Review | Children of Ragnorok by Cinda Williams Chima

Ever since Ragnarok—the great war between the gods and the forces of chaos–the human realm of the Midlands has become a dangerous place, bereft of magic, where most lead lives of desperation.

Sixteen-year-old Eiric Halvorsen is among the luckier ones. Between fishing, going vikingr, and working his modir’s farm, the family has remained prosperous. But Eiric stands to lose everything when he’s convicted by a rigged jury of murdering his modir and stepfadir. Also at risk is his half-systir, Liv, whose interest in seidr, or magic, has made her a figure of suspicion. Then a powerful jarl steps in: he will pay the blood price if Eiric will lead a mission to the fabled Temple at the Grove—the rich stronghold of the wyrdspinners, the last practitioners of sorcery.

Spellsinger, musician, and runecaster Reggin Eiklund has spent her life traveling from town to town, performing at alehouses all for the benefit of her master, Asger, the fire demon she is desperate to escape. Then after one performance that amazes even Reggin herself, two wyrdspinners in the audience make her an irresistible offer: return with them to the temple to be trained in seidr, forever free of Asger.

Eiric, Liv, and Reggin’s journeys converge in New Jotunheim, the site of the Temple at the Grove, a paradise fueled by magic. They soon realize that a great evil lurks beneath the dazzling surface, and that old betrayals and long-held grudges may fuel another cataclysmic war. It will require every gift and weapon at their command to prevent it.

Sweeping adventure, breathtaking twists of fate, and immersive worlds based in Norse mythology are woven into this first volume of the Runestone Saga, from the New York Times bestselling author of the Seven Realms and Shattered Realms series. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I think I’ve said it enough times that anything mythology/lore related will pique my interest and Norse/Nordic is one of the ones that I really enjoy so I was eager to pick this one up.

I have heard great things about Cinda Williams Chima in the past, but hadn’t gotten around to her earlier books, so this was my first experience with her writing and I’m so glad I finally read something from her! The writing style was easy to read but definitely something that could be enjoyed by all ages and I was engaged pretty much from the get go. The characters are well fleshed out in my opinion and I just loved the mystery and adventure that played out in this story.

The world building was wonderfully done and I always like when I feel like I can see things being described, it’s just another way to suck in the reader. I also really liked that this isn’t your typical spin on Norse mythology, but looking at what life might be like for people after the supposed end of Norse mythology (Ragnorok). I’ll definitely picking up further books when they come out!

Happy reading!

Review | Love in the Age of Dragons by Fatima R. Henson

Two years ago, a wormhole opened and ushered vicious dragons into the world. The dragons burned Earth’s cities to the ground and sent its inhabitants scattering for cover–and since then, Ayanna Grace, a seventeen-year-old Black girl, has been scratching out a life in an abandoned subway system, part of an extensive underground community.

Underground, medicine runs short and outbreaks of disease spread uncontrollably. The water supply is low, uprisings occur frequently, and dragon attacks are imminent. But those aren’t the only challenges Ayanna is facing: she’s also busy wrestling with her feelings, torn between Richard, who she’s known all her life, and Jackson, a mysterious newcomer. Worse, her mentor, the community’s only doctor, is dying from a failing heart. With no hope of rescue from aboveground, will Ayanna be able to save him before it’s too late?

Rating: 4 out of 5.

the combination of it with fantasy in this case. The book itself sounded so good that I couldn’t pass it up. Besides, who can pass up dragons? I wasn’t going to say no to dragons. I really enjoyed the main character and her motivation throughout the story, but there were some aspects of her that maybe didn’t live up to that drive. Still, she had heart and cared deeply about her community and helping, which was an endearing side of her and something that made her very relateable, even when she made mistakes. I would have liked some more expansion on other characters, but I could see this happening in a sequal if there is one. The writing style was really easy to fall into and overall the story was fun and engaging.

Happy release day to Love in the Age of Dragons! Make sure to pick up a copy if it interests you!

Happy reading!

