Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim #bookreview #YA #fantasy #fairytale

Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.

There’s no way I can skip commenting on this cover – it would be a disservice to the designer. It’s a work of art and perfect for the story.

Before learning this novel is based on a fairy tale I’m unfamiliar with, I was thinking how it reads just like a fairy tale. Shiori could easily be a future Disney princess. She’s strong, curious, loyal, and determined not to let anyone else define her. Having six older brothers, she easily holds her own with them and is probably the most mischevious of the bunch. She’s also hiding her forbidden magic. After learning her stepmother possesses dark magic of her own, Shiori is banished and her brothers turned into cranes. Even worse, if she speaks to anyone, one of her brothers will die for every word she utters. I needed to know how this princess would survive and overcome the odds.

The sibling bonds are strong in this story, and I liked how protective Shiori’s brothers are of her even though she doesn’t always need it. Takkan is honorable and astute from the beginning, and I loved that he crafts stories for his little sister (who’s pretty feisty herself). Encouraging people to look beyond appearances or misunderstood actions is an important theme this book brings to the forefront.

The first quarter of this book had me riveted. I was angry with Shiori’s stepmother and the people that treated Shiori so badly when she was only trying to survive and anxious for her to find her brothers. She knew her mission and was fixated on it. Then things took a turn. The next half of the book mainly focused on the romance, and Shiori’s urgency to undo the curse wasn’t the driving force I’d expected. Toward the end of the story I didn’t see how plot lines could fall into place for some kind of resolution, but over the span of a few pages, several reveals come to light. Some are easy to predict, but others come out of left field and left me scratching my head because of the lack of hints along the way.

I’m a reader who doesn’t mind romance in a book as long as it’s not the primary focus, but this novel spotlighted it more than I’d expected from the description. That’s just a personal preference and in reading other reviews, I’m definitely in the minority on this. Fans of fairy tales, magic, and romance will be thrilled with Six Crimson Cranes, and while I enjoyed the story, it wasn’t exactly what I’d anticipated.

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

Thistledown – Midsummer Bedlam by Teagan Riordain Geneviene #bookreview #folktales #myths

Thistledown ― Midsummer Bedlam is a wildly whimsical tale of faeries. It was originally written for a grownup audience, but it is suitable for children ages eight and over.

Thistledown is a world of color and light. It has faeries, hummingbirds, and ancient books of magic. Bedlam Thunder is a misfit faery who is afraid of heights. She is also a seer who has terrible visions of a parallel world devoid of color and brightness. The hate and darkness of that colorless world is seeping into Thistledown. Will Bedlam and her friends be able to save their home?
Thistledown ― Midsummer Bedlam, with its radiant creatures and faeries will lift your imagination to new heights. 

I first read Thistledown when it was a weekly serial on the author’s blog, but it was nice to have all the installments together in one book.

I’ve commented more than once about this author’s wildly creative imagination, and this adventure is no different. She’s created an enchanting, colorful world full of magic that’s home to numerous faeries with kaleidoscopic names. And also the coolest hummingbird I’ve come across, Bob (someone has to have a “normal” name). When Bedlam has disturbing visions of a parallel, colorless world filled with hate and darkness, it’s up to her and her friends to band together and save their home from the same fate. Their quest takes the reader through a mind-bending world filled with wondrous creations (hallucinating bats!). You may find yourself holding your breath when all seems lost and wonder how these faeries and Bob will manage to save Thistledown.

This is a delightful tale that will appeal to both children and adults. As a warning, it’s also likely to cause dreams of visiting Thistledown. I know I’d love to meet Bob!

Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy #scifi #TuesdayBookBlog

A rich, dark urban fantasy debut following a teen witch who is given a horrifying task: sacrificing her first love to save her family’s magic. The problem is, she’s never been in love—she’ll have to find the perfect guy before she can kill him.

