fall in love with this book. Absolutely stunning book!

Everless – Review

“‘Time is for burning, girl.’

It’s a familiar expression in the village – why hoard time when every day is dully brutal, the same as the one before and the one that will come after? To hear it from a man who’s never known hunger or cold makes my fingers twitch toward a fist.”

Welcome to Sempera. A land where time is bound to a person’s blood. It can be taken out, turned into iron and is used as currency. The wealthy take it from the poor, tax it, use it to live lives hundreds of years long. While the poor are bled, literally bled dry, until their time runs out.

Jules Ember lives a quiet life with her father. They used to live in Everless, the estate of the Gerlings, a family so wealthy they are nearly royalty. Jules’ father was the blacksmith for them and her childhood was a happy one. Until an accident forces them to flee for their lives.

Now, her father is dying, his debts too large for the time he has remaining in his veins, and Jules knows that returning to Everless is the only chance she has to save him.

“I smile at him, wishing I could tell the truth – that the idea of returning to Everless sickens me and fills me with dread, but I’m going to do it anyway.”

But if Everless was dangerous before, it’s even more so now. And Jules quickly finds herself wrapped in temptation, deadly secrets, and violent consequences. Beneath all that terror, though, Jules finds she isn’t as powerless as she believed, and maybe she has the power to change the fate of time.

I seriously don’t know where to begin with this review. This book is amazing. One of the best I’ve read this year. The writing is simply gorgeous. If you are a fan of the beauty and lyrical prose of Laini Taylor, you will fall in love with Sara Holland’s writing.

“A strange feeling flowers in me, like I’m standing at the edge of a cliff, looking out to the green and blue sea, which I’ve only ever seen drawn in books, it’s waves sloshing and endless – and from this height, deadly.”

You will highlight passages simply for the beauty of the words written.

“That she prefers to travel at night is a message, tied up in brown paper, desperate to speak.”

Beyond the beautiful writing, the world building is stunning in it’s execution and epic in it’s scope. Holland has created this entire land, where blood is valuable. Time can be taken from or added to a life. And the detail in which she applies this currency is fantastic. You get a sense of the desperation of the poor, and the reckless luxury of the wealthy. How much more personal would wealth be if it was literally your life?

“My hand trembles as I take the coin – the pulse in my own fingers feels as if it’s coming from with the coin, all the life this little thing could give me. Give Papa.”

And Jules Ember. This girl will quickly become one of your favorite female protagonists! She is smart and bold, daring and brave. But she is also stubborn and makes plenty of mistakes along the way. But at her heart, she is good. She tries. And she is willing to make mistakes in order to keep her morals intact. She is willing to do what is right, not what is easy, and you will adore her for her moxie and her bravery.

There is some romance in this book, but like everything in these pages, it is not what you expect. And it isn’t the focal point. Which I loved. I loved that while Jules craved the connection and intimacy romance brings, she isn’t willing to give up her focus to chase it. She also doesn’t let it shape her or change her, she remains true to herself, which I LOVE!!! Especially in a YA! Girls can be strong and fierce and independent without a man helping her or taking the lead, and we definitely need more female leads NOT focused on romance. The romance may take a larger focus in future books, but I absolutely loved that it wasn’t the priority in this one. ESPECIALLY since she has her hands full as things are.

“All of these things are tied together in shifting and complicated ways, yet still nothing is clear.”

Oh the twists! Holland weaves a complicated spell in this world, where nothing is at it seems, even Jules own memories. The more Jules begins to understand what happened when she was a child, the more she learns about who she is, the more danger she finds herself in. Characters you thought you knew and understood change. The ending floored me! There are plenty of surprises packed within these pages.

In all, Everless is a stunning journey. I think it will easily be one of the best books of 2018. Sara Holland has made my auto buy author list, and I will be waiting anxiously for the sequel to be released.

Thank you to BookSparks for sending me an early copy to read and review!

Godsgrave – Review

“Nothing stinks quite like a corpse.”

BAM! The very first words, after a brief reintroduction to the characters, slam us in the face with a reminder of the world we are re-entering. Mia is back, and after the ending from the last book, her list for vengeance has only grown instead of shrunk.

There will be some possible spoilers in this review, not for this book, but for the first, so if you have not read Nevernight, you may want to stop reading. Might I also suggest that you GO PICK UP NEVERNIGHT AND START READING!!!!!

Okay, let’s proceed…

Mia has accomplished her goal of becoming a Blade for the Church, although, not exactly as she imagined when she left Godsgrave the first time. Things have gone a bit awry, and Mia finds herself a Blade, but stuck in some small town in the Republic where she will likely never encounter the people she still intends on slaying.

“Patience, she thought. If Vengeance has a mother, her name is Patience.”

But, as we have gotten to know Mia, we know that following rules isn’t something she’s prone to doing.

Our beloved narrator is back, once again, providing us with snarky little comments and helpful pieces of history as he sees fit. I say he, but who knows who the narrator is really. While there are many, many pieces of this puzzle that I am dying to figure out, the identity of the narrator is in my top three!

