Book Review: Island of Exiles

Island of Exiles

Island of Exiles – Erica Cameron – Ryogan Chronicles #1 – Entangled: Teen – Published 14 February 2017

♥♥♥♥

Synopsis

In this diverse, gritty survival fantasy, a girl warrior turns against her island clan to find the brother they claim died, uncovering secrets. Perfect for fans of Graceling and Snow Like Ashes.

In Khya’s world, every breath is a battle.

On the isolated desert island of Shiara, dying young is inevitable. The clan comes before self, and protecting her home means Khya is a warrior above all else.

But when following the clan and obeying their leaders could cost her brother his life, Khya’s home becomes a deadly trap. The only person who can help is Tessen, her lifelong rival and the boy who challenges her at every turn. The council she hoped to join has betrayed her, and their secrets, hundreds of years deep, reach around a world she’s never seen.

To save her brother’s life and her island home, her only choice is to trust Tessen, turn against her clan, and go on the run—a betrayal and a death sentence.

My thoughts

Island of Exiles is a rich and epic fantasy, incredibly detailed with superb world building. I am picky about what fantasy novels I read, but this one far surpassed all my expectations and I am now eagerly awaiting book two in the series.

When I was offered a chance to read Island of Exiles I was told it was suited to readers of Graceling and Snow Like Ashes. That’s a pretty high standard to reach, but despite that, I was still surprised when this book was actually really very good. It reminded me in parts of Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta (one of my absolute favourite fantasy novels) and The Host by Stephanie Meyer (just the parts about a subsistence culture living in a harsh, desert-like surround, with a strong community focus).

Island of Exiles has some intense and well-layered world building. Every little detail is considered, but there are never any information dumps or description-heavy sections. The new vocabulary in this novel is huge. And yet I never found myself confused or lost. There is a glossary at the back, and while I admit that some of the ranks went over my head so too would any military ranks we use in the real world, so I just kept reading, paying attention to each new word, creature or name as it was introduced. The terms give this novel a distinct Eastern feel and yet the setting, culture, language and people of this book are unique. There are also a whole range of magic powers, a third gender and diverse sexual orientations.

Continue reading

Book Review: The Wish Granter

The Wish Granter

The Wish Granter – C.J. Redwine – Ravenspire #2 – Balzer+Bray – Published 14 February 2017

♥♥♥♥

Synopsis

The world has turned upside down for Thad and Ari Glavan, the bastard twins of Súndraille’s king. Their mother was murdered. The royal family died mysteriously. And now Thad sits on the throne of a kingdom whose streets are suddenly overrun with violence that he can’t stop.

Growing up ignored by the nobility, Ari never wanted to be a proper princess. And when Thad suddenly starts training Ari to take his place, she realizes that her brother’s ascension to the throne wasn’t fate. It was the work of a Wish Granter named Alistair Teague, who tricked Thad into wishing away both the safety of his people and his soul in exchange for the crown.

So Ari recruits the help of Thad’s enigmatic new weapons master, Sebastian Vaughn, to teach her how to fight Teague. With secret ties to Teague’s criminal empire, Sebastian might just hold the key to discovering Alistair’s weaknesses, saving Ari’s brother—and herself.

But Teague is ruthless and more than ready to destroy anyone who dares stand in his way—and now he has his sights set on the princess. And if Ari can’t outwit him, she’ll lose Sebastian, her brother…and her soul.

My thoughts

C.J. Redwine has produced another exciting fairytale retelling that combines strength of character, love, family, resilience, and fighting for freedom despite the costs.

Ari is a newly crowned princess. Her brother has been crowned king after the mysterious death of their father and stepmother. But their thrones come with a serious cost. Ari discovers that her brother made a deal with the Wish Granter, a centuries-old fae who controls the underworld of crime in the kingdom and wants to go unpunished now that he has control over the new king. Ari is determined to break the contact binding her brother and recruits the new, young weapons master Sebastian to help her.

