The Kinder Poison | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: The Kinder Poison (#1)

Author: Natalie Mae

Format: Hardcover (own)

Pages: 416

Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Politics

Zahru has long dreamed of leaving the kingdom of Orkena and having the kinds of adventures she’s only ever heard about in stories. But as a lowly Whisperer, her power to commune with animals means that her place is serving in the royal stables until the day her magic runs dry.

All that changes when the ailing ruler invokes the Crossing: a death-defying race across the desert, in which the first of his heirs to finish—and take the life of a human sacrifice at the journey’s end—will ascend to the throne and be granted unparalleled abilities.

With all of the kingdom abuzz, Zahru leaps at the chance to change her fate if just for a night by sneaking into the palace for a taste of the revelry. But the minor indiscretion turns into a deadly mistake when she gets caught up in a feud between the heirs and is forced to become the Crossing’s human sacrifice. Zahru is left with only one hope for survival: somehow figuring out how to overcome the most dangerous people in the world.

I read this book in one night. And look at that cover! It might be my favorite cover of 2020 releases so far – it’s simple yet oh so vibrant with all that purple. Brilliant!

My Reactions:

My Attention: read this in one sitting

World Building: amazing world building

Writing Style: flowed from beginning to end

Bringing the Heat: 🔥 there is maybe one scene with some heat

Crazy in Love: argh….Zahru and two brothers…a love triangle

Creativity: I love everything about this world, it’s magic, kingdom, the people in it

Mood: amazed 

Triggers: violence

My Takeaway: Be your own hero!

  • Where do I start? I love Zahru – she’s fun, she’s daring, and kind-hearted. She thinks on her feet and is a good listener (she is a Whisperer who can communicate with animals). She loves her family, her friends and her home. I love her heart.
  • The characters from Hen, her best friend, to the Princes and the Princess – it’s an array of personalities and it was fun getting to know everyone!
  • The action – and there is plenty! There is politics involved with three royal sibling vying for the throne by way of a trial. But the drama between these siblings, my goodness – I love how different they were, how they had different goals and motivations and how confused I was about who would make the best ruler. But there is action to the very end!
  • Zahru is the hero of her story. This is such an inspirational story. Throughout the book people look down on her and though it hurts, she doesn’t let it get her down, she keeps moving forward because the race to the finish never lets up. But she digs deep within her to do the right things no matter what obstacle she is faced with. Her power, being a Whisperer seems weak and everyone tells her so – but her strength is kindness, listening and caring. I like that her strength isn’t magic…it’s connecting with people.
  • The world building is lush and vibrant. I love the magic system and the politics. I enjoyed learning about the history of Orkena and wonder what will happen in the next book.
  • The only thing that bugged me was the love triangle. It reminded me a bit of The Red Queen series and I was hoping it wasn’t going to go there…but there it is. It sets off in motion some events that make me want book two in my hands. But I do hope this triangle is nipped in the bud…we shall see.

This is a fun read with an exciting new world. Zahru comes off as the weakest link but her power and strength gets her through many dangers in this story. This is an amazing debut novel and I look forward to book two!

Dark Skies | Book Review

My Review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: Dark Skies (Dark Shores, #2)

Author: Danielle L. Jensen

Format: eBook (own)

Pages: 464

Categories: Fantasy, Young Adult, Politics, War, Magic

A RUNAWAY WITH A HIDDEN PAST
Lydia is a scholar, but books are her downfall when she meddles in the plots of the most powerful man in the Celendor Empire. Her life in danger, she flees west to the far side of the Endless Seas and finds herself entangled in a foreign war where her burgeoning powers are sought by both sides.

A COMMANDER IN DISGRACE
Killian is Marked by the God of War, but his gifts fail him when the realm under the dominion of the Corrupter invades Mudamora. Disgraced, he swears his sword to the kingdom’s only hope: the crown princess. But the choice sees him caught up in a web of political intrigue that will put his oath – and his heart – to the test.

A KINGDOM UNDER SIEGE
With Mudamora falling beneath the armies of the Corrupter, Lydia and Killian strike a bargain to save those they love most—but it is a bargain with unintended and disastrous consequences. Truths are revealed, birthrights claimed, and loyalties questioned—all while a menace deadlier and more far-reaching than they realize sweeps across the world.

This is book two in Dark Shores series but the awesome thing is that it’s not a continuation of book one. It’s a parallel story, but Lydia’s story! You can read either Dark Shores or Dark Skies first and you won’t be lost, isn’t that cool? I read them in order but I do love that each girl got their own book!

My Reactions:

My Attention: intrigued

World Building: this Dark Shores world is amazing – in Celendor, it is definitely inspired by Rome and the “west”. In Dark Skies we go across the Endless see into Mudamora. So it was fantastic getting to know this side of the world that believe in the power and gifts of the Six (gods that bestow gifts).