Instead of getting pieces of Mia’s past as a little girl, here Kristoff has played with the plotting a little more. We start the book in the midst of Mia’s new scheme and have to snap back to fill in the gaps from where we left her in Nevernight. I actually really like how this is written, because we feel immediately drawn into action rather than a slow build.

“Never flinch. Never fear. And never, ever forget.”

And talk about action. If Nevernight has hints of a Roman empire in some far away world, Godsgrave throws us into a Gladiator Arena. Literally. Or the Godsgrave equivalent.

Kristoff has given us the introductory course to brutality in Nevernight. It’s a perfect sort of poetry that Mia is introduced to the violence of her new world as a student of the Church, and in the same way we were too. Now, we are unleashed and thrown deep into the world where we find slaves fighting for glory and the one chance for freedom. Except, Mia has other plans. She always does.

But as we discovered in Nevernight, Mia hasn’t quite lost her heart. Even though it’s been battered, and bloodied, and bruised, it’s still intact. The problem is, to accomplish her goals, to really exact the revenge she craves, she might have to lose her heart entirely.

“Little kindnesses that spoke of the biggest hearts. Mia wondered where her own might be.”

For all the harshness that this world shows us, there is such humanity in it. There’s hope, fear, love, determination, stubbornness. Everything that raises us to our best and drags us down to our worst. I love how the ideas of good and evil aren’t cookie cutter or even clear as you read. There are villains, but they aren’t always who you expect them to be. Neither are the heroes.

If you’re wondering whether this book is as violent or gory as Nevernight, I can only quote another writer who drinks the tears of his readers (Pierce Brown, Red Rising) and say, “Shit escalates.” Kristoff has raised the bar on everything in Godsgrave, and that includes the savage nature of the world. The fights are jaw dropping, heart pounding, simply stunning in their elegance and detail. You know what it is to fight in an Arena. You feel it, you hear it, you smell it.

“Dark delight in her belly. Warm blood on her hands. Mia closed her eyes. Raised her blade.”

As we race towards the end of the book, all I kept repeating in my head was no, no, no. Because there was no way I was going to get any sort of satisfaction with the pages remaining. If cliffhangers rip your heart out while it’s beating, you may want to hold off on this book. Kristoff holds your bleeding heart in his hands and laughs.

This world and these characters will crawl deep under your skin and take root. You feel as if you’ve lived in this world your entire life, and that you’ve known these characters all that time as well. These books are where book obsessions grow. And if you’re like me, you’ll ache when the book ends, and miss them as the days pass.

I am counting the days until the third (and I think final) book is released. Murder and magic may not be a combo that everyone falls in love with. But for those of you who revel in the darker side of fiction, where good and evil are a bit murkier than normal, this is a world I think you’ll fall in love with! I know I have.

 

Nevernight – Review

“At the heart of it, two kinds of people live in this world or any other: those who flee and those who fight.”

Enter the world of Mia Corvere. The little girl who barely escapes with her life after her father plots (and fails) a rebellion. Now, she is grown and has vengeance in her blood, driving her forward. Her goal is the Red Church. A school of the worlds most deadly assassins, all fighting for one of four position as Blades of the Church. She leaves Godsgrave and everything she knows to pursue her singular goal.

Jay Kristoff writes in such a unique and addicting way. There is the story, with the narration telling the story of the present but also jumping back to reveal glimpses into Mia’s past. Helping us build the horror of her past into the horror of her future. But, we get an additional narrator, in the footnotes added throughout the book.

At first, to be entirely honest, I wasn’t sure I liked that format. It felt distracting and I kept getting pulled out of the action. But, slowly, without even knowing it, I realized that this is done purposefully and adds to the immersion into the world of Itreya in a way that normal narration simply wouldn’t have allowed. It adds a second personality, and one that I quickly fell in love with.

“Here is the truth gentlefriends: when in doubt, it’s best to be polite when dealing with lunatics.”

This narrator is snarky and sarcastic in all the best ways. He adds all the details and history of the Republic, along with legends and stories from the past. It’s information that would be difficult to add in otherwise, and the humor is fantastic! To be yelled at for reading a footnote in the height of a fight, by the footnote, is just a special sort of magic.

The humor of the mysterious narrator is also needed, because this book while delightful is incredibly dark and violent. I happen to find that sort of dreariness delightful, but be warned, this book is about a school of murderers striving to become assassins in a very brutal world. Kristoff does not hold back when writing about severe punishments inflicted for breaking the rules, or in the very vivid descriptions of torture and torment, or in the fast paced and heart pounding fighting that occurs.

“The wolf does not pity the lamb,” Drusilla said. “The storm begs no forgiveness of the drowned.”

This is not a book about mercy. This is a book about vengeance and betrayal. About one girls fierce desire to take down the Republic that killed her family and destroyed her life. Mia is a fantastic character. Even though she’s more likely to slit my throat than share a meal with me, I think we would be amazing friends. She is driven by revenge, but she hasn’t lost her heart. At least, not yet. But that is something she will have to face in this quest she has set herself on.

