Friday, September 28, 2018

#Review - The Tomb by S.A. Bodeen #YA #SyFy

Series: Unknown
Format: Paperback, 256 pages
Release Date: September 25, 2018
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction

S. A. Bodeen delivers yet another breathtaking YA thriller, this time set in space, where two teens fight their feelings for each other even as they try to save everyone back on their home ship.

Nothing is as it seems.

These are the first words Kiva's best friend Seth says, after three years of silence.

Kiva thought she was growing up in ancient Alexandria. That's what she and all her classmates had been led to believe by their parents. It turns out she was living in virtual reality, in a sleep chamber in deep space, and three years ago, Seth woke up. Now it's her turn to join him.

Together, Kiva and Seth must take an escape shuttle to search for the engine part their home ship needs to keep running. But it's been a long time since the Krakatoa has communicated with any of the other three ships harboring human civilization.

Hand this to fans of high-concept science fiction and heart-pounding thrillers à la Ender's Game and Passengers.

S.A. Bodeen's The Tomb has to be one of the strangest stories that I have read this year. And, that is saying a whole lot. The story is told in the third person narrative following a girl named Mika Stone. She truly believes that she is growing up in Alexandria. She goes to school, she trains to become a doctor under Alexandria's physician Fai, but she misses her friend Seth, who she hasn't spoken to in 3 years. Then one day, she receives a creepy message from him. 

"Your world is as you see it to be. Until it isn't." 

After a series of curious events, no, I will not tell you what happens, Kiva wakes up to a new reality. Kiva discovers that she has been a passenger aboard a spaceship (Krakatoa) that left planet Earth. In fact, she's spent entire life in virtual reality while being asleep in suspended animation. It is a reality in which she has been chosen to go along with Seth by adults, IE his father, and her mother, to find a part necessary to repair one of the 4 ships that apparently left Earth a decade or more ago.

In between learning about her new existence, she and Seth argue. They argue some more. Who wouldn't argue when your whole existence has been tossed into space and rearranged and the supposed friend that you haven't seen or talked to in 3 years, has known all along what is happening? Soon thereafter, they meet a creepy scientist onboard another ship, and runs away with a space cat. Nope, not even kidding here. 

After escaping from one bizarre situation, they encounter more trouble. Trouble which leads to an open ended ending with nothing available to see if this is part of a series or not. I am pretty sure this book was meant for the younger YA crowd, and those not me who found the characters a bit boring and uninteresting. Then you go and add space pirates, a space cat, a wacky scientist who kills people he doesn't like, and lastly, a witch named Glinda. I kid you not!

#Review - Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake #YALit #Fantasy

Series: Three Dark Crowns # 3
Format: Hardcover, 464 pages
Release Date: September 4, 2018
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Epic

In the third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling Three Dark Crowns series, a queen that has long been dead makes a chilling return to Fennbirn Island. 

Queen Katharine has waited her entire life to wear the crown. But now that she finally has it, the murmurs of dissent grow louder by the day. There’s also the alarming issue of whether her sisters are actually dead—or if they’re waiting in the wings to usurp the throne.

Mirabella and Arsinoe are alive, but they’re dealing with a nightmare of their own. Stuck on the mainland, where their powers have weakened, the girls are being visited by a specter they think may be the fabled Blue Queen, pointing her rotting, boney finger toward Fennbirn.

Jules, too, is in a strange place—still on the island but in disguise. And her only confidantes, a war-gifted girl named Emilia and her oracle friend Mathilde, are urging her to take on a role she can’t imagine filling: a legion-cursed queen who will lead a rebel army to Katharine’s doorstep. This is an uprising that the mysterious Blue Queen may have more to do with than anyone could have guessed—or expected.

Two Dark Reigns, by author Kendare Blake, is the third installment in the author's Three Dark Crowns series. As the story opens, Katharine has been crowned Queen of Finnbirn, but there has been some costs associated with her rise to the crown. Some are personal costs associated with being a poisoner, some are putting together a council with people she can trust, and some of her issues stem from what happened to her at Breccia Domain.

That doesn't even touch the fact that her sisters, Arsinoe and Mirabella, are presumed to be dead, but apparently there are rumors that they may be alive. Or, the fact that there is a threat to her reign by someone called the Legion Queen or the Mist is actually killing people arbitrarily. Katharine has actually earned her title. She didn't abandon the island like her sisters did. Yes, there are some real issues to deal with, and yes Katharine's issues are a bundle and a half to deal with, but there are some curious roads ahead that the author created in the final chapters of the story.

On the mainland, Mirabella and Arsinoe, along with Billy, are trying to make the best of their situation. While Mirabella, as the oldest, seems to fit in with the parasols, and frilly dresses, and has vowed to protect her sister, Arsinoe is the odd duck who ends up being looked down at and scorned. She hates wearing dresses and she really has no use for Billy's family who look down on her. But, Arsinoe's troubles are just beginning. 

She has constant dreams about Illian, the Blue Queen from centuries before our triplets’ time, and Daphne, her sister, who was raised as a mainlander. It appears that Arsinoe is being lured back to the island by a force that fears that if she doesn't, things will get much, much worse than they already are. Arsinoe and Mirabella have no clue what dangers await them, but Mirabella is going to allow her sister to go alone, and neither will Billy for that matter.  

If you remember the ending of One Dark Throne, you know that Juillenne (Jules) Milone made a choice to return to her island home. In the process, she is being propped up as the true queen of the island by Emilia Vatros, and Mathilde, and Oracle. Emilia, like Jules, is war-gifted, but nobody apparently has the powers that Jules has that makes her a threat to Katharine's reign. Emilia pushes and pushes and pushes some more for Jules to take the reigns and end the reign of the three queens. Emilia might just be the most annoying character in the entire book.

