Friday, February 28, 2020

#Review - The Elemental Trial by Claire Luana, J.A. Armitage

Series: The Faerie Race #2
Format: Kindle, 216 pages
Release Date: The Faerie Race #2
Publisher: July 15, 2019
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

Welcome to round two of The Faerie Race—an epic adventure through a realm as compelling as it is deadly…

The Faerie Race has proven more grueling and deadly than Jacqueline thought possible. With one trial down and two to go, it seems the reality show’s producers will stop at nothing to get their ratings—even murder.

It will take all of Jacq’s cunning to get through the next trial unscathed, but all she can think about is her discovery that her sister is alive. Too bad her search for answers has only left her with more questions, and more enemies.

Forced to work side-by-side with their beautiful and duplicitous competition, Orin and Jacq are plunged back into a magical world filled with bizarre creatures, far-reaching conspiracies, and not nearly enough to eat. Each challenge brings the two of them closer—but that just means they have more to lose.

Will Jacq be able to reach the final checkpoint with her heart and her life intact, or will The Elemental Trial prove too daunting? 

The Elemental Trial, by co-authors Claire Luana & J.A. Armitage, is the second installment in The Faerie Race. The story picks up right after the first trial ended. After surviving the first stage of the Fantastic Faerie Face which saw several contestants die and several others drop out before being killed, Jack and her teammate Orin have only hours to prepare for the next stage. Both Jacqueline Cunningham and Orin Treebaum desperately need to win in order to be granted a boon by the Faerie King. Jacq needs it to find her sister, Orin needs it to free his parents.

But, before the stage can even begin, Jacq is ambushed and nearly kidnapped before escaping. Jacq is also coming to terms with the fact that she has magic after restraining and and forgetting about it for years. Once upon a time, both human and faerie worlds were connected. Magic was everywhere. Magic and technology, however, do not mix and therefore it would be stupid to open the gates to allow magic to return. Reunifying worlds would also plunge humanity into the dark ages. Unfortunately, one group, the Brotherhood, apparently wants to do just that by undoing divisions between worlds. 

This stage of the race will take contestants to the Court of the Sylphs. Contestants will have to best the sylphs smartest mind in order to advance and stay in the race. The sylphs are notoriously fond of games and riddles. The Court of the Sylphs is where Jacq learns that her sister is still alive and here in Faerwild. But, why? Why hasn't she tried to contact her own sister who has been worried sick for 2 years since she went missing? She also learns that certain members of the FFR are connected to the Brotherhood. 

The second part of the Elemental Trial will force the contestants to journey to the land of the Merfolk. It has become clear as water that someone is doing everything they can to make sure that Tristam and Sophia will win the challenge. Jacq still hasn't been given a new ring after using it to save contestants. Items that are supposed to be used in order to survive underwater don't work or are intentionally sabotaged. The Merfolk hate the Faerie King and decides to make the FFR contestants pay for their transgressions. Chao ensues as Jacq and Orin fight to survive against a stack deck of cards. 

Once again, the authors have created a race that is similar to the Amazing Race with danger, action, romance, and twists galore. I have to say I am glad I choose to read this trilogy. The trials are dangerous. The contestants are dangerous. The producers of the show have apparently lost all control of what they intended the FFR race to be. Too many people find themselves in harms way which is not suppose to happen. What Cass is up to remains a mystery. Jacq and Orin clearly have a target on their backs. It's only a matter of time before all the questions are answered.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

#Review - Fate of Dragons by Alisha Klapheke #YA #Fantasy

Series: Dragon's Rising # 1
Format: Kindle, 294 pages
Release Date: March 27, 2019
Publisher: Alisha Klapheke
Source: Amazon
Genre: YA / Medieval Fiction

Dragons. Elves. And the last surviving human fated to save them from the sea.

A flood is coming. The Sea Queen has a mad plan to drown the world.

Only the magic of the Earth Queen can stop her.