Kristoff has given us a world that is massive and epic in detail, with the narrator contributing enormously to the richness of this world. Nevernight shows us a world with three suns. A world where the night sky is only seen rarely. A world where the city is built from the bones of a fallen God, nobles living in the gravebone ribs high above the Spine below, using weapons made of godsbone. It’s a world that is unforgiving and brutal, but wondrous and magical nonetheless.

“She could feel it. All around her. Seeping through Godsgrave’s cracks. The agony. The fury. The pure and blinding hatred nestled in this city’s bones.”

This is a book that takes the cold harshness of a Roman-like Empire and adds a touch of fantasy and magic to it. There is nothing fluffy written within these pages, but that isn’t to say that the book isn’t full of heart. This is a book that gives you the good and bad of human nature and everything in between. You may not think you can find charm in an assassin, but you’d be wrong.

Kristoff doesn’t give you cookie cutter characters where the line between good and evil is clear. Instead, he offers something more real and far more satisfying. He gives you characters that feel like people. Of course, he does add in magic, which makes everything a lot more fun!

Nevernight is a book filled with dark humor and violence. It doesn’t back away from examining the dark reality that lies beneath humanity’s shiny veneer. This is dark fantasy at it’s best. We are taken into another world. A world we don’t know but can easily recognize. We are subjected to pain and hope, betrayal and triumph, love and loss. It is a book that takes us down a very human journey, and is stunning to experience.

For anyone who enjoyed Game of Thrones or Red Rising, this book will definitely be for you!

 

The Nine – Review

“It was a bloody awful way to die. It had been a bloody awful way to live.”

The Nine is a debut fantasy novel and what an incredible debut it is!!! Townsend has built an incredible world, full of interesting species and a plot with enough twists and turns to make the read feel like you’re on a roller coaster. And the characters!

Rowena Downshire is a young girl trying to make it in a cutthroat world. Her mother, and only living relative, is locked in a debtors prison. Everything she earns, and most of what she steals, goes to paying down that debt. But, with new charges always being added, the battle feels never-ending to her. Her job as a courier for a black market delivery boss is the best life she can hope for, even if he is cold and brutal and unforgiving.

When Rowena is robbed delivering a mysterious book that seems to write itself to the even more mysterious and feared Alchemist, Rowena is terrified Ivor is going to kill her for the blunder. Deciding to risk going straight to the Alchemist instead, she finds herself in the middle of a complex and deadly mystery.

“It was the question Rowena had been dreading. She’d been under the Alchemist’s roof for nearly an hour and barely had anything been said of the package.”

Revered Phillip Chalmers didn’t intend on being part of anything historical or groundbreaking. His research with his partner Doctor Revered Nora Pierce was exciting, but he should have known she would push boundaries. Now, days before they are give the keynote speech in front of their peers, Nora has gone missing. When a young girl courier delivers a note from Nora making him fear the worst, he insists on giving the girl the book that started it all. Except, when the door to his office shatters later that night, he realizes that he should have known it wasn’t going to be that easy.

Rowena and The Alchemist, also known as The Bear, turn to Anselm Meteron, former mercenary and all around nefarious character for help. They have a history extending far back, though how exactly they are intertwined comes much later in the book.

“Something in the cold calm of Anselm Meteron’s voice told Rowena there were very few games he played that were at all fair to his opponents.”

Rowena, The Alchemist and Meteron must figure out who took the book and why, and how the missing Reverend Chambers fits into the puzzle. Of course, that isn’t easy with bribed officials trying to put you in jail, along with the deadly aigamuxa hunting down anyone even loosely associated with the book.

There is a lot happening within these pages. It isn’t just the primary mystery driving the plot forward, but also the smaller mysteries within the characters. The Nine is an amazing blend of both plot and character driven momentum and each page demands to be turned so that you can be closer to unraveling the answers to all the questions presented. It is complex in all the very best ways!

The world building is fascinating. It feels as if it could be our own world propelled far into some distant future, but the addition of the species the lanyani and the aigamuxa makes it clear it is a world far different from ours. With nods to steampunk, this world is detailed and unique.

One of the most fascinating parts of the plot was the blending of religion and science. In fact, this is one of the key tenets of the plot, the book that God wrote to keep track of his experiment, The Nine.

“Magic was just what the ignorant called systems they couldn’t understand in an organized universe.”

It was very interesting to read how they veered from the Old Religion to incorporate religion and all it’s tenets into a pillar of science. The tenets of the science was well done as well. Not overly explained, but not vague and uninteresting. I actually really liked how it was presented, examined and how it tied into the plot. Not to mention the Grand Experiment, which I won’t get into for fear of spoilers.