While there's not much to say about Mirabella because her powers on the island are pretty much null and void, she is still my favorite. I think there are plenty of things to come in the next installment which center wholly on Mirabella and the fact that her powers are probably the most dangerous of any of the characters in this book. Will Mirabella stand alongside Jules, and apparently Arsinoe who remain friends even after all that has happened, or will she make the difficult choice to support Katharine? 

Billy and Arsinoe's relationship does hit a quite a few bumps in the road throughout this book due to Arsinoe keeping secrets. But, Billy isn't going to give up on her that easily. Billy and Mirabella's relationship is also curious. I think it's mostly to keep Arsinoe safe from her own actions, and in that, they respect each other.  

I have no regard whatsoever for Pietyr, the brown nose who once tried to kill Katharine, and is now her lover since he can actually stand her poison. While she is possessed by the queens of the past, Pietyr becomes the one who tries to save her even though he already tried to kill her once. He's the backbone that Katharine lacks at times. While she tries to be calm and understanding, he wants her to become more forceful and crush anyone who challenges her. 

Like others, I found the ending of this book to be absolutely stunning. Holy wow, can the author get any darker? Let's hope the fourth installment holds up to the scrutiny to come.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

#Review - Broken Things by Lauren Oliver #YALIT #Thrillers #Suspense

Series: Standalone
Format: E-Galley, 416 pages
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Thrillers & Suspense

In this standalone teen novel, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver weaves a tale of mystery and murder as two girls grapple with the terrors of their past and uncover the truth about their friend’s murder.

It’s been five years since Summer Marks was brutally murdered in the woods. Everyone thinks that Mia and Brynn killed their best friend, driven by their obsession with a novel called The Way into Lovelorn, a magical world that the three girls imagined themselves into until it turned twisted and sick and deadly. 

Unable to explain what really happened to Summer, Brynn and Mia have both found different, painful ways to hide from a world that hates them—a world that will never feel magical, or safe, ever again.

On the anniversary of Summer’s death, a seemingly insignificant discovery resurrects the mystery and pulls Mia and Brynn back together once again. But as past and present, fiction and reality, begin again to intertwine, Brynn and Mia must confront painful truths they tried for so long to bury—and face the long shadow of memory that has been waiting all this time.

In this engrossing, twisty novel, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver weaves an unforgettable, mesmerizing tale of exquisite obsession, spoiled innocence, and impossible friendships.

Lauren Oliver's Broken Things is a twisty, edge of your seat thriller with a whodunit mystery, a long-buried truth, high emotions, bitter betrayals, and a secret danger that is still lingering out there. If you've read We Were Liars, or One of Us Is Lying, then this book is for you. Brynn McNally, Mia Ferguson, and Summer Marks formed a tight bond that they all rely on heavily, for different reasons, even if those reasons turn unhealthy. They were each in love with a book called Lovelorn that was never finished by the author.

5 years ago, Summer Marks was found murdered not far from the place where she, Brynn and Mia hung out while working on a fan fiction entitled The Way into Lovelorn. In the story, the girls pretended to be the three characters, Summer was the leader Ava, Brynn was the protector, Ashleigh, and Mia was the quiet one Audrey. The police had only three suspects, Owen Waldmann, Brynn, and Mia. They became known as the Monsters of Brickhouse Lane. 

In the aftermath, all three suffered in silence and had their lives uprooted. In the months and years that proceeded the murder, each of their lives went in strange directions. Brynn, who was outed as a lesbian, decided that she was going to escape and as the story picks up, has been in 6 different rehab facilities for alcohol and drug addiction. In truth, there's nothing wrong with Brynn. What truly scares Brynn is the real world, especially the people back in Twin Lakes who still see her as a killer. 

She doesn't know where to go since her mother and sister have pretty much ignored her, so why not stay where she is? The only person who seems to want to help her is Wade Turner, who just happens to be her cousin who has been trying to prove she's innocent. Then, Brynn receives an unexpected visit from Mia. The same Mia who broke Brynn's heart by betraying her to the cops. Summer's ghost still hangs over the town of Twin Falls, as well as Mia and Brynn's actions when it comes to how badly they allowed themselves to be treated by their so called best friend.

Mia is haunted by the words she said when the police questioned her about Summer: "ask Brynn." Claiming she was not there, Mia stayed home with her horde of a mother. When school became too tough, Mia opted for home schooling that kept her in the safety of her house all day. Making friends with YouTube celebrity Abby, who moved in two years ago and does not care about Mia’s supposed involvement with Summer’s death. But, after Mia finds a clue while cleaning out her home, she decides to call on Brynn.

When Brynn and Mia are brought back together by the fifth anniversary of Summer’s murder, despite their baggage from the murder case, they decide to work together to seek out answers as to who really was responsible for murdering Summer and leaving Mia, Brynn, and Owen to take the fall. Meanwhile, Mia and Owen have always known they were meant to be together, even as childhood best friends—but Summer’s involvement and her murder drove a wedge between the two of them. Now their unresolved feelings for each other add an additional current of tension through the story.

Brynn is attracted to other girls and struggles with this identity as she navigates relationships and bullying. In her teenage story line, however, she and another character connect in a sweet romance, in the margins of the murder mystery. This story alternates between Brynn and Mia, as well as going back in time. You also never really get to see the story from Summer's point of view, which would have been pretty interesting considering what she's portrayed as by both Brynn and Mia. I discovered an Easter Egg in the story about 30% of the way in, and it gave me the clue to guess who the real killer was. 

