[ARC] Review: Below by Alexandria Warwick

Review of Below (North #1) by Alexandria Warwick

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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


DESCRIPTION

In the heart of the frigid North, there lives a demon known as the Face Stealer. Eyes, nose, mouth—nothing and no one is safe. Once he returns to his lair, or wherever it is he dwells, no one ever sees those faces again.

When tragedy strikes, Apaay embarks on a perilous journey to find her sister’s face—yet becomes trapped in a labyrinth ruled by a sinister girl named Yuki. The girl offers Apaay a deal: find her sister’s face hidden within the labyrinth, and she will be set free. But the labyrinth, and those who inhabit it, is not as it seems. Especially Numiak: darkly beautiful, powerful, whose motives are not yet clear.

With time slipping, Apaay is determined to escape the deadly labyrinth with her sister’s face in hand. But in Yuki’s harsh world, Apaay will need all her strength to survive.

Yuki only plays the games she wins.


REVIEW

Below is the perfect snow-day read. Inspired by Inuit-mythology it follows a young woman searching to restore her sister’s identity and find her own self worth.

After Apaay’s village is attacked, she is horrified to learn that the whispered about Face Stealer, a demon of unknown power, has stolen her sister’s face. Feeling as though she is the only one who cares of her sister’s fate, Apaay ventures into the wild to find the Face Stealer domain and recover what was stolen.

Enriched with beautiful, descriptive prose and a fully-imagined frozen North, this book carries a narrative that is strongly character driven.

Apaay finds herself on a journey of self discovery and learns her own perceptions of wielding power and suffering aren’t quite as black-and-white as they seem.

My favorite character in this was the Face Stealer. He is incredibly complex and the whole time I was reading I couldn’t wait to get to the next scene that involved him. I constantly wanted to know more about his motivations, his history and loved the little glimpses we were given into his character.

I did find the plot to be somewhat slow initially and repetitive overall, it bogged me down a little here and there. However, I also feel as though this was an important part of part of Apaay’s journey. She was given many chances to achieve her goal and it was only through those chances that she ultimately came to the culmination of her journey in this story.

I’m looking forward to seeing where the story goes next, with North. It definitely didn’t end how I expected, but I love the ending!

View Review on Goodreads


Order Below from these booksellers

Release date: February 4, 2020

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

Review: Whispers of Shadow & Flame by L. Penelope

Review of Whispers of Shadow & Flame (Earthsinger #2) by L. Penelope

Earthsinger #1: Song of Blood & Stone

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

I listened to the finished audiobook, but also had a review copy provided to me by St. Martin’s Griffin in exchange for and honest review.


DESCRIPTION

The Mantle that separates the kingdoms of Elsira and Lagrimar is about to fall. And life will drastically change for both kingdoms.

Born with a deadly magic she cannot control, Kyara is forced to become an assassin. Known as the Poison Flame in the kingdom of Lagrimar, she is notorious and lethal, but secretly seeks freedom from both her untamed power and the blood spell that commands her. She is tasked with capturing the legendary rebel called the Shadowfox, but everything changes when she learns her target’s true identity.

Darvyn ol-Tahlyro may be the most powerful Earthsinger in generations, but guilt over those he couldn’t save tortures him daily. He isn’t sure he can trust the mysterious young woman who claims to need his help, but when he discovers Kyara can unlock the secrets of his past, he can’t stay away.

Kyara and Darvyn grapple with betrayal, old promises, and older prophecies—all while trying to stop a war. And when a new threat emerges, they must beat the odds to save both kingdoms.


REVIEW

I absolutely love L. Penelope’s work and this book really adds to her Earthsinger Chronicles and the incredibly detailed fantasy world she’s created. Fantasy or not, this is a world with realistic emotions, motivations and (steamy) romance.

I’ve been really looking forward to getting to know Darvyn, after his first mention in Song of Blood & Stone, and this book did not disappoint! In addition to his character, we meet new ones Kyara, Zeli, Ulani and Tana. I loved everyone – they’re all incredibly different but each plays a pivotal role in the plot. There’s also a handful of characters with not so benevolent intentions and it’s up to the reader to weed them out as the story progresses. Innocence is shattered, friendships are broken and alliances are forged.

Additionally, this story takes place during the same time as Song of Blood & Stone, therefore we get occasional mention of what Jack & Jasminda (😍) are up to and what’s happening over the border in Elsira. You get the feeling that soon, everyone will have to come together and the story is building toward that point.

I really love these books and cannot wait for more. It left some characters in precarious positions and I’m forever curious to see where L. Penelope will take them next!

Highly recommend these books to ALL fantasy fans. L. Penelope’s writing and storytelling is masterful.