We get many more characters sprinkled throughout these pages, and even the more minor characters are very fleshed out. Rare was one of my favorites, although, she did drive me crazy with some of her decisions. City Inspector Gammon, Beth and Lord Regenzi were some of the more notable side players, and it was very interesting how their importance was woven in. But none of them quite weaseled their way into my heart the way Anselm did.

“My name is Anselm Meteron, and I’m a villain with a penchant for self-aggrandizement and a portfolio of maladjusted habits.”

I mean, come on! How can you NOT love someone who introduces themselves like that?! I want to be friends with Anselm and all his maladjusted habits. Also, is it bad form to steal that line for all future introductions?

In all, this was a very fast, very enjoyable read. The Nine is a first in a series, and I know I am dying for book two! The ending isn’t quite a cliff hanger so you do feel satisfied, but there are enough loose ends that when you start thinking about the book, you get questions bubbling to the surface. Amazing debut and I am thrilled I was able to read this!

The Nine is released TODAY! If you love complex fantasy with amazing characters, awesome world building and a ton of mystery, this book is definitely for you!

Thank you Prometheus books for sending me a copy to read and review!

Ocean’s Fire – Review

“Your beliefs shape the world we see. Change your beliefs, change your world.”

Ocean’s Fire follows the journey of Skylar Southmartin picking up the pieces of her life after her mother’s death. Choosing to stay closer to home to finish her degree, Skylar wants to figure out why the plan to resurrect her mother didn’t work. She did everything right, and still it didn’t work.

The good news is that her position at the local University reunites her with her childhood love, Argan, and their connection from childhood graduates to a far more adult relationship. Unfortunately, local rockstar, Joshua, also has an alluring connection to Skylar that she can’t seem to fight. To top it all off, there is a powerful force working to ensure a centuries long prophecy comes true.

“Everyone is capable of great love and great destruction. You feed one flame or the other.”

I am decidedly on the fence about this book. On the one hand, I really enjoyed the supernatural premise and mysticism that the author created. On the other, there were so many side plots and rushed character development that I spent most of the book very confused.

I’m not against romance, or love triangles, or even a steamy sex scene in books. However, they have to serve a purpose in driving the plot forward. The triangle between Joshua, Argan and Skylar just felt like it was there to write a few sex scenes (a few that bordered on abusive in nature), and nothing else. I understand what the author was trying to do with these characters and the tension, but I just didn’t feel it.

The pacing of the story also lends to the rushed feeling. We jump forward in time quite a bit, so we are told that dramatic things are unfolding, but we don’t really feel it. The emotional connection to the entire story, and specifically to Skylar’s struggle wasn’t there for me at all, which made the book feel very flat and one-dimensional to me. Insane things happen but rather than build into these discoveries, we are presented them in a sentence or two and everyone accepts it and moves forward. It’s a case of too much “telling” and not enough “showing”. We are told a lot, but the depth of emotion just isn’t shown so that we feel it along with the characters.

There were a lot of great moments in the book. And for those parts I was swept away into the reading. But there was just so much happening in this plot, it was hard to stay in that swept away feeling.

It’s difficult to give examples of what I liked and what I didn’t, because they are so mixed together and intricate to the plot, that I feel I would be giving away massive spoilers if I tried. I really think this is an example of why Stephen King famously says, “Kill your darlings”. There is a lot to process, in terms of plot, unnecessary characters and side interactions that don’t drive the overall story forward or help with individual character development. This book could have been so much better with those moments removed and the plot line tightened up so that we felt this tension and stress and more of the supernatural feel of the novel. Too much of it felt like a contemporary novel with the characters playing at mysticism, rather than actually being about the mysticism.

Ocean’s Fire is the first in a trilogy, and perhaps the second and final book will help develop the characters to be more in depth so that all the details in the first book make sense. I am curious about how the story progresses, and what happens next. Especially that with the ending we are given, who is good and who is bad seems a little undefined. I’m not sure if that’s to set up for future redemptions but would like to find out. I hope the original disaster that we are presented with gets more explanation too, as I really have no idea what happened there.

Thank you BookSparks and She Writes Press for sending a copy to read and review.

Traitor’s Hope – Review + GIVEAWAY

TRAITOR'S HOPE

Traitors lurk around every bend. Mishi’s mind is betraying her, and she fears her kisō and katana will betray her next. Taka’s heart abandons her for a person she cannot possibly trust. Now that the two friends are obliged to help re-establish peace in the land of Gensokai, the only question is where the next betrayal will come from and if Mishi and Taka will have the strength to survive it. 

I was thrilled to be able to dive right into Traitor’s Hope after finishing Blade’s Edge earlier this week! You can find my review HERE. A huge thank you to Rockstar Book Tours for hosting this tour and including me as a tour stop! Click the picture above to find more tours and be sure to check out all the blog stops on this tour, by clicking the links below!

First, I loved the first book. LOVED! The world building! The characters! The magic! I loved it all! I even loved the darkness that the world presented. Traitor’s Hope kept the same pacing and tone from Blade’s Edge and leveled up!

