Showing posts with label fantasy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fantasy. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Top 5 Tuesday: Crown

 

Today, I've decided to participate once again in Top 5 Tuesday, originally hosted by BionicBookworm, now hosted by MeeghanReads!

This week's theme is: Crown

This week's topic is 'crown,' and rather than share some covers with crowns or titles with the word crown, I've opted instead to share five books that involve some form of a fight for the crown or struggles with succession and royalty in fantasy books. 

Legacy of Ash (Legacy Trilogy, #1)Seven Deaths of an EmpireThe Councillor (The Councillor, #1)The Priory of the Orange Tree (The Roots of Chaos, #1)The Jasmine Throne (Burning Kingdoms, #1)

I've only noticed after the fact that orange-y/yellow covers must be popular!



The Books:
(all descriptions from Goodreads)

1. Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward - Review
About: "While the armies of the Hadari Empire invade the borderlands, the Republic's noble families plot against each other, divided by personal ambition...As dark days beckon, these three must overcome their differences to save the Republic. Yet decades of bad blood are not easily set aside. Victory - if it comes at all - will command a higher price than they could have imagined."

2. Seven Deaths of an Empire by G.R. Matthews - Review
About:"General Bordan has a lifetime of duty and sacrifice behind him in the service of the Empire. But with rebellion brewing in the countryside, and assassins, thieves and politicians vying for power in the city, it is all Bordan can do to protect the heir to the throne.   Apprentice Magician Kyron is assigned to the late Emperor’s honour guard escorting his body on the long road back to the capital. Mistrusted and feared by his own people, even a magician’s power may fail when enemies emerge from the forests, for whoever is in control of the Emperor’s body, controls the succession."

3. The Councillor by E.J. Beaton - Review
About: "This Machiavellian fantasy follows a scholar's quest to choose the next ruler of her kingdom amidst lies, conspiracy, and assassination."

4. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
About: "A world divided. A queendom without an heir. An ancient enemy awakens.  The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction – but assassins are getting closer to her door. "

5. The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri - Review
About: "One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne. The other is a priestess seeking to find her family. Together, they will change the fate of an empire. "


Have you read any of these books? What are some fantasy books about crowns and royalty and succession that you enjoyed?

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Top 5 Tuesday: Magic Systems

 

It's been a minute since I've posted once of these, but today I've finally been able to participate again in Top 5 Tuesday, originally hosted by BionicBookworm, now hosted by MeeghanReads!

This week's theme is: Magic Systems

This week's topic is all about magic systems! There are a lot of magic systems I enjoy, and I tend to like both hard and soft magic systems–usually whatever fits the story best works for me. For this list, however, I've opted to share some systems that are a little more on the harder side, or at least ones that have more obvious rules, limits, and/or methods of being used. There are so many more magic systems I could rave about (especially softer ones like elemental types of magic, the 'Gnosis' from R. Scott Bakker's trilogy, to name a few), but here are just five that I've liked learning about!

The Bone Shard Daughter (The Drowning Empire, #1)The Bone Shard Emperor (The Drowning Empire, #2)

1. The Drowning Empire Trilogy by Andrea Stewart
Books: The Bone Shard Daughter, The Bone Shard Emperor, The Bone Shard War (not yet released!)

The Drowning Empire Trilogy has been quite popular and I know all of us fans are anxiously awaiting the release of the third and final book in the trilogy, The Bone Shard War. I'm not actually always that great at describing magic systems, but here's an excerpt from my review where I did my best to describe it: "Bone shard magic basically works to help create and direct creatures known as 'constructs,' which are essentially put together with various animal parts and seem to be the sort of military/police of the land. Without these constructs, there isn't a whole lot to enforce law and order, so when the various 'commands' that are imbued into them fail, repercussions can be fairly momentous. I loved seeing all the different ways that bone shard magic functioned and how Lin learned how to use it most effectively." Needless to say, it's a pretty cool system to get to explore as a reader. 

Soul of the World (The Ascension Cycle, #1)Blood of the Gods (The Ascension Cycle #2)

2. The Ascension Cycle by David Mealing
Books: Soul of the World, Blood of the Gods, Chains of the Earth (not yet released!)

I'll be honest here, it's been a couple years since I last read a book in this trilogy so my knowledge of the magic system is a little fuzzy... but I know I had a lot of fun with it and it's one that I tend to think of when I think about cool magic systems. It reminded me a bit of a video game in the sense that you could really keep track of abilities and stamina, and that it was a very visual sort of magic system where you could actually see how the magic was used. From my review for Blood of the Gods, I wrote this about the magic system:
"The first and most prominent standout of this book is the magic system- or should I say the magic systems? That's right, there isn't just one unique magic system, there are multiple, and each one is incredibly interesting to explore and see in action. What I really loved was that all of the setup in the first book regarding how the magic systems worked and how the characters were able to use their magic completely paid off because this book allowed us to dive even deeper into not only the magic, but also the world, characters, and politics." I'm not sure when we'll finally get the third book, but I'm really excited for it!

Torn (The Unraveled Kingdom, #1)Fray (The Unraveled Kingdom, #2)Rule (The Unraveled Kingdom, #3)

3. The Unraveled Kingdom by Rowenna Miller
Books: Torn, Fray, Rule

I had so much fun with the magic in The Unraveled Kingdom because it's all about the ability to sew various types of charms into basically any fabric, from clothes, bags, sails, anything–if it has stitches, it can have a charm sewn into it. I loved how much detail Miller put into what seems like a more straightforward magic system when it's anything but. We get to see how it affects the protgaonist, such as whether she is creating positive charms versus more negative charms, as well as the different ways it can be used, such as with political issues... which sounds weird, but you'll find out more about if you read the trilogy. 

