Tarnished Empire by Danielle L. Jensen

Summary:
A siege is laid against the last resistance to the Senate’s rule. As the battle rages, a commander, a soldier, and a rebel will decide how far they are willing to go for victory.
THE COMMANDER
Marcus is forced to choose between destroying the rebel forces and liberating his legion. He must face the true cost of being a leader. And an oppressor.
THE SOLDIER
Agrippa sets his sights on glory to fill the deepening void within him. He discovers that the price of fame might not just be paid in blood, it might be paid by his heart.
THE REBEL
Silvara joins the rebel forces to fight against the legions who would see her family dead. While she dreams of being a warrior, she finds her sharpest weapon is seduction. But to defeat the Empire, she’ll have to betray the young man who now has her heart.
DEFIANCE IS TREASON. TREASON IS DEATH.
Inspired by the harsh world of ancient Rome, readers are obsessed with this martial tale of fiery romance, friendship, and enmity. Told from three points of view, Tarnished Empire is filled with twists you’ll never see coming but will keep you turning the pages all night.
Tarnished Empire is set in the world of Danielle L. Jensen’s Dark Shores. But readers new to the world can begin here.

Review:
Tarnished Empire is a prequel to my beloved Dark Shores series. This follows Marcus, who we meet in the first book and Agrippa who I won’t get into specifics about.
I enjoyed this book. It’s written in the Danielle Jensen fashion where the story is full of action and excitement, but there’s an emotional upheaval and resolution to the story as well. We get all of those things in this book.
I was happy to read this and get new content set in one of my favorite worlds.
I don’t know that it added all that much extra to the overall story, but I had fun while reading it and I definitely enjoyed my time spend reading.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Serpent’s Curse by Lisa Maxwell

Summary:
Esta isn’t a stranger to high-stakes heists. She’s a seasoned thief who has no reservations about using her affinity for time to give her an edge, and she’s trained her whole life for one mission: travel back to 1902 New York, steal the ancient Book of Mysteries, and use its power to destroy the Brink and free the Mageus from the Order’s control.
But the Book held a danger that no one anticipated—Seshat, an angry goddess was trapped within its pages. Now that terrible power lives within Harte, and if given the chance, Seshat will use Esta to destroy the world and take her revenge.
Only Esta and Harte stand in her way.
Yet in their search to recover the elemental stones needed to bind Seshat’s power, Esta and Harte have found themselves stranded in time with a continent between them. As Esta fights to get back to Harte, the Order is no longer the only obstacle standing in her way.
Saving Harte—and magic itself—will put even Esta’s skills to the test. And all the while, another danger grows, one more terrible than both Seshat and the Order combined… 

Review:
The Serpent’s Curse is the third book in the Last Magician series. I’ve loved this series since it first came out, but honestly I’ve lost a little interest having to wait so long for the books. This third book was an enjoyable one.
I’m going to be honest. It wasn’t an overly memorable story. But I enjoyed it. Esta and Harte had adventures, both together and apart. Things were incredibly serious, but everyone was alright in the end.
I think I’ll finish this series since the final installment is out later this year, but I don’t think things needed to drag on as long as they have.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Edgewood by Kristen Ciccarelli

Summary:
No matter how far she runs, the forest of Edgewood always comes for Emeline Lark. The scent of damp earth curls into her nose when she sings and moss creeps across the stage. It’s as if the woods of her childhood, shrouded in folklore and tall tales, are trying to reclaim her. But Emeline has no patience for silly superstitions.
When her grandfather disappears, leaving only a mysterious orb in his wake, the stories Emeline has always scoffed at suddenly seem less foolish. She enters the forest she has spent years trying to escape, only to have Hawthorne Fell, a handsome and brooding tithe collector, try to dissuade her from searching.
Refusing to be deterred, Emeline finds herself drawn to the court of the fabled Wood King himself. She makes a deal—her voice for her grandfather’s freedom. Little does she know, she’s stumbled into the middle of a curse much bigger than herself, one that threatens the existence of this eerie world she’s trapped in, along with the devastating boy who feels so familiar.
With the help of Hawthorne—an enemy turned reluctant ally who she grows closer to each day—Emeline sets out to not only save her grandfather’s life, but to right past wrongs, and in the process, discover her true voice.

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
Edgewood follows Emeline Lark who is a singer chasing her dream of getting signed and a record deal. But Emeline is being called back to her hometown, Edgewood. Her grandfather goes missing just before Emeline is supposed to set off on her first real tour. She returns home and gets pulled into the mystery and magic of the forest. But even though she finds her grandfather, she’s left with so many questions that she just can’t let go.
I really enjoyed this story. It was fast-paced and engaging. I was never bored or wondered where the story was going. I was eager to find out how all the pieces were going to come together. I think my only complaint is that the ending felt a bit rushed. I don’t know if that’s just because I wanted more or what. There were a few twists that I guessed early on, but those predictions didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story. 
I think aside from the fantasy/fae aspect of the story the romance was my favorite part of the story. It was easy to see who the romantic pair was going to be, but I still thoroughly enjoyed following them as they came together.   Outside of the romance,  I liked the family aspects of the story. It was a compelling struggle for Emeline to feel guilt about leaving her grandfather even though he doesn’t remember who she is. And the mystery with her mom was an interesting one too.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was a fast-paced story that had interesting world-building and characters that were easy to get invested in. I will definitely be recommending this one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria

