The Witch Hunt by Sasha Peyton Smith

Likeable characters!

Frances is now a teacher at Haxahaven. She and Maxine are traveling to Paris and picking up their mutual friend Lena on the way. They travel six days on a fancy ship then stay at Maxine’s family home once they reach Paris. Frances hasn’t told Lena and Maxine that she received a letter from Finn or that she wants to visit her father who abandoned her family when she was young. She meets her father and is underwhelmed with his reaction and his personality. Finn doesn’t evoke trustworthiness but Frances feels that she has to work with him to fix the damage the two of them caused when reaching the veil and speaking to her deceased brother William. Frances and her friends are determined to fix the magic problem caused by the veil breach and they need all the help they can get. Likeable characters! 4 stars!

Mature content: PG-13 for underage drinking, LGBT side characters mentioned
Language: R for 7 swears and 1 f-bomb
Violence: PG-13 for stabbing, shooting and a tied up victim
Mixed Ethnicity and set in 1913 Paris

The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith

A magical, tragic fantasy!

Frances works in a sewing factory in 1911 America. Working and living conditions aren’t very good. She’s working late one night so she can finish an order that’s scheduled to be delivered the next morning when her boss rushes in to steal money from the till and then notices Frances. He tries to force himself on her and he’s choking her to hold her still. Frances is struggling for air when she suddenly feels an odd sensation in her fingers and hears a whoosh sound. Her boss gasps and lets her go because her scissors have somehow ended up embedded in his neck. It takes Frances a minute to catch her breath and notice that her scissors have killed him. She panics, throws up and decides that the only way to get out of this situation is to stage a crime scene. Her supervisor helps her. She’s picked up by two strangers taking her to a sanitarium but they’re actually witches taking her to a training school. Haxahaven is a school that helps young women use their magical skills to help them become better wives and mothers and conform to the early 1900’s society. Many of these girls also want to learn how to use their magical abilities to protect themselves. Frances and a couple of others sneak out to venture and meet Finn who says he’ll help them train and help Frances figure out what happened to Will, her deceased brother. An entire world opens up to the girls and they get involved in much more than they bargained for. 5 stars for this magical, tragic fantasy!

It Ends In Fire by Andrew Shvarts

4 stars for the writing and intensity of the story!

Sixteen-year-old Alka tricks a group of thieves into stopping a wagon for her. They think the wagon holds treasure but it holds a Wizard that is the senator’s powerful daughter. Alka wants revenge on the Wizards for killing her parents ten years ago and Lady Alayne is the key. After dueling with Alayne, Alka retrieves Alayne’s invitation to Blackwater Academy of Magic so she can go in her place and infiltrate the Wizard power. The next chapter explains what happened to Alka’s parents. Wizards arrive at their home so seven-year-old Alka and her six-year-old sister Sera hide under the floorboards like their parents told them to. Their father, Petyr, admits he’s a rebel to save his wife but the Enforcers kill them both. But before Petyr dies, he tells his daughters to run and then he sets off an explosion to kill the Wizards. Alka’s childhood ended that day. Her world completely changed. Now, she travels to Blackwater Academy to take Alayne’s place and exact her revenge. Fylmonela Potts befriends Alka and the two form an alliance preparing for the intense competitive Blackwater Academy where one third of the students will drop out or die instead of graduating. At the opening ceremony, Alka sees the man who killed her parents, Magnus Aberdeen, headmaster of Blackwater Academy. After a failed attempt to get close to Aberdeen, Alka meets the exchange student Prince Talyn Ravensgale IV. The story continues to alternate between young Alka and the present Alka, when she’s at Blackwater. She pretends to mess up a Glyph that distracts Aberdeen and the entire class so she can steal the last four Glyph pages from the master codex of the wizard spells to keep and learn on her own. She wants to be the most powerful so she can take down the wizards. When she was being trained by rebels, she was told not to feel remorse for killing wizards or others who stand in the way of her mission. Despite that, Alka gains allies and friends and when their order competes in a school challenge, they try a daring stunt to beat the competition. This makes the ruling order angry but the rest of the school feels empowered. The second challenge doesn’t go down as planned and when a friend dies, Alka knows the end is coming. She’s got to make a plan that will take the biggest toll of all. 4 stars for the writing and the intensity. Similar to a Harry Potter outline.

Gilded by Marissa Meyer

Suspenseful, dangerous and interesting fairytale retelling!

Serilda enjoys creating stories to tell and embellishing the tales every time she retells them. One snowy night, she hears noises outside her house. She dares to go outside and she sees two moss maidens trying to hide from hunters. Serilda helps them hide but lies to the Erlking to keep them safe. He’s intrigued by her story of being able to spin straw into gold so he sends for her to come to his castle. After that, she’s bound to keep going back to the castle because the Erlking won’t let her go. She meets Gild, who the Erlking classifies as a poltergeist. Gild has the gift of magic that allows him to spin straw into gold. He helps Serilda but requires payment in return each time he helps her. The first two times, Serilda gives him the gifts the moss maidens gave her when she saved them from the Erlking. The third time, she offers her future firstborn child as payment. That is the only thing she has to offer. Gild accepts this offer, so his magic will work. Everything grows more complicated and the people Serilda love become endangered. The Erlking is heartless, cold and brutal. He will do whatever it takes to get what he wants.
Gilded is one of the best fairytale retellings I’ve read because Marissa Meyer adds twists and brings original characters to the story. Suspenseful, dangerous and interesting fairytale retelling, 5 stars!

This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi

Reads like an old-fashioned fairytale!

