Witches of Ash and Ruin by E. Latimer #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy

Modern witchcraft blends with ancient Celtic mythology in an epic clash of witches and gods, perfect for fans of V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic trilogy and A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES.

Seventeen-year-old Dayna Walsh is struggling to cope with her somatic OCD; the aftermath of being outed as bisexual in her conservative Irish town; and the return of her long-absent mother, who barely seems like a parent. But all that really matters to her is ascending and finally, finally becoming a full witch-plans that are complicated when another coven, rumored to have a sordid history with black magic, arrives in town with premonitions of death. Dayna immediately finds herself at odds with the bewitchingly frustrating Meiner King, the granddaughter of their coven leader.

And then a witch turns up murdered at a local sacred site, along with the blood symbol of the Butcher of Manchester-an infamous serial killer whose trail has long gone cold. The killer’s motives are enmeshed in a complex web of witches and gods, and Dayna and Meiner soon find themselves at the center of it all. If they don’t stop the Butcher, one of them will be next.

With razor-sharp prose and achingly real characters, E. Latimer crafts a sweeping, mesmerizing story of dark magic and brutal mythology set against a backdrop of contemporary Ireland that’s impossible to put down.

I’m a huge Victoria Schwab fan, and A Discovery of Witches is one of my favorite series (the TV version is also fabulous), so it seems like I was destined to read this book.

With Dayna having an unstable home life and an extremely traumatic experience with her father after being outed as bisexual, I loved how her coven is a found family full of love and support for her.  The older witches in her coven also serve as positive role models for the witchlings in the smaller coven.  Celtic mythology isn’t something I’m familiar with, so I enjoyed learning more about it and how the author weaves it into her story.  Ireland as a setting is always a plus.  With both bisexual and gay characters, representation is also a strong point.

Multiple POVs aren’t a problem for me as long as they serve a purpose; however, one of these disappears by the end of the book, and I was left wondering what happens to this character.  There are a lot of moving parts to this story, and several aren’t addressed at the end.  Something that puzzled me was Dayna forgetting to mention the crucial piece of information she learns regarding the murders – something that could have potentially stopped another one.  Preventing further killings is the primary reason the covens come together, so that was a hard pill to swallow.

Overall, this is an interesting read with some intriguing characters and strong themes of family, but I’d hoped for more questions to be answered by the end.

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

The Electric Heir (Feverwake #2) by Victoria Lee #bookreview #fantasy #magic #TuesdayBookBlog

In the sequel to The Fever King, Noam Álvaro seeks to end tyranny before he becomes a tyrant himself.

Six months after Noam Álvaro helped overthrow the despotic government of Carolinia, the Atlantians have gained citizenship, and Lehrer is chancellor. But despite Lehrer’s image as a progressive humanitarian leader, Noam has finally remembered the truth that Lehrer forced him to forget—that Lehrer is responsible for the deadly magic infection that ravaged Carolinia.

Now that Noam remembers the full extent of Lehrer’s crimes, he’s determined to use his influence with Lehrer to bring him down for good. If Lehrer realizes Noam has evaded his control—and that Noam is plotting against him—Noam’s dead. So he must keep playing the role of Lehrer’s protégé until he can steal enough vaccine to stop the virus.

Meanwhile Dara Shirazi returns to Carolinia, his magic stripped by the same vaccine that saved his life. But Dara’s attempts to ally himself with Noam prove that their methods for defeating Lehrer are violently misaligned. Dara fears Noam has only gotten himself more deeply entangled in Lehrer’s web. Sooner or later, playing double agent might cost Noam his life.

First, I’ll warn you this book contains some difficult subjects – sexual abuse, physical abuse, alcoholism, and eating disorders among others, and I appreciate that the author lists content warnings and also provides resource information at the end of the book for anyone experiencing these tragic situations.

While the first book in this series engaged me with its political intrigue and magic system, it was just an okay read for me.  But the followup reached out and grabbed me and didn’t let go until the explosive ending.

I spent most of the book being angry with Noam and wanted to throttle him.  He’s oblivious to the danger he’s in and walks a tightrope between life and death every day.  Dara does his best to get get Noam to see reality, but he’s fighting a losing battle.  As for Dara, seeing him without magic was like a stab to my heart, and his struggle to find his place in the world and battle his addictions is tough to read.  Although I found myself holding my breath numerous times over their predicaments and dreaded reading the next paragraph, their character arcs are a thing of beauty.

