Review: By Darkness Hid (Blood of Kings, #1) by Jill Williamson @JillWilliamson

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Given the chance to train as a squire, kitchen servant Achan Cham hopes to pull himself out of his pitiful life and become a Kingsguard Knight. When Achan’s owner learsn of his training, he forces Achan to spar with the Crown Prince, more of a death sentence than an honor. Meanwhile strange voices in his head cause him to fear he’s going mad. While escoring the prince to a council presentaiton, their convoy is attacked. Achan is wounded and arrested, but escapes form prison-only to discover a scret about himself he never believed possible.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of 5 stars

This. THIS is how you write Christian Epic Fantasy. I’ll be honest, I usually hate these sorts of books. Christian fantasy (and Christian literature in general) tend to be…what is the word? Preachy. Overbearing. It pains me to say and I wish it weren’t so, yet it’s true. But none of that here.

I think I added this to my “Dear Santa” list over a year ago because it looked like my kind of trouble. Over vacation, I was browsing through my Amazon wish list and saw that it was free for Kindle. Fearing it was too good to be true, I prodded at the page for a bit before hitting “download.” A few days later, I went and bought the second. Now I’m reading the third and thinking there should be a bigger fandom for the series.

The plot:

Okay, so I did feel like the story was congested for the first two or three chapters. In the beginning, I was wondering where it was headed and thinking it was a little slow, but so many people on Goodreads and Amazon had loved it and I figured there had to be a reason. I quickly discovered that there was.

I’m one of those people who takes what happens to the characters personally. I spent plenty of time pacing, worrying, panicking, and putting down my Kindle because I couldn’t take the suspense. As soon as we got through the first few chapters, the story took off like a firework and swept me right up in it. I love it when a book does that and I admit there were a few twists I did not see coming.

The characters:

Achan is basically a punching bag for the local lowlife population. Poor baby. In essentially every other chapter, he’s getting punched, stabbed, shot, strangled, burned, poisoned, whipped, or something else horrible. (Spoiler: it does not get better as the series progresses.) He can be naive and occasionally self righteous, even temperamental, but all things considered, I think he turned out pretty fricking good. Sir Gavin is a knight who sort of takes Achan under his wing and I kept wanting to yell “DO NOT LEAVE HIM UNATTENDED!” every time Gavin walked off the page.

The other POV character is Vrell, a young noblewoman disguised as a foundling boy to avoid marrying the main villain. Their two storylines didn’t directly intersect until more than halfway through the book, I think, but still meshed together quite well. Vrell doesn’t take half the physical poundings Achan does (she’d probably be dead), but she still gets her fair share of trouble. She has her own set of faults and flaws and qualities and I thought she was a realistically structured character, just as Achan was.

At present, I’m trying to think of people I could coerce into reading this. I adored the story, greatly appreciated the author’s presentation of the religious elements, and I think my brothers and friends are going to have this shoved in their faces at the first possible opportunity.

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Three Action Heroines I actually liked

I’ll be blunt, I usually despise females in warrior roles. Why? I feel like they aren’t characters at all, just cardboard cutouts. They either aren’t allowed to have flaws or their flaws are excused by virtue of femininity. (Whole other blog post in that.) Anyway, here are the first three action heroines that come to my mind when I think of my favorites and they are my favorites with good reason.

Angelina-Jolie-Salt

Angelina Jolie as Evelyn Salt in “Salt.”

Evelyn Salt (Salt, 2010)

I keep seeing all these people whine about the lack of female action heroes and I want to hit them in the face with this. Salt is an incredible portrayal of a female spy/assassin who is not invincible, makes miscalculations, gets knocked down, but always gets back up. She basically leads a one-woman war against two governments and is pretty much as hardcore as they come. She’s probably my favorite action heroine in film, but not many seem to have heard of her (and judging by their mewling online, that includes Feminazis).

2115046Vin (Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson)

If we’re talking vulnerabilities and relatability, Vin takes the gold without batting an eye. Insecurity and softness mixed with awesome power and a capability for terrible destruction, Brandon Sanderson really set a standard here. It is impossible to be in possession of a heart and not want to protect Vin, even though she’s the character who tears through 300 soldiers and comes out with nary a scratch (seriously, that happened once).

Tabrett Bethell as Cara in “Legend of the Seeker.”

Cara the Mord Sith (The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind/The Legend of the Seeker, 2007-2009)

Cara is pretty much all the things I usually dislike in a character—sassy, sarcastic, dominant, sometimes outright cruel. But the author (and the writers of the television series) spent huge amounts of time humanizing and sympathizing the Mord Sith order as a whole. The reader/viewer is shown how much pain these women are in (physically and emotionally) every second of their lives. We see Cara cry and regret and mourn, then turn right around and level entire an entire battalion while dragging an evil sorceress by the hair.