Overall, I felt more for Brynn, than I did Mia. Mia found a friend who didn't judge her. Brynn was pretty much outed and left behind without anyone trying to help her. I can understand Brynn more than I can Mia, and that should pretty much tell you that I've dealt with similar issues.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

#Review - War of the Wilted by Amber Mitchell #YALIT #Fantasy

Series: Garden of Thorns # 2
Format: E-Galley, 395 pages
Release Date: October 1, 2018
Publisher: Entangled: Teen
Source: Publisher
Genre: Fantasy / Romance

Like flowers denied water, people are wilting under the emperor's tyranny.

Rose will not rest until the Gardener is dead. But there are bigger battles to fight, and Rayce—leader of the rebellion and the only man Rose has ever loved—believes their best chance at winning the war is to join forces with her sworn enemy.

Saving innocent people is more important than her quest for revenge. But their new ally can’t be trusted—and he knows her darkest secret. One betrayal could leave the war and Rayce’s life hanging in the balance, and Rose will need to make the ultimate sacrifice to save them all.

War of the Wilted is the second installment in author Amber Mitchell's Garden of Thorns trilogy. The book picks up shortly after the ending of the Garden of Thorns. Protagonist Rose, who we all know by a different name now, has pledged her life to the Zareeni rebellion led by Rayce Sun against Emperor Galen Sun. Rose's real identity is a huge secret. Only a few people, including Rayce, the Gardener, and the Emperor know who she is. And, if her identity is discovered by the traitor who took over the Varshan throne, her life will be forfeit.

If she is captured by the Emperor, he will use her to unite both realms under his brutal dictatorship and the rebellion will be crushed by superior numbers. Rose has fulfilled part of her obligation to the former Flowers and Wilted's. Those who survived the previous installment, are now living among the Zareeni. But, Rose isn't at all happy that she wasn't allowed to kill the man who kidnapped her, forced into learning how to dance, and made her his main attraction. 

Rose wants the Gardener dead, but Rayce believes that he can be useful to the rebellion. Rose doesn't want to be a leader, but the Flowers & Wilteds follow her lead. She doesn't want to have to reveal her identity to the people she now calls friends, including Calla, Lily, Arlo, and Marin, but sooner rather than later it will come out. Rose struggles to adjust to her freedom and the rules that Rayce believes are best for the rebellion. The fact that she wants the Gardener to pay for his sins, and knows that he is playing Rayce against her, chaffs more than if she was still forced to dance.

Does she ignore the rules every chance she gets? You betcha. Is she right to do so? In my opinion, absolutely. Rose and Rayce's relationship became such a major part of the story that I have to admit that I wanted to skip over several parts of the story. When the story wasn't about Rose and Rayce's issues, the author provides readers with a ton of action, thrilling battles, and some interesting twists. There are several new dynamics introduced in this book, so it will be interesting to see where the author goes next.

Summation: As I've stated, I loved the action in this story. But, I didn't enjoy this book as much as Garden of Thorns mainly because of all the angst and arguments between Rose and Rayce which seemed to take up 1/2 the story. When all is said and done. Rose was 100% right with her actions, and Rayce should have seen the light far sooner than he did. That being said, I have no choice but to finish this series and see how the author ties up this series. I will keep my fingers crossed that the author will leave the angst and arguments behind and focus on the next step in Rose's adventure.

Monday, September 24, 2018

#Review - Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa #YALIT #Fantasy

Series: Shadow of the Fox# 1
Format: E-Galley, 416 pages
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Epic

Enter a beautiful and perilous land of shapeshifters and samurai, kami and legends, humans and demons...a world in which Japanese mythology and imagination blend together to create a brand-new and lushly drawn fantasy adventure from the New York Times bestselling author of The Talon Saga and The Iron Fey.

One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos.

Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn.

Raised by monks in the isolated Silent Winds temple, Yumeko has trained all her life to hide her yokai nature. Half kitsune, half human, her skill with illusion is matched only by her penchant for mischief. Until the day her home is burned to the ground, her adoptive family is brutally slain and she is forced to flee for her life with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll.

There are many who would claim the dragon’s wish for their own. Kage Tatsumi, a mysterious samurai of the Shadow Clan, is one such hunter, under orders to retrieve the scroll…at any cost. Fate brings Kage and Yumeko together. With a promise to lead him to the scroll, an uneasy alliance is formed, offering Yumeko her best hope for survival. But he seeks what she has hidden away, and her deception could ultimately tear them both apart.

With an army of demons at her heels and the unlikeliest of allies at her side, Yumeko’s secrets are more than a matter of life or death. They are the key to the fate of the world itself.

"Absolute power can corrupt even the purest of hearts. Such is the folly of men."

Shadow of the Fox is the first installment in a stunning and diverse new trilogy crafted by a master storyteller and fantasy veteran Julie Kagawa. It is an epic, richly populated world that awaits readers. Filled with kitsune, oni, and kami, this book digs its roots deep in the history and legends of Japan. The characters are delightfully subversive - a naive trickster, an emotionless young man, a drunken warrior. This is a stunning adventure that you won't want to put down!

Kagawa sets the stage for what's to come right out of the gate. The opening chapter itself focuses on a young girl named Suki, the only child of a celebrated flute maker. One could honestly say that Suki's only crime in this entire story is being in the wrong place at the wrong time and meeting one of the main villains when this person is trying to conjure up forces to track down pieces of the legendary dragon scrolls. What a way to begin a story.

"The dragon is rising. The harbinger of change approaches. The night of the wish is nearly upon us."   