Vahly, the last human, was born to fill that role and wield the magic necessary to fight the rising oceans and save the dragons.

But Vahly is the world’s biggest disappointment. So far, she possesses no magic whatsoever.

When she finds an ancient scroll that mentions a human power ritual conducted deep in the homeland of the elves, she gathers her dragon allies and journeys to see the king of that forest-dwelling race.

Welcomed into a place more lovely than any dream, will Vahly find the truth about her people’s past and wake her magic or will a twisted and powerful elven lord destroy her chance at saving the world? 

Alisha Klapheke's Fate of the Dragons is the first installment in the authors Dragon's Rising series. 23 years ago, the last human child was born and saved by Dragon Matriarch Amona. Vahly is the apparent last surviving human and destined to be the prophesied Earth Queen. She bears a Blackwater mark between her eyebrows—a shimmering oval that represents the origin of creation and magic in this world. But, she has no powers. She's living in a world that doesn't much care for the fact that she's human and powerless. 

Especially the Jade Dragons. Thankfully, Amona and Vahly are bound as if they were mother and daughter which gives her a bit of protection. This isn't a world one would wish to live in. Dragons are at constant war with the Sea Queen. The sea queen has all but taken over most of the land leaving very few spots for dragons to call home. Plus, the dragons are mostly divided in how to confront Astraela, the Sea Queen. If their home falls, the Dragons can't survive in the water.

Vahly has been told by her friend Nix about a ritual that she could possibly use in order to awaken her powers. Vahly also spends most of her times with a group of dragons called Call Breakers who have only real alliance to themselves. Vahly soon learns of a place called Illumahrah where Elves supposedly live. Elves and Humans were once allies. Vahly has never seen an Elf since they keep to themselves. As the keeper of blackwater, the Elves should have been aware of Vahly's birth. 

Vahly comes across an Elf named Arcturus who seems to have had his meories erased. With the help of Arcturus and a roguish band of dragon allies, including her friend Nix, Vahly sets out on a last ditch attempt to ignite her dormant Earth powers before the waters take the world. Arcturus, as we learn, is alchemist Elf, with royal elven blood who is fascinated by magical science. This is a world of magic that is divided into 4 specialities:

Fire is a naturally the magic of the dragons, beings that have two forms; a humanoid scaled form and their big dragon form. Humn’s possess earth magic, elves posses air magic and the sea creatures have control over water magic.

Meanwhile, under the sea, Ryton is the Sea Queen's consort as well as the commander of the sea army. Astraela has made a deal with Mattin, King of the Elves, yes, Elves do exist in this world as well. They live in a place called Illumahrah where the blackwater, or access to magic, is located. Ryton wants to crush the Dragons once and for all. He has all the pieces in order to prevent the Dragons from finding a new home. Ryton and other commanders want to rid the earth of Dragons forever. If they can control enough of their sea magic, they can overwhelm the dragon. The shock comes when Ryton learns that the Earth Queen has somehow managed to survive against impossible odds.

Yes, the story does end on a cliffhanger. If a reader likes this story, there is no reason not to proceed to the next 3 installments to see what happens next. So, my gracious followers, I will endeavor to do just that!

#Review - King Maker by Audrey Grey #YA #Fantasy

Series: Kingdom of Rune # 3
Format: Kindle
Release Date: February 18, 2020
Publisher: Starfall Press
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

They broke the curse, but at what cost?

Haven and her crew may be considered heroes, but they arrive back in Penryth harboring dangerous secrets. Plagued by nightmares, Haven struggles to control her newfound magic while Bell shrinks under the weight of their shared lie.

When an emissary from Solissia shows up in Penryth and drafts Bell in a magical tournament, Haven is once again forced to follow the prince to foreign lands, this time to the bloodthirsty court of Archeron's mother.

Trapped in a shifting landscape of dark politics, duplicitous immortals, and cruel sovereigns, Haven fights to keep Bell alive all without revealing their secret. But a terrible evil brews on the horizon. One that threatens the very fabric of the realm.