Review | Reign Returned by Katie Keridan

Kyra Valorian is the most gifted Astral healer the golden-blooded realm of Aeles has seen in ages. When tragedy strikes, Kyra discovers she possesses a life-changing gift: she’s a Recovrancer, able to enter the realm of the dead and recover those who’ve died before their time. Unfortunately, recovrancy is outlawed in her realm. Desperate for answers, Kyra will do anything to get them . . . even partner with a dangerous enemy.

Sebastian Sayre is the most sought-after Daeval assassin in all of Nocens. A silver-blooded Pyromancer, he wields fire and dreams of finding Rhannu, a legendary sword that makes its holder invincible. Since the sword was long ago stolen from Nocens and hidden where no Daeval can retrieve it, however, such a dream seems impossible . . . until he encounters the one Astral who might be both able and willing to help him.

As Kyra and Sebastian work together to uncover the secrets of their realms, they also uncover secrets within their own pasts–pasts that are far more intertwined than they ever imagined. Ultimately, in this tale of discovery, destiny, and a love strong enough to outlast time, remembering the past just may prove to be the only way to change the future.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was excited for this title because the synopsis piqued my interest right away and I was hoping it would be what I was hoping. I really enjoyed the worldbuilding as well as the characters. I felt both factors were well constructed. While the beginning didn’t grab me right away, it was soon sucking me in as the story started building. This was a great start to a series and I felt that the foundation was well built, so I’m looking forward to the sequel. I’d be interested to see how the world itself expands and what happens to the characters as their journey continues.

Happy reading!

Review | The Darkening by Sunya Mara

In this thrilling and epic YA fantasy debut the only hope for a city trapped in the eye of a cursed storm lies with the daughter of failed revolutionaries and a prince terrified of his throne.

Vesper Vale is the daughter of revolutionaries. Failed revolutionaries. When her mother was caught by the queen’s soldiers, they gave her a choice: death by the hangman’s axe, or death by the Storm that surrounds the city and curses anyone it touches. She chose the Storm. And when the queen’s soldiers—led by a paranoid prince—catch up to Vesper’s father after twelve years on the run, Vesper will do whatever it takes to save him from sharing that fate.

Even arm herself with her father’s book of dangerous experimental magic.

Even infiltrate the prince’s elite squad of soldier-sorcerers.

Even cheat her way into his cold heart.

But when Vesper learns that there’s more to the story of her mother’s death, she’ll have to make a choice if she wants to save her city: trust the devious prince with her family’s secrets, or follow her mother’s footsteps into the Storm.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

First and foremost, I cannot get over how beautiful the cover of this book is. That was definitely one of the first things that intrigued me about this book and I’m really glad I decided to give it a read.

I really liked the world itself and thought the idea of the storm around the city but I did wish there was a little more world building since I’m assuming this is going to be a series. I did find what world building there was to be really intriguing.

I found all of the characters to be developed well and fully fledged, a lot of them were pretty gray morally, but really well developed.

Overall I flew through this one pretty quickly, the writing style was easy to read and for the most part. There were some places where the pacing stumbled a bit, but they weren’t major hindrances to the overall read.

Happy reading!

Review | Lightfall: Shadow of the Bird

In the second installment of the award-winning, critically acclaimed Lightfall series, Bea and Cad continue their quest to stop Kest, the mythic bird who stole the sun. Perfect for middle grade fans of Amulet and Avatar the Last AirbenderLightfall: Shadow of the Bird is another breathtaking journey into the magical world of Irpa, where epic battles and powerful creatures abound.

After a battle that nearly cost them their lives, Bea and Cad awaken in the hidden settlement of the Arsai, mysterious creatures who can glimpse into the future. The Arsai’s vision paints a dire picture for their planet, as the bird Kest Ke Belenus–now awoken from a restless slumber–threatens to destroy all the Lights of Irpa. Desperate for a solution, Bea and Cad seek out the help of a water spirit known as Lorgon, whose ancient wisdom may help them find a way to take down Kest and save Irpa from utter destruction.

But when their time with Lorgon presents more questions than answers, Bea and Cad must decide what’s more important . . . stopping Kest or uncovering the truth.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was excited to see that the next volume in this series was out and had to grab it as quickly as I could. It was nice to return to the world I enjoyed in the last volume and to continue the story. I will say that in this one I didn’t love Cad as a character as much, he seemed so singularly focused that in most cases he was blinded by his one goal. I did enjoy the route of the story itself and the further information we are given about the world and what has happened in the past. I’m excited to see what happens going forward!

