Showing posts with label orbit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label orbit. Show all posts

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Review: One Dark Window (The Shepherd King #1) by Rachel Gillig

One Dark Window (The Shepherd King #1) by Rachel Gillig
Publication Date: September 27th, 2022
Paperback. 432 pages.

About One Dark Window:

"Elspeth Spindle needs more than luck to stay safe in the eerie, mist-locked kingdom of Blunder—she needs a monster. She calls him the Nightmare, an ancient, mercurial spirit trapped in her head. He protects her. He keeps her secrets. 

But nothing comes for free, especially magic. 

When Elspeth meets a mysterious highwayman on the forest road, her life takes a drastic turn. Thrust into a world of shadow and deception, she joins a dangerous quest to cure Blunder from the dark magic infecting it. And the highwayman? He just so happens to be the King’s nephew, Captain of the most dangerous men in Blunder…and guilty of high treason. 

Together they must gather twelve Providence Cards—the keys to the cure. But as the stakes heighten and their undeniable attraction intensifies, Elspeth is forced to face her darkest secret yet: the Nightmare is slowly taking over her mind. And she might not be able to stop him."

If you're looking for an entertaining dark fantasy read for fall, then One Dark Window is probably going to be the perfect choice for you! I loved this dark, mysterious story that has an intriguing magic system, captivating world-building, and characters you can't help but love (and hate, for a few!). 

The kingdom of Blunder is secluded and cut off from surrounding kingdoms due to a dark, magical mist that has blocked everyone in. The only way to eradicate this mist and cure those who are infected with dark magic because of it is to collect a full deck of magical Providence Cards to be used against it. This might sound a little confusing here, but I promise the book explains things much better and it'll make a lot more sense when you read the book. 

Our protagonist, Elspeth, begins the story already infected with a dark magic that takes the form of a dark entity known as Nightmare that resides in her mind. Since anyone known to be infected with dark magic is known to be cursed and is therefore ordered by the king to be tracked and killed, she works hard every day to keep this secret hide that she was ever afflicted with this magical "fever" that caused her to end up with Nightmare. We follow Elspeth's POV throughout, which includes her many interactions with the Nightmare, and really showcases how she has struggled to survive in this world and with a family dynamic that leaves a lot to be desired. I appreciated Elspeth's resilience throughout the story and seeing how she made different decisions according to what she knew was best and to protect both herself and others. I found her to be a fairly likable and engaging character and enjoyed following Elspeth as a protagonist.

We meet a variety of other characters as well, such as Nightmare himself, as well as Elspeth's family and other prominent families within Blunder. This includes some characters I really liked, such as Ravyn, Elm, and the rest of the Yew family. Nightmare was probably one of the most intriguing characters since he is shrouded in unknowns and darkness and has some delightful dialogue interactions with Elspeth. Ravyn is a more stereotypical "mysterious" love interest who has a lot more to him than meets the eye, and Elm was also a very prickly favorite character of mine who really opened up to readers as the story progressed. All of Gillig's characters seem to be thoughtfully written and incorporated a lot of unique elements that helped showcase different elements of the story and world-building. 

When I first started this book, I was a little surprised to come across so many general tropes and setting ideas that I'd seen in other books, from a fake dating trope to a sort of dark magical forest (which is always a favorite!) to character personalities and dynamics that felt very familiar and much more. While some of these aspects are not the most unique or surprising, I'm happy to report that Gillig's manner of incorporating all of these into the story felt fresh and engaging and I ended up loving every bit of it. There is a bit of a romance, hence the fake dating trope, but it's not overly prominent and therefore doesn't take over the story. It was a little hasty for me at times, but not enough to take away from my enjoyment of the rest of the plot and characters. The pacing also felt very steady throughout and I never felt as though I were slogging through any particular moment or that anything was moving too fast (other than the romance at times). 

I particularly enjoyed learning how this magic system worked and think the Providence Cards were really fascinating to learn about. providence cards essentially grant users the ability to use magic specific to a specific card. For instance, the Maiden card grants user the ability to possess unparalleled beauty, but it comes at the price of losing your heart in the process. The Scythe card grants users the ability to seemingly influence the minds and motivations of those around them, but comes with its own personal drawbacks as well. In addition to the cards, there's also a magical illness of sorts that can infect children if they get it and almost always results in them having some sort of dark magic and degeneration that eventually ends with their death. 

This might sound odd, but one of my favorite parts of this book was the ending. I really loved the dark turns this book took and I have a lot of respect for Gillig's plot choices and where she decided to take this story. I was already excited for the sequel, but after that ending my curiosity and excitement has been immensely increased and I cannot wait to read it. 

Overall, I've given One Dark Window 4.5 stars! I really enjoyed this, and although it wasn't necessarily the most groundbreaking story, it still stood out to me as one with engaging characters, a fascinating magic system, and a dark story that kept me hooked. I highly recommend you pick up this perfect dark fantasy fall read!

*I received a copy of One Dark Window courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

Monday, May 9, 2022

Review: The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah


The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah
Publication Date: May 17th, 2022
Hardcover. 480 pages.

About The Stardust Thief:

"Neither here nor there, but long ago… 

Loulie al-Nazari is the Midnight Merchant: a criminal who, with the help of her jinn bodyguard, hunts and sells illegal magic. When she saves the life of a cowardly prince, she draws the attention of his powerful father, the sultan, who blackmails her into finding an ancient lamp that has the power to revive the barren land—at the cost of sacrificing all jinn. 

