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!
Nita finds Fabricio at INHUP and vows to kill him. She misses Kovit and emails back and forth with him. She also emails her mother and they plan to meet in Toronto. Nita is heartbroken after hearing about her father’s murder. Kovit and Nita team up and take down some people that are hunting them. The two of them go on a roller coaster ride of a relationship and they both learn and grow because of it. Nita comes to terms with her mother and her actions but doesn’t learn any more about her father’s death. Great sequel, 4 stars!
In a world being endangered by scrabs (human killing creatures), Clara is ready to do anything to get away from her abusive father, so she decides to join a scrab fighting army. The privately funded army has recruits across the globe. Clara goes to Paris and London with her team. She trains, battles scrabs and builds relationships. One of her relationships turns out toxic while others feel like she belongs to a good family. Dynamics between characters and the world-building create a mix of intrigue, danger and suspense. The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger so I’m struggling to wait for the second book of this duology. 5 stars for a dangerous adventure ride!
Interesting characters wrapped up in intrigue!
Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the opportunity to read and review Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith!
Witchcraft is forbidden in Aurelia’s kingdom and the story opens as she’s sadly watching two women hang for performing witchcraft. Aurelia has performed her share of magic, even though she’s the princess. She’s being sent away to Achleva to marry the prince. In his kingdom, magic is allowed. Along the way, a plot is revealed and she escapes on her own. She disguises herself as a maid and meets other commoners, befriends them and helps them. Someone is trying to break seals and release dark magic and they finally discover who has been breaking them, only after they’ve lost a wonderful friend. I love the part when the prince stands up to the king, speaking the truth about the seal breaker. The king’s reaction raises suspicion. Some of the transitions could be more clear between reality and Aurelia’s visions but for the most part, the visions add depth to the plot. Aurelia loses people she loves and she discovers her true origins. Unpredictable and entertaining, Bloodleaf kept me riveted to the end, 4 stars!
Action, adventure, mystery, tragedy and romance all wrapped up in a fantasy, 5 stars!
Graceling by Kristin Cashore is a thoroughly enjoyable read! The main character Katsa has been given the Grace skill to kill well, but she hates this gift. She frees an elderly Lienid prisoner by knocking out guards and giving them each a pill that keeps them out long enough for her to complete the rescue. By doing this, she completed her mission without killing anyone. She works under King Randa’s orders and he often orders her to harm or kill people when they’ve supposedly wronged him. Katsa has few people that she’s comfortable with, her companions Giddon and Oll and her cousin Raffin, who’s also the prince.
The Lienid prisoner’s grandson, Po, has visited several places searching for his grandfather. Po’s relieved when he discovers that his grandfather is safe and being cared for by Katsa and her companions. Po is also a Grace and his skill is intuition. He’s also a skilled fighter and has passed on fighting as his Grace skill because people would be afraid of him or use him for his intuitive abilities.
Katsa and Po become friends and I enjoy their unique friendship and all of its humor. When Katsa decides she no longer wants to do King Randa’s bidding, she leaves with Po. They arrive in King Leck’s territory just as he’s killing his wife for hiding their daughter Bitterblue from him. King Leck is also the one who had Po’s grandfather kidnapped. He did this so his wife would obey him. His wife is Po’s aunt. She’s running towards Po when Leck kills her but she has time to yell at Po to protect Bitterblue. Leck is a horrible person who has a Grace of manipulation and he has used this power for his own benefit since he was young. He killed the King and Queen years ago, after they took him in as their own, so he could rule as King. He mutilates and tortures children, specifically girls, and animals. A lot of action and adventure take place in Graceling, as well as some romance in this young adult fantasy. I enjoyed the relationship and relaxed ease between Po and Katsa, it was refreshing!
Must- read series!
Isle of Blood and Stone review:
The prologue tells a tale of young princes, innocent discoveries and a mass poisoning ending in death. Eighteen years later, we meet the brother of the young princes, Ulises, who is now king. We also meet his friends and entourage and the connections to the prologue are interestingly explained in the third chapter. After that point, we follow Elias, one of the young king’s friends, and Mercedes, the king’s cousin, as they follow clues on a map that may or may not lead them to the two lost princes and their unknown fate, as well as the fate of Elias’s father who also disappeared along with the princes eighteen years earlier. Supernatural elements within this fantasy make the story even more interesting and suspenseful. I enjoyed reading every word of this book, with the layers of intrigue and strong characters. I loved unraveling the mystery alongside the characters and I’m going to immediately begin reading the sequel, Song of the Abyss. 5 full and happy stars!
