Book Review: Don’t Call the Wolf

Don’t Call the Wolf – Aleksandra Ross – HarperTeen – Published 28 April 2020

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Synopsis

When the Golden Dragon descended on the forest of Kamiena, a horde of monsters followed in its wake.

Ren, the forest’s young queen, is slowly losing her battle against them. Until she rescues Lukasz—the last survivor of a heroic regiment of dragon slayers—and they strike a deal. She will help him find his brother, who vanished into her forest… if Lukasz promises to slay the Dragon.

But promises are all too easily broken.

My thoughts

I adored this gorgeous fantasy novel. It feels like a fairytale, but one of the original versions, with truly scary monsters and lots of bloodshed. It also feels like a unique fantasy quest novel, again one that is dark and devious. I loved the characters and loved how they oh so slowly came to like each other and learn to work together. I loved the twist at the end. I loved the magic, the monsters and the evil the characters must face, which brings them all together. But most of all, I loved the world that has been build and the beautiful, descriptive writing that ties it all together and brings it to life.

Ren is Queen of the Forest. With her lynx family and wolf friends, she tries to stave off the ever encroaching press of monsters and darkness that seeks to suck the life out of the forest. They must also avoid humans, who don’t understand them and who cause more harm than good. Lukasz, the youngest of ten brothers is now alone, the last of the Wolf-Lords to traverse the world, fighting monsters and evil. The brothers were exiled from their homeland after the Golden Dragon arrived and over the years, each of the brothers has felt the call to return and try and take their home back from the dragon. Now Lukasz must also return. But as he and Ren reluctantly join forces, they realise their goals are not so different from the other’s.

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Book Review: The Shadows Between Us

The Shadows Between Us – Tricia Levenseller – Feiwel and Friends – Published 25 February 2020

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Synopsis

Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:

1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.

But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?

My thoughts

The Shadows Between Us is deviously, deliciously addictive. I was intrigued by the concept of a Slytherin romance, a story where the heroine was set on murder, deceit and gaining power, but I never imagined being so captured by the story, so entranced by Alessandra’s cunning and plotting, and honestly, even if everything else in this book was atrocious — which it certainly wasn’t — I would have stayed for the romance.

Alessandra has three goals. Draw the attention of the Shadow King. Marry him. Kill him and take the kingdom and the power of the throne for herself. She has no problem with step number one, but the Shadow King seems more set on a platonic arrangement between them rather than marriage as he hunts for his parents’ killer. And as a killer draws closer to the King, Alessandra will have to save the king’s life first if she wants to kill him herself.

Female empowerment. Alessandra radiates it. She does what she wants and plans to give that same power to as many women as possible. And while she isn’t exactly nice, she is fair and never judges. If her friends, or strangers, would rather not act as she does, if they have different plans for their lives and bodies, she is okay with that and believes everyone else should be too.

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Book Review: A Heart So Fierce and Broken

A Heart So Fierce and Broken – Brigid Kemmerer – Cursebreakers #2 – Bloomsbury – Published 7 January 2020

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Synopsis

Find the heir, win the crown.
The curse is finally broken, but Prince Rhen of Emberfall faces darker troubles still. Rumors circulate that he is not the true heir and that forbidden magic has been unleashed in Emberfall. Although Rhen has Harper by his side, his guardsman Grey is missing, leaving more questions than answers.

Win the crown, save the kingdom.
Rumored to be the heir, Grey has been on the run since he destroyed Lilith. He has no desire to challenge Rhen–until Karis Luran once again threatens to take Emberfall by force. Her own daughter Lia Mara sees the flaws in her mother’s violent plan, but can she convince Grey to stand against Rhen, even for the good of Emberfall?

My thoughts

A Heart So Fierce and Broken is the stunning, beautifully written sequel to A Curse So Dark and Lonely. Just when I thought I couldn’t fall any more in love with the complex, layered characters, Brigid Kemmerer changes everything you thought you knew, and then adds more backstory, more details, new characters, and basically rips your heart to shreds while also tenderly caring for it by giving us new characters to love. The setting is the same lush, detailed fantasy world, but now with more countries to explore and learn about. And there is a mix of action, politics, suspense, friendship, romance, alliances, war brokering and heartbreak to keep you gasping cheering, crying and basically salivating the whole way through the book.

