Book Review: Sisters of Sword and Song

Sisters of Sword and Song – Rebecca Ross – HarperTeen – Published 23 June 2020

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Synopsis

After eight long years, Evadne will finally be reunited with her older sister, Halcyon, who has been proudly serving in the queen’s army. But when Halcyon appears earlier than expected, Eva knows something has gone terribly wrong. Halcyon is on the run, hunted by her commander and charged with murder.

Though Halcyon’s life is spared during her trial, the punishment is heavy. And when Eva volunteers to serve part of Halcyon’s sentence, she’s determined to find out exactly what happened. But as Eva begins her sentence, she quickly learns that there are fates much worse than death.

My thoughts

Sisters of Sword and Song is a new book by Rebecca Ross. It is not part of the same world or series as her previous two books. Magic combine with legend of gods and relics infused with power. Hand combat joins magic woven in song to wage war against the evil powers that hold the Queen captive. It is a book about the love between sisters. It is a book about powerful women. It is a story about honour and devotion. It feels as if it has been taken from the pages of history.

Sisters of Sword and Song is set in a world that is reminiscent of Ancient Greece. From the dress and the legends of gods and myths to the rocky setting with olive groves and mountains and the fighting and legions of hoplites, everything feels decidedly ancient. Halcyon and Evadne are sisters. They are due to be reunited when Halcyon, long been training and serving in the army, is set to return to their home. But Halcyon arrives a day early and asks Evadne to help her outrun the commander who follows her and seeks justice for the murder of his son. As Halcyon runs and Evadne learns more about the path that Halcyon has trod, she is drawn into a dangerous war involving magic, battles, spies and deceit and a journey to retrieve ancient, powerful relics.

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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: 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: War Girls

War Girls – Tochi Onyebuchi – War Girls #1 – Razorbill – Published 15 October 2019

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Synopsis

The year is 2172. Climate change and nuclear disasters have rendered much of earth unlivable. Only the lucky ones have escaped to space colonies in the sky.

In a war-torn Nigeria, battles are fought using flying, deadly mechs and soldiers are outfitted with bionic limbs and artificial organs meant to protect them from the harsh, radiation-heavy climate. Across the nation, as the years-long civil war wages on, survival becomes the only way of life.

Two sisters, Onyii and Ify, dream of more. Their lives have been marked by violence and political unrest. Still, they dream of peace, of hope, of a future together.

And they’re willing to fight an entire war to get there.

My thoughts

With heartbreaking reflection of the Nigerian Civil War but with a high-tech futurist twist, War Girls is a homage to sisterhood and family forged by the bonds of loss in a detailed sci-fi war novel.

Onyii and Ify are sisters, living in hiding in a secret camp for girls. Both their lives have been touched by the violence of the war in Nigeria. Climate change, nuclear destruction, famine and political unrest have left the country war-torn by battles led by drones, droids and augmented soldiers (those with bionic limbs and tech implants). When a raid on the camp sees the sisters torn apart, they must reconcile their new positions on opposite sides of the war.

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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: With You Always

With You Always – Jody Hedlund – Orphan Train #1 – Bethany House – Published 6 June 2017

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Synopsis

One of the many immigrants struggling to survive in 1850s New York, Elise Neumann knows she must take action to care for her younger sisters. She finds a glimmer of hope when the New York Children’s Aid Society starts sending skilled workers to burgeoning towns out west. But the promise of the society’s orphan trains is not all that it seems.

Born into elite New York society, Thornton Quincy possesses everything except the ability to step out from his brother’s shadow. When their ailing father puts forth a unique challenge to determine who will inherit his railroad-building empire, Thornton finally sees his chance. The conditions to win? Be the first to build a sustainable community along the Illinois Central Railroad and find a suitable wife.

Thrown together against all odds, Elise and Thornton couldn’t be from more different worlds. The spark that ignites between them is undeniable, but how can they let it grow when that means forfeiting everything they’ve been working toward?