Summary:
In the city of Eldra, people are ruled by ancient prophecies. For centuries, the high council has stayed in power by virtue of the prophecies of the elder seers. After the last infallible prophecy came to pass, growing unrest led to murders and an eventual rebellion that raged for more than a decade.
In the present day, Cassa, the orphaned daughter of rebels, is determined to fight back against the high council, which governs Eldra from behind the walls of the citadel. Her only allies are no-nonsense Alys, easygoing Evander, and perpetually underestimated Newt, and Cassa struggles to come to terms with the legacy of rebellion her dead parents have left her — and the fear that she may be inadequate to shoulder the burden. But by the time Cassa and her friends uncover the mystery of the final infallible prophecy, it may be too late to save the city — or themselves.

Book Cover

Review:
Beneath the Citadel follows a cast of six characters: Alys, Cassa, Vesper, Evander, Newt, and occasionally the Chancellor. The story takes place in a fantasy world where the city is ruled by a group of incredibly corrupt councilors. They do what suits themselves and the high class, leaving the lower class to fend for themselves. Obviously, this leads to a rebellion. But what was interesting about this story is that the rebellion was in the past. It failed and we are following the next generation, children of well know rebel leaders and other interesting characters, as they try to solve the smaller mystery of why people are getting sick and losing their memories within the citadel.
I devoured this book. Once I started reading, I just couldn’t stop. I loved the cast of characters. They all had well-developed and interesting backstories. Their motivations were clear and easy to sympathize with. They were all really easy to become invested in. They were also diverse as hell. There was BIPOC representation, asexual representation, and bisexual representation. I can’t speak to all of these, but I was absolutely living for the bisexual representation that we got. Even though most of this story was action-packed and plot-focused, I absolutely loved the smaller bits of romance that we got.
The story itself was so engaging. It was unique and creative. There were little mysteries that pulled me in. It was compelling because I genuinely didn’t know which of the “bad guys” were the actual bad guys. I think the writing was also absolutely beautiful. There were so many lines I wanted to highlight and save. Also, a small thing that I noticed, but the story was paced really well and I really loved that the author obviously made a point to include the characters figuring out what time it was in the story. This gave us a guideline of what events happened in a certain time span. I think this was such a great way to show the pacing of the story.
Overall, I will absolutely be recommending this book in the future and reading more by this author. Soria managed to write a compelling fantasy filled with characters that were diverse and so easy to love. I’ve had a hard time getting invested in YA fantasy lately, but that didn’t happen at all with this story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard

Summary:
A strange darkness grows in Allward.
Even Corayne an-Amarat can feel it, tucked away in her small town at the edge of the sea.
She soon discovers the truth: She is the last of an ancient lineage—and the last hope to save the world from destruction. But she won’t be alone. Even as darkness falls, she is joined by a band of unlikely companions:
A squire, forced to choose between home and honor.
An immortal, avenging a broken promise.
An assassin, exiled and bloodthirsty.
An ancient sorceress, whose riddles hide an eerie foresight.
A forger with a secret past.
A bounty hunter with a score to settle.
Together they stand against a vicious opponent, invincible and determined to burn all kingdoms to ash, and an army unlike anything the realm has ever witnessed.

Book Cover

Review:
Despite my trouble with YA books (most specifically YA fantasy) lately, Realm Breaker really had the potential to blow me away. I really liked most of the characters right away. I thought the world was interesting and I was excited to learn more about its history Amanda how things were in the present day. But then the book went on for almost 600 pages and Perry much nothing happened until the final pages of the story.
We follow a wide cast of characters. So many that for the first 200 pages I had trouble remembering who they all were. Things got easier once the whole group was together but the story is multi-perspective, so it took me a bit longer than I’d usually like. I thought the characters were interesting. They were absolutely the best part of this book. A ragtag group of people that have no business saving the world together makes for an interesting story. Except that they didn’t do anything. They traveled and found more people for almost the entire book.
The world was the other thing I liked. I think it’s obvious that Aveyard spent ample time building this world and all its various kingdoms. The settings were interesting. Each kingdom they visited was unique and interesting. I’d love to learn more about the history of this world. I’d also love to know more about these other worlds that are mentioned as bad places. There are a few other worlds mentioned that have to do with the plot that I thought had the potential to be incredibly fascinating.
Overall, this didn’t hit the mark for me. While I liked the characters and I thought the world was interesting, the plot leaves a lot to be desired. When I’m reading a story about an unlikely group of heroes saving the world, I’d like to actually see them do some world-saving.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blog Tour: The Iron Sword by Julie Kagawa

Summary:
As Evenfall nears, the stakes grow ever higher for those in Faery…
Banished from the Winter Court for daring to fall in love, Prince Ash achieved the impossible and journeyed to the End of the World to earn a soul and keep his vow to always stand beside Queen Meghan of the Iron Fey.
Now he faces even more incomprehensible odds. Their son, King Keirran of the Forgotten, is missing. Something more ancient than the courts of Faery and more evil than anything Ash has faced in a millennium is rising as Evenfall approaches. And if Ash and his allies cannot stop it, the chaos that has begun to divide the world will shatter it for eternity.

