Friday, September 20, 2019

#Review - Steel Tide by Natalie C. Parker #YA #Fantasy

Series: Seafire #2
Format: Hardcover, 448 pages
Release Date: September 17, 2019
Publisher: Razorbill
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Epic

The second book in a heart-stopping trilogy that follows the captain of an all-female ship intent on taking down a vicious warlord’s powerful fleet.

Caledonia may have lost her crew, but she’s not done fighting yet. After nearly dying at the hand of a powerful foe, Caledonia is pulled from the sea and nursed back to health by a crew of former Bullets that call themselves Blades. The Blades escaped Aric Athair’s clutches and now live a nomadic existence, ready to disappear at a moment’s notice should trouble come their way.

But Caledonia wants to do more than just hide. She wants to find the Mors Navis and her beloved sisters. She wants to continue fighting Aric’s fleet and to take back the Bullet seas. She’ll need to do everything in her power to convince the Blades that fighting is their only option, that there has to be a life better than the one under Aric Athair’s reign, and that finding the women of the Mors Navis is the first step to revolution.

Steel Tide is the second installment in author Natalie C. Parker's Seafire trilogy. Steel Tide opens almost immediately where Seafire ended. Caledonia Styx threw herself overboard after being impaled on a Bullet Ship’s spire by Fiveson Lir who has been playing a long game against Caledonia for years. Caledonia is helped back to health by former Bullets, now known as Blades. They claim to have escaped from Aric's hold somehow and they now live in a small community, mostly keeping to themselves.

The Blades, led by Sledge, Pine, and Triple, nurses her back to health. Separated from her sisters who probably think she's dead, Caledonia must win over a new band of characters and reunite with her crew who should have headed for freedom via the net. After allying herself with the Blades, Caledonia decides to take the Collection ship from Aric Athair. What she learns is stunning. One, Lir is still after Caledonia and doesn't believe she died. The second is even worse. Her ship and sisters have been captured and taken to the dreaded Slipmark where Bullet's are made and addicted to drugs.

Caledonia makes a deal with the Pine, Triple & Sledge. They help her get her crew back and she'll help them get through the net to safety. After several close calls and some eye wide open surprises concerning a character known as Steelhand (No, I will not tell you who this person is!), Caledonia, with some help from tertiary characters as well as Nettie, are reunited with her sisters. There is some real hurt feelings towards Caledonia. But, before they can feel like they've won and can leave the net as planned, Caledonia makes another decision that leads her to make a huge stand along with her sisters and her new Blade friends. 

She will have to make a choice; pick up and run, or stand and fight with some really interesting new toys. (No spoilers!) Caledonia finally has to face the man who rules this world; Aric Athair, but Lir is not too far behind. There is so much going on in this book that it is hard to stay focused on not revealing everything that happens. Caledonia becomes a new character. One much stronger, and more determined to lead her allies to a better life and future without the Bullets, especially Lir.  The ending is truly stunning. So much so that I am eager to see where the author sends Caledonia and her allies when all is said and done.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

#Review - Realm of Knights by Jennifer Anne Davis #YA #Fantasy

Series: Knights of the Realm #1
Format: Ebook, 270 pages
Release Date: September 10th 2019
Publisher: Reign Publishing
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

Reid has spent her whole life pretending to be a man so she can inherit her father’s estate, but when a chance encounter threatens to expose her lie, she is forced to risk everything.

In the kingdom of Marsden, women are subservient to men and land can only pass from father to son. So when Reid Ellington is born, the fifth daughter to one of the wealthiest landholders in the kingdom, it’s announced that Reid is a boy.

Eighteen years later, Reid struggles to conceal the fact she’s actually a young woman. Every day, her secret becomes harder to keep. When one of Marsden’s princes sees her sparring with a sword, she is forced to accept his offer and lead her father’s soldiers to the border. Along the way, she discovers a covert organization within the army known as the Knights of the Realm. If Reid wants to save her family from being arrested for treason and robbed of their inheritance, she will have to join the Knights and become a weapon for the crown.

To protect her family, Reid must fight like a man. To do that, she’ll need the courage of a woman.

Realm of Knights is the first installment in author Jennifer Anne Davis' Knights of the Realm series. 18-year old Reid Ellington lives in the land of Marsden where women have no rights, nor can they inherit land from their fathers. They are basically cannon fodder for political reasons. Reid is the youngest daughter of 5 who has to play the part of a man until one of her married sisters has a son. Reid has spent 18 years hiding the fact that she was born female so that Duke Ellington's land stays in the family. 

