[ARC] Review: Circle of Shadows by Evelyn Skye

Review of Circle of Shadows by Evelyn Skye

Rating: ★ ★ ★

Thank you to the Balzer + Bray for sending me a review copy via Edelweiss and finished copy in exchange for an honest review.


DESCRIPTION

Sora can move as silently as a ghost and hurl throwing stars with lethal accuracy. Her gemina, Daemon, can win any physical fight blindfolded and with an arm tied behind his back. They are apprentice warriors of the Society of Taigas—marked by the gods to be trained in magic and the fighting arts to protect the kingdom of Kichona.

As their graduation approaches, Sora and Daemon look forward to proving themselves worthy of belonging to the elite group—but in a kingdom free of violence since the Blood Rift Rebellion many years ago, it’s been difficult to make their mark. So when Sora and Daemon encounter a strange camp of mysterious soldiers while on a standard scouting mission, they decide the only thing to do to help their kingdom is to infiltrate the group.Taking this risk will change Sora’s life forever—and lead her on a mission of deception that may fool everyone she’s ever loved.


REVIEW

This was one of my most anticipated 2019 releases, but it just wasn’t for me.

Instead, it was exhausting. And also one of my biggest letdowns as of late. It started off great, then got soooo slow, then weird and unconvincing. Honestly, I’m really proud of myself for actually having finished this – I was so close to DNFing it and that is something I adamantly try to avoid. I try limit myself to one read and one audiobook at a time, but I became so disinterested in this that I set it aside multiple times. It took me almost three weeks to finish this and in that time I finished eight other books.

Maybe it’s just me? Hopefully it’s just me because I WANT this book and author to be successful – but I really feel like there was so much untapped potential here.

The story started out with a truly fantastic premise. Bonded warriors, a unique magic system and intriguing mythology! However, after our two main characters infiltrate the enemy’s forces, the action and progression of the story really felt as though it fell to the wayside. For most of this book I felt as if things were dead in the water.

Near the end, the story became incredibly over-the-top and just plain weird. Not to mention, the romance aspect in this went in a totally unexpected and uncomfortable direction. One of the main characters is approached romantically while recovering from hallucinogens and it wasn’t even treated as wrong. I really couldn’t make sense of how the romance in this took a complete 180 – it was just so forced and convoluted.

Overall, I felt as though Circle of Shadows definitely deserved a little more polishing before it hit the shelves. I will be speaking about it on my Instagram soon – as I am apart of the tour (I am super excited and grateful for this!) – unfortunately this just wasn’t for me. I certainly hope others will enjoy it more than I did!

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On Sale Date: January 22nd 2019

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[ARC] Review: Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer

Review of Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Review copy provided by Page Street Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


DESCRIPTION

Echo Alkaev’s safe and carefully structured world falls apart after her father leaves for the city and mysteriously disappears. Believing he is lost forever, Echo is shocked to find him half-frozen in the winter forest six months later, guarded by a strange talking wolf—the same creature who attacked her as a child. The wolf presents Echo with an offer: for her to come and live with him for a year. But there is more to the wolf than Echo realizes.

In his enchanted house beneath a mountain, Echo discovers centuries-old secrets, a magical library full of books-turned-mirrors, and a young man named Hal who is trapped inside of them. As the year ticks by, Echo must solve the mystery of the wolf’s enchantment before her time is up—otherwise Echo, the wolf, and Hal will be lost forever.


REVIEW

”There is one thing you must not do, one rule you must not break.”

Echo North is a brilliant and magical retelling of East of the Sun and West of the Moon, while also pulling inspiration from the stories of Cupid & Pysche, as well as Tam Lin. I read this in less than a day and was completely enthralled with everything about it.

Echo is the daughter of a bookseller that has always struggled to find her place and purpose in the world. She loves her family, her books and is a devourer of knowledge – but a fateful encounter with a wolf as a child left her face terribly scarred. Because of this Echo has experienced terrible rumors and unnecessary cruelty.

Tragically, Echo’s father goes missing for months, until Echo, lost in the woods herself, finds him half-frozen with the wolf from her childhood by his side. She makes a deal with the wolf to live with him in his enchanted house for one year. The only rule is that Echo may never look upon him between midnight and dawn.