With no choice but to obey or be executed, Loulie journeys with the sultan’s oldest son to find the artifact. Aided by her bodyguard, who has secrets of his own, they must survive ghoul attacks, outwit a vengeful jinn queen, and confront a malicious killer from Loulie’s past. And, in a world where story is reality and illusion is truth, Loulie will discover that everything—her enemy, her magic, even her own past—is not what it seems, and she must decide who she will become in this new reality. 

Inspired by stories from One Thousand and One Nights, The Stardust Thief weaves the gripping tale of a legendary smuggler, a cowardly prince, and a dangerous quest across the desert to find a legendary, magical lamp."

The Stardust Thief is a dazzling fantasy following illegal jinn relic merchant Loulia al-Nazari and her bodyguard Qadir as they embark on a journey that will, quite literally, change their lives. Loulie is known as the Midnight Merchant, seller of illegal jinn relics and who has made quite a name/reputation for herself. When she is blackmailed by the sultan to journey deep into the vast, dangerous Sandsea to retrieve an ancient relic she has no choice but to accept his offer, as the alternative would be execution as punishment for her illegal activities. She is accompanied by one of the sultan’s sons, her personal bodyguard, and a talented thief who works for one of the sultan’s sons. The Stardust Thief is an action-packed story of magic, adventure, secrets, and so much more. Although I didn’t end up loving this book quite as much as I’d expected to, it is still an incredibly entertaining and well-written fantasy novel that kept me hooked. 

We follow the POVs of Loulie, Mazen, and Aisha, and I probably enjoyed reading each narrative the most in that order as well. Loulie was the most intriguing character to follow, as I really enjoyed learning about her work as the Midnight Merchant and seeing her deal with all of the different trials that were thrown her way in this book–and trust me, there were a lot. One of my favorite components of this book was Loulie’s friendship/parental relationship with Qadir, who also acts as her personal bodyguard, and I somewhat wish the entire book had just featured them as main characters and followed them along this journey. 

Mazen was a bit of a stereotypical character in the sense that he was a bit of a “reluctant royal” who is one of the “good” and more moral son over his somewhat frightening brother Omar who is leader of the Forty Thieves and an extremely cutthroat jinn killer. Mazen had a really interesting POV to follow for the most part, though I didn’t feel overly connected or invested in his story. As mentioned, Aisha was my least favorite narrative to follow and I don’t know exactly why, as when I think about her as a character she seems very intriguing. That being said, I think I just found her a bit too familiar or boring as an individual character and she didn’t stand out enough from other characters similar to her that I’ve read in other books. 

I think this book had an extremely strong start–for instance, I actually really loved the first scene with Loulie and Qadir meeting a client of hers as the Midnight Merchant. This scene was really well executed, with great characterization, atmosphere, dialogue, etc., and I wish the rest of the story had stayed as strong as this scene throughout. One aspect that I really liked were the small stories interspersed throughout, most told by Mazen, which added immense depth, color, and background to the culture of this world. They have a very mythic/folkloric vibe to them that made them really fun little interludes amidst the rest of the action of the book. 

I don’t know why this book dragged for me at various points and also didn’t quite click with me in the way I hoped. I loved the world, the lore, the stories, the magic, the jinn, but I think the characters honestly took a lot away from this. The plot also I think was a big problem and just didn’t work. It was too fast, too slow, too random and convoluted. It didn’t follow a good plot line of events and left me just wishing we could have had a more streamlined journey. It just felt like every single scene had something “go wrong” or some major action happen and it just didn’t grab me. I would have loved to explore a bit deeper into some of the settings described or visited rather than follow some actions scenes in those settings that sort of derailed everything. 

On a positive note, however, the very last couple pages of this book’s ending are what I think are really keeping me excited and looking forward to the sequel the most. Prior to those last few pages, the ending that we were given felt rushed and convoluted, a bit confusing, and I just kept losing interest to a certain extent, so it was nice to have something pull me right back into the story in anticipation of what's next. 

Overall The Stardust Thief is a really fun, beautiful story with a fantastic world and magic system.  It wasn’t quite as much a favorite as I had hoped, but I certainly would still recommend it and very much look forward to the sequel! I've heard the audiobook for The Stardust Thief is amazing as well and I think I may re-read it on audio or read the sequel as an audio next time. 

Buy the book: Amazon |

Monday, March 14, 2022

Review: The City of Dusk by Tara Sim

The City of Dusk by Tara Sim
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 |

Monday, December 6, 2021

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

The Liar's Knot by M.A. Carrick
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 |

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Review: Jade Legacy (The Green Bone Saga #3) by Fonda Lee


Jade Legacy (The Green Bone Saga #3) by Fonda Lee
Publication Date: November 30th, 2021
Hardcover. 736 pages.

About Jade Legacy:

"The Kaul siblings battle rival clans for honor and control over an East Asia-inspired fantasy metropolis in Jade Legacy, the page-turning conclusion to the Green Bone Saga. 

Jade, the mysterious and magical substance once exclusive to the Green Bone warriors of Kekon, is now coveted throughout the world. Everyone wants access to the supernatural abilities it provides, from traditional forces such as governments, mercenaries, and criminal kingpins, to modern players, including doctors, athletes, and movie studios. As the struggle over the control of jade grows ever larger and more deadly, the Kaul family, and the ancient ways of the Kekonese Green Bones, will never be the same. 