In Marsden, lying about your identity is punishable by death. What's worse is that Reid is getting to that age where it’s obvious that she is not a boy, even by those who grew up with her. Trouble soon arrives in the form of Prince Gordon and Prince Ackley who demand that the Duke provide them with 500 soldiers to protect the border from incursions. They realize almost immediately that Reid is a girl, but instead of exposing her and charging her father with treason, they ask her to serve the realm and in doing so, she can earn a pardon for her father for lying to the king. 

As a female who was trained in combat, the young princes believe her to be the perfect person to spy on the neighboring nation since she can "pass" as both male and female. Reid, in trying to do what's right and prove herself the pardon for her father, ends up involved in a family squabble. Ackley claims that his Uncle Henrick, who rules over Axian, is after the Marsden crown which his brother Eldon currently holds. After passing several challenges put forth for Reid to join the exclusive Realm of Knights, she finds yet more trouble. King Eldon, not knowing that Reid is a member of Ackley's Realm of Knights, is sent to Axian to steal something that is supposed to hold a life changing secret. 

Thanks in part to Princess Idina and some blackmail, comes out in public as Lady Reid Ellington. She gets to experience what life as a woman in Marsden and Axian really means. Reid finds that Axian is a place where she should be living, not Marsden where women have no rights and no freedoms. In Axian, Reid meets the so called enemies who are not what they seem. Axian isn't a country preparing for war. Axian is a country that appears to be thriving. In fact, almost all of the family seems rather friendly to Reid except for one. Are they for real? Or, are they playing a game Reid as a pawn in a deadly game? 

I liked Reid just fine. I would have liked the author to show more of her skills as someone who was trained in combat, but it's early in the series, right? I totally blame her situation on the fact that her father refused to remarry after his wife died thus leaving Reid to shoulder all the responsibility of being her fathers heir. In reality, I do believe that he loves his daughter unconditionally as is shown later in the story. There's so many things that need to be uncovered. 

I would have liked a wee bit more world building in order to suss out this world. Is Ackley really who he pretends to be, and not just another hurdle for Reid to jump over?  The question really is, who is the true antagonist, and who is not what they seem? If Ackley actually cared about Reid as he claims, why then stand silent when she is ordered to do the King's bidding? Not sure if I am all in on the suspected romance between Reid and Gordon.

However, yes, I will continue with this series since I trust this author and the stories that she writes. I loved her Reign of Secrets series, but need to finish reading the final (2) installments in the series.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

#Review - A Vampire's Battle by Raven Steele #Urban #Fantasy

Series: Rouen Chronicles #9
Format: Kindle, 367 pages
Release Date: August 26th 2019
Publisher: Amazon
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Genre: Urban Fantasy

“I will embrace my darkness if it means spilling your blood." 

Samira finally gave up the one thing she vowed to keep forever, the Kiss of Eternal Night, in hopes of saving her one true love. But fate had something else in store for her, and the Kiss was replaced by something far more dangerous. If she’s not careful, it will take her to a place she can’t come back from.

But Samira won’t let this new curse pull her away from her only desire. Kill Korin, the vampire who nearly destroyed her and took everything she’s ever loved. She’s willing to give up everything to accomplish her goal, even if it means crossing over to the other side.  

Because sometimes it takes the dead to kill the living.

A Vampire's Battle is the Ninth installment in author Raven Steele's Rouen Chronicles. 2 weeks have passed since Samira Chevoky and Mateo nearly lost their lives to Korin and the Phoenix in A Vampire's Rage. In the process of being bled dry to the point of death, Samira lost the Kiss of the Eternal Night which has been part of her for centuries. It is the key to defeating the Phoenix, and without it, where will Samira find the strength to avoid being controlled by Korin's compulsion?

Samira's former mentor, Detrand, a strigoi vampire royalty, has found himself in Rouen along with Adelade a powerful Fae who is Detrand's mate. I actually loved this move by the author since both Detrand and Adelade are remarkable characters with interesting dynamics in power and coupling. Because of Cassandra's actions in saving her life, Samira is experiencing a new ability to go invisible. She can be in the beyond and the here for a short time. 

Samira and Mateo's mate connection thrives and expands in this episode. In fact, there are plenty of sexy moments in the book for those who love good sex scenes. Mateo is Samira's rock and guide in this world where nothing has gone right so far against Korin, or the Phoenix. Samira, Briar, and Lynx attempt to put together an alliance that includes Oona, the Fae Queen, as well as humans, vampires like Aris, & Angel, and werewolves. One were clan in particular makes an interesting appearance which leads to even more questions which we will be chasing into the next installment.

Lynx and Briar finally get a peak into the prophecy which they are apparently key players in raising a evil known as Trianus. Sersi, the leader of the Ames de la Terra, has some interesting words for both characters. One who takes it in stride, the other, Lynx, who isn't exactly jumping up and down with joy in learning that she's a key player. After all, there is so much more to Lynx than meets the eye. We, readers, still do not know who her father is, and how her combined Light and Dark powers are going to help defeat the Phoenix as well as another powerful antagonist named Zane.