Lehrer uses his power and position to hide the monstrous things he does and is a compelling villain in every way – you really want karma to have its way with him.  While his political aspirations and manipulations are still an important aspect of the book, this is more of a character-driven novel compared to the first.  A few areas of the story are barely touched on, but overall, the pacing is pretty even and I found it difficult to put down the book.

At its core, The Electric Heir is truly a story about survivors of horrific circumstances, second chances, and finding your happily ever after.

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

Ink in the Blood (Ink in the Blood #1) by Kim Smejkal #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

A lush, dark YA fantasy debut that weaves together tattoo magic, faith, and eccentric theater in a world where lies are currency and ink is a weapon, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Kendare Blake.

Celia Sand and her best friend, Anya Burtoni, are inklings for the esteemed religion of Profeta. Using magic, they tattoo followers with beautiful images that represent the Divine’s will and guide the actions of the recipients. It’s considered a noble calling, but ten years into their servitude Celia and Anya know the truth: Profeta is built on lies, the tattooed orders strip away freedom, and the revered temple is actually a brutal, torturous prison.

Their opportunity to escape arrives with the Rabble Mob, a traveling theater troupe. Using their inkling abilities for performance instead of propaganda, Celia and Anya are content for the first time . . . until they realize who followed them. The Divine they never believed in is very real, very angry, and determined to use Celia, Anya, and the Rabble Mob’s now-infamous stage to spread her deceitful influence even further.

To protect their new family from the wrath of a malicious deity and the zealots who work in her name, Celia and Anya must unmask the biggest lie of all—Profeta itself. 

I struggled with this book and even considered DNFing it at one point.  But I’m so glad I didn’t.

With complicated worldbuilding, this isn’t a book you can skim-read.  Trust me – you’ll miss some pretty important plot points and details that come into play later on.  I think part of the reason I struggled was because of Celia.  I just couldn’t bring myself to care about her until around the 40% mark, but that was a personal issue.  The friendship between her and Anya is a thing of beauty and is written so well.  Once they joined the Rabble Mob, I knew I’d finish the book.  The plague doctor is a fascinating character, and his creative dialogue has hidden meanings and is something to ponder.  He’s easily my favorite.

The writing style is unique and paints vivid pictures of the world of the Rabble Mob.  The mob themselves are made up of unusual, delightful, loyal people – once you’re in, you’re family.  I’d also like to mention the outstanding queer representation throughout the novel.

With themes of religion and magic, Ink in the Blood has a dark, heavy atmosphere, and while it may not be everyone’s brand of choice, I’m so glad I stuck with it.  Days after finishing, I’m still thinking about it, and the second book is absolutely on my highly anticipated list.

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

 

Calling #NetGalley Reviewers and Bloggers #youngadult #scifi

Subject A36 is available on NetGalley!  If you have an account and would like to read and review it, email me at tpolen6@gmail.com and I’ll send you the widget to download the ebook.

If genetic engineering could guarantee you and your family perfect health and unparalleled beauty, would you pay top dollar for it? Would you kill for it?

Residents of the Colony would. And do.

Only the Insurgents can stop them.

Seventeen-year-old Asher Solomon is a premier operative with the Insurgents. He and his team have rescued countless hostages, saving them from painful deaths in Colony labs as desirable genetic traits are stripped from their bodies.

He’s also suffered more losses than anyone should have to.

Then Asher gets intel that might give his people the upper hand. The Colony is searching for Subject A36. If the Insurgents determine the subject’s identity first, they might be able to turn the tide of the war.

Asher and his team embark on their riskiest mission ever, and the stakes have never been higher. But even if he survives the physical dangers, the devastating secrets he uncovers might destroy him. 

 

Diamond City (Diamond City #1) by Francesa Flores #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

Good things don’t happen to girls who come from nothing…unless they risk everything.

Fierce and ambitious, Aina Solís as sharp as her blade and as mysterious as the blood magic she protects. After the murder of her parents, Aina takes a job as an assassin to survive and finds a new family in those like her: the unwanted and forgotten.

Her boss is brutal and cold, with a questionable sense of morality, but he provides a place for people with nowhere else to go. And makes sure they stay there.

DIAMOND CITY: built by magic, ruled by tyrants, and in desperate need of saving. It is a world full of dark forces and hidden agendas, old rivalries and lethal new enemies.

To claim a future for herself in a world that doesn’t want her to survive, Aina will have to win a game of murder and conspiracy—and risk losing everything.

Full of action, romance and dark magic, book one of Francesca Flores’ breathtaking fantasy duology will leave readers eager for more! 

I liked the sound of the world-building in this novel – it gave me some Ace of Shades vibes (a book I adored!), so I immediately requested it from NetGalley.