We still get narration from Taka and Mishi, both grown and traumatized in their own ways from the war fought. Instead of hearing from Tsuko this time, we get the perspective of Kusuko instead.

Assassin turned ally, Kusoko was one of the most interesting characters in the book. Her story of how she came to be a hishi assassin highlights the cruelty and brutality of the crumbled regime. But we get so much more than a heartbreaking story from Kusoko. We get an interesting look at the psychology of lifelong abuse and brainwashing. The depth we get from her is quite astounding, and made her not just an integral part of the story, but really brought to life what the New Council was fighting against.

The themes in this book are no less severe than in Blade’s Edge. We are still in the aftermath of war, with factions attempting to start a new one. The island of Gensokai is no less violent than before, and it still holds on to it’s negative views on anyone other than male Kisoshi. The war may be over, but the old regime is not going to be easily reformed.

“The illusion of power can make men blind to many things.”

And there is a lot to love in this sequel! First, I adore that even though this is the second in a series, and the story is obviously building on the first book, the story isn’t reliant on the first book. You could easily read this on its own, and while the experience won’t be quite as deep or rich, it would be enjoyable still. The second thing is that we get a glimpse of what a society looks like after a war. Often in a series, we get the ending of the series at the end of the conflict. So we don’t get to explore what the next steps in that rebuilding of society looks like. Here we do, and folks, it isn’t as easy as we would hope.

“I hadn’t considered that there would be men evil enough to keep harming innocents even once they knew the truth of their own actions.”

As the society is dismantled and rebuilt, we also get more information about the elemental magic kiso. Learning more about how the elements work, and even how they can combine both within an individual and with Kisoshi working together was fantasy at it’s best! I wish we could have gotten a bit more with my favorite Dragon and Tree Kami, but I get it, rebuilding a society isn’t about training, so we didn’t see quite as much of them.

And talk about plots! Plots with plots, schemes within schemes! The brilliance of the title is that you go in suspecting someone of being treacherous. What you don’t expect is how many people that could possibly be! I gave up trying to figure out who was going to betray who, because the double crosses on the double crosses became impossible to guess. I really liked that each character presented, both old and new, were as vividly complex as before. And this complexity made predicting treachery nearly impossible. But it isn’t simply treachery between characters. McClain shows us the danger in betraying our true selves.

In keeping with the first book and taking an unflinching look at tough themes, this book dives deep into exploring PTSD. The emotional wreckage that violence leaves is real. And even if you’ve been training for war, the reality of it is often very traumatic. I loved that McClain really let us see how deep these wounds can be in a character. How patience and time and understanding can help heal those wounds.

“She was very afraid of what lay beneath the visions that haunted her dreams, both waking and sleeping.”

Finally, we get to see a budding same sex romance. It’s fantastic to see an author seamlessly introduce the budding sexuality of her characters and include diversity in that development. The romances are slow, and sweet, written more from the emotional development rather than focusing on the physical. That was refreshing and added to the emotional growth of each character.

This is a world I am deeply in love with. I love the characters, and want to know what happens next. I love how McClain isn’t afraid to explore some really intense topics, and she does them justice. Whether it’s revisiting old characters, or getting to know new ones, the dialogue and personalities are such  joy to read! This is a series that I will be continuing as long as she writes them!

Thank you Rockstar Book Tours for the opportunity to participate on this tour; as well as the chance to read and review these books! They are phenomenal!

New Cover

Title: TRAITOR’S HOPE (Blade’s Edge #2)

Author: Virginia McClain

Pub. Date: October 14, 2017

Publisher: Artemis Dingo Productions

Pages: 284

Formats: Paperback eBook

Find it: AmazonBuy The Paperback, Goodreads

 

V and Artemis

About Virginia: 

Virginia thinks dangling from the tops of hundred foot cliffs is a good time. She also enjoys hauling a fifty pound backpack all over the Grand Canyon and sleeping under the stars. Sometimes she likes running for miles through the desert, mountains, or wooded flatlands, and she always loves getting lost in new places where she may or may not speak the language.

From surviving earthquakes in Japan, to putting out a small forest fire in Montana, Virginia has been collecting stories from a very young age. She works hard to make her fiction as adventurous as her life and her life as adventurous as her fiction. Both take a lot of imagination.

She recently moved to Winnipeg with her husband (a Manitoba native) and their dog.

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1 winner will receive a signed paperback set of BLADE’S EDGE & TRAITOR’S HOPE, US Only.

3 winners will receive eBook sets of BLADE’S EDGE & TRAITOR’S HOPE, International.

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Be sure to follow the rest of the blog tour, and visit the previous stops too!

