This Cursed Crown (These Feathered Flames #2) by Alexandra Overy #bookreview #YA #fantasy #magic

Awakening to find herself trapped in a strange tower, Izaveta knows she must find her way back to the Tóurensi palace and claim the throne. But even with an unexpected ally’s help, she worries she might not be able to get news of her survival to her sister and escape this frozen land.

Back at home, Asya enlists Nikov’s help to prove Izaveta is still alive, even as she finds herself forced to navigate the political world she always sought to avoid to save her queendom, her loved ones, and herself.

But as the sisters work independently to reunite, a dangerous force lies in wait, trying to regain power in order to overthrow the monarchy…

With a doozy of a cliffhanger at the end of the first book, I was anxious to see what was next for these twin sisters/princesses.

Asya believes her sister Izaveta is dead, and she’s floundering without her. Izaveta understands court politics and manipulates people like a master chess player, but Asya is entirely out of her depth. As the Firebird, she’s required to collect payment from magic casters to maintain balance in the realm – the rules are clear-cut and something she understands. But because of her actions at the end of the first book, she’s now cast as a criminal, and the girl she loves is missing. With Izaveta presumed dead, the throne sits empty, and someone must be crowned. Among power struggles, betrayals, lies, imprisonments, and dark magic, it’s unclear who will succeed.

I honestly didn’t know how these two would find their way back to each other, reclaim the throne, or even survive, and their circumstances look grim for most of the story. Selfish decisions and mistakes are made, and every time they gain ground, the twins are outsmarted by a very clever villain. When long-kept secrets are revealed, their paths become very murky.

I’m a fan of morally gray characters, but I had a love/hate relationship with Iza and Asya on and off throughout the book. Each makes unpopular choices at certain points, but there’s also admirable character growth in both of them throughout the course of the story. When the chips are down, their sister/twin bond only grows stronger, and they’ll always choose each other over everyone else.

These books are based on the Russian folktale The Firebird, so fans of fairy tales or folklore may find the series appealing. This Cursed Crown is a satisfying conclusion to an exciting duology filled with magic, power quests, and deception.

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

Curse of Shadows (Amassia #2) by A.K. Wilder #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

For fans of epic fantasy with adventure and romance, Curse of Shadows reveals a world of unique magic, breathtaking action, and unforgettable love.

Amassia teeters on the brink of the next Great Dying.

The second sun has returned as our Bone Throwers foresaw–casting the nine realms into war.

My name is Ash, and I fell in the battle for Baiseen. But I’m awake now, slowly putting the pieces back together.

My Heir has lost his throne.

My sailor is gone.

And there is an emptiness inside me I can’t explain.

Amid the chaos, someone must collect the original twelve whistle bones from all corners of the world. Marcus is named to lead the cause, but with his volatile phantom, he’ll need diplomacy as much as his sword. And we are not the only ones to seek the bones.

Yet succeed we must.

Because if we don’t, it will be death to all…

Characters raising various types of phantoms to help battle enemies – it’s something I hadn’t come across in a YA fantasy and one of my favorite aspects about the first book in this series. With loads of secrets, mysterious characters, and ancient scrolls, this sequel was on my list of most anticipated releases this year.

This is one of those reviews that will be difficult to write without spoilers, so it may be brief. The prophesied Next Great Dying is approaching, and the only way to prevent it is to gather the original twelve whistle bones scattered across the world. Former heir Marcus lost the throne to his younger brother, but has now been named the Bone Gatherer and is tasked with collecting the whistle bones. Assisting him in this quest are several friends from the first book, including Ash and Kaylin. Suffice it to say, the journey is filled with life-threatening danger, exciting adventure, and mind-numbing revelations.

POV rotates mainly between Marcus, Ash, and Kaylin, but much of this story belongs to Ash. My list of suspicions about her in the first book was pretty long, and some are confirmed, but other reveals surprised me. Kaylin continues to be my favorite character, and he comes with some pretty unexpected reveals of his own. His relationship with Ash only grows stronger in this sequel, and that ending left me pretty anxious – and possibly screaming in frustration.