The Iron Sword by Julie Kagawa

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and Inkyard Press for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. This review is a part of the promotional blog tour for The Iron Sword’s release.
The Iron Sword follows Ash’s point of view. I was mistaken in my assumption (which I mentioned in my review of the first book) that this spin-off series was all going to be from Puck’s perspective. I’m not going to lie, I was a little bummed when I realized that this book wasn’t from Puck’s perspective, but I absolutely see and appreciate what Kagawa seems to be going for here with each book being from a different character’s point of view. It makes me very curious as to who we will be experiencing the third book through.
I think the plot of the story was compelling and engaging. We’re solving the mystery of “where did Kierran disappear to?” But that mystery brings up quite a few other questions and all of these things roll together into the plot of this book. I think it was engaging enough to keep my interest. But also, I had enough questions answered along the way that I never felt frustrated that getting the answers was taking too long. I do have to say, holy cliffhanger (also, like, literally, hahah.)
Overall, I thought this was a quick read and I really enjoyed being back with a cast of characters that I know and love. But, like I said in my review for the first book, I would have liked some new characters to follow and root for in this world. It felt like I was plopped right back into the original series aside from the fact that Ash emphasized that Kierran was his son, and brought up all the things they’d been through and struggled with in the previous books as reminders that this series now spans many, many years. We did get to see some other familiar faces (like Ethan and Kenzie) which was an absolute joy. I will forever love this world. So, I cannot wait to see how this trilogy will end.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

Summary:
Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient, rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield–her brother, fighting with the enemy–the brother she watched die five years ago.
Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.
She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.

Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

Review:
I have finally managed to pick up Sky in the Deep. I can see why so many people love this book. It has all the popular tropes but most specifically, it’s enemies to lovers.
We follow Eelyn during fighting season. She thinks she’s just seen her brother, except that he’s been dead for five years. But then she sees him again the next day and this time she follows him. That choice leads to her being taken by the Riki, the enemy clan. But once she’s been brought to a Riki village in the mountains, she learns that her brother didn’t die five years ago. She plans to escape and make her way home while grappling with the emotions of her brother’s betrayal. But then Riki villages are being attacked, and not by the Aska. The only chance for survival might be for the two clans to finally put aside their feud and defeat this new enemy together.
I really enjoyed this book. It starts off really exciting and right in the thick of things. Eelyn is in the middle of fighting in the opening pages and she’s taken by her brother and Fiske only a few chapters into the story. I think this made it a little harder to connect with Eelyn and to empathize with her when she’s feeling the betrayal of her brother. But she’s a fierce and fiery main character so it was hard not to like her. I could totally see where things were going between her and Fiske right from the start but I did enjoy the journey of their romance.
I think the world was just as compelling as the characters. We really only learn about the Aska and the Riki as well as a very small bit about the third clan. I thought their gods were interesting and I would have liked to learn more about all of the gods. It’s a story that totally has Viking feels to it, so I wanted to know if the clans believed in all the gods but only served one? How did it all work between the different clans? I also wanted to know more about the history between the Riki and the Aska. Why had they been feuding for so long? Was it just because the two clans served different gods?
Overall, I had a good time reading this one. I think the world was interesting and definitely left me wanting to know more. I really grew to love the characters and their complex relationships. I ended the story being very invested in Fiske and Eelyn’s romance, for sure. Overall, I’m glad I finally picked up this story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer

Summary:
The kingdom of Kandala is on the brink of disaster. Rifts between sectors have only worsened since a sickness began ravaging the land, and within the Royal Palace, the king holds a tenuous peace with a ruthless hand.
King Harristan was thrust into power after his parents’ shocking assassination, leaving the younger Prince Corrick to take on the brutal role of the King’s Justice. The brothers have learned to react mercilessly to any sign of rebellion–it’s the only way to maintain order when the sickness can strike anywhere, and the only known cure, an elixir made from delicate Moonflower petals, is severely limited.
Out in the Wilds, apothecary apprentice Tessa Cade is tired of seeing her neighbors die, their suffering ignored by the unyielding royals. Every night, she and her best friend Wes risk their lives to steal Moonflower petals and distribute the elixir to those who need it most–but it’s still not enough.
As rumors spread that the cure no longer works and sparks of rebellion begin to flare, a particularly cruel act from the King’s Justice makes Tessa desperate enough to try the impossible: sneaking into the palace. But what she finds upon her arrival makes her wonder if it’s even possible to fix Kandala without destroying it first.
Set in a richly imaginative world with striking similarities to our own, Brigid Kemmerer’s captivating new series is about those with power and those without… and what happens when someone is brave enough to imagine a new future.