I dare anyone not to like Ari. She is humble, bakes, loves food (and eating), and is smart and kind. She was raised as an illegitimate child of the king, more part of the servants than the nobility. She plays to her strengths. She knows what people think of her and her habits but that doesn’t stop her from being true to herself (or stop her from enjoying regular snacks). Ari is a strong and likeable character, not because she is ruthless or physically strong (tripping over things is more her style), but because she is determined to protect those she cares about and uses her brain. Unlike her brother, I have to say. I wasn’t all that impressed with Thad. If making a deal with the Wish Granter in the first place wasn’t silly enough he remains weak throughout the book. Lucky for him he has Ari.

Continue reading

Book Review: The Edge of Everything

edge-of-everything

The Edge of Everything – Jeff Giles – Bloomsbury Children’s – Published 31 January 2017 (9 February 2017 UK, AUS and NZ)

♥♥♥♥

Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Zoe is still reeling from her father’s sudden death and her neighbors’ mysterious disappearance. Then on a terrifying sub-zero night, she and her brother are brutally attacked in a cabin in the woods—only to be rescued by a mysterious bounty hunter they call X.

X is no ordinary bounty hunter. He’s from a hell called the Lowlands, sent to claim the soul of Zoe’s evil attacker and others like him. Forbidden to reveal himself to anyone besides his victims, X casts aside the rules for Zoe. As X and Zoe learn more about their different worlds, they begin to question the past and their fate. But escaping the ties that bind X might mean the ultimate sacrifice for both of them.

My thoughts

What was that? That cannot be the end? I can’t even. It’s resolved and yet totally unresolved. It’s not quite a cliffhanger but it left me just as desperate for the next book. And there has to be a next book. Got that Jeff Giles? Because I want more X, more Zoe, more Jonah, more of their tough mother, more Ripper and I would really like to see certain heads roll. Edge of Everything is part love story, part supernatural adventure survival story and part heartwarming tale of family. Once I started reading I didn’t want to stop.

This is a good old paranormal, reaper story. A boy locked in the bowls of the Lowlands and forced to reap souls. He has never questioned his role until he meets Zoe. The girl who wasn’t supposed to see him. The girl who fights to save herself, save her brother and even, maybe save him. Zoe knows she and her brother wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for the guy who mysteriously appeared and saved them from their attacker. She takes him home, makes room for him in her grieving little family, shares her hurt, listens to his story without judgement and, unknowingly, brings all the terror of the Lowlands down on them.

The romance in this story is pretty good but it was the characters, that incredible sense of family that really drew me in. Jonah, Zoe’s younger brother, was my favourite character. But then I also loved Zoe’s colourful friends, Zoe’s mother, vegan, believer in all faiths and fiercely protective, X’s Lowland cell mates, and, of course, X and Zoe themselves.

Continue reading

Book Review: Dawn Study

dawn-study

Dawn Study – Maria V. Snyder – Soulfinders series #3, Ixia Chronicles #9 – Mira/Harlequin Teen – Published 23 January 2017

♥♥♥♥♥

Synopsis

Despite the odds, Yelena and Valek have forged an irrevocable bond and a family that transcends borders. Now, when their two homelands stand on the brink of war, they must fight with magic and cunning to thwart an Ixian plot to invade Sitia.

Yelena seeks to break the hold of the insidious Theobroma that destroys a person’s resistance to magical persuasion. But the Cartel is determined to keep influential citizens and Sitian diplomats in thrall and Yelena at bay. With every bounty hunter after her, Yelena is forced to make a dangerous deal.

With might and magic, Valek peels back the layers of betrayal surrounding the Commander. At its rotten core lies a powerful magician and his latest discovery. The fate of all rests upon two unlikely weapons. One may turn the tide. The other could spell the end of everything.

My thoughts

Dawn Study is the long-awaited conclusion to the Soulfinders series and the Ixia Chronicles. How I have loved every single minute spent with Valek, Yelena, and the gang. They have grabbed my heart, taken me on wild adventures, driven me slightly crazy with tension, and changed forever the way I look at books. Dawn Study is everything I was expecting and waiting for. Incredible doesn’t do it justice. Prepare yourself, because this is going to be a long review – when I am this in love I get longwinded.

Yelena and Valek have long been working towards establishing peace between Ixia and Sitia. Now they must face their final battle. The magicians of Sitia are under the control of a rogue group and the Commander is threatening to invade. Yelena, Valek and their friends have until the hot season before they lose their chance of peace once and for all. They will need to sacrifice everything in the hopes of one day being able to raise their family in safety.

