The prologue shares the confusion of Bitterblue and her mother as they try to stay focused on truth to keep from becoming muddled by Bitterblue’s father, King Leck. Almost nine years later, Queen Bitterblue struggles to rule her country under the many advisers who “help” her. She sneaks out of the castle one night to check out the village and ends up in a pub where a storyteller is narrating a story about her father, King Leck. She observes several villagers and one, in particular, catches her attention but he disappears before she walks out of the pub after him. Bitterblue manages to keep sneaking out at night and listening to different storytellers. She finally meets the villager that caught her eye earlier, Saf, and his friend Teddy. She keeps her identity from them and pretends to be a bread baker in the castle. Eventually, her true identity is discovered when she’s attacked. Bitterblue has to rely on everyone she trusts to get to the bottom of the attack, the truth seeker killings, destruction of her kingdom and the past when King Leck ruled. Bitterblue is a wonderful story with a variety of strong characters who are interesting and keep the queen on her toes. I’m excited to read the next book in the Graceling realm, Winterkeep! A fantastical and intriguing world, 5 stars!
Amara is set to be the next ruler but she doesn’t pass the test in front of her father or the people of the kingdom that are watching. She’s imprisoned but escapes with Bastian, a mysterious pirate. Amara’s fiancé Ferrick travels with them also. They’re trying to figure out how to stop Kaven. He’s become a ruthless leader and vows to conquer Amara’s father. Along the way, the three of them meet a mermaid and help her escape her servitude and she willingly helps the crew of rebels. They reach Kaven and see firsthand what his rule has cost his people. Amara touches a cursed dagger and sees the memory of what truly happened to the magic so many years ago. The truth could crush her father’s rule. When Amara and her crew return home, they find it under a vicious attack. They jump into the fight and have to do some quick thinking if they’re going to survive. I love the main characters and the development they underwent throughout this book. Amara, Bastian, Ferrick and Vataea are strong, brave and have great loyalty and integrity. I enjoyed the section on Sira’s memory and how it adds a twist to everything Amara and her kingdom know. A grand adventure, 5 stars!
The Afterlife of the Party by Marlene Perez
Tansy is a witch with a crush on Vaughn, one of her best friends. The three of them go to a party with their mutual friend Sky because she’s dying to see a new band perform. She’s supposedly dating one of the band members and wants Tansy and Vaughn to meet him. Once they arrive at the party, he doesn’t treat Sky any differently than any other girl and seems overly interested in Tansy, to the point where he bites her neck. Vaughn and Tansy freak out and Sky seems to be in some kind of trance that they can’t snap her out of. They manage to get Sky and leave the party and go to Tansy’s home to get help and advice from her grandmother. Sky is missing the next morning, so Tansy and Vaughn leave to find her. They’ve infiltrated a vampire cult and, with Tansy and her grandmother being witches, they have some power to use against the bloodsuckers. When Travis bit Tansy, he unknowingly created a striga Vie which gave her more powers against the vampires. Tansy also learns things about her mother that have been kept secret from her. I like Vaughn’s character and the values he has. The strong relationship between Vaughn and Tansy warms my heart. We all need true friends like that. 4 stars for this witch/vampire story combo!
Fable is on her own, trying to survive long enough to get off the island her father left her on years ago. Her mother died in a shipwreck and her father deserted her and left her to survive completely on her own. She’s tough and has gained survival skills all by her wits. She manages to get off the island by buying passage aboard the Marigold, a ship that she later discovers is one of her father’s. She finally reaches Saint and he’s just as cold to her as she expected, even though she hoped for more. He does give her the inheritance her mother would have left her but nothing is given easily or with any help when Saint is involved. She also figures out why Saint carved into her arm all those years ago. Fable bargains cleverly and becomes a true part of a crew and she finally feels like she has a place where she belongs. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, a pirate adventure with strong characters, great character development and dangerous setting, 5 stars!
Fun supernatural read for young adults.