Happy reading!

Review | Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye

This is what they deserve. They wanted me to be a monster. I will be the worst monster they ever created.

Fifteen-year-old Sloane can incinerate an enemy at will—she is a Scion, a descendant of the ancient Orisha gods.

Under the Lucis’ brutal rule, her identity means her death if her powers are discovered. But when she is forcibly conscripted into the Lucis army on her fifteenth birthday, Sloane sees a new opportunity: to overcome the bloody challenges of Lucis training, and destroy them from within.

Sloane rises through the ranks and gains strength but, in doing so, risks something greater: losing herself entirely, and becoming the very monster that she ahbors.

Following one girl’s journey of magic, injustice, power, and revenge, this deeply felt and emotionally charged debut from Deborah Falaye, inspired by Yoruba-Nigerian mythology, is a magnetic combination of A Song of Wraiths and Ruin and Daughter of Smoke and Bone that will utterly thrill and capture readers.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

First and foremost, I am loving seeing so many books that have come out recently and are coming out that feature different culture’s mythology and folklore. I love being exposed to stories that are inspired from or draw directly from these sources.

The story itself had me a bit raw at some points because it was so powerful. The world itself comes across very dark and gritty and the pacing made the book a super fast read. Every time I thought there might be a bit of a breather there was a twist and the story was moving on. That’s not to say it was too fast, I’d say it was pretty perfect in that way.

The characters were super complex and I absolutely loved the main character. She was written in such a real way, struggling through the difficulties she faced instead of sailing through. I’m not going to say much more simply because I think you should go into this story not knowing a ton – experience it as it is and enjoy the ride.

Happy reading!

Review | Edgewood by Kristen Ciccarelli

No matter how far she runs, the forest of Edgewood always comes for Emeline Lark. The scent of damp earth curls into her nose when she sings and moss creeps across the stage. It’s as if the woods of her childhood, shrouded in folklore and tall tales, are trying to reclaim her. But Emeline has no patience for silly superstitions.

When her grandfather disappears, leaving only a mysterious orb in his wake, the stories Emeline has always scoffed at suddenly seem less foolish. She enters the forest she has spent years trying to escape, only to have Hawthorne Fell, a handsome and brooding tithe collector, try to dissuade her from searching.

Refusing to be deterred, Emeline finds herself drawn to the court of the fabled Wood King himself. She makes a deal—her voice for her grandfather’s freedom. Little does she know, she’s stumbled into the middle of a curse much bigger than herself, one that threatens the existence of this eerie world she’s trapped in, along with the devastating boy who feels so familiar.

With the help of Hawthorne—an enemy turned reluctant ally who she grows closer to each day—Emeline sets out to not only save her grandfather’s life, but to right past wrongs, and in the process, discover her true voice.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This book spoke to my fairytale loving heart. As a musician myself I really enjoyed the idea of Emeline and her love of music, but also her sense of duty at the word that her grandfather has disappeared. I was not expecting the story to go as deep into relationships and the emotional weight that comes with making decisions for aging family members. The emotions that Emeline experiences regarding the position she and her grandfather are in are very real and raw, and I really appreciated the way that aspect of the story was written.

The writing itself was super atmospheric and perfectly suited to the magical story. While it was a little slower of a read for me, I thoroughly enjoyed the journey as Emeline grew.

Edgewood is out today! Make sure to pick up a copy if it sounds up your alley! Happy reading!

Review | A Thousand Steps Into Night by Traci Chee

From New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award finalist, Traci Chee, comes a Japanese-influenced fantasy brimming with demons, adventure, and plans gone awry.