Battered by war and tragedy, the Kauls are plagued by resentments and old wounds as their adversaries are on the ascent and their country is riven by dangerous factions and foreign interference. The clan must discern allies from enemies, set aside bloody rivalries, and make terrible sacrifices… but even the unbreakable bonds of blood and loyalty may not be enough to ensure the survival of the Green Bone clans and the nation they are sworn to protect."

“When something has to be done, there’s always a way to do it.” This quote, to me, perfectly captures the entire essence of the Green Bones, and is also one I have to say I'm rather fond of from this series. 

Jade Legacy is the final installment in the epic and unparalleled Green Bones Saga, and I can’t believe that we’re finally at the end of this series–I wish it could just go on forever! This world is so immersive that I was transported right back to Kekon the moment I opened the first page of Jade Legacy, even though it’s been a couple years since I read Jade War. I had no problems picking up where the story left off, and I hadn’t realized just how much I missed these characters until I started following them in this story again. 

The Kauls have been through a lot, and things don’t seem to be letting up anytime soon as more and more factions begin to rise and battle for control of both jade and power. Jade Legacy takes us right back into the thick of things as we watch the Kauls and the rest of the No Peak clan struggle to maintain their hold and act as a dominant force throughout the region. 

Every character that Lee has created in this series is incredibly compelling, and I think she is particularly skillful in making each one stand out on their own with very distinct personalities. In Jade Legacy, we follow many of the same characters as before, with exceptions, including Hilo, Wen, Shae, Anden, Ru, Woon, Neko, Bero, and quite a few more. Just about every one of these characters has such varying shades of grey to them and their morality that they are hard to fully love or hate, and become characters that you cannot look away from or stop rooting for. I also can’t go into too much detail about specific character arcs or their actions in this final book because that would be far too spoiler-y, but I can say that if you’ve loved the morally grey aspect of these characters, then you are going to be perfectly satisfied with this installment. These are not always great people, but they are great characters. And, really, I think all of them deserve respect for how they’ve–overall–navigated various obstacles and threats to them and fellow No Peak members, and I also think that that’s what makes us like them all so much. 

Lee employs the use of many time jumps in this book, some spanning a couple months, some spanning closer to years, and I am always impressed by how well she makes these time jumps work. Although I occasionally find it slightly jarring when a major plot point occurs right before or during a time jump and you have to quickly adapt to the change, overall, I really appreciate how well it works to keep the pace steady by moving things forward in a reasonable way. It seems like a smart way to cover important events in a timeline that actually makes sense, without getting bogged down in including every last detail that would, in all likelihood, caused the plot and pacing to feel as though they were dragging. That being said, there are a few major plot points that seemed to be a bit minimized because of this technique, but I don't think this really ended up taking much away from the rest of the story. This method, when executed skillfully as Lee does, serves to avoid that struggle altogether, which I ended up really loving in this book. 

Although the entire trilogy has shown us Fonda Lee’s clever writing and plotting, I think Jade Legacy really showcases much Lee truly seems to always have something up her sleeve for that never fails to surprise me. Her writing is truly top quality and stands out from other books in how efficiently she manages to develop character, plot, world-building, and constantly compelling storylines without overdoing things or causing the story to drag. Lee is also rather brutal to her characters, and I mean that in the best way possible. Actions undertaken by any character are always met with consequences, whether good, bad, or in-between, and I appreciate that this is done in a way that makes the story and the characters feel all the more real and not sugar-coated. 

I'm really amazed at how Fonda Lee wrapped this series up while still making it seem like there was constantly happening until the last page. I'm not sure how to explain this accurately, but because of the time jumps I mentioned earlier, I feel as though Lee was able to really highlight the legacy and impact of the Green Bone Clans over many years. They are forever, they are perpetual, they are the ones in power and always will be. I also loved getting to see a peak of what the future of the Green Bones will look like, and I would give just about anything to get even more stories from this future, but I'm still perfectly content with the story and the ending that we've been given.

Overall, Jade Legacy has earned a well-deserved five stars from me! I am eager to see what's next from Fonda Lee, and this series will remain a favorite and special one to me. 

*I received a copy of Jade Legacy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon | Indiebound 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Review: The Body Scout by Lincoln Michel

The Body Scout by Lincoln Michel
Publication Date: September 21st, 2021
Hardcover. 368 pages.

About The Body Scout:

"In the future you can have any body you want—as long as you can afford it. 

But in a New York ravaged by climate change and repeat pandemics, Kobo is barely scraping by. He scouts the latest in gene-edited talent for Big Pharma-owned baseball teams, but his own cybernetics are a decade out of date and twin sister loan sharks are banging down his door. Things couldn't get much worse. 

Then his brother—Monsanto Mets slugger J.J. Zunz—is murdered at home plate. 

Determined to find the killer, Kobo plunges into a world of genetically modified CEOs, philosophical Neanderthals, and back-alley body modification, only to quickly find he's in a game far bigger and more corrupt than he imagined. To keep himself together while the world is falling apart, he'll have to navigate a time where both body and soul are sold to the highest bidder."

The Body Scout is a fast-paced, innovative futuristic sci-fi with a bit of a 'whodunnit' vibe that keeps the plot moving. This book is set in a world in which body parts can modified and/or replaced, there are modifications for almost all parts of the body (including eyes, ears, and more!), and what constitutes a "natural" person has become much more involved and/or dramatic than we might know it as today.