I have actually cut and pasted the actual prophecy to the Excerpt section of this review. It says a whole lot, but also I blame Samira for not being more upfront with Briar before she killed (3) must kill Alpha's on her own tour de revenge against those who killed her family and betrayed her trust. Briar also has some issues to deal with in this book, namely Luke, which I have seen coming for a very long time now. I don't trust Luke, and after this book, I am definitely Team Angel because he is always there for her and never stands in her way.

Speaking of which, the Tenth installment is a Briar and Angel story called A Shifter's Heart which will take place after the events of this story. Events that are shocking and leaves many questions. There are some really impressive action scenes in this book, as well as some shocking losses that goes to show how dangerous going up against the Phoenix is to ones health. I still do not know the actual identity of the Phoenix. This person could literally be anyone including some allies. I have several guesses, but it's apparent the author is taking her time in revealing who it is. 

This is the final installment in Samira's trilogy. I am still waiting for Lynx to have her turn as a primary narrator. All in good time I guess.

**Intended for adult readers due to violence, language, and some sexual content.

When the crimson moon rises on the eve of Litha, three dark souls will give their blood to bring forth the great Trianus, Lord of the Underworld, from the dark abyss. A Komira, sealed by the blood of three Alphas, a vampire who abandoned the Kiss of the Eternal Night, and a witch blessed by the sun and the moon. Bonded by fire and ice, the three will bend a knee and bow to the new Prince of Darkness, true and faithful servants, as he takes his place as ruler over mortal lands once again.”

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

#Review - Master of the World by Edward Willett #Fantasy #Steampunk

Series: Worldshapers #2
Format: Paperback, 384 pages
Release Date: September 10, 2019
Publisher: Daw Books
Source: Publisher
Genre: Fantasy / Action & Adventure

From an Aurora Award-winning author comes the second book in a gripping portal fantasy series in which one woman’s powers open the way to a labyrinth of new dimensions.

Shawna Keys has fled the world she only recently discovered she Shaped, narrowly escaping death at the hands of the Adversary who seized control of it…and losing her only guide, Karl Yatsar, in the process.

Now she finds herself alone in some other Shaper’s world, where, in her first two hours, she’s rescued from a disintegrating island by an improbable flying machine she recognizes from Jules Verne’s Robur the Conqueror, then seized from it by raiders flying tiny personal helicopters, and finally taken to a submarine that bears a strong resemblance to Captain Nemo’s Nautilus. Oh, and accused of being both a spy and a witch.

Shawna expects—hopes!—Karl Yatsar will eventually follow her into this new steampunky realm, but exactly where and when he’ll show up, she hasn’t a clue.

In the meantime, she has to navigate a world where two factions fanatically devoted to their respective leaders are locked in perpetual combat, figure out who the Shaper of the world is, find him or her, and obtain the secret knowledge of this world’s Shaping. Then she has to somehow reconnect with Karl Yatsar, and escape to the next Shaped world in the Labyrinth…through a Portal she has no idea how to open.

Story Locale: Alternate worlds

Master of the World is the second installment in author Edward Willett's Worldshapers series. The story picks up where the previous installment left off. Protagonist Shawna Key's life has been fundamentally changed forever in just a few short days. She had just opened up her new pottery store called "Worldshaper," when black clad terrorists showed up along with a man called The Adversary. The Adversary not only tried to kill her, but did kill her best friend which caused Shawna to turn back time to 3 hours. He also ended up stealing her powers and her world making her public enemy number one.

She learned from a man named Karl Yatsar that she was a "Shaper" one of many in a vast Labyrinth of Shaped Worlds, and possibly one of the strongest who can stop the Adversary before he has enough power to destroy the universe. Losing her world, which she still has no memories of creating, or being trained by someone called Ygrair, or the First World, caused Shawna to escape to another realm leaving Karl behind. The realm she ends up in should be called Jules Verne World because of the main parties involved are named after Verne characters.

After she's rescued from a disintegrating island by an improbable flying machine she recognizes from Jules Verne's Robur the Conqueror, she's seized from it by raiders flying tiny personal helicopters, and finally taken to a submarine that bears a strong resemblance to Captain Nemo's Nautilus. She's accused of being a spy, or a witch, whichever explains her appearance in this world. They have no idea on how to handle Shawna. She's told that she can help defeat the evil Prince Dakkari while also learning about her own Shaping abilities from the Shaper of the land, Robur the Conqueror who apparently knew Shawna from before.