After years of waiting for her Calling—a trial every witch must pass in order to come into their powers—the one thing Voya Thomas didn’t expect was to fail. When Voya’s ancestor gives her an unprecedented second chance to complete her Calling, she agrees—and then is horrified when her task is to kill her first love. And this time, failure means every Thomas witch will be stripped of their magic.

Voya is determined to save her family’s magic no matter the cost. The problem is, Voya has never been in love, so for her to succeed, she’ll first have to find the perfect guy—and fast. Fortunately, a genetic matchmaking program has just hit the market. Her plan is to join the program, fall in love, and complete her task before the deadline. What she doesn’t count on is being paired with the infuriating Luc—how can she fall in love with a guy who seemingly wants nothing to do with her?

With mounting pressure from her family, Voya is caught between her morality and her duty to her bloodline. If she wants to save their heritage and Luc, she’ll have to find something her ancestor wants more than blood. And in witchcraft, blood is everything.

The main reason I requested this book, other than that beautiful cover, is the high stakes/high pressure situation Voya is put in and the mention of witches and genetics.

I didn’t realize this was a futuristic Toronto setting (why aren’t more books set in Canada?), but that made me like it even more. I’m pretty sure I’ve never read about futuristic witches. The mixture of urban fantasy and sci-fi was also surprising, and now I’m wondering why there aren’t more novels with this blend of genres.

The first several pages are an introduction to Voya’s family – and it’s a large one. Honestly, a family tree might have helped with this dysfunctional bunch. They argue, insult, and mess with one another, but it’s clear the love runs deeply, and family is a priority. In Voya’s case, she puts everyone ahead of her own interests and desires and suffers from a severe case of low self esteem. She’s been anxious for her Calling, but fears she’ll be the first of her family in decades not to come into her powers. Flawed and full of self-doubt, you can’t help rooting for her. Voya is also a talented cook, using some of her own original recipes as well as her ancestors’ (yes, I totally drooled – but maybe not over the goat dishes), and I enjoyed learning about the Trinidadian culture.

Luc (thrilled he’s a trans character) is a tough nut to crack. He initially comes across as an arrogant genius, but with Voya’s prodding his walls gradually disintegrate. As a complex character I still think there are several layers left undiscovered, and I’m not sure how I felt about him at the end of the novel. It’s an ending I couldn’t have predicted.

Voya’s Calling is a seemingly impossible task with terrible consequences no matter which decision she makes. I had no idea how this would play out and almost dreaded seeing what she’d do. The magic system is well thought out and, although complicated, is explained well. One of my favorite things about this world is how accepting it is of all genders, identities, and sexualities, and the characters are diverse. At nearly five hundred pages, this is a long one for YA, but it’s the first of a series and contains the initial world-building.

Impossible stakes, magic, a dysfunctional, loving family, first love, and killings, Blood Like Magic contains a multi-layered plot and a MC asked to make an impossible choice. I’m axious to see where this series goes next.

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

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune #bookreview #fantasy #LGBT #TuesdayBookBlog

A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret.

Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.

When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.

But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.

An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.

I’d seen so much hype about this book and really hoped I wouldn’t be let down when I read it. I wasn’t. It’s utter perfection. I’d give it one hundred stars if I could and doubt I can do it justice in this review.

Linus Baker leads a fairly uneventful, solitary life, residing with a cat with an attitude who basically adopted him and listening to the rants of his nosy neighbor. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth (DICOMA), he’s grossly underappreciated, but kept busy making sure the children in orphanages are being properly cared for. It’s a job he takes very seriously, and he places the welfare of the children above all else. When he’s given a highly classified assignment, he’s ill-prepared for what awaits him on Marsyas Island. Little does he know it will be a profound, life-changing experience.

I fell in love with Linus, Arthur, and all of the children – they grabbed my heart and didn’t let go. Many of Linus’s interactions with Lucy (short for Lucifer, the Antichist) had me laughing out loud and were some of my favorite scenes. This is a beautifully told story about acceptance, found families, and opening yourself up to possibilities. I’ve already recommended it to several people and honestly feel like it should be required reading. Upon reaching the end, I wanted to start all over again and spend more time with these characters in their world. It’s heartwarming, endearing, delightful – I guarantee you’ll experience all the feels with this novel. It will always be one of my favorites.