Writing Style: less intense than Dark Shores, but it builds nicely into some crazy battles

Bringing the Heat: where is the heat?! Ugh…my one complaint haha

Crazy in Love: more like impossible love… ☹️

Creativity: I love this way of travel called the xenthier stem, touch it and you could end up somewhere unexpected, or in the case of the East, maybe entombed! But I love this world of powers, the Six, deimos and the west about to find out the East’s secrets

Mood: ready for book three!

Triggers: violence

My Takeaway: Lydia is slowly coming into her power and Killian has so much power but is bound to an oath to protect someone else. They better have a happy ending in book three. 😔

  • Teriana from Dark Shores is my girl and I loved her friendship with Lydia. But this is Lydia’s side of the story. Lydia is a scholar, who was adopted by a powerful Senator and has lived a life of privilege because of it. She and Teriana are opposites in personality. I always wanted to know what happened to Lydia and now we know…and it is definitely unexpected! Lydia is tested. She has been forced out of her protective bubble and her eyes have been opened to the world around her and her power.
  • I love that either Dark Skies or Dark Shores can be read first in this series. We get two perspectives that will combine in the third book and I absolutely love this format! It didn’t feel like things were too repetitive from Dark Shores since we are getting Lydia’s perspective on events that happened.
  • There is a lot of political intrigue happening in this story. Mudamora is ruled by King Serrick and his High Lords. This half of the world still believe in the Gods and the powers they bestow on chosen people. Lydia is from Celendor where do not believe in Gods, and who’s government is ruled by a governing body of Senators. Lydia is thrust into a conflict brewing between King Serrick, his daughter Princess Malahi and the leader of the Corrupted, Rufina. There is a power play going on at court, the Corrupted are threatening to take over their kingdom and they don’t even know the West is about to invade them as well!
  • Killian is trapped and has such a strong sense of honor and loyalty. I felt his struggle. He loves his family, he loves his people, he is marked by the god of war and feels an obligation to be the hero his kingdom want him to be. He may even be starting to love Lydia but…and that’s a big BUT. 😔 I love how he picked women warriors to guard Malahi. He has a reputation as this handsome ladies man but I saw no evidence of it, he barely even flirted! His main love is for his kingdom.
  • Lydia and Killian are trying to fix their mistakes, at least Killian is – Lydia is trying to get back to Celendor so she can help her best friend. In their separate personal lives, they blame themselves for events that have taken place which have meant harm to those they care about. They are both on this path to right their wrongs and yet…I get this sense the harder they try, the tighter this web taround them gets. It’s why I want these two to have a happy ending in book three. They deserve it!
  • I feel like this book is a drumbeat of upcoming war…you know it’s coming, the trap is being set, Mudamora is dying (there is blight on the land and water, there are monsters attacking at night, people are turning Corrupted), the tension is being pulled taut, the battle is coming, the war is coming, both East and West are about to collide (in book three) and I cannot wait to find out what is going to happen.
  • Where is the love?! Not even a kiss, a near kiss, ugh, I’m a romance lover so this killed me! Haha…the story didn’t actually need it, but oh my heart. I was just broken for these two. There is not time for their romance to build with war coming, there are paths to take, choices to make and all Killian and Lydia wants to do, is the RIGHT thing for the people they love. But I want them together so bad…it broke my heart in the end! 💔
  • Lydia’s story is going to reveal some secrets in book three, I can feel it! And I can’t wait to see how it affects everything.

I will be counting the days until book three, The Gilded Serpent, releases next year. I love this series and the characters. I love the world building, the political intrigue, and I want to see everything come together. I’m ready to see how our four characters grow and come together to defeat the enemies around them!

Kingdom of Souls | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Kingdom of Souls

Author: Rena Barron

Format: eBook (owned)

Pages: 496

Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

THERE’S MAGIC IN HER BLOOD.

Explosive fantasy set in a world of magic and legend, where one girl must sacrifice her life, year by year, to gain the power necessary to fight the mother she has never been good enough for.

Perfect for fans of Sarah J Maas, Tomi Adeyemi and Black Panther

THERE’S MAGIC IN HER BLOOD.

Arrah is a young woman from a long line of the most powerful witch doctors in the land. But she fails at magic, fails to call upon the ancestors and can’t even cast the simplest curse.

Shame and disappointment dog her.

When strange premonitions befall her family and children in the kingdom begin to disappear, Arrah undergoes the dangerous and scorned process of selling years of her life for magic. This borrowed power reveals a nightmarish betrayal and a danger beyond what she could have imagined. Now Arrah must find a way to master magic, or at least buy it, in order to save herself and everything she holds dear.

An explosive fantasy set in a world of magic and legend with a twist you will never see coming.

I’ve been wanting to read this book since when it was published and when I saw the ebook was on sale, I knew I had to get it. I was not disappointed, this book is amazing!

My Reactions:

My Attention: it took me three days to read this because there is a lot of world building and characters to digest

World Building: lush, detailed

Writing Style: the story telling sucked me in, it flowed nicely

Bringing the Heat: 🔥slow burn 

Crazy in Love: best friends to lovers BUT it’s wayyy more complicated than that

Creativity: so many twists and turns I was shocked a lot in the 2nd half of the book. I love the world this is set in with the gods, demons, craven, orishas and tribes!

