A Magic Steeped in Poison by. Judy I. Lin | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: A Magic Steeped in Poison

Author: Judy I. Lin

Format: hardcover (borrowed)

Pages: 384

Publication Date: 3/29/22

Publisher: Feiwel and Friends

Categories: Fantasy, Tea, Politics, Romance, Chinese Mythology, Young Adult

I used to look at my hands with pride. Now all I can think is, “These are the hands that buried my mother.”

For Ning, the only thing worse than losing her mother is knowing that it’s her own fault. She was the one who unknowingly brewed the poison tea that killed her—the poison tea that now threatens to also take her sister, Shu.

When Ning hears of a competition to find the kingdom’s greatest shennong-shi—masters of the ancient and magical art of tea-making—she travels to the imperial city to compete. The winner will receive a favor from the princess, which may be Ning’s only chance to save her sister’s life. 

But between the backstabbing competitors, bloody court politics, and a mysterious (and handsome) boy with a shocking secret, Ning might actually be the one in more danger. 

Content Warning: poison, death

I’ve been wanting to read this book since I saw the gorgeous cover. It’s even more beautiful in person! I really enjoyed this story.

+ The magic system of the shennong-shi, is unique and cool! The magic is in the tea and the preparer and I totally believe it because whenever I drink a hot cup of tea, it’s a healing experience – so I loved learning about the shennong-shi. The competition to be the shennong-shi for the Emperor gives the story high stakes.

+ Ning’s story is relatable in that she’s doing the competition for the love of her sick sister. I love her memories of her family and of home. I like Ning’s bravery and her ability to think on her feet whenever difficult situations arose. She goes through a lot of challenges in the competition.

+ I enjoyed the politics taking place in the story as well. The emperor hasn’t been seen, so the Princess has been present for the shennong-shi competition. Ning meets a boy who happens to be the son of the emperor’s brother who was banished and exiled. There is talk of unrest in the empire and Ning is caught in the intrigue. She’s labeled a traitor and rebel but we learn more about what’s going on in the empire and the role of the Princess.

+ The little romance storyline between Ning and Kang is sweet, in a way it’s a forbidden kind of love, since Ning isn’t sure where his loyalties lie. It doesn’t overtake the story though which is nice and I look forward to seeing what happens in book two.

+ The author did a great job with the setting! I was definitely transported in Ning’s world of tea and the palace. Lovely world-building.

~ Would love to learn more about Kang in book two because we do learn some things about him but he still stays a bit mysterious.

Why you should read it:

  • it’s a magic tea brewing competition! so unique
  • lush world-building
  • Ning’s love for her family, the politics she gets embroiled in and the romance that’s brewing for her

Why you might not want to read it:

  • it’s a little bit of insta-love-ish but I think it was okay because the story didn’t fully focus on the romance

My Thoughts:

The gorgeous cover lured me in and then I was hooked by the tea competition and lush world building. I found this a quick read and with a unique concept. I loved this one and I’m glad I finally got to read it!

📚 ~ Yolanda

Quotes From the Book:

Life has a way of taking the wind out of our dreams sometimes…”

Judy I. Lin, A Magic Steeped in Poison

Tea for me is home, is joy, is family.”

Judy I. Lin, A Magic Steeped in Poison

Human hands make mistakes, Ning, but they are the hands the gods gave us. We use them to make amends, to do good things.”

Judy I. Lin, A Magic Steeped in Poison

The Blood Traitor by. Lynette Noni | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Blood Traitor (The Prison Healer, #3)

Author: Lynette Noni

Format: ebooks (own)

Pages: 464

Publication Date: 6/14/22

Categories: Fantasy, Romance, Series, Found Family

She’d failed them. All of them. And now she was paying the price. 

Kiva thought she knew what she wanted—revenge. But feelings change, people change… everything has changed.

After what happened at the palace, Kiva is desperate to know if her friends and family are safe, and whether those she wronged can ever forgive her. But with the kingdoms closer to the brink of war than they’ve ever been, and Kiva far away from the conflict, more is at stake than her own broken heart.

A fresh start will mean a perilous quest, forcing mortal enemies and uneasy allies together in a race against the clock to save not just Evalon, but all of Wenderall. With her loyalties now set, Kiva can no longer just survive—she must fight for what she believes in. For who she believes in. But with danger coming from every side, and the lives of everyone she loves at risk, does she have what it takes to stand, or will she fall?

Content Warning: drug use, physical abuse, violence

I finally read the last book of The Prison Healer series and this is what I thought:

+ So much great characters! I love Cresta and Ashlyn, they were my favorite characters in this book. Caldon was amazing as always, but Cresta had fire, humor, sass, and strength. Ashlyn had leadership and bravery. Really great female characters.