On Lavender Tides (Jekua, #1)

4. Jekua series by Travis Riddle
Books: On Lavender Tides, (more TBA!)

I don't think I could make a post like this without including the super fun magic system in Travis Riddle's newest series, which is very Pokemon-inspired and makes for a really great time. Here is, one again, an excerpt from my review where I describe it: "Much like Pokemon, Jekua are the many animal-like creatures that inhabit this world, each with their own unique skills and abilities. Jekua Summoners use special devices called kayets to ‘imprint’ them, essentially creating a copy of them, which they can then use to have battles with other Summoners and their own Jekua. Summoners have to train with their Jekua in order to work cohesively together and can learn a wide myriad of tricks and techniques to become better and stronger competitors, many of which go on to compete in tournaments and acclaim great fame for their skills. I haven’t read all that many progressive fantasy books, so I wasn’t sure exactly what I might be getting into this time around, but I have to say that I had such a blast learning about the mechanics of summoning. From the hard rules about imprinting and how to work Jekua to the more varied lessons about teaching Jekua new skills and learning how to better work with them, I was fully engrossed and watched everything play out in my hand like a movie." It's awesome!

The Shadow of What Was Lost (The Licanius Trilogy, #1)The Light of All That Falls (The Licanius Trilogy, #3)An Echo of Things to Come (The Licanius Trilogy, #2)

5. The Licanius Trilogy by James Islington
Books: The Shadow of What Was Lost, An Echo of Things to Come, The Light of All that Falls

The Licanius Trilogy is one of my favorite series (and did you hear that The Broken Binding is doing a special edition set of these!? I'm beyond excited) and one reason is because of how much I loved and understood the magic system.  A brief explanation of the set up of this world's magic: "People in this world are separated into three main groups: the Gifted, the Augurs, and those with no magic. Augurs are the rarest and are considered to be essentially eradicated after they became unreliable and seen as a danger to the population. As a result of this, the Gifted were also 'bound' to the Four Tenets, which basically means that, at the core, they are unable to use their powers on any non-Gifted people--not even for self-defense--and are closely watched by the Administration. They are also, for the most part, completely hated and feared by all non-Gifted people. I thought that this setup made for an interesting story as it examined the various power constructs among these groups. For instance, the Gifted are technically more physically powerful, but the non-Gifted have them bound and unable to defend themselves, so therefore they are actually weaker." The magic that the Gifted can do vary from the Augurs, and even within both groups things are hard to succinctly describe so I'll leave it there, but it's such a cool and incredible read and you should really check this series out. 

The Tethered Mage (Swords and Fire, #1)The Defiant Heir (Swords and Fire, #2)The Unbound Empire (Swords and Fire #3)

Bonus #6: Swords and Fire trilogy by Melissa Caruso
Books: The Tethered Mage, The Defiant Heir, The Unbound Empire

This has a super interesting magic system because it's characterized by what is known as a Falcon/Falconer relationship in which a Falcon's, or mage's, magic abilities are bound by a non-mage in order to control their magic. This is done because Falconer's in the past have wreaked havoc with their magic and those in charge decided it was no longer safe to let them use or have their magic in an unchecked capacity. It makes for a really fascinating read to see how all the dynamics of this setup play out amidst a lot of other drama and political intrigue. It's another one that I highly recommend!


Have you read any of these books and magic systems? What are some magic systems you like?

Monday, March 14, 2022

Review: The City of Dusk by Tara Sim


The City of Dusk by Tara Sim
Orbit
Publication Date: March 22nd, 2022
Paperback. 576 pages.

About The City of Dusk:

"The Four Realms—Life, Death, Light, and Darkness—all converge on the city of dusk. For each realm there is a god, and for each god there is an heir. 

But the gods have withdrawn their favor from the once vibrant and thriving city. And without it, all the realms are dying. 

Unwilling to stand by and watch the destruction, the four heirs—Risha, a necromancer struggling to keep the peace; Angelica, an elementalist with her eyes set on the throne; Taesia, a shadow-wielding rogue with rebellion in her heart; and Nik, a soldier who struggles to see the light— will sacrifice everything to save the city. 

But their defiance will cost them dearly. 

Set in a gorgeous world of bone and shadow magic, of vengeful gods and defiant chosen ones, The City of Dusk is the first in a dark epic fantasy trilogy that follows the four heirs of four noble houses—each gifted with a divine power—as they form a tenuous alliance to keep their kingdom from descending into a realm-shattering war."

The City of Dusk is the start of an epic new fantasy I’ve been looking for, and it’s one you’re going to want to make sure you pick up as well. There are vengeful, angry gods, mortals who won’t give up, dark magic, an abundant cast of characters, and enough intrigue to keep any reader entertained. 