Mood: blown away

Triggers: violence, death (of children)

My Takeaway: Family can betray you. 🥺

  • The storytelling sucked me into this fantastic world of tribes, magic, Gods, demons, friendship, love, and family! This story has layers – I loved the twists – I was like this… “😲” …throughout the second half of the book!
  • Arrah is a girl who’s magic hasn’t appeared as it should. Both her parents have strong magic so it’s disappointing to her and her mother when it appears she has none. All she wants is to please her mother (there is no pleasing this woman!) and her Grandmother. Thank God her father always appreciating her no matter what. ❤️
  • The backstory of the Gods toying with the lives of these people, makes the story so much more complicated. We get commentary from some of these Gods to show how they are tied in deeply into the culture of the tribes and to the Kingdom as well.
  • When you think the story is a simple one about a girl who wishes she has magic and power…the story gets deeper and DARKER. I loved it. I think when it gets dark is when my mind said wow. Arrah’s journey in this life is not easy and in the end she has to make hard choices about family and about love.
  • I’ve read a lot of books lately with neglectful moms (is this a popular theme lately?) but wow…Arrah’s mother, Arti, is on another level. I didn’t like her mom, but I like that the story went there and it made Arrah’s hurt and despair more relatable.
  • I love Arrah’s friends, they bring humor and have her back when she really doesn’t have anyone else on her side.
  • The beginning is slow because it’s world building but I still enjoyed it. The second half is a lot of action. I’ve learned to keep at it with slow beginnings as long as the world or the characters interests me and I’m glad I’ve learned to do this.
  • As for the romance part of the book…oh boy – not sure what is going to happen there. Is it a love triangle? I’m going to say yes and I was bummed about what happened between Arrah and Rudjek because they were best friends first before anything else. It will be interesting to see what happens with Arrah and Rudjek.
  • Effiya. That girl demon! 😖

Overall, I enjoyed this book a lot with it’s vibrant world building and cast of characters! In the second half I was just shocked with the twists and turns. Arrah starts off just a girl wanting her magic and power to manifest inside her. She wants to be recognized by her mother and not be a failure to her Grandmother and their tribe. By the end of this book, her family is taken from her, but she must stay stronger for a little while longer and this time she has her friends at her side and the powers of her tribe within her. I look forward to reading book two in this series!

ARC Review | Wicked As You Wish

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Wicked As You Wish (A Hundred Names For Magic, #1)

Author: Rin Chupeco

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 432

Publication Date: March 3, 2020

Categories: Fantasy, Fairy-Tales, Young Adult

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

Tala Warnock has little use for magic – as a descendant of Maria Makiling, the legendary Filipina heroine, she negates spells, often by accident. But her family’s old ties to the country of Avalon (frozen, bespelled, and unreachable for almost 12 years) soon finds them guarding its last prince from those who would use his kingdom’s magic for insidious ends. 

And with the rise of dangerous spelltech in the Royal States of America; the appearance of the firebird, Avalon’s deadliest weapon, at her doorstep; and the re-emergence of the Snow Queen, powerful but long thought dead, who wants nothing more than to take the firebird’s magic for her own – Tala’s life is about to get even more complicated….

Thank you to Sourcebook Fire and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

Let me just say, I have a love for Rin Chupeco books. I remember not being able to read The Bone Witch because it was too slow and yet it ended up being one of my favorite series. 😱

So here we have Wicked As You Wish. Think magic, technology, an alternate Earth where the land of fairytales exists in our modern day world. It reminded me of the show Once Upon A Time!

Tala is half filipino, half scottish and her power? She negates magic, she can break spells, which is super useful when you are around evil magic users. The last heir of the magical kingdom of Avalon, Alex, is in hiding and his protectors are her parents who used to be warriors when Avalon was a thriving place. But with the Snow Queen after him, now Tala, her family, the new Bandersnatch warriors are on the run to get to Avalon and free it from it’s frozen prison. Will they succeed?

