A Ruinous Fate (Heartless Fates #1) by Kaylie Smith #bookreview #YA #fantasy #magic #LGBTQ

Fate does not choose the weak. Fate chooses the ready.

Calliope Rosewood is a witch with a long streak of bad luck. Like all witches in Illustros, her fate is directly tied to Witch’s Dice—powerful artifacts that have blessed her kind with limitless magic but also set them on a path toward destruction. Cursed with unspeakable powers that terrify even the most dangerous witches and fae, Calla deserted her coven four years ago and has been in hiding with her two best friends since. But Calla is also hiding a grave secret: She is only three Rolls away from becoming the last Blood Warrior and starting the Final War that will decimate her people and eradicate their magic.

After a betrayal from her ex leads her one step closer to fulfilling that age-old prophecy, Calla is desperate to do whatever it takes to reset her fate . . . even if that means journeying into the deadly Neverending Forest with said ex and his enticing, yet enigmatic older brother to find the one being who can help her forge her own path. As Calla ventures farther into the enchanted woods, she finds her heart torn between her past desires and the alluring new possibilities of her future and learns that choosing your own destiny may come with deadly consequences.

Can you outrun your fate? Calla sure hopes so. That’s what she’s been doing for the past four years to avoid becoming the last Blood Warrior, a person prophesied to start the Final War that will decimate her people and eradicate their magic. Through a series of unfortunate events that nearly results in her being sold at auction, Calla and her two best friends find themselves on a quest with her ex, his brother, and a couple of soldiers. In hopes of changing her fate as well as that of another character, the group enter the deadly Neverending Forest. Here, nothing is as it seems, and the forest is filled with dangerous creatures – and you don’t want to get on their wrong side if you value your life.

These characters. They’re messy, chaotic, competitive, overprotective – and I adored them. Even though only two are actually related, they all act like a large, dysfunctional family who have love/hate relationships with each other. You also may need a flowchart to keep up with their love lives – many are interconnected. Talk about weird dynamics. Despite all that, the bonds between them are strong even though some have only know each other a few days.

Illustros is a vibrant, colorful world inhabited by diverse people and magical beings that engaged me immediately. The plot is complex and full of action, surprising revelations, heartache, and humor. This is a remarkable debut, and the sequel is high on my list of anticipated reads.

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

Song of Silver, Flame Like Night (Song of the Last Kingdom #1) by Amélie Wen Zhao #bookreview #fantasy #myths #TuesdayBookBlog

In a fallen kingdom, one girl carries the key to discovering the secrets of her nation’s past—and unleashing the demons that sleep at its heart. An epic fantasy series inspired by the mythology and folklore of ancient China.

Once, Lan had a different name. Now she goes by the one the Elantian colonizers gave her when they invaded her kingdom, killed her mother, and outlawed her people’s magic. She spends her nights as a songgirl in Haak’gong, a city transformed by the conquerors, and her days scavenging for what she can find of the past. Anything to understand the strange mark burned into her arm by her mother in her last act before she died.

The mark is mysterious—an untranslatable Hin character—and no one but Lan can see it. Until the night a boy appears at her teahouse and saves her life.

Zen is a practitioner—one of the fabled magicians of the Last Kingdom. Their magic was rumored to have been drawn from the demons they communed with. Magic believed to be long lost. Now it must be hidden from the Elantians at all costs.

When Zen comes across Lan, he recognizes what she is: a practitioner with a powerful ability hidden in the mark on her arm. He’s never seen anything like it—but he knows that if there are answers, they lie deep in the pine forests and misty mountains of the Last Kingdom, with an order of practitioning masters planning to overthrow the Elantian regime.

Both Lan and Zen have secrets buried deep within—secrets they must hide from others, and secrets that they themselves have yet to discover. Fate has connected them, but their destiny remains unwritten. Both hold the power to liberate their land. And both hold the power to destroy the world.

Now the battle for the Last Kingdom begins.

I’ve read another series by this author (technically, I haven’t completed it yet) and was ecstatic to learn this is the first book in a new series.

Another author described this book as “devastatingly gorgeous”. She nailed it. With lyrical writing, rich world-building, and fully developed, complex characters, this tale will awe epic fantasy fans. It’s inspired by the mythology and folklore of ancient China, and I was completely enthralled.

