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.

#BlogTour Queen of Volts (The Shadow Game #3) by Amanda Foody #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

Return to the City of Sin, where the final game is about to begin…and winning will demand the ultimate sacrifice.

Only days after a corrupt election and brutal street war, one last bloodthirsty game has begun. The players? The twenty-two most powerful, notorious people in New Reynes.

After realizing they have no choice but to play, Enne Scordata and Levi Glaisyer are desperate to forge new alliances and bargain for their safety. But while Levi offers false smiles and an even falser peace to the city’s politicians, Enne must face a world where her true Mizer identity has been revealed…and any misstep could turn deadly.

Meanwhile, a far more dangerous opponent has appeared on the board, one plucked right from the most gruesome legends of New Reynes. As the game takes its final, vicious turn, Levi and Enne must decide once and for all whether to be partners or enemies.

Because in a game for survival, there are only losers…

And monsters. 

Queen of Volts was one of my most anticipated reads this year, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.  I’m just sad my time with these characters is over.

The first two books in the series are told from Levi’s and Enne’s POVs, but this time I was delighted to see Harvey, Lola, and Sophia included.  Initially, I didn’t want to hear anything from Harvey for reasons I can’t discuss (spoilers), but as the story progressed, I couldn’t deny his wonderful character arc and the important part he plays in the plot.

Talk about high stakes – they’re pushed to the max.  In this dangerous new game, your life isn’t just in your own hands, it’s also tied to the survival of other players.  The complexity of the author’s story boards connecting everyone and their interwoven stories had to be quite impressive.  So. Much. Happening.

Although the book is lengthy at over four hundred pages, pacing is perfect, and I tore through the last thirty percent because I couldn’t stand to put it down or wait to see what happened to some of my favorite characters.  As with the other novels in the series, be prepared for surprising revelations, heart-stopping moments of panic and grief, and once again, heartbreak, but the ending is everything I’d hoped for.

Dark, gritty, fantastically imagined, and full of power plays and political maneuvering, The Shadow Game is among my favorite YA fantasy series and one I’d highly recommend to fans of the genre.

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

About the author

Amanda Foody has always considered imagination to be our best attempt at magic. After spending her childhood longing to attend Hogwarts, she now loves to write about immersive settings and characters grappling with insurmountable destinies. She holds a master’s in accountancy from Villanova University and a bachelor of arts in English literature from the College of William and Mary.

Social Links:

Author website: www.amandafoody.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/amandafoody
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amandafoody/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37545599-queen-of-volts

Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards #1) by Janella Angeles #bookreview #blogtour #fantasy

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed. 

Magical competitions, mysterious disappearances, lies, secrets, and a gorgeous cover – how could you not want to read this?  The strong Phantom of the Opera vibes just made it that much more irresistible.

Such an atmospheric novel – a cold, enigmatic city whose residents hide secrets of its past, long-neglected, decaying buildings within it, and a dark forest at its gates.  Powerful magicians exist in this world where some magic isn’t completely understood.  Let’s just say I’ll never look at mirrors in quite the same way again.

Kallia, Jack, and Demarco are wonderfully flawed and scarred in various ways, and I’m so glad the author gave each of their POVs.  Kallia is a snarky, impulsive character who excels when the odds are against her, all while covering up the fear inside.  Demarco is a tough shell to crack initially, but his backstory is tragic.  Manipulative Jack still remains the biggest mystery, and I’m so anxious to learn more about him in the sequel.  I have to give a shout out to Aaros for his wit and undying loyalty to Kallia.  He’s undoubtedly one of the best supporting characters I’ve come across.

Imagery and creativity of the illusions are outstanding – a screenplay of this book would be a visual feast.  I could have done without some of the romantic drama (I’m in the minority on that aspect, I know), but this ends with a glorious cliffhanger.  The next book can’t come soon enough.

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

The Chosen Ones (The Chosen Ones #1) by Veronica Roth #bookreview #fantasy #dystopian

A decade ago near Chicago, five teenagers defeated the otherworldly enemy known as the Dark One, whose reign of terror brought widespread destruction and death. The seemingly un-extraordinary teens—Sloane, Matt, Ines, Albie, and Esther—had been brought together by a clandestine government agency because one of them was fated to be the “Chosen One,” prophesized to save the world. With the goal achieved, humankind celebrated the victors and began to mourn their lost loved ones.

