The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

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The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu tells the story of Mozart and his older sister Nannerl when they were children and the fantastical world they discover together through their musical talent. I absolutely love how Marie Lu based this story on sources she found while reading about Mozart. She discovered that he did have a sister and they shared compositions along with their love of music, as well as their co-created stories of the Kingdom of Back. The historical based story fascinates me and I enjoyed every minute reading this fantasy. The struggles Nannerl dealt with because of the day and age she was born in were unfair but she persevered as much as she could. I love this story and give it a full 5 stars!

Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith

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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!

A Sorrow Fierce and Falling by Jessica Cluess

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Interesting character development!
Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the opportunity to read and review A Sorrow Fierce and Falling by Jessica Cluess!
Now that Blackwood and Nettie are engaged, they are able to fully work together. They move to Blackwood’s estate, Sorrow Fell, and Nettie discovers the curse that goes along with the stolen Fae dwelling. The Blackwood bride deteriorates for decades. Blackwood becomes Imperator and the power changes him and not in a good way. He craves honor, love and acceptance, which he never received from his parents. He yearns to control everything and this puts a wall between himself and Nettie. As the Ancients get closer, the sorcerers, magicians and witches struggle with leadership and the possibility of working together. This third and last book of the series contains more emotional upheavals and ups and downs, as well as great character development! Jessica Cluess has proven herself as a wonderful fantasy author and I would love to read this series again, 5 stars!

Tragedy of Me by Rebekah L. Purdy

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Thanks to Month9Books for the opportunity to read and review Tragedy of Me by Rebekah L. Purdy! Brielle feels that she’s being tormented by lost souls and she’s warned that dark magic is surrounding her. She has lost her best friend, her home and the ghosts of her victims are haunting her. Raul tries to protect her but then he becomes the target of his sister’s greed for power and her strong dark magic. Yalena uses Raul to help her find a powerful book that will gain access to the Nether, where a powerful demon resides. Yalena wants this power for her own. She forces Raul into a blood curse so Yalena won’t harm Brielle but this curse causes much more harm to Brielle, Raul and many others that he never planned on. In the meantime, Kenrick’s brother Daedric, shows up looking for Kenrick. He discovers how he’s been pulled into the Nether and Brielle shares what she’s learned about how residing in the Nether warps souls and makes them dark. Brielle and Daedric vow to go to the Nether to save Kenrick. It’s a race to see who gets to the Nether first! The way the book ends, I believe the author has more story to tell. Rebekah L. Purdy, the author, has continued writing despite her very difficult time and her family’s tragedy. My heart goes out to her. 4 stars ⭐️.

The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

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Great start to a new trilogy by Kiersten White!

The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White. I pre-ordered this book as soon as I heard about it. The description drew me in and piqued my curiosity! The gorgeous cover emulates mystery and the first chapter lives up to all of my expectations! Traveling through a forest surrounded by knights, the main character heads toward Camelot and King Arthur, her husband-to-be. She loves the forest surroundings but keeps that secret to herself. When they reach a river they have to cross, her true fear comes out and Mordred, Arthur’s best knight and nephew , carries her across the water to safety. No one can understand why she’s afraid and she reminds herself to act the part of Queen Guinevere. Arthur and Merlin planned for her to play the part of the deceased Queen Guinevere so she could protect Arthur from harm, which Merlin has foretold. She has no idea where the threat is or where it will come from but she does everything in her power to protect Arthur and his kingdom. Magic has been and continues to be banished from Camelot but Guinevere keeps running across bits of magic that she eventually discovers the origins of. She enjoys spending time with Arthur and she’s grateful that he knows everything about her, so he’s the one person she can be herself around. They have a marriage of convenience and friendship but Guinevere feels more when she’s with Mordred. The author has built a wonderful setting with many enjoyable characters that I fell in love with. I’m happy that this is the first book in a planned trilogy, so I have two more books to look forward to reading! I like the strength that both Arthur and Guinevere show and the sacrifices they’re willing to make. I enjoyed Dindrane’s attitude and Mordred’s mystery. I can’t wait to continue reading this story, 5 stars!

A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess

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Action-packed sequel!
Thanks to Random House and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess!
Nettie is officially a sorcerer and while she’s at her first meeting, an Ancient sends a message requesting that the sorcerers give Nettie up. Many revelations occur and much action takes place in this second book of the Kingdom on Fire series. Betrayal, loyalty, bravery, forgiveness and power bring this story to life. So much takes place that I feel like anything I share would spoil the story. Nettie’s friends have secrets and burdens of their own, most of which are revealed. Complex and character developing best describes A Poison Dark and Drowning, 5 stars!