A Heart So Fierce and Broken picks up where A Curse So Dark and Lonely finished. Grey is in hiding after learning that he not only has magic but is the secret heir to Emberfall. Rhen hunts the heir as rumours of his existence divide the already fractured kingdom and entice the neighbouring country of Syhl Shallow. Lia Mara is the eldest daughter of Queen Karis Luran. When Karis Luran tries to negotiate with Rhen and fails, Lia Mara sees the flaws in her plan and sets out to try to broker her own deal. With old friendships torn apart and nw alliances forged, the fight for peace may mean moving ever closer to war.

A Heart So Fierce and Broken is the second book in the series and you must read book one before starting this second book. The ending will also have you desperate to get your hands on a copy of the third book.

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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: Damsel

Damsel – Elana K. Arnold – Balzer+Bray – Published 2 October 2018

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Synopsis

The rite has existed for as long as anyone can remember: when the prince-who-will-be-king comes of age, he must venture out into the gray lands, slay a fierce dragon, and rescue a damsel to be his bride. This is the way things have always been.

When Ama wakes in the arms of Prince Emory, however, she knows none of this. She has no memory of what came before she was captured by the dragon, or what horrors she has faced in its lair. She knows only this handsome prince, the story he tells of her rescue, and her destiny to sit on the throne beside him. Ama comes with Emory back to the kingdom of Harding, hailed as the new princess, welcomed to the court.

However, as soon as her first night falls, she begins to realize that not all is as it seems, that there is more to the legends of the dragons and the damsels than anyone knows–and that the greatest threats to her life may not be behind her, but here, in front of her.

My thoughts

A deeply dark and twisted fairytale reimagining, Damsel takes all the usual fairytale gender roles and dials them up to eleven, creating a shockingly reflective story about the worst of gender roles and subjugation.

From the cover and synopsis of Damsel I expected a sweet and adventurous novel about a girl who didn’t fit the damsel mould, who was brave and fought and showed the world how awesome strong girls can be. I expected a celebration of female strength. Instead, going into this book with nothing but the cover and synopsis as a guide, I found a deeply disturbing story about the worst of human behaviour. When Ama is rescued from a dragon by Prince Emory, she must accompany him back to his castle and prepare to become his wife. But Prince Emory is not a kind nor gentle man and Ama wants to discover the truth about the way he freed her from the dragon.

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Book Review: Grace and Fury

Grace and Fury – Tracy Banghart – Hodder Children’s Books – Published 26 July 2018

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Synopsis

In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other on an island prison where women must fight to survive.

Serina has spent her whole life preparing to become a Grace – selected to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining example of the perfect woman.

But her headstrong and rebellious younger sister has a dangerous secret, and one wrong move could cost both sisters everything.

Can Serina fight? And will Nomi win?

My thoughts

Grace and Fury is a compelling and thought-provoking fantasy – no magic, just an invented world that feels historical and transports you to a place much like Venice – that asks, what would you do if you were a girl in a world where women had no power?

I am a huge fan of Tracy Banghart’s Rebel Wing series, so when a fellow reader recommended Grace and Fury to me I was quick to take up the opportunity to read and review an advanced copy of this thrilling and unique YA fantasy.

Tracy has a wonderful way of capturing the essence and voice of her characters, and Grace and Fury centres around Nomi and Serina – two sisters, both trapped in a world that offers women very few choices. Serina has trained all her life to become a Grace – a concubine of the King’s Heir, a position of esteem and luxury, if not power. Nomi hates everything about the world she lives in and rages against the constraints forced upon her. When she accompanied her sister to the palace as her handmaiden, Nomi knows she must hide her rebellion and her deadly secret. But when Nomi is chosen as the Heir’s Grace and Serina is sentenced to an island prison for Nomi’s crime, both girls must decide how much they will risk to survive.

