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!

Review | The Bone Spindle by Leslie Vedder

Sleeping Beauty meets Indiana Jones in this thrilling fairytale retelling for fans of Sorcery of Thorns and All the Stars and Teeth.

Fi is a bookish treasure hunter with a knack for ruins and riddles, who definitely doesn’t believe in true love.

Shane is a tough-as-dirt girl warrior from the north who likes cracking skulls, pretty girls, and doing things her own way.

Briar Rose is a prince under a sleeping curse, who’s been waiting a hundred years for the kiss that will wake him.

Cursed princes are nothing but ancient history to Fi–until she pricks her finger on a bone spindle while exploring a long-lost ruin. Now she’s stuck with the spirit of Briar Rose until she and Shane can break the century-old curse on his kingdom.

Dark magic, Witch Hunters, and bad exes all stand in her way–not to mention a mysterious witch who might wind up stealing Shane’s heart, along with whatever else she’s after. But nothing scares Fi more than the possibility of falling in love with Briar Rose.

Set in a lush world inspired by beloved fairytales, The Bone Spindle is a fast-paced young adult fantasy full of adventure, romance, found family, and snark.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

When I picked this book up I was definitely looking for something that would keep me engaged and make me smile, and this one fit the bill! I loved the fact that it was a retelling with a few twists, such as being queer, including a treasure hunter and real depth while still maintaining that fun adventure/fairy tale vibe.

I loved that in this world treated different sexual orientations as normal, it’s always such a nice thing to see, especially in genres other than contemporary. I also appreciated that the story wasn’t all fun and adventure, it dealt with a lot of other issues such as trauma from past relationships (including some pretty toxic behavior that caused that trauma).

Also, I really enjoyed the writing and world building in this book. I felt like it was a great set up for the world and will serve as a great foundation for the series. I can’t wait to see what the next book has in store!

Happy reading!

Review | The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy by Anne Ursu

A fantasy about a kingdom beset by monsters, a mysterious school, and a girl caught in between them.

If no one notices Marya Lupu, it is likely because of her brother, Luka. And that’s because of what everyone knows: that Luka is destined to become a sorcerer.

The Lupus might be from a small village far from the capital city of Illyria, but that doesn’t matter. Every young boy born in in the kingdom holds the potential for the rare ability to wield magic, to protect the country from the terrifying force known only as the Dread.

For all the hopes the family has for Luka, no one has any for Marya, who can never seem to do anything right. But even so, no one is prepared for the day that the sorcerers finally arrive to test Luka for magical ability, and Marya makes a terrible mistake. Nor the day after, when the Lupus receive a letter from a place called Dragomir Academy–a mysterious school for wayward young girls. Girls like Marya.

Soon she is a hundred miles from home, in a strange and unfamiliar place, surrounded by girls she’s never met. Dragomir Academy promises Marya and her classmates a chance to make something of themselves in service to one of the country’s powerful sorcerers. But as they learn how to fit into a world with no place for them, they begin to discover things about the magic the men of their country wield, as well as the Dread itself–things that threaten the precarious balance upon which Illyria is built.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

First and foremost I really enjoyed the world that Anne Ursu created in this story and could see other stories set in it, the world building and setup were really wonderful (even if the society didn’t have the best standards or norms when it came to the place of females). I enjoyed the theme within this book where Marya isn’t will to accept what society expects of her and other females. It very much lends to breaking expected gender role and challenging societal norms. She’s not willing to just go along with things and is constantly questioning the expectations set upon her.

Ursu’s writing is beautiful and while the pace isn’t super fast, the language used and phrasing is a pleasure to read. There were a few sections that I felt were a tad slow, but the writing more than made up for that. The characters are fully fledged and have multiple layers to them, making them seem more real and easier to identify with.

This story is full of strong themes of feminism, knowledge is power and bucking societal norms, which was nice to experience in a fantasy setting. Though it is longer than most middle grades, it is a great story that I’m sure younger readers will devour.

Happy reading!