Pacing isn’t as consistent as the first book, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment. This remains one of the best YA epic fantasies I’ve read in the past couple years, and the third book has already made my most anticipated release list no matter when it arrives.

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

Gleanings by Neal Shusterman #bookreview #fantasy #shortstories #TuesdayBookBlog

The New York Times bestselling Arc of the Scythe series continues with thrilling stories that span the timeline. Storylines continue. Origin stories are revealed. And new Scythes emerge!

There are still countless tales of the Scythedom to tell. Centuries passed between the Thunderhead cradling humanity and Scythe Goddard trying to turn it upside down. For years humans lived in a world without hunger, disease, or death with Scythes as the living instruments of population control.

Neal Shusterman—along with collaborators David Yoon, Jarrod Shusterman, Sofía Lapuente, Michael H. Payne, Michelle Knowlden, and Joelle Shusterman—returns to the world throughout the timeline of the Arc of a Scythe series. Discover secrets and histories of characters you’ve followed for three volumes and meet new heroes, new foes, and some figures in between.

Gleanings shows just how expansive, terrifying, and thrilling the world that began with the Printz Honor–winning Scythe truly is.

The Arc of a Scythe series is one of my absolute favs, so when I saw Gleanings on NetGalley, I might have squealed with glee (I totally did).

The Arc of a Scythe series has concluded, but the author (and several co-authors) had more stories to tell about this world and some of its characters. And I was totally thrilled with that. I recently finished the last book in the series, so I remembered some of the characters mentioned in Gleanings. One of my favorites is Goddard’s origin story. Like most readers, I wasn’t a fan of his, but he was a fascinating character I wanted to know more about – and my wish sure was granted. I also enjoyed seeing Scythe Curie in a couple stories and learning what became of her. A big smile split my face when Scythe Lucifer/Rowan made an appearance. That story was also one of my favorites even before he showed up.

Although I loved the end of this series (seriously, I can’t tell you how much I loved that ending), I was sad to see it conclude. Getting this book of short stories set within that world was like an early Christmas gift. If you haven’t read Arc of a Scythe, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s filled with magnificent world-building, complex characters, and jaw-dropping moments.

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

Saint (Fable #0) by Adrienne Young #bookreview #YA #adventure #fantasy

New York Times bestselling author Adrienne Young returns to the world of The Narrows with Saint, a captivating prequel to Fable and Namesake.

As a boy, Elias learned the hard way what happens when you don’t heed the old tales.

Nine years after his lack of superstition got his father killed, he’s grown into a young man of piety, with a deep reverence for the hallowed sea and her fickle favor. As stories of the fisherman’s son who has managed to escape the most deadly of storms spreads from port to port, his devotion to the myths and creeds has given him the reputation of the luckiest bastard to sail the Narrows.

Now, he’s mere days away from getting everything his father ever dreamed for him: a ship of his own, a crew, and a license that names him as one of the first Narrows-born traders. But when a young dredger from the Unnamed Sea with more than one secret crosses his path, Elias’ faith will be tested like never before. The greater the pull he feels toward her, the farther he drifts from the things he’s spent the last three years working for.

He is dangerously close to repeating his mistakes and he’s seen first hand how vicious the jealous sea can be. If he’s going to survive her retribution, he will have to decide which he wants more, the love of the girl who could change their shifting world, or the sacred beliefs that earned him the name that he’s known for―Saint. 

Fable and Namesake were two of my favorite reads over the past couple years. But if there was ever a character I wanted to know more about, it was Saint, Fable’s father. This book was worth the wait.

My first impression of Saint wasn’t good in Fable. He’d just lost his wife, and he abandons their teenage daughter on an island filled with thieves and little food. The guy certainly wasn’t in the running for a Parent of the Year award. Eventually the reader learns that Saint never does anything without reason, and his moves are strategic. Pieces are revealed about his life with wife Isolde, but this prequel fills in the gaps and answers many questions I had about both characters. It starts at the beginning of their epic love story.