Book Cover

Review:
Defy the Night follows Tessa Cade and Prince Corrick who live in the kingdom of Kandala. Their kingdom is overrun with sickness and the people are suffering. We get to see two very different sides of the struggle since Tessa is an orphan, barely making ends meet. But Prince Corrick lives among the elite. He lives in a palace, with unlimited access to the medicine that will help the sickness. But we also get to see that not everything is black and white. Corrick is known to be incredibly cruel and ruthless, but We learn that there’s more to it than that.
I think Kemmerer has a great writing style and the pace of the story never slowed. Once I got to the 100-page mark, I just flew through the story. I was interested in the world and politics. I think sometimes with big worlds like this where we see players from other areas, a lot of the world outside of the main setting can get lost, but I don’t think that happened. I feel like I had a really good understanding of the surrounding areas.
As for our two main characters, I liked them. I liked that there were two sides to Corrick that we got to see. But I would have actually liked to see a bit more of “Cruel Corrick” in action. We see him do things because he HAS to, but from things that other characters say, it’s clear that he doesn’t really have the effect he’s going for. We’re told, often, why the people think of him this way, but we don’t really get to see it. Tessa was easy to love. She’s dealt with hardship. She witnessed her parents killed. But none of that hardened her. She’s still a really nice and sometimes naive girl. I wanted to see more of her apothecary knowledge at work.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I liked both the main characters. They had backstories that made sense for who they are now. The world was descriptive but still easy to understand. I liked most of the supporting characters too. I also really enjoyed that this book was wrapped up pretty nicely. I think I will continue the series when the next book comes out.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Boy With Fire by Aparna Verma

Summary:
Dune meets The Poppy War in Aparna Verma’s The Boy with Fire, a glorious yet brutal tour-de-force debut that grapples with the power and manipulation of myth in an Indian-inspired epic fantasy.
Yassen Knight was the Arohassin’s most notorious assassin until a horrible accident. Now, he’s on the run from the authorities and his former employer. But when Yassen seeks refuge with an old friend, he’s offered an irresistible deal: defend the heir of Ravence from the Arohassin, and earn his freedom.
Elena Ravence prepares to ascend the throne. Trained since birth in statecraft, warfare, and the desert ways, Elena knows she is ready. She only lacks one thing: the ability to hold Fire. With the coronation only weeks away, she must learn quickly or lose her kingdom.
Leo Ravence is not ready to give up the crown. There’s still too much work to be done, too many battles to be won. But when an ancient prophecy threatens to undo his lifetime of work, Leo wages war on the heavens themselves to protect his legacy.
The first of The Ravence Trilogy, The Boy with Fire is the tale of a world teetering on the edge of war and prophecy, of fate and betrayal, of man’s irrevocable greed for power — and the sacrifices that must come with it.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced review copy. All opinions are my own. The Boy With Fire follows three points of view, for the most part. The king, Leo, his daughter and heir, Elena, and an assassin, Yassen. Yassen is defecting from the assassin organization he’s been a part of since they recruited him as an orphaned child. He’s been made a part of Elena’s guard. It’s almost time for Elena to claim the throne. Elena’s coronation is what most of this book is leading up to. Until the coronation, it’s mostly world-building and character building, as well as, the politics of the kingdom and the potential arrival of someone called the Prophet.
I thought the world-building was interesting enough. I think fantasy is just not my genre lately. I had a really hard time focusing until more than halfway into the story. It wasn’t that the world-building was overly complicated because it wasn’t. It was detailed and complex, but not so much so that it was confusing. It was interesting, I just wasn’t invested. I don’t think it was any fault of the story that I wasn’t invested either. The writing was really good. There were quite a few parts where the writing really stuck out as good and memorable. I think I just personally need to take a break from fantasy.
I felt similarly about the characters. They were all well developed and interesting. But I wasn’t invested. Again, I think this was a me thing and not really the fault of the book. I liked Elena the most because she’s about to become Queen and her father won’t prepare her in the ways that he’s supposed to. So, she takes it upon herself to train from scrolls and literature. She’s stubborn and very obviously loves her kingdom. Yassen was an interesting character too because he’s finally back home in the country he grew up in and that brings some tough memories back up. He’s also is not looked upon very favorably because of the assassin organization he was a part of. But he proves himself loyal. I think the twists involving Yassen were some of the better ones in the story and also the twist at the end with Samson was totally a surprise.
Overall, this was a well-written and well-explained fantasy world with characters that were well developed. I don’t have any negative things to say about the story aside from the fact that I wasn’t really invested in any of it, the world or the characters. But, one last time, I think that’s a personal thing that I’m dealing with for the genre of fantasy at the moment and not the fault of the story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Day Eleven: 10 Books I’d Gift to Fantasy Readers

Hello, lovelies! I was trying to think of some holiday bookish content that I could get excited about and I came up with what’s going to be a bit of a mini-series over the next week or so. Today I’m going to share some underrated fantasy books that you could give to that reader that’s already read everything. Basically, I’m writing this post for anyone buying for a fellow bookworm that reads a lot of the fantasy genre. These are all going to be books that I don’t often see anyone talk about, but that I really loved.

