Friday Freebie #20 The Shadow Prince (Mortal Enchantment #0.5) by Stacey O’Neal

If you know of any Kindle freebies today or on other Fridays, I’d love to hear about them!

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This prequel novella is FREE and available on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble!

Every sacrifice has consequences.

Sixteen-year-old Rowan has spent most of his life living among the mortals—learning to control the element of fire, impatiently awaiting the day his vengeful mother, Queen Prisma, will abdicate her throne. When he finally returns to Avalon for his coronation, his mother insists he must first prove his loyalty to the court by completing a secret mission:

Kill Kalin, the half-human, half-elemental daughter of the air court king.

Willing to do anything to remove his mother from power, he agrees to sacrifice the halfling. He returns to the mortal world with his best friend, Marcus, determined to kill the princess. But as he devises a plan, he starts to question whether or not he’s capable of completing such a heinous task. And what price he will pay if he refuses?

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

I’m reading this right now and thoroughly enjoying it so far! Review in the works.

Download The Shadow Prince for free! (perma-free)

Chivalry’s dead, but this is Fantasy, it can come back to life

There was a time when it was practically requisite for the hero of any Fantasy tale to be a gallant character who lived by a code usually reminiscent of King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table. These heroes were often unrealistically perfect and virtuous, embodying good to the point of being laughable. They rode around in spotless armor, rescuing damsels as a matter of course and slaying monsters to liberate their lady loves.

Then people started writing heroes with flaws—dark knights, black sheep, bad boys—whatever you would call them—and female characters stopped being the archetypical damsel in distress in need of salvation every other chapter. Female characters started being able to take care of themselves, whenever they need rescuing now it’s generally frowned upon, and the man protecting the woman simply because she’s a woman is all too often misinterpreted as misogyny. Somewhere in there, people started thinking it was always because the men thought the women too incapable to fend for themselves. In part because of this, chivalry gradually died out in stories (and society too, but that’s for a whole other discussion).

I’m not saying the whole Arthurian paradigm should be reenacted in literature, but I miss the tales with men who viewed disrespecting a woman as an act of dishonor—regardless of her status, etc. Being a gentleman is entirely underrated and it’s possible for a character to be one while still being a bad@$$, just as it’s possible for a character to wield a sword and still be a lady.

Lately, Fantasy has undergone a shift where the lines between good and evil are becoming increasingly blurred or erased altogether. I think this sucks and that people need to remember when we forget the difference between good and evil is when the world goes wrong. If there’s no longer room for chivalry in Fantasy, I say we make room.

I’m not saying they should start having all the men be perfect saints, but I think having a set of ideals—protect the weak, shield the innocent, keep your word, etc.—helps guide one on the straight and narrow. (Plus, you have to admit characters with a code of honor are just set up to be awesome.) If chivalry is dead, I think it’s time for a resurrection. Seriously, what is the matter with it?

Review: Second Stone (Souls of the Stones, #2) by Kelly Walker @KWalkerWrites

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You are only a pawn if you don’t know the game you are playing.

In the second installment in Souls of the Stones, the stakes are higher, the romance is hotter, and Emariya’s power as a Cornerstone is growing.

DETERMINED TO MAKE SENSE OF THE BETRAYALS, lies, and her undeniable attraction to Torian, Emariya and her prince begin the journey to Sheas to confront her uncle and bring her father home.

Only days after leaving the castle, devastating news threatens to tear Torian and Emariya apart. Overcome by guilt, Emariya wants to repair the rift between them but first she must answer one important question: why can’t she wake up?

A DEADLY FORCE HAS COME FROM THE SEA to claim its daughter, and if Torian wants to save Emariya, he’ll first have to find a way to forgive her…and himself. That’s easier said than done when both his sister and Emariya are counting on him at two separate ends of their world and the only people who might know how to help him are hiding in exile.

TO WIN THE BATTLE FOR THEIR LIVES, they will first have to win the battle for Emariya’s mind. Only then can she rise up strong enough to face what she has to do.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

4 out of 5 stars

So, Cornerstone was a bit of a long and winding road in the beginning, but I really wanted to know what would happen, hence I downloaded the next two books. And I had a blast! The world needs more Epic Fantasy Romances. It just does.

The plot:

These books are marked as Romance and this one does more living up to that label. Still, there are plenty of dangers, battles, political considerations, and magical entanglements that keep it true fantasy. There is more exploration here of the Stones and what they can do and Emariya’s gifts, as well as an unexpected twist as to who Reeve’s accomplice is. This plot moved along faster than the previous book’s and I dove straight into the final installment after I finished.

The characters:

I liked Emariya. I honestly did. But at the same time she drove me nuts. I don’t expect her to be a warrior princess, but she kept getting into fixes because she was headstrong and then had to be rescued. I really wished she had been quicker to realize that, just maybe, she should listen to Torian and Garith. But oh well.

Torian is reeling from the loss of his sister and understandably angry at Emariya. All the same, he still protects and watches out for her and is willing to do whatever it takes to save her when she falls into a magical illness.

Garith—oh, the poor lovable guy. I can’t get over his selfless devotion to Emariya. It’s just so damn sweet and a tad masochistic. I was passionately hoping he’d get his HEA in the end, even if it didn’t involve Emariya.

The full scope of Reeve’s treachery comes to light here as well as the fickleness of the Warren’s Rest nobles. We also get to see an interestingly different side of Reeve when he meets Terin.

This is a series I am very fond of and, despite knowing that the novellas will end in tragedy, I do mean to read them. This series is perfect for people with a passion for high fantasy and romance!