View Review on Goodreads


Order Whispers of Shadow & Flame from these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

Review: Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

Review of Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

Series: Serpent & Dove #1

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ (One of my favorites of 2019!)

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


DESCRIPTION

Bound as one to love, honor, or burn.

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.

Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.

The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.

And love makes fools of us all.


REVIEW

HELLLOOO MY DEAR BOOK AND WELCOME TO MY ALL TIME FAVORITES.

This book guys. THIS BOOK. It is exactly what I look for in a fantasy novel and has pulled me out of my YA slump. It’s looking to get super hyped and I’ll be joining in on that hype for the rest of the year. Brace yerselves.

Shelby Mahurin has created an enrapturing fantasy firmly rooted in the history of European (particularly French) witch trials. I absolutely love how she took this dark time in history and weaved her own story out of it.

In Belterra, witches are hunted and burned at the stake by order of the king via religious zealots. In turn, many witches have taken to hiding in plain sight or secluding themselves in a hidden location.

After fleeing her coven, Lou is forced to hide her true nature and resort to thieving on the streets. When a burglary goes awry, she is forced into marriage with a Chasseur named Reid, a witch hunter and her mortal enemy. Seeing this as a potential source of protection against the witches who seek to harm her, Lou struggles to hide her magic from her husband. However, as they spend more time together, she finds she wishes she could share her every secret with him, including her growing feelings, which he seems to return.

This book has so many plot elements I love but particularly fake/forced/arranged relationships, enemies to lovers and forbidden love. YES, this one is heavy on the romance and there are mature scenes and elements (reminiscent of ACOMAF, folks) but that only added to the relationship and personalities of Lou, Reid and the other characters.

Some books can easily lose their way amongst a romantic plot but no such thing happened in Serpent & Dove. We were constantly reminded and shown that Lou was constantly at risk of discovery, by the Chasseurs and her others enemies.

Additionally, I love the magic system created in this. I’ve always been a fan of systems in which magic has a cost to the user. In Belterra, the use of magic requires a balance and strategy. A memory for a memory. Vision for vision. A broken bone for a broken bone. A life for a life. It’s clear that Mahurin sought to create a complex, yet intelligent magic system and she surely succeeds in doing so.

Overall, this is a new favorite of mine and I don’t know how I’ll wait for the next book. There is NO CLIFFHANGER but the characters are definitely in a situation in which their next moves must be well calculated. I cannot wait to see what comes next!

View Review on Goodreads


Order Serpent & Dove from these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

Review: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

Review of House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

I listened to the finished audiobook, but also had a review copy provided to me by Delacorte Press in exchange for and honest review.


DESCRIPTION

In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.


REVIEW

LOVE LOVE LOVED THIS. AH! I have so many thoughts. House of Salt & Sorrows swept me off my feet and into a waltz worthy of a masquerade.

I love the way Erin blended the stories of Twelve Dancing Princesses and Annabel Lee into this. I loved the decidedly Crimson Peak and Agatha Christie vibes. This book has an undeniably eerie and gothic atmosphere and I was absolutely living for it.

The story’s narrator is Annaleigh, one of twelve daughters of the Thaumas family. Annaleigh has five older sisters, however only one is living. The story begins with the funeral of her sister Eulalie, the latest tragedy in a string of untimely deaths that claimed four of Annaleigh’s older sisters and their mother. The people of the Salann Islands have begin to suspect the Thaumas family and their manor at Highmoor are cursed, and the family has begun to suspect so themselves.

However, Annaleigh will not settle for that answer. Curse or not, she believes there is a reason for her family’s terrible luck and seeks to discover why. This story blends fantasy, mystery and mythology, with incredible and atmospheric world-building to create a story that will constantly have you swept up into its wondrous landscape and asking “whodunnit?”

As Annaleigh searches for answers, she is joined by her sisters, childhood best friend and a mysterious young man new to the islands. After so many years of mourning, their family seeks a way to move on without seeming callous to their beloved lost and the communities of the islands. Under secret, the sisters attend peculiar balls of grandeur where they dance their shoes to bits and as her sisters become increasingly obsessed, Annaleigh begins to suspect all may not be as it seems.

In addition to the mystery surrounding the Thaumas family deaths, the sisters feeling increasing pressure to find a suitor and marry. Annaleigh herself finds love may not be as unobtainable as she had previously suspected. I thoroughly loved the romance sub-plot in this book and found it interesting and charming, especially as more light is shed about the mystery at the core of this story.

One should know this story depicts some horror elements in possible poltergeists, gore and talk of murder/suicide. I didn’t find this to be too much, personally – if anything it really added to the atmosphere of the story, however those that scare easily may want to skip a few paragraphs here and there.