Dawn Study kind of felt like both a second-last and last book in the series rolled into one. There is so much contained within its pages. Along with Yelena’s first-person-narrated chapters, readers are treated to chapters from Janco, Valek, Leif and also Heli’s perspectives, told in third person. This keeps the reader well informed about all the different angles of the story and made me pay attention as it sometimes takes a while to circle back around through all the characters. It also made it a little hard to pick the story back after putting it down (because, you know, my boss doesn’t like it when I read all day, although “it’s Dawn Study” might have proven a worthy excuse). But these multiple perspectives are necessary to continue the story and I absolutely love the extra insight we get into all the characters.  Continue reading

Book Review: Frostblood

frostblood

Frostblood – Elly Blake – Frostblood Saga #1 – Hachette Australia – Published 10 January 2016

♥♥♥♥

Synopsis

In a land governed by the cruel Frostblood ruling class, seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has spent most of her life hiding her ability to manipulate heat and light – until the day the soldiers come to raid her village and kill her mother. Ruby vows revenge on the tyrannous Frost King responsible for the massacre of her people.

But Ruby’s powers are unpredictable…and so are the feelings she has for Arcus, the scarred, mysterious Frostblood warrior who shares her goal to kill the Frost King, albeit for his own reasons. When Ruby is captured by the Frost King’s men, she’s taken right into the heart of the enemy. Now she only has one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who took everything from her – and in doing so, she must unleash the powers she’s spent her whole life withholding.

My thoughts

Frostblood is an epic fantasy adventure that tells of a kingdom where darkness rules, frost covers the land and fire has all but been stamped out. Bloodshed, hatred, deadly battles, frost and fire magic, an evil-controlled king, magical training, and romance – this book has everything I need in a good fantasy.

Being a Frostblood means a death sentence. The king rules the land with ice, terror, and death. Ruby has lived a simple life hiding her gift of fire and helping her mother as a healer. But when the king’s soldiers raid her village and kill her mother, Ruby vows revenge. Taken to prison, her gift is hampered by damp and ice until she is rescued by a monk with the frost gift and a sullen and angry young man. They say they too seek to dethrone the king but they are hiding things from Ruby. Ruby will have to risk everything if she is to have the revenge she desires.

Ahh, the romance. There is nothing quite like a match that starts off with anger, distrust, and fear and that slowly warms (or in this case also melts) to become a partnership that stands strong against darkness and might even save the world. Ruby and Arcus despise each other from the start. But they each have need of the other if they are to have revenge and free the kingdom from tyranny. I love their fight, their passion, and their gentle coming together. She names him Arcus the Angry, he insults her gift and calls her a bundle of crackling firewood. Truly, is there anything better than a love story that starts off as far from love as you can get?

Continue reading

Book Review: Fate of Flames

Fate of Flames

Fate of Flames – Sarah Raughley – Effigies #1 – Simon Pulse – Published 22 November 2016

♥♥♥♥

Synopsis

Four girls with the power to control the elements and save the world from a terrible evil must come together in the first epic novel in a brand-new series.

When Phantoms—massive beasts made from nightmares and darkness—suddenly appeared and began terrorizing the world, four girls, the Effigies, each gained a unique power to control one of the classical elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Since then, four girls across the world have continually fought against the Phantoms, fulfilling their cosmic duty. And when one Effigy dies, another girl gains her power as a replacement.

But now, with technologies in place to protect the world’s major cities from Phantom attacks, the Effigies have stopped defending humanity and, instead, have become international celebrities, with their heroic feats ranked, televised, and talked about in online fandoms.

Until the day that New York City’s protection against the Phantoms fails, a man seems to be able to control them by sheer force of will, and Maia, a high school student, unexpectedly becomes the Fire Effigy.

Now Maia has been thrown into battle with three girls who want nothing to do with one another. But with the first human villain that the girls have ever faced, and an army of Phantoms preparing for attack, there isn’t much time for the Effigies to learn how to work together.

Can the girls take control of their destinies before the world is destroyed forever?

My thoughts

I love superhero books, so I was excited by the premise of a strong cast of females with impressive powers (and a touch of both glamour and drama) in a fantasy setting. Fate of Flames delivers plenty of action and mystery, and all the drama you would expect when throwing four girls together and hoping they can save the world.