Phoenix Flame (Havenfall #2) by Sara Holland #bookreview #YA #fantasy

Bestselling author Sara Holland continues her blockbuster contemporary fantasy series about the Inn at Havenfall with this unforgettable sequel.

Maddie thought her problems were over. She saved the Inn at Havenfall—a sanctuary between magical worlds—from the evil Silver Prince. Her uncle the Innkeeper is recovering from a mysterious spell that left him not quite human. And there are still a few weeks of summer left to spend with her more-than-friend Brekken.

But there’s more work to be done to protect the Inn—Maddie must put an end to the black-market trading of magical objects and open the Inn’s doors to the once feared land of shapeshifters.

As she tries to accomplish both seemingly impossible tasks, Maddie uncovers secrets that could change everything. What if saving everyone means destroying the only home she’s known?

This next breathtaking fantasy from the bestselling author of Everless is perfect for fans of Melissa Albert and Holly Black.

This duology has two of the most stunning covers I’ve come across in the past couple years. Both of them deserve extra scrutiny because they convey images you may not initially notice.

The premise of Havenfall is intriguing – a neutral territory that hosts annual summits for citizens of different magical worlds. It reminds me a little of The Continental Hotel from the John Wick movies. I looked forward to being back in that setting and continuing the adventure with these very likeable characters. After finishing the first book I had mixed feelings, but had an idea where the sequel might go and wanted to continue with it. When it headed in the direction I’d hoped – exploration of one of the other magical worlds – I was excited. For maybe fifteen minutes. Because that’s about the length of time spent there.

Phoenix Flame is a relatively short novel, coming in under three hundred pages, and that’s probably why the story feels so rushed. Without revealing spoilers, I’ll say a few relatively important plot points are glossed over and barely touched on. Surprising developments are dealt with and dismissed in a few paragraphs or pages. I was left with lots of questions, but had to shrug and move on. When I finished the book, I honestly thought there must be a third in the series because a major plot thread was left dangling in the wind. After checking on Goodreads, I learned that wasn’t the case.

This series held my interest and contains fascinating world-building and diverse characters I enjoyed spending time with, but left me with too many questions at the conclusion. If both books, or even the second book, had been longer or the series expanded to a third novel, I think it would have offered a more complete story.

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

The Stolen Kingdom by Jillian Boehme #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

For a hundred years, the once-prosperous kingdom of Perin Faye has suffered under the rule of the greedy and power-hungry Thungrave kings. Maralyth Graylaern, a vintner’s daughter, has no idea her hidden magical power is proof of a secret bloodline and claim to the throne. Alac Thungrave, the king’s second son, has always been uncomfortable with his position as the spare heir—and the dark, stolen magic that comes with ruling.

When Maralyth becomes embroiled in a plot to murder the royal family and seize the throne, a cat-and-mouse chase ensues in an adventure of dark magic, court intrigue, and forbidden love.

With so many series on the market, trying to keep up with when the next book’s release while lamenting the length of time between the heart-stopping cliffhanger and the next novel, the thought of reading a standalone really appealed to me and was one of the reasons I requested this book.

I’m a reader that enjoys a fairly consistent pace. Description is necessary in a story to give a sense of place and imagery, but several pages of details will bog down my reading experience, and I tend to skip over them. That wasn’t the case with this novel. This author manages to give vivid descriptions and provide character depth with a minimal amount of words – it’s a real talent and a high priority if you’re writing a standalone fantasy novel.