All I knew of Isolde was from Fable’s memories of her, so I loved meeting the actual character. She’s a privileged wealthy girl who’s on the run from her gem dealer mother, Holland – and with good reason. Love isn’t the driving force behind her mother’s search for her. Holland’s only interested in how Isolde (a dredger and gem sage) can increase her wealth. Isolde is brave and spirited, but also a little naive on her own in the real world. Believing she’s found a way to disappear, she soon learns she was deceived and is about to be sold to a trader.

Saint is on the verge of finally receiving his trader’s license and fulfilling his father’s dream for him. He wants to help the Narrows by pushing back again the wealthy traders in the Unnamed Sea and certainly doesn’t need the distraction of a beautiful girl – no matter how much he’s attracted to her. When Isolde takes refuge on his ship, he’s determined to help her keep her freedom. Primarily cold and calculating in the Fable books, meeting Saint before Isolde’s death really humanizes him and explains his demeanor.

The action sequences are nail-biters, and the scenes on the high sea are so vivid I could almost smell the salt air. I was delighted at the mention of West (a character in the other books) near the end. My ARC was an audiobook, and the narrators did an excellent job. If you’ve read the Fable series, don’t miss this prequel. But I recommend reading those books first.

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

Nubia: The Awakening by Omar Epps and Clarence A. Haynes #bookreview #YA #fantasy #dystopian

From beloved actor and producer Omar Epps and writer Clarence A. Haynes comes the biggest epic fantasy of the year. A powerful saga of three teens, the children of refugees from a fallen African utopia, who must navigate their newfound powers in a climate-ravaged New York City. Perfect for fans of Black Panther and Children of Blood and Bone.

For Zuberi, Uzochi, and Lencho, Nubia is a mystery. Before they were born, a massive storm destroyed their ancestral homeland, forcing their families to flee across the ocean to New York City. Nubia, a utopic island nation off the coast of West Africa, was no more, and their parents’ sorrow was too deep for them to share much of their history beyond the folklore.

But New York, ravaged by climate change and class division, is far from a safe haven for refugees, and Nubians live as outcasts, struggling to survive in the constantly flooding lower half of Manhattan, while the rich thrive in the tech-driven sky city known as the Up High.

To many, being Nubian means you’re fated for a life plagued by difficulties and disrespect. But Zuberi, Uzochi, and Lencho are beginning to feel there might be more. Something within them is changing, giving each of them extraordinary powers. Extraordinary and terrifying powers that seem to be tied to the secrets their parents have kept from them.

And there are people Up High watching, eager to do anything they can to become even more powerful than they already are. Now Zuberi, Uzochi, and Lencho will be faced with the choice–do they use their inheritance to lift their people, or to leave them behind. The fate of their city, and their people, hangs in the balance. 

I never missed an episode of House when it was on, and when I saw that Omar Epps (Dr. Eric Foreman) had co-written a book, there was no doubt I’d read it. And just look at that stunning cover!

This novel is set in NYC decades in the future, but I liked that a history of the city is given before the story begins. Drastic climate change has necessitated the building of sea walls around the city and the creation of a sky city. Naturally, only the privileged have “ascended” to the sky city while Nubians and others live below. Racism, class division, and political corruption run rampant and affects each of the main characters in some way. My blood boiled at how the Nubians were treated by other citizens, students, teachers, etc.

Zuberi, Uzochi, and Lencho are very well-drawn, but also flawed – which makes them easily relatable. Each have their own goals and dreams, but when their powers emerge and expectations of them are explained by the elders, the teens feel as if they’ve lost control of their own lives. Watching them weigh the options of putting their people first versus their own wants and needs is a little bit of a coming of age experience.

Comp titles of Children of Blood and Bone and Black Panther are spot on (I’m a fan of both), and I’d also toss in the TV show Heroes from several years ago. Pacing is pretty steady, tensions and stakes are high, and although the purpose of the powers still remains a mystery, I expect more will be revealed in the sequel. Which I will most definitely be reading.