Lan’s kingdom was invaded, her people’s magic outlawed, and she witnessed the horrifying death of her mother. As she was dying, her mother burned a strange mark on Lan’s arm, and several years later she still has no idea what it means. Zen is a practitioner, a fabled magician of the Last Kingdom. Upon meeting Lan, he knows she possesses a powerful hidden ability in the mark on her arm. Her best hope of understanding and developing it lies with an order of practitioning masters. Getting her there is dangerous and challenging – Zen’s and Lan’s personalities are like oil and water. He’s more the strong, disciplined, silent type and she’s… not. I laughed over some of their interactions and felt Zen’s exasperation with her. Lan’s first meeting with Dilaya, another strong personality and wonderful supporting character, is one of my favorite scenes. Let’s just say it didn’t go well and leave it at that.

Jaw-dropping twists, shocking choices, and life-threatening situations (so, so many) kept me glued to the pages. Do I really need to say I’ll be at the edge of my seat waiting for the next book? Highly recommend to fantasy, folklore, and mythology fans.

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

They’re Watching You by Chelsea Ichaso #bookreview #YA #suspense

When a secret society has you in their sights, it can lead to power, privilege… or death.

It’s been two weeks since Polly St. James went missing. The police, the headmistress of Torrey-Wells Academy, and even her parents have ruled her a runaway. But not Maren, her best friend and roommate. She knows Polly had a secret that she was about to share with Maren before she disappeared― something to do with the elite, ultra-rich crowd at Torrey-Wells.

Then Maren finds an envelope hidden among Polly’s things: an invitation to the Gamemaster’s Society. Do not tell anyone, it says. Maren is certain her classmates in the Society know the truth about what happened to Polly, though it’s no easy feat to join. Once Maren’s made it through the treacherous initiation, she discovers a world she never knew existed within her school, where Society members compete in high-stakes games for unheard-of rewards―Ivy League connections, privileges, favors.

But Maren’s been drawn into a different game: for every win, she’ll receive a clue about Polly. And as Maren keeps winning, she begins to see just how powerful the Society’s game is―bigger and deadlier than she ever imagined. They see, they know, they control. And they kill.

Maren’s roommate went missing two weeks ago and has been declared a runaway by the powers that be. But Maren doesn’t believe it. Sure Polly had been acting a little strangely, but Maren believes there’s more to her disappearance. After she finds an invitation to the Gamemaster’s Society among Polly’s things, Maren forms a plan to infiltrate the group and discover the truth about what happened to her friend.

The missing person angle and high-stakes games grabbed my attention, and I’ve enjoyed several other dark academia novels. It didn’t take long for the story to take off, and I liked that. It’s a pretty quick read that moves along briskly for the most part. To uncover the fate of her friend and play the games, Maren has to become a person she doesn’t like, but she has no other choice if she wants to receive clues about Polly. Her friendships with two other society members, Remington and Gavin, quickly turn into a weird kind of love triangle. Neither characters seem trustworthy, and she flip flops several times on who she can turn to. The identity of the Gamemaster also kept me guessing. It’s one of the people I suspected, but the author does a pretty good job of keeping it hidden.

The games, their consequences, and some of the acts these students perform are extreme at times, especially for high school students. Suspension of disbelief is a requirement for much of the story. If you can set that aside, it’s a twisty, enjoyable thriller I finished in a couple of sittings.

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

#BlogTour A Tale of Two Princes by Eric Geron #bookreview #romcom #LGBTQ

Will these long-lost twin princes be able to take on high school, coming out, and coronations together—or will this royal reunion quickly become a royal mess?
 
Edward Dinnissen, Crown Prince of Canada, loves getting the royal treatment at his exclusive Manhattan private school and living in a fancy mansion on Park Avenue. But despite living a royal life of luxury, Edward is unsure how to tell his parents, his expectant country, and his adoring fans that he’s gay.

Billy Boone couldn’t be happier: he loves small-town life and his family’s Montana ranch, and his boyfriend is the cutest guy at Little Timber High. But this out-and-proud cowboy is finally admitting to himself that he feels destined for more . . .

When Edward and Billy meet by chance in New York City and discover that they are long-lost twins, their lives are forever changed. Will the twin princes—“twinces”— be able to take on high school, coming out, and coronations together? Or will this royal reunion quickly become a royal disaster? 

This description sounded like a blend of Red, White, and Royal Blue (a pure delight) and The Parent Trap. Royal twins separated at birth? A Canadian monarchy? I was intrigued.

Raised since birth to become King of Canada, Edward lives a life of luxury, attends private school, and is accustomed to the royal treatment. Billy enjoys a more rugged lifestyle. He lives and works on a ranch in rural Montana, has been out-and-proud for years, and plans to stay on the ranch after high school graduation. When the two of them accidentally meet in NYC, worlds collide and lives are forever changed. As the older twin by one minute, Billy is the rightful crown prince. He’s pulled in different directions and struggles to meet the expectations placed on him. Edward is bitter about losing the crown and schemes with friends to undermine Billy so the crown will once again be his. Honestly, Edward was hard to like for a large part of the book, but he was all but pushed to the sidelines by his parents.