Shawna attempts at navigating this world by herself is so much different without the aid of Karl by her side. In other words, she makes tons of mistakes! She knows her goal is to gain control of the shaped world, but without details, advice, or Karl’s alien powers, she needs to use her wits to come up with plans on the fly, relying on her sometimes inadequate memory of the writings of Jules Verne on which the world is based. Who is a friend? Who is a foe? How long can she hold out until Karl arrives to help her? Why can't Shawna remember before? How long until the Adversary catches up to Shawna?

Buffeted by swirling winds, I clung to the rope ladder lifting me from the mysterious-and rapidly disintegrating-island in the ocean below toward the giant flying ship in the sky above and reflected on what a lousy week I was having.
Sunday night, I’d woken from a nightmare in which a stranger wearing a cowboy hat and a long black duster had been standing at the foot of my bed, only to look out my window and see a stranger in a cowboy hat and a long black duster looking up at my bedroom window.
Monday night, he’d been there again.
Tuesday, I’d officially opened my new shop, Worldshaper Pottery, on trendy Blackthorne Avenue in Eagle River, Montana (hipster haven of the West)-although the store’s opening had been overshadowed (literally) by the scaffolding covering the entrance (supporting two young men hanging the shop’s sign) and the black storm clouds hanging over the Rockies to the west: clouds which, infuriatingly and bewilderingly, nobody but me seemed to find threatening.
Still, sinister strangers, scaffolding, and storm clouds aside, it had been shaping up to be a pretty good day. I’d had coffee with my boyfriend, Brent, at the Human Bean, the coffee shop down the street, and at lunch had headed back to the Bean with my best friend, Aesha Tripathi.
That was when things went literally to hell. Two vanloads of black-clad terrorists pulled up outside, charged into the coffee shop, and started shooting. Bullets tore Aesha’s slight body apart, right in front of my eyes.
Then the leader of the terrorists walked over to where I sat stunned on the blood-slicked floor. “Hello, Shawna,” he said. “And goodbye.” He reached out and touched my forehead. I felt a weird shock. Then he drew his pistol and aimed it between my eyes. He was going to kill me.
This can’t be happening, I thought, and then, “This isn’t happening!” I screamed.
And just like that, it wasn’t. It hadn’t. Suddenly, it was three hours earlier-but Aesha was gone. So was everyone else who’d been killed in the attack. And the worst of it was, nobody remembered they’d ever even existed.
This, to put it mildly, freaked me out. The sudden appearance inside my shop, shortly thereafter, of the mysterious stranger who had been in both my nightmare and the street outside my window did nothing to soothe my nerves-especially not when he started spouting gibberish about me having Shaped the world in which I lived, and having an amazing amount of power, and being just one Shaper of many in a vast Labyrinth of Shaped worlds, and possibly the only one who could save the Shaped worlds from the Adversary who had just invaded my world (apparently he was the guy who’d pointed his pistol at my head), if I’d just follow him into all those other worlds and gather the knowledge of how they were Shaped, and then carry it to somebody named Ygrair, who…
Yeah, I pretty much stopped listening at that point, too. It was like “The Story Thus Far” at the start of an episode of a television series with a season-long story arc. When you’re bingeing the show on StreamPix (and who watches TV any other way these days?), the minute you see that, you click the “Skip Intro” button.
But in the middle of this, “Previously, in made-up crap…” monologue, the storm broke…again. And then terrorists were shooting at me…again. Left without much choice, I fled with Karl Yatsar, as he called himself.
On the radio, we heard the mayor describe me as a dangerous terrorist. Apparently, when the Adversary had touched me, he’d stolen my knowledge of how my world was Shaped, what Karl called the hokhmah. His power was somewhat limited by the fact I was still alive, which meant we were sharing the hokhmah, but he had enough to rewrite people’s memories just by talking to them. He’d talked to the police, and the mayor, and…and then, I called Brent, and he didn’t know who I was, and I knew the Adversary had reached him, too. I smashed my cellphone, not out of frustration (well, not just out of frustration), but because I realized it could be used to track me. Karl Yatsar and I holed up that night in a run-down closed-for-the-summer resort…
…and that was my very special Tuesday.
Wednesday had a lot to live down to, but it managed. First thing in the morning, I murdered a National Bureau of Investigation agent in a helicopter, just by imagining the pilot had to help me at all costs, so successfully the pilot pushed his partner out the door and onto the shore of the lake across which Karl and I, in a canoe, were paddling for our lives. The sound of the falling NBI agent hitting the wooden pier by the boatshed went a long way toward convincing me both that I really could Shape my world-and that maybe I really, really shouldn’t.
Then we got into the helicopter, and the pilot cheerfully threw away his career by flying us up into the mountains before leading the pursuit away…though not as successfully as we might have hoped, since after Karl and I hiked off into the woods toward Snakebite Mine, the location of the Portal through which Karl had come from the previous world (already taken over by the Adversary), pursuers showed up at the fire camp where we’d landed. At Karl’s urging to “do something,” I hid our tracks by making it snow…or rather, by making it to have already snowed. Which also made for a cold, wet camp that night, but whatever.
Thursday, we woke to an unwanted visitor, a grizzly, which I convinced to go away just by thinking really hard that he should go away. After the snow and the grizzly, I really couldn’t deny my ability to Shape my world, even though (much to Karl’s consternation) I had no memory of his boss, the mysterious Ygrair, or being taught by her to be a Shaper at some weird school in some other version of reality, which Karl said was the original reality, the First World. Then we had to go around an avalanche that had resulted from the snow I’d caused to happen…I mean, caused to have already happened…and I had another reason to take Jeff Goldblum’s advice in Jurassic Park and think about whether, even though I could Shape the world, I should. When it came to Shaping, it seemed clear, unintended consequences were a bitch.
This was reinforced later that night when we reached Snakebite Mine. After Karl cold-bloodedly shot two members of the Adversary’s “cadre,” who had been left there to guard the Portal, I Shaped the caretaker to let us into the mine. He blew himself up instead, burying the Portal under tons of rock…but I Shaped those, too, opening a path, and then helped Karl destroy the Portal, cutting the Adversary off from some of his power.