The City of Dusk mainly follows characters from four different houses in the city of Nexus, each of which has a special power that their house specializes in: Dante & Taesia from House Lastrider with the power of Shade; Risha from House Vakara with the power of Necromancy; Niklas Cyr from House Cyr with the power of Lumin; and Angelica from house Mardova with the power of Elementalism. Each house holds powers over their respective district within the city, as well. These characters are all “friends” of sorts, though each has a different relationship with one another, as expected, ranging from intimate in nature to nearly enemies. Each of these characters are the next heirs to their respective houses, and each also has the potential to become the next heir to the childless King Ferdinand, further adding to the tensions already present between them. The ultimate goal for everyone, however, is to save the city from its gradual destruction that has resulted due to the gods of each house and district slowly withdrawing their favor and power from them. 

This book is overflowing with political intrigue, ambitious characters who all have their own agendas, plenty of twists and unpredictable turns in the plot, and gods and mortals interacting in a variety of intriguing ways. It’s hard to go into too much of the plot outside of the general summary because there’s a lot going on in this story, so hopefully that tells you a bit of what to expect regarding the detailed content of The City of Dusk

I really liked the in-depth world-building of this city, but I do think it could have been expanded a bit to add a bit more depth and in-world grounding. There’s an extensive amount of information to learn about the houses, their histories, the city’s history, and more about its inhabitants, so the story did feel a bit heavy with information at times, especially in the beginning, but not so much to take too much away from the pacing or overall flow of the story. The pacing itself is a little up and down, but I honestly found that this worked well and gave the story a bit of variety. Since there are so many POV shifts, I think the slower and faster pacing moments allows readers to get a fuller experience and understanding of each individual character and glimpse into what it might be like living in this world that seems to be a bit unpredictable and dark at times. 

I think this might be a bit of a hit or miss book for a lot of people for the main fact that it plays with a lot of more common tropes and plot setups that have made people liken it to being more like a “YA fantasy” than an “adult fantasy.” I can see where that idea comes from, but I think it’s a bit of a disservice to say (only in the sense that these comments are meant to be negative) when this book is very much as intense and adult as any other adult fantasy out there. I love the way that Sim plays with the multi-house setup and having multiple potential heirs vying for power, and I think this first book provides so much opportunity and potential for this series to really grow and expand in its depth and scope, more even than it already has. There’s a lot to experience in this book, and I think it’s well worth the time investment to read this rather hefty tome. 

Overall, I’ve given The City of Dusk 4.75  stars! I didn’t expect to enjoy this book quite as much as I did, but I’m always a happy reader when I can count a new fantasy book as one I loved. There was a ton going on in this first book and I will definitely need a recap at the beginning of the sequel, but I can’t wait to have a chance to dig into the next book!

*I received a copy of The City of Dusk courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon | Bookshop.org


Monday, February 28, 2022

Review: A Far Wilder Magic by Allison Saft

 


A Far Wilder Magic by Allison Saft
Wednesday Books
Publication Date: March 8th, 2022
Hardcover. 384 pages.

About A Far Wilder Magic:

"When Margaret Welty spots the legendary hala, the last living mythical creature, she knows the Halfmoon Hunt will soon follow. Whoever is able to kill the hala will earn fame and riches, and unlock an ancient magical secret. If Margaret wins the hunt, it may finally bring her mother home. While Margaret is the best sharpshooter in town, only teams of two can register, and she needs an alchemist. 

Weston Winters isn’t an alchemist--yet. Fired from every apprenticeship he's landed, his last chance hinges on Master Welty taking him in. But when Wes arrives at Welty Manor, he finds only Margaret and her bloodhound Trouble. Margaret begrudgingly allows him to stay, but on one condition: he must join the hunt with her. 

Although they make an unlikely team, Wes is in awe of the girl who has endured alone on the outskirts of a town that doesn’t want her, in this creaking house of ghosts and sorrow. And even though Wes disrupts every aspect of her life, Margaret is drawn to him. He, too, knows what it's like to be an outsider. As the hunt looms closer and tensions rise, Margaret and Wes uncover dark magic that could be the key to winning the hunt - if they survive that long."

A Far Wilder Magic is an atmospheric and compelling new YA fantasy that incorporates a variety of well-loved tropes with some compelling new characters. 

Margaret (aka Maggie) Welty lives alone with her dog near the edge of town while she waits for her mother, an ambitious and career-driven woman, to return from her research. The only problem is that Maggie has no idea where her mother is or when she’ll return–and it’s already been longer than she expected her to be gone. One day, Margaret spots the legendary Hala, a mythical fox-like creature, in the woods, which means the annual Halfmoon Hunt will begin soon, a competition in which teams of two compete to take down the Hala first. Every team requires an alchemist, which Maggie is not, and she is unable to enter to participate in the competition until an unexpected boy named Weston (Wes) shows up with hopes of becoming an apprentice to Maggie’s mother. 

A Far Wilder Magic is an enjoyable fantasy with plenty of well-loved tropes that made this a fun book to read. All that being said, I actually had quite a lot of issues with this book which means this review is probably going to sound overly critical. This wasn’t a bad book by any means, but it’s one that suffered from a lot of the common issues I’ve been seeing in some YA fantasy lately and want to be honest about my reading experience and thoughts on this book. For me, the fact that I was actively engaged in the story and didn’t DNF it shows me that there was enough about the writing and the story itself that were engaging enough for me to want to complete the book, and I’m not one who shies away from DNF-ing if I’m feeling that way. 