When I fist started this book, I was excited for the somewhat dystopian futuristic setting, but at the same time when I realized baseball was going to play a decent role in the plot, I grew hesitant. I don't like baseball and honestly find it rather boring--especially talking about it--and wasn't sure how heavily this book would dive into that topic. Fortunately, although there is a decent amount of talk and it does sort of constitute the main career world that Kobo exists in--being both a scout and former player--you do not need to like or care about baseball to like this book. The focus really isn't on that, but rather is used as a backdrop in which to tell a different, grander story of life in this world, and Michel does an excellent job of doing just that. 

Once the plot of The Body Scout takes off, it never really slows down. Kobo's adopted brother, a famous baseball player known as J.J. Zunz, dies in a rather dramatic fashion, and Kobo decides that he needs to track down his killer, even though he has no real resources to do so–or at least, so it seems at first. We then follow Kobo along on this crazy, unpredictable adventure full of twists as he tries to find leads and insight towards his brother's death, which of course leads him to uncovering even more corruption and secrets along the way. There's never a dull moment in The Body Scout

Kobo is a pretty charismatic character in the sense that all he's really trying to do is survive in this rather hostile, unfair futuristic world, and if doing that means he might not be doing everything "right," then that's just what he has to do. It's hard not to root for him struggling in this crazy, harsh world, but his determined yet somewhat casual attitude towards his life and struggles feels somehow relevant to our own often difficult world. I liked seeing Kobo interact with a wide variety of people, from those that like him to those that tolerate him and those that are outright hostile towards him. There were a few side characters that felt a bit more on the stereotypically drawn side, but nothing extreme that really took away from my enjoyment. I really liked getting to know Dolores, an ex of Kobo's that ends up playing an pretty important role throughout the story. 

The worldbuilding is incredibly detailed, and the futuristic elements were described and incorporated really well. Although the characters were all mostly developed well and I didn't have many issues with them, I would say Michel's strength in this book was really moreso in the worldbuilding and general layout and structure of society than in anything else. This is not a world that I want to live in or visit, but I had a lot of fun learning how everything worked and how all of the body modifications affected the population (and don't worry, paying for medical bill remains an over-priced problem). 

At the end of the day, The Body Scout is a really solid, entertaining, and straight fun novel. It's not all fun and game, and Michel does tackle plenty of more sobering elements and byproducts of a world such as this one, but it's done in a well-written manner that fit in well with the narrative and allowed for some great  thoughtfulness and discussion-prompting. I've given this book four stars!

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

Buy the book: Amazon | Indiebound 

Monday, January 11, 2021

Review: The Mask of Mirrors (Rook & Rose #1) by M.A. Carrick

The Mask of Mirrors (Rook & Rose, #1)
The Mask of Mirrors (Rook & Rose #1) by M.A. Carrick
Publication Date: January 19th, 2021
Paperback. 672 pages

About The Mask of Mirrors:

"Nightmares are creeping through the city of dreams...
Renata Viraudax is a con artist who has come to the sparkling city of Nadezra -- the city of dreams -- with one goal: to trick her way into a noble house and secure her fortune and her sister's future.
But as she's drawn into the elite world of House Traementis, she realizes her masquerade is just one of many surrounding her. And as corrupt magic begins to weave its way through Nadezra, the poisonous feuds of its aristocrats and the shadowy dangers of its impoverished underbelly become tangled -- with Ren at their heart."

 The Mask of Mirrors was one of the first 2021 fantasy releases that I read, and it is giving me some high hopes that this is going to be an amazing year of fantasy releases. This is the first book in a new fantasy series and it has completely captivated me with it's strong world-building, expansive and developed cast of characters, and overall compelling and richly layered plot. M.A. Carrick is the pseudonym for authors Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms, and the super-author duo is just as amazing as you might expect they would be. 

This basic synopsis for this book highlights that it features a con artist attempting to pull off a rather enormous/hefty con, and while this is indeed the heart of this particular story, it is also one small part of a much bigger and more unpredictable plot that is full of political maneuverings, scheming, and so many secrets

Every component of this story is important, from the setting to the world-building to the pacing, but the characters were one of the most vital to the plot, and I am so pleased to say that I think the authors did remarkable work in developing such a strong cast of characters that not only contains quite a few characters to follow, but also managed to make each character feel fully developed, fleshed out, and each have an interesting and unique personality as well as backstory and current storyline. Renata, for all intents and purposes our 'main' protagonist, was a particularly exciting character to follow as we explore both the Ren and Renata versions of her identity (aka, the 'real' and 'con' versions of herself) and I loved how the authors chose to balance this aspect in a way that really showed how difficult and slippery it can be to play with two identities. 

In addition to Renata are a variety of other diverse secondary-main characters that we get perspectives from, such as  Vargo, Tess, and and Captain Grey, among others. Vargo in particular was a character that stood out to me and is easily probably one of my favorites. He's a great example of the characters in this book in that he's been developed in such a multi-layered and nuanced grey-like manner that you never really know what he's going to do, but you also can't help but love his personality and find yourself eager to see what he's going to do next. I also appreciated the detail that went into developing characters, such as Vargo's repulsion to germs and illness, which seems to hint at a phobia of some sort and that I think really helps to develop his character even further in a variety of ways. 

The magic in this book also felt very fresh and exciting and even though we got to explore a lot of what is a part of the magic system, I am really excited for and hoping to experience and learn even more about it in future installments in this series. It's not an overwhelming sort of magic that is constantly around, it's more subtly pervasive and not always discussed, but is always a part of the story in some manner. This is also a very political fantasy, so that takes a good portion of the plot, with plenty of scheming to keep everyone (including the reader) on their toes. You can never really be entirely sure of what someone's intentions are, and everyone usually seems to have some sort of intention or motivation for any and all actions that undertake.  