Then we drove off, and I Shaped an entire water-filled quarry into existence, into which we dropped the truck, and then I Shaped the caretakers of a dude ranch so we could take some horses, but I did it so badly they both ended up dead, as did a perfectly innocent horse, and then we rode all night long until I was practically dead in the saddle (I stayed awake only because I’m allergic to horses, and it’s hard to doze while sneezing), and then we finally slept…
…and that was Thursday.
Friday, I Shaped a photographer to let us steal his car (at least I managed to avoid killing him in the process-well, as far as I know). Then I Shaped a pilot to fly us to Appleville, Oregon, my hometown…
…where I Shaped my mother to forget I’d ever existed. To forget she’d ever had a daughter. Of all the horrible things that had happened that week, that was the worst.
But it was only Friday.
Saturday, we stowed away on an apple truck to the coast. There, I Shaped a woman to let us onto her sailing yacht, the Amazon, because Karl said the only place he could make a Portal into the next world was out in the Pacific somewhere. Unfortunately, the Coast Guard found us (by then the Adversary had worked his way up to Shaping the President, so every branch of law enforcement and the military was looking for us). I managed to Shape our chunk of the ocean to bring up a fog (greatly impressing Karl), but in the process I also accidentally fashioned a typhoon, and that meant I spent Saturday night thinking really, really hard about the Amazon not sinking.
I guess I thought hard enough, because we were still afloat Sunday morning-this morning-which is when we found, right where the Portal had to be opened, a mysterious island that wasn’t on any charts. The next thing we knew, there were helicopters and soldiers chasing us, and we were trying to find our way through tunnels infested with monsters, and then we were fighting for our lives on top of a human-sacrifice altar in an arena full of shadowy not-quite-real spectators. At one point a giant, naked David (Michelangelo’s David, to be precise) smashed an equally naked (though not nearly as tall) soldier into bloody paste, then there was a fight, and then I stabbed a guy’s foot, which spilled blood on the altar, and the Portal opened, and I went through it…
…and Karl didn’t.
Which was how I had found myself on the almost-vanished island below, alone, only to be hauled aloft by a sailor hanging on to a rope ladder dangling from a giant flying ship both held aloft and propelled by…well, propellers.
In the bow, the strange craft flew a black flag with a golden sun in the center, one I’d recognized instantly, because I had gone through a Jules Verne kick when I was little girl (at least, that’s how I remember it, although what in my past is real and what contrived, I can’t tell): the flag of Robur the Conqueror, from the novel of the same name, which meant this impossible vessel had to be…yes, there it was, on the dark-blue bow in glistening gold script: Albatross.
The Albatross’ hull might have come straight from a sailing ship, except for the absence of a keel-and except for the stubby biplane wings extending to port and starboard. These I presumed were primarily for steering purposes, not to provide lift, since the thing was currently hovering. What held it aloft were seventy-four whirling helicopter rotors, two on each of thirty-seven masts. The downdraft buffeted me as the man in an old-fashioned sailor’s uniform who had pulled me onto the lowest rungs of the ladder looked down at me, jerked his thumb upward, then started to climb. For the first time, I saw he wore earplugs.
There is a knack to climbing a rope ladder, which I apparently didn’t have. The thing swayed and bounced as I struggled upward, until I thought I’d either fall off or throw up, but eventually, panting, I reached the top. My rescuer, with the help of another man in an equally old-fashioned sailor’s uniform-honestly, they looked like they’d stepped straight out of a community theater production of HMS Pinafore-hauled me onto the deck, through an opening in the wire trellis that ringed it in lieu of bulwarks, leaving me sprawled on my stomach. This gave me an unexpected opportunity to closely examine the deck. It wasn’t made of wood; it was a smooth, unbroken expanse of dark-blue…something.
What was the Albatross made of? It had been nearly twenty years since I’d read Robur the Conqueror. For some reason “paper” came to mind, but that couldn’t be right, could it…?
The sailors-or maybe “aeronauts” was a better term-grabbed my arms and pulled me to my feet. I tried to tug free, but their grips tightened. They half-dragged me aft, beneath the howling rotors-making me wish I had earplugs, too-toward the cabins at the back. Atop the sternmost stood the helmsman, as Pinaforeishly clad as the rest of the crew, inside a glass wheelhouse. Behind him, as at the bow, hung two much larger propellers, vertical rather than horizontal, though only idling at the moment.
The whole flying monstrosity was impossible…or was it? Verne had based his flights of fancy on what the engineers and scientists of his time knew or thought they knew. He’d certainly thought something like this was at least theoretically possible. And from what Karl had told me, the Shaper of this World could actually have altered the laws of physics enough to allow something like this to fly.
I’ll ask the Shaper when I see him, I thought, as I stumbled toward the stern cabins (there were others at the bow) between my taciturn escorts, deafened and windblown. Maybe I’m about to. Clearly, whoever had Shaped this world had fancied himself master of it, and since this was the Albatross, the airship of Robur the Conqueror, aka Master of the World (the title of the second novel in which he’d appeared), he had surely set himself up as that Verneian character-supervillain or superhero, depending (like his better-known counterpart, Captain Nemo) on your point of view.
In a way, I was thrilled to be inside a world clearly modeled after Jules Verne’s inventive tales. In another, I was terrified. Karl had not come through the Portal with me. I was alone, and while I knew in a general way what I was supposed to do to fulfill the quest I’d been unwillingly given-find the Shaper and get him/her to somehow give me his/her hokhmah, so that if/when the Adversary arrived, he could not steal that hokhmah, kill the Shaper, and then reShape this world into another copy of his preferred totalitarian “utopia”-there was one tiny little detail of that process Karl had never spelled out for me: exactly how one took the hokhmah of another Shaper, even if it were freely offered.
We reached the only door in the starboard side of the stern cabins. The aeronaut who had first hauled me onto the rope ladder pulled it open; the other propelled me through it.

