Friday, August 30, 2019

#Review - The Traitor's Kingdom by Erin Beaty #YALit #Fantasy

Series: Traitor's Trilogy (#3)
Format: Hardcover, 400 pages
Release Date: July 9, 2019
Publisher: Imprint
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

The fate of Sage Fowler and her fiancé Captain Alex Quinn is decided in the epic conclusion of the Traitor’s Trilogy.

Once a spy and counselor to the throne, Sage Fowler has secured victory for her kingdom at a terrible cost. Now an ambassador representing Demora, Sage faces her greatest challenge to avoid a war with a rival nation.

After an assassination attempt destroys the possibility of peace, Sage and her fiancé, Major Alex Quinn, make a dangerous gamble to reveal the culprit. But the stakes are higher than ever, and in the game of traitors, betrayal is the only certainty.

Unlikely alliances are forged and loyalties are stretched to the breaking point in the stunning conclusion to the Traitor’s Trilogy.


The Traitor's Kingdom is the third and final installment in author Erin Beaty's Traitor Trilogy. As the story unfolds, Sage Fowler has taken up her new job as ambassador to Casmun while her fiancé, Major Alex Quinn, has taken charge of the Norsari. Thanks to the fact that Alex is unable to marry until he turns 24, things aren't exactly perfect between the couple who are separated by great distances. But, to be fair, that has been the story between these two since the beginning when they first met and she understood his responsibilities to the country and his King.

To make things interesting, Princess Alaniah (Lani) from Casmun, who Sage met in the previous installment, is making an early visit. She's the highest ranking Casmuni to visit Demora in 200 years. She's supposed to choose who among the Demora royals are worthy of being chosen to travel to her country. Sage is still suffering from what happened to her in the previous novel and the acts she took that ended up stopping a way, but lead to mass casualties. 

Sage and Lady Clare are summoned to the Capitol where Sage learns that she is to be appointed ambassador for a peace talks between Demora and Kimisara. Things have changed in the land of Kimisara since the last installment. After a devastating loss at the hands of Sage and Alex, peace has become desirable. Demora and Kimisara have been at war for many generations, but with a new Regent in charge, and the old King dead, she is more amenable to peace talks. Especially to save her only son who will one day become King.

This leads Sage and Lani meeting with Queen Zoraya of Kimisara and several attempts at disrupting the peace talks. Sage is usually adept and a studious observer of the people around her which has been her strength when confronting challenges. But, she couldn't figure out who was responsible for attempting to sabotage the peace talks and made some interesting blunders. She also had to deal with Clare who really wasn't likable for most of this story. I have given Clare a sort of pass because of her own tragic loss, but that doesn't mean that I didn't cringe whenever she took Sage to task for minor indiscretions. 

Alex wants to prove himself. As the son of a General, he has been given every opportunity to prove that nepotism isn't a factor in any of his choices or the promotions that he's received. When the law changes to allow him to marry Sage, he falters a bit, and really comes out and says he can't marry because people will think it was because of him that the law was changed. Plus, as the man in charge of the Norsari, he has responsibilities to see that his men are properly trained and can handle any situation that arises. No worries my fury friends, all is well that ends well in Sage and Alex's world.

There is a third character who plays a part in this story. His name is Captain Malkin Huzar and he is from Kimisara. If you've read the previous installment, you know that he and Sage have a sort of interesting relationship. He is also connected to the Queen of Kimisara and is very protective of her and her son the future King of the country. Huzar and Alex make for some interesting allies along the way, and he absolutely knows that Sage isn't someone to be taken lightly.

“We each play several roles in life – that doesn’t make them all lies.”