Middle Grade

Book Cover

Paola Santiago and the River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Mejia
“Space-obsessed 12-year-old Paola Santiago and her two best friends, Emma and Dante, know the rule: Stay away from the river. It’s all they’ve heard since a schoolmate of theirs drowned a year ago. Pao is embarrassed to admit that she has been told to stay away for even longer than that, because her mother is constantly warning her about La Llorona, the wailing ghost woman who wanders the banks of the Gila at night, looking for young people to drag into its murky depths. Hating her mother’s humiliating superstitions and knowing that she and her friends would never venture into the water, Pao organizes a meet-up to test out her new telescope near the Gila, since it’s the best stargazing spot. But when Emma never arrives and Pao sees a shadowy figure in the reeds, it seems like maybe her mom was right. . . . Pao has always relied on hard science to make sense of the world, but to find her friend she will have to enter the world of her nightmares, which includes unnatural mist, mind-bending monsters, and relentless spirits controlled by a terrifying force that defies both logic and legend.”

Young Adult

Book Cover

Dark Shores by Danielle L. Jensen
“In a world divided by meddlesome gods and treacherous oceans, only the Maarin possess the knowledge to cross the Endless Seas. But they have one mandate: East must never meet West.
A SAILOR WITH A WILL OF IRON. Teriana is the second mate of the Quincense and heir to the Maarin Triumvirate. Her people are born of the seas and the keepers of its secrets, but when her closest friend is forced into an unwanted betrothal, Teriana breaks her people’s mandate so her friend might escape—a choice with devastating consequences.
A SOLDIER WITH A SECRET. Marcus is the commander of the Thirty-Seventh, the notorious legion that has led the Celendor Empire to conquer the entire East. The legion is his family, but even they don’t know the truth he’s been hiding since childhood. It’s a secret he’ll do anything to protect, no matter how much it costs him – and the world.
A DANGEROUS QUEST. When an Empire senator discovers the existence of the Dark Shores, he captures Teriana’s crew and threatens to reveal Marcus’s secret unless they sail in pursuit of conquest, forcing the two into an unlikely—and unwilling—alliance. They unite for the sake of their families, but both must decide how far they are willing to go, and how much they are willing to sacrifice.”

Book Cover

Ashlords by Scott Reintgen
“Every year since the Ashlords were gifted phoenix horses by their gods, they’ve raced them. First into battle, then on great hunts, and finally for the pure sport of seeing who rode the fastest. Centuries of blood and fire carved their competition into a more modern spectacle: The Races. Over the course of a multi-day event, elite riders from clashing cultures vie to be crowned champion. But the modern version of the sport requires more than good riding. Competitors must be skilled at creating and controlling phoenix horses made of ash and alchemy, which are summoned back to life each sunrise with uniquely crafted powers to cover impossible distances and challenges before bursting into flames at sunset. But good alchemy only matters if a rider knows how to defend their phoenix horse at night. Murder is outlawed, but breaking bones and poisoning ashes? That’s all legal and encouraged. In this year’s Races, eleven riders will compete, but three of them have more to lose than the rest–a champion’s daughter, a scholarship entrant, and a revolutionary’s son. Who will attain their own dream of glory? Or will they all flame out in defeat?”

Book Cover

For the Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig
A young woman with a dangerous power she barely understands. A smuggler with secrets of his own. A country torn between a merciless colonial army, a terrifying tyrant, and a feared rebel leader. 
Jetta’s family is famed as the most talented troupe of shadow players in the land. With Jetta behind the scrim, their puppets seem to move without string or stick a trade secret, they say. In truth, Jetta can see the souls of the recently departed and bind them to the puppets with her blood. But the old ways are forbidden ever since the colonial army conquered their country, so Jetta must never show never tell. Her skill and fame are her family’s way to earn a spot aboard the royal ship to Aquitan, where shadow plays are the latest rage, and where rumor has it the Mad King has a spring that cures his ills. Because seeing spirits is not the only thing that plagues Jetta. But as rebellion seethes and as Jetta meets a young smuggler, she will face truths and decisions that she never imagined—and safety will never seem so far away.
Heidi Heilig creates a world inspired by Asian cultures and French colonialism.”

Book Cover

The Black Veins by Aisha Monet
“In a world where magic thrives in secret city corners, a group of magicians embark on a road trip—and it’s the “no-love-interest”, found family adventure you’ve been searching for. Sixteen-year-old Blythe is one of seven Guardians: magicians powerful enough to cause worldwide panic with a snap of their fingers. But Blythe spends her days pouring latte art at her family’s coffee shop, so why should she care about having apocalyptic abilities? She’s given a reason when magician anarchists crash into said coffee shop and kidnap her family. Heartbroken but determined, Blythe knows she can’t save them alone. A war is brewing between two magician governments and tensions are too high. So, she packs up her family’s bright yellow Volkswagen, puts on a playlist, and embarks on a road trip across the United States to enlist the help of six strangers whose abilities are unparalleled—the other Guardians.”