Haven might be their only hope of stopping the impending darkness. But first she must learn to accept her own darkness and follow her heart--no matter where it leads.

“Predators and prey, dark and light, sun and moon, day and night. One by one they fall to their knees as they worship their one true queen.”

King Maker is the third installment in author Audrey Grey's Kingdom of Runes series. Summary: Welcome to the Kingdom of Runes where immortals and humans clash, light and dark magic reign, and mythical creatures lurk in the shadows. If you like fierce heroines, enemies-to-lovers romance, wild plot twists, and endearing characters, then you'll adore this continuation of Haven and Bell's story. 

*The Kingdom of Runes series is upper/mature YA and contains mild cursing and romance.*

3 months have passed since Haven Ashwood (who was born with both light and dark magic) and her friends (Archeron, Surai) have done the impossible. They broke Queen Morgyrath's curse while also saving Prince Bellamy from a fate worse than death itself. But, not everything is copacetic. Bellamy, who has no magic of his own, has become a hero. Called Cursebreaker, Bell finally has voice to speak about things that he wants done. But, there are still those who want to see him fail. Especially his father's mistress Cressida and her son Renk.

Haven, who has no clue who her parents were, is having unimaginable dark nightmares pointing to something dark within her that she has no control over. The darkness might kill her best friend if she can't learn to control it. Haven's other issue is that she has strong feelings for Archeron, who is out hunting a traitor, as well as Stolas, Lord of the Underground who is trying to help train Haven so she doesn't lose control. Haven asks an unlikely ally, Nasira, to help bind her magic before she looses control.

Then the unexpected happens. A contingent arrives at Fenwick Castle from the Sun Sovereign of Effendier along with Archeron. Xandrian Lightstead wants Bellamy to prove that he has magic. If he can prove he has magic, then he will be offered a spot in a prestigious race called Fiernum, gathering of the Fire tournament which will lead Bell to becoming leader of the Houses of Nine if he wins. Unfortunately, Haven hasn't learned about overstepping and uses her magic to ensure that Bell gains entry into the contest. A contest where he could end up bound to the Sun Sovereign for the rest of his natural life if he doesn't win. 

Haven, along with Surai, a Solis warrior, Demelza, her lady's maid, Ravius, a former Asgardian Warrior now a Hawk, and Nasira, Stolas sister, try to find a way to enter the tournament by traveling to the Island of Volantis. Volantis is where one of the last Houses of the Nine supposedly exists. Passing herself off as Renfyre, House Volantis, Haven ends up getting an invitation into the tournament which will eventually have 3 stages that will lead to only (1) winner and all sorts of twisted chaos. 

“Welcome to the Sun Court, mortal. Where every friend is a potential enemy, every honeyed word drips with lies, and every too-sweet smile hides a poisoned dagger.”

Let us not forget about the prophecy which seems to be Haven's to bear:

“The prophecy is one of the oldest in existence. It says a child born of two gods, ice and fire, dark and light, would decide the fate of the world. This child would either be a weapon or salvation, and they would be more powerful than all the kings and queens combined.”

One of my most curious feelings is how I ended up liking Stolas a whole lot more than Archeron who turns into a really bore for most of the story. Archeron is under the impression that he controls Haven and he says not to do something, he expects her to follow orders. After 3 books, that is something that will never happen. Meanwhile, Stolas is fighting being controlled. He is fighting his feelings for Haven. In end, it is Stolas who shines brightly while Archeron ends up as a person that you won't recognize if you've the first (2) novels in this series. 