Mara is a young woman ahead of her time who speaks her mind, possesses a strong moral compass, and doesn’t shy away from hard truths. She’s able to set aside her own wants and needs to see the big picture. If you’re trying to seize the throne, these qualities check off some important boxes. Alac is the second son of a king – the spare heir. He doesn’t feel loved or seen by his father, and his relationship with his brother, the heir to the throne, isn’t oozing brotherly love. Having other dreams for himself, Alac has no interest in taking the throne or getting caught up in the dark magic that comes along with it. When Mara and Alac meet up, it’s a bit of insta-love at first, but they’re not immediately caught up in the throes of passion – which is a relief. They enjoy a tentative friendship while harboring deeper feelings for each other, but then run into some serious roadblocks in their relationship. There’s some major conflict here.

As a wine lover, I enjoyed the mention of the vineyards and Mara’s and Alac’s interest in growing grapes and possibly forming a cooperative for smaller vineyards in the area. It also provided them common ground and something to bond over. It’s not a topic I’ve come across in other YA books.

Plenty of YA novels featuring the lost-king/queen-seeking-to-reclaim-the-throne trope are out there, and I was hoping this novel wouldn’t follow a familiar path – it didn’t. Instead, I met two level-headed, mature MCs who are thrown into life and death circumstances, but put the needs of others ahead of their own. I honestly didn’t know how they’d manage to get out of some of their situations, so expect some twists and surprises. Forgiveness in many forms is a prominent theme, as well as doing what truly makes you happy in life (and it’s not always sitting on a throne). The Stolen Kingdom is a novel I enjoyed and would recommend to fantasy fans looking for a standalone, well-paced story.

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

Down Comes The Night by Allison Saft #bookreview #fantasy #YA

He saw the darkness in her magic. She saw the magic in his darkness.

Wren Southerland’s reckless use of magic has cost her everything: she’s been dismissed from the Queen’s Guard and separated from her best friend—the girl she loves. So when a letter arrives from a reclusive lord, asking Wren to come to his estate, Colwick Hall, to cure his servant from a mysterious illness, she seizes her chance to redeem herself.

The mansion is crumbling, icy winds haunt the caved-in halls, and her eccentric host forbids her from leaving her room after dark. Worse, Wren’s patient isn’t a servant at all but Hal Cavendish, the infamous Reaper of Vesria and her kingdom’s sworn enemy. Hal also came to Colwick Hall for redemption, but the secrets in the estate may lead to both of their deaths.

With sinister forces at work, Wren and Hal realize they’ll have to join together if they have any hope of saving their kingdoms. But as Wren circles closer to the nefarious truth behind Hal’s illness, they realize they have no escape from the monsters within the mansion. All they have is each other, and a startling desire that could be their downfall.

Allison Saft’s Down Comes the Night is a snow-drenched romantic fantasy that keeps you racing through the pages long into the night.

Love makes monsters of us all.

With an atmospheric, beautiful cover and a description giving me all kinds of gothic vibes, I was anxious to settle in with this story on a dreary night.

After Wren is suspended from the Queen’s Guard, she ducks out of her next assignment and heads to Colwick Hall in an attempt to get back into the good graces of her aunt, the queen. Although Wren’s last living relative, the queen has never shown her any affection and barely tolerates her. Once Wren realizes the patient she’s been hired to care for at the hall is an enemy of her kingdom (Hal’s killed hundreds of people), the story really began for me. The crumbling mansion surrounded by acres of snow is the perfect setting for her to unravel the mystery of Hal’s illness and uncover the person responsible for the disappearance of several soldiers from her kingdom.

Wren is a compassionate person, an important trait for a healer, but she trusts too easily, and it comes back to bite her more than once. As the Reaper, Hal has a dark, violent past, but I wanted to know more about his transformation from the Reaper to the person Wren meets. Several blank spaces kept me from really knowing both of these characters. Their slow burn romance is sweet and gooey, but as I’m not much of a romance fan, it got a little repetitive – but that’s just me. Other reviewers were big fans of their relationship.

The story offers plenty of tense, action-packed moments and a few graphic medical scenes that may cause some readers to cringe. It’s not exactly the novel I’d expected, but still an enjoyable read with a satisfying ending.