#Review - The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst #Fantasy

Series: Queens of Renthia # 2
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Release Date: July 4, 2017
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Source: Library
Genre: Fantasy / Epic

Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow . . .
And those spirits want to kill you.

It’s the first lesson that every Renthian learns.
Not long ago, Daleina used her strength and skill to survive those spirits and assume the royal throne. Since then, the new queen has kept the peace and protected the humans of her land. But now for all her power, she is hiding a terrible secret: she is dying. And if she leaves the world before a new heir is ready, the spirits that inhabit her beloved realm will run wild, destroying her cities and slaughtering her people.

Naelin is one such person, and she couldn’t be further removed from the Queen—and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Her world is her two children, her husband, and the remote village tucked deep in the forest that is her home, and that’s all she needs. But when Ven, the Queens champion, passes through the village, Naelin’s ambitious husband proudly tells him of his wife’s ability to control spirits—magic that Naelin fervently denies. She knows that if the truth of her abilities is known, it will bring only death and separation from those she loves.

But Ven has a single task: to find the best possible candidate to protect the people of Aratay. He did it once when he discovered Daleina, and he’s certain he’s done it again. Yet for all his appeals to duty, Naelin is a mother, and she knows her duty is to her children first and foremost. Only as the Queen’s power begins to wane and the spirits become emboldened—even as ominous rumors trickle down from the north—does she realize that the best way to keep her son and daughter safe is to risk everything.

Sarah Beth Durst established a place of dark wonder in The Queen of Blood, and now the stakes are even higher as the threat to the Queen and her people grows both from within and beyond the borders of Aratay in this riveting second novel of the Queens of Renthia series.

The Reluctant Queen is the second installment in author Sarah Beth Durst's Queens of Renthia trilogy. This story picks up 6 months from where The Queen of Blood left off. Daleina is Queen of the Forests of Aratay, and the sole survivor of the coronation day massacre. But, she is losing control of the spirits that she is supposed to keep from harming her people and her villages. Killing the Queen would set the spirits free, and boy would they love to see that happen! What's worse, is that Daleina is experiencing blackouts that have become more frequent.