The story switches between both Maggie and Wes’ POVs and I really liked getting to know both of these characters. I definitely think I preferred Wes’ chapters simply because he was a bit more lively and humorousMaggie and Wes’ growth was enjoyable to watch and I think Saft did a pretty good job of showing them slowly grow and begin to trust one another over the somewhat tumultuous events of the book, but I’ll be honest: I feel like I was duped into reading a light fantasy romance for the most part. This isn’t necessarily bad, but I was expecting a bit more in the way of fantasy and plot, and instead I got more of a relationship-focused story, which just wasn’t what I was expecting. 

The pacing and plot development of A Far Wilder Magic was a bit weird to me, and without giving away too much, just know going in that if you are reading this book because you love competitions, this book is probably not what you might be expecting. The competition itself does not truly start until the very end of the book, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that–it got to the point where I saw what little pages were left and was starting to feel genuinely concerned over how Saft would fit the competition in. There are small pre-competition events before the Halfmoon Hunt actually begins, but they are littered only occasionally throughout the story. I was also pretty dissatisfied with the result of the Halfmoon Hunt as well and felt that what happened was a huge letdown, so that was a bit of a disappointing way to end the novel. 

In addition, the world-building was also rather confusing and bit muddied, and I never really felt like I understand what this world was like or the general time period it was meant to evoke. There is are some big folkloric/mythical elements to the background of this story, especially involving the hala, gods, and demiurges, that I feel needed just a bit more explanation than we got. Similarly, the religious aspects and inclusion of different ethnicities was not explained overly well, in my opinion. It felt like we were told a lot about who people were and what they believed, but this was never actually seen in practice and therefore felt more like filler for background without actually being applicable to the story itself, if that makes sense. 

Overall, I’ve given A Far Wilder Magic 2.75/3 stars. As I said, if you are really excited for this book then I wouldn’t let this totally dissuade you, but rather give an idea of what to expect. As this was the second book I’ve tried from Allison Saft (the first being Comes the Night, which I DNF’d), I probably won’t continue with her books, but am grateful for the opportunity to read A Far Wilder Magic! I just don’t think her books are my cup of tea.

*I received a copy of A Far Wilder Magic courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*


Buy the book: Amazon | Bookshop.org


Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Starless Crown by James Rollins & My Annihilation by Fuminori Nakamura, trans. Sam Bett

 


Can't-Wait is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released! This meme is based off of Jill @ Breaking the Spine's Waiting on Wednesday meme.

This week's upcoming book spotlights are: 
The Starless Crown by James Rollins
Publication: January 4th, 2022
Tor Books
Hardcover. 560 pages.
Pre-order: Amazon | Bookshop.org

"An alliance embarks on a dangerous journey to uncover the secrets of the distant past and save their world in this captivating, deeply visionary adventure from #1 New York Times bestselling thriller-master James Rollins. 

A gifted student foretells an apocalypse. Her reward is a sentence of death. 

Fleeing into the unknown she is drawn into a team of outcasts: 

A broken soldier, who once again takes up the weapons he’s forbidden to wield and carves a trail back home. 

A drunken prince, who steps out from his beloved brother's shadow and claims a purpose of his own. 

An imprisoned thief, who escapes the crushing dark and discovers a gleaming artifact - one that will ignite a power struggle across the globe. 

On the run, hunted by enemies old and new, they must learn to trust each other in order to survive in a world evolved in strange, beautiful, and deadly ways, and uncover ancient secrets that hold the key to their salvation. 

But with each passing moment, doom draws closer. 

WHO WILL CLAIM THE STARLESS CROWN?"
I hadn't realized that James Rollins wrote fantasy before receiving an ARC of this, but I'm certainly excited to check it out now! I'm hoping to read this one soon, it sounds really intriguing. 

and...
My Annihilation by Fuminori Nakamura, trans. Sam Bett
Publication: January 11th, 2022
Soho Crime
Hardcover. 264 pages.
Pre-order: Amazon | Bookshop.org


"What transforms a person into a killer? Can it be something as small as a suggestion? 

Turn this page, and you may forfeit your entire life. 

With My Annihilation, Fuminori Nakamura, master of literary noir, has constructed a puzzle box of a narrative in the form of a confessional diary that implicates its reader in a heinous crime. 

Delving relentlessly into the darkest corners of human consciousness, My Annihilation interrogates the unspeakable thoughts all humans share that can be monstrous when brought to life, revealing with disturbing honesty the psychological motives of a killer."
The only crime fiction I really read is Japanese crime fiction occasionally, and I've been meaning to check out Nakamura's work for quite a while. I think this sounds like a great place to start!


What do you think about these upcoming releases? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan & Road of Bones by Christopher Golden

 


Can't-Wait is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released! This meme is based off of Jill @ Breaking the Spine's Waiting on Wednesday meme.
 
May is packed with releases, which means we are once again going to be featuring three books each week for Can't-Wait Wednesday because one or two are simply not enough. :)

This week's upcoming book spotlights are: 

Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan
Publication: January 11th, 2022
Harper Voyager
Hardcover. 512 pages.
Pre-order: Amazon | Bookshop.org

"A captivating debut fantasy inspired by the legend of Chang'e, the Chinese moon goddess, in which a young woman’s quest to free her mother pits her against the most powerful immortal in the realm. 

Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the feared Celestial Emperor who exiled her mother for stealing his elixir of immortality. But when Xingyin’s magic flares and her existence is discovered, she is forced to flee her home, leaving her mother behind. 

Alone, powerless, and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets. Disguising her identity, she seizes an opportunity to learn alongside the emperor's son, mastering archery and magic, even as passion flames between her and the prince. 