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Book Review: The Queen’s Rising

The Queen’s Rising – Rebecca Ross – The Queen’s Rising #1 – HarperTeen – Published 6 February 2018

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Synopsis

When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.

Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

My thoughts

The Queen’s Rising is a gorgeous fantasy, spectacularly crafted, imaginative, unique and so deliciously easy to be swept up in. It came as a complete surprise and I loved every minute of it.

For seven years, Brienna has struggled to master a passion – music, art, whit, drama and finally knowledge. On the eve of her seventeenth solstice, Brienna will have to prove she has the right to become a Passion and earn a patron. When her fears of failing are realised, she is granted reprieve when a lord agrees to become her patron father. But he seems less interested in her knowledge passion than he is in her new and volatile ability to flash back hundreds of years ago, to a time when the realm to the north was rightfully ruled by a queen. Brienna must decide if she is to become entangled in a plot to over throw a king, and if it is worth the risk to discover more about her secret paternal heritage.

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Book Review: Allied

Allied – Amy Tintera – Ruined #3 – Harper Teen – Published 1 May 2018

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Synopsis

Emelina Flores and her sister, Olivia, were determined to bring peace to the people of Ruina. But as the war for liberation raged on, what triumph and freedom meant to Em and Olivia slowly changed. As Olivia’s violence and thirst for vengeance became her only ambition, Em was left to pick up the pieces.

But it’s not only Em who is upset by Olivia’s increased violence. Other members of the Ruined army are beginning to see the cracks, and soon a small group of them defects from Olivia’s army and joins Em instead. The two sisters are soon pitted against each other in an epic battle for the kingdom and the future, and only one will win.

My thoughts

Allied is, sadly, the third and last book in Amy Tintera’s Ruined series. This fabulous fantasy comes to a satisfying end with plenty of action, romance and intrigue.

Em and Cas have faced many challenges in their efforts to bring peace to Lera. But Em’s sister, Olivia, will not stop in her quest to bring down revenge on those she sees as responsible for the plight of the Ruined. Em must once again choose between her future with Cas and deserting her sister. As enemies march on Lera, Em and her allies will have to draw upon all their resources to fight for the peace they so want.

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Book Review: Onyx & Ivory

Onyx & Ivory – Mindee Arnett – Balzer+Bray – Published 15 May 2018

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Synopsis

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.

My thoughts

Onyx & Ivory is an epic YA fantasy, with equal shares magic, intrigue, power, desperation, uprisings, politics, friendship, and romance.

Three years ago, Kate Brighton’s father attempted to assassinate the High King. Now, Kate is branded as Traitor Kate and works as a Relay Rider, risking her life as she rides between cities. If she doesn’t make it behind protected barrier walls before nightfall she will be attacked and killed by the monstrous Nightdrakes. But Kate hides another deadly secret – she is a Wilder, magic that if discovered will mean she will be put to death. When Prince Corwin appears in Kate’s new hometown it resurrects memories of their shared childhood. Then a horrible Nightdrake attack leaves Corwin’s travelling company killed and himself injured, and as Kate comes to his rescue, their future becomes intwined once again as they face a growing uprising, spreading Nightdrake attacks, and an unsettled political climate.

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Book Review: The Last Namsara

The Last Namsara – Kristen Ciccarelli – Iskari #1 – HarperTeen – Published 3 October 2017

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Synopsis

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be dark—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up hearing in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.

My thoughts

The Last Namsara is a stunningly epic fantasy novel, with aching romance, political intrigue, strong characters, the power and magic of stories, and dragons (everything is better with dragons).

Asha is the deadly and feared Iskari. She hunts dragons for her father, the king, but secretly yearns to tell the forbidden stories that give the dragons more power and once caused the destruction of her city. But with the date of her arranged marriage to the cruel and loathsome Commandant Jarek drawing near, Asha knows her only chance of escape would be retrieving the head of the greatest and oldest dragon. But when her brother returns home with a group of their people’s enemies, and a slave boy crosses boundaries and offers Asha the first signs of trust and affection she has experienced in years, Asha knows that her life, her whole world, is about to change dramatically.

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