Overall, this story had be guessing until the end. I suspected some of what came to be, but much of it took me by surprise – hat’s off to that because I was certain I had it figured out!

And even then (hover for SPOILERS for the ending!) >I have to wonder if Annaleigh is truly a reliable narrator. Near the end she is questioning what is real and whether she may truly be mad. While I want to believe her story truly ends the way it’s spelled out on the pages – one could believe that the HEA was all truly a vision and that Annaleigh is locked up in her “sepulchre there by the sea” (the lighthouse) because she has gone mad.

Finally, after reading or listening to this – definitely reread Edgar Allan Poe’s Annabel Lee. You’ll be in for a treat when you see all of the ways Erin was able to inject the poem into this story.

View Review on Goodreads


Order House of Salt and Sorrows from these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

Blog Tour (Q&A + Review): Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

wickedsaints.jpgWhat is your most anticipated 2019 debut?

Well, I’m here to introduce you to mine. Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan is a seductively dark and entrancing new fantasy novel, kicking off a series that will undoubtedly be one of the most talked about for years to come. I devoured this book in less than a day and you WILL NOT see the plot twists coming until they’ve knocked you off your feet and are standing over you. Make sure your sitting for the last chapters of this one!

That said, I am so thrilled to be apart of the Wicked Saints blog tour and had the chance to ask Emily A. Duncan herself some questions. Continue reading for our exchange, my review and more information on this enticing new story.

I love how Wicked Saints combines Slavic folklore, morally grey characters and even a nod of Joan of Arc. How was Wicked Saints born?

Procrastination, Skyrim, and a lot of metal music. There was actually never any Joan of Arc — that came later, as a marketing comp — I had more in mind Dungeons and Dragons clerics when I was forming the magic system and the world.

Which character surprised you the most during the writing process?

Malachiasz. I didn’t plan for him. He was never in early drafts. He was supposed to be in the book for a grand total of three chapters before he went off to do his own thing but then he refused to leave. Not only did he refuse to leave, he pulled the whole story out of my hands and decided to put himself at the heart of it. I adore him, he’s the worst.

(We all adore Malachiasz.)

What book would you recommend to each of your three main characters?emilyaduncan

Oh, man. Malachiasz needs a self help book… Actually… they all need self help books. Oh, god, someone help them.

EMILY A. DUNCAN works as a youth services librarian. She received a Master’s degree in library science from Kent State University, which mostly taught her how to find obscure Slavic folklore texts through interlibrary loan systems. When not reading or writing, she enjoys playing copious amounts of video games and dungeons and dragons. Wicked Saints is her first book. She lives in Ohio.


DESCRIPTION

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy.


REVIEW

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

HOT DAMN THIS WAS INSANE.

Launching myself into the sun would be less stressful than reading the final chapters of this book. Emily A. Duncan is the maestro of dark boys and probably evil gods. Emily is a bloodmage and this is her spellbook, I am entranced.

Wicked Saints is a bold and creative novel that takes some of our best loved themes and flips them on their head. This remarkable dark fantasy debut is rooted in a Slavic inspired world that will hold you hostage. Once you get started, you won’t be able to look away.

This is the type of story that will seek deep into your bones and consume you. I’ve seen it compared to Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse and while there are similarities and certainly appeal to fans of the aforementioned, Wicked Saints is wholly and uniquely its own story. There is nothing quite like it that I’ve read.

The story follows three characters – a young cleric and conduit of the Gods, a runaway heretic magic and a sassy alcoholic prince. These are the characters I didn’t know I needed. These are the characters you didn’t know you needed.

Full of witty banter and a chilling atmosphere, Wicked Saints soars to the top of my favorite debuts list. The hype is well deserved, you need this stunning book (inside and out!) on your shelf.

Thank you to Wednesday Books for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review and inviting me to be a host on the blog tour.

View Review on Goodreads


Order Wicked Saints from these booksellers

amazonbarnesnoblebookdepositoryindiebound

goodreads

Review: Blade & Rose by Miranda Honfleur

Review of Blade & Rose by Miranda Honfleur

Series: Blade & Rose #1

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆


DESCRIPTION

A kingdom in turmoil or the love of her life. Which one will she save?

Elementalist Rielle hasn’t heard from her best friend in far too long. Yet no one at the Tower of Magic seems to care about Olivia’s silence, or the curtain of secrecy surrounding the distant capital. Before Rielle can investigate, she’s assigned a strange new mission: escort a paladin named Jon across the kingdom.

