Curse of the Divine (Ink in the Blood #2) by Kim Smejkal #bookreview #fantasy #YA #TuesdayBookBlog

Return to the world of inklings, tattoo magic, and evil deities as Celia uncovers the secrets of the ink in order to stop Diavala once and for all. This eagerly anticipated sequel to Ink in the Blood is perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Wicked Saints.

Celia Sand faced Diavala and won, using ink magic to destroy the corrupt religion of Profeta that tormented her for a decade. But winning came with a cost. Now Celia is plagued with guilt over her role in the death of her best friend. When she discovers that Diavala is still very much alive and threatening Griffin, the now-infamous plague doctor, Celia is desperate not to lose another person she loves to the deity’s wrath.

The key to destroying Diavala may lie with Halycon Ronnea, the only other person to have faced Diavala and survived. But Halcyon is dangerous and has secrets of his own, ones that involve the ink that Celia has come to hate. Forced to choose between the ink and Diavala, Celia will do whatever it takes to save Griffin—even if it means making a deal with the devil himself. 

I nearly DNFed the first book in this series, but hung in there, and it quickly became one of my favorite reads of the year. The followup in this duology is everything I’d hoped.

This sequel begins a few weeks after Ink in the Blood ends. Celia is determined to save Griffin (the plague doctor) from Divala’s wrath, but of course that’s much easier said than done. She’s still reeling with massive guilt and grief over the death of her best friend and begins to wonder if saving Griffin is even a possibility. Their bond has grown stronger and both are willing to sacrifice their life for the other – but neither expects to survive what’s coming.

Lies and coverups run rampant in this story, and it’s difficult to know who to trust and what their underlying motivations are. After Celia learns some shocking facts about the ink’s capabilities beyond tattoos, it’s hard for her to even know what’s real. The intricate world-building from the first book is expanded upon and delivers some surprises – things may not be what they seem.

My favorite character continues to be the completely charming plague doctor (Griffin). His Riddlish (meaning hidden in vague nonsense statements) may still leave you scratching your head, but there’s always an underlying message.

Startling twists, clever plans, and devious characters – all are present in this sequel I’m still thinking about days after finishing. The themes of religion and magic create a compelling, atmospheric story in this dark fantasy, and it’s one I’d highly recommend to fans of the genre.

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

The Gilded Ones (Deathless #1) by Namina Forna #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself. 

This stunning cover immediately caught my attention on NetGalley, but the description really sealed the deal of me requesting it.

Deka comes from a world where a woman’s worth depends on her purity and how well she serves the men in her life.  The most she can hope for is to be a dutiful wife and mother, but never have a voice for herself.  Compare that to the Deka at the end of the book – strong, empowered, and spirited – and you have yourself one magnificent character arc.  How thrilling to watch her realize her worth and know that she mattered.

Deka’s relationships with her blood sisters, her found family, is one of the biggest strengths of this novel.  I especially enjoyed the incredibly strong bond of friendship and loyalty between her and Britta.  Many of their training and fighting scenes reminded me of the female warriors in Wonder Woman.

World-building is complex and detailed, but interwoven into the story – no info dumps here.  Just enough was held back to keep me turning the pages to figure out what was going on with the plot twists.  Pacing was a tad slow for me in the beginning, but the ending comes rather quickly – enough to make me sure there would be a sequel since I had so few pages left, but then think it was a standalone because story lines were neat and tidy when all was said and done.

With unique world-building, a female-heavy cast of characters, and compelling plot, I’ll be continuing with this series.  A remarkable debut novel.

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

These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights #1) by Chloe Gong #bookreview #fantasy #YA

Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

I was never much of a Shakespeare fan, but a retelling of Romeo and Juliet with rival gangs? How can you pass that up?

Roma and Juliette are heirs to rival gangs (White Flowers and Scarlets respectively) caught up in a blood feud in Shanghai. Although on opposite sides, both gangs have common enemies: a monster killing their people and foreign groups (British, Americans, French, and Russians) attempting to take over their land and cities. There’s too much bad blood between the current heads of the families to work together, but Roma and Juliette are intelligent enough to understand cooperation is required to eliminate these common threats. Each (especially Roma) is also trying to prove to their fathers and gang members they’re worthy heirs.

