Book Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

Book Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica CluessA Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
Series: Kingdom on Fire #1
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers on September 20, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
I am Henrietta Howel.
The first female sorcerer in hundreds of years.
The prophesied one.
Or am I?


Henrietta Howel can burst into flames.
Forced to reveal her power to save a friend, she's shocked when instead of being executed, she's invited to train as one of Her Majesty's royal sorcerers.

Thrust into the glamour of Victorian London, Henrietta is declared the chosen one, the girl who will defeat the Ancients, bloodthirsty demons terrorizing humanity. She also meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, handsome young men eager to test her power and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her.

But Henrietta Howel is not the chosen one.
As she plays a dangerous game of deception, she discovers that the sorcerers have their own secrets to protect. With battle looming, what does it mean to not be the one? And how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?

Exhilarating and gripping, Jessica Cluess's spellbinding fantasy introduces a powerful, unforgettably heroine, and a world filled with magic, romance, and betrayal. Hand to fans of Libba Bray, Sarah J. Maas, and Cassandra Clare.

Book Review:

The best description for A SHADOW BRIGHT AND BURNING is in the Acknowledgments: Victorian Cthulu Harry Potter. I saw that when I finished the book, and yeah, that’s a great way to describe it.

Jessica Cluess takes a bunch of tropes and cliches and builds off them, turning tired old stuff into a fun, well-written series starter. I read A SHADOW BRIGHT AND BURNING in a day, absorbed by the author’s besieged London and Henrietta.

Because a witch was partly responsible for summoning the Ancients who are trying to destroy England, female witches are now executed. Henrietta’s hidden her magic abilities her entire life, but when she saves her best friend’s life, a sorcerer sees it. But instead of being killed, Henrietta’s whisked away to be trained as a sorcerer. Female sorcerers don’t exist, but it’s prophesied that one will defeat the Ancients.

There’s only one problem: Henrietta’s living a lie. She knows she isn’t the Chosen One.

One of the things I liked the most about A SHADOW BRIGHT AND BURNING is there’s not a lot of romance. There’s a little there, but I was really worried this book would slide into love triangle or even love quadrangle territory, given that Henrietta’s fellow students are all male. Sure, one of them tries, and the banter is fun, but I so, so appreciated that the author didn’t turn the book into a romance with a light side of fantasy. No, Henrietta remembers what’s at stake.

The book did lag a bit for me in the middle, and I was tired of the misogynistic attitude of some sorcerers. Not to mention the whole blaming all witches for the Ancients when a male magician was also responsible. I also don’t know why the Ancients are trying to take England for their own, but I’m guessing that will come up in the next book.

Socialize with the author:

Jessica Cluess:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine

Book Review: Paper and Fire by Rachel CainePaper and Fire by Rachel Caine
Series: The Great Library #2
Published by NAL on July 5, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
In Ink and Bone, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine introduced a world where knowledge is power, and power corrupts absolutely. Now, she continues the story of those who dare to defy the Great Library—and rewrite history…

With an iron fist, The Great Library controls the knowledge of the world, ruthlessly stamping out all rebellion, forbidding the personal ownership of books in the name of the greater good.

Jess Brightwell has survived his introduction to the sinister, seductive world of the Library, but serving in its army is nothing like he envisioned. His life and the lives of those he cares for have been altered forever. His best friend is lost, and Morgan, the girl he loves, is locked away in the Iron Tower and doomed to a life apart.

Embarking on a mission to save one of their own, Jess and his band of allies make one wrong move and suddenly find themselves hunted by the Library’s deadly automata and forced to flee Alexandria, all the way to London.

But Jess’s home isn’t safe anymore. The Welsh army is coming, London is burning, and soon, Jess must choose between his friends, his family, or the Library willing to sacrifice anything and anyone in the search for ultimate control…

Book Review:

INK AND BONE, the first book in the Great Library series, was one of my favorite books last year. I’ve been looking forward to the continuation of Jess’s story ever since, and PAPER AND FIRE did not disappoint.

I described INK AND BONE as a book lover’s nightmare. PAPER AND FIRE is a herd of nightmares trampling over every page.

Now that Jess is part of the Library proper, in the High Garda (the guard for Scholars and the Library), he sees even more of the horrors initiated by the Archivist and those under his control. Every move he makes is like a chess match, as the Archivist is watching for Jess to put half a toe out of line. But Jess, being Jess, doesn’t hesitate to throw himself into danger to save others. I really liked how he protected his chosen family, and how the author showed blood isn’t always thicker when it comes to families.