There is a reason why this book is called King Maker and I'll just say this. "A monstrous king will come to power, cloaked in light to hide the beast within, and he will serve the great darkness." Can you guess who I'm talking about? The next book in the series, Light Singer, won't release until November of this year. There are so, so, so many plot twists that are sure to come and I am eager to read what happens next to Haven and her friends now that her parentage has been revealed.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

#Review - Chosen by Kiersten White #YA #Fantasy

Series: Slayer # 2
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

Nina continues to learn how to use her slayer powers against enemies old and new in this second novel in the New York Times bestselling series from Kiersten White, set in the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Now that Nina has turned the Watcher’s Castle into a utopia for hurt and lonely demons, she’s still waiting for the utopia part to kick in. With her sister Artemis gone and only a few people remaining at the castle—including her still-distant mother—Nina has her hands full. Plus, though she gained back her Slayer powers from Leo, they’re not feeling quite right after being held by the seriously evil succubus Eve, a.k.a. fake Watcher’s Council member and Leo’s mom.

And while Nina is dealing with the darkness inside, there’s also a new threat on the outside, portended by an odd triangle symbol that seems to be popping up everywhere, in connection with Sean’s demon drug ring as well as someone a bit closer to home. Because one near-apocalypse just isn’t enough, right?

The darkness always finds you. And once again, it’s coming for the Slayer. 

Chosen is the second and final installment in author Kiersten White's Slayer duology. What you should know: This story takes place in the Buffy the Vampire TV series world. Buffy is alive, but retired. She has made some guest appearances via Slayer dreams. If you've watched the Buffy TV series, you should have no issues with understanding what has happened before these series takes place. 16-year old protagonist Athena aka Nina is both a Watcher with medical training and a Slayer, the last one ever apparently. 

Ever since she had her powers returned to her by Leo, Nina has a darkness chasing her in real life as well as her dreams. Nina's allies include Doug, Rhys, Cillian, Jessi, Jade, Imogen, her mother, and Ruth Zabuto who has been a watcher longer than most of these characters have been alive. Meanwhile, Nina and the Watchers have started to build Sanctuary, a place for demons and Slayers who have nowhere else to go. Truth be told, Nina has failed in her attempt at bringing Slayers to the Sanctuary. Until 3 of them are introduced just in time for them to help Nina against her sister and her new allies.

Her twin sister, Artemis (who gets some story time of her own), has chosen to go her own way with her girlfriend Honoria leaving Nina and her mother behind which will be a bone of contention for Nina throughout this story. Artemis decides she needs to take drastic steps to make herself stronger to protect herself and her loved ones. Instead, she finds herself hurting and betraying the ones she claims to love the most. Nina must try to stop her sister without ruining their relationship. There is also the dreaded prophecy hanging over the sisters head. Will one of them destroy the world? Will one of them be the one to save it? Stay tuned! 

As I mentioned, while Buffy is basically a guest in this series, there are others who appear as well. I am not sure if this Oz is from the series, but it's curious that Oz discovered he was a werewolf in this series, and this Oz just happens to be a werewolf. Another guest appearance in this story just happens to be Faith who actually imparts some pretty decent knowledge onto Nina right before she is to fight her sister, Honoria, and her allies.

"You can't stop what's inside you. If you fight it, it'll win. Figure out how to live with it, how to direct it instead of letting it drag you in its current. And only you can do that.” 

“You can't handle the pain and anger inside you? Welcome to the club. You're so much more than that, though. Maybe you messed up. You'll mess up again. But you're doing the best you can, and that's not nothing, you know?” 

“The darkness isn't going anywhere. But there's a difference between walking through it and becoming it. It doesn't control you. You got more of it than you should? Good. Use it. Use it all.”  

The reason for the rating was in essence because most of the book really wasn't all that entertaining. Nina was out of her element while she was supposed to be in charge. The humor and sarcasm tried too hard to make readers laugh. The final chapters were entertaining enough once Nina and her allies have to face Artemis and hers in order to save the planet. But, the ending felt a little too quick and neat for my liking. Also, I am not a fan of resolutions where we have to forgive a character for nearly destroying the entire planet just because they were envious that they weren't the chosen one.