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

Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove by Rati Mehrotra #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

To learn what she can become, she must first discover who she is.

Katyani’s role in the kingdom of Chandela has always been clear: becoming an advisor and protector of the crown prince, Ayan, when he ascends to the throne. Bound to the Queen of Chandela through a forbidden soul bond that saved her when she was a child, Katyani has grown up in the royal family and become the best guardswoman the Garuda has ever seen. But when a series of assassination attempts threatens the royals, Katyani is shipped off to the gurukul of the famous Acharya Mahavir as an escort to Ayan and his cousin, Bhairav, to protect them as they hone the skills needed to be the next leaders of the kingdom. Nothing could annoy Katyani more than being stuck in a monastic school in the middle of a forest, except her run-ins with Daksh, the Acharya’s son, who can’t stop going on about the rules and whose gaze makes her feel like he can see into her soul.

But when Katyani and the princes are hurriedly summoned back to Chandela before their training is complete, tragedy strikes and Katyani is torn from the only life she has ever known. Alone and betrayed in a land infested by monsters, Katyani must find answers from her past to save all she loves and forge her own destiny. Bonds can be broken, but debts must be repaid.

It didn’t take me long to fall into this book and its incredible world-building. After the first few pages, I couldn’t read fast enough.

Orphaned Katyani nearly dies as a child, but is saved by the queen’s magic. Consequently, a forbidden soul bond develops between them, and Katya, now a strong guardsman, acts as the queen’s bodyguard. But she’s also a part of royal family and grows up considering the crown prince and his two cousins her siblings. As a fan of the found family trope, I loved this aspect. When a horrible tragedy strikes, everything Katya holds dear is ripped from her, and she’s betrayed in the worst way. I wanted to scream with her at the unjustness of her situation.

With forests filled with monsters and spirits, strong magic, and a medieval India setting, the world-building is immersive and complex. Seriously, the author should get a gold star for creating this world. The action scenes are well-choreographed and easy to picture as they play out. And did I mention the tension during these scenes? I gasped out loud more than once. The way Katya teases a serious-minded and stoic Daksh made me laugh – I enjoyed seeing his emotionless mask drop occasionally. They share a romantic relationship, but more importantly the two of them support each other when it’s needed most.

Shocking deaths, political schemes, and a quest for vindication make this a captivating read. I also like that it’s a standalone, but I certainly wouldn’t mind spending more time with these characters in this world. Highly recommend to fantasy fans.

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

The Empress of Time (The Keeper of Night #2) by Kylie Lee Baker #bookreview #YA #fantasy

Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami Ren Scarborough is no longer the girl who was chased out of England—she is the Goddess of Death ruling Japan’s underworld. But her problems have never been greater. Her Shinigami see her as a foreigner on the throne. Her brother, Neven, is gone, lost in the deep darkness. And her fiancé, Hiro, has been killed by her own hand.

Then Ren receives the most troubling news yet—Reapers have been spotted in Japan, and it’s only a matter of time before Ivy, now Britain’s Death Goddess, comes to claim her revenge.

Ren’s last hope is to appeal to the god of storms and seas, who can turn the tides to send Ivy’s ship away from Japan’s shores. But he’ll help Ren only if she finds a sword lost thousands of years ago—an impossible demand.

Together with the moon god Tsukuyomi, who shares an uncanny resemblance to his brother Hiro, Ren ventures across the country in a race against time. As her journey thrusts her into the middle of scheming gods and dangerous Yokai demons, Ren will have to learn who she can truly trust—and the fate of Japan hangs in the balance.

With it’s dark storyline and morally gray main character, I became an instant fan of the first book in this duology. The shocking ending left me anxious to see what the future held for these characters.