Song of the Abyss review:
Thanks to NetGalley, Edelweiss, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and a goodreads giveaway for the opportunity to read and review Song of the Abyss by Makiia Lucier!
The story begins eight years after Isle of Blood and Stone. Reyna is now a teenager and struggling to sneak off a ship that’s under attack. She saves herself and her maps because of her logic, swimming abilities and help from sea worms. Reyna ends up in Selene, in the kingdom of Lunes, where the king has just died. She’s the only person that escaped the attack. She accidentally meets Levi, one of the princes, as he’s grieving the loss of his father. He’s Captain of the Royal Guard and tries to detain Reyna so he can question her more but she escapes and finds a ship heading back to her home in Del Mar. Levi and his sister, Queen Vashti, visit Reyna’s kingdom to discuss ships being attacked since both kingdoms have people missing. Reyna helps Levi on the quest to find their loved ones and together they discover a horrible and treacherous deception. Song of the Abyss weaves a tale of differing kingdoms and cultures; one of them backwards and secluded and struggling to survive. A bit of historical fiction is added along with mythological creatures to create a fantasy that I loved; 5 stars for a book I couldn’t put down!
Action filled mythological adventure!
Thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, NetGalley and Edelweiss for the opportunity to read and review Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean.
Taro is the son of the emperor but, unlike his father, Taro has a kind heart. This kindness angers the emperor. Mari is an Animal Wife yokai (a human with supernatural powers that can change into a beast) with the strength and intelligence to best her opponents. She’s not beautiful, so her mother is disappointed in her and makes her train as a warrior instead. Mari’s mother wants Mari to conquer the Empire, become Empress and steal the prince’s fortune. Akira, known as the Son of Nightmares because of his scarred face, loves Mari, even though to her they will only ever be friends. He follows behind the procession taking Mari to the Empire for the Seasons Rooms competition, so he can keep an eye on her without anyone knowing. Akira has a wonderful sense of humor, even though he’s had a painful and lonely life. Mari feels overwhelmed by the competition and because of all of the young women involved but she uses her wits and her values to overcome her challenges. I enjoyed the intermittent stories of gods and goddesses that explain the creation of Mari’s world. Action packed, filled with mythology and adventure, Empress of All Seasons is an unputdownable fantasy read worthy of 5 stars!
Chemistry Lessons by Meredith Goldstein tells the story of friends Maya, Kyle and Yael. Maya suffers from a breakup, so she dives into the research that her deceased mother left for Maya in her will. The research is to create a prescription that boosts physical chemistry for couples. Ann, her mother’s intern, helps Maya with pheromone experiments. The research causes extreme confusion in Maya’s relationships and hurt feelings. Maya discovers a lot about herself along the way and she grows to understand her acquaintances better and sees her parents in a new light. Food for thought, this realistic fiction story with a touch of science earns 4 stars!
Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the opportunity to read and review Isle of Blood and Stone by Makiia Lucier! The book opens with a beautiful map and the prologue begins innocently enough with the introduction of characters and setting. Then it closes with a bang. Chapter one takes place eighteen years later when a map is found suggesting that the two young royal brothers and Lord Antoni may not have perished all those years ago. This introductory book in this series gives us a taste of the intrigue and danger still to come. Mercedes is bold and interesting. Elias is determined and stubborn. I’m looking forward to more character development in the next series installment! 4 stars for this fantasy fiction!
A science fiction retelling of Jane Eyre!
Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the opportunity to read and review Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne! A science fiction retelling of “Jane Eyre”, Stella is an orphan unloved by her relatives and an engineer dreaming of being a governess. She’s an engineer on a derelict ship, Stalwart, that’s on its last leg. Stella receives notification of being hired on another ship and is on her way to her future. The Rochester holds many mysteries from Stella- a young captain, a possible ghost and ship sabotage. Brightly Burning is one science fiction story that I love! Normally, science fiction is not my favorite but this story has surprises and mysterious happenings that kept me thoroughly interested. Stella is a great heroine, not overbearing or a simpering damsel. A lengthier book would have allowed more character depth but I enjoyed Brightly Burning as is too, 4 stars!