Song of Silver, Flame Like Night (Song of the Last Kingdom #1) by Amélie Wen Zhao #bookreview #fantasy #myths #TuesdayBookBlog

In a fallen kingdom, one girl carries the key to discovering the secrets of her nation’s past—and unleashing the demons that sleep at its heart. An epic fantasy series inspired by the mythology and folklore of ancient China.

Once, Lan had a different name. Now she goes by the one the Elantian colonizers gave her when they invaded her kingdom, killed her mother, and outlawed her people’s magic. She spends her nights as a songgirl in Haak’gong, a city transformed by the conquerors, and her days scavenging for what she can find of the past. Anything to understand the strange mark burned into her arm by her mother in her last act before she died.

The mark is mysterious—an untranslatable Hin character—and no one but Lan can see it. Until the night a boy appears at her teahouse and saves her life.

Zen is a practitioner—one of the fabled magicians of the Last Kingdom. Their magic was rumored to have been drawn from the demons they communed with. Magic believed to be long lost. Now it must be hidden from the Elantians at all costs.

When Zen comes across Lan, he recognizes what she is: a practitioner with a powerful ability hidden in the mark on her arm. He’s never seen anything like it—but he knows that if there are answers, they lie deep in the pine forests and misty mountains of the Last Kingdom, with an order of practitioning masters planning to overthrow the Elantian regime.

Both Lan and Zen have secrets buried deep within—secrets they must hide from others, and secrets that they themselves have yet to discover. Fate has connected them, but their destiny remains unwritten. Both hold the power to liberate their land. And both hold the power to destroy the world.

Now the battle for the Last Kingdom begins.

I’ve read another series by this author (technically, I haven’t completed it yet) and was ecstatic to learn this is the first book in a new series.

Another author described this book as “devastatingly gorgeous”. She nailed it. With lyrical writing, rich world-building, and fully developed, complex characters, this tale will awe epic fantasy fans. It’s inspired by the mythology and folklore of ancient China, and I was completely enthralled.

Lan’s kingdom was invaded, her people’s magic outlawed, and she witnessed the horrifying death of her mother. As she was dying, her mother burned a strange mark on Lan’s arm, and several years later she still has no idea what it means. Zen is a practitioner, a fabled magician of the Last Kingdom. Upon meeting Lan, he knows she possesses a powerful hidden ability in the mark on her arm. Her best hope of understanding and developing it lies with an order of practitioning masters. Getting her there is dangerous and challenging – Zen’s and Lan’s personalities are like oil and water. He’s more the strong, disciplined, silent type and she’s… not. I laughed over some of their interactions and felt Zen’s exasperation with her. Lan’s first meeting with Dilaya, another strong personality and wonderful supporting character, is one of my favorite scenes. Let’s just say it didn’t go well and leave it at that.

Jaw-dropping twists, shocking choices, and life-threatening situations (so, so many) kept me glued to the pages. Do I really need to say I’ll be at the edge of my seat waiting for the next book? Highly recommend to fantasy, folklore, and mythology fans.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Curse of Shadows (Amassia #2) by A.K. Wilder #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

For fans of epic fantasy with adventure and romance, Curse of Shadows reveals a world of unique magic, breathtaking action, and unforgettable love.

Amassia teeters on the brink of the next Great Dying.

The second sun has returned as our Bone Throwers foresaw–casting the nine realms into war.

My name is Ash, and I fell in the battle for Baiseen. But I’m awake now, slowly putting the pieces back together.

My Heir has lost his throne.

My sailor is gone.

And there is an emptiness inside me I can’t explain.

Amid the chaos, someone must collect the original twelve whistle bones from all corners of the world. Marcus is named to lead the cause, but with his volatile phantom, he’ll need diplomacy as much as his sword. And we are not the only ones to seek the bones.

Yet succeed we must.

Because if we don’t, it will be death to all…

Characters raising various types of phantoms to help battle enemies – it’s something I hadn’t come across in a YA fantasy and one of my favorite aspects about the first book in this series. With loads of secrets, mysterious characters, and ancient scrolls, this sequel was on my list of most anticipated releases this year.

This is one of those reviews that will be difficult to write without spoilers, so it may be brief. The prophesied Next Great Dying is approaching, and the only way to prevent it is to gather the original twelve whistle bones scattered across the world. Former heir Marcus lost the throne to his younger brother, but has now been named the Bone Gatherer and is tasked with collecting the whistle bones. Assisting him in this quest are several friends from the first book, including Ash and Kaylin. Suffice it to say, the journey is filled with life-threatening danger, exciting adventure, and mind-numbing revelations.

POV rotates mainly between Marcus, Ash, and Kaylin, but much of this story belongs to Ash. My list of suspicions about her in the first book was pretty long, and some are confirmed, but other reveals surprised me. Kaylin continues to be my favorite character, and he comes with some pretty unexpected reveals of his own. His relationship with Ash only grows stronger in this sequel, and that ending left me pretty anxious – and possibly screaming in frustration.

