Book Review: Flame in the Mist

Flame in the Mist – Renee Ahdieh – Flame in the Mist #1 – G.P. Putnam’s Sons – Published 16 May 2016

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Synopsis

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

My thoughts

I was enchanted and surprised by Flame in the Mist. This historical novel with an element of fantasy and the supernatural is utterly delightful. I was intrigued by the cover, drawn in by the synopsis and charmed from the very first page. A story about being a woman and embracing everything that entails, even in a world that privileges men. A story about belonging and love. A story about fighting for what’s right.

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Book Review: The Tiger At Midnight

The Tiger At Midnight – Swati Teerdhala – The Tiger At Midnight Trilogy #1 – Katherine Tegen Books – Published 23 April 2019

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Synopsis

Esha is a legend, but no one knows. It’s only in the shadows that she moonlights as the Viper, the rebels’ highly skilled assassin. She’s devoted her life to avenging what she lost in the royal coup, and now she’s been tasked with her most important mission to date: taking down the ruthless General Hotha.

Kunal has been a soldier since childhood, training morning and night to uphold the power of King Vardaan. His uncle, the general, has ensured that Kunal never strays from the path—even as a part of Kunal longs to join the outside world, which has been growing only more volatile.

Then Esha’s and Kunal’s paths cross—and an unimaginable chain of events unfolds. Both the Viper and the soldier think they’re calling the shots, but they’re not the only players moving the pieces. As the bonds that hold their land in order break down and the sins of the past meet the promise of a new future, both rebel and soldier must make unforgivable choices.

My thoughts

The Tiger at Midnight is a sweeping fantasy novel, beautifully crafted and unique with its Indian-inspired setting.

Esha is an assassin, known as the Viper. She works to undermine General Hotha and King Vardaan who caused so much harm when they unrightfully stole the throne. Kunal is a solider. Raised by General Hotha, Kunal knows his duty is to the king and army. But when he at first unwittingly meets Esha and is then tasked with finding and killing the Viper, everything he knows about the world and his role in it will be challenged.

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Book Review: The Caged Queen

The Caged Queen – Kristen Ciccarelli – Iskari #2 – HarperTeen – Published 25 September 2018

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Synopsis

Once there were two sisters born with a bond so strong that it forged them together forever. Roa and Essie called it the hum. It was a magic they cherished—until the day a terrible accident took Essie’s life and trapped her soul in this world.

Dax—the heir to Firgaard’s throne—was responsible for the accident. Roa swore to hate him forever. But eight years later he returned, begging for her help. He was determined to dethrone his cruel father, under whose oppressive reign Roa’s people had suffered.

Roa made him a deal: she’d give him the army he needed if he made her queen. Only as queen could she save her people from Firgaard’s rule.

Then a chance arises to right every wrong—an opportunity for Roa to rid herself of this enemy king and rescue her beloved sister. During the Relinquishing, when the spirits of the dead are said to return, Roa discovers she can reclaim her sister for good.

All she has to do is kill the king.

My thoughts

The Caged Queen is the second book in The Iskari series. I absolutely adored The Last Namsara so I was very excited to get my hands on this second instalment. While I didn’t love it as much as I did the first book, it is still a fantastic fantasy book with plenty of action and intrigue.

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Book Review: Crown of Feathers

Crown of Feathers – Nicki Pau Preto – Crown of Feathers #1 – Simon Pulse – Published 12 February 2019

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Synopsis

In a world ruled by fierce warrior queens, a grand empire was built upon the backs of Phoenix Riders—legendary heroes who soared through the sky on wings of fire—until a war between two sisters ripped it all apart.

Sixteen years later, Veronyka is a war orphan who dreams of becoming a Phoenix Rider from the stories of old. After a shocking betrayal from her controlling sister, Veronyka strikes out alone to find the Riders—even if that means disguising herself as a boy to join their ranks.

Just as Veronyka finally feels like she belongs, her sister turns up and reveals a tangled web of lies between them that will change everything. And meanwhile, the new empire has learned of the Riders’ return and intends to destroy them once and for all.

My thoughts

Crown of Feathers is a thrilling first book in a new fantasy series. With detailed and complex world building, political history and intrigue, sisterly bonds that are stretched to the limit, diverse characters, threads of romance, and glorious, magnificent creatures, Crown of Feathers is sure to please fantasy fans.

