Havenfall (Havenfall #1) by Sara Holland #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy

A safe haven between four realms. The girl sworn to protect it–at any cost.

Hidden deep in the mountains of Colorado lies the Inn at Havenfall, a sanctuary that connects ancient worlds–each with their own magic–together. For generations, the inn has protected all who seek refuge within its walls, and any who disrupt the peace can never return.

For Maddie Morrow, summers at the inn are more than a chance to experience this magic first-hand. Havenfall is an escape from reality, where her mother sits on death row accused of murdering Maddie’s brother. It’s where Maddie fell in love with handsome Fiorden soldier Brekken. And it’s where one day she hopes to inherit the role of Innkeeper from her beloved uncle.

But this summer, the impossible happens–a dead body is found, shattering everything the inn stands for. With Brekken missing, her uncle gravely injured, and a dangerous creature on the loose, Maddie suddenly finds herself responsible for the safety of everyone in Havenfall. She’ll do anything to uncover the truth, even if it means working together with an alluring new staffer Taya, who seems to know more than she’s letting on. As dark secrets are revealed about the inn itself, one thing becomes clear to Maddie–no one can be trusted, and no one is safe . . .

I liked the idea of this inn being the neutral zone connecting so many different realms.  And the cover is stunning – and that’s before I even noticed the woman’s head forming the mountain.

Initially, I was skeptical about this book.  The first several pages are descriptions of each realm, their people, and their magic – basically an info dump – and I hoped that wasn’t an indicator of how the rest of the book would play out.  After the first few chapters, I was relieved that wasn’t the case.

Maddie is easy to like and care about.  Havenfall is her safe space where she’s accepted and feels needed, but soon after she arrives for the summer, her world gets turned upside down.  For me, it seemed pretty obvious early in the story who she shouldn’t trust, so it wasn’t a complete shock when everything comes to a head near the end.  Still, I enjoyed seeing Maddie begin to figure things out and learn to trust her instincts.

The supporting characters are helpful and occasionally fun, but none of them really shine or jump off the page.  With the majority of this story taking place at the inn, I’d love to venture into the other realms in the next book and learn more about the magic.

Havenfall may not offer any earth-shattering revelations or breathtaking highs and lows, but it’s an evenly-paced book containing an intriguing mystery in a magical setting 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.

 

Highfire by Eoin Colfer #bookreview #fantasy #dragon #TuesdayBookBlog

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Artemis Fowl series comes a hilarious and high-octane adult novel about a vodka-drinking, Flashdance-loving dragon who lives an isolated life in the bayous of Louisiana—and the raucous adventures that ensue when he crosses paths with a fifteen-year-old troublemaker on the run from a crooked sheriff.

In the days of yore, he flew the skies and scorched angry mobs—now he hides from swamp tour boats and rises only with the greatest reluctance from his Laz-Z-Boy recliner. Laying low in the bayou, this once-magnificent fire breather has been reduced to lighting Marlboros with nose sparks, swilling Absolut in a Flashdance T-shirt, and binging Netflix in a fishing shack. For centuries, he struck fear in hearts far and wide as Wyvern, Lord Highfire of the Highfire Eyrie—now he goes by Vern. However…he has survived, unlike the rest. He is the last of his kind, the last dragon. Still, no amount of vodka can drown the loneliness in his molten core. Vern’s glory days are long gone. Or are they?

A canny Cajun swamp rat, young Everett “Squib” Moreau does what he can to survive, trying not to break the heart of his saintly single mother. He’s finally decided to work for a shady smuggler—but on his first night, he witnesses his boss murdered by a crooked constable.

Regence Hooke is not just a dirty cop, he’s a despicable human being—who happens to want Squib’s momma in the worst way. When Hooke goes after his hidden witness with a grenade launcher, Squib finds himself airlifted from certain death by…a dragon?

The swamp can make strange bedfellows, and rather than be fried alive so the dragon can keep his secret, Squib strikes a deal with the scaly apex predator. He can act as his go-between (aka familiar)—fetch his vodka, keep him company, etc.—in exchange for protection from Hooke. Soon the three of them are careening headlong toward a combustible confrontation. There’s about to be a fiery reckoning, in which either dragons finally go extinct—or Vern’s glory days are back.

A triumphant return to the genre-bending fantasy that Eoin Colfer is so well known for, Highfire is an effortlessly clever and relentlessly funny tour-de-force of comedy and action. 

I’m a dragon fan.  My sons read the Artemis Fowl books when they were younger, but I’d had no personal experience with Colfer’s books before this one.  When I read the description – a vodka-drinking, Flashdance-loving dragon who lives an isolated life in the bayous of Louisiana – I didn’t care what the rest of the story was about.  How many times in your life will you come across a dragon like this?