So frequent, in fact, that she gives her Queen's Champions 3 months to find a heir or else all is lost. Here is where Naelin comes in. Naelin has a family. She has a husband, a boy, and a girl, and lives in East Everdale. But, after a spirit attacks her home, Naelin's life suddenly turns on a dime. Her husband brags to anyone who listens that Naelin is powerful. Soon thereafter, Vin, Queen's Champion and Captain Alet, the Queen's Guard, travel to her village to test her. Naelin is extremely strong, so strong in fact, that the point becomes moot when Ven gives her almost no choice in what's to happen next.

To make matters worse, things are dire in Aratay. Possible heirs are dying rapidly, a former friend of Daleina seems to be willing to go to war in order to remove Daleina from being a Queen, and Daleina herself is slowly dying of an unknown ailment that has the Royal Healer, Hamon, so desperate that he calls on his diabolical Mother to find a way to save Daleina before people being slaughtered by spirits. To that point, the author brings in Daleina's own sister, Arin, who gets some much needed education on who to trust, and who not to. Arin's relationship with Mistress Garnah is bizarre and twisted to the point where it Arin almost has stars in her eyes from being around her.

Daleina is an interesting character. She is a reluctant Queen in that she had no choice in asking the spirits to choose her to become the next Queen. Daleina was never the most powerful candidate and now, even with the extra Queen powers, she is struggling.  She's not as powerful as the previous queen, or her former friend Merecot for that matter, or even Naelin who seems to be gifted with unlimited powers over the spirits but reluctant to put the country first before her children. The spirits know when something is amiss with their chosen Queen's. They laugh at them, take advantage when they are in a weak state, and feast like it's Thanksgiving meal whenever Daleina loses control.

I spent so much time pushing this series aside, that I feel really stupid now. Sarah Beth is a phenomenal author who has created an fantastically unique world where people live in tree villages, while spirits of all forms itch to take a bite out of the populous. Very few people descend to the forest floor, and, if they choose to do so, it's something they do at their own peril. The trees themselves, the air, the water, and the earth are all controlled by spirits with a deep and abiding hatred of humanity. The spirits choose the queen from a group of women who have spent most of their lives honing their inner ability to communicate with and control the countless spirits that exist in the world.

The title of this book couldn't be more poetic due to all that Naelin goes through before she agrees to be trained by Vin. She also gets some interesting protection with Bayn Wolf who we still don't know a whole lot of. We do know that he will protect Naelin and her children with his last breath if necessary. This is a series that definitely needs to be read in order so that you know who Merecot is and what seems to drive her towards her lunacy in removing Daleina from being a Queen.

Monday, September 16, 2019

#Review - Curse Breaker by Audrey Grey #YA #Fantasy

Series: Kingdom of Runes #2
Format: Kindle Edition, 380 pages
Release Date: August 12, 2019
Publisher: Starfall Press
Source:  Kindle Unlimited
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

All magic has a price.

Haven survived the Devourers, but she isn't any closer to breaking the curse. Meanwhile, her forbidden magic rages brighter and more dangerous every day.

To control her powers and stand a chance against the Shade Queen, Haven made a bargain with two enemy immortals. Now her waking hours are spent fighting alongside the Sun Lord, but her dreams belong to the Shade Lord.

Only the closer she ventures into the wicked Shadow Kingdom the more her magic shows itself--and the more she struggles with whom to trust. The golden but wounded Sun Lord or the darkly charismatic Shade Lord.

Both are off-limits.

And both have the ability to save her . . . or destroy her.

With the Shade Queen closing in and Bell's time nearly up, Haven will sacrifice everything to break the curse--but will it be enough to stop the mortal realm from falling into darkness forever?

Curse Breaker is the second installment in author Audrey Grey's The Kingdom of Runes Saga. Curse Breaker picks up right where Oath Taker left off. Haven Ashwood and her  allies, Archeron, Bjorn, Rook, and Surai, are attempting to gather 6 items needed to break the Curse Price. But, first, Haven needs to honor an agreement she made to save one of her allies. Haven is doing all she can do to survive this quest while also trying to save her best friend Prince Bell from the evil Queen Morgryth Malytheus. 

Prince Bellamy (Bell) Boteler is still a prisoner/guest of the Shade Queen's daughter. However, he's not alone. A surprising character shows more compassion than the desire to make Bell suffer even more than he has. Bell believes that Haven is dead so it is up to him to do all he can to survive his ordeal. This character who shalt be unnamed has some interesting revelations to tell to the reader about who he is and why he is here. From Bell we see more of the Noctis and learn more about the castle and the curse and who was to blame.