In closing the final chapter on Sage & Alex, she's evolved from being a highly intelligent girl who was living with her aunt and uncle and refused to marry, to a matchmaker’s assistant/spy, to ambassador representing Demora. She’s traveled far from home, fallen in love, and sacrificed much for her kingdom. She wears the scars of her journey, she suffers from nightmares, and she might be the gleaming star in the sky that readers are looking for. The final wrap up was pretty curious as well. Lani, Sage, Alex, and Clare have all been given roads to some interesting futures. I wouldn't say no to a future installment featuring one of the other characters.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

#Review - Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford #YALIT #Fantasy

Series: Crown of Coral and Pearl #1
Format: Hardcover, 432 pages
Release Date: August 27, 2019
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Epic

Ash Princess meets Song of the Current in Mara Rutherford’s debut YA fantasy Crown of Coral and Pearl, which follows a young woman from a village on the sea who must impersonate her twin on land to save everyone she loves from a tyrannical prince.

For generations, the princes of Ilara have married the most beautiful maidens from the ocean village of Varenia. But though every girl longs to be chosen as the next princess, the cost of becoming royalty is higher than any of them could ever imagine…

Nor once dreamed of seeing the wondrous wealth and beauty of Ilara, the kingdom that’s ruled her village for as long as anyone can remember. But when a childhood accident left her with a permanent scar, it became clear that her identical twin sister, Zadie, would likely be chosen to marry the Crown Prince—while Nor remained behind, unable to ever set foot on land.

Then Zadie is gravely injured, and Nor is sent to Ilara in her place. To Nor’s dismay, her future husband, Prince Ceren, is as forbidding and cold as his home—a castle carved into a mountain and devoid of sunlight. And as she grows closer to Ceren’s brother, the charming Prince Talin, Nor uncovers startling truths about a failing royal bloodline, a murdered queen…and a plot to destroy the home she was once so eager to leave.

In order to save her people, Nor must learn to negotiate the treacherous protocols of a court where lies reign and obsession rules. But discovering her own formidable strength may be the one move that costs her everything: the crown, Varenia and Zadie.

Mara Rutherford's Crown of Coral and Pearl explores the close bonds of sisterhood, the truth that beauty is only skin deep, and forbidden romance in an evocatively described fantasy setting that is sure to have broad appeal. The gorgeous landscapes that Mara Rutherford has crafted—a village on the sea and a dark mountain kingdom—will entrance fantasy readers everywhere. This book is apparently the authors debut novel. The story is narrated from Nor’s point of view, a fierce and lovable character

Twin sisters Nor and Zadie are coral and pearl. They were raised on an ocean village called Varena where pearl diving is the main source of income for the villages and beautiful girls are a way for the village to gain great honor. This year, the Crown Prince of Ilara will choose a bride. Zadie is beautiful and has been groomed by her overzealous bitter mother to be the one chosen. Nor was permanently scarred after an accident when she 10 years old for pearls thus thought of as worthless by the same mother.

"Because you are the twin of my soul. You know me better than anyone ever has or ever will. Because I trust you more than I trust Sami. And because you are the strongest person I have ever known. Only you can help me".  

But, Zadie is in love with someone else, and doesn't want to abandon her home. Sami has Zadie's heart, while Nor has her soul. It's hard to separate either for the sake of a marriage that isn't guaranteed to end in happiness. 20 years ago, one of their own was chosen but was never heard from again. Zadie decides to choose her own fate with or without her sisters help. When all is said and done, Nor is reluctantly chosen to take Zadie's place and pretend to be her for the sake of everyone in the village.

One of the best things about this story is the bond between twins Nor and Zadie that was unbreakable and more than once, Nor showed how much she was willing to sacrifice for the benefit of her sister. But, when Nor arrives in Ilara, she comes face to face with the man who she is supposed to marry, and he's anything but Prince Charming waiting for his Cinderella. In fact, Ceren is a psychopath while is half brother Talin was much more surprising and likable.

The first half of this book takes place in Varenia, while the second half takes place in Ilara where it is dark, gloomy, restricted, and filled with surprises as well as a bit of romantic inclinations between Nor and Talin. I am interesting in what happens next to Nor, Zadie, Sami and Talin. Things  could get very interesting.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

#Review - Courting Darkness by L.R. Braden (Urban #Fantasy)

Series: The Magicsmith # 2
Format: Ebook, 283 pages
Release Date:  August 23rd 2019
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Source: Publisher
Genre: Romance , Sci Fi & Fantasy

Deeper into the shadows. . . 
The paranatural community isn’t done with Alex. She’s been summoned to the fae court, and she's got her hands full trying to prepare. But her date with the fae will have to wait. There’s been a death at the gallery, and the man she hoped would be a part of her future is the prime suspect.