To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies across the earth and skies. But when treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, she must challenge the ruthless Celestial Emperor for her dream—striking a dangerous bargain in which she is torn between losing all she loves or plunging the realm into chaos."
This sounds absolutely beautiful and right up my alley! I cannot wait to have a chance to finally dive into this gorgeous book. 

and...

Road of Bones by Christopher Golden
Publication: January 25th, 2022
St. Martin's Press
Hardcover. 240 pages.
Pre-order: Amazon | Bookshop.org


"A stunning supernatural thriller set in Siberia, where a film crew is covering an elusive ghost story about the Kolyma Highway, a road built on top of the bones of prisoners of Stalin's gulag. 

Kolyma Highway, otherwise known as the Road of Bones, is a 1200 mile stretch of Siberian road where winter temperatures can drop as low as sixty degrees below zero. Under Stalin, at least eighty Soviet gulags were built along the route to supply the USSR with a readily available workforce, and over time hundreds of thousands of prisoners died in the midst of their labors. Their bodies were buried where they fell, plowed under the permafrost, underneath the road. 

Felix Teigland, or "Teig," is a documentary producer, and when he learns about the Road of Bones, he realizes he's stumbled upon untapped potential. Accompanied by his camera operator, Teig hires a local Yakut guide to take them to Oymyakon, the coldest settlement on Earth. Teig is fascinated by the culture along the Road of Bones, and encounters strange characters on the way to the Oymyakon, but when the team arrives, they find the village mysteriously abandoned apart from a mysterious 9-year-old girl. Then, chaos ensues. 

A malignant, animistic shaman and the forest spirits he commands pursues them as they flee the abandoned town and barrel across miles of deserted permafrost. As the chase continues along this road paved with the suffering of angry ghosts, what form will the echoes of their anguish take? Teig and the others will have to find the answers if they want to survive the Road of Bones."
This recently came to my attention because of a Goodreads giveaway (which I won, so hooray!) and I am so intrigued about the combination of elements in this book. I'm not sure how it's all going to go, but I am so down to try it and can't wait to start reading it. 


What do you think about these upcoming releases? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?

Monday, December 6, 2021

Review: The Liar's Knot (Rook & Rose #2) by M.A. Carrick


The Liar's Knot by M.A. Carrick
Orbit 
Publication Date: December 7th, 2021
Paperback. 672 pages.

About The Liar's Knot:

"Trust is the thread that binds us . . . and the rope that hangs us. 

In Nadezra, peace is as tenuous as a single thread. The ruthless House Indestor has been destroyed, but darkness still weaves through the city’s filthy back alleys and jewel-bright gardens, seen by those who know where to look. 

Derossi Vargo has always known. He has sacrificed more than anyone imagines to carve himself a position of power among the nobility, hiding a will of steel behind a velvet smile. He'll be damned if he lets anyone threaten what he's built. 

Grey Serrado knows all too well. Bent under the yoke of too many burdens, he fights to protect the city’s most vulnerable. Sooner or later, that fight will demand more than he can give. 

And Ren, daughter of no clan, knows best of all. Caught in a knot of lies, torn between her heritage and her aristocratic masquerade, she relies on her gift for reading pattern to survive. And it shows her the web of corruption that traps her city. 

But all three have yet to discover just how far that web stretches. And in the end, it will take more than knives to cut themselves free..."

Need to catch up? Find my review for book #1, The Mask of Mirrors, here. 

The Mask of Mirrors was one of my favorite 2020 releases, which made The Liar's Knot one of my most anticipated books of 2021, and I'm happy to report that it did not disappoint in the slightest!

I was especially excited to return to all of my favorite characters: Ren, Vargo, Grey, and of course the elusive Mr. Peabody. The Liar's Knot switches perspectives between Ren, Vargo, and Grey, and I genuinely love each one equally, something that can be quite rare with multiple POVs for me. Ren is constantly impressive to me because I can barely keep track of myself on a day to day basis, let alone more than three unique personalities! I love a good 'undercover' type of character, so I have had a blast watching Ren navigate her various personas and try to keep track of everything while still trying to stay true to herself and make time for those who mean the most to her. We really get to see a lot of growth with Ren and how she learns to trust and open herself up to certain people, and I enjoyed watching her journey in this book immensely.

Then there's Vargo and Grey, two very different yet also surprisingly similar men who have plenty of their own secrets to keep track of as well. Vargo seems to have become quite a fan favorite, and I have to agree that I find him utterly compelling and exciting to follow. Vargo is one of those characters that is so easy to relate with because of his personality, and his morally grey actions are what help to make him such a great character. I really loved getting a chance to follow Vargo more in this book and get to know him more, and I cannot wait to see where his story takes him in the next book. I'm also excited to see where Grey's story ends up taking him, as I feel like Grey really had some immense growth and change in this book that will have some pretty big effects in the next book. I also love following Grey's character because I feel like he is both predicable and unpredictable, and I have such a fun time seeing what he'll do next. Grey has had his fair share of struggles, and I like seeing how he handles all of the old and new obstacles that are thrown his way. 