Chapter 1

THE DEMON APPEARS OUT OF nowhere. Claws and fangs fill my sight, and every instinct screams kill. My blood sings with it, my fists clench, my vision narrows. The vulnerable points on the demon’s body practically flash like neon signs.

“Foul!” Rhys shouts. “No teleportation, Tsip! You know that.” Even while playing, Rhys can’t help but be a Watcher, shouting out both advice and corrections. He’s not wearing his glasses, which makes his face look vague and undefined. Cillian passes him, mussing Rhys’s carefully parted hair into wild curls and laughing at Rhys’s frustration.

I take a deep breath, trying to clear my head of the impulse to kill this demon I invited into our home and swore to protect. “It’s just soccer,” I whisper. “It doesn’t matter. I don’t even like soccer.”

“Football, bloody American,” Cillian sings, neatly stealing the ball from me. His shorts are far shorter than the January afternoon should permit, but he seems impervious to cold. Unlike those of us who are translucently pale at this point in winter, his skin is rich and lovely. He passes to Tsip. Tsip is a vaguely opalescent pink, shimmering in the sunlight. She paints her claws fun colors when we do manicure nights, and I try desperately not to miss Artemis.

I stay rooted to the ground where I’m standing. Tsip caught me off guard, but that shouldn’t matter. I like her. And the fact that I went from trying to score a goal to plotting a dozen ways to kill my opponent in a single heartbeat is frankly terrifying. I can’t get my heart under control, can’t shake the adrenaline screaming through my veins.

“Gotta take over for the Littles. I’m out.” I wave and jog from the field. No one pays me much attention. Jade is lying on the ground in front of the goal, the worst goalkeeper ever. Rhys and Cillian are bodychecking each other in increasingly flirty ways. Tsip keeps shimmering and then resolidifying as she remembers the no-teleportation rule. They’re all happy to keep going without me, unaware of my internal freak-out.

I’ve deliberately kept them unaware. Things here are going so well. I’m in charge. I can’t be the problem. So none of them know how I can’t sleep at night, how my anger is hair-trigger fast, how when I do manage to sleep, my dreams are …

Well. Bad.

They don’t need to know and I don’t let them. Except for Doug, his bright yellow skin almost nineties Day-Glo levels in the thin winter sun. Annoying emotion-sniffing demon. He watches me from our goal, his nostrils flared. I can’t lie to him the way I can to everyone else. I shake my head preemptively. I don’t want to talk about it. Not with him. Not with anyone. There’s only one person I want to talk to about it, but Leo Silvera’s not exactly available.

I do a quick sweep of the perimeter of the castle. Leo loved me. Check the woods. Leo betrayed me. Check the locks on the outbuildings. Leo saved me. Pause and just listen and look, feeling for anything pushing against my instincts. I let Leo die.

I keep walking. Leo loved me, betrayed us, saved us, and then died, and I can’t be sad without being mad or mad without feeling guilty or guilty without feeling exhausted.

Past the meadow, the tiny purple demons are taking turns pushing each other on the tree swing. That, or they’re trying to push each other off. It’s hard to tell with them. With nothing else needing my attention outside, I end up at the front stairs to the castle.

“Hey, Jessi.” I wave halfheartedly to our resident vengeance demon. She’s leading the Littles through an elaborate game of hopscotch. George Smythe, bundled up and barely able to see under a floppy knit hat, is shouting each letter as he lands on it. “G!”

“What?” Jessi snaps at me.


“I can take over for you.” I find the Littles soothing. They might be three incredibly hyper children constantly needing snacks, entertainment, and education, but at least none of them ever randomly triggers a kill reflex in me.


“No,” Jessi says, her voice as sweet as summer fruit. “G-E-what-comes-next …”

O!” George course corrects, wobbling on one short leg before jumping to the required O.

“Good! Oh, you’re so clever. Priya, how are your letters coming?” Priya, a tiny moppet with shiny black hair, is crouched over her own chalk work, which looks more like Klingon than any alphabet I’m familiar with. “Very good, darling! You’re really working hard. Hold the chalk with one hand, like we talked about. Thea, love, fingers out of noses, please—that’s a dear.”