Readers next meet 16-year old Yumeko who lives among the monks at Silent Winds Temple. Yumeko is a half kitsune trickster fox with powers over illusion. Yumeko has spent her entire life being raised by monks hoping to teach her patience in dealing with her Kitsune side and the ability to control her powers to an extent. As the tranquility of the temple is broken by demons (amanjaku) lead by a fearsome Oni General Yaburama, Yumeko learns not only that the temple protects a piece of a dragon scroll, but a prophecy which she is apparently legendary dragon scroll, but Yumeko herself may be one of the center pieces to game to come.

Tatsumi is the next character you will meet. Tatsumi is a kage warrior from the Shadow Clan. Tatsumi is special as he is the wielder of the Kamigoroshi, a sword possessed by a powerful demon named Hakaimono. Tatsumi fights with the demon for total control over his emotions and constantly fighting for domination. He is sent by the Leader of the Shadow Clan, Lady Hanshou to retrieve the scroll from the monks by any means and to cut down any obstacles in his way.

As Tatsumi is making is way to the Silent Winds Temple to retrieve the piece of the dragon scroll, he encounter demons in the midst of destroying the temple. Tatsumi and Yumeko's paths cross at the end of the destruction of the temple while she is running for her life. She makes a deal with him. He will lead her to Steel Feather Temple which has been lost or hidden away by possible paranormal elements, and she will tell him where the dragon scroll is. Along the way, they pick up a drunken former samurai, Okame, and Taiyo Daisuke, a member of the royal family who is called The Demon Prince.

While Yumeko and Tatsumi are traveling across Iwagoto having adventures, there are many powerful key players behind the scene manipulating and scheming towards a favorable endgame. Let's keep the villains a secret for now, especially since the author uses a shocking twist to end this first installment. So, while the overall story is a game of power, and death, Tatsumi and Yumeko are going to have to learn how to trust each other while hiding secrets from each other. She is hiding the actual scroll, he is hiding the fact that at any time he can lose control to Hakaimono

The wide array of supernatural characters is another thing I loved about this story. I am a fan of Japanese culture and mythology. The author really digs deep in order to make this story a complete story, and not one with many head scratching moment. Wouldn't be much of a story were the author to leave out the twisted climax to the story itself. To create the newly imagined world of Shadow of the Fox, Kagawa draws on the same gorgeous and magical style employed in the creation of the Nevernever, the beloved and incredibly popular setting of The Iron Fey.

#Review - Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep #Fantasy

Series: A Crown of Shards # 1
Format: Paperback, 465 pages
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Source: Publisher
Genre: Fantasy / Epic

Gladiator meets Game of Thrones: a royal woman becomes a skilled warrior to destroy her murderous cousin, avenge her family, and save her kingdom in this first entry in a dazzling fantasy epic from the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Elemental Assassin series—an enthralling tale that combines magic, murder, intrigue, adventure, and a hint of romance

In a realm where one’s magical power determines one’s worth, Lady Everleigh’s lack of obvious ability relegates her to the shadows of the royal court of Bellona, a kingdom steeped in gladiator tradition. Seventeenth in line for the throne, Evie is nothing more than a ceremonial fixture, overlooked and mostly forgotten.

But dark forces are at work inside the palace. When her cousin Vasilia, the crown princess, assassinates her mother the queen and takes the throne by force, Evie is also attacked, along with the rest of the royal family. Luckily for Evie, her secret immunity to magic helps her escape the massacre.

Forced into hiding to survive, she falls in with a gladiator troupe. Though they use their talents to entertain and amuse the masses, the gladiators are actually highly trained warriors skilled in the art of war, especially Lucas Sullivan, a powerful magier with secrets of his own. Uncertain of her future—or if she even has one—Evie begins training with the troupe until she can decide her next move.

But as the bloodthirsty Vasilia exerts her power, pushing Bellona to the brink of war, Evie’s fate becomes clear: she must become a fearsome gladiator herself . . . and kill the queen.

Jennifer Estep's Kill the Queen is the first installment in A Crown of Shards trilogy. Lady Everleigh Saffira Winter Blair is part of the royal family in Bellona, but she is pretty much ignored because of her status as an unwanted orphan. Her only real human contact comes from Maeven, the kitchen steward, and Alvis, Metalstone Master & royal jeweler who both took Evie under their wings when Evie arrived at Seven Spire 15 years ago. Evie has been trying to leave for months, but needs Queen Cordelia's permission in order to do so.

Why should she stick around? It's not like she will become the next queen any time soon. Not when the Queen has two daughters of her own. Not when she's seventeenth in line behind a whole group of cousins. In the Kingdom of Bellona where magic is revered, Evie's lack of magical talent makes her an anomaly and brands her as practically useless. Her "mutt" magic is ridiculed and ignored. Evie is the one the Queen uses for royal stand ins at various events, learning to dance a for dignitaries, and cooking pies for visiting ambassadors.

When we first meet the Evie, she has no clue that her entire life is about to be upturned, and literally thrown out the window. Thankfully for Evie, she carries a secret with her which the synopsis pretty much tells you about. So, after the Red Wedding scene in the book where Princess Vasilia viciously assassinates the queen and all others who could inherit the throne, Evie is thought to be dead. But, thanks to her mutt magic and her secret, she survive's or this wouldn't be a very long story, would it?  

Adhering to the Queen's last words to her, Evie attempts to join Serilda Swanson's troupe of gladiators. If she can survive the brutal training, and her fellow gladiators, (including Paloma & Lucas Sullivan), who would stab you in the back in a moments notice, then she can work out a way to gain her revenge against the person who tried to kill her. Surprising enough, Evie makes friends with not only Paloma, but Lucas as well. As Evie learns who she really is, not just a cast off orphan with no future, she just may be someone who can take revenge on the person who tried to kill her.  