The Liar's Knot really dives deeper into both our main characters' minds and the magic that exists within this universe. There are some elements that I can't really mention because I don't want to give away anything, but I can say that I think it really allows for readers to dig more into the way that magic works in this world and to better understand what it is and where it may come from. I'm extremely impressed by how well the authors have managed to imbue so much myth and culture into the magic itself, as well as the entire society of Nadezra. Everything feels so tangible and is therefore easy to immerse yourself in, which is always something I look for in an involved fantasy novel like The Liar's Knot

The Rook & Rose trilogy is overflowing with secrets, lies, and so much subterfuge and I have been loving every second of it. There are a lot of details, names, etc. to remember in this story, and I have to confess that I'm not always the best at remembering all of them. That being said, I felt that the authors did a good job of littering enough context and clues throughout the book that made it easy to sort of catch-up and follow along with what was happening. My biggest struggle was with remembering all the names in this book, but not enough to where it affected my enjoyment of the novel. I actually really love how much depth there is in this series so far, between the magic system itself to the politics to the personal elements, because I think it allows for the entire world to be fleshed out so much more. 

The Liar's Knot felt slightly slower paced than the first book, but I think that fit well with the overall pacing of the story and where this book picked up. There were some well-placed higher intensity moments that I think created a great balance in the overall pacing of the story, and that combined with the almost ever-present tension lingering in the atmosphere because of how many different secrets are almost constantly at stake made for a book that was hard to put down. The prose is absolutely beautiful and makes for a truly pleasurable reading experience. It's obvious to me how much care goes into crafting words and sentences that both sound incredibly pleasing and manage to convey just the right amount of detail and intrigue about the world. 

Overall, I've given The Liar's Knot five stars! I cannot wait to read the third (and final! 🙁) book in this series.

*I received a copy of The Liar's Knot courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon | Bookshop.org

Monday, August 9, 2021

Review: Seven Deaths of an Empire by G.R. Matthews


Seven Deaths of an Empire by G.R. Matthews
Solaris
Publication Date: June 22nd, 2021
Hardcover. 550 pages.

About Seven Deaths of an Empire:

"The Emperor is dead. Long live the Empire. 

General Bordan has a lifetime of duty and sacrifice behind him in the service of the Empire. But with rebellion brewing in the countryside, and assassins, thieves and politicians vying for power in the city, it is all Bordan can do to protect the heir to the throne. 

Apprentice Magician Kyron is assigned to the late Emperor’s honour guard escorting his body on the long road back to the capital. Mistrusted and feared by his own people, even a magician’s power may fail when enemies emerge from the forests, for whoever is in control of the Emperor’s body, controls the succession. 

Seven lives and seven deaths to seal the fate of the Empire."

I'll admit it–Seven Deaths of an Empire first grabbed me because of it's stunning and dramatic cover. It did remind me quite a bit of Anna Smith Spark's The Tower of Living and Dying's cover (another book that I love), and that helped make me think this might be a book to check out. I also read the synopsis and thought it sounded right my alley–and it was!

Seven Deaths of an Empire is set in an ancient Roman-inspired fantasy world–something that I wasn't aware of until I started reading the book–and within this world we have the Empire, the Emperor, the "barbarians," and a struggle for power and control. The story kicks off when the current reigning emperor is killed in action and a battle for succession begins. Although there is a set line of succession for the emperor's death, the key point in this book is that whoever controls or holds possession of the emperor's body is the one with the ability to become emperor, thus getting the emperor's body back from battle to his family becomes of utmost importance, and this is where our story really kicks off. In the backdrop of this plot is a world in which the "forest tribes" are considered enemies of the empire and many have been 'conquered' by the empire, a dynamic that plays a large role in this book's discussions, particulary involving one of the characters specifically.

The story switches POV between two main protagonists: the older General Bordan who has spent his life dedicated to working for the Empire, and the young apprentice Kyron, working under Master Padarn where the two are assigned to help the honour guard escort the emperor's body back to the heart of the empire. What I really loved about this POV setup was that it was consistent at switching between each character equally, as well as the fact that they were all chapters on the shorter side, which really helped to keep the pace up. I found the individual storylines and places in which we first meet General Bordan and Kyron in their roles a great start for setting up the story for both the plot and their personal development. These were two very solid characters in the sense that they were easy to sort of get to know and understand their place in this world, and I appreciated the ease with which I, as a reader, eased into their respective roles in the plot and setting.

My main point of contention with the characters is the fact that they weren't the easiest to connect with and there were a few times throughout where I felt their dialogue or personality was not the most developed.  General Bordan was my favorite of the two protagonists and had a much more complex and interesting role in the book. His background and current stage of life as an aging, near-retirement general provided a unique dynamic and perspective that I feel isn't given as much opportunity to exist in fantasy as I would like, so I appreciated that in this book. There were a few times I found his development slightly inconsistent, but otherwise he was a great character to follow. Kyron, however,  was unfortunately much less engaging and I struggled to really care all that much about him. That's not to say that his role wasn't interesting at all, as I really enjoyed getting to see him use his magic and navigate his dynamics with those around him and learn more about the world around him. But he was almost frustratingly naive at times, and his development wasn't quite as smooth as it could have been, leading to a character who was perhaps potentially interesting, but never quite moved into territory where I found myself exceptionally engaged.

I also struggled with the fact that this plot felt slightly too predictable at times. I don't mind somewhat predictable plots where you have a general idea of where things might go, but I pretty much knew what was coming at almost every turn of this book. Now, the tricky part is that that isn't necessarily a bad thing, since if you're someone who hasn't read or watched a ton of fantasy or similar stories, you might not guess it every time, but if you're someone like me who drowns themselves in books and fantasy stories, it just felt a bit like moving through the motions at times. I also found myself extremely frustrated with some of the additional characters, most often the more 'villain'-like or difficult characters, who were almost too stereotypically annoying and frustrating. I would've liked to see a bit more character dimensionality at play, which might have helped things be slightly less predictable as well. 

