Book Review: Seasons of the Storm

Seasons of the Storm – Elle Cosimano – Seasons of the Storm #1 – HarperTeen – Published 23 June 2020

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Synopsis

One cold, crisp night, Jack Sommers was faced with a choice—live forever according to the ancient, magical rules of Gaia, or die.

Jack chose to live, and in exchange, he became a Winter—an immortal physical embodiment of the season on Earth. Every year, he must hunt the Season who comes before him. Summer kills Spring. Autumn kills Summer. Winter kills Autumn. And Spring kills Winter.

Jack and Fleur, a Winter and a Spring, fall for each other against all odds. To be together, they’ll have to escape the cycle that’s been forcing them apart. But their creator won’t let them go without a fight.

My thoughts

Seasons of the Storm is the first book in a new fantasy duology. It’s kind of like Hunger Games meets the folklore of Jack Frost. Fighting, hunting, rebellions, breakouts, romance, teamwork and magical powers connected to nature and the weather combine to make an epic fantasy.

Jack is the embodiment of winter, just one of hundreds of seasons who have been saved from death and given a second life. There are strict rules a season must follow and the only interaction one season has with other seasons is to hunt and kill the season that comes before them and be hunted and be killed by the season that comes after them. But Jack is falling for Fleur, the spring whose job it is to kill him each year, and her reciprocated feelings are causing her to plummet on the rankings board and risk termination. For a chance to be together, Jack and Fleur have to decide if it is worth risking everything to challenge the system, break the cycle and try and find another way to survive.

This book is set on Earth in a very real and recognisable world. The only difference is that seasons, embodiments of the four seasons, walk among us and control the passing and changing of the seasons with their magic. What the seasons do during their season isn’t really explored all that much. The focus is on the times of change over, when Spring comes to kill Winter, and the time spend in stasis and recharging to go back out into the world again. We also have Chronos and Gaia as Father Time and Mother Earth who are father and daughter. Together with Chronos’ guard, they control the seasons, turning the days spent above ground into a sort of game, with rankings, a score board and a system where those who fall below the red line are culled.

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Book Review: The Archer At Dawn

The Archer At Dawn – Swati Teerdhala – The Tiger At Midnight Trilogy #2 – Katherine Tegen Books – Published 26 May 2020

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Synopsis

The Sun Mela is many things: a call for peace, a cause for celebration, and, above all, a deadly competition. For Kunal and Esha, finally working together as rebel spies, it provides the perfect guise to infiltrate King Vardaan’s vicious court.

Kunal will return to his role as dedicated Senap soldier, at the Sun Mela to provide extra security for the palace during the peace summit for the divided nations of Jansa and Dharka. Meanwhile, Esha will use her new role as adviser to Prince Harun to keep a pulse on shifting political parties and seek out allies for their rebel cause. A radical plan is underfoot to rescue Jansa’s long-lost Princess Reha—the key to the stolen throne.

But amid the Mela games and glittering festivities, much more dangerous forces lie in wait. With the rebel Blades’ entry into Vardaan’s court, a match has been lit, and long-held secrets will force Kunal and Esha to reconsider their loyalties—to their country and to each other. Getting into the palace was the easy task; coming out together will be a battle for their lives.

My thoughts

The Archer at Dawn is the second book in the Tiger At Midnight trilogy. It’s packed full of intrigue, planning, action and court politics. There are secret kisses, secret alliances and big secrets revealed. It’s also slightly torturous  as it seems the closer Esha, Kunal and the Blades move toward their goal the more obstacles there are in their paths and the further they are from achieving anything.

As I was drawing near the conclusion of the book I wasn’t sure I was going to be up for reading the third book. So much of this book’s plotting and scheming seemed about to come to nothing. But, at the last minute, one final reveal that comes out of nowhere had me hooked again and wanting to know what comes next. There’s a lot happening in in this book but I was a little disengaged as it seems like the characters aren’t going to achieve anything.

I like the characters. Esha and Kunal are exploring a new romantic relationship, while also testing the boundaries of their alliance and trust, introducing Kunal to the Blades and relying on him and his new found powers to help them complete the next part of the plan for reclaiming their country.

There is also a slight love triangle and Esha is torn between her new feelings for Kunal and the old, unrequited feelings for Harun. Esha is also torn between her desire for revenge on the people who killed her parents and the safety of the Blades’ mission. It means she makes some silly choices, but you can’t deny the depth of her hurt and yearning for recompense.

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Book Review: Spellhacker

Spellhacker – M.K. England – HarperTeen – Published 21 January 2020

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Synopsis

In Kyrkarta, magic—known as maz—was once a freely available natural resource. Then an earthquake released a magical plague, killing thousands and opening the door for a greedy corporation to make maz a commodity that’s tightly controlled—and, of course, outrageously expensive.

Which is why Diz and her three best friends run a highly lucrative, highly illegal maz siphoning gig on the side. Their next job is supposed to be their last heist ever.

But when their plan turns up a powerful new strain of maz that (literally) blows up in their faces, they’re driven to unravel a conspiracy at the very center of the spellplague—and possibly save the world.