As other reviews have noted, The Mask of Mirrors has a fairly slow pace to it, but I think that's somewhat to be expected in larger fantasy novels. To me, it was a good type of slow pace that allowed for the characters, world, setting, and magic system to be slowly built up and evolve in a way that didn't lend to excessive info-dumping, but instead let the reader slowly and delightfully immerse themselves into the world. It's like the person who chooses to very slowly get into a freezing cold pool by moving in slowly, letting themselves adjust tot he temperature, then continue on--slow, but a comfortable sort of slow.  Also, I didn't really notice it because I found the characters and plot so intriguing and I think Carrick moves the story along just enough in a consistent fashion, and it is consistency that is often most important to me in any novel--and there are plenty of more fast-paced moments throughout that help baance everything out. 

Overall, it was an easy five stars from me! I genuinely cannot wait to continue this series and I anxiously await its publication, even though that may not be for a while.

*I received a copy of The Mask of Mirrors courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating.*

Buy the book: Amazon | IndieBound

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Review: Dead Man in a Ditch (The Fetch Phillips Archives #2) by Luke Arnold

Dead Man in a Ditch (The Fetch Phillips Archives #2)
Publication Date: September 22nd, 2020
Paperback. 464 pages

About Dead Man in a Ditch:

"The name's Fetch Phillips -- what do you need? 

Cover a Gnome with a crossbow while he does a dodgy deal? Sure. 

Find out who killed Lance Niles, the big-shot businessman who just arrived in town? I'll give it shot. 

Help an old-lady Elf track down her husband's murderer? That's right up my alley. 

What I don't do, because it's impossible, is search for a way to bring the goddamn magic back. 

Rumors got out about what happened with the Professor, so now people keep asking me to fix the world. 

But there's no magic in this story. Just dead friends, twisted miracles, and a secret machine made to deliver a single shot of murder. 

Welcome back to the streets of Sunder City, a darkly imagined world perfect for readers of Ben Aaronovitch and Jim Butcher."

It feels like just yesterday that I was reading The Last Smile in Sunder City and I hadn't realized quite how much I enjoyed and missed Fetch Phillips and Sunder City until I cracked open Dead Man in a Ditch and immediately fell back into this world. There's something dark around the edges of this world that's met with a bit of sorrow and regret, but also with an oddly uplifting message that leaves me yearning for this world. 

The Fetch Phillips Archives are an urban fantasy-esque series set in a world in which the magic that once inhabited the world has been destroyed and now the non-human folk must learn to live in a world where what once kept them alive, healthy, and happy is now gone. Dead Man in a Ditch picks up once again with our lovable mess of a protagonist Fetch Phillips investigating a mysterious murder that seems to have involved something that appears to be magic--magic that is, as mentioned, still gone. And as usual, Fetch gets dragged into a myriad of wildly varying investigations, some of which end up bleeding into one another. 

Fetch Phillips is one of those characters that isn't necessarily the best person, but you know he has a good heart deep down and is doing what he can to make things better, if that's possible. He's sort of a mess sometimes, but that's very much a part of his charm and I think what makes him such an enjoyable protagonist. I appreciate how much Arnold goes into Fetch's backstory and spends time on his inner conflicts and demons that haunt him as a result of his past decisions. There aren't nearly as many flashbacks in this book as there are in the first and I think this really allowed the story to really move forward. I think one of my favorite things about both Fetch and some of the themes of the story as a whole is the idea of a sort of responsibility and taking note of past choices and how they affect the future, as well as how to pick up and do whatever you can to improve the situation around you, even if you were once part of the problem. There's something very redemptive and blunt about it that doesn't allow for excuses from past wrongs, but also shows that there are ways to try to move forward and do better and be better rather than have everyone dwell on what happened in the past and how the present situation arose. 

There are also a small variety of supporting characters that also add a lot of charm and character to the story and I love how colorful this world is. There are all sorts of characters, most of which have some pretty rough exteriors and don't like to take trouble from anyone and I like getting to know them and learn more about each character's unique backstory in relation to the loss of the magic. 

The pacing of Dead Man in a Ditch felt really well-plotted and I appreciate that there were often what felt like natural breaks between different major events and climactic moments. Fetch embarks upon a few different jobs in this book and I liked how Arnold allowed each one to have it's own space to be developed while at the same time maintaining sight of the bigger overarching plots and somehow managing to connect everything in some really compelling ways. 

As I've mentioned in the past, urban fantasy is not really usually my go-to, but there's something about Luke Arnold's take on urban fantasy that really grabs me and makes me feel comfortable and excited to sink into the story. Maybe it's because it's an urban fantasy that isn't set in our own world, or maybe it's just because Arnold has a writing style that flows almost effortlessly well and feels down to earth--almost like someone is simple telling me a story (Speaking of, I definitely think I want to try the audiobook of this series sometime!). I'm not sure if this is meant to be a longer series than only three books, but I really hope it is because I can see myself returning to the adventures of Fetch Phillips and this weirdly dejected yet hopeful world again and again. 

Overall, I've given Dead Man in a Ditch 4.5 stars! I really had a great time reading this book and enjoyed just about every second. There's something about this world and the characters within in that make it easy to re-join and follow along on their journeys and I can't wait to see what's in store next for Fetch Phillips and Sunder City! I'm not sure that I've adequately done this book justice in this review, but it's really something special, I think. 