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

10/9/2017- Two Chicks on Books Interview

10/9/2017- Blushing Bibliophile– Review

10/10/2017- Arvenig.it– Guest Post

10/10/2017- Bibliobakes– Review

10/11/2017- Kati’s Bookaholic Rambling Reviews– Excerpt

10/11/2017- Ashley M. Delgado– Review

10/12/2017- A Dream Within A Dream– Excerpt

10/12/2017- Don’t Judge, Read– Spotlight

10/13/2017- BookHounds YA– Guest Post

10/13/2017- Adventures Thru Wonderland– Review

Week Two:

10/16/2017- Novel Novice– Excerpt

10/16/2017- Nick Bryan Dot Com– Review

10/17/2017- Books at Dawn– Guest Post

10/17/2017- YA and Wine– Excerpt

10/18/2017- Fire and Ice– Spotlight

10/18/2017- A Gingerly Review– Review

10/19/2017- My Nook, Books & More– Excerpt

10/19/2017- Jena Brown Writes– Review

10/20/2017- Seeing Double In Neverland– Interview

10/20/2017- Ramblings From An Alternate Reality– Review

Berserker – Review

“She was a Berserker, cursed to fly into action whenever anyone she loved was in danger. A killer who would be compelled to murder elegantly, viciously, and without remorse.”

Berserker is the story of a family blessed with the Nytte. Or cursed with it. It depends on who you ask.

The story is told through the alternating narration of Hanne, Owen and Rolf. Hanne is the oldest daughter in her family. Her older brother Stieg, and her younger brother Knut all have a variation of the Nytte. The youngest, Sissel, shows no sign of the Nytte. Owen is a cowboy in America trying to find his way in the wild frontier; with plenty of his own demons to fight along the way.

After an incident forces the siblings to pack up and flee their home in Norway. They head to America, where they have family living in Montana. They hope to be able to find someone with the Berserker gift to help Hanne keep her gift under control.

“Embrace the Nytte,” Aud said, as Hanne scrambled backward in the pine needles and dried leaves. “Open your heart to it, or it will be the ruin of you. And your siblings, too.”

Rolf is an interesting character, and I won’t say much about him though to avoid spoilers. His is mission finding the Nytte in children and ensuring that the gifts do not die out. The role he plays with Hanne and her siblings brings a richer understanding of the legend of the Nytte, and it keeps some of the mythical elements entwined in the plot.

“Rolf kept his eyes trained on the faces of the crowd. Despite the hectic and daunting landscape that presented itself, what Rolf saw again and again, on all manner of faces, was hope.”

Once the family gets to America, they manage to make it through immigration and onto the train that will take them to Wolf Creek where their uncle lives. But they have been pursued from Norway and fleeing the men who chase them causes their path to collide with Owen’s. Literally. Owen agrees to take them the rest of the way.

“It was a strange spell that had been cast. Disaster had been so narrowly averted, and by such sudden heroics. No one could think of quite what to do next.”

The relationships between the siblings was written well. Sissel goes from being a bratty younger sister, jealous of her older siblings, to quite loving and doting when necessary. There were a few times when her tantrums felt a little shallow, but overall, it felt natural. Tantrums and jealousy aside, it was nice to read how they all worked together as a team and really only wanted the best for each other.

Owen and Daisy, his dog, were great characters. It is through them that we get a real sense of the frontier, and how hard life could be back then. In his agreeing to be their guide, we also get to read details about what travel was like then too. He is teaching them at the same time he is teaching us. I thought that was really well done.

“Perhaps even the most friendly town might seem hostile when you were on the lookout for it.”

This book is a mix of western folklore and mythology. The blend was unique and refreshing to read. It was a very fast read, at only 288 pages, and they all flew by. Laybourne does a really good job mixing enough information to really submerse us deep into both the reality of the frontier with the legend of ancient mythology, all while driving the plot forward.

What I rally liked was how each of the characters all struggled with acceptance in some way. Owen, to accept that he was good enough, even if his family thought he wasn’t. Hanne’s struggle for acceptance is a little more complicated. Her impulse to kill when her loved ones are in danger must be controlled, so she isn’t necessarily looking to ‘accept’ that aspect of herself. Sissel and Rolf both struggle with acceptance as well, though I don’t want to give anything away. And acceptance means different things for each of the characters, some leading to tragedy and others to triumph. I really enjoyed the complexity of each of these characters and how their journeys were both internal and external.

“Feelings didn’t seem to care if they made sense.”

We read books to get lost in a story, but the best stories teach us something as well. Legends and folklore often had morals to them. Endings to help us see a bigger truth either about ourselves or the world at large. So, it felt right that a book based on legend and folklore would have a moral wrapped up in it as well.

Overall, this was a fun read with a good story. It did feel a touch on the younger side of YA to me, so some of the conversations and plot pacing felt a little simplistic to me. But, it didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the book.

Thank you NetGalley and MacMillan for approving my request to read and review this book!

Blade’s Edge – Review

“Was it impossible to hide who you really were forever?”

What an incredible book! Blade’s Edge is such a phenomenal story. A fantasy world built with similarities to feudal Japan, but written with such intensity that it mirrors a dystopian novel. I was immediately swept into the enormity of this world and immersed in the beauty and horror of these characters lives.