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Book Review: Sherwood

Sherwood – Meagan Spooner – HarperTeen – Published 19 March 2019

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Synopsis

Robin of Locksley is dead. 

When news comes that he’s fallen in battle at the King’s side in the Holy Land, Maid Marian doesn’t know how she’ll go on. Betrothed to Robin, she was free to be herself, to flout the stifling rules of traditional society and share an equal voice with her beloved when it came to caring for the people of her land.

Now Marian is alone, with no voice of her own. The people of Locksley, persecuted by the Sheriff of Nottingham, are doomed to live in poverty or else face death by hanging. The dreadful Guy of Gisborne, the Sheriff’s right hand, wishes to step into Robin’s shoes as Lord of Locksley, and Marian’s fiancé. Society demands that she accept her fate, and watch helplessly as her people starve.

When Marian dons Robin’s green cloak, and takes up his sword and bow, she never intended that anyone should mistake her for Robin, returned from the Holy Land as a vigilante. She never intended that the masked, cloaked figure she created should stand as a beacon of hope and justice to peasant and noble alike. She never intended to become a legend.

But all of Nottingham is crying out for a savior. So Marian must choose to make her own fate and become her own hero…

My thoughts

Sherwood is impressive in every way. From the twists that come from nowhere and endless heart-stopping adventure to the familiar but new cast of characters, Meagan Spooner has breathed new life into this old favourite, classic legend. Sherwood is perfect for fans of retellings or fantasy that focuses more on adventure and historic details. From start to finish this wonderful book swept me away and kept me entranced – I can’t wait to share this with so many readers. It’s going to be one of those books I shove into people’s hands and say, “you must read this, you’ll love it, it’s simply brilliant.”

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Book Review: The Queen’s Resistance

The Queen’s Resistance – Rebecca Ross – The Queen’s Resistance #2 – HarperTeen – Published 5 March 2019

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Synopsis

Finally, Brienna is a mistress of knowledge and is settling into her role as the daughter of Davin MacQuinn, a disgraced lord who returned to Maevana to reclaim his house. Though she’d just survived a revolution, one that will finally return a queen to the throne, she faces another difficult challenge. She must prove herself trustworthy to the MacQuinns. But as Queen Isolde Kavanagh’s closest confidant, she’ll have to balance serving her father’s house as well as her country. And then there’s Cartier, a wholly separate but desirable factor in her new life.

Aodhan Morgane, formerly known as Cartier Évariste, is adjusting to the stark contrast between his pre-rebellion life in Valenia as a master of knowledge and his current one as the lord of a fallen house. During his castle’s restoration, he discovers a ten-year-old boy named Tomas, whose past and parentage are a complete mystery. So when Cartier’s former pupil Brienna is as taken with Tomas as he is, he lets his mind wander—what if he doesn’t have to raise him or his house alone?

As the Lannon trial rapidly approaches, Brienna and Cartier must put their feelings aside to concentrate on forging alliances, executing justice, and ensuring that no one interferes with the queen’s coronation. But resistance is rumbling among the old regime’s supporters, who are desperate to find a weakness in the rebels’ forces. And nothing makes a person more vulnerable than deep-seated love.

My thoughts

Stunning. Truly beautiful and heart-capturing, The Queen’s Resistance is an epic sequel to The Queen’s Rising and everything I was daring to hope it would be. The Queen’s Rising was my surprise book of 2018. Surprise, because it totally took me by surprise with how amazing it was, how much I enjoyed it, and the beauty of the world Rebecca Ross created. So, the sequel, The Queen’s Resistance instantly became one of my most anticipated reads for 2019. And it did not disappoint. The Queen’s Resistant is stunning. It is beautifully crafted, the threads of intrigue, alliances, betrayal and deception are carefully woven with strands of love, family, justice and a thrilling quest to right the wrongs of the past. This is by far one of my all-time favourite fantasy series, and I can not recommend it highly enough.

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Book Review: Rise of the Dragons

Rise of the Dragons – Angie Sage – Rise of the Dragons #1 – Scholastic Press – Published 26 February 2019

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Synopsis

Once our world was full of dragons who lived in harmony with humans. But after a group of rogue dragons, the Raptors, tried to take over Earth, all dragons were banished to another realm.