*I received a copy of Dead Man in a Ditch in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Review: Rule (The Unraveled Kingdom #3) by Rowenna Miller

Rule (The Unraveled Kingdom, #3)
Rule (The Unraveled Kingdoms #3) by Rowenna Miller
Publication Date: May 19th, 2020
Paperback. 432 pages

About Rule:

"In this epic conclusion to the Unraveled Kingdom trilogy that began with Torn and Fray, the magical seamstress Sophie Balstrade joins forces with her brother the revolutionary leader and her betrothed the Crown Prince in a deadly bid to change history. 

The civil war that the charm caster Sophie and the Crown Prince Theodor tried so desperately to avert has come to Galitha. While Theodor joins Sophie's brother and his Reformist comrades in battle, hoping to turn the tide against the better-supplied and better-trained Royalist army, Sophie leverages the only weapon she has: charm and curse casting. She weaves her signature magic into uniforms and supplies procured with the aid of unlikely foreign allies, but soon discovers that the challenges of a full-scale war are far greater than the entrepreneurial concerns of her small Galithan dress shop. The fractured leadership of the Reformist army must coalesce, the people of Galitha unite against enormous odds, and Sophie create more than a little magical luck, in order to have a chance of victory."

Torn (The Unraveled Kingdom #1) Review
Fray (The Unraveled Kingdom #2) Review

I am both satisfied and heartbroken that The Unraveled Kingdoms trilogy is now over, but I couldn't have asked for a better conclusion to wrap up this beautiful and intense story. The previous two books were sent to me courtesy of Orbit, but because of COVID things have gotten a little crazy and rather than simply request it on NetGalley, I decided to pre-order this one specially because I felt like I should support both Rowenna Miller and Orbit right now--and I'm so glad I did because that cover looks even more beautiful in person!

Where do I begin? First, if you haven't read the first two books in this trilogy but plan to and don't want any sort of spoilers, then you may not want to read this review in full detail. I won't give any spoilers for Rule and I will try to refrain from saying too much that could give away details from the first two books, but there will probably be some general plot details that do slip through, so consider yourself warned. :)

Despite attempts to prevent it, a civil war has erupted in Galitha, where Reformists strive to topple the nobility and Royalist army in order to give the people of Galitha better rights. This is the moment that the previous books have been building up to--the final stand on whether or not the people of Galitha can be successful in their revolutionary endeavor. Though they had success int he past with passing important bills, we all know that that doesn't mean any problem is over, and tensions have finally reached their final point.

Sophie, our sole protagonist, remains a truly captivating character to follow, and it has been such a incredible journey watching her grow in both her physical powers as a charmcaster as well as her personal growth into someone somehow even more independent and headstrong than she already was at the beginning of the trilogy. In Rule, Sophie learns just how high the stakes have risen and what true battle is like, along with all of the loss, triumph, and struggle that comes with it. I've also liked watching Sophie's relationships with Theodore and her brother, Kristos, develop over the course of The Unraveled Kingdoms trilogy. There are a lot of ups and downs between them, especially when it comes to Sophie and her brother, and it was such an enjoyable to see how they handled all the different conflicts and intense moments that happened and how those ultimately shaped everything in the end.

I also liked Miller's inclusion of women's rights issues that pop up in this world, and I think the way that she chose to incorporate it had a very real-world authentic feel to it. Although the people of Galitha are fighting for better rights and quality of life, there's no real emphasis on the women of Galitha and that they should have more opportunities, such as running for political office. Sophie repeatedly brings this up to Kristos and Theodore, but is repeatedly told that that is not what they are fighting for right and that she should bring it up again later once they've established their new way of life in Galitha. Of course, Sophie doesn't take this as an adequate answer and continues to push, and I thought it was a really thoughtful and important way to show how there are so many more sides to any revolution than appear, and that just because one problem might be solved, it doesn't mean everything is perfect.

Along those lines of not everything being perfect, I also appreciated how Miller had her characters discuss not only the current civil war, but what the future could look like if they actually won. Contrary to what most books and stories make it sound like, winning a war doesn't mean things are automatically perfect for the victors--instead, Sophie, Theodore, her brother, and other chosen leaders must figure out how to go about creating this 'better' life in an equal and acceptable way for everyone. This is no easy task, and I appreciated how much prominence Miller gave to these issues.

Overall, I've given this amazing conclusion to a magical and politically intense story five stars! I have loved following this revolution of sorts from the very beginning where Sophie is working at her store and focusing on building up her business to being a vital component of one of the most important moments in Galitha's new history. If you like revolutions, politics, the idea of charms being sewn into cloth items, and people who never give up on fighting for what they believe is right and fair for everyone, then absolutely pick up this trilogy!

Monday, April 6, 2020

Review: The Book of Koli (The Rampart Trilogy #1) by M.R. Carey

The Book of Koli (Rampart Trilogy, #1)
The Book of Koli (The Rampart Trilogy #1) by M.R. Carey
Publication Date: April 14th, 2020
Paperback. 416 pages

About The Book of Koli:

"Beyond the walls of the small village of Mythen Rood lies an unrecognizable world. A world where overgrown forests are filled with choker trees and deadly vines and seeds that will kill you where you stand. And if they don't get you, one of the dangerous shunned men will. 

Koli has lived in Mythen Rood his entire life. He knows the first rule of survival is that you don't venture beyond the walls. 

What he doesn't know is - what happens when you aren't given a choice?"

This book was so much weirder than I anticipated and it took me a while to get into it. I was actually on the verge of DNF-ing it for quite a while in the beginning, but there was just something that kept pulling me towards the story, and I'm glad I stuck with it long enough because I eventually found myself completely captivated by this story and the characters within.