Soul of the Sword by Julie Kagawa

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Menagerie of Japanese characters!
Thanks to Harlequin Teen and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review The Soul of the Sword by Julie Kagawa!
The book opens with a thousand-year-old legend of a sword known as Godslayer. Tatsumi wielded this sword when it contained the demon Hakaimono. Since then, the demon has possessed Tatsumi, who continues to fight for survival against Hakaimono. Yumeko continues her mission to the Steel Feather Temple but has been waylaid with her companions to try to save Tatsumi, even though a pact was made centuries ago that if Haikaimono possessed a person, that person would be killed to stop destruction that the demon might cause. As everyone tries to thwart the demon’s plans, he shows his power and what he’s willing to do to get what he wants. The plot twists as the rivalry changes and the enemy of both becomes the focus of all. Genno, the demon who wants the scroll pieces so he can summon a Kami for the wish to rule all, will be the focus of the third book in this trilogy. At times, Yumeko seems a bit dim but then she manages to pull off some amazing feats, with the help and inspiration of others; go teamwork! I also found myself struggling to keep names and descriptions straight and I’m sure that’s because I need to learn more about the Japanese culture. 4 stars for a Japanese fantasy full of a menagerie of characters!

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

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I read Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee as part of the Dragons and Tea Book Club.
Min is bound and determined to prove her brother’s innocence after he’s accused of being a traitor. She runs away from home in search of her brother Jun. On her way to stowaway on a ship, Min meets her Aunt Nari, who tells Min a little about her family’s past, things she would have never guessed. Min manages, through trickery, to get on a ship and barely survives an attack. While in the infirmary, she meets a young man’s ghost. This young man, Cadet Jang, died in the same attack Min was in and she assumes his identity and uses her fox charm to look like him. He happens to be on the same ship as Min’s brother Jun. While posing as Jang, Min gains insight into what may have happened to her brother and she also gets firsthand battle experience. Min learns a lot about herself and her skills and she’s praised for her engineering skills and realizes that she does have worth. Mild intrigue and mystery, 3.5 stars!

The Deceiver’s Heart by Jennifer A. Nielsen

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Dynamic characters!
Thanks to Edelweiss and Scholastic Press for the opportunity to read and review The Deceiver’s Heart by Jennifer A. Nielsen!
Kestra is back with Lord Endrick and he wants her to be a spy by infiltrating the Corack rebellion. She refuses but Lord Endrick takes her memories to the point where she doesn’t even know who Simon is. Kestra is sent to kill Simon. Luckily, before Endrick took Kestra’s memories, she gave the Olden Blade to Basil to hide it from everyone including herself. Simon sees Kestra in his village and figures out that she doesn’t recognize him at all. Kestra is taken to the Blue Caves where her memories begin to be restored and she realizes what she’s supposed to do. Kestra and Simon seem to continuously be pulled apart by their circumstances, people around them or their separate missions. They love each other but everything is getting in their way. The two of them are running in circles and they’re surrounded by the kingdom’s chaos and rebellion. The ending leaves the story and their relationship wide open and left me anxious for the third book of this series, The Warrior’s Curse! Dynamic characters within a doomed kingdom build this great fantasy series, 5 stars!

The Traitor’s Game by Jennifer A. Nielsen

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The Traitor’s Game by Jennifer A. Nielsen starts a new fantasy series full of action and a feisty main character! Kestra has been away from her father and kingdom for the last three years. Her father sent her away for her safety after she had been kidnapped. She’s traveling back to her father, along with her servants, when their metal carriage is attacked and Kestra is kidnapped again. This time the kidnappers want her to become a traitor and find the Olden Blade; the blade is the only way to kill the evil and immortal ruler of the kingdom, Lord Endrick. Kestra is a handful. One of her kidnappers, Simon, is an old acquaintance from her childhood and the two of them have animosity between them. Kestra feels unloved by her father because of how callously he treats her and how easily he sacrifices her. Kestra’s attitude is funny at times and maddening to the other characters most of the time. Action, suspense, twists and originality, with a nod or two towards J. R. R. Tolkien, make The Traitor’s Game a 5 star read!