To be a woman in Gensokai, the island that this story takes place on, is a terrible fate. We don’t know the details, but learn that the actions of one powerful female Kisoshi have damned the future of all females for the past one thousand cycles. It is dangerous to be a girl. Even more dangerous to be born a girl with any detectable kiso.

“Fear can be a powerful destructive force.”

Kiso is the ability to manipulate energy. People have various levels of kiso and some are stronger than others. Once trained, they test to become kisoshi and can move up to higher ranks. At the beginning of the book, we get a glossary of terms and even a forward by the author ensuring that while this may feel and sounds like pieces of Japanese history and culture, this is entirely fantasy.

I will say that this is an instance when having the physical copy would have been enormously helpful. I find it a pain to toggle to an index with a kindle, and would have preferred to simply be able to turn the pages.

That said, the terms and their uses are so thorough that I didn’t feel lost while reading, or really feel that I needed to flip to know the terms. You learn them quickly as you read and by the end, they are as much a part of the story as if you had known the definition all along. That is quite an accomplishment in writing!

The story is written entirely from two main characters, Taka and Mishi, both female. We do get a third perspective thrown in from a woman we are introduced to who plays a larger role later in the book. Given how dreary this world is from a female perspective, it was a nice touch to only show us the viewpoint of female characters. It really focuses on how awful and male driven this society is. It isn’t just the power that the men hold. It is the way they look down on women, dismissing them as not being worthy of any respect or worth the air they breathe.

“It was clever work really, the work that the instructors put into making the girls fearful, then timid… wouldn’t that timidity eventually lead to self doubt?”

This book reads a bit like The Last Airbender blended with The Handmaid’s Tale. The fantasy portion of this book is incredible. Amazing world building with such vivid descriptions of the sweeping landscapes that you practically smell the forest and feel the mountain breezes. The elemental magic and magical beings are very creative and come to life on the page. But the portions that depict life as a woman, are so bleak, it’s nauseating. The contrast between the beauty of the land and the horror of life as a girl is stark and severe.

While there aren’t any graphic scenes, this book tackles incredibly brutal topics. Abuse, rape, murder, slavery, war. These are the horrifying realities of this world. With each new truth revealed as the girls grow into their own powers, the more you are chilled to the core at how this society functions.

“She hadn’t understood it very well when she was still living under Haha-san’s roof, but over the cycles since then she had come to understand the cruel fate that produced the girls with the empty eyes.”

Regardless of the brutality and dark nature of their surroundings, the girls Taka and Mishi are incredible characters. Both strong in their own unique ways, the journeys their lives have taken them on give us a broad view of this country and society. Even though Mishi’s journey seems easier than Taka’s in some aspects, they both have an incredibly difficult road in their futures. Regardless of the difficulty in their paths, though, they are smart, strong, funny, resilient women.

Even though we see only from the perspective of Mishi and Taka, that doesn’t mean we don’t get a good idea of the people in their lives. We are introduced to a wide array of men and women, some good, some evil. They are all complex and unique. The side stories are well developed and even though we don’t know their thoughts, we get a really good sense of who they are based on dialogue and the girls’ observations. Again, this is solid writing.

The main accomplishment of this novel, (outside of the brilliant character development and fantastic world building, is that throughout the very dark and brutal topics woven into this society), these girls never lose hope. This is such an amazing novel of the strength of finding yourself and resiliency. No matter what is thrown at them, they never lose faith that they are fighting for a better future. And it made the book an amazing read!

“How can anything about me surprise you, when you know absolutely nothing about me?”

In addition to creating this divine landscape and these incredible characters, the book itself is gorgeous. Each section has a haiku written for it, and the chapters have Japanese characters depicting the timeframes they take place in. It just feels balanced and beautiful. The physical layout of the book is as poetic as the writing.

I haven’t been as enthralled in a world like this in a long time. This novel is simply phenomenal. As both a fan of fantasy and dystopian, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves either genre. The themes and topics are difficult but eerily relevant to not just history, but our present as well. This book would be fantastic for a book club. There are so many detailed and complex topics to explore. I cannot wait to dive into the second book, and will be looking for this author in the future.

I received a copy of this book from Rockstar Book Tours to read in preparation for for m participating in their tour of the sequel, Traitor’s Hope. I was not required to review it.

 

Wonder Woman: Warbringer – Review

“We can’t help the way we’re born. We can’t help what we are, only what life we choose to make for ourselves.”

Excuse me while I fangirl over here!

Okay, in all seriousness. I was very nervous to read Warbringer. Don’t get me wrong, I was beyond excited that Leigh Bardugo was writing this adaptation. I love her writing. And I have a lifelong love for Wonder Woman. But, I will admit to mild trepidation on how exactly Bardugo was going to rework the Wonder Woman universe into a YA novel.

It isn’t just the reimagining of the comic I was concerned with. Being a fan of any comic world demands that you have some flexibility in your tolerance for adaptations. I mean, we are on our third rendition of Spider-man, and the love for Spidey is still real. And let’s not even talk about how many Batman’s we’ve been through. No, really, I was worried some essence of the darkness I love in her books would somehow be lost. I shouldn’t have worried because she does not hold back on the heartache, struggle, and treachery.