There is a curious storyline happening with Stolas, the Lord of the Netherworld and Haven. He is dark, and dangerous, yet Haven seems to have completed several parts of a mating ritual unbeknownst to her. To make matters even more twisted, Haven has found a connection with Archeron. I find it twisted that Haven seems to be doing all the work while her so called immortal friends stand by and watch her. 

Need tears from a fairy from a wood so deep? Haven will get it. Need a fig from a vorgrath from his mate's keep? No worries! Haven will get it even if it kills her! Forget that she hasn't been fully trained on either her dark, or her light magic. Forget that she's shooting from the hip at almost every situation she encounters. Did anyone else catch the implied statement about Solis' have 2 soulmates? Curious what that means to the future especially with Stolas still around. 

Haven's mysterious past is still up in the air, and I am crawling out of my mind with thoughts as to how the author is going to resolve this issue in a way that makes sense to readers who have made it to this point in the series. Apparently, there are several more books to come, (3) to be exact, in 2020. Readers know that Haven has access to both light and dark magic. We know that someone stole her from her parents and gave her up to be a slave. We know that Bell demanded that Haven be given to him as a birthday present which led to them becoming fast friends. But, I want to know more!

Curse Breaker is a story of twists, loss, devastation, and betrayal. You should not attempt to read this book without first reading Oath Taker. 

1. Oath Taker
2. Curse Breaker
3. King Maker (Jan 2020)
4. Light Singer (May 2020)
5. Dark Bringer (Fall 2020)

#Review - Seeker by Kim Chance #YA #Fantasy

Series: Keeper Duology #2
Format: Paperback, 400 pages
Release Date: September 10, 2019
Publisher: Flux
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

Teenagers Lainey, Ty, and Maggie struggle against the Master, an evil force who could destroy the world.

Lainey’s normal, bookworm life no longer exists. With her family murdered by the Master, she joins forces with a group of Supernatural rebels. But as she struggles to cope with her new role as Keeper and the uncontrollable power it gives her, Lainey realizes that magic does indeed leave a mark—but it’s not always physical. 
Ty isn’t one of the good guys. He’s done terrible things, and he won’t stop until he gets what he wants. Even if it hurts. Even if it means betraying the girl he loves . . . again. 
For Maggie, all her comic book dreams have come true, and her new life as a Shifter is just beginning. But with war closing in, is it truly a dream or a death sentence? In the ultimate battle for power, Lainey, Ty, and Maggie must face-off against the Master, and work together to discover the greatest weapon of all. Seek and you will find.

Seeker is the final installment in author Kim Chance's Keeper Duology. This story alternates narratives between Lainey Styles, Ty Marek, and her comic book loving adventure seeking best friend, Maggie. It has been (2) weeks since the Gathering. After being saved by the Hetaeria at the end of Keeper, Lainey is coming to terms with losing her family and learning what her mother accomplished before she was murdered. She's conflicted and confused and devastated by the loss of the man who helped raise her. She also believes that she is a murderer.

She agrees to be trained by Zia, a witch, in understanding her magic which she lost control of in Keeper. She knows that she is more than just a Seeker now. She might actually hold the answers to stopping the Master from getting his hands on the DuCarmont Grimoire which he needs for a specific spell to keep himself alive. The Hetaeria are a group led by Zia who wants to stop the Master and his ever growing followers from spreading their evil. Lainey has to figure out what she is capable of before the Master finds her, and more innocents are killed. 

Maggie is actually pretty happy after being bitten. She believes that her calling has finally come to fruition and that she can become one of her comic book heroes/heroines and help Lainey defeat the Master. When she nearly dies but is saved by Lainey, she brushes it all off and gets right back up o the saddle and encourages others to do what is necessary. I love Maggie. I really do. I love her positive attitude. I adore comparing certain people to comic book characters, and I adore her for not giving up as one of the only humans in the Rebellion. I also love the fact that she finds a connection with Oliver, a shifter with some interesting characteristics.

Ty isn't really a good guy, but then you need to dig deeper into his past and understand what drives him. I am glad that Chance explored Ty's past and what drove him into joining the Masters. Yes, he did betray Lainey, and yes, he is one of the Masters. But, he can't shake the fact that he is Lainey's calling a sort of magical connection. He also wants revenge on the Master but really needs Lainey and her Hetaeria allies to accept that he isn't really the enemy. Ty and Lainey's relationship can be described in one word; complicated. 

One of my other favorites from this story is Teddy. She reluctantly takes Lainey by the hand and tries to guide her into understanding all that she is capable of if she let's go of her anger, and her sorrow. Teddy and Zia are really two different people who just happen to be related to the other. One is a fighter, the other refuses to fight. The twist at the end really blew my mind I don't mind telling you. I loved that, once again, it involved Maggie, and not Ty. Yet another reason to be a Maggie fan.