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

The Girl From Shadow Springs by Ellie Cypher #bookreview #YA #fantasy

The Revenant meets True Grit with a magical twist in this thrilling and atmospheric debut fantasy about two teens who must brave a frozen wasteland and the foes within it to save their loved ones and uncover a deadly secret.

Everyone in Shadow Springs knows that no one survives crossing the Flats. But the threat of a frozen death has never deterred the steady stream of treasure hunters searching for a legendary prize hidden somewhere in the vast expanse of ice. Jorie thinks they’re all fools, which makes scavenging their possessions easier. It’s how she and her sister, Brenna, survive.

Then Jorie scavenges off the wrong body. When the dead man’s enemy believes Jorie took something valuable from the body, he kidnaps Brenna as collateral. He tells Jorie that if she wants her sister back, she’ll have to trade her for the item he thinks she stole. But how can Jorie make a trade when she doesn’t even know what she’s looking for?

Her only source of information is Cody, the dead man’s nephew and a scholar from the South who’s never been hardened by the harsh conditions of the North. Though Jorie’s reluctant to bring a city boy out onto the Flats with her, she’ll do whatever it takes to save her sister. But anything can happen out on the ice, and soon Jorie and Cody find they need one another more than they ever imagined—and they’ll have to trust each other to survive threats beyond their darkest nightmares. 

I really enjoyed The Revenant and that combined with a western vibe and frozen wasteland made me curious about this book.

Talk about your high stakes. After Jorie’s sister, her only remaining family, is kidnapped, Jorie is determined to hunt down the person who took her and bring her home. It’s not a simple task. Not only does she have to trade an unknown item for her sister, she has to survive a journey of several days and nights in frozen tundra with minimal supplies, along with an inexperienced and unwelcome city boy companion just to get to her. The setting is a character in itself and has a big impact on this story. Trust me when I say you may need a blanket and a mug of hot chocolate while reading.

Jorie is a plucky MC and a survivor who’s suffered many losses in her young life. Other than the strong bond with her sister, she’s hardened herself to outsiders and has resolved not to let anyone in. Cody finds himself alone in the world after the death of his uncle and wants to avenge his death, although he’s far from equipped to do so. Watching him worm his way into Jorie’s cold heart was amusing, and found families are a favorite theme of mine.

Cody is a scholar and has studied tales of maps, treasures, beasts of snow and ice, and witches. Jorie heard these same stories during childhood and believes they’re only made up, but they come to figure prominently in the plot. Although hints about where the plot is leading are sprinkled throughout the book, something didn’t click for me. I felt like a piece of the puzzle that would tie everything together was missing. I don’t want to give away spoilers, and judging by other reviews I’m in the minority on this.

The pacing lags a bit in the beginning, but then takes off as Jorie and Cody embark on their harrowing journey filled with life-threatening obstacles. It’s an unusual blend of genres that I haven’t come across in YA, and a novel I enjoyed. I wouldn’t hesitate to read other books in the future by this debut author.

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

Shadow City (The City of Diamond and Steel #2) by Francesca Flores #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

The stunning action-packed conclusion to The City of Diamond and Steel duology.

Aina Solís has fought her way to the top of criminal ranks in the city of Kosín by wresting control of an assassin empire owned by her old boss, Kohl. She never has to fear losing her home and returning to life on the streets again—except Kohl, the man who tried to ruin her life, will do anything to get his empire back. Aina sets out to kill him before he can kill her.

But Alsane Bautix, the old army general who was banned from his seat in the government after Aina revealed his corruption, is working to take back power by destroying anyone who stands in his way. With a new civil war on the horizon and all their lives at risk, the only way for Aina to protect her home is to join up with the only other criminal more notorious than her: Kohl himself.

As Bautix’s attacks increase, Aina and Kohl work together to stop his incoming weapons shipments and his plans to take back the Tower of Steel. To defeat them both, Aina will resort to betrayal, poison, and a deadly type of magic that hasn’t been used in years.