In this story, there's plenty of action, and the authors signature blood bath. Fairness in review writing. No, I have not watched Game of Thrones, but I asked my mom who has, especially the Red Wedding episode. There is a slow burn romance in this book, and that character has plenty of his own secrets that will need to be explored before this series sails into the sunrise. I loved the relationship between Evie and Paloma, a sort of shape-shifter called morph.  I also like Xenia, although it took events in the second half of the book for me to warm up to her. 

Recommendation: High. I am one who gobbles up Jennifer's books like I was eating red velvet cake. I can't resist. She offers action, adventure, a bit of romance, and a bit of humor mixed in.

Friday, September 21, 2018

#Review - Time's Convert by Deborah Harkness #Parnormal #Romance

Series: Standalone
Format: E-Galley, 448 pages
Release Date: September 18, 2018
Publisher: Viking
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Thrillers / Suspense

On the battlefields of the American Revolution, Matthew de Clermont meets Marcus MacNeil, a young surgeon from Massachusetts, during a moment of political awakening when it seems that the world is on the brink of a brighter future. When Matthew offers him a chance at immortality and a new life free from the restraints of his puritanical upbringing, Marcus seizes the opportunity to become a vampire. But his transformation is not an easy one and the ancient traditions and responsibilities of the de Clermont family clash with Marcus’s deeply held beliefs in liberty, equality, and brotherhood.

Fast-forward to contemporary Paris, where Phoebe Taylor—the young employee at Sotheby’s whom Marcus has fallen for—is about to embark on her own journey to immortality. Though the modernized version of the process at first seems uncomplicated, the couple discovers that the challenges facing a human who wishes to be a vampire are no less formidable than they were in the eighteenth century. The shadows that Marcus believed he’d escaped centuries ago may return to haunt them both—forever.

A passionate love story and a fascinating exploration of the power of tradition and the possibilities not just for change but for revolution, Time’s Convert channels the supernatural world-building and slow-burning romance that made the All Souls Trilogy instant bestsellers to illuminate a new and vital moment in history, and a love affair that will bridge centuries.

Time Convert, by author Deborah Harkness, is technically a standalone novel, however, it would behoove you to have read the All Souls Trilogy, particularly the final installment The Book of Life, before reading this book. The events for this story takes place a few years after the end of The Book of Life. Every character in this book is someone who is not new. They have all have appeared one time or the other in the previous installments. There are several distinct parts to this story.

The first part of this story begins with Phoebe Taylor's first days at becoming a vampire and follows her through the point where she can honestly be trusted to be alone, and without a chaperone to keep her from exposing herself and others. Freya, Ysabeau, and Miriam appear in Phoebe's story. It is a journey where she will have to learn how to become someone entirely different. Someone whose emotions are close to the skin, ready to break out and party. In case you missed it, readers originally met Marcus in A Discover of Witches and Phoebe Shadow of Night. 

Phoebe and Marcus have chosen to adhere to an ancient tradition and ceremony which means that Phoebe will have to be apart from Marcus for 90 days, while her maker teaches her what it means to become a de Clermont vampire. While Phoebe is undergoing her transformation, Marcus is being guided by Diana to tell his origin story. In this world, asking a vampire when they became a vampire, isn't something normally asked. Marcus' story will take readers back to the Revolutionary War in the US and to the French Revolution. 

I actually liked the back story because it is historical in nature. True events and characters show up in many different places, including George Washington, and Lafayette to name just a few. The third part of this story is a glimpse into the lives of Diana, Matthew, and their Bright Born children Rebecca and Philip. Diana, is a witch who is also a weaver able to perceive the woven strands of the past, present, and future, has come to accept that she is a witch. In fact, she shows some impressive skills in this story which she was afraid of doing in the previous trilogy. 

Her only real concerns are her children who are gifted. Philip and Becca have magical powers parallel to witches which must be softened, monitored and disciplined into permissible behavior so that disaster does not strike, as it almost does several times. Being a parent is a huge adjustment to manage as well as how rapidly they seem to grow up, including Philip suddenly getting a griffin whom Philip names Apollo. If more stories are planned in this world, I would bet that they would be from the perspectives of both Becca and Philip. But, I could be wrong. 

