Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha #1) by Tomi Adeyemi #bookreview #YA #fantasy

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.

Now we rise.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

This has been in my TBR well over a year, and when I recently had to be in the car for long periods of time, I listened to the audio book.  I was thrilled to discover it was the same fantastic narrator as Dread Nation.

What can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said?  Intricate, creative world-building, richly drawn characters, some twists along the way.  And that cover –  stunning.

A lot of hype surrounds this novel, and it’s absolutely well-deserved for a debut, so maybe my expectations were too high.  I’m not a big fan of romance, and it makes up more of the story than I’d expected.  Pairing off the characters disappointed me – but that’s just my personal preference.  An overwhelming majority disagrees with me on that, and I get it.

The cover of the second book in this series was released not long ago, and it’s just as beautiful as this one.  Although more romance than I’d like, I plan to continue with this YA fantasy series.

The Red Labyrinth by Meredith Tate #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

The massive labyrinth was built to protect Zadie Kalver’s isolated desert town. Unfortunately, living in the maze’s shadow makes her feel anything but safe. Even without its enchanted deathtraps and illusions, a mysterious killer named Dex lurks in its corridors, terrorizing anyone in his path.

But when Zadie’s best friend vanishes into the labyrinth-and everyone mysteriously forgets he exists- completing the maze becomes her only hope of saving him. In desperation, Zadie bribes the only person who knows the safe path through-Dex-into forming a tenuous alliance.

Navigating a deadly garden, a lethal blood-filled hourglass, and other traps-with an untrustworthy murderer for her guide-Zadie’s one wrong step from certain death. But with time running out before her friend (and secret crush) is lost forever, Zadie must reach the exit and find him. If Dex and the labyrinth don’t kill her first. 

This book description reminded me of The Maze Runner, a novel I fell head over heels for and kept me guessing, and the cover really grabbed me.

The world-building is creative, detailed, and pulled me in almost immediately.  The Skilled, the Blanks, and the labyrinth housing the monster, Dex, and separating the town folk from the Creator held me spellbound.  The author does a magnificent job explaining Zadie’s world without an info dump.  Zadie is also very likable, and has survived tragic circumstances in her past.  I cringed more than once when reading about her interactions with the Warden.  Landon is the stereotypical hero, and plays the role of rescuer and town hero very well.  But by far, Dex is the most compelling, and multi-layered character.  Honestly, if the author wrote a spin-off focusing on Dex’s backstory, I’d snatch it up immediately.  The story is well-paced, and the obstacles Zadie and Dex face in the labyrinth are dangerous, challenging, and, at times, heart-breaking.

Everything was going smoothly – awesome world-building, life and death circumstances, intense action – until it became very obvious that one character isn’t what the reader is led to believe.  That’s nothing new – it goes along with good storytelling.  But the revelation is meant to be a twist towards the end, and some things just didn’t ring true for me with this character early in the story.  In scanning other reviewer comments, it didn’t seem to come as a shock to them, either.

If you’re looking for an original YA dystopian/fantasy, The Red Labyrinth fits the bill nicely.  Although the ending includes a cliffhanger, it wraps rather suddenly, and I’ll definitely be adding the next book to my TBR.

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

 

#NewRelease: The Tower in the Mist (Minstrels of Skaythe #1) by Deby Fredericks #sorcery #fantasy

If you’ve visited Deby’s blog, you know she loves dragons – and I mean, who wouldn’t?  Because – dragons, right?  Deby has also published several fantasy books, and is here today with her new release, the first book in a series.  Isn’t that cover awesome?  Beautiful colors.  Welcome, Deby!

Mages vs. Amazons vs. Giant Badgers vs. Tyranny!

Zathi’s job is to capture renegade mages, but Keilos isn’t like any other mage she’s dealt with. Her drive to bring him in only leads them deeper into a cursed forest. Together, warrior and mage will face deadly beasts and grapple with decisions that compromise every principle. Until they stumble upon a place of ancient, forgotten magic. Zathi must choose — allow Keilos to claim it, or kill him once and for all.