Book Cover

Spellhacker by M.K. England
“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.”

Book Cover

Belle Révolte by Linsey Miller
“Emilie des Marais is more at home holding scalpels than embroidery needles and is desperate to escape her noble roots to serve her country as a physician. But society dictates a noble lady cannot perform such gruesome work. Annette Boucher, overlooked and overworked by her family, wants more from life than her humble beginnings and is desperate to be trained in magic. So when a strange noble girl offers Annette the chance of a lifetime, she accepts. Emilie and Annette swap lives—Annette attends finishing school as a noble lady to be trained in the ways of divination, while Emilie enrolls to be a physician’s assistant, using her natural magical talent to save lives. But when their nation instigates a terrible war, Emilie and Annette come together to help the rebellion unearth the truth before it’s too late.”

Book Cover

These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch
“Adeluna is a soldier. Five years ago, she helped the magic-rich island of Grace Loray overthrow its oppressor, Argrid, a country ruled by religion. But adjusting to postwar life has not been easy. When an Argridian delegate vanishes during peace talks with Grace Loray’s new Council, Argrid demands brutal justice—but Lu suspects something more dangerous is at work. Devereux is a pirate. As one of the outlaws called stream raiders who run rampant on Grace Loray, he pirates the island’s magic plants and sells them on the black market. But after Argrid accuses raiders of the diplomat’s abduction, Vex becomes a target. An expert navigator, he agrees to help Lu find the Argridian—but the truth they uncover could be deadlier than any war. Benat is a heretic. The crown prince of Argrid, he harbors a secret obsession with Grace Loray’s forbidden magic. When Ben’s father, the king, gives him the shocking task of reversing Argrid’s fear of magic, Ben has to decide if one prince can change a devout country—or if he’s building his own pyre. As conspiracies arise, Lu, Vex, and Ben will have to decide who they really are . . . and what they are willing to become for peace.”

Book Cover

The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke
“An outcast teenage lesbian witch finds her coven and the friends she’s always hoped for hidden amongst the popular girls in her school, and performs some seriously badass magic in the process.”

Adult

Book Cover

The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood
“What if you knew how and when you will die? Csorwe does. She will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice. On the day of her foretold death, however, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Csorwe leaves her home, her destiny, and her god to become the wizard’s loyal sword-hand — stealing, spying, and killing to help him reclaim his seat of power in the homeland from which he was exiled. But Csorwe and the wizard will soon learn – gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due.”

These are some fantasy books that I absolutely loved, but don’t often see other readers talking about them. They also all have less than 5k ratings on GoodReads. So, if you have a friend that’s a fantasy lover, get them one of these highly underrated books this gifting season!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Luminous by Mara Rutherford

Summary:
Liora has spent her life in hiding, knowing discovery could mean falling prey to the king’s warlock, Darius, who uses mages’ magic to grow his own power. But when her worst nightmare comes to pass, Darius doesn’t take her. Instead, he demands that her younger sister return to the capital with him. To make matters worse, Evran, Liora’s childhood friend and the only one who knows her secret, goes missing following Darius’s visit, leaving her without anyone to turn to.
To find Evran and to save her sister, Liora must embrace the power she has always feared. But the greatest danger she’ll face is yet to come, for Darius has plans in motion that will cause the world to fall into chaos–and Liora and Evran may be the only ones who can stop him.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for a review. I was actually supposed to read and review this for a blog tour, but my life is a mess and I completely forgot. So, here we are, better late than never they say, right?
This story follows Liora who is a witch. Her powers include glowing like a star (and more as we follow her journey in this story). She’s been kept hidden her whole life because there is a powerful mage, Darius, that seeks out other mages and kills them or makes them come work for him at the palace. One thing leads to another, and Liora is found out by Darius. But instead of taking Liora to the palace, he takes her younger sister, Mina, as leverage. This also leads to Liora taking an apprenticeship with her neighbor, the mother of the boy that Liora is in love with. Her neighbor is a weaver and she can weave things and make them come to life. This adds some complications to the story.
This was very much a story about Liora finding herself and learning about her power. Everything that happens plot-wise in this book was so that Liora would use her magic in ways she’s never been able to and in turn, learn more about herself. I liked Liora. She was curious but cautious. She cares so much for her friends and family that she’s putting herself in danger for them. She just had a really big heart which we see by how she feels sympathy for Darius after she learns of how he came to be the way he is. Darius was definitely the most interesting character. He’s the villain of the story, and rightfully so, but as we get to know him from his sharing with Liora, his childhood was not an easy one. I thought his ending was a fitting one. But I did end up really liking him.
The magic was absolutely the best part of this story. Every mage has a different ability. Liora is basically a star. We see a mage that controls shadows, one that can teleport, another that can shapeshift, and one that can read minds and speak telepathically. I thought it was really interesting that no two mages had the same ability.
The romance was good. It’s the childhood friends to lovers trope, which is usually one of my favorites. And while I enjoyed them and was happy with how their story ended, I couldn’t help but hope for some romance with the villain.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. The writing was good. It kept me interested and the story felt like it was moving right along even though things didn’t really get exciting until about halfway through. The characters were well developed and interesting. I just had a hard time feeling attached to them. This was a really unique and compelling standalone fantasy that I think many people will love.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Summary:
Seventeen-year-old Aderyn (“Ryn”) only cares about two things: her family, and her family’s graveyard. And right now, both are in dire straits. Since the death of their parents, Ryn and her siblings have been scraping together a meager existence as gravediggers in the remote village of Colbren, which sits at the foot of a harsh and deadly mountain range that was once home to the fae. The problem with being a gravedigger in Colbren, though, is that the dead don’t always stay dead.
The risen corpses are known as “bone houses,” and legend says that they’re the result of a decades-old curse. When Ellis, an apprentice mapmaker with a mysterious past, arrives in town, the bone houses attack with new ferocity. What is it that draws them near? And more importantly, how can they be stopped for good?
Together, Ellis and Ryn embark on a journey that will take them deep into the heart of the mountains, where they will have to face both the curse and the long-hidden truths about themselves.