+ Kiva goes through so much in this book, it is an emotional, traumatic ride for her but she faces her demons – no matter how hard it is for her.

+ The story moves quickly, there is a lot going on but it’s written well – it takes off running after book two, Kiva’s back in Zalindov but in really bad shape. Once she’s out she has a long journey to get back to Vallenia. There is a great found family trope story line here where two enemy families

+ The romance was one where Kiva had to do a lot to make it up to Jaren. Jaren was hurt and angry and he had a lot of issues to deal with. It was super frustrating at times but it pays off in the end for the two of them. There are a lot of romances going on actually, almost like everyone was pairing off.

+ This story is about messy families, messy relationships and I like that it shows the imperfections in relationships and how to navigate and mend them.

~ Jaren was tough to crack but I mean he went through some stuff. I just wish he and Kiva could talk their problems either. Kiva was stuck in her head a lot, she is the worse at communicating with anyone – thank god she had Caldon and Cresta. Where would she be without them? At times I was just so frustrated with her because she just didn’t know how to be honest after everything that happened in book two. This was her time to tell her truth but I also understand how she had to do it in her own time. I just wanted Kiva and Jaren to talk and it takes awhile for that to really happen.

~ There is a bunch of traveling in this one because there is a quest but the story bounces from location to location a lot. It was okay for me but at one point she was with King Navok and then he isn’t in the story again until the very end.

~ Kiva’ storyline was one big pity party. Cresta had to literally kicked her butt about a lot of things, shake some sense into her because Kiva could not get out of these overwhelming thoughts. And I was Cresta and tired of it! lol…Cresta had more patience than I did. I loved Cresta’s message about strength and pain and moving on…so powerful. But I also understand some people need patience and that was Kiva – she needed patience and Caldon was there to give that to her. Cresta was there to tell her straight on what she needed to do though.

Why you should read it:

  • It’s a great fantasy series and a good ending – Kiva characters comes a long way
  • The found family and side characters are great
  • Great story telling, some twists

Why you might not want to read it:

  • Kiva is going through so much trauma but we are in her head so much I was hoping it would let up a bit – it started to turn into a pity party and I was getting annoyed with her actions.
  • Jaren and Kiva’s drama was really dragged out almost to the end of the story – I wanted them to work it out earlier.

My Thoughts:

This isn’t a light read, there is a lot of trauma to be dealt with in this whole series. This book alone there is abuse, drug abuse, broken families, broken people but I loved the inspiration and motivation that came through characters like Cresta, Caldon and Ashlynn – Cresta being my favorite because she was funny and yet said what she wanted to say. Caldon always brought the lightness to a hard situation and thank goodness for that. Ashlynn was always so steady, I admired her for it. I’m glad Kiva and Jaren worked things out but for me, I think it took too long. This was Kiva’s story about overcoming so many challenges and trauma in her life, but everyone in this book was going through something – it’s what helped them bond and become a found family, which was heartwarming. For the series as a whole, I enjoyed it a lot. For the third book, I did enjoy it but wished we weren’t so much in Kiva’s head.

📚 ~ Yolanda

The Inadequate Heir by. Danielle L. Jensen | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Inadequate Heir (The Bridge Kingdom, #3)

Author: Danielle L. Jensen

Format: ebooks (borrowed)

Pages: 625

Publication Date: 5/24/22

Publisher: CLA

Categories: Series, Romantasy, Romance, Enemies to Lovers, Forbidden Love, Fantasy, Kingdom Politics

Return to the world of The Bridge Kingdom in this sensuous fantasy full of romance and intrigue that is perfect for fans of From Blood and Ash and A Court of Silver Flames.

A soldier raised as heir to an empire, Zarrah is motivated by two truths. The first is that the Veliant family murdered her mother. And the second is that her pursuit of vengeance will put every last one of them in their graves.

The Endless War between Maridrina and Valcotta has raged for generations, leaving thousands of Zarrah’s people dead and countless more orphaned. So when she’s given command of the contested city of Nerastis, Zarrah is prepared to do whatever it takes to destroy the Maridrinian forces who oppose her. And to kill the Veliant prince who leads them.

Yet a chance encounter with an anonymous, and handsome, Maridrinian causes Zarrah to question whether the violence she’s perpetrated is justice or a crime. And as she continues to meet the nameless man each night, she finds common ground – and fiery passion – in his arms.

But when identities are revealed, Zarrah must decide whether to embrace a chance at peace…or march to the drums of war.

Content Warning: violence, torture, death

This is Keris’ story and I thought it was interesting how it runs parallel to The Bridge Kingdom timeline. So this is basically happening while Lara is infiltrating Ithicana and falling for Aren! I did like Keris’ and Zarrah’s perspectives on the different sides of the war because it’s a war between kingdoms. The wonderful world building is back and because this is from outside Ithicana we get a broader scope of the different kingdoms at war with one another. I love everything about the war between kingdoms, the players in it – the unsuspecting ones like the Harem, and I think it’s just written so well! You feel the high-stakes politics being played out from the beginning to the end of this book.