Maia knows everything there is to know about the Effigies, four girls gifted with the powers of the elements to fight the Phantoms that plague the world. Maia just never expected to become an Effigy herself. But with a new villain who can seemingly control the Phantoms, Maia will have to quickly get used to playing the hero, even if she’s not sure how.

The description of Avengers meets Sailor Moon is apt, I think. Especially the part where the Avengers fight between themselves and generally create destruction wherever they go. Similar too is the organisation that seeks to control the Effigies, while keeping many things hidden from them. It’s fun going on an adventure with Maia as she travels some major cities of the world, fighting monstrous beasts (or running away from them) and trying to uncover the villain’s evil plan.

Continue reading

Book Review: Frost Like Night

Frost Like Night

Frost Like Night – Sara Raasch – Snow Like Ashes #3 – Balzer + Bray – published 20 September 2016

♥♥♥♥♥

Synopsis

Angra is alive, his Decay is spreading—and no one is safe.

Meira will do anything to save her world. With Angra trying to break through her mental defences, she desperately needs to learn to control her own magic—so when the leader of a mysterious Order from Paisly offers to teach her, she jumps at the chance. But the true solution to stopping the Decay lies in a labyrinth deep beneath the Season Kingdoms. To defeat Angra, Meira will have to enter the labyrinth, destroy the very magic she’s learning to control—and make the biggest sacrifice of all.

Mather will do anything to save his queen. He needs to rally the Children of the Thaw, find Meira—and finally tell her how he really feels. But with a plan of attack that leaves no kingdom unscathed and a major betrayal within their ranks, winning the war—and protecting Meira—slips farther and farther out of reach.

Ceridwen will do anything to save her people. Angra had her brother killed, stole her kingdom, and made her a prisoner. But when she’s freed by an unexpected ally who reveals a shocking truth behind Summer’s slave trade, Ceridwen must take action to save her true love and her kingdom, even if it costs her what little she has left.

As Angra unleashes the Decay on the world, Meira, Mather, and Ceridwen must bring the kingdoms of Primoria together…or lose everything.

My thoughts

Frost Like Night is the third and final instalment in the Snow Like Ashes series. I have truly loved and treasured this series. A deeply layered and creative fantasy world, an abundance of loveable characters, the end of a love triangle that is very satisfying, epic adventure, danger, fighting, makeshift families, love, friendship, fabulous scenery, a strong and likeable female lead character and romance (multiple romances) that has your toes curling and you jumping up and down in glee (or maybe that’s just me). Who wouldn’t love fantasy books when they are written like this!!

Finally we get to return to Primoria, return to the Winter Princess Meira as she fights to save not only her homeland and people but all inhabitants of Primoria. This battle will be the culmination of everything Meria, Mather, Sir, and the people of Winter have spent their lives fighting for.

Continue reading

Book Review: Ruined

Ruined

Ruined – Amy Tintera – HarperTeen – Published 3 May 2016

♥♥♥♥

Synopsis

Emelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war. She lacks the powers of her fellow Ruined. Worst of all, she witnessed her parents’ brutal murders and watched helplessly as her sister, Olivia, was kidnapped.

But because Em has nothing, she has nothing to lose. Driven by a blind desire for revenge, Em sets off on a dangerous journey to the enemy kingdom of Lera. Somewhere within Lera’s borders, Em hopes to find Olivia. But in order to find her, Em must infiltrate the royal family.

In a brilliant, elaborate plan of deception and murder, Em marries Prince Casimir, next in line to take Lera’s throne. If anyone in Lera discovers Em is not Casimir’s true betrothed, Em will be executed on the spot. But it’s the only way to salvage Em’s kingdom and what is left of her family.

Em is determined to succeed, but the closer she gets to the prince, the more she questions her mission. Em’s rage-filled heart begins to soften. But with her life—and her family—on the line, love could be Em’s deadliest mistake.

My thoughts

Ruined is an action-packed fantasy with plenty of vibrant characters, violent battles, and swoony romance.