In the realm of Awara, where gods, monsters, and humans exist side by side, Miuko is an ordinary girl resigned to a safe, if uneventful, existence as an innkeeper’s daughter. But when Miuko is cursed and begins to transform into a demon with a deadly touch, she embarks on a quest to reverse the curse and return to her normal life. Aided by a thieving magpie spirit and continuously thwarted by a demon prince, Miuko must outfox tricksters, escape demon hunters, and negotiate with feral gods if she wants to make it home again. But with her transformation comes power and freedom she never even dreamed of, and she’ll have to decide if saving her soul is worth trying to cram herself back into an ordinary life that no longer fits her… and perhaps never did.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Anything involving Asian culture, folklore or mythology piques my interest, so when I got the chance to pick up this book I jumped at the chance. This title definitely did not disappoint.

I can sometimes struggle with some fantasy because of the info dumping or too much worldbuilding at once, but with this book I felt like the storytelling pacing and worldbuilding was really well balanced. The characters were very well developed, especially the main character. She was very three dimensional and it was clear that her character was well thought out.

This book was really hard to put down and while truly a fantasy, it delved into some very important topics. The story moves well and keeps you reading until the very end.

Happy reading!

Review | Kirins: The Seer of Serone by James Priest

This is a novel, The Seer of Serone, by James Priest, telling of tiny magical beings dwelling the world over. They are kirins.

It is a quiet summer’s day in the domain of Yorl and Moger kirins, tree-dwellers in the central part of North America. Speckarin is magician to the Yorls, living on Rogalinon, a towering and majestic oak. His apartment is carved into one of its larger branches, his door opening onto the gathering platform.

But this story opens far from that idyllic setting, at Stonehenge, the hanging stones, the citadel of kirin magic. There Fairmean, a depraved magician, commits an act of pure and unadulterated vengeance, imperiling every kirin on Earth.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I really enjoyed the settings in this book, an Earth where magical being dwell among humans. The cast of characters are pretty across the board and varied. The different racies portrayed are well structured and come across in a very realistic way.

I would say that this book could be read by a number of age ranges, including some younger readers that were looking for a fun fantasy read that wasn’t too complicated in nature.

The pacing of this story was also really well done, never really getting to slow or things wrapping up too quickly. In all I think a lot of people looking for fantasy with a wide range of characters that is an easy read will really enjoy this one.

Happy reading!

Review | The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman

Magic, a prized resource, is the only thing between peace and war. When magic runs out, four estranged royal siblings must find a new source before their country is swallowed by invading forces. The first in an Indian-inspired duology.

Vira is desperate to get out of her mother’s shadow and establish her legacy as a revered queen of Ashoka. But with the country’s only quarry running out of magic–a precious resource that has kept Ashoka safe from conflict–she can barely protect her citizens from the looming threat of war. And if her enemies discover this, they’ll stop at nothing to seize the last of the magic.

Vira’s only hope is to find a mysterious object of legend: the Ivory Key, rumored to unlock a new source of magic. But in order to infiltrate enemy territory and retrieve it, she must reunite with her siblings, torn apart by the different paths their lives have taken. Each of them has something to gain from finding the Ivory Key–and even more to lose if they fail. Ronak plans to sell it to the highest bidder in exchange for escape from his impending political marriage. Kaleb, falsely accused of assassinating the former maharani needs it to clear his name. And Riya, a runaway who cut all family ties, wants the Key to prove her loyalty to the rebels who want to strip the nobility of its power.

They must work together to survive the treacherous journey. But with each sibling harboring secrets and their own agendas, the very thing that brought them together could tear apart their family–and their world–for good.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I was really excited for this book as it sounded like a debut fantasy that included a fantastic quest, a good amount of angst and sent in Indian inspired fantasy world and for the most part that’s what I got. I really enjoyed the beginning and the set up and felt like real attention was paid to the worldbuilding and making sure that the characters were clearly defined and dynamic in their own right. Once you get past that initial set up however, I did feel the story and plot slow down a bit too much.

At about the halfway point it does start to pick up again and we really get into the meat of the story and characters. I did really like the different POVs and felt that once we got to the meat of the action it was non stop to the end. The slow section did drag down my enjoyment a bit, but the last half of the book was what I wanted out of it and would drive me to pick up the sequel.

Thanks so much to the publisher for sending me a digital copy through NetGalley. The Ivory Key comes out on January 4th, so make sure to pick it up if it sounds like something you will enjoy!

Happy reading!