This sequel begins ten years after the first book, and I admit the time gap surprised me. Ren is now the Goddess of Death, a position you’d think comes with a healthy dose of authority and fear – not so in this case. Ren’s history includes being abandoned by her father, rejected by her British peers, and bullied by her fellow reapers, and now even her own Shinigami don’t respect her. She finally has the power of a goddess and still has to constantly prove herself. When she learns that an old nemesis/bully, who is now in a position of power, is coming to claim her revenge, Ren knows allies are needed if she hopes to survive. Her journey to find them turns into a quest, and I easily fell into this immersive story filled with Japanese mythology.

With the Goddess of Death as a main character your expectations of this novel should surely include death. And there’s quite a bit of it that’s bloody, brutal, and gory – but it’s not done for shock value. It goes along with this harsh world and all the challenges Ren faces. She encounters other powerful gods and goddesses in her quest, and also deals with an unexpected traitor that surprised me. Moon God Tsukuyomi is a welcome addition to the story and quickly became one of my favorite characters. The Empress of Time is a solid conclusion to this dark, gritty duology, and I enjoyed every page.

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

Storm Chaser by Lindsey Duga #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy

Chasing dangerous storms is in Marley Pascal’s blood. For her, it’s an obsession—a need to confront the powerful, destructive forces that killed her parents.

But the storm she and her brother track down seems to violate the very laws of nature, with lightning that strikes as if from another world. In its crater, Marley finds a small purple crystal with a terrifying energy that hits her like a bolt to the chest when she picks it up.

Suddenly, it’s like the electricity pulses through her blood, a charge she can’t control. Which is exactly when he comes looking for her—the ridiculously hot boy whose eyes spark and crackle with the same force that now resides in her body. And he smells like summer rain…

But what’s inside Marley isn’t meant for her—or for any human. It belongs to him. To his kind.

As long as this force stays in her body, she’s a living target. A weapon meant to protect…or destroy.

Because now she is the storm.

I’ve always been fascinated by storm chasers and their reasons, some very personal, for choosing that line of work. It’s off the charts dangerous, and I’m surprised I haven’t come across another book before this one featuring that profession.

The author’s note at the end of the story explains how the weather in her area of the country (south Louisiana) influenced this story. Take the power of storms, throw in some aliens, storm chasers, superpowers, and a headstrong female protagonist, and you’ve got a gripping plot.

Marley aspires to become a meteorologist like her brother, Patrick. She’s ecstatic when she’s allowed to spend a day with him and his team tracking a storm. After a powerful lightning strike leaves a large crater, Marley picks up a purple crystal left behind – in hindsight, probably not her smartest decision. Bolts of energy course through her body – energy that belongs to someone else.

Brae, along with his clan and several others, are from another planet. Most of them try to live quietly among the humans after their planet is destroyed, but Cassen wants to rid the world of humans and make Earth their own. Brae is determined that won’t happen, and he’s the only obstacle between Cassen and his goal. His problem? The Superman-like power once housed in a oculus within Brae, the power he uses to fight off Cassen, now resides within Marley.

I loved the sibling relationship between Patrick and Marley. They only have each other after their parents were killed by a tornado several years earlier. Patrick is now her guardian and incredibly protective of her. As the leader of his clan, Brae’s utmost priority is keeping them safe. But when he develops feelings for Marley, those priorities become muddled. The gradual reveal of the details of his home planet, Enos, demonstrates even more of the precarious position Brae is in.

Told with dual POVs between Marley and Brae, Storm Chaser moves at a brisk pace and features thrilling action scenes. I have to mention I got a kick out of all the pop culture references – especially when Marley mentions that she and her brother text in Elvish. With that cliffhanger, I’m anxious for the next book!

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

Soul of the Deep (Skin of the Sea #2) by Natasha Bowen #bookreview #YA #fantasy

The highly anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestseller Skin of the Sea, in which the world must pay the price for one mermaid’s choice, and a dark force reverberates across realms. Perfect for fans of Children of Blood and Bone and those eagerly anticipating the live-action film adaptation of The Little Mermaid.

One life.
One choice.
One sacrifice.