Bitter enemies pull her into the middle of a paranatural war for territory that has her dodging police, swords, teeth, and claws—not to mention the truth. The deeper she digs, the more secrets she uncovers, and the less certain she is about the innocence of the one man she wanted to trust. She thought she was done with murder and monsters, but she’ll have to enter the belly of the beast if she hopes to save her friend.

Courting Darkness is the second installment in author L.R. Braden's The Magicsmith series. The story picks up where A Drop of Magic left off. Protagonist Alex Blackwood is a metalsmith whose works are often inspired by the mood that she is in thanks to her magic. Oh, yes, she's also part fae, but without all the worry about metals burning her like full blooded Fae. Alex's Grandfather gave her a magical boost to her powers, but it also marked her as kin. To make matters worse, she's been summoned to the Court of Enchantment which meets in only a few short weeks!

That means it's time for Alex's life to be turned upside down by Faerie protocol lessons, as well as unwanted guests like Hortense who don't believe Alex has any hope of surviving her visit. Thanks to her roommate and protector Kai, Alex is getting the hang of Fae politics, but she is no where near ready for having everyone in Faerie test her. But, before we get there, Alex first has to deal with her supposed beau, James, and his issues which include being accused of murder and an arrival of a lunatic Vampire Master who intends to bring upheaval to Colorado.

Alex learns that James nemesis, Merak, is in town making his life a living hell. To make matters worse, this antagonist knows that James has feelings for Alex, and he will use her to take down James as well as making Alex's life a living hell. Alex has other worries as well. The ever present Paranatural Task Force, especially Agent O'Connell, is keeping a close eye on Alex as well as Kai. He doesn't trust all. She knows that if it is exposed that she's a hybrid, she will be sent to the Fae reservation. 

To matters even more twisted, there's a new governor of Colorado who belongs to a racist group known as Purity. Purity preaches the wholesale eradication of magical beings like Alex and her friends James, Kai, Marc, Kayla, Sarah, Jynx, and Chase. Alex needs to be very careful drawing the wrong kind of attention to her or she won't have to worry about getting read to visit Faerie. My worry is that someone close to Alex, maybe a co-worker, will be the one to spill the beans. But, we shall see! I also worry that this series will drag on past the third installment before Alex ends up in Faerie, but again, we shall see!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

#Review - Rise Against by Hailey Edwards #Fantasy #Romance

Series: The Foundling Series
Format: Ebook, 352 pages
Release Date: August 22nd 2019
Publisher: Piatkus
Source: Little, Brown Book Group UK
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Welcome to the ferocious world of The Foundling, set in a bayou town where men are men - except when they are also dragons, kitties with wings, crocodiles and . . . well, Miller.

Apocalypse? It must be Tuesday 

The four horsewomen of the apocalypse came to Earth - and only two survived. Now it's time for the real battle to begin . . . 

Luce has come, literally, through hell, and now she's trying to pick up the pieces. Earth is getting ready for the war to end all wars: it's angels vs demons and Luce is the only one who seems worried about humanity, hapless pawns who are stuck in the middle of the battlefield. Between building an army and running for her life, she's got a lot on her plate - and that's not to mention her beloved Cole.

As angels drop dead and violent forces begin to gather in the city, the final pieces of an ancient war fall into place, and it's time for Luce and her loyal coterie to face an enemy like no other. In order to survive, they'll need to team up with those they've considered enemies, and try to decide who, if anyone, they can trust. And Luce must decide how much she's ready to risk in the name of peace - and whether she'd be prepared to sacrifice her very soul.