The last thing I'll mention is that although the world seemed interesting–and what I read about it was interesting–I felt as though we really didn't get too much of a look at the world as a whole. I found the ancient Rome-inspired setting compelling, but at the same time it made me slightly uncertain if this was meant to be more historical fiction with a twist or straight new fantasy world because of the many Roman world positions and similarities included. I also felt like we only tastes of what the other cultures were like and how the magic system truly worked, I am hoping and/or assuming that if future books are published in this world, we'll get to explore this world a bit more and get into a few more specifics, including both of the world and the magic system. I saw the author write that he has sequels written, but that this story is meant to be a complete story, so I'm unsure if there will be more, but I certainly hope so. The ending of this book definitely left me expecting a sequel, so here's to hoping there will be!

Overall, I've given Seven Deaths of an Empire 3.75 stars! I know it seems like I mentioned a lot of negatives, but for all that I was very much engaged throughout this book and found myself following along and enjoying the story a lot. This wasn't the best fantasy book I've ever read, but I still felt it was a perfectly solid fantasy that kept me engaged and definitely wanting more! I'm not sure if a sequel is planned to be published, but if so I will absolutely be checking it out.


Buy the book: Amazon | Indiebound 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng by K.S. Villoso, The Ones We're Meant to Find by Joan He, & We Are Satellites by Sarah Pinsker


Can't-Wait is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released! This meme is based off of Jill @ Breaking the Spine's Waiting on Wednesday meme.
 
May is packed with releases, which means we are once again going to be featuring three books each week for Can't-Wait Wednesday because one or two are simply not enough. :)

This week's upcoming book spotlights are: 
The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng (Chronicles of the Bitch Queen, #3)
The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng (Chronicles of the Bitch Quuen #3) by K.S. Villoso
Publication: May 4th, 2021
Orbit
Paperback. 448 pages.
Pre-order: AmazonIndieBound

"The stunning finale to the Chronicles of the Bitch Queen trilogy where the queen of a divided land must unite her people against the enemies who threaten to tear her country apart. K. S. Villoso is a "powerful new voice in fantasy." (Kameron Hurley)
 
Queen Talyien is finally home, but dangers she never imagined await her in the shadowed halls of her father's castle.
 
War is on the horizon. Her son has been stolen from her, her warlords despise her, and across the sea, a cursed prince threatens her nation with invasion in order to win her hand.
 
Worse yet, her father's ancient secrets are dangerous enough to bring Jin Sayeng to ruin. Dark magic tears rifts in the sky, preparing to rain down madness, chaos, and the possibility of setting her nation aflame.
 
Bearing the brunt of the past and uncertain about her future, Talyien will need to decide between fleeing her shadows or embracing them before the whole world becomes an inferno."
I'm not sure what to say about this other than: I'm so excited to find out how Villoso is going to wrap up this incredible and unpredictable trilogy! I've really been enjoying this series and I'm glad I'll get a chance to pick up the finale soon. :)

and...
The Ones We're Meant to Find
The Ones We're Meant to Find by Joan He
Publication: May 4th, 2021
Roaring Brook Press
Hardcover. 384 pages.
Pre-order: AmazonIndieBound

"Cee has been trapped on an abandoned island for three years without any recollection of how she arrived, or memories from her life prior. All she knows is that somewhere out there, beyond the horizon, she has a sister named Kay. Determined to find her, Cee devotes her days to building a boat from junk parts scavenged inland, doing everything in her power to survive until the day she gets off the island and reunites with her sister.
 
In a world apart, 16-year-old STEM prodigy Kasey Mizuhara is also living a life of isolation. The eco-city she calls home is one of eight levitating around the world, built for people who protected the planet―and now need protecting from it. With natural disasters on the rise due to climate change, eco-cities provide clean air, water, and shelter. Their residents, in exchange, must spend at least a third of their time in stasis pods, conducting business virtually whenever possible to reduce their environmental footprint. While Kasey, an introvert and loner, doesn’t mind the lifestyle, her sister Celia hated it. Popular and lovable, Celia much preferred the outside world. But no one could have predicted that Celia would take a boat out to sea, never to return.
 
Now it’s been three months since Celia’s disappearance, and Kasey has given up hope. Logic says that her sister must be dead. But as the public decries her stance, she starts to second guess herself and decides to retrace Celia’s last steps. Where they’ll lead her, she does not know. Her sister was full of secrets. But Kasey has a secret of her own."
I'm not usually a big fan of people on covers, but since the moment I saw this cover I was absolutely enraptured by it and it's pretty much what made me have to know what it was about--and I think it sounds like an amazing story, also!

and...

We Are Satellites by Sarah Pinsker
Publication: May 11th, 2021
Berkley Books
Paperback. 368 pages.
Pre-order: AmazonIndieBound


"Everybody's getting one. 

Val and Julie just want what's best for their kids, David and Sophie. So when teenage son David comes home one day asking for a Pilot, a new brain implant to help with school, they reluctantly agree. This is the future, after all. 

Soon, Julie feels mounting pressure at work to get a Pilot to keep pace with her colleagues, leaving Val and Sophie part of the shrinking minority of people without the device. 