As for Keris, I expected nothing less than the bookish, non-fighting, womanizer that we meet. This is Lara’s full brother! He is charming and clever, staying out of the limelight so he can scheme but Zarrah is his downfall and the way it ends is tragic. Zarrah is a warrior and I love that she’s tough! They are both trying to find their way to peace between their kingdoms while falling for one another. And let me tell you – these two together are scorching hot! Zarrah is a woman not shy about what she wants and Keris gives it to her.🔥

King Silas and the Magpie are in strong villain form but the ending indicates Zarrah’s aunt Petra, the Empress is even worse than they are and I look forward to reading the next book to find out what she has done and see if Keris and Zarrah can ever be together.

By the way, I loved seeing Aren and Lara in this through Keris and Zarrah’s perspectives, I’ll always love those two.

The only thing about this being parallel to The Bridge Kingdom events is that it’s a longer book and smashes the events in the first book into this one. I kept trying to remember the things that happened in the first two books and I’m glad I remembered because it really is a story that I stuck in my head.

Why you should read it:

  • you love the first two books in the series – Aren and Lara make an appearance in this book also since the timeline coincides with events in The Bridge Kingdom
  • Keris and Zarrah are hot together! Enemies to lovers, forbidden love, all the feels
  • high-stakes politics, great world building

Why you might not want to read it:

  • you haven’t read the first 2 books

My Thoughts:

I liked how this paralleled The Bridge Kingdom as we get to see another perspective and this time from Keris and Zarrah. There are many factors at play in this high stakes political romance story and it fits so well in the series. I love Keris and Zarrah but I can see they have a few challenges to overcome between them. I can’t wait for the next book to see how Keris and Zarrah can make their love work – I’m rooting for them!

📚 ~ Yolanda

Quotes from the Book:

I do want to remake the world so that I can be with you. So that I can get down on my knees and ask you to be my wife. So that I can put a crown on your head and make you my queen. So I can build a shrine and worship you as my goddess. I want all of these things, yet I face a future with none of them, and I don’t know whether I want to fall on my own blade or burn everything to ash because I do not want to let you go.”

– Danielle L. Jensen, The Inadequate Heir

A lifetime wouldn’t be enough. Eternity wouldn’t be enough. Not when I want to map every star in the sky with you in my arms.”

– Danielle L. Jensen, The Inadequate Heir

Violet Made of Thorns by. Gina Chen | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Title: Violet Made of Thorns

Author: Gina Chen

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 368

Publication Date: 6/21/22

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Categories: Fantasy, Young Adult, Enemies to Lovers, Romance

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Thank you to Delacorte Press for giving me a chance to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

A darkly enchanting fantasy debut about a morally gray witch, a cursed prince, and a prophecy that ignites their fate-twisted destinies—perfect for fans of The Cruel Prince and Serpent & Dove.

Violet is a prophet and a liar, influencing the royal court with her cleverly phrased—and not always true—divinations. Honesty is for suckers, like the oh-so-not charming Prince Cyrus, who plans to strip Violet of her official role once he’s crowned at the end of the summer—unless Violet does something about it.

But when the king asks her to falsely prophesy Cyrus’s love story for an upcoming ball, Violet awakens a dreaded curse, one that will end in either damnation or salvation for the kingdom—all depending on the prince’s choice of future bride. Violet faces her own choice: Seize an opportunity to gain control of her own destiny, no matter the cost, or give in to the ill-fated attraction that’s growing between her and Cyrus.

Violet’s wits may protect her in the cutthroat court, but they can’t change her fate. And as the boundary between hatred and love grows ever thinner with the prince, Violet must untangle a wicked web of deceit in order to save herself and the kingdom—or doom them all. 

Content Warning: Self Harm

This was an interesting story! It’s a dark fantasy, with an enemies to lovers trope, infused with different fairy tales – the ones I could pick out right away was Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast.

Violet is a Seer for the Kingdom of Auveny. She was brought into that position when she saved the Prince Cyrus’ life when they were young. Violet grew up under the protection and tutelage of the king and she’s been very appreciative of it to Cyrus’ discontent and irritation. Violet is supposed to be the unrelatable, unlikable character but I like her. She doesn’t fawn over Cyrus, she’s blunt and rude but I understood her motivation to survive in court. She’s an antiheroine. But Violet is a liar, and she’s obedient to a king who is trying grow the Kingdom by overtaking their neighbors, and she helps him if this means she has a position at court. I understood her fears – she doesn’t believe in love because it can hurt her. She’s practical about things, until Cyrus calls her out on it.