The main story in PAPER AND FIRE is the rescue of Thomas. In INK AND BONE, the postulants were told Thomas had been killed, but Jess discovers otherwise. If you’re dangerous but still useful, the Library takes you, tortures you, and exploits you. The first half of the book is a little slow, but looking back, I saw the Archivist’s trap closing around Jess and his friends as they tried to find whatever information they could. The second half is action-packed, with Jess, Glain, Santi, Wolfe, Khalila, Dario, and Morgan. It was great to see the “crew” again, as well as see how the decisions of the Library and fighting against it impacted each of them.

I had absolutely no idea what would happen in PAPER AND FIRE, and I loved that. I always enjoy when a book is unpredictable. I also liked getting to see more of the world of the Library; I think this is one of my favorite worlds, ever. There are some scenes near the end, where you see how much the Library has hidden and controlled people, and I had a moment.

And that ending! Oh my, oh my. Waiting for the next volume in the Great Library series is going to be rough.

TL;DR version: Alternate history, where books are more important than a single life. The Library is all-powerful and all-seeing, but Jess can’t let it keep his friend. Full of action, thinky moments, and great characters.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to the publisher, I am offering one copy of INK AND BONE to U.S. readers.

Socialize with the author:

Rachel Caine:
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– leeanna

Book Review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

Book Review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi MeadowsMy Lady Jane Published by HarperTeen on June 7, 2016
Genres: Alternate Universe, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 512
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
Edward (long live the king) is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…

Jane (reads too many books) is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…

Gifford (call him G) is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated). Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed—but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified.

The plot thickens as Edward, Jane, and G are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, our heroes will have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it’s off with their heads?

Book Review:

MY LADY JANE is a book that shouldn’t work, but it does. There’s a mishmash of things: shapeshifters, pop culture references, fourth wall breaking, tons of humor, and alternate history. Jane is still Queen of England for nine days, but Edward lives and is on a quest to retake his throne after Mary deposes Jane. And, maybe most importantly, MY LADY JANE is hilarious.

Humor can be hit or miss for me, especially in written form, but I must share a sense of humor with the authors, because I found their writing super funny. That said, I’ve never seen/read THE PRINCESS BRIDE, and I think there’s a lot of references to it in MY LADY JANE. But there were plenty of other things to keep me laughing: Jane’s bookworm antics, Gifford turning into a horse every day, Edward hearing he’s a spoiled brat, etc.

In this version of England, there are two factions. Shapeshifters (E∂ians) and non-shapeshifters (Verities). They’re not religious factions, but as people have taken sides, it’s very reminiscent of Protestants versus Catholics. Just a whole lot more fun. The authors take the idea that King Edward was poisoned and run with it, giving him a happily ever after just as they do with Jane. This is first book I’ve read that develops Edward as a real person, and I’ve read a lot of Tudor books. Same with Gifford, aka G, aka Guildford Dudley. He’s not the jerk I always assumed him to be. I had a lot of fun with the authors’ alternate versions of such famous historical figures.

I liked a whole lot about MY LADY JANE:
♥The alternate history, as I already mentioned. Jane Grey deserves a happy ending, and I’m really happy to see her get one.

♥The E∂ian concept was fun, although at one point I thought Oprah was passing out shapeshifting forms (and you get a dog! and you get a horse! and you get a bird!).

♥The romances. Jane and G are arranged, just like they are in history. But here, G turns into a horse every single day, leaving almost no time for him and Jane to get to know each other. And at first, Jane’s furious she had to marry G, who she assumes is a philanderer, because no one knows the truth about him. Over the course of the book, they really develop as a couple, with plenty of misunderstandings and tender moments. They go from enemies to friends at a believable clip.

MY LADY JANE is perfect for when you need a combination of history and humor.

Socialize with the authors:

Cynthia Hand:
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Brodi Ashton:
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Jodi Meadows:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Hope and Red by Jon Skovron

Book Review: Hope and Red by Jon SkovronHope and Red by Jon Skovron
Series: Empire of Storms #1
Published by Orbit on June 30, 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
In a fracturing empire spread across savage seas, two young people from different cultures find common purpose. A nameless girl is the lone survivor when her village is massacred by biomancers, mystical servants of the emperor. Named after her lost village, Bleak Hope is secretly trained by a master Vinchen warrior as an instrument of vengeance. A boy becomes an orphan on the squalid streets of New Laven and is adopted by one of the most notorious women of the criminal underworld, given the name Red, and trained as a thief and con artist. When a ganglord named Deadface Drem strikes a bargain with the biomancers to consolidate and rule all the slums of New Laven, the worlds of Hope and Red come crashing together, and their unlikely alliance takes them further than either could have dreamed possible.