Grace has recently lost both of her parents. She’s now becoming a resident of Alaska so she can live with her extended family, her uncle and her cousin Macy. She’s in a bit of a culture shock from the small population and extremely cold weather, since she’s just traveled from San Diego. But when she arrives at Katmere Academy, her new home, she’s astounded. It’s an elegant castle where students reside and her uncle is the headmaster. Grace feels out of place and she can tell which students “run” the school. It seems to be run by the Order, with Jaxon Vega as the leader. Jaxon helps Grace more than once and she starts falling for him. Strange and dangerous things keep happening around and to Grace. She believes that she’s getting to know her fellow students and who she can trust until information is revealed about her parents. The danger surrounding Grace increases to the point where her life is in danger. The book started out cheesy with the silly chapter titles and the almost instant swooning but it’s still a fun read. The depth occurred through character development and a bit of mystery. I enjoyed Jaxon’s perspective at the ending because it helped me understand the situation better. I am curious about and anxious to read the sequel and unravel more of the background of the fun characters. 4 stars for this young adult supernatural fantasy!
Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells surprised me with its immense world building and strong characters!
Maren and Kaia have a good relationship and Kaia wants to travel and explore when she’s old enough to. Maren plans on traveling with her. Plans change when Kaia is taken as a seer to possibly be a dragon trainer. Maren decides to leave too by telling her parents that she needs to be out on her own and independent. She’s not completely honest with them. She’s planning on rescuing Kaia. She heads to the dragon fortress and asks and then manipulates her estranged uncle for a job. She becomes the new food taster. Maren is noticed by the Aromatory, Neve, who raises baby dragons until they bond with their lords. Neve uses scents to train and appreciates Maren’s ability to pick up scents that most people can’t detect. While working, Maren meets Sev, who seems friendly but with a hidden story of his own. Things progress and Maren and Sev find each other running away to escape capture and probably death. They decide to help each other and end up discovering so much more about the empire than they ever could have guessed! The ending left me worried about the characters and their safety and I’m looking forward to the sequel, Storm the Sky. A fantasy adventure that will take you for a ride, 5 stars!
Send Me Their Souls by Sara Wolf
Zera is with Lucien, Fione and Malachite as they try to figure out how to stop Lucien’s sister’s rampage. She’s focused on destroying everything and everyone in the kingdom. The group travels and learns more about the Bone Tree and learns of the Glass Tree and its intensity and oddity. They begin to understand that the Bone Tree is taking over Varia’s mind and overpowering her judgment, causing her to seek and destroy. The group researches for solutions to stop the destruction while hoping to protect Varia at the same time. The dynamics of the characters and the loyalty make me laugh and warm my heart. Sara Wolf has a knack for endearing characters. The ending of an adventurous fantasy trilogy, 4 stars!
Reverie by Ryan La Sala
This fun fantasy adventure has a variety of characters set in different worlds or “reveries”. The story opens as Kane struggles with memory loss and frustration because he’s been accused of reckless behavior, destruction of property and possibly murder but he doesn’t remember any of it. He digs deeper into solving the mystery of his life and discovers that he was part of a group called “Others”. The more he reveals, the crazier everything gets. Dreams from individual minds come to life and most people are swept into the reverie while the Others have special powers of illusion, strength and cleverness to guide people safely through the dream world. The story also has a drag queen reverie guide that adds flair as well as lesbian side characters and Kane, who is the gay main character. These characters add perspective, kindness, diversity and a broad array of personalities to Reverie. A fun adventure fantasy geared towards young adults. The relationship scenes aren’t detailed and are a small part of the Reverie world. 4 stars!
Set in the 1980’s, Beauty’s Rose tells the story of Margot visiting an Aunt in France. Aunt Suzette owns a cozy bookshop in a small French town steeped in traditional tourist attractions, royalty, knights, jousting, and festivals. Margot meets several people her age and enjoys the scenery of Chapais. Burke is an aloof mystery to the town and Sylvain seems to be a player. When Margot starts having dreams involving conversations with a beast, she thinks she’s losing her mind. Aunt Suzette’s friends, who are actually fairies (Clove, Sage, and Thyme), let Margot in on the curse that’s taking over the local prince’s life. Burke and Margot become friends and end up trapped in a hidden mansion together as he transforms into the beast. I was saddened when the story ended because I wanted more! A gentle, contemporary 1980’s fairytale retelling about love, loyalty, and sacrifice.
Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin
Lou is a witch and thief who’s hiding from more than just the law. Reid is the leader of the Archbishop’s soldiers who have all been trained to despise and kill witches. Lou and Reid meet under not-so-friendly circumstances and their relationship grows from there. Forced to marry, the two start out hating each other but eventually begin to care when they truly see who they are. Action-packed fantasy with a splash of humor make this a fun read, 5 stars!