“I imagine all wars look the same to those who die in them.”

All Diana wants is to be recognized by her Amazonian sisters as worthy and their equal. As Daughter of Earth, molded from clay and brought to life by the Goddesses, Diana did not become an Amazon through death. She has never known war. Never known strife. And to some of her sisters, she will never be one of them truly, because of this. So when she makes the reckless decision to save a human girl, she quickly learns that there is more at stake than facing possible exile.

Alia only wants to be a normal girl. She doesn’t understand that the tension and hostility that follow her aren’t a normal part of human behavior. She finds out she is a Warbringer, descendent of Helen of Troy, and destined to bring a time of bloodshed and war to the world.

Fate brought Alia and Diana together. Fate crossed their paths. Together they have one chance to right the world. One chance save not just the world, but Alia. And they only have a week to do it.

The forces working both to keep Alia alive and to make sure she dies, are relentless. And here is where we find the skill in Bardugo’s storytelling shine bright. Magic gone astray brings the duo back to New York. Not where they needed to be. But what would a quest be without some missteps? And what would a quest be without a merry band of misfits to join the fray?

Nim, Theo and Jason are not a merry band. But they are a band of misfits that find themselves on this journey to save Alia, and in turn the world. Jason is Alia’s super controlling and over-protective brother. Nim, her best friend, and Theo, Jason’s nerdy best friend. It will take all of their skills, and the ability to work together to actually make their plan work.

And while I did enjoy the banter and the quirks, it is Diana that really makes this novel shine. Her blunt take on New Yorkers and modern life are quite hilarious, not to mention, alarmingly accurate. I laughed so many times at her questions, and responses, and observations. They are perfect.

“She felt like she was wandering in the dark through this world, catching only flashes of understanding, grasping one thing then stumbling onto the next.”

For someone who has only read about the modern world, never seen men or boys, and only heard about the perils of humanity, I imagine our world would be shocking to Diana. Bardugo captures this amazement and awe and blends it with the mistrust and horror of what the world is actually like. For all the changes this retelling made, the heart of Diana stays very much in tact in this novel.

Diana begins the journey thinking it is only to prove herself worthy to her sisters. But the truth is, she needs to find herself worthy in her own eyes as well.

“Battles are often lost because people don’t know which war they’re fighting.”

This is a theme that runs true no matter which version of Wonder Woman you find. In fact, the themes of truth, self-worth, identity and the strength of women are highlighted extremely well in this novel. These are things any fan would expect to find, and Bardugo did such a good job holding up to those standards and showing them in interesting ways.

It is both in Alia and Diana that identity shine through. They both begin thinking they are one person, and end discovering that they are something more. They have to face harsh truths about themselves and their motivations. This journey of identity goes hand in hand with their feelings of self-worth. How much is a life worth? What is the weight of one life versus the weight of all life? And wrapped within all of that is the idea that truth is necessary and vital to all of this.

“Truth means something different when it’s freely given.”

These heavy themes are written intricately within each character along within the overall plot, and that is really the heart of Wonder Woman. Yet, there is a playfulness to the book. The characters are still teenagers and are guaranteed to break up the brevity of any situation with some smart mouthed sarcasm exactly when it’s needed.

Finally, highlighting the strength of women is captured so well in Warbringer. It isn’t just that Diana is nearly indestructible, because the physical strength isn’t what makes her exceptional. The way her and Alia bond in their quest was a subtle nod to that sisterhood that the Amazonians show. Without being on the island for long, this storyline needed to be shown in another way, and it was highlighted perfectly here.

Even more subtlety though, is the strength we find in ourselves. Often in society, even still today, women are still praised for being subdued. Jason constantly tries to subdue Alia, and while they call him out on it, the control he exerts and the dominance he expects are all too common. While no one is attempting to control Diana, I found it empowering when even Diana realizes she doesn’t have to hold herself back.

“I am done being careful. I am done being quiet. Let them see me angry. Let them hear me wail at the top of my lungs.”

Every women alive has felt a moment somewhat similar in her life. A moment when we are tired of being told how to behave, how to sound, how to dress, how to be. I loved that we get to see Diana shed these self-imposed shackles to embrace the warrior her heart knows she can be.

It is in maintaining the heart of this story, and these characters, that these themes work towards the shocking ending. I’ll fully admit, I didn’t even see the twist coming. Yet even the ending holds true to the themes of the comic, and the themes of the book. It is this unrelenting, unapologetic willingness to face the darkness of humanity that makes Bardugo books so good. And she does it again with this one.

Superheros and icons are meant to be examined. They are meant to be placed in new and challenging situations so that we can explore the depths of heroics against villainy. They are meant to adapt to stay relevant and be reborn to reflect changes in society. I loved Warbringer for all that Wonder Woman has been, and all that she can be. And I am so excited to read more of these hero reboots in future DC Icon books!