  • There is an intricate world being described in this book. It will confuse a lot of people because it did confuse me. Just know that it is our modern day world, but the fairy tale kingdoms of Neverland, Wonderland and Avalon exist as well. It’s real. As for the magic system, non-magic users covet spelltech, basically using magic and technology together, ex. a cell phone which can create spells! But there is older magic or powers that are passed down through bloodline as well. Tala’s power is to break up spells and hers is passed down through her mother.
  • Speaking of fairy tales, I like how portals are the rabbit hole, or magic mirrors. There are the magical items like the sword in the stone and a firebird. But I love when fairy tales and the modern world collide, I’m a sucker for it. 😍 And this book is like…chaos with a light-hearted feel to it?
  • Modern day issues arise in this book – the author talks about ICE and people being detained at the border, like our current problems in the USA today.
  • Diversity is everywhere in this book. I love that the elite guards from Avalon were these old filipino women – YES, I felt like my grandmother could have been a Katiputan guard. She could wield a machete like no other. And besides racial diversity, we have LGBTIA+ representation as well.
  • There is action and battles with ogres, ice wolves, toads, ice maidens and possessed cold zombies (is the Night King from GoT the Snow Queen’s man or what? 😅😂). It’s a wild journey to Avalon, folks!
  • Tala as a character seems as neutral as her curse/power/agimat. She’s still learning to control her power, she’s the newbie when it comes to portals, ice maidens and Avalon itself. So basically she’s us, the reader who doesn’t know much. Haha. I hope we see her power grow. She’s the main character but I think she faded when the Bandersnatch crew came along. I love the Bandersnatch crew, they are all so different and have their own strengths and weaknesses. I also see some potential love matches brewing…(I hope!).
  • This story at times is all over the place. I had to put it down to finish an arc that I had a closer publication date and I’m glad I put it down because my brain had some time to simmer with the information about I gathered in the first few chapters. There was a lot of info dump at times. For me, I didn’t mind that because I needed to understand all the workings of this magical world. There is a lot to learn. But once I picked up the book again, I finished it in a day because I was entertained.
  • Like I said it’s a wild journey from Arizona to Avalon because there are SO many characters, places and magic terms to remember. I enjoyed it, but I think a lot of people will be put off with all of it thrown at them at one time. I think the world building will confuse many readers.
  • Please give me some romance between Zoe and Cole? And what’s going to happen with Tala and Ryker? Can anything come from that? 🙁

This book was chaotic but for me in a good way. I felt like it woke me up, which was what I needed because there are a few books on my night stand I’m trying to get through and they have been putting me to sleep. 🤣 This one slapped me in the face and was like come on, pay attention and let’s take a ride! It’s not perfect by any means, it can be confusing. At times I was like…

It’s not a story for everyone, but seriously, I enjoyed this story a lot and the ending made me go… 😱. I think this book would make a great tv show because it is so visual! Anyway, I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel because I need answers.

ARC Review | Heart of Flames

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: Heart of Flames (Crown of Feathers, #2)

Author: Nicki Pau Preto

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 640

Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

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

Veronyka, Tristan, and Sev must stop the advancing empire from destroying the Phoenix Riders in this fiery sequel to Crown of Feathers, which #1 New York Times bestselling author Kendare Blake calls “absolutely unforgettable!”

You are a daughter of queens. 

The world is balanced on the edge of a knife, and war is almost certain between the empire and the Phoenix Riders.

Like Nefyra before you, your life will be a trial by fire. 

Veronyka finally got her wish to join the Riders, but while she’s supposed to be in training, all she really wants to do is fly out to defend the villages of Pyra from the advancing empire. Tristan has been promoted to Master Rider, but he has very different ideas about the best way to protect their people than his father, the commander. Sev has been sent to spy on the empire, but maintaining his cover may force him to fight on the wrong side of the war. And Veronyka’s sister, Val, is determined to regain the empire she lost—even if it means inciting the war herself.

Such is your inheritance. A name. A legacy. An empire in ruin. 

As tensions reach a boiling point, the characters all find themselves drawn together into a fight that will shape the course of the empire—and determine the future of the Phoenix Riders. Each must decide how far they’re willing to go—and what they’re willing to lose in the process.

I pray you are able to pass through the flames. 

Thank you to Simon Pulse and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

I enjoyed the first book in this series, Crown of Feathers, but for some reason, I could not get into this second book, Heart of Flames. Maybe it’s a mood read kind of thing, maybe I’ll reread in the future and enjoy it more.

Things pick up where it leaves off in book one. Val’s identity is revealed and the tension between the empire and the Phoenix Riders have grown. There is a spy, Sev, who is taking a very big risk. Tristan and Veronyka’s relationship grow further and my favorite characters, the phoenixes are back! This sequel is more in depth but for some reason failed to hold my attention.

  • I love the covers so far in this series, all that fire and flames. It’s gorgeous!
  • The phoenixes of course! They are my favorite part of the story because they are awesome beings who can communicate. Reading this series makes me want to be a phoenix rider too!
  • The world building is so detailed and vivid, the author does a good job at making it all come to life.
  • Veronyka and Tristan’s relationship is growing but it has it’s frustrating moments. The romance doesn’t overtake the story which is nice because they have a bigger mission at hand but it was nice to get more acknowledgement between them about their feelings. Also the other relationship that I enjoy a lot is Sev and Kade. Sev is taking a big risk being a spy and the two of them have gone through some tough events together. Love that they are together again in this book.
  • I was just bored reading this story. 😕 I was slugging through the beginning and started not to care about Veronyka and Val’s history. And for me this felt like too long a read, especially when my interest started to wane. I read the first book in one sitting, but this installment I picked up and put down so many times. 😞
  • There are many characters in this book and they are all pretty fleshed out which is great, but because it jumped from one perspective to the other, I lost interest. Usually, I enjoy different perspectives but for some reason this one didn’t cut it for me.