Book Cover

Review:
The Bone Houses follows Ryn, who is just trying to keep her family together. Since both her parents died, she’s the oldest and feels like she needs to do whatever it takes to keep her home and her brother and sister with her. To do this, she’s taken up her father’s position of grave digger, but the people in her town have started burning their dead instead of having them buried. Also, the dead don’t always stay dead in this town. The dead that rise again are called bone houses.
The magic of the bone houses was one of the best parts of this book. The magic that brings these bodies back to life was absolutely fascinating. I loved following Ryn’s journey with Ellis to the place of legends. I really enjoyed Ryn telling Ellis of these legends and then getting to see the places she’d been telling him about. There was a mystery about the bone houses that was slowly unraveled and each time we thought we’d gotten to the bottom of it, another layer to the myth and magic was revealed.
Second to the magic was the developing relationship between Ryn and Ellis. I really liked them together. Ellis has an injury that causes him chronic pain. I thought this representation was interesting because I don’t often see disability portrayed as chronic pain from an old injury. We see him struggling, but we also get to see some really great communication about how Ryn can help him and what isn’t actually helpful. I liked the development of their relationship. They start as strangers and slowly become friends before anything romantic even comes into the story. I thought it was a really well-developed romance and I couldn’t help but root for them.
Overall, I liked this story very much. It was so much darker than I was anticipating and I loved that. I guessed a few of the twists right before they were revealed, which was fun for me because I’m not usually good at guessing twists. I also just have to say that this book cover is absolutely stunning.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Last Legacy by Adrienne Young

Summary:
When a letter from her uncle Henrik arrives on Bryn Roth’s eighteenth birthday, summoning her back to Bastian, Bryn is eager to prove herself and finally take her place in her long-lost family.
Henrik has plans for Bryn, but she must win everyone’s trust if she wants to hold any power in the delicate architecture of the family. It doesn’t take long for her to see that the Roths are entangled in shadows. Despite their growing influence in upscale Bastian, their hands are still in the kind of dirty business that got Bryn’s parents killed years ago. With a forbidden romance to contend with and dangerous work ahead, the cost of being accepted into the Roths may be more than Bryn can pay.
New York Times bestselling author Adrienne Young returns with The Last Legacy, a captivating standalone about family and blood ties, reinventing yourself, and controlling your own destiny.

Book Cover

Review:
I absolutely loved the Fable duology, so when I heard that Young was writing another book set in this world, I was beyong excited. I bought it immediately once it was released and I actually ended up borrowing the audiobook from my library so that I could read it sooner. I listened to the audiobook in one day.
This story follows Bryn, who is a part of the Roth family. But after her parents died, she went to live with her aunt. But once Bryn turns eighteen, she’s summoned back to the family home to take her place among the Roths. Bryn isn’t really sure what this means or entails, but she quickly finds out.
I liked Bryn. She was raised outside the Roth family, so, she didn’t always see things in the way that the rest of her family did. This led to some really interesting conflict. I liked this aspect of the story because it really showed the ruthless and sometimes brutal ways of the Roth family. I also thought it was interesting that what her uncle wanted from her was to raise the standing and reputation of the Roth family. Following Bryn teach her family members how to do things the ‘proper’ way was incredibly entertaining.
Overall, I had a good time listening to this book. I liked Bryn. I mostly liked the Roth family. The family dynamics were really compelling. I think seeing a different view into this world was really enjoyable and I hope that Young will give us more stories about this world.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody & Christine Lynn Herman