I really wish there were more action heroines like this. Not one-dimensional tropes like Black Widow in Iron Man 2 or Andromeda in Wrath of the Titans. These three ladies are characters that feel real and I think that’s what all characters should be.

Review: Nation of Blaze (The Fireblade Array, #2) by H.O. Charles @HOCharles

24834993The country is leaderless. The queen is gone and hope is failing. Morghiad must find The Fireblade again if he is to secure his home and his heart, but the path will not be an easy one to tread. New enemies will rise to battle him as he battles with himself, and the most fearsome woman in history will continue to produce her army of blood-hungry eisiels. Will The Fireblade be the same as before? Will she aid him? Danger looms from all corners of this Nation of Blaze.

Volume 2 of The Fireblade Array

 Blurb and cover from Goodreads.

4 out of 5 stars

This was not so much an emotional rollercoaster as an emotional sucker punch. The portion of the story that is contained within this book spans close to fifty years and has more twists, turns, and little loop-de-loops than the average tangle of yarn. I read and read and read and found myself becoming more and more invested and this investment led me to skipping off to buy the third book right after I finished this one.

The plot:

This series reads more like a chronicle, talking about a series of adventures, tragedies, and happenings and how they are all linked together. Normally, I despise books like this, but it seems Charles has managed to pull it off. I am definitely a fan of this series (love the new covers, don’t you?) and I’m trying to figure out why I haven’t heard about it before. It takes a certain mindset going into these books, one must do away with the modern dogma of how a story is supposed to be structured and just enjoy the ride.

The characters:

I had a fondness for Artemi in the last book, but it became an all-out “my dear sweet little girl who must be protected from all evil” complex in this one. Artemi with her memories was a bit humbler than Artemi without and I found her much more empathetic and likeable and just plain adorable.

Morghiad is still an honorable, endearing, masochistic bastard. Really, there are parts were it was impossible not to want to beat some sense into him. I mean, yes, man, you screwed up. Now move on! That aside, his and Artemi’s relationship is adorable. I seem to be a sucker for multi-lifetime monogamous romances.

Artemi’s ages-old rival makes her first formal appearance. Someone really needs to lock Mirel in a lead box and chuck her in the ocean or something permanent because her existence is not okay. It really sucks when you have a bad guy who will just be reincarnated over and over. It sucks so bad.

I actually started to like Silar in this one and there was a whole new cast of characters who where introduced. Artemi’s father is undeniably huggable and her half-brother kind of disappears by the third book, but I’m fond of him, too. There’s also a cropping up of more woman warriors in this one, some of which I liked and some of which I did not.

To give fair warning, this book ended with another cliffhanger. I refused to believe that what had happened had happened and I was right, which is a good thing, or else it would be a repeat of The Assassin and the Empire. I’m about halfway through the third book and probably about to go grab the fourth once I finish and I certainly recommend this series to anyone with a taste for hardcore, original adult fantasy.

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Review: Broken (The Captive, #6) by Erica Stevens

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*****Though this book is a standalone novel, it is highly recommended that it NOT be read without reading the other books in The Captive Series first as it does contain spoilers. This book is set in the past but it is not meant to be a historical novel. Special pre-order price will only be available for a limited time after release.*****

In The Captive Series the vampire king that decimated the human and vampire races was introduced, but now it’s time to meet the man that existed before he became a tyrannical king.

At twenty-five, Atticus is the last surviving member of the most powerful line of vampires, and is known as a prince amongst his kind. The life of luxury and privilege he’s always known is about to change in ways that he never could have seen coming though. Ways that will forever alter the course of his life, the lives of all those around him, and the history of the world.

With his life shattered and an all-consuming thirst for revenge the only thing keeping him going, he is left with only one realization…

Sometimes what rises from the ashes of a broken man, is a monster.

Mature YA/New Adult. This book contains some language, violence, and sexual situations. Recommended for ages sixteen and up.

Edited by Leslie Mitchell at G2 Freelance editing.
Cover art by ebooklaunch

Blurb and cover from Goodreads.

3 out of 5 stars

It hurt me to slap on those 3 stars, it really did. I love this series as well as the author’s other vampire series, but this one just…fell flat on its dear little face. The previous book, Redemption, was without a doubt the best in the series, so I had high hopes for this one, but…I felt as if there was something missing from the story.

The plot:

Technically, this is book 0.1 in the series. It takes us back roughly 900-and-something years to medieval England where Atticus, known only as “the king” through most of the earlier books, is a young vampire aristocrat barely in his twenties. He meets and bonds with a young peasant vampire, Genevieve or Genny, and we learn how deeply the series’ villain once loved. This is an exploration of how Atticus became as warped and twisted and psychotic as he did, breaking your heart into tiny little shards by the end.