Although they had a brief relationship four years prior, I honestly wasn’t feeling the connection between these two. I liked Roma and admired the fact he wanted to take the White Flowers in a different direction in the future, and his relationship with his sister is adorable. Juliette is a different case entirely for me. Most of the time she comes across as a petulant child too hot-headed to ever be in a position of authority, and her cousins sense it. She tends to shoot first and think later. My favorite characters are easily Roma’s cousin Benedikt and Marshall (he has some killer lines). They support Roma no matter what and stand by him.

This is an action-packed, bloody, gory tale, which I didn’t mind, but other readers may appreciate trigger warnings. Although I enjoyed many aspects of the plot, some didn’t work as well for me, but that’s just personal preference. On the other hand, the diverse cast thrilled me, and I was actually shipping two male characters over Roma and Juliette and hope to see more of them in the sequel.

At over 400 pages, These Violent Delights is a chunk of a read, but an impressive debut (the author is still in college!) with important and timely overall themes.

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

#BlogTour Queen of Volts (The Shadow Game #3) by Amanda Foody #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

Return to the City of Sin, where the final game is about to begin…and winning will demand the ultimate sacrifice.

Only days after a corrupt election and brutal street war, one last bloodthirsty game has begun. The players? The twenty-two most powerful, notorious people in New Reynes.

After realizing they have no choice but to play, Enne Scordata and Levi Glaisyer are desperate to forge new alliances and bargain for their safety. But while Levi offers false smiles and an even falser peace to the city’s politicians, Enne must face a world where her true Mizer identity has been revealed…and any misstep could turn deadly.

Meanwhile, a far more dangerous opponent has appeared on the board, one plucked right from the most gruesome legends of New Reynes. As the game takes its final, vicious turn, Levi and Enne must decide once and for all whether to be partners or enemies.

Because in a game for survival, there are only losers…

And monsters. 

Queen of Volts was one of my most anticipated reads this year, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.  I’m just sad my time with these characters is over.

The first two books in the series are told from Levi’s and Enne’s POVs, but this time I was delighted to see Harvey, Lola, and Sophia included.  Initially, I didn’t want to hear anything from Harvey for reasons I can’t discuss (spoilers), but as the story progressed, I couldn’t deny his wonderful character arc and the important part he plays in the plot.

Talk about high stakes – they’re pushed to the max.  In this dangerous new game, your life isn’t just in your own hands, it’s also tied to the survival of other players.  The complexity of the author’s story boards connecting everyone and their interwoven stories had to be quite impressive.  So. Much. Happening.

Although the book is lengthy at over four hundred pages, pacing is perfect, and I tore through the last thirty percent because I couldn’t stand to put it down or wait to see what happened to some of my favorite characters.  As with the other novels in the series, be prepared for surprising revelations, heart-stopping moments of panic and grief, and once again, heartbreak, but the ending is everything I’d hoped for.

Dark, gritty, fantastically imagined, and full of power plays and political maneuvering, The Shadow Game is among my favorite YA fantasy series and one I’d highly recommend to fans of the genre.

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

About the author

Amanda Foody has always considered imagination to be our best attempt at magic. After spending her childhood longing to attend Hogwarts, she now loves to write about immersive settings and characters grappling with insurmountable destinies. She holds a master’s in accountancy from Villanova University and a bachelor of arts in English literature from the College of William and Mary.

Social Links:

Author website: www.amandafoody.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/amandafoody
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amandafoody/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37545599-queen-of-volts

Fable (Fable #1) by Adrienne Young #bookreview #YA #fantasy #pirates

As the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home seventeen-year-old Fable has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.

Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men.

Honestly, I was on the fence about requesting this book from NetGalley, but after reading so many fantastic reviews, I decided to give it a try.  Now, I’m raring to get my hands on the second in the duology.

From the first page, your heart goes out to Fable.  She’s literally abandoned on an island full of criminals by her father – it’s a true sink or swim situation.  Over the course of two years, she struggles to survive and learns some hard lessons along the way.  Considering all she experiences, her trust issues are valid.  Without such a strong, independent, charismatic MC, I’m not sure this book would have gotten such stellar reviews, but for me, Fable and her quest make the story.  With much of the setting on the open sea, it receives bonus points.

Stakes are high, and Fable is in near constant danger.  When the crew of the Marigold reluctantly take her in, she discovers they harbor many secrets of their own.  After a rough getting-to-know-you period, trust and relationships form – I’m a sucker for found family stories.  And if anyone ever needed the support of a family, it’s this group.  With the crew, West’s and Willa’s characters are well-developed, but the remaining three aren’t as clear-cut and seem interchangeable.  The author could have more planned for them in the next book – I’m anxious to learn their stories.