And to think, we once considered these children the entire future of the Watchers. I watch as Thea spins until she falls flat on her bottom. Actually, the future of the Watchers is pretty accurately captured here. I pat Jessi on the arm. “So, you can take the afternoon off.”

Everything sweet in Jessi’s voice turns to ice. “I said no. I don’t trust you with these three precious wonders. We have an entire day’s curriculum to get through, and we haven’t even done story time yet or finished our art projects. Are you going to do any of that with them?”

“I—I could?”

“You were going to turn on a cartoon and read while their fertile minds were filled with weeds.”

Jessi doesn’t have her powers anymore, but I’m pretty certain if she did, I would have been vengeance-demoned right into something oozing and seeping. She’s already turned away from me and back to her three charges. Her whole face is full of gentle warmth and absolute love.

R!” George declares, hopping emphatically down on it. Jessi claps like he’s cured the common cold.

Thoroughly dismissed, I skulk up the stairs and into the castle. Jessi could at least pretend to be nice. She’s got a lot of enemies out there—vengeance is a nasty cycle—and without her powers she’s vulnerable. We took her in despite her obvious hatred for everyone over the age of ten. There was some debate, given her history, but my mom argued in her favor. It’s a little easier to forgive a vengeance demon who made it her immortal life’s work to avenge children than a vengeance demon who specialized in, say, fantasy league sports rivalries.

But Jessi’s dismissal leaves me with nothing to do. I used to have my medical center and my studies, all my little Watcher duties. Even with so few of us, the castle ran as near to Watcher traditions as we could manage. Which in retrospect was absurd, since we didn’t have a Slayer and weren’t actually doing anything Watchers should.

But now everything has changed. We lost Watchers—Wanda Wyndam-Pryce, sulking off into the sunset, good riddance. Bradford Smythe, murdered. Eve Silvera, secretly a succubus demon and murderer, smushed thanks to my actions. Artemis, off to find herself with her awful girlfriend, the thought of whom makes my jaw ache as I grind my teeth. And Leo, who didn’t warn us what his mother was (and what he was) but fought her to give us enough time to stop her from opening a new hellmouth.

And now we have a Slayer, again some more, thanks to Leo somehow returning the powers his mother stole from me. I don’t know how he did it, and it hurts too much to think about, like everything else. I spend so much of my days trying not to think, and it’s harder than it should be. I used to believe that all Slayers did was act without thinking. I was wrong, but I wish it were true. There’s so little acting and so much thinking these days.

It’s good. It’s all good. It’s good, I remind myself, over and over like a chant. Sanctuary, what we decided to turn our castle into, is just starting out, but it’s exactly what we dreamed it could be. We’ve taken in demons who had nowhere else to go. We’re keeping them safe, and ourselves safe, and we’ll keep looking for those who could benefit from the generations of knowledge and abilities we have. We’re protecting, not attacking or destroying.

Between our new demonic additions and existing Watchers, everyone has tasks and times to do them. It’s more work than anyone anticipated, keeping everyone taken care of and fed, making sure the castle runs like it should. But so far everyone is happy. Everyone is safe.

I sink down against the wall, feeling the cold of the stone radiating outward. The unpellis demon, all four gentle eyes soft and brown and hopeful, snuggles up to my side like a dog. It’s more animal than human in nature, nonverbal, and still recovering from its frequent de-skinning treatment in Sean’s demon-drug manufacturing scheme. I saved Pelly from that cellar.

I didn’t save everyone, though.

I wrap my arms around Pelly and close my eyes. Everything is exactly what we dreamed it could be. Except I feel Leo’s loss everywhere, and I miss my twin, Artemis, with a constant, physical ache.