Most humans forgot about the dragons, claiming they never existed. Eleven-year-old Sirin knows the truth — she grew up with stories passed down through the generations. However, when her mother falls ill, even Sirin has trouble believing in magic . . . until she sees a mysterious streak of silver in the night sky.

Sirin becomes the first child to “lock” with a dragon in centuries — forming a deep friendship unlike anything she’s ever imagined. But Sirin learns that not all dragons returned with good intentions, and soon she finds herself at the center of a battle between the dragons who want to protect the humans . . . and those who want to destroy them.

My thoughts

I adored The Magyk series by Angie Sage and it remains a perennial favourite with our library’s young readers, and so I jumped at the chance to read and review the first book in her newest fantasy series, Rise of the Dragons. With the promise of game cards and a matching online game, Rise of the Dragons promised to be an exciting release. The new world Sage has created and her daring plot of intrigue, dragon battles and family bonds is both thrilling and thoroughly enjoyable. It is sure to be a hit with our middle-grade readers. After all, everything is better with dragons.

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Book Review: The Blood Spell

The Blood Spell – C.J. Redwing – Ravenspire #4 – Balzer+Bray – Published 12 February 2019

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Synopsis

Blue de la Cour has her life planned: hide the magic in her blood and continue trying to turn metal into gold so she can help her city’s homeless. But when her father is murdered and a cruel but powerful woman claims custody of Blue and her property, one wrong move could expose her—and doom her once and for all. The only one who can help? The boy she’s loathed since childhood: Prince Kellan.

Kellan Renard, crown prince of Balavata, is walking a thin line between political success and devastating violence. Newly returned from boarding school, he must find a bride among the kingdom’s head families and announce his betrothal—but escalating tension among the families makes the search nearly impossible. He’s surprised to discover that the one person who makes him feel like he can breathe is Blue, the girl who once ruined all his best adventures.

When mysterious forces lead to disappearances throughout Balavata, Blue and Kellan must work together to find the truth. What they discover will lead them to the darkest reaches of the kingdom, and to the most painful moments of their pasts. When romance is forbidden and evil is rising, can Blue save those she loves, even if it costs her everything?

My thoughts

The Blood Spell is the fourth book in C.J. Redwine’s series of fairytale retellings. As she has with each of the three previous instalments, The Blood Spell is a wonderful fantasy novel in its own right with threads of the familiar fairytale cleverly woven through the plot to create a unique and thrilling tale.

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Book Review: Circle of Shadows

Circle of Shadows – Evelyn Skye – Circle of Shadows #1 – Balzer+Bray – Published 22 January 2019

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Synopsis

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.

My thoughts

Circle of Shadows is the first book in a new fantasy series by Evelyn Skye. Despite the intriguing synopsis, I did not enjoy Circle of Shadows as I anticipated I would. While the latter half of the book is more engaging with a quickly moving plot, the first half of the book is slow, with little action to grab my attention. A juvenile writing style more befitting a different kind of story, characters with quickly changing motives and a lack of explanation for the magic in this book meant I never became invested in the characters nor their quest.

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Book Review: A Curse So Dark and Lonely

A Curse So Dark and Lonely – Brigid Kemmerer – A Curse So Dark and Lonely #1 – Bloomsbury YA – Published 29 January 2019

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Synopsis

Prince Rhen is cursed. He spurned the wrong woman and is now forced to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year until he can convince another to love him. His fate would be bearable, but at the end of every season, he transforms into a dangerous monster. After his subjects learned to fear the castle on the hill, Rhen sent Grey, the last member of his guard, to find young women in other worlds.

Harper is cursed by reality. Her father left and her mother is losing her fight with cancer. When Harper sees Grey abducting a woman from the streets of D.C., she intervenes, only to get sucked into Rhen’s world. Now, Harper is trapped. But when Harper proves to be more than just another girl to charm, Rhen realizes he can do more than break the curse . . . he can save his kingdom once and for all.

My thoughts

A Curse So Dark and Lonely is an absolutely incredible fantasy novel. Fantastical, thrilling, unique, and so very cleverly plotted, I was entranced from the first page to the last. I love Brigid Kemmerer’s writing and all her books, so I knew I would enjoy A Curse So Dark and Lonely, but I was totally blown away. This Beauty and the Beast retelling is the very best retelling of this, my favourite, fairytale I have ever read – and I have read a few. It is clever, original and, well, I’m seriously impressed.

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