Rise Against is the Fourth installment in author Hailey Edwards The Foundling series. Luce Boudreau is collecting soldiers for an upcoming war that seems to be forgetting that humans actually live in this world as well. She has reconciled with the fact that she has a dangerous part of her, Conquest, that is leaking out and fighting her at every turn. Even though Conquest is fighting her, Luce still believes she is a human and charun hybrid and that makes her much stronger and unique her sisters Death, War, and Famine.  

Luce has been knocked down hard by all the revelations, betrayals, and losses over the course of this series. What comes next one can only imagine. We are going to need to have a conversation where series seem to drag on without getting to the important aspects of the series itself. Luce and her group, Cole, Santiago, Miller, Maggie/Portia, and Thom, are battling unbelievable odds of success. Then, to top it off, the author finally reveals some truths about Luce's situation as well as why Adam Wu seems to be clinging on like someone who refuses to be told get the hell away from me! 

There's even a more surprising twist, but, no, I won't spoil it. Let's just say it's absolutely adorable, but adorable things don't tend to last in this world. I am happy that Luce and her former partner Rixton seem to have put their anger issues behind them. Too much is happening, and yes, Rixton needs to be part of this group as he is apparently the only human who understands how dire the world can be if those led by the mysterious Ezra are allowed to win. 

One of the things I like about this author, is that she's not afraid to use humor and sarcasm to lighten the mood, and the mood definitely needs to be lightened. Also, the romance between Luce and Cole has gone full volcano, if you know what I mean. If you haven’t read this series before now, don’t start here as this is not a standalone. There has been too much emotional build up, never mind the sheer amount of crucial shit that’s happened before this point.

Monday, August 26, 2019

#Review - Sea Witch Rising by Sarah Henning #YALIT #Fantasy

Series: Sea Witch # 2
Format: Hardcover, 416 pages
Release Date: August 6, 2019
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Wunderkind PR
Genre: Young Adult / Fairy Tales & Folklore / Adaptations

The Sea Witch and the Little Mermaid seek their hearts’ desires in this dark and twisty sequel to the origin story of the sea’s most iconic villainess.

“The Little Mermaid” takes a twisted turn in this thrilling sequel to villainess origin story Sea Witch, as the forces of land and sea clash in an epic battle for freedom, redemption, and true love. 

Runa will not let her twin sister die. Alia traded her voice to the Sea Witch for a shot at happiness with a prince who doesn’t love her. And his rejection will literally kill her—unless Runa intervenes.

Under the sea, Evie craves her own freedom—but liberation from her role as Sea Witch will require an exchange she may not be willing to make. With their hearts’ desires at odds, what will Runa and Evie be willing to sacrifice to save their worlds? 

Told from alternating perspectives, this epic fairy tale retelling is a romantic and heart-wrenching story about the complications of sisterhood, the uncompromising nature of magic, and the cost of redemption.

Sea Witch Rising is the second installment in author Sarah Henning's Sea Witch series. The story takes in 1914, 50 years after the original story, but there is a prologue that bridges the first book to this one. The story alternatives narratives between Evie, who is now the Sea Witch, and Runa, a mermaid princess nicknamed the Little Mermaid, whose twin sister Alia gave up her voice to the Sea Witch for the love of a human Prince. Evie has been tethered to her cave of darkness and avoided by the merpeople as per the Sea King. 

Her only companion is Anna who no longer has her own body. Evie craves freedom from her isolation. When Runa shows up demanding that she do something to save Alia, Evie decides that this could the moment that she breaks free from her captivity and the Sea King who appears to be itching for war with the landlubbers. She offers Runa a deal but not like Alia's. Runa will have to kill prince in 4 days, or she will remain human for the rest of her life. It’s not hard to feel for Evie because you realize that she’s become the witch she is for some many heartbreaking reasons. 

She tried her hardest to save the boy she loved, only to be imprisoned and transitioned into the dreaded Sea Witch with Octopus like tentacles. There are some rather pleasant and not so pleasant twists and turn of events for Evie in this book. Evie is not a bad person no matter how hard she has to suffer in silence while war is waging on the surface. I read where the author said that this is a story about being left behind. Runa was left behind by Alia. Evie was left behind because everyone she loves has now died. And it’s about the two of them, in their own way, coming into themselves.