Book Review:

HOPE AND RED is the first in the Empire of Storms trilogy. The book follows Hope, a girl trained as a monk assassin to get vengeance for her slain village and Red, an orphaned thief with a gift for smooth talking his way in and out of trouble.

Sounds like your run of the mill fantasy, right? Wrong.

HOPE AND RED is dark and gritty fantasy, two underdogs taking on the corrupt empire. It’s also funny, with characters like Sadie the Goat and lots of the underprivileged making fun of the rich and their lacey ways. And it’s serious, such as when female characters challenge and beat male expectations. Add in plenty of action, scary magic, and there’s a lot to like.

The author has a real gift for making memorable characters. Hope and Red are the standouts naturally, and I liked both for different reasons. But even characters who only showed up for a page stayed with me. Such as Hope’s father, who wore his daughter’s gift of a necklace and didn’t care that the other fishermen mocked him. Or Captain Carmichael, whose life eventually showed Hope vengeance wasn’t the only answer.

While we don’t get to see the entire empire in HOPE AND RED, we do get a good introduction to how life is for the poor. From Hope’s village being destroyed for a biomancer experiment to Red’s mother dying from toxic paints, life sucks a lot if you’re poor. Crime bosses and their gangs control what the imperials don’t.

I was sucked into the hard world of HOPE AND RED from page one, and I couldn’t get enough. Also, the author created some slang, which fit perfectly into the world. Most words are easy to figure out, but there’s a funny glossary at the end, written by one of the laceys.

I made myself read HOPE AND RED in several sessions, so I could enjoy the book for longer. But I really wanted to read the whole thing at once, because I enjoyed it that much. I definitely can’t wait for book two, BANE AND SHADOW, because I know it’s going to be even more epic.

Socialize with the author:

Jon Skovron:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan

Book Review: Age of Myth by Michael J. SullivanAge of Myth by Michael J Sullivan
Series: The Legends of the First Empire #1
Published by Del Rey on June 28, 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 418
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
What does it mean if the gods can be killed? The first novel in an epic new fantasy series for readers of Brent Weeks, Brandon Sanderson, Peter V. Brett, and Scott Lynch.

Michael J. Sullivan’s trailblazing career began with the breakout success of his Riyria series: full-bodied, spellbinding fantasy adventures whose imaginative scope and sympathetic characters won a devoted readership. Now, Sullivan’s stunning hardcover debut, Age of Myth, inaugurates an original five-book series, and one of fantasy’s finest next-generation storytellers continues to break new ground.

Since time immemorial, humans have worshipped the gods they call Fhrey, truly a race apart: invincible in battle, masters of magic, and seemingly immortal. But when a god falls to a human blade, the balance of power between men and those they thought were gods changes forever. Now, only a few stand between humankind and annihilation: Raithe, reluctant to embrace his destiny as the God Killer, Suri, a young seer burdened by signs of impending doom, and Persephone, who must overcome personal tragedy to lead her people. The Age of Myth is over; the time of rebellion has begun.

Book Review:

I’ve wanted to read something of Michael J. Sullivan’s forever, since I’ve heard good things about his Riyria books. But I never got to any of them, so when I saw he had a new series coming out, it seemed like the perfect time to finally check out his work. And by the gods, am I glad I read AGE OF MYTH, because now I want to binge read all of his books.

First, I appreciated the Author’s Note at the beginning of the book. I’m always wary of starting new epic fantasy series because there’s that chance they won’t be finished. No worry of that here — all five books in The Legends of the First Empire are already written. That gives me such peace of mind knowing I’ll get the entire story, and too, I like knowing the author stuck to his ideas for how everything would go, and was even able to work in lots of foreshadowing.

Second, I like the squad of unlikely heroes. Born in a harsh land, Raithe has only ever known fighting and becomes the mythical God Killer. But all he really wants is to quit fighting and find a quiet place to settle down. Widow Persephone must give up leadership of the clan she’s helped lead for 20 years when her husband is killed. But when the new chieftain shows himself unworthy of protecting their clan, she kicks aside generations of tradition. And so on.