I LOVED the wolf’s magical house in this book, the stories within stories in the mirror library, the growing companionship and dependence between Echo and the wolf, Echo’s adventures with Hal and Mokosh, the budding romance, as well as the mystery surrounding how to save the characters under “her” enchantments. If you’ve read the stories that inspire Echo North, its no surprise as to where the plot will take us, however Meyer puts her own twists into the story, creating a refreshing and new take on time honored classics.

Echo North is one of those books that drops breadcrumbs along the way, while you’re fully engrossed in the beauty and mystery of the story. They are there to piece together or you can let the answers come to you, while the story sweeps you off your feet.

I highly recommend this one!

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Release Date: January 15th, 2019

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[ARC] Review: Evermore by Sara Holland

Review of Evermore by Sara Holland

(Everless #2)
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Review copy provided by HarperTeen via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review

Possible spoilers ahead for Everless, the first book in this duology!


DESCRIPTION

Jules Ember was raised hearing legends of the ancient magic of the wicked Alchemist and the good Sorceress. But she has just learned the truth: not only are the stories true, but she herself is the Alchemist, and Caro—a woman who single-handedly murdered the Queen and Jules’s first love, Roan, in cold blood—is the Sorceress.

The whole kingdom believes that Jules is responsible for the murders, and a hefty bounty has been placed on her head. And Caro is intent on destroying Jules, who stole her heart twelve lifetimes ago. Jules must delve into the stories that she now recognizes are accounts of her own past. For it is only by piecing together the mysteries of her lives that Jules will be able to save the person who has captured her own heart in this one.


REVIEW

“Don’t you know, Jules? Everything worth doing is dangerous.”

It’s no secret that Everless was one of my favorite 2018 releases and shouldn’t be a surprise that I was prepared to perform dark magic to get my hands on Evermore. Luckily, HarperTeen saved us all from that catastrophe and provided me with an advanced reading copy.

Evermore begins with Jules on the run from Caro, still reeling from what she has learned about herself and grappling with her new reality. Jules struggles to choose her next path – flee or fight for the final life she has? Much of this book follows Jules on the run while she searches her past for any way to defeat the sorceress.

And of course there is Liam, our dark, dashingly intelligent antihero. I wont lie … Liam Gerling is one of the sole reasons I am here. His character was my favorite from the first book and continues to hold that title through Evermore. Liam enters the book in total Liam style and is by Jules’ side for much of the book, to share what he has learned of the Alchemist’s life and as a steady companion through all of Jules’ searching. And maybe a little something more?

Evermore had has plenty of action, the pacing was great, the character arcs were well done and I got the romance I had been pining after. We learn quite a bit about Jules’ and Caro’s pasts, as well as what fueled the divide between them. Friendship was a large undertone to this story and I was really feeling the emotions near the end! Jules knows Caro is seeking her every weakness, most of all her friends – but its the help of others Jules must be willing to rely upon.

While I had hoped it would be as sweeping and mysterious as Everless, Evermore is certainly a worthy sequel and will give you all the answers you seek!

I will absolutely be reading more from Sara Holland.

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Release Date: December 31st, 2018

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Review: Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Review of Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆


DESCRIPTION

In the three kingdoms of Mytica, magic has long been forgotten. And while hard-won peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest now simmers below the surface.

As the rulers of each kingdom grapple for power, the lives of their subjects are brutally transformed… and four key players, royals and rebels alike, find their fates forever intertwined. Cleo, Jonas, Lucia, and Magnus are caught in a dizzying world of treacherous betrayals, shocking murders, secret alliances, and even unforeseen love.

The only outcome that’s certain is that kingdoms will fall. Who will emerge triumphant when all they know has collapsed?

It’s the eve of war…. Choose your side.

Princess: Raised in pampered luxury, Cleo must now embark on a rough and treacherous journey into enemy territory in search of magic long thought extinct.

Rebel: Jonas, enraged at injustice, lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country cruelly impoverished. To his shock, he finds himself the leader of a people’s revolution centuries in the making.

Sorceress: Lucia, adopted at birth into the royal family, discovers the truth about her past—and the supernatural legacy she is destined to wield.

Heir: Bred for aggression and trained to conquer, firstborn son Magnus begins to realize that the heart can be more lethal than the sword….


REVIEW

I am SO glad I’ve decided to binge read these and highly anticipate this becoming another favorite series of mine. The set up for this story and world is gritty, relentless and has the building of something epic. This is the type of series that has great crossover appeal, to every sex and age!