1. Naught
12 May
On her last night as a warmblood, Phoebe Taylor had been a good daughter.
Freyja had insisted upon it.
“Let’s not make a fuss,” Phoebe had protested, as though she was just going on holiday for a few days, hoping to get away with a casual farewell at the hotel where her family was staying.
“Absolutely not,” Freyja said, looking down her long nose. “De Clermonts do not skulk around—unless they are Matthew, of course. We shall do this properly. Over dinner. It is your duty.”
The evening party Freyja put on for the Taylors was simple, elegant, and perfect—right down to the weather (a flawless example of May), the music (could every vampire in Paris play the cello?), the flowers (enough Mme. Hardy roses had been brought in from the garden to perfume the entire city), and the wine (Freyja was fond of Cristal).
Phoebe’s father, mother, and sister showed up at half past eight as requested. Her father was in black tie; her mother in a turquoise and gold lehenga choli; Stella was in head-to-toe Chanel. Phoebe wore unrelieved black with the emerald earrings Marcus had given her before he left Paris, along with a pair of sky-high heels of which she—and Marcus—was particularly fond.
The assembled group of warmbloods and vampire first had drinks in the garden behind Freyja’s sumptuous house in the 8th arrondissement—a private Eden the likes of which had not been carved out of space-starved Paris for over a century. The Taylor family was accustomed to palatial surroundings—Phoebe’s father was a career diplomat and her mother came from the kind of Indian family that had married into the British civil service since the days of the Raj—but de Clermont privilege was on an entirely different scale.
They sat down to dinner at a table set with crystal and china, in a room with tall windows that let in the summer light and overlooked the garden. Charles, the laconic chef whom the de Clermonts employed in their Parisian homes when warmbloods were invited to dine, was fond of Phoebe and had spared no effort or expense.
“Raw oysters are a sign that God loves vampires and wants them to be happy,” Freyja announced, raising her glass at the beginning of the meal. She was, Phoebe noticed, using the word “vampire” as liberally as possible, as though sheer repetition might normalize what Phoebe was about to do. “To Phoebe. Happiness and long life.”
Following that toast, her family had little appetite. Aware that this was her last proper meal, Phoebe nevertheless found it difficult to swallow. She forced down the oysters, and the champagne that accompanied it, and picked at the rest of the feast. Freyja kept up a lively conversation throughout the hors d’oeuvres, the soup, the fish, the duck, and the sweets (“Your last chance, Phoebe, darling!”), switching from French to English to Hindi between sips of wine.
“No, Edward, I don’t believe there is anyplace I haven’t been. Do you know, I think my father might have been the original diplomat?” Freyja used this startling announcement to draw out Phoebe’s circumspect father about his early days in the Queen’s service.
Whether or not Freyja’s historical judgment was accurate, Philippe de Clermont had clearly taught his daughter a thing or two about smoothing over conversational rough edges.
“Richard Mayhew, you say? I believe I knew him. Françoise, didn’t I know a Richard Mayhew when we were in India?”
The sharp-eyed servant had mysteriously appeared the moment her mistress required her, tuned in to some vampiric frequency inaudible to mere mortals.
“Probably.” Françoise was a woman of few words, but each one conveyed layers of meaning.
“Yes, I think I did know him. Tall? Sandy haired? Good looking, in a sort of schoolboy way?” Freyja was undeterred by Françoise’s dour remark or by the fact that she was describing roughly half the British diplomatic corps.
Phoebe had yet to discover anything that could put a dent in Freyja’s cheerful resolve.
“Good bye for now,” Freyja said breezily at the end of the evening, kissing each of the Taylors in farewell. A press of cool lips on one cheek, then the other. “Padma, you are always welcome. Let me know when you will be in Paris next. Stella, do stay here during the winter shows. It is so convenient to the fashion houses, and Françoise and Charles will take very good care of you. The George V is excellent, of course, but so popular with tourists. Edward, I will be in touch.”
Her mother had been characteristically dry-eyed and stoic, though she held Phoebe a bit more tightly than usual in farewell.
“You are doing the right thing,” Padma Taylor whispered into her daughter’s ear before releasing her. She understood what it meant to love someone enough to give up your whole life in exchange for a promise of what it could become.
“Make sure that pre-nup is as generous as they claim,” Stella murmured to Phoebe as she crossed the threshold. “Just in case. This house is worth a fucking fortune.” Stella could view Phoebe’s decision only through her own frame of reference, which was entirely concerned with glamour, style, and the distinctive cut of Freyja’s vintage red gown.
“This?” Freyja had laughed when Stella admired it, posing for a moment and tilting her flaxen top-knot to one side to show her gown and figure to greater advantage. “Balenciaga. Had it for ages. Now there was a man who understood how to construct a bodice!”
It was her normally reserved father who had struggled with the farewell, eyes filled with tears, searching hers (so like his, Freyja had noticed earlier in the evening) for signs that her resolution might be wavering. Once her mother and Stella were outside the gates, her father pulled Phoebe away from the front steps where Freyja waited.
“It won’t be long, Dad,” Phoebe said, trying to reassure him. But they both knew that months would pass before she would be allowed to see her family again—for their safety, as well as for her own.
“Are you sure, Phoebe? Absolutely?” her father asked. “There’s still time to reconsider.”
“I’m sure.”
“Be reasonable. For a moment,” Edward Taylor said, a note of pleading in his voice. He was familiar with delicate negotiations, and was not above using guilt to tilt matters in his favor. “Why not wait a few more years? There’s no need to rush into such a big decision.”
“I’m not going to change my mind,” Phoebe said, gentle but firm. “This isn’t a matter for the head, Dad, but the heart.”
Now her birth family was gone. And Phoebe was left with the de Clermonts’ loyal retainers Charles and Françoise, and Freyja—who was her fiancé’s Maker’s step-sister, and therefore in vampiric terms a close relation.
In the immediate aftermath of the Taylors’ departure, Phoebe had thanked Charles for the fine dinner, and Françoise for taking care of everyone during the party. Then she sat in the salon with Freyja, who was reading her email before responding to it in longhand, writing on creamy cards edged in lavender that she slid into heavy envelopes.