Alizeh is alone in the world, hiding her true identity and living as an overworked servant. She’s Jinn and has ice in her veins. She’ll be in danger if anyone discovers who she is because she’ll be seen as a threat to the human king. Kamran, the young prince, sees Alizeh help a homeless thief and is intrigued by her actions. The more he observes her, the more curious he becomes. The king, Kamran’s grandfather, sees that the prince is interested in the girl so he explains that their kingdom’s peace is at stake if they let her live. He orders Kamran to put her to death and then be ready to attend the planned ball the next evening and choose a wife. Alizeh works as a seamstress after her servant hours are finished for the day. She’s helping Miss Huda with several gowns. Alizeh is exhausted and after she leaves Miss Huda, she’s attacked by six men. She warns them but they laugh at her so she subdues them with the only weapons she has available, seamstress needles and scissors. Afterwards, she’s approached by a man who has been searching for her and wanting to protect her from harm. He sees the attack and knows she can protect herself. He offers her assistance and safety. He will take her away at the ball the following night. He also gives her a nosta, a rare orb that warms in your hand when the truth is told and chills like ice when a lie appears. This man’s identity is a surprising twist to the story! Huzzah!!!
The action takes over and another twist is revealed, ending the book with a bang! I can hardly stand to wait for the next book! Elegant storytelling, 5 stars!

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Intrigue, mystery, and adventure!

Catherine loves to bake and wants to be a professional baker but her parents think that baking is servants’ work and they want her to marry the king, even if it’s against her wishes. The king seems very interested in Catherine’s baking and possibly for marriage with her. She’s not remotely interested. Jest, the new joker, fascinates Cath and the two of them develop a relationship. The Jabberwock continues to terrify and attack the people and Cath tells the king that he should be doing something about it. The king happens to be more interested in parties and happy thoughts than the safety of the kingdom. This fairytale retelling is full of intrigue, mystery and adventure as we learn the story of the Queen of Hearts from Wonderland. Enjoyable, suspenseful and heartbreaking, 5 stars!

Kingdom of Sea and Stone by Mara Rutherford

Characters with strength and integrity!

Zadie and Nor row home and surprise their parents. Talin arrives and the three of them leave on his small ship but see Ceren’s soldiers attack their home as they’re sailing away. Nor seems unsure about the future she wants and when Talin mentions staying together, she panics inside. They travel to Galeth to look for Sami and ask the people for support against Ceren. They make a discovery about the bloodstones and how Ceren uses them to manipulate and control his soldiers. Talin’s four year old sister is queen as the next female heir. Since she’s too young, their mother is representing in her stead. She’s going to war with Ceren and his bloodstone soldiers but she’s using every citizen who’s twelve and older in her army. Nor faces Ceren, trying to talk sense and logic to him. All he wants is power and control no matter how kind and longing for love he might have been when Nor sees a younger Ceren in her visions. He’s a lost soul. This second and last book in the duology finishes the story up nicely with strong characters full of integrity and loyalty, 5 stars!

Kingdom of the Cursed by Kerri Maniscalco

The intensity multiplies in the second book of the Kingdom of the Wicked series!

Emilia finds herself in the Seven Circles of Hell with Wrath by her side. He’s guiding her to Pride and she’s reminded of the temptations surrounding her in Hell. Wrath keeps reminding her that what she’s seeing isn’t real but a test.
They eventually get to Wrath’s elaborate home and Emilia senses and eventually knows that he’s continuing to have secrets that either he won’t or can’t share. This is a story of intensities, secrets, curses, deception, bonds, passion, and twists. I could not put this book down and the ending is perfect for continuing the story into the third and final book! Wrath and Emilia have an intriguing relationship and they’re both stuck in a kind of limbo. Emilia has been kept in the dark and Wrath isn’t allowed to divulge information. I’m anticipating the third and final book. This series reminds me of Sarah J. Maas’ writing in the ACOTR series because they’re both awesome! 5 stars!

Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco

Supernatural mystery and the beginning of an awesome new series!

Twin sisters grow up hearing tales of the Wicked princes of Hell and heeding the warnings that go hand in hand with the stories. Eventually the warnings of danger wear off since they haven’t seen any real evidence of the Wicked until tragedy strikes when they’re eighteen. Emilia is desperate to find whoever is responsible for Vittoria’s death so she summons a demon but ends up with one of the Wicked, Prince Wrath. His disdain for humans is immense but Emilia wears him down and surprises him with her abilities and intellect. When she’s attacked by a large viper shaped demon, Wrath saves her. He also pulls her out of despair after she’s attacked by Lust. Their relationship fluctuates between understanding each other and despising each other. They’re both trying to stop evil so they decide to work together until tragedy strikes again. This supernatural mystery held my complete attention and I’m excited for the sequel, 5 stars!

The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni

Whoa! That ending!

A young woman who has been without her family for ten years, is a prisoner in a camp that sounds similar to the concentration camps of World War II. She’s responsible for carving a z into the prisoners’ hands. The z represents the prison’s name and it reminds me of The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris, except this is a fantasy story. She’s also the prison healer in charge of treating prisoners. A well-known rebel arrives at the prison and she’s known as the Rebel Queen. She’s supposed to be put through the Trials as punishment. Kiva receives a message from her family that states they’re coming to rescue her and implores her to keep the Rebel Queen alive. She’s also threatened by another prisoner to keep the Rebel Queen alive or her younger assistant, Tipp, will be killed. Kiva sacrifices herself to the Trials hoping that she’s going to be rescued before they’re over, since no one ever survives them without magic. A new prisoner arrives, Jaren, and he befriends Tipp and Kiva because she healed his wounds. The Trials consist of four Ordeals that are insanely dangerous and fatal. Kiva doesn’t know what any of the Ordeals are before she’s thrown into each one. During the time of the Trials, a stomach sickness is ravaging the prison and Kiva and Tipp work endlessly to find a cure. This is a unique story and that ending was awesome, 4 stars!