I skimmed a lot of the ending of this book unfortunately because I just wanted to finish but my interest was gone by the halfway mark. I might pick this up later again when I’m in the mood to read about phoenixes because that is my favorite part about this series, the magical creatures and their bond with their riders! But I know a lot of people will enjoy this sequel but for me, it fell flat.

ARC Review | Ink in the Blood

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Ink in the Blood

Author: Kim Smejkal

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 448

Publication Date: February 11, 2020

Categories: Fantasy, Young Adult

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

A lush, dark YA fantasy debut that weaves together tattoo magic, faith, and eccentric theater in a world where lies are currency and ink is a weapon, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Kendare Blake.

Celia Sand and her best friend, Anya Burtoni, are inklings for the esteemed religion of Profeta. Using magic, they tattoo followers with beautiful images that represent the Divine’s will and guide the actions of the recipients. It’s considered a noble calling, but ten years into their servitude Celia and Anya know the truth: Profeta is built on lies, the tattooed orders strip away freedom, and the revered temple is actually a brutal, torturous prison.

Their opportunity to escape arrives with the Rabble Mob, a traveling theater troupe. Using their inkling abilities for performance instead of propaganda, Celia and Anya are content for the first time . . . until they realize who followed them. The Divine they never believed in is very real, very angry, and determined to use Celia, Anya, and the Rabble Mob’s now-infamous stage to spread her deceitful influence even further.

To protect their new family from the wrath of a malicious deity and the zealots who work in her name, Celia and Anya must unmask the biggest lie of all—Profeta itself.

Thank you to HMH Books For Young Readers and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

Ink in the Blood caught my eye on NetGalley because of the cover and the concept of magic tattoos. What I got as I started reading was a story about religion and a theater troupe! Celia and Anya are “inklings” – unfortunately every time I read the word “inkling” it reminded me of the video game Splatoon 2. 😂🤦🏻‍♀️ Maybe that’s why my reading experience of this book felt strange. Anyway, inklings have the gift of creating tattoos for people through their religion Profeta. But Celia and Anya, realize as they grow older they are trapped in servitude in their roles as inklings and want to escape. They find a way to join the Rabble Mob, a performance troupe and they think they have escaped Profeta but they learn in a sinister way, they haven’t left it behind.

  • Diversity abounds in this book, there is queer romance everywhere and I like that it’s a normal part of this dark fantasy world. It isn’t questioned or explained, it just IS.
  • The world building is interesting – the religion Profeta has these inklings conjuring up tattoos to guide the masses, but through Celia and Anya’s memories of their childhood, they are tortured a lot by their superiors. It was almost like a mixture of Catholicism and Hinduism (with the statue of the Divine and Diavala peeking out beneath and 6 eyes). There is an order to Profeta with the mistico being the holiest and the inklings being the lowest level on the pyramid. Celia and Anya escape and join a theater troupe called the Rabble Mob. The setting reminded me of Venice with the masks, gondolas and houses on stilts.
  • I enjoyed Celia and Anya’s relationship, they had each other’s back to the surprising and bittersweet end. They balanced each other out and went through so much together from their childhood as inklings to running away and becoming part of the theater troupe.
  • Celia and Griffin’s relationship was what kept me interested in this book because there was amazing tension between them. Now this is a slow burn…there is a lot of distrust, and hiding behind masks and innuendos. But they were my favorite part of the book.
  • There was something about the story that just kept me unengaged. I felt like the explanation of the religion and magic in the beginning was confusing to me. Maybe my reality wasn’t suspended enough for me to be immersed in this world of the Divine and Diavala the trickster god.
  • Because the story didn’t engage me right away, it took me awhile to get into this story. I put this aside for two months! I picked it up again because I know it’s being published soon. But I did find the second half of the book moved much faster t
  • The tattoo magic wasn’t what I expected. I thought it was kind of weak because it was like painting a tattoo on a body part and transferring it through magic. I guess I wanted more blood and needles involved. 😅 The tattoos were the only magic in the book.
  • Triggers: physical abuse, torture

This was an okay read for me. I think the world building with the religious aspects and the tattoos was interesting but something was missing for me in the story. My favorite parts were between Celia and Griffin who brought the tension and intensity that stood out in this book. I think many people who enjoyed books like Caraval will enjoy Ink in the Blood.

Book Review | Blood Heir

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: Blood Heir (Blood Heir Trilogy, #1)

Author: Amélie Wen Zhao

Format: Hardcover (owned)

Pages: 464

Categories: Fantasy, Young Adult

In the Cyrilian Empire, Affinites are reviled. Their varied gifts to control the world around them are unnatural—dangerous. And Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess, has a terrifying secret. Her deadly Affinity to blood is her curse and the reason she has lived her life hidden behind palace walls. 