When whispers reveal mercenaries have killed the king, taken the capital, and that no one is coming to help, Rielle can’t leave Olivia in peril. But as infamous mages and deadly assassins hunt Jon, she can’t leave him unprotected either—especially as she finds herself falling for his strength, his passion, and his uncompromising goodness. Her past returns to haunt her, a werewolf stalks their steps, and an ancient evil is gathering, yet the restraints forbidding their love strain and snap one by one.

Saving Olivia and the kingdom means defying orders and sacrificing her every ambition, and could mean losing the man who’s become so much more to her than a mission. Which will she choose: her best friend and the kingdom, or the love of her life?

Dive into a medieval world sensual and dark, full of magic and greed, love and blades, where factions vie for influence and there are no easy choices.


REVIEW

One thing I am always looking for is fantasy stories with a new adult vibe. This book absolutely fits that bill and I loved it! This is the type that I could binge and binge and binge on and I am definitely looking forward to the next.

My only caveats are that it’s a little insta-lovey, there could be clearer world building and it probably doesn’t need to be 600+ pages long. However, the characters have riveting back stories and the pacing is on point. This book does not stop giving in the action department. It’s a non stop ride!

Note that this book does have a heavy romance subplot and trigger warning for physical abuse and sexual manipulation/abuse. These are not terribly huge aspects of the plot.

I love the complex relationships between the characters in this and the author did a fine job of giving some of the more morally gray characters redeeming qualities that kept you guessing at your own loyalties.

Overall I HIGHLY recommend this if you’re looking for a book with an adult atmosphere but more YA fantasy vibes. This is it! I am DYING to start the next one but I have other books I’m obligated to read first and it’s killing me!

View Review on Goodreads


Order Blade & Rose from these booksellers

AmazonBarnes & NobleBook DepositoryIndieBound

[ARC] Review: Dark of the West by Joanna Hathaway

Review of Dark of the West by Joanna Hathaway

Series: Glass Alliance #1

Rating: ★ ★ ★

Thank you to Tor Teen for sending me a review copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


DESCRIPTION

He was raised in revolution. She was raised in a palace. Can their love stop a war? Code Name Verity meets The Winner’s Curse in Joanna Hathaway’s Dark of the West, a breathtaking YA fantasy debut.

Aurelia Isendare is a princess of a small kingdom in the North, raised in privilege but shielded from politics as her brother prepares to step up to the throne. Halfway around the world, Athan Dakar, the youngest son of a ruthless general, is a fighter pilot longing for a life away from the front lines. When Athan’s mother is shot and killed, his father is convinced it’s the work of his old rival, the Queen of Etania—Aurelia’s mother. Determined to avenge his wife’s murder, he devises a plot to overthrow the Queen, a plot which sends Athan undercover to Etania to gain intel from her children.

Athan’s mission becomes complicated when he finds himself falling for the girl he’s been tasked with spying upon. Aurelia feels the same attraction, all the while desperately seeking to stop the war threatening to break between the Southern territory and the old Northern kingdoms that control it—a war in which Athan’s father is determined to play a role. As diplomatic ties manage to just barely hold, the two teens struggle to remain loyal to their families and each other as they learn that war is not as black and white as they’ve been raised to believe.


REVIEW

I LOVED this book and am now obsessed with this world. A fantasy world at war inspired by World War II-era Europe? It is just as beautiful and bittersweet as it sounds.

Some books move so slowly you feel as though your soul is being sucked away. Other books move at a steady progression, building and building, while you know a sudden crescendo will bring it all crashing down. This is the latter and it’s still building.

The MOMENT I finished I went back to read the Prologue straight away and it just hit me SO. DAMN. HARD. Seriously, read the book and then read the prologue again. Good luck keeping those tears at bay. I knew it likely took place later in Aurelia and Athan’s story, but it doesn’t take place at the end of this book and we are still learning about these two, their relationship and what will bring them to that point in the prologue. There is still so much to come.

And let me just say, this book is written and plotted fantastically. Ingeniously. The characters have a well of depth, much of it still to be discovered. Hathaway paints these characters well. They are young. They are impressionable. They want to be heard and want to please. They are teenagers. They are realistic.

As I was reading, I couldn’t help but think of movies like Atonement – and I just have this sickening feeling we are headed down a very similar path, but I also can’t look away. I know this story is gritty and the world Hathaway has written is sweeping and golden in its detail. I know there are dark things to come and things are only just beginning but I have to know. I have to know these two will eventually get their mountain.

This is a story about the desperation of war and love and finding your voice. THIS is the type of story that will stick with you. THIS is the type of story that should be written and I’m so very grateful it was.

View Review on Goodreads


Order Dark of the West from these booksellers

On Sale Date: February 5th 2019

AmazonBarnes & NobleBook DepositoryIndieBound