Runa is upset that her twin sister went to Evie to make the forbidden bargain of turning her into a human for four days in an attempt to prove that Niklas, the grandson of the original Nik from Sea Witch, loves her. If she can get Niklas to love her, she will be human forever. If not, she will fade away. Runa can't allow this to happen. She pretty much bargains her own life to Evie in order to save Alia. 

“Alia, listen to me. I didn’t sacrifice my voice, no. But I did make a deal with the witch.”
She pulls back and points a finger to her chest.
For me.
“Always for you. Without you, there is no me.”

But, while Alia has been on her own, Runa actually finds allies during a time where World War I is imploding across Europe affecting the people of the sea, and the land. The heart of this story, is sisterly love and the bond between siblings. Runa and Alia are two halves to one whole, and Runa will do anything to save her sister. It's not surprising that Runa comes across as brave in the face of pretty steep odds. Runa also has magic which helps her get out of many twisted situations. 

The ending of Sea Witch wraps up the story pretty nicely. But, it also left open the possibilities for another book in this universe now that both Runa and Evie have found a voice and their own paths. A special thanks and gratitude goes out to Wunderkind PR for sending me a copy of this book!

Friday, August 23, 2019

#Review - Queen of Ruin by Tracy Banghart #YALit #Fantasy

Series: Grace and Fury (#2)
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Release Date: July 2, 2019
Publisher: Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Epic

A fierce sequel full of sisterhood, heart pounding action, betrayal, and intrigue in the royal court in a series that "breathes new life into the feminist story of oppression and resistance" (Publisher's Weekly).

When the new, brutal Superior banishes Nomi from Bellaqua, she finds herself powerless and headed towards her all-but-certain death. Her only hope is to find her sister, Serina, on the prison island of Mount Ruin. But when Nomi arrives, it is not the island of conquered, broken women that they expected. It is an island in the grip of revolution, and Serina--polite, submissive Serina--is its leader.

Betrayal, grief, and violence have changed both sisters, and the women of Mount Ruin have their sights set on revenge beyond the confines of their island prison. They plan to sweep across the entire kingdom, issuing in a new age of freedom for all. But first they'll have to get rid of the new Superior, and only Nomi knows how.

Separated once again, this time by choice, Nomi and Serina must forge their own paths as they aim to tear down the world they know, and build something better in its place.

The stakes are higher and the battles bolder in Tracy Banghart's unputdownable sequel to Grace and Fury.

Queen of Ruin is the second and final installment in author Tracy Banghart's Grace and Fury Duology. The world of Viridia has put women down for centuries because they feared what giving women power could lead to based on a history they’ve suppressed. Women were not allowed to be educated, any wages they made were given to their husband, and they were basically property of those husbands. The highest honor for a woman was being a Grace which was just a courtesan to the superior (one of many wives). 
The story once again is told via dual narratives from sisters Serina and Nomi Tessaro. Serina and Nomi are both fighting for their lives. Nomi is desperately tying to reunite with her sister after Asa's betrayal and being banished to Mount Ruin. She's also trying to keep Malachi, the Heir, alive so he can reclaim his throne stolen from him by Asa's betrayal. Once the sisters are reunited, they share their experiences and are both surprised at what’s happened. 
Serina, through blood, sweat and tears, has become a warrior after leading a revolution of women prisoners on Mount Ruin. She's also become a leader. Serina, for me, is the most interesting sister. She's dealt with the blow of going from not being chosen to be a Grace, which she trained her entire life for, to being sent away to Mount Ruin where she had to deal with overbearing guards, and other women who literally kill to stay alive. 
Serina's story is probably what the author was hoping to inspire other young women to be like. Serina also found love in Val, a prison guard with a conscious and a desire to see change. A really good match. The sisters don't stay together for very long. Nomi and Malachi have to find a way to get help before taking on Asa, and Serina has to deal with women on Mount Ruin who have been given a chance at freedom or to fight for their country who turned its back on them.
Nomi was the rebellious sister that realized it wasn’t fair that she did not have the same rights and opportunities as her twin brother, Renzo. She's the book smart sister who learned how to read in a country that has forbidden women from getting an education or having their own money. Nomi did some really dumb things in the first book, namely trusting Asa, but it is her turn to grow as a character and make up for her mistakes as well as saving Malachi who she has fallen for.