Third, AGE OF MYTH is epic fantasy without requiring 800+ pages per volume to be epic. There are big consequences to little events, battles where the underdog is overwhelmed and against the wall, and big powerful bad guys who see humans as rats. Classic fantasy stuff in some ways, but Sullivan puts his own spin on it all. And that ending? Oh man oh man! It’s going to be a long wait until summer 2017.

Socialize with the author:

Michael J. Sullivan:
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– leeanna

Book Review: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

Book Review: This Savage Song by Victoria SchwabThis Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Series: Monsters of Verity #1
Published by Greenwillow Books on July 5, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 464
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
4 Stars
There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

Book Review:

THIS SAVAGE SONG is the first in the Monsters of Verity series, a new YA fantasy series from Victoria Schwab. In a destroyed America, monsters rule the dark, and people cling to whatever bits of safety and normality they can find. Well, most people — Kate Harker and August Flynn excluded.

Kate’s father rules half Verity. People pay him for safety, and he keeps the Corsai and Malchai monsters from killing those people. He’s a vicious crime boss, and Kate wants to be exactly like him. She wants to prove to her father that she’s a Harker, worthy of being his heir.

August’s adopted father rules the other half of Verity. His people fight the Corsai and Malchai for safety. But Henry Flynn has a secret weapon: August and his siblings are Sunai. Sunai are monsters too, but different from the Corsai and Malchai. Sunai are avengers.

The worldbuilding is a bit complicated in THIS SAVAGE SONG. I would have liked more about the different types of monsters and how they came into existence. There are mentions of “the Phenomenon,” but I don’t remember an explanation or information about it. I did like the idea of violence breeding violence, and the author doing a little exploring of good versus evil, black and white versus shades of grey. I hope there’s more of that in the rest of the series.

THIS SAVAGE SONG also looks at what it means to be human and what it means to be a monster. Kate wants to be a monster, just like her father. August wants to be a human, but that’s impossible. I quite liked the Sunai, but it would spoil too much to go into why. So I’ll just say I liked what the author did with all three of them.

I was also super happy to find that there’s no romance in THIS SAVAGE SONG! It’s so refreshing to not have an insta-love romance crammed down my throat, distracting me from the other good stuff in the book. I’m so happy the author didn’t go that route here. Yes, Kate and August are thrown together, and must work together to save each other’s lives, but they don’t waste time making googly eyes at each other.

I am eager to see what else Victoria Schwab has in mind for Kate and August, and the other Monsters of Verity. Bring on book two!

Socialize with the author:

Victoria Schwab:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Roses and Rot by Kat Howard

Book Review: Roses and Rot by Kat HowardRoses and Rot by Kat Howard
Published by Saga Press on May 17, 2016
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, New Adult, Retelling
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
Imogen and her sister Marin have escaped their cruel mother to attend a prestigious artists’ retreat, but soon learn that living in a fairy tale requires sacrifices, be it art or love.

What would you sacrifice in the name of success? How much does an artist need to give up to create great art?

Imogen has grown up reading fairy tales about mothers who die and make way for cruel stepmothers. As a child, she used to lie in bed wishing that her life would become one of these tragic fairy tales because she couldn’t imagine how a stepmother could be worse than her mother now. As adults, Imogen and her sister Marin are accepted to an elite post-grad arts program—Imogen as a writer and Marin as a dancer. Soon enough, though, they realize that there’s more to the school than meets the eye. Imogen might be living in the fairy tale she’s dreamed about as a child, but it’s one that will pit her against Marin if she decides to escape her past to find her heart’s desire.

Book Review:

Every so often, I read a book that seems as though it’s been written just for me. Like the author looked into my head and plucked out everything I ever wanted to see in a book. ROSES AND ROT is one of those books. I didn’t want to put the book down once I started it, and read it all in one day. And I already want to read ROSES AND ROT again.

Imogen and Marin are sisters who haven’t always had a perfect relationship. They’ve survived a childhood of abuse, coming out on top with success in their artistic careers. When they’re both accepted to a prestigious arts program, it’s the perfect opportunity to work on their relationship while furthering their artistic futures.

Imogen is a writer, a student of fairy tales who wants to create her own. The nine month residency at Melete is an amazing opportunity to push the boundaries of her writing. Imogen’s written fairy tales are scattered throughout ROSES AND ROT, and I could have read an entire book of her work. They were my kind of fairy tales: dark and scary and true.