If you’re a fan of pirates, high seas adventure, closely-guarded secrets, and feisty main characters, I highly recommend Fable.  Now I need the second book!

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

#NewRelease Liars and Thieves by D. Wallace Peach #fantasy #IndieAuthor

Happy Friday!  I’ve got a treat for you guys today – D. Wallace Peach (Diana to most of us) – is here with her new release, Liars and Thieves.  Aren’t these covers spectacular?  Perfect for a fantasy series.  If Diana is a new-to-you author, be prepared for immersive world-building and outstanding character development.  I can’t wait to dive into this series.  Welcome, Diana!

What kind of magical skills do the goblins in your story possess?

All of the magic in Liars and Thieves in kinetic, based on motion/movement. Goblins live within the rock core of the northern mountains and have a range of terrakinetic skills. They can alter and reshape earthen elements including all minerals and mineral compositions, including rock, sand, and dust.  As a race, they are practical and concerned with science. And like everyone else, their skills vary in type and strength.

Some goblins are inventors, manufacturers, and engineers. Some goblins use their abilities to manufacture metal objects: railships, weapons, furniture, and piping. Some are engineers designing heating, plumbing, and sewage systems. Others, like the main character Naj’ar, use their terrakinetic abilities to build, restore, and burrow new tunnels. Like most kinetic talents, terrakinetic skills can be used enhance lives or destroy them.

 

Behind the Veil, the hordes gather, eager to savage the world. But Kalann il Drakk, First of Chaos, is untroubled by the shimmering wall that holds his beasts at bay. For if he cannot cleanse the land of life, the races will do it for him. All he needs is a spark to light the fire.

Three unlikely allies stand in his way.

A misfit elf plagued by failure—

When Elanalue Windthorn abandons her soldiers to hunt a goblin, she strays into forbidden territory.

A changeling who betrays his home—

Talin Raska is a talented liar, thief, and spy. He makes a fatal mistake—he falls for his mark.

A halfbreed goblin with deadly secrets—

Naj’ar is a loner with a talent he doesn’t understand and cannot control, one that threatens all he holds dear.

When the spark of Chaos ignites, miners go missing. But they won’t be the last to vanish. As the cycles of blame whirl through the Borderland, old animosities flare, accusations break bonds, and war looms.

Three outcasts, thrust into an alliance by fate, by oaths, and the churning gears of calamity, must learn the truth. For they hold the future of their world in their hands.

Trailer:

Liars and Thieves Global Purchase Linkhttp://a-fwd.com/asin=B08FGQ2W3Q

Author Bio:

D. Wallace Peach started writing later in life after the kids were grown and a move left her with hours to fill. Years of working in business surrendered to a full-time indulgence in the imaginative world of books, and when she started writing, she was instantly hooked. Diana lives in a log cabin amongst the tall evergreens and emerald moss of Oregon’s rainforest with her husband, two dogs, bats, owls, and the occasional family of coyotes.

Author Links:

Website/Blog: http://mythsofthemirror.com

Website/Books: http://dwallacepeachbooks.com

Amazon Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/D.-Wallace-Peach/e/B00CLKLXP8

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Myths-of-the-Mirror/187264861398982

Twitter: @dwallacepeach

 

We Were Restless Things by Cole Nagamatsu #bookreview #YA #contemporaryfantasy

From debut author Cole Nagamatsu comes an atmospheric contemporary fantasy about three teens coming of age in the wake of a mysterious death.

Last summer, Link Miller drowned on dry land in the woods, miles away from the nearest body of water. His death was ruled a strange accident, and in the months since, his friends and family have struggled to make sense of it. But Link’s close friend Noemi Amato knows the truth: Link drowned in an impossible lake that only she can find. And what’s more, someone claiming to be Link has been contacting her, warning Noemi to stay out of the forest.

As these secrets become too heavy for Noemi to shoulder on her own, she turns to Jonas, her new housemate, and Amberlyn, Link’s younger sister. All three are trying to find their place—and together, they start to unravel the truth: about themselves, about the world, and about what happened to Link.

Unfolding over a year and told through multiple POVs and a dream journal, We Were Restless Things explores the ways society shapes our reality, how we can learn to love ourselves and others, and the incredible power of our own desires.

The beautiful cover, mention of a drowning on dry land, and the victim contacting his friend from beyond the grave were what drew me to this book.  I’m always intrigued by the supernatural.