Find Second Stone on Goodreads

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Friday Freebie #19 On Shadowed Wings (Ash Grove Chronicles short) by Amanda DeWees

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In this short story set in North Carolina, high-school senior Gail and college student Jim are drawn together on Beltane night when they team up to seek a mysterious butterfly hatching–and save a little girl from danger

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

Read my review of On Shadowed Wings

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And they lived happily after—just kidding, they’re all dead

The “happily ever after” ending, or HEA, is a relatively new invention in storytelling. If one had tried explaining the concept to a Greek poet, the well-meaning individual would have most likely been laughed out of the country. Shakespeare showed he had no problem with tragedies and let’s not even mention the great Russian authors.

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It has only been within the past two hundred years or so that the HEA became commonplace. While one could find non-tragedies before then, they were for the most part rare and lesser known than tales that ended in mass murder and general mayhem. Then came along the stories where the characters you loved survived to the end, got married, had babies, and lived to be surrounded by adoring children and grandchildren and old and fat and happy beyond imagining—the ultimate HEA.

But lately, I’ve seen the tragedy cropping up again just like a plague. Writers seem to be getting kicks out of killing off dearly beloved characters. From John Greene’s teary endings to George R.R. Martin’s the infamous slaughters, J.K. Rowling’s massacre to Suzanne Collins’ end-of-trilogy herd thinning, authors are going rogue.

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Sad endings can be beautiful in their own way. Poison Dance by Livia Blackburne was one of these. Rhiannon Paille’s The Ferryman and the Flame epic fantasy romance series is basically one tragedy after another and the reader becomes all the more emotionally involved for it. I concede that sometimes a tragedy at the end can be more powerful and in some cases more believable. My favorite movie of all time ends with pretty much everyone either dead or fleeing for their lives. Still, in general I prefer happy or bittersweet endings.

I don’t want everything to be sunshine, puppies, and daisies. There have been one or two series that I finished thinking “more people should have died” because I think that would have fit the tone of the stories better. But the books I fangirl over and have hope for an HEA—the ones that I preorder months in advance and keep me up late at night—those had better end with my OTP’s getting together and the bad guys getting their just desserts. So long as that happens, I am content. If not, I sink into a cesspool of emotions and rot there for days or weeks until I find something to distract me.

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Books are supposed to get your feelings into play and when feelings are involved, there’s bound to be sadness. I suppose I can’t call foul when an author breaks my heart or a story doesn’t turn out quite the way I want. Still, when a story is written well I end up caring about the characters, so of course I want them to find what they’re searching for in their lives. That might be too much to ask in some cases, but to authors everywhere I would like to point out that happy endings are good. Of course, they have to be believable, but there is nothing wrong with happiness!

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Review: Poison Dance: A Novella by Livia Blackburne @lkblackburne

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James is skilled, efficient, and deadly, a hired blade navigating the shifting alliances of a deteriorating Assassin’s Guild. Then he meets Thalia, an alluring but troubled dancing girl who offers him a way out—if he’ll help her kill a powerful nobleman. With the Guild falling apart, it just might be worth the risk. But when you live, breathe, and love in a world that’s forever flirting with death, the slightest misstep can be poison. Poison Dance is approximately 14,000 words, or 54 printed pages.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of 5 stars

As soon as I read the premise of this book, I knew I had to have it. I have a certain fondness of novellas, a soft spot for assassins, and an infatuation with high fantasy. I downloaded this and read it within a few days. When I got to the end, I probably should have cried or been upset or something, but I couldn’t because it left me…stunned and just a little bit numb.

The plot:

There wasn’t a whole lot of world building, just enough so we understand what’s happening and the implications of certain people doing certain things, etc. The story moves along quickly, without any “drag weight” and it ended far sooner than I would have liked. I do hope the author doesn’t villainize James too much in her first full-length novel coming out later this year just because I’ve started to think of James as one of “my babies” (a hypothetical collective of fictional characters who I take a special interest in and wish I could protect).

The characters:

The whole book with the exception of a single chapter and the epilogue is told from James’ perspective. The author did a splendid job of making him…I want to say “adorable,” but that’s not the right word. Perhaps “lovable” is, though she still did not let us forget that he is a killer for hire who is very good at his job and has a plan to off just about everyone. Thalia was definitely a match for James and they were beautiful together in a broken, damaged way.

Normally, I would go into a little more detail on the rest of the character cast, but since this is a novella, I’ll just skim over it. The bad people are definitely bad and it is just a little shameful for me to admit how triumphant I felt when I read the epilogue.

This story broke my heart, but did so wonderfully. If anyone loves a good fantasy and a tale about love, intrigue, and revenge, they should definitely give this a shot.

Find Poison Dance on Goodreads

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Friday Freebie #18 Mark of the Mage (Scribes of Medeisia #1)

If you know of any Kindle eBooks that are free today or on upcoming Fridays, I’d love to hear about them!

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Books never die, but they can be forbidden.

Medeisia is a country in turmoil ruled by a blood thirsty king who has outlawed the use of magic and anything pertaining to knowledge. Magery and scribery are forbidden. All who practice are marked with a tattoo branded onto their wrists, their futures precarious.

Sixteen year-old Drastona Consta-Mayria lives secluded, spending her spare time in the Archives of her father’s manor surrounded by scribes. She wants nothing more than to become one of them, but when the scribes are royally disbanded, she is thrust into a harsh world where the marked must survive or die

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

Read my review of Mark of the Mage

Download Mark of the Mage for free! (perma-free)