“There is no need to embrace this godforsaken new preference for instant communication,” Freyja explained when Phoebe asked why she didn’t simply hit reply like everyone else. “You will soon discover, Phoebe dearest, that speed is not something that a vampire requires. It’s very human and vulgar to rush about as though time were in short supply.”
After putting in a courteous hour with Marcus’s aunt, Phoebe felt she had done her bit.
“I think I’ll go upstairs,” Phoebe said, feigning a yawn. In truth, sleep was the farthest thing from her mind.
“Give Marcus my love.” Freyja licked the adhesive on the envelope with delicate laps of her tongue before sealing it shut.
“How do you—” Phoebe looked at Freyja, astonished. “I mean, what are you—”
“This is my house. I know everything that happens in it.” Freyja stuck a stamp on the corner of the envelope, making sure it was properly aligned with the edges. “I know, for instance, that Stella brought three of those horrible little phones here tonight in her bag, and that you removed them when you went to the toilet. I presume you hid them in your room. Not among your underclothes—you are too original for that, aren’t you, Phoebe?—nor under the mattress. No. I think they are in the canister of bath salts on the window ledge. Or inside your shoes—those rubber-soled ones that you wear on walks. Or perhaps they are on top of the armoire in the blue-and-white plastic sack you saved from your trip to the grocer on Wednesday?”
Freyja’s third guess was correct, right down to the plastic bag that still smelled vaguely of the garlic Charles had used in his triumphant bouillabaisse. Phoebe had known Marcus’s plan to flout the rules and stay in touch was not a good idea.
“You are breaking your agreements, Phoebe dearest,” Freyja said matter-of-factly. “But you are a grown woman, with free will, capable of making your own decisions.”
Technically, Marcus and Phoebe were forbidden from speaking to each other until she had been a vampire for ninety days. They had wondered how they might bend this rule. Sadly, Freyja’s only phone was located in the entrance hall where everyone could hear your conversations. It seldom worked properly in any case. Every now and again it gave a tinny ring, the force of the bells inside the ancient device so strong that they rocked the handset in its brass cradle. As soon as you picked up the receiver, the line usually went dead. Freyja wrote it off to a bad wiring job courtesy of a member of Hitler’s inner circle during the last war; she was not interested in fixing it.
After considering the challenges of the situation, Marcus had, with the help of Stella and his friend Nathaniel, come up with a more secretive means of communication: cheap, disposable cellphones. They were the kind used by international thieves and terrorists—or so Nathaniel had assured them—and would be untraceable should Baldwin or any other vampire want to spy on them. Phoebe and Marcus purchased them in a shady electronics shop located on one of the 10th arrondissement’s more entrepreneurial streets.
“I am sure, given the situation, that you will keep your conversation brief,” Freyja continued. She glanced at her computer screen and addressed another envelope. “You don’t want Miriam to catch you.”
Miriam was hunting around the Sacre Coeur and was expected to return in the small hours of the morning. Phoebe glanced at the clock on the mantle—an extravagant affair of gilt and marble with reclining male nudes holding up a round timepiece as though it were a beach ball. It was one minute before midnight.
“Goodnight, then,” Phoebe said, grateful that Freyja was not only three steps ahead of her and Marcus, but at least one ahead of Miriam as well.
“Hmm.” Freyja’s attention was devoted to the page in front of her.
Phoebe escaped upstairs. Her bedroom was down a long corridor lined with early French landscapes. A thick carpet muffled her footsteps.
After closing the bedroom door, Phoebe reached up onto the top of the armoire (Empire style, c. 1815) and snagged the plastic bag. She pulled out one of the phones and switched it on. It was fully charged and ready for use.
Clutching the phone to her heart, Phoebe slipped into the attached bathroom and closed that door, too. Two closed doors and a broad expanse of thick porcelain tile was all the privacy this vampire household afforded. She toed off her shoes and lowered herself, fully clothed, into the cold, empty tub before dialing Marcus’s number.
“Hello, sweetheart.” Marcus’s voice, usually lighthearted and warm, was rough-edged with concern—though he was doing his best to disguise it. “How was dinner?”
“Delicious,” Phoebe lied. She lay back in the tub, which was Edwardian and had a magnificent high back with a curve to cradle her neck.
Marcus’s quiet laughter told her that he didn’t entirely believe her.
“Two bites of dessert and a nibble here and there around the edges?” Marcus teased.
“One bite of dessert. And Charles went to so much trouble.” Phoebe’s brow creased. She would have to make it up to him. Like most culinary geniuses, Charles was quick to take offense when plates were returned to the kitchen with food still on them.
“Nobody expected you to eat much,” Marcus said. “The dinner was for your family, not you.”
“There were plenty of leftovers. Freyja sent them home with mum.”
“How was Edward?” Marcus knew about her father’s reservations.
“Dad tried to talk me out of our plan. Again,” Phoebe replied.
There was a long silence.
“It didn’t work,” Phoebe added, in case Marcus was worried.
“Your father just wants you to be absolutely sure,” Marcus said quietly.
“I am. Why do people keep questioning me?” There was no keeping the impatience from her tone.
“They love you,” Marcus said simply.
“Then they should listen to me. Being with you—that’s what I want.” It wasn’t all that she wanted of course. Ever since Phoebe met Ysabeau at Sept-Tours, she had craved the inexhaustible supply of time vampires possessed.
Phoebe had studied how Ysabeau seemed to fully extend herself into every task. Nothing was done quickly or for the sake of getting through and checking it off one’s endless to-do list. Instead there was a reverence to Ysabeau’s every move—how she sniffed the blossoms in her garden, the feline stealth of her steps, the slow pause when she reached the end of a chapter in her book before she went on to the next. Ysabeau did not feel that time would run out before she had sucked the essence from whatever experience she was having. For Phoebe, there never seemed to be enough time to breathe, dashing from the market to work to the chemist’s for cold medicine to the cobbler to have her heels fixed, and back to work.
But Phoebe hadn’t shared these observations with Marcus. He would learn her thoughts on the matter soon, when they were reunited. Then Marcus would drink from her heart vein—the thin river of blue that crossed the left breast—and learn her deepest secrets, her darkest fears, and her most cherished desires. The blood from the heart vein contained all that a lover might conceal, and drinking from it embodied the sincerity and trust that their relationship would need in order to succeed.