I enjoyed a bunch of the characters like Cyrus who is supposed to be Prince Charming, his sister Camilla who is fun, his best friend, Dante is Violet’s closest friend and a scholar among other things – it will be interesting to see what happens with all these characters in the next book. I think the villain did pretty good in playing off of Violet’s insecurities and manipulating her that way.

I love the escalating tension between Violet and Cyrus, it’s off the charts because of their whole enemies to lovers/forbidden love kind of thing going on. Cyrus is a Prince and of course his father wants him to get married soon. Falling for and marrying the Seer he loves and hates is not an option and complicates everything between them. There is a lot of power play going on in the story which I enjoyed as well. The power play between Violet and Cyrus – she wants a part in the kingdom and gets it by being obedient to the King. Cyrus doesn’t believe in his father’s plans of conquering every neighborhood kingdom – he wants to be a fair and just ruler and doesn’t like that Violet has become his dad’s pawn in making things happen. Does Violet let all she’s worked for die because she’s falling for Cyrus or does she continue helping the king to keep her position secure? Does Cyrus let her go so that he can put his kingdom and people first?

There were some small issues I had with the story. World building was a bit confusing, or it needed more world building. There were some moments I was just confused about what was going on, maybe because it was moving from one fairy tale to another? Not sure. And the ending seemed rush – a lot happens with the Witch of Nightmares, Cyrus and Violet but I guess we will find out what happens in the next book. I hope there is more world building and less confusion in book two.

Why you should read it:

  • enemies to lovers, escalating tension between Violet and Cyrus
  • a dark fantasy fairytale – combines a few fairytales like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty
  • Violet is the antiheroine but I liked her morally gray character

Why you might not want to read it:

  • needs a bit more world building
  • not into antiheroines

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed this dark fairytale fantasy, even though I did get confused at times. The tension between Violet and Cyrus was my favorite part since I love an enemies to lovers romance trope. I enjoyed Violet’s character as an antiheroine and look forward to seeing more growth from her. The other characters like Camilla and Dante help show off Violet with people she actually liked to be around and whenever they were together with Violet, I found their banter really fun. There are still a lot of unanswered questions I have after the story ended so I look forward to reading the next book.

📚 ~ Yolanda

Forging Silver into Stars by. Brigid Kemmerer | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Title: Forging Silver into Stars (#1)

Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 560

Publication Date: 6/7/22

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Categories: Fantasy, Politcal Intrigue, Young Adult, Romance, LGBT+, Spinoff of Series, Series

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Thank you to Bloomsbury YA for giving me a chance to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

When ancient magic tests a newfound love, a dark fate beckons . . .

Magic has been banished in the land of Syhl Shallow for as long as best friends Jax and Callyn can remember. They once loved the stories of the powerful magesmiths and mythical scravers who could conjure fire or control ice, but now they’ve learned that magic only leads to danger: magic is what killed Callyn’s parents, leaving her alone to raise her younger sister. Magic never helped Jax, whose leg was crushed in an accident that his father has been punishing him for ever since. Magic won’t save either of them when the tax collector comes calling, threatening to take their homes if they can’t pay what they owe.

Meanwhile, Jax and Callyn are astonished to learn magic has returned to Syhl Shallow — in the form of a magesmith who’s now married to their queen. Now, the people of Syhl Shallow are expected to allow dangerous magic in their midst, and no one is happy about it.

When a stranger rides into town offering Jax and Callyn silver in exchange for holding secret messages for an anti-magic faction, the choice is obvious — even if it means they may be aiding in a plot to destroy their new king. It’s a risk they’re both willing to take. That is, until another visitor arrives: handsome Lord Tycho, the King’s Courier, the man who’s been tasked with discovering who’s conspiring against the throne.

Suddenly, Jax and Callyn find themselves embroiled in a world of shifting alliances, dangerous flirtations, and ancient magic . . . where even the deepest loyalties will be tested.

Content Warning: Violence, Kidnapping, Abuse, Mention of Rape

I requested this book because it was written by Brigid Kemmerer but I didn’t realize it was a spinoff of The Cursebreakers series until I started reading it. I felt myself rebelling against this book because I didn’t love the ending of that first series. It was okay, I just didn’t think I’d return to that world again – yet here I was with Grey, Lia Mara and of course Tycho (who I vaguely remember).

This new series is set in Shyl Shallow and is told by three perspectives: Tycho, Jax – a blacksmith in Shyl Shallow, and Callyn, a baker and Jax’s best friend. It took me awhile to get into this book because I didn’t know what we were doing back here…is there a story to tell? Well – it seems like there is no happy ever after still and there is a growing faction of people who are opposed to King Grey and magic. The plan is to eliminate him and save the queen (but she doesn’t need saving). But things don’t go as planned.