If you love action-packed books that move at a brisk pace, Diamond City checks those boxes.  From nearly the first page, the story takes off and rarely slows down – which makes sense given the MC is an assassin.  And she’s very good at her job.  Other reviewers have mentioned difficulty in connecting with Aina because of her profession.  Admittedly, she’s racked up quite the body count, but she was also orphaned at a young age and lived on the streets.  She could choose to either give up and die or kill others to survive.  Someone from her walk of life doesn’t have a long list of options.

The world-building is dark and gritty with gangs, rampant religious persecution, and a wide divide between the rich and the poor.  Magic is connected to religion and is outlawed, but there are still those who practice it and risk their lives.

Initially, I became annoyed with Aina and the way she’s attracted to nearly everyone she meets, but the reason becomes obvious to Aina and the reader by the end of the book, and I was glad romance isn’t a prominent element of the story.  There are some fascinating, complex dynamics going on between some characters, and I’m anxious to see where this goes in the next book.

Diamond City is a dark, bloody tale and requires suspension of disbelief in a couple of places, but it’s a solid debut novel and a series I plan to continue.

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

Call Down the Hawk (Dreamer Trilogy #1) by Maggie Stiefvater #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

The dreamers walk among us . . . and so do the dreamed. Those who dream cannot stop dreaming – they can only try to control it. Those who are dreamed cannot have their own lives – they will sleep forever if their dreamers die.

And then there are those who are drawn to the dreamers. To use them. To trap them. To kill them before their dreams destroy us all.

Ronan Lynch is a dreamer. He can pull both curiosities and catastrophes out of his dreams and into his compromised reality.

Jordan Hennessy is a thief. The closer she comes to the dream object she is after, the more inextricably she becomes tied to it.

Carmen Farooq-Lane is a hunter. Her brother was a dreamer . . . and a killer. She has seen what dreaming can do to a person. And she has seen the damage that dreamers can do. But that is nothing compared to the destruction that is about to be unleashed. . . . 

This book.  I waited so long for it.  Ronan Lynch is one of my favorite characters – ever.  When I heard he got his own trilogy?  Ecstatic doesn’t even begin to cover it.

I loved being in Ronan’s world again (Chainsaw, Opal, the farm).  What surprised me was how much I enjoyed Declan.  Make no mistake – Ronan is still my favorite Lynch brother, but Declan made an impression.  There’s more to him than I believed – he has some secrets.  And how can you not love Matthew?

The new characters are complex, flawed, and add so much to the story.  Jordan is probably my favorite for reasons I can’t reveal (spoilers).  The only thing I missed was more of Adam, but the scenes he’s in are powerful and revealing, and I’m feeling like he’ll play a bigger part in the next book.  Tamquam, Alter Idem had my heart dancing.

That ending!  I have so many questions.  Luckily, there are two more books in the series to answer them.  As always, Stiefvater’s writing is like prose, and her imagination astounding.  If you’re not familiar with her Raven Cycle series, run, don’t walk, and get started on the first book.  I strongly recommend reading that series before the Dreamer series.

Images From #SubjectA36 (Colony Series #1) #YA #scifi

Happy Friday!  As promised, below are more images from Subject A36 courtesy of Unsplash and Canva.  This week, I’d like to introduce you to some of the characters.

Starting at the top left is my main character, Asher Solomon.  What can I say about Ash?  He’s suffered some hard losses in his seventeen years – more than anyone his age should ever have to experience.  He’ll sacrifice himself to protect those he cares about and hostages taken by The Colony, but makes it very clear to his team that preserving lives while accomplishing their mission is a priority.

Rescuing hostages and fighting Colony soldiers requires an Insurgent to be in top physical shape.  Quick reflexes and hand-to-hand combat training could be the difference between life and death.  Ash and his team train rigorously several times per week.

The bottom right picture will remain a mystery.  Is it Subject A36?  Another mystery character?  You’ll have to read the book to learn the answer!

Meet Brynn, Asher’s girlfriend and a member of his Insurgent team.  She’s also the sister of Asher’s best friend, Noah (who you’ll meet next week).  Brynn doesn’t do casual relationships, and very few people are granted access to her inner circle.  Earning her trust doesn’t come easily.  Once you’re in, it’s for life, and she loves fiercely and unconditionally.  Asher has a strong need to save everyone, but Brynn keeps him focused on who he can realistically help.

The last image is of the abandoned warehouse that serves as the Insurgent headquarters and home.

Thanks for dropping by to learn a little more about Asher and Brynn’s world.  The link to pre-order Subject A36 is in the sidebar.  Have a great weekend!