Melete is a fantastical place. I wish it existed so that I could go there — yes, even with the big twist! Seriously, it’s a place any writer/painter/singer/etc would dream of going. The author described everything so well that I could imagine it, and while I’m on the subject, I really enjoyed Kat Howard’s writing style. It was descriptive without being too purple, sparse yet flowing, loud but introspective. I could write a love letter to Kat Howard’s writing, I swear. It matched the stories she told.

I’m all over the place in this review, but that happens sometimes when I’m really excited about a book. I wish I could take ROSES AND ROT and put it in everyone’s hands.

ROSES AND ROT is the book for you if:
a) you like fairy tales, especially the dark ones
b) you want to know how “happily ever after” is reached in those dark tales
c) you like stories about complicated sibling relationships
d) you like stories about artists who risk everything to be great

Socialize with the author:

Kat Howard:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

Book Review: The Crown’s Game by Evelyn SkyeThe Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye
Series: The Crown's Game #1
Published by Balzer & Bray on May 17, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 399
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
1 Stars
Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love... or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear... the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

Book Review:

THE CROWN’S GAME has a lot of things I enjoy: a historical setting, magic, a strong and determined female character, and a duel to the death. But I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I’d hoped due to the lackluster romance and sloooooow pacing.

THE GOOD:

–The author was very good at describing the setting and the magic of the enchanters. I could easily see imperial Russia and picture the fantastical magic Vika and Nikolai created.

THE BAD:

–Maybe this is just me, but when two characters are in a duel to the death, playing the Crown’s Game for for their life and to be the tsar’s Imperial Enchanter, I expect a little more… danger. And I guess there’s a little danger, because they make an attempt on each other’s life. But the attempts stop very quickly, because Nikolai and Vika forget everything at stake when their magic touches each other. Cue insta-love and using the game to woo each other and renovate Saint Petersburg, because that will impress the tsar.

–The romance. I’m usually picky on romance, but this mess of a love triangle nearly had me fleeing for the hills. I need to believe the characters are attracted to each other. The author just can’t tell me they are because they fell in love at first sight. Here’s what Pasha, the heir, has to say about Vika, “If there were ever a girl a man could fall in love with without knowing, it would be Vika (p. 320, ARC).” Sorry, that doesn’t work for me.

–The magic has very few rules. Yes, I know this is fantasy, but magic has to have a system. As far as I can tell, the enchanters can do almost anything they can imagine. Vika is more talented with the elements and Nikolai with mechanics, but that’s because of their upbringing.

–The story itself was boring and slow. For me, this was partly because there were so many POVs in the book. For example, I would have preferred to read about Vika creating the island, rather than Nikolai waking up and finding it. Because there were so many POVs, good story bits were often just dropped into the text, rather than getting to see them happen. And then that ending… I won’t spoil it, but there’s no way I’ll read book two.

As you can see, THE CROWN’S GAME didn’t live up to the hype for me.

Socialize with the author:

Evelyn Skye:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Riders by Veronica Rossi

Book Review: Riders by Veronica RossiRiders by Veronica Rossi
Series: Riders #1
Published by Tor Teen on February 16, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
Nothing but death can keep eighteen-year-old Gideon Blake from achieving his goal of becoming a U.S. Army Ranger. As it turns out, it does.

While recovering from the accident that most definitely killed him, Gideon finds himself with strange new powers and a bizarre cuff he can’t remove. His death has brought to life his real destiny. He has become War, one of the legendary four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Over the coming weeks, he and the other horsemen—Conquest, Famine, and Death—are brought together by a beautiful but frustratingly secretive girl to help save humanity from an ancient evil on the emergence.

They fail.

Now—bound, bloodied, and drugged—Gideon is interrogated by the authorities about his role in a battle that has become an international incident. If he stands any chance of saving his friends and the girl he’s fallen for—not to mention all of humankind—he needs to convince the skeptical government officials the world is in imminent danger.

But will anyone believe him?

Book Review:

I really enjoyed Veronica Rossi’s Under the Never Sky trilogy, so I was excited to check out the start to her new series, Riders. If you’ve read her first series, don’t expect RIDERS to be anything like it. They are 100% different, which was both good and bad for me.

RIDERS takes a new spin on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Here, the horsemen are four teenage boys, all of whom wake up with strange cuffs on their wrists after dying. But their attempts to return to normal life don’t work. Gideon, our narrator, realizes he can make others feel anger. Days after his death and awakening, he’s off on a roadtrip with Daryn, a mysterious young woman who insists she knows what’s going on, but can’t tell him anything yet. Oh, and can they drive around the U.S. and pick up the other horsemen? Because they have to be together to save the world.