When Ana’s father, the emperor, is murdered, her world is shattered. Framed as his killer, Ana must flee the palace to save her life. And to clear her name, she must find her father’s murderer on her own. But the Cyrilia beyond the palace walls is far different from the one she thought she knew. Corruption rules the land, and a greater conspiracy is at work—one that threatens the very balance of her world. And there is only one person corrupt enough to help Ana get to its core: Ramson Quicktongue.

A cunning crime lord of the Cyrilian underworld, Ramson has sinister plans—though he might have met his match in Ana. Because in this story, the princess might be the most dangerous player of all. 

The last book I read in 2019 was Blood Heir, but I didn’t write the review in 2019. 😅 I was getting ready to ring in the New Year! Haha – but I digress.

This book had some controversy, but the author made some changes and released the book at a later date. Since I didn’t read the arc, I don’t know what changes have been made but let’s dig into my review.

Princess Anastacya’s parents are dead and her brother is now on the throne. As a young girl, she was framed for the murder of her father and fled the palace, ending up on the run searching for a criminal who could help her find her father’s true murderer.

On this quest to find the culprit, she learns a few truths about the empire she loved. Her father’s empire had a dirty secret, one deep in the practice of human trafficking. With eyes wide open she plans to catch her father’s murderer and change the empire’s ways – but another secret threatens to bring all her plans down.

  • The cover of this book drew me in right away. I mean that girl on the cover looks fierce!
  • This story has Anastasia Romanov vibes, set in a place similar to Russia when describing the landscape and the use of the language, not that I can speak Russian. And the princess’ name is Anastacya! Similar, no? The world building is lush, I was drawn into this cold landscape of the Cyrilian Empire.
  • The beginning of this book is awesome, there is danger, suspense and so much action! Loved meeting Ransom who is this notorious underground criminal with connections everywhere. He has a shady past, a shadier present and so much charm! I think Ransom and Ana’s relationship was great with their rough beginning and then later on relying on each other. But Ransom’s charm was infectious and Ana needed that in her life.
  • The subject of human trafficking is heavy but very relatable to this day and age. There are some truly sad parts especially when it comes to Ana and her bond with a young girl,May, who was once trafficked. Ana sees more living outside of the palace which is a good thing – it makes her want to change things for people who are oppressed.
  • The magic in the book is one that people are born with and they are called Affinites. Affinites have an affinity – such as Ana is a Blood Affinite, she can control blood in people! There are so many different types: flesh, earth, wind, and more. Affinites are looked down upon in the Cyrilian Empire and are enslaved, trafficked and treated poorly.
  • I enjoyed the twist in the story – I didn’t see that coming.
  • The beginning was so good but I think I had some trouble with the pacing. I thought from the beginning I was going to read the book in one sitting. I finished it in three days. Ransom and Ana had chemistry in the beginning…then I don’t know where it went. Talk about a slow burn!
  • As much as I adore a story set in a place similar to Russia and it’s history, I feel like after Grisha-verse, it’s starting to become over done. I just can’t help comparing. Totally different stories, but the setting, the language. Just all so similar. 🤷🏻‍♀️
  • Triggers: blood, violence, human trafficking, death

I was really sucked into this world of Affinites, especially in the beginning of the book but my interest waned a little in the middle of the story. There is a twist in the latter half of the story which I did enjoy. I like how Princess Ana sees the truth about the human trafficking in her empire and tries her best to change things around. It was the silver lining to her fleeing the palace, she got to experience life outside of it and see how the real people lived. The ending isn’t a happy one, it’s a trilogy so the fight for what’s right will continue in book two and three. Blood Heir is a strong debut, but I will definitely have to be in the mood though to pick up the sequel.

ARC Review | Unnatural Magic

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Unnatural Magic

Author: C.M. Waggoner

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 400

Publication Date: November 5, 2019

Categories: Fantasy, Mystery, Adult Fiction, Romance

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

Onna can write the parameters of a spell faster than any of the young men in her village school. But despite her incredible abilities, she’s denied a place at the nation’s premier arcane academy. Undaunted, she sails to the bustling city-state of Hexos, hoping to find a place at a university where they don’t think there’s anything untoward about providing a woman with a magical education. But as soon as Onna arrives, she’s drawn into the mysterious murder of four trolls.

Tsira is a troll who never quite fit into her clan, despite being the leader’s daughter. She decides to strike out on her own and look for work in a human city, but on her way she stumbles upon the body of a half-dead human soldier in the snow. As she slowly nurses him back to health, an unlikely bond forms between them, one that is tested when an unknown mage makes an attempt on Tsira’s life. Soon, unbeknownst to each other, Onna and Tsira both begin devoting their considerable talents to finding out who is targeting trolls, before their homeland is torn apart…

Thank you to ACE and Netgalley for giving me an opportunity to read this eARC.

My reason for requesting this on NetGalley was first and foremost the cover. I love it and then the synopsis mentioned magic and trolls? Well it definitely piqued my curiosity!