Overall, the story wraps up the series on a very nice moment. I loved the fact that the sisters weren't antagonistic towards each other despite Serina not being chosen, and then being sent to Mount Ruin for breaking the law. Serina is the sister that one could only hope to have, while Nomi gets much of the accolades.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

#Review - These Divided Shores by Sara Raasch #YALIT #Fantasy

Series: These Rebel Waves # 2
Format: E-Galley, 560 pages
Release Date: August 27, 2019
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

The thrilling sequel to These Rebel Waves—full of deadly magic, double crosses, and a revolution—from Sara Raasch, the bestselling author of the Snow Like Ashes series. 

As a child, she committed unforgivable acts to free Grace Loray from King Elazar of Argrid. Now Elazar’s plan to retake the island has surpassed Lu’s darkest fears: he’s holding her and his son, Ben, captive in an endlessly shifting prison, forcing them to make a weapon that will guarantee Elazar’s success. Escape is impossible—unless Lu becomes the ruthless soldier she hoped never to be again.

Vex failed to save Lu and Ben—and that torments him as much as his Shaking Sickness. With the disease worsening, Vex throws himself into the rebellion against Argrid. The remaining free armies are allied with the stream raider syndicates—and getting them to cooperate will take a strength Vex thought burned on a pyre six years ago.

Imprisoned, betrayed, and heartbroken, Ben is determined to end his father’s rampage. Watching Elazar sway the minds of Grace Loray as he did those of Argrid, Ben knows he has to play his father’s game of devotion to win this war. But how can a heretic prince defeat the Pious God?

As armies clash and magic rises, Lu, Vex, and Ben will confront their pasts . . . or lose their futures forever.

These Divided Shores is the second and final book author Sara Raasch's These Rebel Waves duology. The story picks up a couple weeks after These Rebel Waves. Adeluna "Lu" Andreu and Crown Prince of Argrid, Ben are being held captive by their respective fathers and being forced to work on permanent magic. Devereaux "Vex" Bell believes Lu is dead and decides to stage a jail break to free Kari, Lu’s mother and an important political figure on Grace Loray. 

The story itself digs deeper into the complicated history, religion, and politics of Grace Loray as well as the intense and tangled relationships of its people. This is a series filled with pirates, dangerous magic, double crosses, spies, and secrets that started with These Rebel Waves. As the tides of the war change allies must be forged in the strangest of places and as each island falls the fate of Grace Loray will be revealed. 
Readers will be dying to find out what happens next for Lu, Vex, and Ben—who will fall in love, who will be betrayed, who will die.

Adeluna “Lu” Andreu is a whip-smart, capable, and fearsome heroine. A former spy in her country’s revolution, a master of botanical magic, and a budding politician in her own right, she is an aspirational character with strength, agency, and passion. Lu has to deal with almost too much in this story. From her father's betrayal, to figuring out a way to stop the Elazar from crushing her beloved Grace Loray, to finding a way to let Vex into her heart and her life after so much suffering.

Devereux “Vex” Bell is the most dangerous stream raider in the world—but he has dark secrets and a mysterious past. Full of snarky wit, Vex is a talented rogue, the person who knows the rivers, geography, and hidden secrets of their world better than anyone else. Vex believes he failed to save Lu and Ben—and that torments him as much as his Shaking Sickness. With the disease worsening, Vex throws himself into the rebellion against Argrid. Along with Lu's mother Kari, the remaining free armies will have to ally together with the stream raider syndicates in order to stop Elazar from crushing Grace Loray and its people.