No pressure.

My thoughts

Spellhacker is a fantastic mix of fantasy and science fiction. I can tell you right now it is going to be a pain deciding whether to put it in our YA fantasy or YA Sci-fi section but the pain will be worth it to share this adventure of a novel with our readers. Tech hackers, best friends, diverse romantic relationships, conspiracy theories, magic literally woven with technology and gadgets, explosions, heists and enough action to keep you glued to the pages, M.K England seriously delivers with this fabulous book.

Diz‘s world as she knows it is ending. Her best friends, who, aside from a cousin, are the only family she has since her parents died in the Spellplague that killed thousands, are moving away from their home to new jobs, new Universities. They have time for just one final job, siphoning maz from the tightly controlled supply MMC maintains. But when the job goes horribly wrong, the four friends have to run for their lives, especially when MMC look set to use their mini disaster to cover up the fact they have been secretly mining a new strand of very dangerous maz. To save themselves and clear their names they will have to save their city also.

Spellhacker is such a fun adventure. It’s a combination between a heist novel and fantasy quest, with a bunch of cool tech thrown in. The world in Spellhacker feels almost futuristic – almost dystopian as the destruction caused by maz and the spellplague could easily reflect the natural disasters and impacts of climate change in our own world. Magic, rather than replace or prevent technology, has been neatly intertwined and it makes so much sense. I know readers who frequently ask me for fantasy books that make sense and have scientific backings will love Spellhacker.

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Book Review: The Sky Weaver

The Sky Weaver – Kristen Ciccarelli – Iskari #3 – HarperTeen – Published 12 November 2019

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Synopsis

At the end of one world, there always lies another.

Safire, a soldier, knows her role in this world is to serve the King of Firgaard—helping to maintain the peace in her oft-troubled nation.

Eris, a deadly pirate, has no such conviction. Known as the Death Dancer for her ability to evade even the most determined of pursuers, she possesses a superhuman power to move between worlds.

When one can roam from dimension to dimension, can one ever be home? Can love and loyalty truly exist?

Now Safire and Eris—sworn enemies—find themselves on a common mission: to find Asha, the last Namsara. From the port city of Darmoor to the fabled faraway Star Isles, their search and their stories become woven ever more tightly together as they discover the uncertain fate they’re hurtling towards may just be a shared one. In this world—and the next.

My thoughts

And so concludes the Iskari series. I have loved this fantasy series. Three stories which interconnect but feature three sets of separate main characters set against a colourful magical world of dragons, old tales and fearsome gods.

The Sky Weaver is Safire’s story. Throughout books one and two we readers have learnt only a little about Safire. Cousin to the king but never treated as an equal due to her mother’s low standing. Now she is King Dax’s Commander. When a thief steals a precious gem intended to be sold to buy grain after a devastating famine, Safire vows to catch the thief. Eris would do anything to escape the control of pirate Jemsin, including steal precious gems, sneak her way into the palace and even capture the Namsara. As she and Safire go up against each they, they will discover that sometimes the sides are not so clear and the path of right and wrong not so easy to choose.

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Book Review: Sisters of Shadow and Light

Sisters of Shadow and Light – Sara B. Larson – Sisters of Shadow and Light #1 – Tor Teen – Published 5 November 2019

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Synopsis

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

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

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

My thoughts

What a beautiful book. Sisters of Shadow and Light is everything I love about fantasy novels. It actually reminds me of a grown-up version of The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine, one of my all-time favourite fantasy novels. Sisters of Shadow and Light has so many elements woven together: a sisterly bond that is incredibly strong, a family torn apart and devastated by grief, a barrier between worlds, a magical world with monsters and griffins and magical powers, a fairytale feeling that is both dark and powerful and hopeful and light in the way that only fairytales can be, and some really strong, swoony romance. It’s also a duology!!! And I can’t wait to get my hands on the second book.

Zuhra would do anything for her sister, Inara. She can’t take away the constant roar that drowns out anything else for her sister, leaving her unable to communicate and do little more than mindlessly tend to the garden in their hidden citadel, the citadel that once housed the Paladin – magical warriors who rode winged griffins. She can’t make their cold, distant mother, broken-hearted since their Paladin father disappeared on the night Inara was born, care for her sister. She can’t free them from the living hedge that surrounds their home, protecting the from the people outside, but also trapping them securely within its borders. So when the hedge unexpected allows a young scholar to enter, Zuhra risks encountering her mother’s wrath by asking Halvor to share his knowledge of the Paladin and their magic, in the hopes of freeing Inara and herself from the things that hold them captive.

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Book Review: Winterwood

Winterwood – Shea Ernshaw – Simon Pulse – Published 5 November 2019

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Synopsis

Be careful of the dark, dark wood…

Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even.

Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.

But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago.

My thoughts

Don’t go into the woods…. Winterwood is part murder mystery, part spooky story about evil woods, witches and ghost stories, and part romance. I loved some things about this book and yet other, little, things kept me from really enjoying this book. It wasn’t as scary as I expected, but it will certainly appeal to readers who like a dark atmosphere in their books.