Ten years later, though the champions remain celebrities, the world has moved forward and a whole, younger generation doesn’t seem to recall the days of endless fear. But Sloane remembers. It’s impossible for her to forget when the paparazzi haunt her every step just as the Dark One still haunts her dreams. Unlike everyone else, she hasn’t moved on; she’s adrift—no direction, no goals, no purpose. On the eve of the Ten Year Celebration of Peace, a new trauma hits the Chosen: the death of one of their own. And when they gather for the funeral at the enshrined site of their triumph, they discover to their horror that the Dark One’s reign never really ended.

I’m a fan of Roth’s Divergent series – loved it.  When I saw she’d written an adult book, I was intrigued.  After reading the description, I knew I wanted to read it.

Taking into account the premise of this book – the fantasy aspects, magic, chosen ones, sci-fi elements – I should have loved everything about it.  The descriptive writing flows, and I’ve always enjoyed the author’s style.  I was on board with the different settings, the struggles the characters endured after what they’d been through and how they were still dealing with depression and PTSD.  Some plot twists also came as a surprise.

But I struggled to get through this novel, and I think the biggest obstacles for me were pacing and Sloane being the primary focus.  With pacing, I kept feeling like I was on the verge of something big happening, but then it slowed again.  This happened several times.  I never connected with Sloane, but that connection isn’t always a requirement for me.  Her backstory is tragic, and she’s suffered too many losses, but she exhausted me, if that makes sense.  Mox is probably my favorite character and has an amazing backstory.

While this one wasn’t for me, I’m still glad I read The Chosen Ones and wouldn’t hesitate to pick up Roth’s next series.

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.

 

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.

The Guinevere Deception (Camelot Rising #1) by Kiersten White #bookreview #YA #fantasy

There was nothing in the world as magical and terrifying as a girl.

Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom’s borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution–send in Guinevere to be Arthur’s wife . . . and his protector from those who want to see the young king’s idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere’s real name–and her true identity–is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot.

To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old–including Arthur’s own family–demand things continue as they have been, and the new–those drawn by the dream of Camelot–fight for a better way to live. And always, in the green hearts of forests and the black depths of lakes, magic lies in wait to reclaim the land. Arthur’s knights believe they are strong enough to face any threat, but Guinevere knows it will take more than swords to keep Camelot free.

Deadly jousts, duplicitous knights, and forbidden romances are nothing compared to the greatest threat of all: the girl with the long black hair, riding on horseback through the dark woods toward Arthur. Because when your whole existence is a lie, how can you trust even yourself?

I’ve always had a fascination with anything Camelot since seeing the movie Excaliber years ago, so when I saw this retelling of Guinevere, not to mention the beautiful cover, I jumped to request it from NetGalley.

If you’re not familiar with the Arthurian legend, don’t let it stop you from reading this book.  Prior knowledge isn’t required.  I liked the idea of Guinevere being King Arthur’s protector instead of how she’s traditionally portrayed.  The problem is, while not giving away spoilers, the book description is a bit misleading.  She’s also unsure of exactly who or what the threat is to Arthur, so Guinevere spends a good portion of the book trying to suss it out.  And not much happens during that time.

That being said, the last 15-20% of the book moves pretty quickly, while still leaving most of the action for book two.  By the end, the threat is identified, and there are a couple of twists – one of which most readers will figure out early on, and the other I guessed half of.  There’s still an unrevealed mystery involving Guinevere and Merlin, but that’s something for later books, also.  I found King Arthur’s character the most intriguing, having to shoulder the responsibility of a kingdom at such a young age and put everyone else’s needs and interests ahead of his own.

If you’re a Camelot fan, it’s all here along with Guinevere – Excaliber, King Arthur, Merlin, Lancelot, the Lady of the Lake – but personally, I’d hoped for a queen that didn’t require saving so many times.  Judging by other reviews, I’m in the minority on this one.  Still, the story held my interest.

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.