Pacing isn’t as consistent as the first book, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment. This remains one of the best YA epic fantasies I’ve read in the past couple years, and the third book has already made my most anticipated release list no matter when it arrives.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The Art of Prophecy (The War Arts Saga #1) by Wesley Chu #bookreview #epicfantasy

It has been foretold: A child will rise to defeat the Eternal Khan, a cruel immortal god-king, and save the kingdom.

The hero: Jian, who has been raised since birth in luxury and splendor, celebrated before he has won a single battle.

But the prophecy was wrong.

Because when Taishi, the greatest war artist of her generation, arrives to evaluate the prophesied hero, she finds a spoiled brat unprepared to face his destiny.

But the only force more powerful than fate is Taishi herself. Possessed of an iron will, a sharp tongue—and an unexpectedly soft heart—Taishi will find a way to forge Jian into the weapon and leader he needs to be in order to fulfill his legend.

What follows is a journey more wondrous than any prophecy can foresee: a story of master and student, assassin and revolutionary, of fallen gods and broken prophecies, and of a war between kingdoms, and love and friendship between deadly rivals. 

I was invited to read this book and immediately downloaded it. Besides the exquisite cover design, I always enjoy a Chosen One/Prophecy story.

Jian doesn’t check many boxes on the typical “chosen one” list. He’s spoiled, brash, entitled, and not the best fighter – which is a bad thing since he’s prophesied as the guy to defeat the Eternal Khan. When esteemed war artist Taishi is sent to evaluate his training progress, she’s shocked at his lack of preparedness. Being a take charge kind of woman, she fires all of Jian’s current teachers and takes on his training herself. She’s got her work cut out for her and isn’t a person who suffers fools gladly. Taishi is determined to break Jian down to a base level where he’s willing to learn, while Jian the brat is coming up with creative ways to kill her. Their relationship is one of my favorite parts of this novel.

The three main POVs are Jian, Taishi, and Salminde (viperstrike and Will of the Khan). Salminde goes against tradition and destiny in order to find her sister and do what’s best for her people. I didn’t immediately care for her, but she grew on me. There are also several supporting characters who are just as interesting. Even though they don’t get as much page time, they all come with their own back stories, and I felt as if I knew them just as well.

The amount of humor in this story caught me off guard and isn’t something I’d expected. Taishi’s clever quips and exchanges with Jian and her opponents and assassin Qisami’s unconventional attempts at courting had me laughing out loud.

Exquisite fight scenes, complex and detailed world-building, and phenomenal character development make this a must read for epic fantasy fans. It’s a little lengthy at over 500 pages, but you’ll be so engrossed in the story you’ll barely notice.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Crown of Bones (Amassia #1) by A.K. Wilder #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

Raise. Your. Phantom.

For fans of epic fantasies and sweeping adventures, this ensemble cast will immerse you in a world of unique magic, breathtaking action and unforgettable characters.

In a world on the brink of the next Great Dying, no amount of training can prepare us for what is to come …

A young heir will raise the most powerful phantom in all of Baiseen.

A dangerous High Savant will do anything to control the realms.

A mysterious and deadly Mar race will steal children into the sea.

And a handsome guide with far too many secrets will make me fall in love.

My name is Ash. A lowly scribe meant to observe and record. And yet I think I’m destined to change us all.

I’ve read plenty of YA fantasies where worlds are in danger or on the brink of war. But raising phantoms? This was something I haven’t seen and I needed to know more. The lavish cover was a bonus.

I’m not sure what my favorite part of this novel was – the wildly creative world-building, the well-drawn characters, or the whirlwind pacing – but I was completely submerged in this story from the first page.

Marcus is the heir to the kingdom of Baiseen and has difficulties controlling his phantom (which are unique to the individual), something that could prevent him from ever taking the throne. He’s sent to Aku for intense training and accompanying him are savant (people who raise phantoms) friends and his best friend and nonsavant (can’t raise phantoms), Ash. They’re on a tight timeline – if they don’t make it there before the gates close, Marcus will never take the throne. During their harrowing journey, they’re met with one life-threatening obstacle after another. I was breathless and couldn’t read the pages fast enough to find out what would happen.

The world-building is intricately developed and unique – the author did an outstanding job. Without being info-dumpy, it’s masterfully woven into the story – and there’s much to take in – but a glossary is included at the end of the book if your memory needs refreshing while reading.

This cast of characters will steal your heart with how they’re so protective of and devoted to each other. The strong friendship between Ash and Marcus is done so well, and they offer each other unconditional support. An intriguing mystery surrounds one character the group picks up along the way, and I’m anxious to learn more about him in the next book and his connection to Ash. Ash experiences some stunning revelations, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for her.

Battles, magical creatures, ancient scrolls, secrets, compelling characters – I’d highly recommend Crown of Bones to fans of epic fantasy. It’s a series I’ll absolutely continue.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.