I did like that this was Tycho’s story. He’s traveling between Grey’s court and Rhen’s Emberfall a lot and those two always leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I just never liked how the previous series ended, I guess. But I did my best to concentrate on Tycho’s side of things. I love that he meets Jax – they have an attraction that gets kind of steamy. I felt bad for Jax because his dad abuses him and he is just trying his best to survive it. As for Callyn -I liked meeting her but then she lands in the morally grey area, especially when Lord Alek comes around and I’m not sure what will happen to her in the sequel. In this story no one is perfect.

Grey and Rhen are back for a little bit but like I said I don’t have happy feelings for either of them. The beginning of this story took awhile to get into but I did find myself caring about Tycho and Jax by the middle of it all. As for Cal and Alek? Ugh – all I feel are red flag alerts. I think it’s supposed to be an enemies to lovers romance building but I think I hate Alek…so, can he redeem himself in my eyes? I don’t know! In relation to the story…do we need to be back in this world? It just feels like an unending cycle and no one will come out totally happy, with magic or not. I am intrigued about the scravers though! But enough for me to want to read book two? I’m still not sure. I did enjoy the second half of this book though so we shall see.

Why you should read it:

  • you loved The Cursebreakers series, want to revisit old characters and the same world (you should read The Cursebreakers series if you haven’t)
  • M/M romance
  • political intrigue and some good action at the end

Why you might not want to read it:

  • wasn’t happy with the previous series
  • relationships are constantly tested in this series

My Thoughts:

I went into this book kind of wary of returning to Shyl Shallow and Emberfall and yes I struggled to get into the story in the beginning because I wondered – was there really a story to tell about this world again? But I found myself invested midway to the end of the book. I liked Tycho and Jax’s romance and am sort of intrigued by Callyn and Lord Alek – but also warning bells are going off on those two also. I wasn’t as interested in being around Grey and Rhen again, I have bittersweet or maybe just bitter feelings about how that relationship turned out. I think Nakiis’s story would be enough to pull me back into the next book. For fans of The Cursebreaker series, you will love this spinoff because all the old characters are there, and it’s a familiar world. For the not so big fans of the series, you may want to skip this one…unless you are as curious as I was, then you should read it.

📚 ~ Yolanda

Fabric of Chaos by. Helen Scheuerer | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Title: The Fabric of Chaos (Curse of the Cyren, #3)

Author: Helen Scheuerer

Format: ebooks (kindle unlimited)

Pages: 432

Publication Date: 4/1/22

Categories: Fantasy, Romance, Series, Adventure

An almighty power. A deadly choice. Will she come undone when chaos reigns?

After facing heart-breaking betrayals and jaw-dropping revelations in Akoris, Roh must steel herself once more and continue her quest to win the cyren throne.

But with poison lingering in her body and a new, unpredictable companion at her side, the trek to the mysterious territory of Csilla becomes all the more perilous. Dangerous schemes are afoot – ones that threaten not only the homeland Roh intends to rule, but all of cyrenkind.

As her journey stretches across the realm, Roh must navigate the dark web of her own ambition and master her newfound magic.

Will she triumph against the trials ahead – or sow the seeds of her own destruction?

More action-packed than ever, brimming with new secrets and a touch of romance, The Fabric of Chaos is the breathtaking third installment of Helen Scheuerer’s Curse of the Cyren Queen quartet.

Content Warning: Violence, Grief

I liked this one so much better than book two and almost gave it 5 stars but the slow burn is way too slow haha.

Roh and her group of friends travel to the next location to find the next gem for her crown. They take a harrowing journey to Csilla and encounter so much challenges and danger. When they get to Csilla we learn more about the past between Roh’s mother and the current queen. More secrets are revealed and this time we also get some backstory about the Water Warlocks and what atrocities their people were subjected to.

Roh has more character growth especially when it comes to finding her confidence, making the right decisions, and knowing who to trust. I love that the friendship between all of them has grown tighter.

As for the romance, finally something happens and my wait has come to an end at least. I do think the slow burn was way too slow and I had to wait for book three to get more action between Finn and Roh but I guess it was worth the wait. Of course then a twist in events once more makes Roh doubt herself. The torture for Roh is never-ending, she goes through a lot of turmoil in this book! I hope she gets a really good ending in the next and final book. But what I love about her is that she grows in each book in the series.

I do wish this series was a trilogy but I get with these kinds of series on Amazon that the release dates are a shorter wait than books from bigger publishers. I love that I don’t have to wait too long but also wish the story wouldn’t go on forever.