I'm not sure how to start this review. Koli Woodsmith is a young adult who is on the verge of undergoing a traditional 'testing' that everyone in his village does undergoes as part of a transition from child to adult. This test is to discover who is a Rampart, one of the rare members of the village who can make the old tech from the past work, or if he is to become like most of the other members of the village who cannot. Now, the synopsis also mentions that they live in a village where they are surrounded by "choker trees and deadline vines and seeds that will kill you where you stand," and I must say that they play a much smaller role than I expected. I enjoyed the story that we were given, but I do think that synopsis left me feeling a bit misled about the main objectives of this story, though perhaps they will end up playing a larger role in the subsequent books in this trilogy.

The first thing that you will probably notice in this book is Koli's manner of speaking, which makes up the first person narrative of the book. It comes across as having poor grammar and of Koli being uneducated, but it fits very well with the setting of this world and village that feels almost lost in time. I was not expecting this style of voice, so it threw me off and at first I wondered if it would be something that would irritate me throughout the entire book, but fortunately as I continued to get more into the story, I stopped noticing it as much and I found that it really complemented the atmosphere and overall setting of the story in a perfect way. It still takes some time to get used to, especially since there are plenty of in-world words and ways of saying things that are confusing at first, but it really does come together well. It's always a risky move to me when authors experiment with narrative in the way, but I would say that it paid off overall for Carey.

Koli, as mentioned, is the speaker of our main and only POV, and I found him to be a very relatable and sort of 'average' young man. He had a lot of thoughts and made many decisions that I could easily see myself or others make given the limited information that he has at various times in the story. His storytelling is not rushed, but rather he tells the reader the story in the manner that he prefers, often falling into digressions after saying something like "but I'll tell you about that in a little while," which, admittedly, tends to frustrate me a little in books, but as with other elements of this story, after a while I just sort of fell into it and found it to be another facet of the style of this book and it worked well.

A few other prominent characters are Monono Aware, Ursula, Koli's mother and sisters, his fellow-aged friends, and those who become Ramparts. Monono Aware is probably the most prominent secondary character, I'd say followed closely by Ursula, a woman that I really liked. Monono Aware is one of those characters that I wasn't sure about at first, disregarding her rather odd "form," but she slowly grew on me much in the same way that I think Koli grew on her. There was such a unique method of relationship between the two and I think that odd dynamic really contributed a compelling element to this story. Ursula is a slightly more mysterious figure that we don't know as much about, but she is just as compelling, if not more, than any other in this story. It is through Ursula that we are really able to move forward in the plot and learn more about this weird world and its past.

The last thing I want to comment on is the entire setting and world-building of The Book of Koli. Although I still find it a bit mysterious and I'm still not entirely sure of what happened in the past, I think Carey does a truly excellent job of creating this background that fits so perfectly with the atmosphere and rather piecemeal explanations that we get from Koli as he, as the same time, learns more about this world. The existence of the old tech intrigues me, as well as the different people and places that still seem to exist outside of Koli's village, and I look forward to hopefully exploring more of all of these topics in future books, though I did really enjoy experiencing the day-to-day life of Koli's village and getting a glimpse into what their existence was like.

Overall, I've given The Book of Koli a rating somewhere between 3.75-4 stars. The more I write this review and think about the book, the fonder I feel of it, but I recall struggling a lot with getting into the story and my constant "should I DNF or not" debate for a good portion at the beginning. That being said, if you also get off on a rough start with this book I'd encourage you to keep going--you might just end up as captivated by the world and story as I ended up being! Carey certainly has a gift for crafting a unique and unpredictable tale and I look forward to future installments of the Rampart trilogy.

*I received a copy of The Book of Koli courtesy of Orbit in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*

Monday, March 30, 2020

Review: A Time of Courage by John Gwynne

A Time of Courage (Of Blood and Bone, #3)
A Time of Courage by John Gwynne
Publication Date: April 7th, 2020
Paperback. 720 pages

About A Time a Courage:

"The demon king Asroth has been freed from his iron prison. Now, alongside his dark bride Fritha, he plans to conquer the whole of the Banished Lands. 

In the shadows of Forn Forest, Riv and the surviving Ben-Elim desperately search for a way to unite those who remain against Asroth's vast army. 

Far in the west, Drem is with the Order of the Bright Star, besieged by a demon horde. Their fragile defenses are on the brink of shattering, but they know that it is better to fight and die than to live without hope. 

And across the Banished Lands, armies are heading south, to settle ancient grudges and decide the fate of humanity."

What a truly phenomenal way to wrap up this trilogy! I've been thoroughly enjoying each installment in the Of Blood and Bone series from John Gwynne over the past few years and the fact that it's over is bittersweet, as it was a perfect conclusion, yet I'm still a little sad that's over. I know that Gwynne is already working on something new, though, so I know I won't have to keep my fingers crossed for too long for more fantasy from him!

A Time of Courage is the final, momentous occasion: Asroth has been released and everyone is readying to prepare for the ultimate battle of good vs. evil. As with A Time of Blood, I'm trying to refrain from mentioning any specific, characters, places, or plot so as to avoid spoilers for the previous two books as well as this one, so the only two characters I'll mention by name are Drem and Riv since they are both mentioned in the synopsis at the top.