But when I started this book I thought maybe I had made a mistake and I wasn’t sure I would be interested in even finishing this book. I thought okay, a girl who is trying to get into a school with mostly boys…nothing new there. I put it aside for a few weeks and finally came back to it and wow, I did not stop! Though this story starts off with a teenage girl named Onna – this is not a young adult novel. It has cursing and lots of sexual themes exploring a romance between a troll and a human male. Yes there is troll sex. 😲

There are two main characters in this story. Onna, is a seventeen year old genius wizard and it’s rare for a girl to exhibit these traits. She is trying to get into a school to further her studies but her gender works against her, no matter how smart she is. Tsira is a troll, who is half human, but in her troll community she is too small, and not considered good looking among her people. She leaves her clan to make her own living, earning her own money but Tsira is also conflicted with her cultural rules about begetting a clan.

Though their paths and lives are different there is one thing Onna and Tsira have in common, they are trying to figure out who is the serial killer on the loose targeting trolls.

The world building in Unnatural Magic is so unique! I love how smart Onna is even though at times I didn’t understand parameter spells – it’s basically complicated math, enough said on that. She’s smart! She thinks out of the box and Onna doesn’t give up, which I love about her.

The most fascinating part of the story has to be about the trolls. It was so interesting to learn about their customer and way of life. Females (and some with male parts) ruled the clans! Tsira’s vahn (which I didn’t totally understand right away), vahn being her “wife” but a male wife – in her case, a human male, was totally the submissive one in the relationship. Tsira and Jeckran’s romance is different and unconventional – Tsira is very masculine, and 10 feet tall! So just trying to imagine how they managed to do the deed was…interesting! 🤔 But hey they managed it! Anyway there is a lot to learn about troll life. I was learning along with Jeckran (Tsira’s vahn). In this world for the most part trolls and humans lived together side by side peacefully until the murders occur. Then we start to see how some humans resent trolls and their magic.

There are other colorful characters in this story, one of my favorites being the Lord Mage, Loga, of Hexos. Onna becomes his apprentice and he is quite humorous and flamboyant, I enjoyed his fun personality!

As for the mystery of the troll murderer, I did have my suspicions and I was right. Onna, Loga, Tsira and Jeckran made a great team together hunting down the killer. This book really had a bit of everything and it pushed my imagination in ways I didn’t expect! It has a happily ever after ending as well but also leaves me wondering what will happen to these characters? Will Tsira and Jeckran be okay? The author did a great job of making me care for these characters. 💕

This is a fantastic debut and I hope to read more from this author! Unnatural Magic is an unforgettable fantasy story full of complicated magic, humor, adventure, mystery and romance.

ARC Review | The Weight of a Soul

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Weight of a Soul

Author: Elizabeth Tammi

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 320

Publication Date: December 3, 2019

Categories: Norse Mythology, Family, Fantasy, Young Adult

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

When Lena’s younger sister Fressa is found dead, their whole Viking clan mourns—but it is Lena alone who never recovers. Fressa is the sister that should’ve lived, and Lena cannot rest until she knows exactly what killed Fressa and why—and how to bring her back. She strikes a dark deal with Hela, the Norse goddess of death, and begins a new double life to save her sister.

But as Lena gets closer to bringing Fressa back, she dredges up dangerous discoveries about her own family, and finds herself in the middle of a devastating plan to spur Ragnarök –a deadly chain of events leading to total world destruction. 

Still, with her sister’s life in the balance, Lena is willing to risk it all. She’s willing to kill. How far will she go before the darkness consumes her?

Thank you to Flux and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eArc.

This was an interesting read and what kept me reading was watching Lena deal with the grief of losing her sister. But as the story went on and Lena makes a deal with the goddess of death to bring her sister back, I thought Lena was at some points, truly losing it.

Making that deal made her do some heinous things and all because she wanted her sister back. Talk about sisterly devotion.

  • The Norse mythology with the involvement of gods and goddesses in Lena’s life was something I enjoyed. It definitely made Lena make some interesting choices.
  • Lena’s love for her sister is admirable and tragic. Everything was motivated by Fressa’s death, or so we think.
  • The portrayal of grief and how it can make someone spiral into depression and despair was well written. I could totally relate to all of that.
  • I like the expression of a “weight of a soul” and how it is explained. That was quite fascinating.
  • I love the cover and the gray palette!
  • Poor Amal (Lena’s friend), I felt like all he was doing was crying in this book. But his life is so messed up by Fressa’s death and then Lena’s actions. He couldn’t catch a break. But I felt like he could have stepped into the role of future leader of the clan much better. But all we see is someone falling apart as much as Lena is (understandably) – and here I am now not cutting him some slack! Sorry Amal! 😂
  • I felt like most of the book was just going through Lena’s grief and not much else. It was a bit slow for me in certain parts and some chapters were really short, I don’t know if that was on purpose or an error.
  • With all the Norse mythology represented, I felt like it was lacking something – not enough mysticism? It was dark for sure but I think I wanted it to delve more into Lena’s darkness. Is it bad that I want this dark book, to get darker? 😅

I mostly liked the book but was left feeling the story was just okay. But the writing is good, I think it’s just I’ve read a few Viking inspired stories the past few months and they were much grittier, harsh , brutal, and you get my drift. So I felt like this book could have gone deeper, especially with Lena’s character. But that’s just my personal preference though!