Why you should read it:

  • to continue the series – great story-telling
  • slow burn romance, finally we get some action between Roh and Finn
  • Roh’s character growth, lovable characters

Why you might not want to read it:

  • not into a long series…seems like it’s going to be a 4 books series – you might want to wait for the last book to be out and binge it

My Thoughts:

I love this installment to the series! It really had everything: action, danger, friendship, romance, plot twists, back story and it even ends really good! It setts up for an exciting conclusion in the next book I hope. I’ve come to love the characters and am rooting for Roh (queen or not) to make the best decisions and trust the small circle of found family around her. I look forward to reading the next book in the series and more from this author.

📚 ~ Yolanda

The Bone Shard Daughter by. Andrea Stewart | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Bone Shard Daughter

Author: Andrea Stewart

Format: ebooks (own)

Pages: 438

Publication Date: 9/8/20

Publisher: Orbit

Categories: Fantasy, Romance, LGBTQ+

The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.

Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.

Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright – and save her people.

Content Warning: Death, Violence

This book was a pleasant surprise! I was drawn to the cover – because look at it, it looks amazing. And then I heard some good reviews about it so when I saw the ebook on sale on Amazon, I had to get it.

There are a few characters in this story, but the main ones for me are Lin and Jovis. Lin is the Emperor’s daughter and we learn her father is pitting her against his foster-son Bayan, to see who would be his rightful heir. Thing is the Emperor has an obsession. He makes constructs. These are creatures that are made, different animal parts put together to make a new creature. The construct is powered by a human part though – a bone shard taken from children. The Emperor claims these constructs are needed to keep the empire in order, but Lin knows something is wrong. I found the story about constructs so fascinating and so creative!

Outside of the palace, there is Jovis – a smuggler who is trying to pay down his debts and who has his own obsession – with a woman he loves and who went missing years ago. Since she has been gone he has been following clues to find her. I love his personality. He kind of reminded me of Aladdin (in the Disney movie lol) and he found a pet companion named Mephi. I loved their bond. Jovis definitely is that character that keeps the story moving and he gives us a tour of this world the story is set in. He travels to different islands and encounter the people that live so through him we get a lot of the setting.

The romance is between Phalue and Ramani. Phalue is a governor’s daughter, Ramani is a commoner and a rebel. They love one another but Ramani is trying to make Phalue see the plight of the people around them. I’m glad someone had a happy ending in this book because Jovis missing his love, Lin wanting her father’s love…it was tough for a lot of the characters.

Now this story is dark because the bone shards they use for the constructs come from children. There is a ceremony where a child’s shard is taken. The Emperor is like a mad scientist, he’s creating creatures and he doesn’t care about anything else. There are a few reveals in the end which sets up the sequel.

There are some questions I still have about the constructs – because it’s not futuristic, the constructs have instructions written on their shards. And how is it the Emperor is the only one who repairs this many constructs around the empire? There are a bunch of islands in this empire…so I just had a few questions. Maybe there will be more answers in book two?

Why you should read it:

  • original and creative story about constructs and bone shards
  • great world building and lots of action, especially if Jovis was telling his side of the story
  • LGBTQ+ romance rep
  • bond between Jovis and Mephi (love Mephi)

Why you might not want to read it:

  • not into high fantasy

My Thoughts:

This story has a lot going on but I thought the author did a good job balancing it all. There are multiple POVs, romance, action, plot twists and detailed world building. I was intrigued with the constructs, and the characters. It’s an entertaining story and I’m eager to read book two to see what happens next!

📚 ~ Yolanda

Ebonwilde by. Crystal Smith | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Title: Ebonwilde (Blood Leaf #3)

Author: Crystal Smith

Format: ebook (owned)

Pages: 352

Publication Date: 4/12/22

Publisher: HMH Books For Young Readers

Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magic, Romance

Get ready to be swept away, seduced, and swindled in the wickedly vicious third and final installment in the Bloodleafseries that Laura Sebastian called “enchanting, visceral, and twisty.”

Welcome to Ebonwilde. Come and find me. 

Aurelia’s last words haunted Zan. Left with the task of finding and reviving Princess Aurelia, Zan sets off on his own adventure to find her and return the gift she sacrificed for him—her life. But not all is what it seems, and Ebonwilde is more dangerous than anyone can predict.

Content Warning: Death, Violence

I’m not sure what I was expecting with the end of this series but this one surprised me, sometimes not in a good way.

I love the twists and turns but that came mostly at the ending. I like how the story was resolved and loose ends were tied up. I even liked how everyone is separated but come together to defeat the villain and make everything right. Some people get happy endings, others get a bad deal.

The thing I didn’t really enjoy was the timeline jumping. I understand why it happened, because Zan can basically time jump in the Gray. So there are many things going on at one time, kind of like the webs that the Spinner has to deal with. I did like that parallel. But it could get confusing at times. There is a Then, Now, 1620, 1921 (10 days before Midwinter…etc…)…and it was hard to follow at times. I wish it was a bit more straightforward but that’s what happens with time jumping!

