The Memory Thief by Lauren Mansy #bookreview #YA #fantasy

In the city of Craewick, memories reign. The power-obsessed ruler of the city, Madame, has cultivated a society in which memories are currency, citizens are divided by ability, and Gifted individuals can take memories from others through touch as they please.

Seventeen-year-old Etta Lark is desperate to live outside of the corrupt culture, but grapples with the guilt of an accident that has left her mother bedridden in the city’s asylum. When Madame threatens to put her mother up for auction, a Craewick practice in which a “criminal’s” memories are sold to the highest bidder before being killed, Etta will do whatever it takes to save her. Even if it means rejoining the Shadows, the rebel group she swore off in the wake of the accident years earlier.

To prove her allegiance to the Shadows and rescue her mother, Etta must steal a memorized map of the Maze, a formidable prison created by the bloodthirsty ruler of a neighboring Realm. So she sets out on a journey in which she faces startling attacks, unexpected romance, and, above all, her own past in order to set things right in her world. 

The fascinating idea of memories being currency, the beautiful cover, and a MC in a perilous situation are what drew me to this book.

While intricate and interesting, the world-building confused me for the most part.  With a lot of moving pieces, sparse details are given about the different realms and types of Gifted.  At the end of the book is a glossary containing descriptions and explanations that would have helped while reading.  I wish it had been at the beginning of the novel instead.

Several twists are revealed at the end of some chapters, and the author did an admirable job at making me read just a little longer in one sitting to see what happened next.  That being said, things seem to fall into place a little too conveniently, which dampened the conflict and intensity for me.  The journey Etta and Reid undertake lasts a good portion of the book, and I assumed this would be the first in a series; however, the pace kicks into overdrive in the last 20% and wraps up the story in a neat bow.

The Memory Thief isn’t a bad read by any means, and several other reviewers have enjoyed it, but the ambiguous world-building and uneven pacing left me scratching my head several times.  Putting the glossary at the beginning of the book would help alleviate much of the confusion.

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

 

 

The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

The Last Magician meets A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue in this thrilling tale filled with magic and set in the mysterious Carpathian Mountains where a girl must hunt down Vlad the Impaler’s cursed ring in order to save her father.

Some legends never die…

Traveling with her treasure-hunting father has always been a dream for Theodora. She’s read every book in his library, has an impressive knowledge of the world’s most sought-after relics, and has all the ambition in the world. What she doesn’t have is her father’s permission. That honor goes to her father’s nineteen-year-old protégé—and once-upon-a-time love of Theodora’s life—Huck Gallagher, while Theodora is left to sit alone in her hotel in Istanbul.

Until Huck arrives from an expedition without her father and enlists Theodora’s help in rescuing him. Armed with her father’s travel journal, the reluctant duo learns that her father had been digging up information on a legendary and magical ring that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler—more widely known as Dracula—and that it just might be the key to finding him.

Journeying into Romania, Theodora and Huck embark on a captivating adventure through Gothic villages and dark castles in the misty Carpathian Mountains to recover the notorious ring. But they aren’t the only ones who are searching for it. A secretive and dangerous occult society with a powerful link to Vlad the Impaler himself is hunting for it, too. And they will go to any lengths—including murder—to possess it.

I’m a big fan of both comp titles – A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue was one of my favorite reads this year.  And when the description mentioned Vlad the Impaler and a cursed ring – I didn’t care about the rest of the blurb.  I needed to read this book.

What a thrilling adventure!  Theo and Huck find themselves in one predicament after another while searching for her father across the Eastern European countryside.  They struggle to survive – and with people chasing them, wolves, the elements, and magic, it’s not an easy task.  That, combined with Theo solving ciphers and puzzles and the teasing dialogue gives this the feel of an Indiana Jones movie.

Theo is headstrong, intelligent, and determined not to remain on the sidelines while her father goes treasure-hunting.  Huck is a good match for her, being equally stubborn and adventurous.  His way of misquoting common sayings makes him even more adorable and appealing.

Folklore, hidden family secrets, romance, adventure, mystery, castles, cursed artifacts – this book is a wild romp.  It’s a little lighter on fantasy than I expected; instead, it ventures into historical fiction, and the setting descriptions are vivid and rich.  I’m not sure if the author plans a series, but if she does, I’ll be adding the next book to my list.

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

The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones #bookreview #YA #fantasy#TuesdayBookBlog

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 about Ellis 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. 

Besides the dazzling cover, this intriguing description caught my attention.  I’ve read numerous stories about risen corpses, but they were usually zombies.  Bone houses are a unique take, and I had to know more about them.

Characterization is strong in this novel.  From the main characters, supporting characters, and down to the loyal, territory-defending goat, I enjoyed all of them.  Ryn is a take-charge, driven main character and as a gravedigger possesses a strong sense of compassion and respect for the dead.  After losing her parents, providing for her brother and sister is her priority.  Ellis has a mysterious past, and it’s refreshing to see a male character who knows his strengths and limits and isn’t afraid to let a female take the lead.  Their relationship develops naturally with occasional sarcastic banter that gave me some laughs.

It’s difficult to put a new spin on zombies, but this author manages to do it.  Bone houses aren’t the typical risen dead – no spoilers – and they provide some nail-biting moments.

This isn’t really a fast-paced novel, and some parts are predictable, but the story pulls you in and makes it difficult to put down the book.

Because it features risen corpses, don’t think The Bone Houses is a horror novel – it’s far from it.  The overriding themes are the importance of family and learning to move on after a loss.  It’s an unusual story I’d recommend to fans of supernatural tales.

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

 

 

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.