“Even in the darkest and most cruel person, there is still a kernel of good. And within the most perfect champion, there is darkness. The question is, will one give in to the dark or the light? It’s something we decide with every choice we make, every day that we exist. What might not be evil to you could be evil to someone else. Knowing this makes us powerful even without magic.”

If you’ve been around YA fantasy for any amount of time you’ve probably heard of this series and have probably even had some parts spoiled for you (like me, hah!). I’ve heard nothing but GOOD about this and can safely say I am hooked. Despite the spoilers I’ve had, I’ve been assured there are a ton of plot twists in the series and can say I was surprised a number of times in this book! I listened the the audiobook (fantastic narrator!) and immediately jumped on downloading the sequel, Rebel Spring, the moment I finished this.

This first installment is largely character driven, with the likes of Princess Cleiona of Auranos, Prince Magnus of Limeros, Princess Lucia of Limeros and rebel Jonas of Paelsia taking the forefront. From the first pages, this story builds upon itself until you expect spontaneous combustion when everyone crosses paths.

“Then his heart, now broken into a thousand pieces, slowly began to turn to ice.”

Magnus, Prince of Blood. HAH. Better yet, Prince of let me hold you and comfort you, I’m sorry this has happened to you, don’t be an ass and stay pure. I LOVE Magnus’ character and expect a ton of growth from him as the series goes on. That said, I feel Magnus has a dark path to walk before he can find any semblance of happiness. BUT I AM HERE FOR YOU MAGNUS. I’ll hold your hand through the dark.

Cleiona experiences so much in this book. Her fierce love for her sister is undeniable, however her actions are what you might expect from a teenage princess, always sheltered amongst the court and her castle. My hope is to see her become stronger and more cautious in her actions. She makes some really poor decisions in this that lead to the pain of others!

Lucia is completely blindsided in this book by revelation after revelation and I cannot help but wonder how utterly alone she must feel! I can only hope she will find the tutelage she needs, plus some sort of reconciliation with her brother.

Jonas! I loved his character as well and the final pages really have me looking forward to the role he’ll play in future books. He goes through so many shades of grief in this, I love how complex his character is and cannot wait to learn more about where his path will take him!

Oh hi Aron. I hate you. Shut up, go be drunk somewhere else. You suck and started this WHOLE FREAKING MESS.

NIC! I love Nic’s character. Funny, pure and perfect best friend material. Excuse me while we go get into trouble somewhere.

“Hate is such a strong emotion. Much more powerful than indifference. But those who burn with hate can also love just as intensely. Can’t they? When you hate–or love–do you do so with all your heart? So much that it feels as if you might die from it?”

 

Overall, this is one of those series I own every book of but still had not read. One of those series I kept telling myself: YOU NEED TO READ THOSE. Well, I can assure you this will be my next favorite series.

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[ARC] Review: Dark Harmony by Laura Thalassa

Review of Dark Harmony by Laura Thalassa

(Book #3 in The Bargainer series)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review


DESCRIPTION

There are worse things than death. Things that lurk in the shadows and slip into your dreams. Things that have no business existing. Things that once slept … but have now awoken.

For Callypso Lillis, the fae magic that now runs through her veins is equal parts curse and good fortune. For the very thing that bonds her to Desmond Flynn, the King of the Night, also makes her vulnerable to the Thief of Souls, a man who wants to break the world … and Callie along with it.

But it’s not just the Thief whose shadow looms over the Otherworld. Des’s father is back from the dead, and he wants revenge on the son who sent him to the grave in the first place.

Des and Callie must figure out how to stop both men, and time is running out. Because there are forces at play working to tear the lovers apart once and for all … and unfortunately for them, death is no longer the worst thing to fear.


REVIEW

“I have a secret.”

Let me preface this by saying that The Bargainer series is one of my all-time favorite series (we’re talking like top three guys, these books are a big deal to me) so I had a lot of expectations going into this. Let me respond to that by saying that it did not disappoint. Seriously, I cannot get over how perfectly Laura has wrapped up Callie and Des’ story.

“There will always be bad men, and they will take and take and take. But so will I. People like us are not victims. We’re someone’s nightmare.”

After the explosive and emotional ending of A Strange Hymn, the Thief of Souls still plagues Callie’s dreams and Des’ kingdom is under the greatest threat it has ever faced. Callie and Des must piece together the clues they’ve been given to track down the Thief of Souls and put an end to his torments.