And, worst of all, with enough time after Tsip surprised me to calm down and remind my body there’s no danger …

I still feel like killing something.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

#Review - The Sorcery Trial by Claire Luana, J.A. Armitage #YA #Fantasy

Series: The Faerie Race #1
Format: Kindle, 252 pages
Release Date: July 1, 2019
Publisher: Live Edge Publishing
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

Fame. Fortune. Your most extravagant wish granted. These are the prizes promised to the team that wins The Faerie Race, the first and only reality television show to venture into the dangerous realm of the fae. 

But that’s not why Jacqueline Cunningham wants in. She’s after any sign of her sister—who vanished without a trace into the faerie world two years ago. Jacq thought getting into the race would be the hard part. But she didn’t count on the other competitors—who will stop at nothing to finish first. Or her distractingly-handsome jerk of a partner, who seems to be hiding secrets of his own.

Plunged into a world where everything wants to kill her, what starts as a hunt for the truth turns into a desperate contest for survival. Now that Jacq’s in the race, it will take all her wits to make it to the finish line alive.

The Sorcery Trial is the first installment in co-authors Claire Luana and J.A. Armitage's The Faerie Race trilogy. What you need to know; the protagonist of this story is Jacqueline (Jacq) Cunningham. 10 years ago, the existence of the fae and the faerie realm was revealed. The ICCF (International Coalition for Cooperation with Faeries) was created. 2 years ago, her older sister Cassandra disappeared without a trace. Jacq to this day believes that she went over the hedge into Faerwild, the home of the fairy. Jacq believes Cass was last seen with a Fae, but has no proof since everything seems to have been covered over.

Soon after losing her sister, Jacq, traveled to Hollyweird where she is an aspiring stuntwoman. Until then, she is a gopher, the lowest monkey in Hollyweird working for a boss obsessed with finding the next great Hollyweird blockbuster. Jacq soon learns that there's going to be a race called "The Fantastic Faerie Race" sponsored by the Faerie King himself, Vale Obanstone. The King offers the winner of the contestant a magical boon. If you are thinking the Amazing Race, you would be correct. Except that this contest takes place in Faerwild. There will be a total of 12 contestants; 6 men, 6 women, 6 humans, 6 fae. 

One of the fae competing is the King's own son Tristam who Jacq literally bumps into. During preparation for the contest, Jacq watches a contestant fall and nearly get eaten by a crocodile. She chooses to intervene on the racers behalf which gets her fired from her job. But, the press she gets from her action in saving the contestant gains her an entry into the competition.  Something Jacq has been hoping for. She's never given up on finding her sister and this might be her one chance to do so. Skipping ahead to the contest, Jacq, weary of magic ever since her sister Cass disappeared, is teamed up with Orin, a fae who has his own hopes in winning the contest. 

The land of Faerie is a dangerous and beautiful place. Jacq & Orin have to work together not only to win, but to make it out alive. They also have a cameraman following their every movement. Jacq, who does well on the physical challenges, must figure out a way to make her dormant work, especially since the other contestants are treating this contest as though they are in the Hunger Games. Sorry, not sorry, but that's the fact of the story. You have to face tough challenges while uncovering various clues while also avoiding being put into dangerous situations. 

So, this story has been compared to Hunger Games, The Amazing Race, as well as American Gladiator. Fair comparisons. I look forward to the second installment and have already downloaded it. I need to figure out some of the background stories like who the Brotherhood is, why contestants end up dead, and what Cass is really up to that she couldn't contact her own sister to tell her that she's alive or not.

Monday, February 24, 2020

#Review - A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer #YA #Fantasy #Romance

Series: The Cursebreaker Series # 2
Format: Hardcover, 464 pages
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Romance

Brigid Kemmerer continues her bestselling fantasy series in another tale full of dark magic, new love, and a kingdom on the edge of ruin.

Find the heir, win the crown. The curse is finally broken, but Prince Rhen of Emberfall faces darker troubles still. Rumors circulate that he is not the true heir and that forbidden magic has been unleashed. Although Rhen has Harper by his side, his guardsman Grey is missing, leaving more questions than answers.

