Lady Smoke by Laura Sebastian

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Strong, dynamic characters make a wonderful fantasy!
Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the opportunity to read and review Lady Smoke by Laura Sebastian!
Theo is on Smoke, Dragonbane’s ship, with her Shadows and Soren. They are all working towards gathering allies to get her palace and reign back. Dynamic, strong characters plus the world building make Lady Smoke interesting to read and the uncertainty of Theo’s future drew me into the story even more. The characters’ backgrounds are intense and built fascinating characters that keep growing and stay steadfast by Theo’s side. Amazing strength and loyalty create unparalleled love for the kingdom they are all trying to get back. As the story carries on, more atrocities are brought to light and make the group even more determined! I don’t want to spoil anything but I’m thoroughly enjoying this series and anxiously awaiting the third book! 5 stars for great world building and strong, dynamic characters!

The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie

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Philosophical dystopian by the author of the Matched series!
I received The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie as a Bookish First Winner!
Poe hides out on a ship with Call, the young man that she loves. They’ve made plans to run away together and they feel like the world is at their fingertips until the ship is attacked by raiders. In that moment, everything is taken away from Poe. The story jumps to two years later when Poe becomes Captain of the ship or dredge that she’s spent the past two years designing protective armor for. She’s all alone in the world and trusts no one. The dredge is built to mine the river and gather gold. Poe designed the armor to protect the ship and shipmates from raiders, the same group of people that attacked the ship she was on two years before. The character range is limited to the people that Poe is in the most contact with. The story is philosophical in its own way as Poe ponders her experiences and the people she truly cares for. Poe grows and matures as the story unfolds, while other things remain mysterious. 4 stars for this dystopian adventure.

Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

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Dynamic Fantasy!

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the opportunity to read and review Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian.
A six-year-old Theodosia watches her mother as her life is taken from her. Her mother tells Theodosia that she’s the only hope for their people. The story jumps ahead ten years. Theodosia is a prisoner in the palace with the man who killed her mother, the Kaiser’s second in command- the Theyn. The Kaiser and the Theyn keep her with their own children in the palace, except she receives frequent whippings to remind her of their cruelty and her kingdom’s weakness. The Kaiser also gave her new names, Thora and Ash Princess. The Kaiser summons her to kill a rebel. This man used to be her guardian and he’s also her father. He pleads with her as his queen. He tells her to remember her rightful place as a princess and now a queen. He also tells her to kill him and she fulfills his request knowing that the guards will drag out his death but she will make it quick. The Prinze escorts her to her room and she vomits because of the trauma she’s just been through. Her maid helps her get undressed and puts ointment on her whip marks. Hoa, the maid, can’t speak because her mouth has been sewn shut. The stitches are cut every few days to allow Hoa to eat, then her mouth is sewn back up! There are no words to describe how horrible and deplorable that is. Thora is bolstering herself up to do what both her mother and father asked of her, to be their queen and she knows it’s up to her now because there’s no one left to rescue her. She discovers that a childhood friend is in the palace, Blaise, and he gives her hope once again. Blaise and two other rebels take the place of Thora’s private guards and together they plot the death of the Kaiser, the Prinz, the Theyn and his daughter. Pressure and learning more about the violent crimes towards her people make Thora determined to be the queen she was meant to be. 5 stars for this dynamic fantasy full of strong, interesting characters!

Shimmer and Burn by Mary Taranta

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Shimmer and Burn by Mary Taranta jumps into an intense storyline. Right from the beginning, I was hooked! Faris and Thaelan live completely different lives in opposite areas of the kingdom. Faris and her sister Cadence live in poverty while Thaelan is a member of nobility. Thaelan and Faris are in love and want to run away so they can be together. Faris and Cadence are pretty much on their own because of their dysfunctional father and deceased mother; a mother that stabbed Faris in the chest, trying to kill her years ago. Cadence and Thaelan are captured while they are trying to escape, the two of them receive horrible consequences. Faris is offered a job to earn money to buy Cadence’s freedom. The job offer comes from the kingdom’s executioner and his betrothed, Princess Bryn. Things become a bit confusing when Bryn and Faris are captured and the “owners” change hands a couple of times. Once that’s settled, the situation begins to clear up again. Bryn and Faris end up riding with North, a mysterious young man with secrets of his own. The relationships sparkle and the world frightens in this dark, dreary fantasy made up of magic that cripples and sometimes completely transforms. A range of emotions surrounds the storyline and tragedy, intensity and brutality sum up the characters’ lives. Deeply dynamic, Shimmer and Burn is waiting to pull you into its world! 5 stars!

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

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The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell. Several stories intertwine from past and present within a city filled with magic. Esta uses a special piece of jewelry to travel through time. On one of her time traveling trips, the jewelry piece breaks and she can’t return home. Esta figures out the way to return home but she needs the help of a few unsuspecting people, which gets interesting. Several characters make up this story and their lives continue to affect each other. Clever writing and an interesting setting create an intelligent fantasy worth reading, 5 stars!