Through narrow alleys, across train rooftops, and deep in the city’s tunnels, Aina and Kohl will test each other’s strengths and limits, each of them knowing that once Bautix is dead, they’ll still have to face each other. If she manages to kill him, she’ll finally have the freedom she wants—but it might forever mark her as his shadow in a city where only the strongest survive.

I read the first book in this series nearly a year ago – an outstanding, action-packed debut novel – and couldn’t wait to see where the author took the story next, so when I was invited to read and review the conclusion to this duology, I jumped at the chance.

It’s always difficult to review a sequel without spoilers, so this may be brief. The end of the first book was filled with upheaval – political, religious, socioeconomic – and the struggles continue in Shadow City.

The complex relationship between Aina and Kohl was an endless source of fascination for me throughout this series. It’s a bizarre combination of mentor/mentee, love/hate, savior/worshipper, strength/weakness, and allies/enemies. They can’t seem to live with or without each other, yet there’s not an ounce of trust between them. Talk about your unhealthy relationships. Whatever their battles against each other are, they now face a common enemy who’s started a war to take over their city. As with the first book, this is a bloody tale – saying the body count is high is an understatement. Lots of action, lots of killing.

Aina is a gutsy, clever, and determined MC who trusts very few people, but she finds her crew in this story. They’re lovable, supportive, and ferocious when they need to be and add a lot to the story. The found family vibe is strong, and it’s easy to see how she’s grown and developed from the first book.

With power struggles, a touch of magic, fierce conflicts, and sky-high stakes, this is an action-packed, addictive fantasy series. I felt the ending was satisfying and perfect for these characters and had a hint of coming full circle. Whatever this author writes next, I’ll be reading it.

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

Crown of Bones (Amassia #1) by A.K. Wilder #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

Raise. Your. Phantom.

For fans of epic fantasies and sweeping adventures, this ensemble cast will immerse you in a world of unique magic, breathtaking action and unforgettable characters.

In a world on the brink of the next Great Dying, no amount of training can prepare us for what is to come …

A young heir will raise the most powerful phantom in all of Baiseen.

A dangerous High Savant will do anything to control the realms.

A mysterious and deadly Mar race will steal children into the sea.

And a handsome guide with far too many secrets will make me fall in love.

My name is Ash. A lowly scribe meant to observe and record. And yet I think I’m destined to change us all.

I’ve read plenty of YA fantasies where worlds are in danger or on the brink of war. But raising phantoms? This was something I haven’t seen and I needed to know more. The lavish cover was a bonus.

I’m not sure what my favorite part of this novel was – the wildly creative world-building, the well-drawn characters, or the whirlwind pacing – but I was completely submerged in this story from the first page.

Marcus is the heir to the kingdom of Baiseen and has difficulties controlling his phantom (which are unique to the individual), something that could prevent him from ever taking the throne. He’s sent to Aku for intense training and accompanying him are savant (people who raise phantoms) friends and his best friend and nonsavant (can’t raise phantoms), Ash. They’re on a tight timeline – if they don’t make it there before the gates close, Marcus will never take the throne. During their harrowing journey, they’re met with one life-threatening obstacle after another. I was breathless and couldn’t read the pages fast enough to find out what would happen.

The world-building is intricately developed and unique – the author did an outstanding job. Without being info-dumpy, it’s masterfully woven into the story – and there’s much to take in – but a glossary is included at the end of the book if your memory needs refreshing while reading.

This cast of characters will steal your heart with how they’re so protective of and devoted to each other. The strong friendship between Ash and Marcus is done so well, and they offer each other unconditional support. An intriguing mystery surrounds one character the group picks up along the way, and I’m anxious to learn more about him in the next book and his connection to Ash. Ash experiences some stunning revelations, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for her.

Battles, magical creatures, ancient scrolls, secrets, compelling characters – I’d highly recommend Crown of Bones to fans of epic fantasy. It’s a series I’ll absolutely continue.

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