Nothing could have prepared me for Vern.  He’s a curmudgeonly, northwards of 3,000-year-old, foul-mouthed dragon with a penchant for vodka and Flashdance t-shirts.  He also despises humans – and with good reason.  They’ve wiped out his family and friends over the centuries and forced Vern into hiding just to survive.  Maybe Vern and his family took out a few (quite possibly more) villages over the years, but a dragon surely gets lonely when he’s the last of his kind.

Squib hasn’t had the easiest life either.  Father figures have been practically nonexistent, and his default setting constantly steers him toward trouble, but he loves his mama and honestly wants to do better.  He and Vern don’t meet under the best of circumstances, but watching their developing friendship is hilarious and heartwarming.

I laughed out loud so many times while reading this book – it’s truly a delight.  It’s filled with comedy and action, but at its core are themes of acceptance, forgiveness, and family.  If you’re looking for something different or maybe you’re in a reading rut, add Highfire to your list.  You won’t regret it.

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

Reverie by Ryan La Sala #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy #LGBT #TuesdayBookBlog

Inception meets The Magicians in the most imaginative YA debut of the year!

All Kane Montgomery knows for certain is that the police found him half-dead in the river. He can’t remember how he got there, what happened after, and why his life seems so different now. And it’s not just Kane who’s different, the world feels off, reality itself seems different.

As Kane pieces together clues, three almost-strangers claim to be his friends and the only people who can truly tell him what’s going on. But as he and the others are dragged into unimaginable worlds that materialize out of nowhere—the gym warps into a subterranean temple, a historical home nearby blooms into a Victorian romance rife with scandal and sorcery—Kane realizes that nothing in his life is an accident. And when a sinister force threatens to alter reality for good, they will have to do everything they can to stop it before it unravels everything they know.

This wildly imaginative debut explores what happens when the secret worlds that people hide within themselves come to light.

Inception is one of my absolute favorite movies, so when I saw it listed as a comp title for this book, I really didn’t need to read the rest of the blurb.

“Wildly imaginative” is a perfect description of this book.  Easily one of the most creative novels I’ve read this year (2019).  Kane is confused and unable to remember much of the trauma he recently experienced.  He feels like a stranger in his own bedroom, and many of his personal items are a mystery to him.  I was all in and needed to know more.  Kane’s quest to discover who he is takes the reader on an incredible, illusory journey through the fantasies/dreams/reveries of other people.  At times, you may not know what’s real or make-believe.  Some characters have powers that come in handy when these reveries spiral out of control.  And there’s also a sorceress-like drag queen with a killer wardrobe.  Can I just mention the creativity again?

Kane’s character is a treasure, and even in his confusion, his sense of humor shines through.  His sister, Sophia, also has some memorable quips.  While I liked the other supporting characters, I wanted more information about them and how they’d come together.  By the end of the novel, I felt as if I barely knew them.

With themes of sibling bonds and friendships, amazing representation, and vividly imaginative dream sequences, Reverie will leave you feeling like you just stepped off a bizarre carousel ride through a fantasy world.  And I enjoyed every minute of it.

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

Vengeful (Villians #2) by V.E. Schwab #bookreview #UrbanFantasy #superheroes

The sequel to VICIOUS, V.E. Schwab’s first adult novel.

Sydney once had Serena—beloved sister, betrayed enemy, powerful ally. But now she is alone, except for her thrice-dead dog, Dol, and then there’s Victor, who thinks Sydney doesn’t know about his most recent act of vengeance.

Victor himself is under the radar these days—being buried and re-animated can strike concern even if one has superhuman powers. But despite his own worries, his anger remains. And Eli Ever still has yet to pay for the evil he has done.

The time between the release of Vicious, book one in this series, and the followup spans five years – I admit, I forgot some things.  But Vicious was a 5 star read for me, and I couldn’t wait to see what became of Eli and Victor.  I’m just a little late finding out (so many books!).

Victoria Schwab is an auto buy author for me, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her several times at book festivals and signings.  Reading her novels, I know to expect wildly creative world-building, living, breathing characters (to me, anyway), and quotable lines that should be on t-shirts, jewelry, posters, etc. (and have been).  Her Shades of Magic fantasy series will forever be among my favorites.

This series is just as addictive.  I loved spending time with these characters again, as well as some new ones.  Marcella is as compelling a character as Eli and Victor.  She has some wonderful scenes and has no problem holding her own against both of them.

If you’re a fan of superheroes, especially X-Men, and morally ambiguous characters, you can’t go wrong with this series.  I’m only sorry it took me this long to get to Vengeful.

 

Hood Academy by Shelley Wilson #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

Will she follow the pack…or destroy them?

A dead mother. A violent father. A missing brother.

When Mia’s father is murdered, it’s her estranged uncle that comes to the rescue, but what he offers her in return for his help could be worse than the life she is leaving behind.