It’s really interesting to start a book with a very strong heroine, instantly likeable but who wants to show the humans pain and make them pay, who has been raised to value violence, war and destruction. That’s what we find in Emelina, daughter of the feared Queen of the Ruined. Emelina has no Ruined powers herself, so instead relies on her ability to fight and deceive to seek vengeance for the murder of her mother and father, help find her kidnapped sister, save the Ruined from continued persecution and execution, and rid the world of the evil that is the royalty of Lera. First step in that plan is impersonating Lera’s Prince Cas’ fiancé.

Em and Cas start as strangers, with Em fiercely despising Cas and everything he stands for. But it isn’t long before Em starts to realise that Cas is nothing like his father, the King of Lera. While the feelings and attraction between Em and Cas do develop pretty quickly, Em’s reluctance to completely overthrow her long-held hatred for the Lera prevents it from feeling too quick. They have some great chemistry and really click through their shared use of sarcasm and growing unease over the killings and torture of the Ruined. Their romance story feels genuine and strong and I’m looking forward to seeing what will happen in the next book regarding their relationship.     Continue reading

Book Review: The Girl From Everywhere

The Girl From Everywhere

The Girl From Everywhere – Heidi Heilig – Greenwillow Books – Published 16 February 2016

♥♥♥♥

Synopsis

Sixteen-year-old Nix Song is a time-traveller. She, her father and their crew of time refugees travel the world aboard The Temptation, a glorious pirate ship stuffed with treasures both typical and mythical. Old maps allow Nix and her father to navigate not just to distant lands, but distant times – although a map will only take you somewhere once. And Nix’s father is only interested in one time, and one place: Honolulu 1868. A time before Nix was born, and her mother was alive. Something that puts Nix’s existence rather dangerously in question…

Nix has grown used to her father’s obsession, but only because she’s convinced it can’t work. But then a map falls into her father’s lap that changes everything. And when Nix refuses to help, her father threatens to maroon Kashmir, her only friend (and perhaps, only love) in a time where Nix will never be able to find him. And if Nix has learned one thing, it’s that losing the person you love is a torment that no one can withstand. Nix must work out what she wants, who she is, and where she really belongs before time runs out on her forever.

My thoughts

This is a unique fantasy novel, twisting legends with history, all mixed up with a bit of time travel aboard a pirate ship. The characters are just as diverse, from the charming and roguish (and handsome) Persian thief Kash, to our main character Nix, daughter of the captain, navigator and sixteen years of age (even though she was born in 1868).

The Girl From Everywhere is vibrant, full of the colours, languages and cultures of the lands the crew of the Temptation travel to, both historical and fantastical. Hawaii plays a particularly large role, and Heidi Heilig’s knowledge of the area shines through the rich tapestry of the world she has created in this story.     Continue reading

Book Review: The Shadow Queen

9780062360243

The Shadow Queen – C.J. Redwine – Ravenspire #1 –

♥♥♥ ♥

Synopsis

Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighbouring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.

But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.

My thoughts

In a current era of young adult fiction where fairytale retellings abound in great numbers, this story is epic, clever, familiar, original, fun, and so enjoyable to read. With one tough, warrior princess, an evil queen, a gorgeous new fantasy world to discover, a charming and slightly adorable romantic interest and even dragons (dragons!!!), The Shadow Queen is set apart from your average fairytale retelling.

Once upon a time there was a princess who was unlike any other princess. She lived, not in a castle but on the streets, moving from town to town. She was clever and strong. She fought and trained, and she worked hard for every mouthful of food. She loved her brother and desperately missed her dead father and mother, and she knew that one day she would enact revenge and would restore her kingdom to health and prosperity.

Lorelai lost almost everything the day her stepmother, Irina, killed her father and assumed the crown of Ravenspire. Lorelai escaped with her younger brother Leo and loyal guardsman, Gabril. For nine years she has evaded Irina, stealing from the Queen’s stores, helping the peasants who starve under Irina’s harsh rule, and planning for the day when she can take back her kingdom. In the neighbouring kingdom of Eldr, Prince Kol is shocked by the tragic death of his family, leaving him to take the throne as Eldr’s new king. But with ogres marching ever closer to the heart of his kingdom and leaving destruction in their wake, he fears his only available course of action is to approach Queen Irina of Ravenspire and beg for her help in securing Eldr’s safety.   Continue reading