To save those closest to her, Simi traded away everything: her freedom, her family, and the boy she loves. Now she is sworn to serve a new god, watching over the Land of the Dead at the bottom of the ocean.

But when signs of demons begin to appear, it’s clear there are deeper consequences of Simi’s trade. These demons spell the world’s ruin . . . and because of Simi, they now have a way into the human realm.

With the fate of the world at stake, Simi must break her promise and team up with a scheming trickster of a god. And if they succeed, perhaps Simi can also unbreak her heart along the way, and find herself again.

After I finished the first book in this series, I wasn’t sure if another one was coming, and I hoped to learn what happened with these characters. Seeing this second book on NetGalley, I knew the author wouldn’t leave the readers hanging. We’d get the rest of the story.

My favorite things from this book remain the same as the first – incredible world-building, West African mythology and culture, the sisterhood of the Mami Wata (mermaids), and some of the characters. This story picks up several months after the first book. Simi is living with the hard choices she made to save the lives of others, but blame and guilt rest heavily on her shoulders. She’s not happy in her new home, but she takes her responsibilities seriously and is determined to follow through on the bargain she struck with Olokun. After learning of a betrayal, her circumstances change rather quickly, and Simi finds herself teaming up with old friends and fighting fierce opponents.

While I enjoyed this story, I was a little surprised that consequences of the first book were wrapped up/changed within the first fifty or so pages, and this sequel seemed like almost a different series. Honestly, it can be read as a standalone since the author provides backstory.

The ending leaves open the possibility for a sequel, but I could also see the author wrapping up things here and letting the reader predict what happens in the future. If you’re fascinated by creative world-building and enjoy learning about other cultures and mythology, this is a series to add to your TBR.

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

Last of the Talons (Talon #1) by Sophie Kim #bookreview #YA #fantasy #Koreanmythology

After the destruction of her entire Talon gang, eighteen-year-old Shin Lina—the Reaper of Sunpo—is forced to become a living, breathing weapon for the kingdom’s most-feared crime lord. All that keeps her from turning on her ruthless master is the life of her beloved little sister hanging in the balance. But the order to steal a priceless tapestry from a Dokkaebi temple incites not only the wrath of a legendary immortal, but the beginning of an unwinnable game…

Suddenly Lina finds herself in the dreamlike realm of the Dokkaebi, her fate in the hands of its cruel and captivating emperor. But she can win her life—if she kills him first.

Now a terrible game of life and death has begun, and even Lina’s swift, precise blade is no match for the magnetic Haneul Rui. Lina will have to use every weapon in her arsenal if she wants to outplay this cunning king and save her sister…all before the final grain of sand leaks out of the hourglass.

Because one way or another, she’ll take Rui’s heart.

Even if it means giving up her own.

This stunning cover and the game of life and death between Lina and Rui made this book irresistible. The description left no doubt I’d enjoy it – I just didn’t realize how much.

Lina may be young, but she’s experienced more tragedy and loss than most people. She lost her parents at a young age, she blames herself for the deaths of her gang/found family, and she’s now starved, beaten, and forced to work for the man responsible for killing the other Talons. If she doesn’t, he’ll kill her little sister, the one good thing in her life. Lina will sacrifice anything to ensure her safety.

The author has created a unique world filled with Korean mythology, magic, and vivid, breathtaking imagery. The dynamic between Rui and Lina is unusual and magnetic, and I was all in from their first scene together. The game is simple – she has fourteen days to kill him, or he’ll kill her. So much planning and plotting going on. And yet they’re civil to each other – he invites her to dinner, a ball, and shows her his favorite places in his kingdom. Lina is a clever and skilled assassin, but she underestimates how cunning Rui is. It’s hard to put anything over on this guy.

There’s so much to like about this novel. A protagonist who doesn’t give up and willingly sacrifices for those she loves, plot twists and unexpected paths, incredibly high stakes, and a supposedly cruel Emperor who might just possess a bigger heart than anyone realizes. I’m more than ready for 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.