“We’re going to take this one step at a time, remember?” Marcus’s question reclaimed her attention. “First, you become a vampire. Then, if you still want me—”
“I will.” Of this Phoebe was absolutely certain.
“If you still want me,” Marcus repeated, “we will marry and you will be stuck with me. For richer and poorer.”
This was one of their routines as a couple—rehearsing the marriage vows. Sometimes they focused on one line and pretended that it would be hard to keep. Sometimes they made fun of the whole lot, and the smallness of the concerns the vows addressed when stacked up against the size of their feelings for each other.
“In sickness and in health.” Phoebe settled deeper into the tub. Its coolness reminded her of Marcus, and its solid curves made her wish he was sitting behind her, his arms and legs enfolding her. “Forsaking all others. Forever.”
“Forever is a long time,” Marcus said.
“Forsaking all others,” Phoebe repeated, putting careful emphasis on the middle word.
“You can’t know for sure. Not until you know me blood to blood,” Marcus replied.
Their rare quarrels erupted after just this kind of exchange, when Marcus’s words suggested he’d lost confidence in her and Phoebe became defensive. Such arguments had usually been settled in Marcus’s bed, where each had demonstrated to the other’s satisfaction that although they might not know everything (yet), they had mastered certain important bodies of knowledge.
But Phoebe was in Paris and Marcus was in the Auvergne. A physical rapprochement wasn’t possible at the moment. A wiser, more experienced person would have let the matter drop—but Phoebe was twenty-three, irritated, and anxious about what was about to take place.
“I don’t know why you think it’s me who will change my mind and not you.” In her mind, the words were light and playful. To her horror, they sounded different when spoken aloud. “After all, I’ve never known you as anything but a vampire. But you fell in love with me as a warmblood.”
“I love you.” Marcus’s response was gratifyingly swift. “That won’t change.”
“You might hate the taste of me. I should have made you try me—before,” Phoebe said, trying to pick a fight. Maybe Marcus didn’t love her as much as he thought he did. Phoebe’s rational mind knew that was nonsense, but the irrational part (the part that was in control at the moment) wasn’t convinced.
“I want us to share that experience—as equals. I’ve never shared my blood with my mate—nor have you. It’s something we can do for the first time, together.” Marcus’s voice was gentle, but it held an edge of frustration.
This was well-covered ground. Equality was something that Marcus cared about deeply. A woman and child begging on the street, a racial slur overheard on the tube, an elderly man struggling to cross the street while young people sped by with their headphones and mobiles—all of these made Marcus seethe.
“We should have just run off and eloped,” Marcus said. “We should have done it our way, and not bothered with all this ancient tradition and ceremony.”
But doing it this way, in slow, measured steps, had been a choice they had made together.
Ysabeau de Clermont, the family’s matriarch and Marcus’s grandmother, had laid out the pros and cons of abandoning vampire custom with her usual clarity. She started with the recent family scandal. Marcus’s father, Matthew, had married a witch in violation of nearly a thousand years of prohibitions against relationships between creatures of different species. Then he nearly died at the hands of one of his other deranged sons. This left Phoebe and Marcus with two options. They could keep her transformation and their marriage secret for as long as possible before facing an eternity of gossip and speculation about what had gone on behind the scenes. Alternatively, they could transform Phoebe into a vampire before she was mated to Marcus with all due pomp—and transparency. If they chose the latter course, Phoebe and Marcus would likely suffer a year of inconvenience, followed by a decade or two of notoriety, and then be free to enjoy an endless lifetime of relative peace and quiet.
Marcus’s reputation had played a factor in Phoebe’s decision. He was known among vampires for his impetuousness, and for charging off to right all the evils of the world without a care for what other creatures might think. Phoebe hoped that if they followed tradition in the matter of their marriage, Marcus would enter the ranks of respectability and his past deeds might be seen in a more positive light.
“Tradition serves a useful purpose, remember?” Phoebe said firmly. “Besides, we’re not sticking to all the rules. Your secret phone plan is no longer secret, by the way. Freyja knows.”
“It was always a long shot.” Marcus sighed. “I swear to God, Freyja’s part bloodhound. There’s no getting anything past her. Don’t worry. Freyja won’t really mind us talking. It’s Miriam who’s the stickler.”
“Miriam is in Montmartre,” Phoebe said, glancing at her watch. It was now thirty minutes past midnight. Miriam would return soon. She really had to get off the phone.
“There’s good hunting around the Sacre Coeur,” Marcus commented.
“That’s what Freyja said,” Phoebe replied.
Silence fell. It grew heavy with all the things they couldn’t say, wouldn’t say, or wanted to say but didn’t know how. In the end, there were only three words important enough to utter.
“I love you, Marcus Whitmore.”
“I love you, Phoebe Taylor,” Marcus replied. “No matter what you decide ninety days from now, you’re already my mate. You’re under my skin, in my blood, in my dreams. And don’t worry. You’re going to be a brilliant vampire.”
Phoebe had no doubts that the transformation would work, and blissfully few that she wouldn’t enjoy being ageless and powerful. But would she and Marcus be able to build a relationship that would endure, like the one Marcus’s grandmother had known with her mate, Philippe?
“I will be thinking of you,” Marcus said. “Every moment.”
The line went dead as Marcus hung up.
Phoebe kept the phone to her ear until the telephone service disconnected the call. She climbed out of the tub, smashed the phone with the canister of bath salts, opened the window, and threw the lump of plastic and circuitry as far as she could into the garden. Destroying the evidence of their transgression had been part of Marcus’s original plan, and Phoebe was going to follow it to the letter even if Freyja already knew about the forbidden phones. What was left of the device landed in the small fish pond with a satisfying plonk.
Having rid herself of the incriminating evidence, Phoebe took off her dress and hung it up inside the armoire—making sure that the striped plastic bag was once again out of sight on top of it. Then she put on the simple white silk dressing gown that Françoise had laid out for her on the bed.
Phoebe sat on the edge of the mattress, quiet and still, resolutely facing her future, and waited for Time to find her.