It’s not exactly what I expected.  The writing is incredibly lyrical and flows with some beautiful passages and vivid descriptions.  Noemi is quirky, creative, and loyal – all qualities I admire about her – and handles a conversation about asexuality brilliantly.  I’d expected the storyline to lean more heavily on the mystery of Link’s death, the strange texts Noemi receives from someone claiming to be him, and the disappearing lake.  All of that was part of the plot, but another very large portion is made up of the three (four, really) characters in love with Noemi (which seemed a bit excessive) and her feelings about them.  At times, it seemed as if I was reading two different stories.  The POVs primarily rotate between Noemi and Jonah, but the inclusion of Amberlyn’s POV in a few chapters puzzled me since they didn’t add anything to the plot.

Each of these characters experience grief in different ways, and some of their conversations are emotionally heavy and brutally honest.  They’ll make you think.  One character has an especially difficult life that tugs at the heartstrings, and I just wanted to hug him.

With an unusual storyline, poetic writing, and slower pace, there’s much to enjoy about this book, but I wouldn’t recommend it to readers looking for an action-packed thriller as it sways more toward contemporary fantasy.

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

 

Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe #2) by Neal Shusterman #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.

Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?

The first book in this series, Scythe, floored me.  Twists and turns I never saw coming, and it was one of my top reads that year.  I bought Thunderhead the day it was released, and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read it.

With power struggles, devious plans, and the internal thoughts of the Thunderhead, I found it difficult to put this book down.  Rowan and Citra continue to be strong, intelligent protagonists and each encounters many obstacles – in Rowan’s case, pretty painful obstacles.  As with Scythe, just when I thought I had something figured out – wrong again.  And that ending!  With my mouth hanging open and nearly in a state of shock over the last 15-20% of the book, nothing could have torn me away from it.

This is a series I’d recommend to all fantasy/sci-fi/dystopian readers, YA fans or not.  Since The Toll is already out, I’m just glad I don’t have to wait long before diving back into this world again.

Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards #1) by Janella Angeles #bookreview #blogtour #fantasy

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed. 

Magical competitions, mysterious disappearances, lies, secrets, and a gorgeous cover – how could you not want to read this?  The strong Phantom of the Opera vibes just made it that much more irresistible.

Such an atmospheric novel – a cold, enigmatic city whose residents hide secrets of its past, long-neglected, decaying buildings within it, and a dark forest at its gates.  Powerful magicians exist in this world where some magic isn’t completely understood.  Let’s just say I’ll never look at mirrors in quite the same way again.

Kallia, Jack, and Demarco are wonderfully flawed and scarred in various ways, and I’m so glad the author gave each of their POVs.  Kallia is a snarky, impulsive character who excels when the odds are against her, all while covering up the fear inside.  Demarco is a tough shell to crack initially, but his backstory is tragic.  Manipulative Jack still remains the biggest mystery, and I’m so anxious to learn more about him in the sequel.  I have to give a shout out to Aaros for his wit and undying loyalty to Kallia.  He’s undoubtedly one of the best supporting characters I’ve come across.

Imagery and creativity of the illusions are outstanding – a screenplay of this book would be a visual feast.  I could have done without some of the romantic drama (I’m in the minority on that aspect, I know), but this ends with a glorious cliffhanger.  The next book can’t come soon enough.

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

Lobizona (Wolves of No World #1) by Romina Garber #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

 

Some people ARE illegal.

Lobizonas do NOT exist.

Both of these statements are false.

Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who’s on the run from her father’s Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.

Until Manu’s protective bubble is shattered.

Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past–a mysterious “Z” emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.

As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it’s not just her U.S. residency that’s illegal. . . .it’s her entire existence.

While this may be a fantasy novel, it deals with very real topics prevalent in today’s society.  And just look at that stunning cover!

Manu has never felt like she belonged anywhere.  She has no friends and very little family.  She’s rarely permitted to leave home, and you’ll empathize with her immediately.  Thrust into a frightening situation and fearing for the lives of her loved ones, Manu discovers she’s stronger than she knew, and you’ll root for her as she begins her journey.  The story parallels Harry Potter in some ways, and as an ardent fan of the books, Nau mentions them often.

Argentenian folklore is entwined with the world-building, which is fabulous and one of the things I enjoyed most.  One of the other positives is the supporting cast.  It’s rather extensive and can seem overwhelming at first, but the focus narrows by the middle of the book.

It’s difficult to give much of a review without revealing spoilers, but I’ll say this is a powerful story with several layers and a series I absolutely plan to continue.  Recommended for anyone who’s ever felt like they didn’t belong and struggled to find their path.

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