The better part of the book is the last quarter or so, in my opinion. It felt to me like there wasn’t enough conflict and suspense in the early part of Atticus and Genny’s relationship. Yes, there were obstacles, but they seemed to overcome them too easily. Also, I thought it was cheating for the author to have them making out within the first few chapters. One should draw it out! Build up to it until there is no choice!

That lack of early conflict was my main objection. I thought there was so much potential with the various characters and their subplots to make things go wrong, but none of those juicy veins were tapped. I liked other elements of the story, but I just couldn’t get past that.

The characters:

So yes, I did feel horrible for Atticus by the end. We spent the first five books in this series hating his rotten guts, but then the author apparently decided it would be fun to make us cry for him. In his youth, he was very much like the hero of the first four books (who is also his son). Something Atticus himself notes in his journals toward the latter part of the story.

This book focused more on the male POV, but there were still chapters in there from Genny’s perspective. The story centered so much around Atticus that no other character really bears mentioning, but they had a sweet relationship and Genny was a good character. She’s like Aria more than a little in her tenacity and self-sacrificial mindset, furthering the parallel between Atticus and his son’s stories and breaking a reader’s heart even more.

If you’re a fan of The Captive series, then I certainly recommend this for the backstory if nothing else. But I’ve seen how well this author can write and I feel like she didn’t follow through. All the same, I’ll still be hanging on for new additions to this series.

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ARC Review: Mercy (The Ferryman + The Flame, #4) by Rhiannon Paille @RhiPaille

Mercy

Sometimes it hurts instead . . .
For fans of John Green, Assassin’s Creed and Sailor Moon

Krishani thought Kaliel was lost forever. Slave to the hunger, and the cold, and the enemies who took everything, he longs for death. Taking shelter in a human body, Krishani finds the one thing he gave up on centuries ago — Kaliel.

Maeva doesn’t know who she is — what she is, but she knows she doesn’t belong. Hunted by her past, stalked by a boy intent on killing her, she longs to remember. Confused and alone, Maeva learns why memories are the most painful things of all.

Sorrow, Hunger, Passion and Danger collide in the fourth installment of The Ferryman & The Flame.

Blurb and cover from BN.com

5 out of 5 stars

Best in the series yet, but man oh man do I need extra therapy now.

I came into this book with a mixture of excitement because I loved the earlier books as well as dread because, as implied, I have read the earlier books. When I heard there was a ten thousand year gap between this and the previous installment, Vulture, taking us into modern times, I was a bit hesitant, but I thought it was pulled off very well. The author eases us into the 21st century without losing the flavor of the other books or letting us forget that in ten thousand years, even immortals change.

The plot:

I had no idea what was going to happen and pretty much every time I made a prediction, I guessed wrong. The story took its own path and I thought it turned out better than my original expectation. As with the earlier books, I loved the blending of mythologies and the references to different cultures and the author’s explanation for how they were all interconnected.

There was less reference to the Land of the Beasts and the Land of Immortals than in the previous novels and I’m not sure how I felt about that. I suppose it was understandable since the story was taking place in the Lands of Men, but I’m hoping for more of the other Lands in Asylum.

The characters:

Kaliel is on her fourth body to date (I’m not counting all Tor’s failed attempts) and as far as she knows, her name is Maeva and she is nothing but a normal teenager in an obscure Canadian town. She seemed more mature to me, there was less naïveté to her personality and greater wisdom, not sure exactly how to put it.

As for Krishani—oh my poor sweet baby. After ten thousand years as a Vulture, he’s managed to cling to his identity and the past nine years in the body of a cancer patient. I felt for him more in this book than I did in Justice when he was slowly turning into a soul-eating demon. I just…loved everything about his character in this book and want, want, want them to have a stupid HEA at the end of this series so fricking bad.

On a brief note, I adore Pux as much as ever (another of my sweet babies), hate Shimma (that blonde succubus can jump headfirst down a well), am reevaluating my initial appraisal of Elwen (he’s on probation), and am waiting for someone to upside Tor in the head with a brick (he has it coming).

I am as much a fan of this series as ever and I certainly recommend it. The descriptions are beautiful, the love story is gorgeous, the world building is epic, and it just keeps getting better.

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The Obligatory Summer Vacation Update

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Shields left unattended by the Nordic invaders.

Greeting, my lovelies!

As some of you may remember, I have been on vacation since school let out and since it’s wrapping up, I thought I should tell you guys how it went.

These past few weeks have been full of fun conversations with my grandparents and I’ve heard lots of stories that are new to me. Learning to cook traditional Japanese and new Kanji from Mema has been fantastic. Meanwhile, war stories from Grandpa have made an interesting chapter all their own. There was a Viking Fest (where I went to claim the head of a Norseman, but settled for t-shirts), gardening (which taught me how goddamn evil blackberry vines are), cooking of steaks (which is nothing new), and one week-long bronchial infection (which made me think I was dying).