Summary:
The Blood Moon rises. The Blood Veil falls. The Tournament begins.
Every generation, at the coming of the Blood Moon, seven families in the remote city of Ilvernath each name a champion to compete in a tournament to the death.
The prize? Exclusive control over a secret wellspring of high magick, the most powerful resource in the world–one thought long depleted.
This year, thanks to a salacious tell-all book, the seven champions are thrust into worldwide spotlight, granting each of them new information, new means to win, and most importantly: a choice – accept their fate or rewrite their story.
But this is a story that must be penned in blood.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. I was a bit disappointed by All of Us Villains, honestly. It’s pitched as “Hunger Games but with magic” which isn’t wrong, but I just didn’t love it.
We meet Alistair first. He’s supposed to be a monster. This is a self-given title as well as one that’s been thrust upon him by his family and the rest of the town. But his actions and feelings don’t support that title at all. We’re told he’s a monster but we’re not shown anything monstrous from him. The same goes for Briony except in the opposite direction. She claims to want to be a hero when she’s wanted a place as one of the seven champions and to win the tournament her whole life. But when she’s not chosen, she does some pretty monstrous things. We’re shown that she’s a monster even if she’s whiney and pathetic about it.
As for the other characters, I just didn’t care about them. I didn’t care about the romance between two of the points of view, I didn’t care about their struggles or any of it. They all knew what they were getting into with being champions of their family and going into the tournament. I was intrigued by what Briony was trying to accomplish, but not enough.
I think the magic could have been really interesting, with the magic that’s stored in stones to be used at a later time. And the stored magic needs to be carefully crafted with the risk of damage to the caster a possibility. But the silly names for the spells really took me out of the story every time they were used.
Overall, I wanted to like this story more than I did. I didn’t really like any of the characters because we’re told they are one thing but they act completely against that. I think the setting was an interesting one that was entirely overlooked. Finally, the ending really put me off. They never finished the tournament one way or the other. So many things were left still up in the air and the story felt like it just cut off before it was actually supposed to be over.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda. 

Little Thieves by Margaret Owen

Summary:
Vanja Schmidt knows that no gift is freely given, not even a mother’s love–and she’s on the hook for one hell of a debt. Vanja, the adopted goddaughter of Death and Fortune, was Princess Gisele’s dutiful servant up until a year ago. That was when Vanja’s otherworldly mothers demanded a terrible price for their care, and Vanja decided to steal her future back… by stealing Gisele’s life for herself.
The real Gisele is left a penniless nobody while Vanja uses an enchanted string of pearls to take her place. Now, Vanja leads a lonely but lucrative double life as princess and jewel thief, charming nobility while emptying their coffers to fund her great escape. Then, one heist away from freedom, Vanja crosses the wrong god and is cursed to an untimely end: turning into jewels, stone by stone, for her greed.
Vanja has just two weeks to figure out how to break her curse and make her getaway. And with a feral guardian half-god, Gisele’s sinister fiancé, and an overeager junior detective on Vanja’s tail, she’ll have to pull the biggest grift yet to save her own life.
Margaret Owen, author of The Merciful Crow series, crafts a delightfully irreverent retelling of “The Goose Girl” about stolen lives, thorny truths, and the wicked girls at the heart of both.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. I have to be honest. I only requested this book because of my friend Avhlee over at Tea Cups and Torn Pages. She loves Owen’s books and was fangirling about this one in the group chat for long enough that when I saw it on NetGalley, I had to request it.
I’m so glad that I did because I really, really enjoyed this book. The story follows Vanja, who was given to the Low Gods Death and Fortune when she was just a small child. She was the thirteenth child of the thirteenth child, so her birth mother believed her to be bad luck. Once Vanja got to a certain age, she couldn’t stay with Death and Fortune (titled as godmothers to Vanja) anymore, so they found her a position in a castle where she met more mistreatment. Vanja has led a hard life and because of that she has quite a sizable chip on her shoulder. She steals her mistress’s (Gisele) life while traveling and proceed to steal from the rich people she must be around while playing the role of Gisele. But she crosses the wrong Low God and is cursed for her greed. On top of that, a junior prefect arrives looking for the thief known as the “Red Penny” (who is Vanja).
This is a Goose Girl retelling, but that doesn’t actually mean anything to me because I’m not familiar with the original Goose Girl story. So, I can’t speak to the retelling aspect of the story. But I loved Vanja. She’s been treated poorly her entire life, so who could really blame her for finally taking things into her own hands to secure her future? Certainly not me. But even further, the mystery and magic surrounding the case that Vanja and the junior prefect team up to solve was a fascinating one. Owen did an incredibly job of weaving all the mysteries in the story together. How was Vanja going to break the curse? Who was trying to kill princess Gisele? There were lots of questions and the suspense of finding the answers was really well done. I also just plain liked Vanja. She does whatever she needs to survive. But she’s incredibly clever and resilient.
Without going into too many details because I don’t want to spoil anything, this book really had it all. There was a romance between two women. There was a romance for Vanja. There was a sister-like relationship that was pretty fractured at the start of the story that we got to see slowly mended. There was murder and mystery. There was magic and fascinating world building. I loved the idea of the Low Gods and their magic. I really loved everything about this book. There wasn’t a single moment that I thought, “oh this book would be better if XYZ.” I really loved this book and I highly recommend it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.