Now for the part of the review you’re all waiting for: HOLY. GODS. This was a wild-ride! This book has everything I’ve come to expect from Laura Thalassa: witty comebacks, an air of mystery, shameless sensuality (LOTS OF IT), heartwarming romance, emotional turmoil, fiery and utterly terrifying women and villains that make your skin crawl.

I truly loved how much this story focused on Callie’s siren nature and her learning to embrace her powers. YASSSS GURL. Callie’s character ARC completes itself in this story and she truly becomes a force to be reckoned with, a nightmare, everything she was made to be. I’ve always loved how Des has willed Callie to welcome who she is and has never let his presence overshadow her. They have always felt like partners to me and it was no different in this book. While many of us are here for the ever charismatic Desmond Flynn, it is Callie’s character that shines in this.

That said, Des is as satisfying as ever. I swear every time he uttered the words “ah, ah, ah” or asked one of his rhetorical questions I melted a little inside. Who needs a book boyfriend when you can kidnap Desmond Flynn and make him your book husband? Hah. Kidnap Desmond Flynn. Sure. You should be forewarned that Des gets a little feral and extra carnal in this, his fae nature is being pressured and he does rule over the night and everything that happens within it, after all. That said, I loved every little bit of it.

Furthermore, one of the BEST parts of this story is Temper. Get yourself a best friend that’s a crazy sorceress who will help you take down your enemies. I have always loved Temper’s character and there were subtle hints that there is more to her story. Fingers crossed that Laura gives us more of Temper AND Malaki. (Also: Malaki, looks like he could kill you but is really a cinnamon roll, just saying…)

“Even shadows can deceive and gods can die.”

By the end of this story we are reminded once again that behind his crown Des is the ever-calculating Bargainer. For every secret you hold, he has a dozen. Nothing gets past him and he has a plan for every scenario. Seriously, there is a part near the end that will probably have you flying out of your seat and cheering with delight.

I’d also like to just say: the Thief of Souls … I KNEW IT. He has worn many faces but he was also exactly who I thought he would be! I was freaking out a little when his identity started piecing itself together more because all of my theories were totally validated.

Also – have you read Laura’s The Unearthly series? These two series take place in the same world and there was a juicy little Easter egg dropped about that story as well!

In finality, an epic conclusion to an epic series. How will I go on with my life knowing I’m no longer waiting for more books about Callie and Des? The only thing that shall tide me over is knowing Laura Thalassa is out there, writing more stories with wonderfully devastating characters such as these. Excuse me while I super glue this to my favorites shelf because it’s never allowed to leave.

AND THAT PROLOGUE YO.

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[ARC] Review: Seafire by Natalie C. Parker

Review of Seafire by Natalie C. Parker

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Review copy provided by the publisher via Penguin’s First to Read in exchange for an honest review


DESCRIPTION

After her family is killed by corrupt warlord Aric Athair and his bloodthirsty army of Bullets, Caledonia Styx is left to chart her own course on the dangerous and deadly seas. She captains her ship, the Mors Navis, with a crew of girls and women just like her, who have lost their families and homes because of Aric and his men. The crew has one mission: stay alive, and take down Aric’s armed and armored fleet.

But when Caledonia’s best friend and second-in-command barely survives an attack thanks to help from a Bullet looking to defect, Caledonia finds herself questioning whether to let him join their crew. Is this boy the key to taking down Aric Athair once and for all . . . or will he threaten everything the women of the Mors Navis have worked for?


REVIEW

Seafire was absolutely riveting and is the pirate sisterhood story I’ve been wanting! This is a fascinating first novel in a series with a strong world and nicely fleshed out characters to accompany it.

Caledonia Styx has lived a life on the sea. And with that life comes rules to help protect you and yours from a brutal warlord that never stops taking. Cala knows the rules and has never broken them, until the night comes that she does and loses those most precious to her.

Now, four years later, Caledonia is captain of her own ship. With a capable crew of women and girls by her side, Cala seeks to dismantle the Bullet army and reclaim a freedom she’s never known. That is, until a young Bullet finds himself on her ship, begging for an escape from the enemy force he’s a member of. Will Cala break the rules again? Can she trust the information this Bullet promises to share?

From the start of this book you’re hit with action, an incredible world, beautiful writing and complex characters. I found myself so surprised by the ingenious world building in this, I cannot wait to see more of the Bullet Seas and hopefully beyond the Net in the future!