If you can suspend your disbelief over the situation and not ask detailed questions about how Canada came to have a monarchy, this is a fun and occasionally touching read. Billy is truly a fish out of water in Canada, and the news reports about his unfortunate antics with related headlines between chapters are pretty amusing. Pax is loyal, over the top, and completely fabulous as a supporting character, and Billy’s little sister Mack is a joy.

With themes of strong friendships, supportive families, and being your true self, this is a novel I’d recommend for the younger end of the YA spectrum.

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

On Sale Date: January 10, 2023

9781335425928

Hardcover

$18.99 USD

Ages 13 And Up

448 pages

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Eric Geron (pronounced: jur-ON) is the New York Times bestselling author of The Hocus Pocus Spell BookPoultrygeist, and Bye Bye, Binary, along with numerous other titles, including the New York Times bestselling Descendants novelization under the name Rico Green. He earned his creative writing degree from the University of Miami and spent many years at Disney as an editor of New York Times bestselling books. He currently resides in New York City. You can find him on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok @EricGeron and on his website at ericgeron.com.

SOCIAL LINKS: 

Author Website: http://www.ericgeron.com/

Twitter: @ericgeron

Instagram: @ericgeron

BUY LINKS: 

Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/p/books/a-tale-of-two-princes-eric-geron/17303731?ean=9781335425928

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335425928

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-tale-of-two-princes-eric-geron/1139818443?ean=9781335425928

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Tale-Two-Princes-Eric-Geron/dp/1335425926/ref=sr_1_1?crid=UZDE2OJQW6AF&keywords=a+tale+of+two+princes&qid=1672864767&sprefix=a+tale+of+two+princes%2Caps%2C98&sr=8-1

#BlogTour Waking Fire by Jean Louise #bookreview #YA #fantasy

This incendiary YA fantasy debut follows a girl who will stop at nothing to save her village after it’s discovered by a dangerous warlord and his army of undead monsters.

Naira Khoum has only known life in Lagusa, a quiet village at the desert’s end. But to the rest of the world, Lagusa is a myth, its location shrouded in secrecy. While war rages to the north led by power-hungry Sothpike and his army of undead monsters called Dambi, Naira’s people live in peace.

Until the impossible happens—Lagusa is attacked by a Mistress sent to do Sothpike’s bidding with a hoard of Dambi under her control. The Mistress is looking for something, and she’s willing to let her Dambi destroy Lagusa to get it.

Desperate to protect her home, Naira convinces her twin brother Nez and handsome refugee Kal to join the newly formed resistance with her. Together, they’ll have to figure out what the Mistress wants—before there’s nothing left of Lagusa to save.

Undead monsters and a desert setting? Like music to this fantasy fan’s ears.

The cover immediately catches the eye and depicts Naira’s arid world. It’s clear the author put a lot of time and effort into the world-building, and it’s easy to visualize the settings and terrifying Dambi. The sibling relationship between twins Naira and Nez is a strong point, and he steals the show more than once. He’s also more logical, mature, and realistic than Naira, whose actions gave me the impression she was a much younger character. With the situations they’re thrust into and losses they’re dealt, at least they had each other to rely on.

The way Naira and her family welcome Kal after the loss of his father is admirable and heartwarming. He hasn’t had an easy life. I liked him as a character, but there’s a case of serious insta-love between him and Naira that happens over a couple pages. It’s not my favorite trope, but I know plenty of readers are fans of it.

If not for some language and graphic violence and deaths, I could easily see this being an upper MG book because the characters read more like lower YA. If you’re a fantasy fan seeking remarkable world-building, Waking Fire certainly provides it.

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

On Sale Date: January 10, 2023

9781335428578

Hardcover

$18.99 USD

Ages 13 And Up

384 pages

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Jean Louise currently lives in Queens, New York, with her cat Martha. When she’s not writing, she can be found with her nose buried in a graphic novel or taking down bad guys in her favorite video games. She received an MFA in Writing for Children from The New School. This is her debut novel.