Before long, the implications are clear, for the family and society: get a Pilot or get left behind. With government subsidies and no downside, why would anyone refuse? And how do you stop a technology once it's everywhere? Those are the questions Sophie and her anti-Pilot movement rise up to answer, even if it puts them up against the Pilot's powerful manufacturer and pits Sophie against the people she loves most."
I'm honestly ever-so-slightly hesitant about this one simply because this feels very similar in premise to other books I've read, but I did  enjoy Pinsker's A Song for a New Day and I have high hopes that she can do something cool with this one! It's definitely a premise I'm drawn to and I can't wait to have a chance to check it out!


What do you think about these upcoming releases? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?

Monday, April 26, 2021

Review: The Shadow of the Gods (The Bloodsworn Saga #1) by John Gwynne


The Shadow of the Gods (The Bloodsworn Saga, #1)
The Shadow of the Gods (The Bloodsworn Saga #1) by John Gwynne
Orbit
Publication Date: May 4th, 2021
Paperback. 528 pages.

About The Shadow of the Gods:

"After the gods warred and drove themselves to extinction, the cataclysm of their fall shattered the land of Vigrið.
 
Now a new world is rising, where power-hungry jarls feud and monsters stalk the woods and mountains. A world where the bones of the dead gods still hold great power for those brave - or desperate - enough to seek them out.
 
Now, as whispers of war echo across the mountains and fjords, fate follows in the footsteps of three people: a huntress on a dangerous quest, a noblewoman who has rejected privilege in pursuit of battle fame, and a thrall who seeks vengeance among the famed mercenaries known as the Bloodsworn.
 
All three will shape the fate of the world as it once more falls under the shadow of the gods . . ."

This may just be the best thing I've read by John Gwynne yet, and that's saying something considering how much I've enjoyed his other work! The Shadow of the Gods is a Norse-inspired epic fantasy that is packed world-building, compelling characters, and a plot that's bursting with intrigue. The Shadow of the Gods has a strong start that got me hooked, and yet somehow it just got better and better as the story went, and by the end of I found myself utterly shocked at the twists that Gwynne incorporated into the story. 

We follow three main perspectives throughout this book, and the first one we're introduced to is Orka. Orka is a woman on a mission–and she's not someone you should get in the way of, either. I found her focused determination on her family incredibly engaging and because of this and her many other skills she is easily one of the most exceptionally well-crafted characters of this book. I'm not sure how much I should really say about Orka's particular plot narrative since I feel like many of her early plot points can be seen as spoilers, so I'll just simply say that Orka is a captivating character whose interactions with others were always a surprise and yet somehow also very fitting with the character that we were first introduced to. You won't be disappointed with Orka, I promise!

Varg, from whom we get our second main perspective, is a man bent on vengeance. His thirst for revenge and to discover the cause of his sister's deaths leads him into the hands of the Bloodsworn, a band of people he never expected to join, but that end up playing a large part in his journey. Varg has a similar focused determination to Orka's, but his has a certain flexibility within it that, although doesn't waver from his goal, allows him to take whatever steps necessary that will bring him closer to his goal, even if it means deviating from his original plans at times. As long as he ends up in the position he needs to be, he's down for pretty much anything.

The last perspective we follow is that of Elvar's, a member of the Battle-Grim who is keen to live a life free from unwanted duties and obligations in order to live a life that she chooses. Evlar's storyline is probably the most "mysterious" of the bunch in the sense that we don't really know all that much about her past or her motivations until quite a ways into the book. We largely get a look at what her current life is before getting some major revelations about her, her past, and her present. 

Although all three of these characters lead drastically different lives and experiences, I was floored by how Gwynne managed to interweave all three of these perspectives and bring them together in such a way that felt both effortless and yet perfectly engineered to fit the plot seamlessly. This review also hasn't even touched on some of the many secondary characters that brought this world to life and made me feel so connected to the story. It's hard not to feel yourself become invested in some of these characters' lives and especially their relationships with the primary perspective characters that we follow.

The world-building was fantastic and I really appreciated how well Gwynne incorporate Norse-inspired elements to create a world that felt both familiar and different at the same time. I think I really enjoyed that although this was very Norse-like, there weren't any references to Norse gods, which I feel has become fairly common so this allowed the book to stand out a bit and also allowed for Gwynne to create more unique elements in his own world. I can tell that there are big things coming in this trilogy–hell, there have already been some pretty big things happening in the first book!–and I can't wait to see what directions Gwynne will steer this narrative to.

The pacing of The Shadow of the Gods was, dare I say, perfect–which is typically how I feel about most of Gwynne's books, anyway. There are plenty of action and fast-paced scenes, but it didn't feel like this book was only action, as there was plenty of plotting and dialogue to keep the plot moving and interesting. I get bored if there's too much action, so that's how I know that Gwynne had a good balance of both. Similarly, this might be partially because Gwynne himself is a Viking re-enactor, but I felt as though his descriptions of battle scenes, gear, and other elements were always so detailed and compelling, which made everything feel real and that much more interesting to follow.

Overall, The Shadow of the Gods is yet another book getting five stars from me! This was so enjoyable and I really have nothing negative to say other than the fact that I'm sad that I now have to wait for the next installment--but I also know that it will be well worth the wait. 
 
 *I received a copy of The Shadow of the Gods courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.* 

 
Buy the book: Amazon | IndieBound