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It is mine. MINE AT LAST.

One of the most notable things to happen is I have FINALLY obtained A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. I have been lusting after this since hearing it would be released and am now saving it for the flight home. This precious was acquired during a lovely weekend in Victoria, Canada about two weeks ago. There, a clerk saw me cradling ACOTAR like my firstborn child and struck up a conversation. It turns out Canadian bookstore employees have wonderful tastes.

Stateside, I have loitered on multiple occasions in Liberty Bay Bookstore in my grandparents’ hometown—where dwells another clerk with excellent tastes. (After talking to me, she actually went and wrote a shopping list of fairytale retellings that I’ve “got to” check out. I love this place, though it might make me poor.)

Me going all Cleopatra on the couch where I finished DA5.

Me with a cup of Jasmine Green on the couch where I finished DA5.

I have also finished drafting the Daindreth’s Assassin series. Yes, you read that right. I now have the manuscripts for all five anticipated books in the series, for a total of just over 1,005,000 words. I honestly don’t know how I feel about that, but this means lots of editing and also a return to work on the Argetallam Saga. I’m psyched to be returning to Janir and the Argetallams and will hopefully be working on books 6 and 7 in that series over the rest of the summer.

Now I’m just catching up with my Kindle before I head home tomorrow. Lots of books to read before then!

Review: The White (The Dragon Pearl, #1) by T.L. Shreffler @catseyeauthor

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Ever since The White appeared in our valley of Windridge, my people have lived in fear. But today that fear ends. Finally, the King has sent his most elite dragon hunters to kill The White, the last of the imperial dragons.

Since the death of her father, Sienna Foxburn hasn’t felt safe. The White, a fire-breathing imperial dragon, terrorizes the Valley of Windridge with no end in sight. But Sienna isn’t satisfied hiding behind the walls of her keep. She is tired of fearing the dragon, but she can’t fight it alone.

Then a mysterious sorceress and two elite dragon hunters arrive, claiming to be sent by the King. Thus begins the great hunt for The White. Sienna embarks on a dragon-hunting adventure through the exotic Valley of Windridge, all while uncovering secrets and conspiracies that could endanger the entire Kingdom….

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of 5 stars
In case the five or so glowy reviews before this had escaped your notice, I am a huge fan of Shreffler’s work. Her other series, The Cat’s Eye Chronicles, has a coveted seat upon my Shelf of Awesome and when I heard she was working on a book with DRAGONS I went a little spastic. This story manages a huge amount of world building, character building, and emotion in a very short space, something that impressed me greatly even with having read her other pieces. It is a fantastic story, even if it did end in a cliffhanger, and I am very much looking forward to watching the series unfold.

The plot:
Everything happens pretty quickly here, which was a nice change for me after a steady diet of epics lately. The plot progresses with only enough world building and description that is necessary (huge plus). My only question issue with this story was Sienna’s empathy toward the dragons. It’s explained, but I wanted to see just a little more expansion of the thought and feeling processes she went through before getting to that point. However, that was my one and only—I wouldn’t even call it a complaint. More like a side note.

It is mentioned somewhere that this has romantic elements, but I would say the focus here was definitely more on the dragons. (And if you have a problem with that, go away.) The general feelings of the populace toward dragons were displayed and justified well in the beginning, but I still found myself sympathizing with the dragons more than the people (which was probably Shreffler’s scheme).

The characters:
This doesn’t happen especially often, but the heroine was my favorite character. In the beginning, Sienna is going through that whole awkward “on the threshold of adulthood but has no focus” stage that I think most of us go through. That won her huge doses of empathy and she was relatable and human to me, unlike a lot of fantasy heroines that have been cropping up.

Darius, the dragon hunter, has that whole aura of mystery and awesome about him and I have lots of questions about his character. What did he do that got him made a dragon hunter? Who was he before? Like I said, lots of questions for sequels!

Mistress Ash is probably the other main character and also the villain. Everything about her creeped me out from the moment she turned up and it became clear pretty quickly that I was right about here. She was an excellent villain to this story, written to make you hate her and as far as I was concerned, she could join the chopping block queue with Cerastes and Volcrian (references to The Cat’s Eye Chronicles).

The other characters, mainly those from Sienna’s home castle, reacted in understandable ways, but…no, I’m not going to be rooting for them any time soon. On the other hand, I thought they were remarkably developed for such a short span of page time and even Sienna’s mother was portrayed as having sympathetic qualities.

All in all, this was a well-written YA fantasy I would shove in the faces of anyone who likes dragon literature. I enjoyed it greatly, it has been a delight to read, and I am anxiously anticipating the next installment in the series!

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