@WriteJeanLouise

SOCIAL LINKS: 

Author Website: https://jeanlouisewrites.com/

Twitter: @writejeanlouise

Instagram: @writejeanlouise

BUY LINKS: 

Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/p/books/waking-fire-jean-louise/18423456?ean=9781335428578

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/search/book?keys=Waking+Fire

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/waking%20fire

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Waking-Fire-1/dp/1335428577/ref=sr_1_2?crid=1K7FQU83CBGSM&keywords=waking+fire&qid=1672868937&sprefix=waking+fire%2Caps%2C76&sr=8-2

#BlogTour The Wrong Kind of Weird by James Ramos #bookreview #YA #romcom #TuesdayBookBlog

Cameron Carson has a secret. A secret with the power to break apart his friend group.

Cameron Carson, member of the Geeks and Nerds United (GANU) club, has been secretly hooking up with student council president, cheerleader, theater enthusiast, and all-around queen bee Karla Ortega since the summer. The one problem—what was meant to be a summer fling between coffee shop coworkers has now evolved into a clandestine senior-year entanglement, where Karla isn’t intending on blending their friend groups anytime soon, or at all.

Enter Mackenzie Briggs, who isn’t afraid to be herself or wear her heart on her sleeve. When Cameron finds himself unexpectedly bonding with Mackenzie and repeatedly snubbed in public by Karla, he starts to wonder who he can truly consider a friend and who might have the potential to become more…

I got as far as Geeks and Nerds United (GANU) club before requesting this book on NetGalley. That’s all I needed to know.

High school senior Cameron makes better than average grades, works part time as a barrista, trades snarky comments with his sister, and has a deep, abiding love of Dragonball Z. His social circle isn’t wide, and that’s just fine with him. He shares many common interests with his two (sometimes three) friends in the GANU club. The usual crowd populates his school – cheerleaders, athletes, theater group, band geeks, etc. What no one knows, not even his closest friends, is that he’s been secretly seeing popular crowd member Karla for several months. Their summer fling carried over into the school year, and Cam is hoping to find a way to fit into her crowd and be accepted by her friends. As a reporter for the school newspaper, his new assignment is to cover the play, Pride and Prejudice. With Karla and her friends involved in it, Cam thinks it’s the perfect opportunity. The problem is that he can’t stop thinking about Mackenzie, the sometimes member of GANU and his sort-of friend.

This is a light, humorous read that I sped through in a little over a day. It’s built on themes of self-acceptance, acceptance of others, strong friendships, forgiveness, and looking outside of your own little world. Pride and Prejudice is my favorite Austen novel, so I loved all the references to Elizabeth and Darcy. Cam’s sister attempting to explain the emotions Darcy’s “weird flex thing with his hand” conveyed in the movie is a favorite scene and had me chuckling. Cam’s devotion to Dragonball Z is understandable, but I admit to skimming several extensively detailed passages about it.

A sweet romance, awkward moments, charming, diverse characters, worlds colliding, and ride-or-die friendships make this an enjoyable read sure to appeal to fans of anime and Pride and Prejudice alike.

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

On Sale Date: January 3, 2023

Ship Date: December 7, 2022

9781335428585

Hardcover

$18.99 USD

320 pages

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

James Ramos (he/they) is a nonbinary, unapologetically dorky Minnesota native who now calls Arizona home. Weaned on a steady diet of science-fiction, comic books, and classic literature, James wrote his first story at eight years old and hasn’t stopped writing them since. He counts Jane Austen and Frank Herbert as his biggest literary influences, and believes in the unifying power of the written word. James is passionate about storytelling, particularly stories that give voice to marginalized people, especially those within the LGBTQ+ community and people of color. When he isn’t writing he can usually be found cosplaying with his friends or surrounded by his amazing family of cats.

SOCIAL LINKS:

Linktree: https://linktr.ee/thejamesramos 

Twitter & Instagram: @thejamesramos

BUY LINKS:

Changing Hands: https://www.changinghands.com/event/january2023/james-ramos 

Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/p/books/the-wrong-kind-of-weird-james-ramos/18423457?ean=9781335428585 

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-wrong-kind-of-weird-james-ramos/1141358823?ean=9781335428585&st=AFF&2sid=Linktree%20Pty%20Ltd_100589976_NA&sourceId=AFFLinktree%20Pty%20Ltd 

Books a Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/9781335428585?AID=32499&PID=100589976&cjevent=20f9ded7821611ed8187006e0a82b824&cjdata=MXxOfDB8WXww 

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1335428585 

The Stranded (The Stranded #1) by Sarah Daniels #bookreview #dystopian #postapocalyptic #TuesdayBookBlog

Snowpiercer meets The Hunger Games in a gripping near-future dystopian.

Welcome to the Arcadia.

Once a luxurious cruise ship, it became a refugee camp after being driven from Europe by an apocalyptic war. Now it floats near the coastline of the Federated States – a leftover piece of a fractured USA.

