Soul Swallowers (The Shattered Sea #1) by D. Wallace Peach #TuesdayBookBlog #bookreview #fantasy #NewAdult

When swallowed, some souls gift insights, wisdom, a path to understanding. Others unleash power, proficiency with a sword, and indifference to death. One soul assimilates with ease. But swallow a host of the dead and risk a descent into madness. 

Estranged from his family over the murder of his wife, young Raze Anvrell wields his fists to vent his rage. Then a chance at a new life beckons, and he retreats to the foothills of the Ravenwood, the haunt of unbound ghosts. He and his mentor build a freehold, a life of physical labor and the satisfaction of realizing a dream. They raise horses and whittle by the fire until the old man dies, and Raze swallows his first soul. 

When his brother reaches out, open wounds begin to scar. But the tenuous peace won’t last. While those who rule the Vales yield to the lure of their ambitions, slavers of Ezar roam the countryside, hunting for human chattel. While one man manipulates the law, another heeds the souls of violence howling in his head. 

Raze too listens to his soul’s whispers, and as danger intrudes on his quiet life, he has no choice but to return to his father’s world and join the fight.

This is my first D. Wallace Peach book, but it certainly won’t be my last.

As a regular visitor to her blog, I’m familiar with Peach’s lyrical poetry that carries readers away to unexpected places – and this novel is no different.  The world-building is magnificent, and the premise of people swallowing souls to absorb their characteristics is mesmerizing.  With political maneuvering, power plays and alliances, arranged marriages, slavers – this is a complicated, dangerous world, and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.  Which was hard sometimes, because I wanted to linger over some of the beautiful writing.

This author has a gift with characterization.  From the main characters to those who only survive a short while, all are so well-developed.  I especially enjoyed the children.  As with most tiny humans, their actions and comments are humorous and unfiltered, and I chuckled several times.

Soul Swallowers is an easy 5 stars for me – I finished the second half of the book in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down.  Now to download the sequel!

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.

I don’t remember the story of Grimm fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, but the cover and description were compelling enough to draw me to this book.

This novel is very atmospheric, and leans toward the Gothic side.  It’s an engrossing blend of mystery, secrets, magic, and gods, with a tinge of horror.  When the ghostly visions began, I was all in, and the imagery is spectacular and chilling.  I could easily picture Highmoor manor perched atop a steep cliff overlooking the churning sea below.

When Annaleigh sets out to prove her sisters’ deaths were no accident, the author provides a long list of suspects, all with motivation, and plenty of red herrings for distraction.  Although the hints were there all along, I was a bit disappointed at a turn the story took, but near the end, along with Annaleigh, the reader isn’t sure what’s real and what isn’t.

With a suspenseful mystery, excellent characterization, and a Gothic atmosphere, House of Salt and Sorrows is a perfect book to curl up with on a stormy night.

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

 

Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars #1) by Elizabeth Lim #bookreview #TuesdayBookBlog #YA #fantasy

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

I’ve never watched Project Runway, and it’s been years since I’ve seen Mulan.  It was the stunning cover and enticing description that drew me to this book.

The solid, imaginative world-building, and Chinese-inspired land are a perfect backdrop for this story.  Descriptions of Maia’s creations and her world are done to perfection, and the magic system is original and explained well.

Maia is everything I enjoy in a main character – feisty, competitive, intelligent, stubborn.  She dreams of becoming the emperor’s tailor, a position only men are permitted to fill.  To Maia, that’s a minor setback, and she finds a way to enter the competition pitting her against eleven men who are far more experienced in the craft.  I initially thought Edan would be detrimental in her quest, but he turned out to be my favorite character.  Charming, intuitive, and mischievous, he’s supportive from their first meeting, and has many secrets of his own.

While the first half of the book is all about the competition, the second half is vastly different, with some nail-biting moments.  Along with lots and lots of romance.  That’s not an issue for plenty of readers, but it comes close to monopolizing the last 50% of the book, and is something I didn’t expect from the description.  The relationship between Maia and Edan is well-portrayed, if a bit predictable, and isn’t without its challenges.

Spin the Dawn is a unique YA fantasy inspired by Chinese culture and mythology, and is set in a magical world, but leans heavily on more romance than I prefer – and I know I’m in the minority in that opinion!

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

 

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.