Imprisoned, betrayed, and heartbroken, Ben is determined to end his father’s rampage. Watching Elazar sway the minds of Grace Loray as he did those of Argrid, Ben knows he has to play his father’s game of devotion to win this war. But how can a heretic prince defeat the Pious God? Ben's constant companion, Gunnar, a Mecht Warrior, is his only real thing to hold onto. I don't talk much about Ben, because Ben isn't as bold and inspiring as Lu and Dex. 

Sara’s inspiration came from reading about the early days of America as a new nation, the Spanish Inquisition, and tales of pirates throughout history—along with all the rogues, scoundrels, and political intrigue of these events. The magic in These Rebel Waves is totally original and rich with detail—in this world, plants from the riverbeds of an island nation are the source of various magics. In different forms—pastes, powders, seeds, and more—different plants create many magical abilities: from wielding fire to being able to fly to knocking enemies out and more. Sara’s detailed and engrossing mythology is as believable as all the best fantasy.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

#Review - Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews #Paranormal #Romance

Series: Hidden Legacy # 4
Format: E-Galley, 400 pages
Release Date: August 27, 2019
Publisher: Avon
Source: Publisher
Genre: Romance / Paranormal

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrew comes an enthralling new trilogy set in the Hidden Legacy world, where magic means power, and family bloodlines are the new currency of society.

In a world where magic is the key to power and wealth, Catalina Baylor is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, and the Head of her House. Catalina has always been afraid to use her unique powers, but when her friend’s mother and sister are murdered, Catalina risks her reputation and safety to unravel the mystery.

But behind the scenes powerful forces are at work, and one of them is Alessandro Sagredo, the Italian Prime who was once Catalina’s teenage crush. Dangerous and unpredictable, Alessandro’s true motives are unclear, but he’s drawn to Catalina like a moth to a flame.

To help her friend, Catalina must test the limits of her extraordinary powers, but doing so may cost her both her House–and her heart.

Sapphire Flames is the Fourth installment in author Ilona Andrews Hidden Legacy series. Sapphire Flames is the first installment in Catalina Baylor's trilogy. Diamond Fire bridged the gap between Nevada series and Catalina's. (Not a must read, but I would definitely recommend reading that one first.) The authors have created a magical world set largely in an alternate-world Houston metropolitan area, where powerful families are represented as Houses. 3 years have passed since House Baylor was granted its status and a 3 years grace period which is coming to an end. 

21- year old Catalina Baylor is a Prime and Head of House Baylor replacing Nevada. Unfortunately for Catalina and House Baylor, other Houses are itching to test and push Catalina to the limits of her abilities. Right at the top of that list is Augustine Montgomery who offers Catalina a strategic alliance with protection, income, contracts, data, & information. But, Catalina, like Nevada, believes in staying loyal to the client and being able to look yourself in the mirror when all is said and done and not have any regrets or a change of heart. 

Because of her "Siren" abilities, Augustine asks Catalina to talk a 15-year old from committing suicide. The boy just happens to be the brother of Runa Etterson, the young Prime Venenata who saved the day at Nevada's wedding by purging poison from the food served at her reception. Runa has even more issues to deal with. Runa’s mother and sister are dead and the circumstances around it don’t add up. In the early stages of the investigation Alessandro Sagredo, an Italian Prime who is also her teen swoon, shows up and quickly becomes involved in the case much to her chagrin.

Don't feel as though you have to compare Nevada and Catalina. They are absolutely nothing alike, nor is their powers in any way familiar. Catalina is not a clone of Nevada. She has to learn how to be confident, how to be decisive, even when things are hard. Catalina's ability is extremely rare and dangerous and is finally coming into accepting that she must do what she must do in order to protect her house, and her family from other more powerful Houses including Augustine. Catalina also makes several curious deals which Nevada would have walked away from and never looked back.