Cala is the type of main character I love because I still found myself questioning her actions and disagreeing with her rationale at times. She is multi-dimensional, fierce and loyal to her cause. So loyal that she can be blinded by better choices right in front of her. That said, Cala clearly suffers from survivor’s guilt and it is easy to see why she has become so unbending over the years.

In addition to Cala, this story has one of the most engaging groups of supporting characters I’ve come across in awhile. Pisces, Hime, Redtooth, Lace, Nettle, Amina and Oran are all incredibly unique and each bring a new strength to this story, rather than feeling as though they’ve been added in just for the sake of things. This story also doesn’t shy away from tragedy, so be ready to keep your favorites close!

Finally, my favorite character in this story is Lir. We only get brief glimpses of his character but he is a driving force for much of the story and I cannot wait to learn more about him. I so badly need to know what motivates him and if everything he said at the beginning of the story was a lie. Is he just obsessed now or is there anything redeeming about him? Despite his very obvious faults, I want him to be a character I come to love and I feel Natalie C. Parker could make this happen! For much of the story all I wanted Cala to do was hunt Lir down so I could learn more about him.

Overall, I highly recommend this book if you love pirates, rich worlds and sisterhoods built out of camaraderie and respect. The ladies in this book take the cake!

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Review: Onyx and Ivory by Mindee Arnett

Review of Onyx and Ivory by Mindee Arnett

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ 


DESCRIPTION

They call her Traitor Kate. It’s a title Kate Brighton inherited from her father after he tried to assassinate the high king years ago. Now Kate lives as an outcast, clinging to the fringes of society as a member of the Relay, the imperial courier service. Only those most skilled in riding and bow hunting ride for the Relay; and only the fastest survive, for when dark falls, the nightdrakes—deadly flightless dragons—come out to hunt. Fortunately, Kate has a secret edge: she is a wilder, born with magic that allows her to influence the minds of animals. But it’s this magic that she needs to keep hidden, as being a wilder is forbidden, punishable by death or exile. And it’s this magic that leads her to a caravan massacred by nightdrakes in broad daylight—the only survivor her childhood friend, her first love, the boy she swore to forget, the boy who broke her heart.

The high king’s second son, Corwin Tormane, never asked to lead. Even as he waits for the uror—the once-in-a-generation ritual to decide which of the king’s children will succeed him—he knows it’s always been his brother who will assume the throne. And that’s fine by him. He’d rather spend his days away from the palace, away from the sight of his father, broken with sickness from the attempt on his life. But the peacekeeping tour Corwin is on has given him too much time to reflect upon the night he saved his father’s life—the night he condemned the would-be killer to death and lost the girl he loved. Which is why he takes it on himself to investigate rumors of unrest in one of the remote city-states, only for his caravan to be attacked—and for him to be saved by Kate.

With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin have to put the past behind them. The threat of drakes who attack in the daylight is only the beginning of a darker menace stirring in the kingdom—one whose origins have dire implications for Kate’s father’s attack upon the king and will thrust them into the middle of a brewing civil war in the kingdom of Rime.


REVIEW

This is one of those books that leaves you with the question: why didn’t I read this sooner!?

Onyx and Ivory is a truly stunning story that captivated me from the moment Kate and her steed Pip were introduced. Mindee Arnett has created a fascinating and complex world with the Kingdom of Rime, it’s history rich and it’s people full of passion for their causes.

I loved the representations of friendship, love and family we see in this story, for there are many forms present – each one driving the characters toward a precipice of discovery that cannot be unlearned.

Not only is this a story about Kate Brighton – Traitor Kate – it is also the story of Corwin Tormane, the Errant Prince of Rime who disappeared for two years after Kate’s father betrayed the throne. Where was he all that time and who is he now?

Kate herself, rider with the Relay (think: Pony Express), wields forbidden wilder magic and must keep is concealed from most around her, for its discovery means her death. The stakes become even more dire when her and her companions are offered a place back amongst the court, an opportunity she seizes, hoping it will bring her the answer of why her father attempted to kill his king and friend.

This story encompasses powerful and dangerous magic, dragon-like creatures called drakes, courtly intrigue, well built friendships, faithful horses and compelling romance. I highly recommend this book if you’re looking for something that is both traditional fantasy but also something new entirely! I absolutely loved it and was sucked in the moment I started it. The audiobook is also fantastic, narrated by veteran voice actor Khristine Hvam (known for Daughter of Smoke & Bone and the Country Saga).

Can’t wait for the next!

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