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.

The Crow Rider by Kalyn Josephson

The perfect ending to the Storm Crow duology!

Anthia is on her way to the meeting of rulers to gain their help in defeating Razel, the Illucian queen. She has companions with her, Res, Caylus and Kiva. On the trip, the ship stops at retired crow riders’ ports so Res and Anthia can receive training to help him develop and hone his powers. Razel attacks their ship with Malkin‘s crew, putting Caylus in Malkin’s sight once again. Anthia grows as she continues to pull herself out of the pit of depression that almost consumed her after her mother died. Res is fun and fantastic with his attitude and magic abilities. He adds bits of humor throughout the story. It’s going to take everything to defeat Razel, including teamwork. This is a wonderful read and perfect ending to The Storm Crow duology with it’s intense intrigue and strong characters, 5 stars!

The Storm Crow by Kalyn Josephson

The adventure never ends!

The prologue opens with inspiration and excitement for things to come and then ends with horror and devastation. Anthia’s world falls apart when her homeland, Rhodaire, is attacked by Illucians. Her mother is killed and so are the large, beautiful, magical crows that shared their world. Her land is decimated because without the crows’ help, nothing flourishes or grows. Her sister, Caliza, is now queen and has betrothed Anthia to the Illucian Prince Ericen. Of course, neither sister is happy about the deal but they don’t see any other way to try to mend their broken land. Before Anthia leaves her home, she visits the towers where the crows once lived. She finds and hides an egg then takes it to Illucia with her. She has no idea how to get it to hatch but she’s not leaving it behind. She’s searched everywhere for information on the crows and she’s hoping she’s going to figure it out soon. Ericen is difficult to read and Anthia is unsure about trusting him. He seems very loyal to his mother, Razel, the Illucian Queen. Razel is terrible and loves cruelty. She wants to conquer all of the other countries also and doesn’t care about who she harms in the process. Anthia accidentally meets rebels and inadvertently makes new friends in Illucia. She manages to enjoy some of her time there until she discovers a secret of Razel’s. The action and intrigue continues in the sequel, Crow Rider. I enjoyed several characters, their flaws and quirks: Anthia, Kiva, Ericen, Caylus, and the adventure that never seems to end, 5 stars!

These Divided Shores by Sara Raasch

Fantasy adventure!

Lu, Vex and Ben continue to battle against the king, Ben’s father, as he deceives and strives to control the nation. Action packed, adventurous and brutality ridden, the story takes us on a roller coaster ride to vanquish evil and greed. Vex has a great sense of humor, Ben is more proper and Lu is a trained warrior but their teamwork just might be what the citizens need to find freedom. Fantasy adventure! 5 stars!

Steelstriker by Marie Lu

The action and fighting keep going as the rebellion tries to end the Premier!

The story opens six months after Skyhunter ends. Talin has been transformed into a Skyhunter for the Premier and Red is in the woods with some Strikers, doing what they can to fight the Federation. Talin and Red haven’t sensed much of each other but they are both missing their connection and they each keep trying to reach out to the other one. While sleeping, Talin sees through Red’s eyes what the rebels are planning. The premier sees everything through their connection and is able to sabotage them. Jeran and Red escape but the rest of the group gets captured. Talin is sick with worry and tries her best to subdue the connection with the Premier, even trying to survive without sleep. The premier forces the captured Strikers to compete in a game against Ghosts. They’re trapped in a maze made up of metal sliding walls. Only two of the four survive. The action and fighting keep going as the rebellion tries to end the Premier. Intrigue, brutality, torture and the horrific making of ghosts kept the story hopping until the very end, 4 stars!

Escaping Eleven by Jerri Chisholm

Entertaining dystopian for young adults!

Eve is a fighter looking forward to when she can reach the upper level and Earth to see if her younger brother Jack somehow survived being banished nine years ago for being the unlawful second child of the family. He was sent out to the unprotected air and land on his own. Eve meets Wren in a scheduled fight that entertains the crowds. They despise each other at first but soon become allies. While Eve’s friends continue to participate in job tours to help decide their future, she hunts for a way to escape Compound Eleven. Wren is from the upper level so he has access to more and also has a better lifestyle than Eve and her friends in the lower level. He teaches her to shoot a gun and she introduces her to the lowest level of the compound where she helps ration food to the people. They both grow and learn about what they truly want in their futures. Eve is stubborn but loyal and Wren is smart, brave and has integrity. Interesting world building and strong characters add life to this dystopian story, 4 stars!

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman

A wonderful twist and a fascinating ending!

Nami is on her way to the class graduation party when she receives a call from Lucy. Lucy pressures her into buying alcoholic drinks for the party. Nami stops at a mini mart and while she’s looking at what’s available to buy, a shooter enters the store. Nami jumps in front of a young girl to protect her and ends up getting shot. She wakes up later in the Infinity Courts which are run by Artificial Intelligence. Nami resists taking a pill to help with her headache and resists drinking from the fountain. Instead, she follows the lights and ends up being rescued by rebels fighting against Artificial Intelligence control. The rebels rescued her because she resisted and most people can’t. They need her for the rebellion. For some reason, Nami blends in easily with the AI and held the attention of a prince during their conversation, so the rebels want her to be a spy and gather as much information as possible so they can be taken out of control. Humans that have taken the pill are servants to the robots and are unaware of supposedly anything, surroundings, people, and their own pasts. Other humans are sent to War to fight in horrible battles. The resistance works together to free humans and end the robots and all Artificial Intelligence control, even through rough patches. Nami frustrates me a little because she’s only wanting to see one side of the resistance and stubbornly expects everyone else to understand and follow her point of view when she won’t reciprocate that understanding to others. There’s a wonderful twist and the ending was fascinating, 4 stars!

Roots of Ruin by Amber Mitchell

Roots of Ruin by Amber Mitchell
Book three in the Garden of Thorns series.
Rose/Arianna works alongside Rayce to unite their two kingdoms and to restore her rightful place as ruler of her kingdom. There’s a traitor in their group who keeps giving valuable information to the enemy and man who took Arianna’s father’s life and crown, King Ganem. As king, he has broken apart families and caused extreme poverty and violence. With Rayce’s help, they plan to bring the kingdoms together and create peace. The stress picks up at the last third of the book when the traitor is discovered and the rebels find themselves in a twisted mess. A solid ending in this YA dystopian series, 4 stars!

The Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard

Fantastic world building and strong character development, 5 stars for this series opener!

Different lives become connected through unpleasant events. Andry witnesses the horrible deaths of a group of knights that he was traveling with. One brother killed another and set loose a horde of violent corpses that kills everyone in its path. Reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings, this updated epic fantasy brings action and a gathering of many to fight a common enemy that wants to take over the world. The group of forsaken allies grows stronger after being betrayed by someone they thought was one of their own. This group is made up of a young woman with a special family line, a large and powerful Elder, an honorable squire, a young assassin and more continue to join as the story unfolds. They face dangerous creatures and powerful foes in this high, epic fantasy that opens a series bound to be a story for the ages! Fantastic world building and strong character development, 5 stars for this series opener!

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!