Nora Walker comes from a long line of Walker women who have special powers. Some entered dreams, others wove simple spells and charms, and a few seemed to communicate with animals. Except for Nora. While her classmates and the boys in the nearby Camp for Wayward Boys, whisper that she is a witch, she knows that she is the only Walker woman without any special skill. When, during a massive snow storm, a boy from the camp goes missing and another is dead, Nora is drawn into the mystery when she finds the missing boy in the woods and takes him home.

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Book Review: A Constellation of Roses

A Constellation of Roses – Miranda Asebedo – HarperTeen – Published 5 November 2019

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Synopsis

Ever since her mother walked out, Trix McCabe has been determined to make it on her own. And with her near-magical gift for pulling valuables off unsuspecting strangers, Trix is confident she has what it takes to survive. Until she’s caught and given a choice: jail time, or go live with her long-lost family in the tiny town of Rocksaw, Kansas.

Trix doesn’t plan to stick around Rocksaw long, but there’s something special about her McCabe relatives that she is drawn to. Her aunt, Mia, bakes pies that seem to cure all ills. Her cousin, Ember, can tell a person’s deepest secret with the touch of a hand. And Trix’s great-aunt takes one look at Trix’s palm and tells her that if she doesn’t put down roots somewhere, she won’t have a future anywhere.

Before long, Trix feels like she might finally belong with this special group of women in this tiny town in Kansas. But when her past comes back to haunt her, she’ll have to decide whether to take a chance on this new life . . . or keep running from the one she’s always known.

My thoughts

A Constellation of Roses is a poignant novel about finding your family and a place to belong. With just a touch of magic, this is a realistic novel that is magical in every other way – from the magic of the scent of good baking, to the love and acceptance of family.

Trix has a gift. She can steal anything without being caught. It helps her to survive, especially since her mother left her and never came back. Living week-to-week in run-down motels, Trix is shocked when the police and then the foster system catch up with her. But nothing can prepare her for being told she has a family, that she has an aunt that she will be going to live with. The McCabe women, Trix’s Aunt, cousin and Great Aunt all have gifts, and for once, Trix may finally have found somewhere she could belong — if she can stop herself from running.

Trix is such an awesome character. So strong and brave, yet so heartbroken underneath all that bluster and confidence. I loved that Trix is a good friend. Loved that she is there for people, even if she doesn’t feel like she belongs. Loved that she makes good decisions and is smart and kind, even if she thinks she is not.

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Book Review: The Girl The Sea Gave Back

The Girl the Sea Gave Back – Adrienne Young – Sky in the Deep – Wednesday Books – Published 3 September 2019

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Synopsis

For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse.

For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.

My thoughts

The Girl The Sea Gave Back is a thrilling and sweeping fantasy, with magic, fates, wars, betrayal and destiny, all linked together through two young people who wield the power to change their people’s futures.

I did not realise this was the second book in a series when I started reading it. I had not previously read the first book, Sky In The Deep, which is set ten years prior to The Girl The Sea Gave Back. Fortunately, The Girl The Sea Gave Back is a complete story in its own right, and while there are apparently some character and setting crossovers, both books can be read as standalones.

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Book Review: Serpent & Dove

Serpent & Dove – Shelby Mahurin – Serpent & Dove #1 – HarperTeen – Published 3 September 2019

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Synopsis

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.

My thoughts

Serpent & Dove is an evocative fantasy, with witches and the clergymen that hunt them, one girl torn between two worlds, determined to survive, and very steamy romance.

Lou is a witch. Having left her coven, her magic is something she keeps hidden from most people to avoid the stake and the Chasseurs who hunt witches. But Lou also has another secret, one that makes her do dangerous things. When she and her friend and fellow witch, Coco, attempt to steal a magical ring, she unwittingly puts herself in the crosshairs of Chasseur Reid Diggory. Neither she nor Reid could ever work together, but their paths are irrevocable tied when they are forced into an arranged marriage. As the Chasseurs continue their hunts and the witches grow more bold in their attacks, Lou must keep her identity hidden or risk certain death – from both sides.

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Book Review: Uprooted

Uprooted – Naomi Novik – Pan Macmillan – Published 12 May 2016 (first pub 2015)

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Synopsis

Agnieszka loves her village, set in a peaceful valley. But the nearby enchanted forest casts a shadow over her home. Many have been lost to the Wood and none return unchanged. The villagers depend on an ageless wizard, the Dragon, to protect them from the forest’s dark magic. However, his help comes at a terrible price. A young woman must serve him for ten years, leaving all she values behind. 

Agnieszka fears her dearest friend Kasia will be picked at the next choosing, for she is everything Agnieszka is not – beautiful, graceful and brave. Yet when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he takes.

My thoughts

Loosely based around a Beauty and the Beast retelling, Uprooted is gloriously imagined, with intricate storytelling and a world where witches and wizards must fight against the ever encroaching and corruptive powers of the Woods.

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