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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As a reread, this book is just as amazing the second time around!

An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir, opens as Laia witnesses the killings of her grandparents and the capture of her brother Darin as soldiers attack their home, accusing Darin of being a part of the Resistance. Laia’s story alternates with Elias, a soldier training most of his life to serve the Empire. Laia finds the Resistance to try and save Darin while Elias debates desertion or staying and serving the Empire. Laia is bought as the Commandant’s new slave girl, a Resistance idea to find out information about Darin so they can plan how to help him. Laia discovers life as a slave is horrible and she’s having a very difficult time getting information for the Resistance. Four Masks are sent into nightmarish trials, Elias and Helene are two of the soldiers, and they must overcome their worst fears to survive as their love, loyalty and hearts are strained through horrific events. Throughout the story, Elias and Laia unexpectedly run into each other and they unwillingly get to know each other. Each chapter ends with intensity, so it’s a difficult book to put down. Dynamic, complex characters to love and hate make this story suspenseful, exciting and interesting, 5 stars!

War of the Wilted by Amber Mitchell

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Action packed!
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review War of the Wilted by Amber Mitchell. Arianna, “Rose”, wants to help the rebellion but she wants vengeance above everything else. Arianna is working with Rayce, the leader of the rebellion, but she’s angry with Rayce also because he’s keeping the Gardener alive for information, even though he’s responsible for the mistreatment and killing of young women. Arianna is maddeningly stubborn and doesn’t think she makes a good leader, even though she’s independent and headstrong. Rayce becomes frustrated with her because of her actions and the fact that she’s not listening to his wishes or orders. War of the Wilted takes on a different feel than Garden of Thorns since it’s not trapped women forced into submission. Instead, it’s a rebellion within the entire empire and it requires many leaders working together to make any difference. Action packed with strong-willed characters, 4 stars!

The Darkest Legacy by Alexandra Bracken

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Action-packed dystopian!
Thanks to Bookish First and Disney Hyperion for the opportunity to read, review and win a copy of The Darkest Legacy by Alexandra Bracken! Suzume is the main character of this Darkest Minds book and she acts as a Psi representative, speaking on the behalf of all Psi. Suzume is expected to mend relations between Psi and non-Psi people. As she’s ending one of her speeches, she receives a message on the teleprompter telling her that someone is there to kill her. Everything turns violent quickly and two teens help Suzume get away only for the three of them to be captured, tied up and drugged. She’s not sure if the two teens are trustworthy and she takes them to Haven to get help from her friends only to discover that Ruby and Liam left two weeks before and haven’t been heard from since. While Suzume catches up with everyone and discusses the teens she showed up with, someone cuts Haven’s power. Haven is under attack and something or someone is blocking their powers. After Suzume escapes with the Haven residents, they discover that she’s being framed for an airplane explosion. Suzume looks for Ruby with Priyanka and Roman, the two teens she’s been with since the attack during her speech. While on their search they come across human trafficking, among other awful discoveries. The ending leaves me pondering Ruby and the future of all Psi. 4 stars for this dystopian action-packed adventure!

Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken

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Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken opens with Ruby and how she is now with the Children’s League, helping them free someone from prison. That someone turns out to be Liam, or so Ruby thinks. It’s actually Liam’s brother, Cole. The League sends Ruby on a mission to find a flash drive containing information that can help with IAAN, the “disease” that caused death to many children and gave abilities to the survivors. Cole accidentally gave the flash drive to Liam and so they began the hunt for him. When Ruby finds Liam, she’s not alone. She’s with Jude, Vida and Chubs. They make an interesting group with their strong mix of personalities and their banter. When they do find Liam, he’s dying from pneumonia. Liam also feels a strong connection to Ruby that he can’t understand, since she wiped herself from his memories the last time she was with him, thinking that would keep Liam safe. With one surprise after another, this book doesn’t disappoint! Action, adventure, twists, dark humor and a thick plot make this a riveting dystopian! 5 stars!

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

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Friendship, loyalty and danger sum up The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken. The story dives right in to the intensity with action and mystery. Many children die while some live. Ruby and several other children are shipped off to Thurmond, a guarded facility meant to contain the children that survived. These children are dangerous and, in bits, we learn why. Ruby is rescued by a league that supposedly helps these children but when Ruby sees the memories of one of the rescuers, she realizes that he’s a killer. She runs and ends up with a small group on the run also-Liam, Chubs and Suzume. They’re trying to find someone known as the Slip Kid, a supposedly great and elusive leader who helps get kids back with their families. The small group finally finds Slip Kid and becomes part of his group. Little do they know what lies ahead for them. Friendship and loyalty are both strong components in Darkest Minds. This sci-fi dystopian is filled with danger, action and suspense, 5 stars!