Drem is easily one of my favorite fantasy characters and POVs to follow. He has some of the best development over the arc of this trilogy, starting out as a boy with limited knowledge of the world and the evils that exist and turning into a strong leader, fighter, and character with great respect for those around him (and who deserve it, of course). It's truly been a pleasure watching him grow, and his actions in this book were just as exciting and well-written as in the previous ones. The other character I'll mention is Riv, a fiery half-breed warrior who has had to jump through a lot of different hoops during her time training and eventually fighting in battles. Riv has also been fascinating to follow and she has easily gone through some of the most dramatic changes and experiences in these books, which helped to make her such an interesting character.

In addition to Drem and Riv, there are three additional POVs that we follow that I enjoyed just about as much as I enjoyed Drem and Riv's. There are a lot of great things about Gwynne's writing, but one of his strengths is in developing really well-rounded and interesting characters that you cant help but become invested in. Even the characters on the 'villain' side tend to have complex motivations that make them captivating characters to follow and learn more about.

Another element of Gwynne's writing that has impressed me since the start are his battle scenes. I've said in many other reviews that I don't tend to enjoy battle and fight scenes all that much because they are usually difficult to follow and, well, I tend to get to bored and just want to know who gets hurt and/or dies so that I can move on to the next scene. This has never been the case in any of Gwynne's books that I've read and it pleases me so much to get such satisfaction and enjoyment out of his battles. I'm not sure if it's just because of how much research he does or simply his passion for writing these and real-life interest, but the way he writes battle scenes are clear, compelling, and genuinely keep me at the edge of my seat following along with the action.

In a time of fantasy where grimdark is gaining in popularity (and look, I love some good grimdark!) it was refreshing to dive into a world that felt epic, classic, and optimistic despite the tragedy that befalls the characters. There's something so warm and welcoming about this trilogy--it's not that it's some light story or anything because it certainly gets extremely dark, but rather that there's something so classic about this that just reminds me why I love epic fantasy so much. It's authentic and full of big characters and big themes, an epic world with a strong magic system, and plenty of magical beasts and creatures, all of which combine to create a book that feels timeless, both  classic and inventive, all rolled into one.

Overall, I've given A Time of Courage five stars!

*I received a copy of A Time of Courage courtesy of Orbit in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Review: Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward

Legacy of Ash (Legacy Trilogy, #1)
Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward
Publication Date: April 9th, 2020
Hardcover. 320 pages

About Legacy of Ash:

"A shadow has fallen over the Tressian Republic.

While the armies of the Hadari Empire invade the borderlands, the Republic's noble families plot against each other, divided by personal ambition. 

But as Tressia falls, heroes rise.

Viktor Akadra is the Republic's champion and conqueror of the rebellious south. A warrior without equal, he also hides a secret that would see him burned as a heretic. Josiri Trelan would gladly see Viktor condemned to the flames - vengeance for a rebellion crushed and a mother slain. And while Josiri plots fresh insurrection, his sister, Calenne, is determined to escape their tarnished legacy and break the shackles of the past. 

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."

I really wasn't sure what to expect from Legacy of Ash--an epic fantasy debut that's nearly 800 pages is no joke--and although it took a little while to get fully acquainted with the world, once I was hooked I didn't want to stop reading it. This is a perfect example of modern epic fantasy in my opinion: it has some classic fantasy vibes and general ideas, but it's incredibly innovative and has some really exciting characters and storylines.

Legacy of Ash has a wide cast of characters and POVs that jump around a decent bit. The main focuses are Viktor, Josiri, Calenne, Melnna, and possibly a few more that I'm overlooking. I was a bit intimidated at first by all of the different character viewpoints, but as I started to get more into the story I found myself being able to more easily distinguish between each character and become more invested in their storylines. It did take a while to get to this point, as there are so many names and details to remember, but it was worth it for me personally once I got to that point. I think one of my favorite things about this book is that we get to see POVs from almost all sides (though it is a bit lacking in viewpoints from the more 'regular' classes of people), so we get a good understanding for the motivations behind the battles and discord, as well as an ability to become invested in both sides for various reasons--and maybe lost some support for certain sides!

Without getting into too many unneeded details for a review, Legacy of Ash centers around the Tressia, the Southerners, and the Hadari. The Tresia and Southerners have a long history of hatred between one another, and then the Hadari are essentially a third external threat that is threatening to attack the other two. We get to see characters from all three sides, which I appreciate, and I love how Ward made each section so well-developed that you can mostly understand motivations from all sides. By the end of the book I had really grown to be invested in the lives of most of the characters and it has made me really curious to find out what's going to be next, especially after the epic events of this book.

Ward's world-building was vast and exceptionally well-done. There's plenty of myth and history to give this world background and grounding, as well as current tensions and conflicts to keep the story going. I'm not sure that I fully understood how the magic system worked, but I was immersed in it nonetheless and am curious to see how it continues to develop. If you like your epic fantasy filled with politics and conflicts of all types, then you will have a great time with this book because it is overflowing with political intrigue and some captivating conflicts between characters and territories. There are also some truly epic battle scenes that were far extremely compelling and really added to the impact of other story events.

Ward has a very clear prose style that makes this book easy to fall into, though I will say that there was still something just a little bit rough around the edges about the writing. There were occasional places where dialogue or description felt awkward, but over 800 pages those ended up being less noticeable than they would've been in another book. That being said, since this is an epic fantasy debut it definitely just feels like Ward is figuring out his voice and I have the highest of hopes for the sequel.

Overall, I've given Legacy of Ash four stars! I look forward to seeing what Ward will bring next to this series.

*I received a copy of Legacy of Ash courtesy of Orbit in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*