Buy Links:
Amazon

For other formats:

Draft2Digital link: https://books2read.com/u/3nK1Mo/div>

Author Bio
Deby Fredericks has been a writer all her life, but thought of it as just a fun hobby until the late 1990s. She made her first sale, a children’s poem, in 2000.

Fredericks has six fantasy novels out through two small presses. More recently, she self-publishes her fantasy novellas and novelettes. In addition, she writes for children as Lucy D. Ford. Her children’s stories and poems have appeared in magazines such as Boys’ Life, Babybug, Ladybug, and a few anthologies. In the past, she served as Regional Advisor for the Inland Northwest Region of the Society of  Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, International  (SCBWI).

Fantasy and Children’s Writer
Find out more at my website or my blog
or join my mailing list.

King of Fools (The Shadow Game #2) by Amanda Foody #bookreview #YA #fantasy

Indulge your vices in the City of Sin, where a sinister street war is brewing and fame is the deadliest killer of them all…

On the quest to find her missing mother, prim and proper Enne Salta became reluctant allies with Levi Glaisyer, the city’s most famous con man. Saving his life in the Shadow Game forced Enne to assume the identity of Seance, a mysterious underworld figure. Now, with the Chancellor of the Republic dead and bounties on both their heads, she and Levi must play a dangerous game of crime and politics…with the very fate of New Reynes at stake.

Thirsting for his freedom and the chance to build an empire, Levi enters an unlikely partnership with Vianca Augustine’s estranged son. Meanwhile, Enne remains trapped by the mafia donna’s binding oath, playing the roles of both darling lady and cunning street lord, unsure which side of herself reflects the truth.

As Enne and Levi walk a path of unimaginable wealth and opportunity, new relationships and deadly secrets could quickly lead them into ruin. And when unforeseen players enter the game, they must each make an impossible choice: To sacrifice everything they’ve earned in order to survive…

Or die as legends. 

If you’re a regular at this blog, you know the first book in this series, Ace of Shades, was one of my top reads last year – so I’ve waited what seems like a lifetime (I may be exaggerating just a bit) to find out the fates of these characters.  I was kind of nervous – occasionally second books are ‘fillers’, or a let down after an explosive first novel.  But King of Fools is everything I hoped it would be.

New Reynes is still the City of Sin, and the dangers haven’t lessened.  With a street war on the verge of erupting, and Enne’s and Levi’s faces plastered on wanted posters, they’re constantly on guard, and always about five minutes away from being caught.  The character development continues to be outstanding, and the author puts both Enne and Levi in tense, impossible situations, where any decision they make hurts themselves or someone they care about.  Several new characters are introduced, and really add to the story – especially Tock and Grace.

As much as I love Levi and Enne, Jac is my heart in this book.  His POV is added this time around, and with his tragic past, his loyalty to Levi, and determination to write his own story, Jac’s character arc is incredible.

King of Fools is full of political intrigue, manipulation, backstabbing, and twists, and it left rips in my soul that won’t heal until the last book of the series is in my hands.  It also features a quirky girl gang, and memorable characters that will stay with you long after finishing the book.

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

 

The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees #bookreview #YA #fantasy

The waking forest has secrets. To Rhea, it appears like a mirage, dark and dense, at the very edge of her backyard. But when she reaches out to touch it, the forest vanishes. She’s desperate to know more—until she finds a peculiar boy who offers to reveal its secrets. If she plays a game.

To the Witch, the forest is her home, where she sits on her throne of carved bone, waiting for dreaming children to beg her to grant their wishes. One night, a mysterious visitor arrives and asks her what she wishes for, but the Witch sends him away. And then the uninvited guest returns.

The strangers are just the beginning. Something is stirring in the forest, and when Rhea’s and the Witch’s paths collide, a truth more treacherous and deadly than either could ever imagine surfaces. But how much are they willing to risk to survive? 