Most of RIDERS is told in Gideon’s flashbacks. At the start of the book, he’s being interrogated by unknown parties after some unknown big stuff went down. I was very meh on the first 70% or so of the book. There didn’t seem to be much of a plot. It was somewhat boring, having Gideon recount the past few weeks, his painful attraction to Daryn, and so on. I wasn’t a fan of the blunt, disjointed writing style, although I did really like Gideon’s voice. He read and felt like a real guy, not wish fulfillment.

The last 30% of the book is where I liked RIDERS a whole lot more. I was tempted to put it down before I reached that point, but here is one time where continuing was actually a good thing. Finally there was action (and a lot of it). I liked seeing the guys and their horses interact, the guys bond, and also learning more about the Kindred and the big secret.

For me, RIDERS was just okay. I was hoping for more, given how much I enjoyed Under the Never Sky. I liked the end of RIDERS, but I shouldn’t have been meh on so much of the book to get to that end.

Socialize with the author:

Veronica Rossi:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Seer by Sonia Orin Lyris

Book Review: The Seer by Sonia Orin LyrisThe Seer by Sonia Orin Lyris
Published by Baen on March 1, 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 656
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
5 Stars
The debut of a stunning new talent. A poor, young woman rises to the heights of a crumbling empire, where she must speak hard truth to power in order to save a world from chaos.

Everybody Wants Answers. No One Wants the Truth.

The Arunkel empire has stood a thousand years, forged by wealth and conquest, but now rebellion is stirring on the borders and treachery brews in the palace halls. Elsewhere, in a remote mountain village, a young mother sells the prophesies of her sister, Amarta, in order to keep them and her infant child from starving. It's a dangerous game when such revelations draw suspicion and mistrust as often as they earn coin.

Yet Amarta's visions are true. And often not at all what the seeker wishes to hear.

Now in a tapestry of loyalty, intrigue, magic, and gold, Amarta has become the key to a ruler's ambitions. But is she nothing beyond a tool? As Amarta comes into her own as a seer, she realizes she must do more than predict the future. She must create it.

Book Review:

THE SEER is a complete, well developed, dark, realistic, and intriguing fantasy. While I would like another book (I’m greedy!), it was refreshing to get such a story in one volume, rather than having to wait and wait for sequels.

Amarta’s visions provide just enough coin to keep herself, her older sister, and her sister’s son alive. When Innel wakes her in the middle of a night to see his future, Amarta gets an inkling of what she’s capable of, for she helps Innel kill his brother. Innel eventually marries the heir to the realm and becomes one of the most powerful men in Arunkel, all because of Amarta’s vision. And then Amarta’s visions keep her and her family alive, when Innel sends men to hunt her down.

Because of the summary, I expected THE SEER to be all about Amarta, but a big portion of the book focuses on Innel. Once I got into his sections, I didn’t mind that at all, because I really enjoyed the world the author created. Innel is a survivor of the Cohort, where noble children are whittled down to a few survivors, one of whom will marry the king’s daughter. Words, actions, and even appearances matter in Arunkel, and I enjoyed seeing Innel navigate the tricky nobles and the power-hungry king while also keeping his new wife happy. I often complain about the lack of worldbuilding in fantasy novels, but THE SEER had plenty to keep me happy. Yay!

Amarta’s visions were quite interesting. She could use them to save her life, but often only in the moment, as the future is ever changing. When she used her visions for another, I thought the author did a good job of showing how confusing it would be to sort out the tangles and intricacies of an entire kingdom. It reminded me of “if a butterfly flaps its wings…” Her visions, and the way people listened (or didn’t) made me think.

I also want to give a shout out to the author’s version of mages. They were spookily cool. I liked the hints we got of Marisel’s training, as well as seeing her try to do her little bit to help humanity when other mages would only work for the wealthy.

I do feel that the book was a tad long. I could have done with less of Amarta running away from Innel’s hunter. But that was because I wanted to see more of the Amarta we get at the end of THE SEER, which is why I said I’d like another book in this world. The one chapter from Cern’s perspective also made me want to see more from her. For all of the buildup, I feel like the ending came too quickly. But the ending satisfied me, which is another thing I don’t usually say.

Overall, I really enjoyed THE SEER. I finished the book a few days ago, but I’ve found myself thinking about Amarta and Innel and Arunkel, which is rare for me, since I read so many books. THE SEER immersed me in its world and characters and story, and this is a book I’ll enjoy rereading in the future.

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Sonia Orin Lyris:
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– leeanna