My thoughts

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to read all three books in the Orphan Train series all together (one benefit of waiting for an entire series to be published before starting book one). And I am so glad that I could, because as soon as I started the first book in the series I knew I wanted more of this charming family facing such difficulties. More of swoon-worthy romance. More challenges overcome through faith, love and community. As soon as I finished each book I eagerly picked up the next. While each of the three titles in the Orphan Train series could be read as a standalone, I believe that it is much better to read them as a series, better to understand the depth of each of the characters, their relationships and their journeys, separate at times and yet each interconnected.

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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: Things I Never Told You

Things I Never Told You – Beth K. Vogt – Tyndale House Publishers – Published 8 May 2018

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Synopsis

It’s been ten years since Payton Thatcher’s twin sister died in an accident, leaving the entire family to cope in whatever ways they could. No longer half of a pair, Payton reinvents herself as a partner in a successful party-planning business and is doing just fine–as long as she manages to hold her memories and her family at arm’s length.

But with her middle sister Jillian’s engagement, Payton’s party-planning skills are called into action. Which means working alongside her opinionated oldest sister, Johanna, who always seems ready for a fight. They can only hope that a wedding might be just the occasion to heal the resentment and jealousy that divides them . . . until a frightening diagnosis threatens Jillian’s plans and her future. As old wounds are reopened and the family faces the possibility of another tragedy, the Thatchers must decide if they will pull together or be driven further apart.

My thoughts

Things I Never Told You is both heartbreaking and uplifting, a story of sisters, grief, long-held secrets, the things that pull a family apart and the steps needed to bring healing to broken relationships.

Ten years ago, Payton Thatcher’s twin sister died. The Thatcher family coped in different ways, with Payton pulling away from her two older sisters. Now, Payton helps run an event planning business and is forced into working with her eldest sister, Johanna, to plan their middle sister, Jillian’s wedding. But a shocking diagnosis leaves Jillian reeling, while the ten-year anniversary of Pepper’s death has Payton caught in a web of grief and guilt. As the Thatcher sisters face life’s challenges, present and past, they have the opportunity to reassess – both their individual life choices and aspirations, and their relationship as sisters.

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Book Review: Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now – Dana L. Davis – Harlequin Teen – Published 1 May 2018

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Synopsis

For sixteen-year-old Tiffany Sly, life hasn’t been safe or normal for a while. Losing her mom to cancer has her a little bit traumatized and now she has to leave her hometown of Chicago to live with the biological dad she’s never known.

Anthony Stone is a rich man with four other daughters—and rules for every second of the day. Tiffany tries to make the best of things, but she doesn’t fit into her new luxurious, but super-strict, home—or get along with her standoffish sister London. The only thing that makes her new life even remotely bearable is the strange boy across the street. Marcus McKinney has had his own experiences with death, and the unexpected friendship that blossoms between them is the only thing that makes her feel grounded.

But Tiffany has a secret. Another man claims he’s Tiffany’s real dad—and she only has seven days before he shows up to demand a paternity test and the truth comes out. With her life about to fall apart all over again, Tiffany finds herself discovering unexpected truths about her father, her mother and herself, and realizing that maybe family is in the bonds you make—and that life means sometimes taking risks.

My thoughts

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now is a magical kind of book. It is a book that made me laugh and cry, a book that challenges the reader on everything from the definition of family and existential life questions, to acceptance, forgiveness, and the crazy things we do to make the world make sense. It’s a book about never giving up – on life or people. It’s a book about looking past the surface. It’s a book about life. And I loved it.

Tiffany Sly is on a plane to meet her father for the first time. A father she only just learnt about. Still reeling from the death of her mother, a new father is the least of Tiffany’s troubles. Because there is another guy who claims to be her father – and who wants a court-ordered DNA test to prove it. Tiffany has just seven days to meet her ‘father’, find a place in his family, and decide if staying is what she wants.

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