Taken to Hood Academy, a unique school deep in the forest, she discovers friendships, love, and the courage to stand on her own.

Mia takes the oath that seals her future as a werewolf hunter, but not everyone wants Mia to succeed.

Screams in the night. Secret rooms. Hidden letters. Mia becomes an important piece in a game she doesn’t want to play.

Loyalty, friendships, and family bonds are tested as Mia discovers her true identity, but will the truth set her free, or will it destroy her? 

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book featuring werewolves (Twilight maybe?), so I was excited to get into this novel.  And the cover designer did a magnificent job at capturing readers’ attention.

This novel starts out with a heart-pounding sequence when Mia witnesses a werewolf killing her father.  From there, the plot takes off at a fast pace and rarely slows down.  Mia is a strong protagonist, occasionally leaping into action before thinking things through, and she’s suffered the loss of her mother, abuse from her father, and feels abandoned by her brother.  Without giving away spoilers, the author did a fantastic job at introducing conflict to the story, and Mia’s loyalties are pulled in several directions.

The transformation of human to werewolf is described in detail with vivid imagery, including both the immense pain involved and the feeling of power and animal instincts upon completion.  Being a science nerd, Sebastian’s research fascinated me, and this is an angle I haven’t seen explored in other werewolf books.  I also enjoyed the loyal friendship between Mia and Elizabeth and, lacking a female presence in her life since the death of her mother, her relationship with her teacher, Miss Ross.

Something I missed was more interaction between Mia and a character from her past who turns up again.  In the beginning of part two of the book, part one was summarized, giving the impression of two separate books being combined.  As I read an ARC, this is something that may change in the final version.

If you’re a fan of fast-paced urban fantasy with likeable characters and strong friendships, add Hood Academy to your TBR.  It also boasts some pretty cool werewolves!

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

 

The Fever King by Victoria Lee #bookreview #LGBT #fantasy

In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.

Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.

I’ve read some good reviews of this book and seen it on lists of highly anticipated releases.  Considering that and the beautiful cover, I requested it on NetGalley.

The different take on magic in this novel is intriguing.  Magic is a virus, and only a slim percentage of people survive after being infected.  If they are fortunate enough to survive, they become a witching and possess magic with varying powers.  A lot of time and creativity were put into the world-building – it’s complex and politically charged.  The treatment of undocumented aliens is brutal and heart-wrenching, but also timely, and Noam finds himself straddling two different worlds.

Initially, the pacing is on the slow side, and it took me a while to get into this story.  On the flip side of that, the ending is exciting, full of twists, and moves at an astounding pace.  There are conflicting opinions on the world-building in other reviews I’ve read.  Some readers wanted more, some thought it was more of an information dump.  I’m with the group that’s unsure if they understood all the political angles.  I found it a little confusing at times.

The Fever King is filled with political intrigue, characters who possess powers along the lines of X-Men, and a wonderfully diverse cast.  Overall, it’s an enjoyable read, and more for the older YA crowd.

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

The Devouring Gray (The Devouring Gray #1) by Christine Lynn Herman #bookreview #YA #fantasy

On the edge of town a beast haunts the woods, trapped in the Gray, its bonds loosening…

Uprooted from the city, Violet Saunders doesn’t have much hope of fitting in at her new school in Four Paths, a town almost buried in the woodlands of rural New York. The fact that she’s descended from one of the town’s founders doesn’t help much, either—her new neighbours treat her with distant respect, and something very like fear. When she meets Justin, May, Isaac, and Harper, all children of founder families, and sees the otherworldly destruction they can wreak, she starts to wonder if the townsfolk are right to be afraid.

When bodies start to appear in the woods, the locals become downright hostile. Can the teenagers solve the mystery of Four Paths, and their own part in it, before another calamity strikes?

When I saw the cover of this novel, I wanted to read it without even seeing the description.  Comp titles like The Raven Cycle and Stranger Things are the equivalent of leaving a trail of chocolate to lure me in.

What a dark, atmospheric story this is, with spine-tingling moments, complex, flawed, fully-realized characters, and layered secrets intermingled with lies.  Small towns always hold the most secrets and lies.  Occasionally when I read, I’m skimming the pages and getting the gist of the story.  With this book, I was completely absorbed from page one, and read every single captivating word.

These characters – oof.  Complicated relationships, a diverse cast, and a few different POVs.  All of them are compelling, but with a tragic, mysterious past, Isaac is the character that most intrigued me, and it looks like more about his past will be revealed in the next book.

The Devouring Gray is an enticing blend of YA fantasy and horror.  It’s not a fast-paced story, but more of a slow burn – and what a tantalizing burn it is, with all those secrets and lies slowly coming to light.  The second book in this duology will be on my wishlist for next year.

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