While trying to establish House Baylor as one to be reckoned with and solving the murder of a friend and ally's family, she also has to contend with Alessandro Sagredo who is more than just the handsome playboy who was Catalina's test during the trials to become a House. Alessandra is much, much more than he appears to be. He also seems to have his own agenda which includes pushing Catalina not unlike Rogan did to Nevada thus the always relevant comparison. It's always nice to see the Baylor family still full engaged in what happens. Grandma Frida who is the mechanic of the family; Penelope, who is the military sharpshooter. Arabella, who is able to shift into a rather impressive beast, along with their cousins Bern and Leon. There is also the mystery Bug who is brilliant, as well as the villain who made my skin crawl with his desires for Catalina and her powers.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

#Review - Wild Savage Stars by Kristina Pérez #Historical #Fantasy

Series: Sweet Black Waves (#2)
Format: E-Galley, 448 pages
Release Date: August 27, 2019
Publisher: Imprint
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Historical

Inspired by the legend of Tristan and Iseult, Wild Savage Stars is the second book in a lush fantasy series about warring countries, family secrets, and star-crossed lovers.

When Branwen used magic to save her country's future, she never expected to destroy her dreams for her own.

Now, the love she and Tristan built is destroyed and her relationship with her cousin Essy is shattered. But Branwen does not have time to dwell on her heartbreak. Essy’s betrothed, the king of a rival nation, must never discover Tristan and Essy’s affair, or it could mean war.

Branwen goes to desperate lengths to stop the king from discovering the truth, but the price may be even more terrible than she could have imagined.

Can Branwen master her magic before it becomes her own undoing?

Wild Savage Stars is the second installment in author Kristina Perez's Sweet Black Waves trilogy. Sweet Black Waves is a retelling of the star-crossed tale of Tristan and Iseult, from the perspective of Branwen. The story is a tragedy about the adulterous love between the Cornish knight Tristan and the Irish princess Iseult who either on purpose or by mistake, drank a love potion. Wild Savage Stars begins shortly after the events of Sweet Black Waves.  

Branwen, Tristan and Eseult have landed on the Island of Albion (Kingdom of Kernyv) with trouble on the horizon. Essy is less than thrilled to meet her future husband, especially after what happened on the ship over. Tristan is heartbroken that he would do what he did to Branwen, and Branwen is livid at both of them and is blaming herself for putting others in the path of treason. Although Eseult marries Mark, she and Tristan are forced by the potion to seek one another, as lovers over and over again.

I realize that this series is based on Tristan and Iseult, but I really want a happy ending for Branwen. Branwen deserves more than what she's gotten from this world and from both Tristan and Eseult. Yes, yes, let's put the world on her shoulders because she wanted to cease the cycle of war between her country and Kernyv. Yes, she did use some magic in order to ensure that her beloved cousin would fall in love with King Marc. But, she's not responsible for Essy stealing something that didn't belong to her, or her and Tristan's shenanigans. 

Her desperation and pain was tangible throughout the book and I was rooting for her so hard to find a solution and her own love if possible. The connection between Branwen and Marc, as well as Prince Ruan who really isn't a bad character at all, was pretty good. Ruan isn't the perfect beau, but I liked him much more than Tristan who was broody, whiny, and frustrating always finding himself trying to make up for his mistakes and his desires for Essy.  

Marc is trying to do the impossible. Marc, like Branwen, wants peace and no more pirates stealing people from Branwen's country. He has his own crosses to carry for his own actions as part of the invasion force. Branwen also has to stop fearing her own magic and learn how to deal with it if she wants to keep her new country from war, or for her to lose control and hurt the wrong people.

For the of preventing spoilers, I will only say this: Essy and Tristan continuously made stupid decisions throughout the novel that very easily could have comprised their nations. If not for Branwen fixing messes over and over again, so much more pain and suffering would have happened. There's a point in the book where I finally gave up on any hope of Essy's self-absorption, and Tristan's puppy dog behavior. I wanted Branwen to end them both, but then there wouldn't be another book. 

There is a pivotal moment in the book that I almost stood up and cheered. Branwen finally decides to put herself ahead of everyone else. She's tired of cleaning up Tristan & Essy's messes which will lead them all to being hanged for treason when/if discovered. But, that cliffhanger ending tore me apart. If you hate cliffhanger endings, might I suggest reading all three books once the final one is released?