I think most people who like Viking-inspired and Norse mythology stories will actually enjoy this one.

ARC Review | Sisters of Shadow and Light

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: Sisters of Shadow and Light

Author: Sara B. Larson

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 368

Publication Date: November 5, 2019

Categories: Family, Paladin, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

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

“The night my sister was born, the stars died and were reborn in her eyes…”.

Zuhra and Inara have grown up in the Citadel of the Paladins, an abandoned fortress where legendary, magical warriors once lived before disappearing from the world―including their Paladin father the night Inara was born.

On that same night, a massive, magical hedge grew and imprisoned them within the citadel. Inara inherited their father’s Paladin power; her eyes glow blue and she is able to make plants grow at unbelievable rates, but she has been trapped in her own mind because of a “roar” that drowns everything else out―leaving Zuhra virtually alone with their emotionally broken human mother.

For fifteen years they have lived, trapped in the citadel, with little contact from the outside world…until the day a stranger passes through the hedge, and everything changes.

Thank you to Tor Teen and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

I had been reading so many books lately about witches (because tis the season) so reading about Paladins and their magic was so refreshing. Zuhra, her sister Inara, and their mother are trapped in the citadel that they call home. A magical hedge outside of their home keeps them from leaving. Zuhra’s father was a Paladin but he is nowhere to be found, her mother is broken from his leaving and Inara has powers that no one understands. It’s a lonely existence for all of them, but one day the hedge lets a scholar into the citadel and that’s when things get wild.

  • Zuhra and Inara’s sisterly bond is so tight, I loved it. We get more of Zuhra’s thoughts and feelings about Inara because Inara isn’t lucid most of the time when under the influence of her Paladin powers. Eventually we get Inara’s perspective but I feel like it’s most Zuhra that dominates the story. Zuhra helped raise Inara and Inara only knows her sister’s affection growing up in the citadel. When they are torn apart, all they want to do is get back to one each other. 😭
  • The world of the Paladin was so fascinating, I was devouring anything and everything about them. Halvor, the scholar is a wealth of information for Zuhra. Yes, Zuhra grew up in the citadel but knows NOTHING about the Paladin because her mother refuses to talk about them.
  • The budding romance between Raidyn and Zuhra had me on edge!🔥 And this comes in the second half of the book – which I think was fine except I knew, just knew it wouldn’t be resolved and it would have to wait until book two. 😞 There is a romance growing also between Halvor and Inara, but we shall see what happens with that one.
  • Zuhra to me is an interesting character. I wasn’t sure that I was connecting to her in the beginning but I understand why. She has had no interaction with the outside world. The only people she has come into contact with is her sister (who is barely lucid), her mother (who comes off cruel and cold) and Sami (her nanny/maid who loves her but cares for her mother too). How do we get a feel for someone who is cloistered in a magical citadel with no way out, no one to really talk to, who sees the first guy in her life and wonders if she’s falling for him She doesn’t…but she’s trying to discern what she’s feeling for the first time in a lot of new situations. Zuhra has always felt hopeless, weak and helpless. But we see her grow, we see her come out of her shell…and I can’t wait to see how much more she changes in the sequel.
  • The family issues, there is a LOT…ugh…I didn’t love it, because who loves family strife? But there were parts in the end that really made me tear up. I was quite emotional about it. I liked that it made me care about this broken family.
  • So much action at the end, but it makes me wish the sequel was coming out tomorrow.
  • Some might find the beginning of this book slow. It is, if you are waiting for action to start right away. But we are getting to know Zuhra and Inara and their cloistered, sparse, depressing life. There was a time when I said, ok…is anything going to happen?! I remember looking at the page and realized I was around 100 when things really started happening.
  • Zuhra’s mother, Cinnia…I know her heart was broken, I know she despaired being alone to raise her kids in a citadel that entrapped them. I know she had no way of understanding what happened, but damn it was she cold and cruel to her girls. Because she was hurt and afraid she took it out on them. And I don’t forgive her still…even though at the end, there was some understanding between all of them. But Zuhra took the brunt of it in her upbringing and Cinnia needs to do a 180 in the next book because…these girls needed their mother.
  • Though the perspectives alternate between Zuhra and Inara, I was more invested in Zuhra’s experience. It felt uneven, but I hope it does even out in the sequel.
  • I’ll have to wait forever for the sequel. Sigh….

I enjoyed this book so much because of the sisterly love, the amazing magical world of the Paladins and their gryphons, and that frustrating growing romance between Zuhra and Raidyn. I wanted to scream, Kiss ALREADY!!! 🤣 I hope we see Zuhra grow stronger and confident in herself and I’m worried about Inara. What will happen to her? 😞

Sisters of Shadow and Light is an emotional journey of two sisters, finding themselves and bringing their family back together. I am eagerly awaiting the sequel.