Also, the love triangle bit was breaking my heart. I refused to believe it was happening and was thinking, this cannot end this way! Why now? I was getting upset. There were people dying that I didn’t want to die. Of course you have to read and find out what happens in the end and it is beautiful how it ends but I think it took a confusing way to get to there.

The thing I love about this series is the mythology and questions about power and how it affects people. I found this particular book fascinating because it touched on present day issues like like when a virus ravages a community. Or when a radical figure uses his power influence a group of people and cause chaos.

It was always about Aurelia in the beginning and her choices. Now we know why but I did like that in this last book, it took all of them, a collective effort, not just Aurelia, to save humanity. I like that we get to see other characters and their relationships. I loved all the reveals – but they really did come all at the end.

Why you should read it:

  • to finish the series
  • great world building and the story did tie up loose ends
  • love how the characters are complex, each has a role, and our heroine isn’t perfect

Why you might not want to read it:

  • first part is slow because many different perspectives and timelines happening
  • a love triangle (but read it to find out what happens)

My Thoughts:

I loved that this book tied up the loose ends and really did a nice job ending the series. I just wish it wasn’t such a confusing timeline for me – but that could be my fault for not rereading book two. I recommend doing so, so you are reacquainted with the whole cast of characters. I didn’t like the love triangle because it was so sad and bittersweet. The ending of this book was an emotional rollercoaster with twists and turns and your faves are not guaranteed to survive. I’m glad I got to finish this series. Book two was my favorite of the three, but I really did love all the reveals in book three.

📚 ~ Yolanda

Quotes from the Book:

Hope was such a pernicious, perilous thing. A rope to promised safety that could lead instead to the brink of a chasm, with no quarter for retreat or net to catch your fall.”

– Crystal Smith, Ebonwilde

And I will keep choosing you, every day, every hour, every minute, for as long as I live.”

– Crystal Smith, Ebonwilde

Everything that had ever separated us, every lie, every loss, every hurt, mistake, and misunderstanding, now became what dragged us back to one another.”

– Crystal Smith, Ebonwilde

I don’t believe that who we are is ever set in stone. We are transitory creatures—every day, we wake up as someone new, changed just a little bit by the experiences of the day before. Who we were is always a part of us, but it doesn’t determine who we are, nor who we can still become.

– Crystal Smith, Ebonwilde

Castles in Their Bones by. Laura Sebastian | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Title: Castles in Their Bones

Author: Laura Sebastian

Format: hardcover (borrowed)

Pages: 514

Publication Date: 2/1/22

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Categories: Young Adult, Kingdom Politics, Fantasy

A spellbinding story of three princesses and the destiny they were born for: seduction, conquest, and the crown. Immerse yourself in the first book in a new fantasy trilogy from the author of the New York Times bestselling Ash Princess series.

Empress Margaraux has had plans for her daughters since the day they were born. Princesses Sophronia, Daphne, and Beatriz will be queens. And now, age sixteen, they each must leave their homeland and marry their princes.

Beautiful, smart, and demure, the triplets appear to be the perfect brides—because Margaraux knows there is one common truth: everyone underestimates a girl. Which is a grave mistake. Sophronia, Daphne, and Beatriz are no innocents. They have been trained since birth in the arts of deception, seduction, and violence with a singular goal—to bring down monarchies— and their marriages are merely the first stage of their mother’s grand vision: to one day reign over the entire continent of Vesteria.

The princesses have spent their lives preparing, and now they are ready, each with her own secret skill, and each with a single wish, pulled from the stars. Only, the stars have their own plans—and their mother hasn’t told them all of hers.

Life abroad is a test. Will their loyalties stay true? Or will they learn that they can’t trust anyone—not even each other?

Content Warning: Death, Violence

This gave me Three Dark Crown vibes and sometimes The Bridge Kingdom but way less dark and intense.

I liked the three sisters and their back stories. They were born to be wives of Princes in neighboring kingdoms with plans of their mother taking over each kingdom. That is the plan, but when the girls are aways from their mother – plans start to change.

Sophronia, is the soft hearted one and already half in love with her Prince. Beatriz, is the pretty one and placed in the most extravagant kingdom. Daphne, is the cunning and cold one and she’s place in the most northern kingdom which lacks a lot of comforts and luxuries her homeland of Bessimia is known for. It did take a moment to get each girl and their personalities situated in my head. I had to make sure who’s perspective I was reading, by checking each chapter title.

I think the story moved very evenly between the three perspectives which was really nice but I think I wanted a bit more intensity. I wanted the stakes to feel high for these sisters but I didn’t quite feel it. They knew their duties and knew their own personalities, so it played out how their mom anticipated. There is very limited romance in the story, lots of political intrigue and betrayal.