For forty years, residents of the Arcadia have been prohibited from making landfall. It is a world of extreme haves and have nots, gangs and make-shift shelters.

Esther is a loyal citizen, working flat-out to have the rare chance to live a normal life as a medic on dry land. Nik is a rebel, planning something big to liberate the Arcadia once and for all.

When events throw them both together, their lives, and the lives of everyone on the ship, will change forever . . . 

I’m a fan of both the Snowpiercer movie and series, and The Hunger Games is always a favorite. A blend of these comp titles was like a dream come true.

In the year 2094, decades after an apocalyptic war, several cruise ships are still at sea due to the possibility of the passengers spreading the virus to those on land. But after nearly 16,000 days at sea, the Arcadia has remained virus free for the majority of that time. The Federated States, most on the eastern seaboard, have split from the US and don’t want the ships to dock. They send supplies and very limited food rations, but life aboard still isn’t easy. The Arcadia consists of fourteen levels, the lowest controlled by gangs and the top tiers for the wealthy. With a couple generations never having set foot on land, most staterooms are passed down within families. Can I just say the world-building is well-crafted and fascinated me.

Opportunities for a future off the ship are almost nonexistent, but Esther and her sister May are both fortunate to have them – Esther as a medic and May as a soldier. Esther has kept her head down and worked hard so she and her boyfriend, also a medic, can leave the Arcadia and have a normal life. She just didn’t account for Nik and the rebel group. And then everything changes.

I certainly understood Esther’s motives, but I wasn’t her biggest fan at the beginning. She can’t see what’s right in front of her and pays the price for it. By the end, she redeems herself in my book. Nik is my favorite character, and he’s prepared to give his all for the resistance, but suffers a significant loss along the way. Chapters alternate between Esther, Nik, and Hadley’s (a despicable villain) POVs. Pacing is a little uneven, but the last twenty percent is thrilling and moves at warp speed, almost like a domino effect.

The Stranded is a phenomenal debut novel, and I’m anxious to see what happens in the conclusion of this duology. I’d highly recommend it to dystopia/postapocalyptic YA and adult fans.

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

The Poison Season by Mara Rutherford #bookreview #YA #fantasy

Outsiders are always given a choice: the Forest or the lake. Either way, they’re never heard from again.

Leelo has spent her entire life on Endla, coexisting with the bloodthirsty Forest and respecting the poisonous lake that protects her island from outsiders who seek to destroy it. But as much as Leelo cares for her community, she struggles to accept that her younger brother will be exiled by his next birthday, unless he gains the magic of enchanted song so vital to Endla.

When Leelo sees a young outsider on the verge of drowning in the lake, she knows exactly what she’s supposed to do. But in a moment that will change everything, Leelo betrays her family, her best friend, and Endla by making an unthinkable choice.

Discovery could lead to devastating consequences for both Leelo and the outsider, Jaren, but as they grow closer, Leelo realizes that not all danger comes from beyond the lake—and they can only survive if Leelo is willing to question the very fabric of her society, her people, and herself. 

The island of Endla is protected by a poisonous lake and a magical forest that demands blood sacrifices. Spending her entire life there, Leelo has led a very sheltered life. Outsiders live on the mainland, and they’re responsible for driving Endlans to the island several generations ago because of their magic. Leelo grew up being taught that outsiders are evil, unaccepting, and intolerant of Endlans. Personally, I thought many of the Endlans were a cold-hearted bunch. If their children’s magic hasn’t emerged by the age of twelve, they’re exiled and sent across the poisonous lake to find their own way in the world, never allowed to return to their homes or families.

Leelo’s aunt and cousin, who she and her mother live with, are among those cold-hearted people and don’t seem at all sorry that her brother Tate is to be exiled. Leelo is a more tender-hearted person, so when she comes across Jaren, an injured outsider who accidentally winds up on the island, she betrays her family and community to hide and shelter him and nurse him back to health. Over the course of getting to know each other, Leelo questions everything she’s been taught about the outsiders. Are they really as evil as she’s been led to believe? Once Jaren is discovered, Leelo is forced to choose sides.

Although I enjoyed the spectacular world-building, the story leans more toward romance than I expected. I know plenty of other reviewers are thrilled by that aspect. The ending is exciting and moves pretty quickly. I liked that it’s hopeful, and people are forced to question their beliefs.

The Poison Season is a solid, atmospheric fantasy filled with important messages and some creepy elements that thrilled me. I would have preferred less emphasis on the romance, but that’s just me, and it certainly wouldn’t prevent me from reading more books by this author in the future. She sure knows how to create an eerie setting.

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

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.