With a description that reads nearly like a fairy tale and a magical cover, do I really need to explain why I wanted to read this book?

The writing is lush, beautiful, and velvety, with imagery that will transport you to another place.  Some lines I re-read several times because of the way the author weaves words together.  There are basically three stories in this book, and the chapters alternate.  Somewhere around the middle or so, it’s revealed how they’re connected.  Rhea and her family are adorable and quirky, and the Darkness in the attic is spine-tingling and alluring.  It’s a nice touch.

With the first half of the book, I was all in and just wanted to find a secluded corner with no interruptions.  And then I got to the second half, and it lost me.  It has the feel of a fairy tale, but I felt untethered, and unsure of what was real in the story.  Even the dialogue was off, sounding more juvenile, and I found myself skimming the pages instead of savoring them as I had in the first half of the book.

Many other reviewers loved the dreamy, storybook feel of this novel, but I need to feel more grounded in my reading, with a better grasp of the plot.  Even though it turned out not to be for me, I’d still recommend this book because of the extraordinary writing, and I wouldn’t hesitate to read another novel by this author in the future.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.

 

 

To Best the Boys by Mary Weber #bookreview #YA #fantasy

Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. Every year, the poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.

In the province of Caldon, where women are trained in wifely duties and men are encouraged into collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her Mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.

With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the maze.

Why has it taken me this long to read a book by Mary Weber?  I’m now a confirmed fan, and To Best the Boys was an absolute delight to read.

You can’t help falling in love with Rhen.  She’s exceptionally intelligent, compassionate, driven, and is more comfortable in the presence of dead bodies than at an opulent party.  She’s also dyslexic, and has found ways to succeed in spite of it.  Although society expects her to be content with ‘wifely duties’, she sees a different future for herself, and takes risky steps to make it happen.  It’s important to mention that when Rhen’s cousin, Seleni, says being a wife and mother is what she wants, her choice isn’t disparaged – it’s the path that’s right for her.  And that’s what this book is about – knowing what’s right for you, and not compromising your dreams to fit someone else’s expectations.

It’s also about outsmarting the labyrinth.  Riddles, creatures, death, dangerous feats – all lie within, and you’ll be holding your breath through some tension-filled moments.  Besides all of that, ghosts and sirens are also dangerous elements in this world, inhabiting the streets and sea at night.

I have to mention Rhen’s relationships with her parents, Seleni, and her other friends – all are honest, loving, and done so well.  Everyone needs their support people.

To Best the Boys is an exciting adventure with a splash of a mystery, and I’d highly recommend it to young women interested in STEM.  And as a bonus, there’s a mouth-watering recipe for Labyrinth Cookies!  A joy to read from beginning to end.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the digital ARC.

 

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black #bookreview #YA #fantasy

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself. 

I’ve seen this book on more ‘Best Of 2018’ lists than I can count.  Holly Black is a talented and widely read author, but I’ve never gotten around to any of her books, despite having The Coldest Girl in Coldtown on my shelf for over a year.  With strong reviews, several friend recommendations, and a discounted Amazon day, how could I not read The Cruel Prince?

Admittedly, I haven’t read many books involving the Fae, so much of this world was new to me.  And the world-building is magnificent – dark, intriguing, and politically charged.  The political maneuvering, alliances, and manipulation really captured my attention – some of these characters would fit in well with House of Cards.

And that’s another thing I liked:  none of these characters are entirely ‘good’.  Many of them desire power and position, while others enjoy bullying, threats, and playing with the lives of others.  And I’m okay with that – I love to see shades of gray in characters.  In fact, it’s the primary reason I kept reading.  Twists are aplenty in this book – some of them I saw coming, others I didn’t until right before they happened.

People may throw rocks and garbage at me for saying this, but the first half of the book didn’t win me over.  Not a lot happens, but right around the 50% mark, the pace becomes turbo charged and never lets up.

Overall, I enjoyed The Cruel Prince, and I plan to continue the series with The Wicked King, but when that will be, I have no idea.  I need a month long vacation just to read!