I did like the magic system of the wishes but would like to learn more about it and the stardust. I was definitely captured by the story and kept reading to see what would happen next.

The twist in the end made me a bit sad but I feel liked Daphne’s story will be one to watch. Will she help her sisters or follow her mom’s plan? It ends in a cliffhanger of course so I feel like I have to read book two just to know what Daphne will do.

Why you should read it:

  • court politics
  • it’s got stardust magic, and sisters meant to infiltrate other kingdoms
  • entertaining story

Why you might not want to read it:

  • the story didn’t wow me – but try it out if you like court politics!

My Thoughts:

Perfect for fans of kingdoms and court politics. Like I said in the beginning it had the Three Dark Crowns vibe but with a little Bridge Kingdom (the sisters infiltrating other kingdoms). I loved the bond of the sisters and it was interesting to see how each would carry out their plans in the places they were sent. There is little romance, lots of betrayal and a cliff hanger ending. Will definitely be reading book two to see what happens next.

📚 ~ Yolanda

This Woven Kingdom by. Tahereh Mafi | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: This Woven Kingdom

Author: Tahereh Mafi

Format: hardcover (borrowed)

Pages: 512

Publication Date: 2/1/22

Publisher: HarperCollins

Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy, Jinn, Romance

To all the world, Alizeh is a disposable servant, not the long-lost heir to an ancient Jinn kingdom forced to hide in plain sight.

The crown prince, Kamran, has heard the prophecies foretelling the death of his king. But he could never have imagined that the servant girl with the strange eyes, the girl he can’t put out of his mind, would one day soon uproot his kingdom—and the world.

Clashing empires, forbidden romance, and a long-forgotten queen destined to save her people—bestselling author Tahereh Mafi’s first in an epic, romantic trilogy inspired by Persian mythology.

Content Warning: Death, Violence, Abuse

First, this cover – it is gorgeous. Second, this is from Tahereh Mafi and I loved the Shatter Me series because of Warner lol. So I was very excited to see what This Woven Kingdom was about and hope there was some new tortured boy to fall in love with.

I got Cinderella vibes from this one but more sinister and infused with Persian mythology. The world building is detailed and the writing is lyrical. The romance is swoon-worthy if you are into insta-attraction and yes…I am into it haha.

As far as the characters are concerned, Alizeh is struggling to survive but she is strong, determined, has powers because she is a Jinn and still has her weaknesses like being afraid of the dark. She was a bit of a contradiction. She is powerful with her Jinn powers and a Queen in hiding at that, she even killed people…yet she is constantly abused by the head maid. Kamran is an arrogant and spoiled prince, but one who is trapped in his own misery at court and under his grandfather’s eye. He never seems to live up to the King’s expectations, no matter how many battles he is sent off to fight and when he meets Alizeh, it muddies the situation even more.

The beginning moved a bit too slow for me. I know it’s because we are being introduced to the characters, the setting, the history of the Jinn and Clay people in this kingdom. The devil, Iblees, speaks to Alizeh in the beginning but we don’t really know why. She’s in hiding, that much is clear, but soon she is found by Kamran, who is the prince of Ardunia, and that causes a lot of problems. But for the first half of the book, nothing much happens except Alizeh getting hurt and running away and Kamran trying to find her and figure out if she’s a spy from another kingdom. The second half of the book moves much faster and there are a few twists and turns that was really exciting.

Why you should read it:

  • the romance is swoon worthy, it’s an enemies to lovers/forbidden love type of deal but definitely with instant attraction – now I’m not sure how the sequel will go and if this could possibly be a love triangle? not sure…but Alizeh and Kamran are electric together
  • Persian mythology, Jinn, Iblees, magic
  • cinderella vibes

Why you might not want to read it:

  • it’s the same trope: special girl, prince who is miserable with his life, theirs is a forbidden kind of attraction – if you aren’t into those tropes, this won’t be for you
  • slow beginning

My Thoughts:

This was more of a 3.5 star read for me but the ending bumped it up to a 4. The beginning was slow but it does pick up and the second half has action. I definitely want to read book two because of that ending. I do hope Alizeh meets a female character she can trust and befriend in the next book because friendly females were lacking in this story. If you want a story like Cinderella but with Persian mythology, Jinns, magic, romance, and a dragon….then you will enjoy this one.

📚 ~ Yolanda

Quotes from the Book:

I haven’t the slightest idea what we’re doing,” he said softly. “Though if you mean to take me captive, you need only ask. I would come willingly.”

― Tahereh Mafi, This Woven Kingdom

You have consumed my thoughts since the moment I met you,” he said to her. “I feel now, in your presence, entirely strange. I think I might fetch you the moon if only to spare your tears again.”

― Tahereh Mafi, This Woven Kingdom