Win the crown, save the kingdom. Rumored to be the heir, Grey has been on the run since he destroyed Lilith. He has no desire to challenge Rhen—until Karis Luran once again threatens to take Emberfall by force. Her own daughter Lia Mara sees the flaws in her mother’s violent plan, but can she convince Grey to stand against Rhen, even for the good of Emberfall?

The compulsively readable saga continues as loyalties are tested and new love blooms in a kingdom on the brink of war.

A Heart So Fierce is the second installment in author Brigid Kemmerer's Cursebreakers series. While the first book in the series alternated between Rhen and Harper, this story alternates between Lia Mara (from the land of Syhl Shallow), and Grey, once commander of the Royal Guard of Emberfall under Rhen. As a timeline, this story takes place several months after the ending of A Curse So Dark and Lonely. 

The nightmare curse has been broken. The people of Emberfall no longer have to feel terror from the monster unleashed every season. But, with rumors of a true heir who is also a magesmith spreading across the country, the people are questioning Rhen’s authority and Emberfall is on the brink of collapse and civil war. Rhen is determined to find this magesmith no matter the price and put an end to magic in Emberfall which has cause so much damage. 

The book opens with Harper. Harper was the girl who broke the curse. Since then, she's been passed off as a Princess from Disi to send a message to Rhen's enemies that he has support from an unknown land. Her brother Jake, and his lover Noah, are also still in Emberfall wishing they could go home. Harper and Rhen don’t get too much story time in this book. They appear at the beginning of the story and the end when the culmination of the journey ends with a huge twist.  

Grey has no intention of claiming the throne, so he chooses a life of hiding instead. With Rhen's army gaining traction with their hunt for the magesmith, Grey’s days in hiding are ending. At the same moment in time, 18-year old Lia Mara, her mother Karis Luran, and her 16-year old sister Nolla Verin, are headed to Emberfall to negotiate a truce between Rhen and Syhl Shallow. Karis, who has left a path of destruction far and wide, wants to conquer Emberfall by putting Rhen in a position he can't squirm his way out of. 

She also wants to find Grey while replacing her daughter Nolla Verin with Harper in order to unite the countries. The alliance is rejected by Rhen but that doesn’t stop Lia from attempting a different approach. Even though Lia Mara is the eldest, she isn't heir to the crown. Nolla is. Lia is the book smart elder sister who has no power whatsoever nor does she have any say in what her mother or her sister, for that matter, does in regard to running the country. Lia Mara tries to peacefully negotiate with Rhen, he refuses to be fooled again and imprisons her. Lia Mara’s only hope for escape is to enlist the help of Grey.  

Grey connects with a boy named Tycho who learns of Grey's secret but stands by Grey right till the end of the story. In fact, Tycho, along with Jake, and Noah, become centerpieces for Grey's staunchest supporters. Grey's unwillingness to destroy his own country, or his own brother for that matter, shows a whole lot of grit and determination. At any point in the story, Grey could have stepped forward and told Rhen, or Harper for that matter, who he was. But then we wouldn't have had this story, would we?

The ending of this book left me shattered. I do not see good things happening for Harper who I absolutely missed in this story. Harper, who has cerebral palsy, has never once let her condition slow her down. She put her faith in Rhen, and with his choice in the end, I don't see how she can walk away unscathed without returning to her own world. I also don't recognize Rhen. He's become someone I just can't like any longer. Yes, he has tough choices to make. 

But, why risk the woman you claim to love? Lia isn't one to use a sword to get what she needs. She uses her mind, and her determination instead. The connection with Grey and Lia grows slowly. I think at first Grey respected her and then notices how she isn't a wilting flower that needs anyone's help. Part of the story does take place in Syhl Shallow. The rest of the story is Grey and Lia trying to stay one step ahead of Rhen and figuring out how to survive against Lia's mother.