“After months in captivity, Apaay managed to escape Yuki’s labyrinth with her life. But her freedom did not come without a steep cost. When the Face Stealer, the North’s most notorious demon, calls in her blood oath, Apaay must heed his demand. Debts, after all, must be repaid.
As Apaay attempts to navigate her uprooted life, something dark slithers among the snow-dusted conifers of the North. A long-dead war is unfinished, and there are those who would see it revived. In a place where misplaced loyalty could mean her death, Apaay must look inward to repair her broken soul—for if she cannot place trust in those around her, she might find enemies are closer than they appear.
In this stunning follow-up to Below, Alexandria Warwick brings the second book in her dark and seductive North series to thrilling new heights.”
*I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review*
First of all, thank you so much to Alexandria Warwick for sending me the sequel in her North series! This is honestly one of my favorite indie series I’ve ever read! I think it’s so SO cool that it is based on Inuit mythology!
Her world building is really solid. She has The North, which is full of man and beasts… and a few demons! The first book I was like, oh okay cool, fun, the second book I was like, OMG there’s a whole iceberg of plot under here! I actually enjoyed the sequel better than the first! Well done!
The character. Okay, I saw in her acknowledgments that her editor is the number one Face Stealer fan. Then I want to be vice president of his fanclub! I LOVE him! Think of a cross between The Darkling and Cardan. Yeah, I went there. He is a sarcastic, sassy, secretive man. Apaay, the MC, is actually a bit like Jude now that I think about it. Attitude wise. Now, here’s the thing, I liked Apaay better in the first book. The second book was her depression (which was handled very well!)/ I don’t know how to handle stuff, attitude. It was done really well, I just don’t handle that stuff well because I am very sensitive towards that stuff. I don’t want to say “triggered” exactly but it’s hard for me sometimes. Anyways, Ila. Our secondary MC, reveals some mysteries! I really like her! I relate to her personality a bit more!
I really enjoyed learning about the other clans! I *think* the owl clan is my favorite! They live high in the trees and each can transform into a different giant bird of prey! SO COOL! The way Warwick describes the different powers that each clan member OR other creature has is awesome! There is this shadow power, shifter power, water/ ice power, and some mad fighting skills.
Not giving away any spoilers but I shippping shippity ship the Face Stealer and Apaay so freaking hard. But I did in the first book too, so.
This is seriously the perfect cold weather read! I’ve honestly never read anything like it! It sort of reads like Island of the Blue Dolphins but if it was modernized and for adults if that makes sense!
When two blades clash, the third will fall, and the fate of all will be jeopardized. To save Lozaria, the failures of the past must be atoned for by a new generation of heroes. The time has come for mortals to cast off sight and, in doing so, truly come to see . . .
Victory is never absolute.
Seven centuries ago, the forces of order won the Illyriite War on the plains of Har’muth. Darmatus and Rabban Aurelian slew their elder brother, Sarcon, the despotic architect of the conflict, then sacrificed themselves to banish the cataclysmic vortex opened with his dying breath. The first advent of the Oblivion Well was thwarted. Even without their vanished gods, the seven races of Lozaria proved themselves capable of safeguarding their world.
Or so the story goes.
The year is now 697 A.B.H (After the Battle of Har’muth). Though war itself remains much the same, the weapons with which it is waged have evolved. Airships bearing powerful cannons ply the skies, reducing the influence of mages and their spells. Long range communication has brought far flung regions of Lozaria closer than ever before. At the center of this technological revolution are the three Terran states of Darmatia, Rabban, and Sarconia, who have fought a near ceaseless campaign of 700 years in an attempt to best each other. The roots of their enmity lie buried beneath the wasteland of Har’muth, a place all three nations consider best forgotten.
However, an ancient power sealed within Har’muth has not forgotten them, and the descendants of those who fought on that field must now take a stand to rectify the mistakes of the past.
*Thank you to the author for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!*
I hope I don’t ramble or mind dump on y’all but I have a lot to say so buckle up!
First off, one of the reasons I took this review request was because Russell uses the same cover artist as Sanderson! How cool! Second off, I am pretty picky about indie author books I accept and this one just honestly sounded really promising. It had been a while since I had read an Epic Fantasy so I was excited to dig into this one. And it did not disappoint! In fact, I was shocked that not only is he an unknown author/ indie author, but he writes like an author who has been around. I was super surprised by how good this book actually is. Writing, content, world building, characters, everything was SO GOOD! I am not saying he is the next Sanderson YET, BUT y’all, trust me when I tell you that Russell is one to watch out for. He has the extreme potential to be one of the greats! And I am SUPER nit picky when I read indie books!
Yadda, yadda get to the book.
The book. The book reads like a nostalgic epic fantasy. I am reading Dune currently and this book actually reads like a mixture of Dune and some Sanderson. It actually has a mixture of the core being Fantasy, but with elements of Sci-fi (there are huge airships and fantastic tech), and a bit of steampunk, in my opinion! It’s a classic good vs. evil plot. And a question of what is more powerful, tech or magic? Or does it depend on the person? *winks*
And the baddie is one messed up dude! Sarcon. *Shivers* He’s good because not only is he extremely powerful but he is also fear manipulative. He is one you love to hate! He even has a “good reason” for what he is doing. And those make the best bad guys. No real life bad guy thinks they are the bad guy.
How about the good guys? This is a multiple third person POV. You get a lot from multiple angles BUT it doesn’t lose you! I was able to keep up well! Vallen. Oh Vallen. He was weird for me. I liked him, then didn’t, then he grew on me again. Man has an A-T-T-I-T-U-D-E. A lot of the time I was like, Vallen, get over yourself (even though you are one of the most powerful ever…). My favorite character was Sylette! Girl has some secrets, mystery, and is SMART! She knows some serious battle technition information. She has this cool magic where she can make knives and knows how to use them! There are quite a few other well rounded characters that make up the core good-guy group but for the sake of space I won’t talk about every single one.
Lastly, the magic. Ooooo it was a delicious magic system. There are consequences to using too much. And it’s a bit like Star Wars in the sense that each person has different quantities of “magic particles”. Each person or race has unique magic, there are shield users, knife users, premonition types, glyph users, and so. much. more. Very cool.
I can’t say enough good things about this book. Please consider reading it. I do not know the author what-so-ever, nor am I paid to do so. I just legit love this book and think it’s highly underrated. Clearly, because this is one of my longest reviews ever! What a great adventure to go on!
I saw a few people ask about content… There is: no sex scenes, swearing is in the respective peoples/ races language, there are tons of battle scenes and blood and gore.
“Returning to the dark and glamorous 19th century world of her New York Times instant bestseller, The Gilded Wolves, Roshani Chokshi dazzles us with another riveting tale as full of mystery and danger as ever in The Silvered Serpents.
They are each other’s fiercest love, greatest danger, and only hope.
Séverin and his team members might have successfully thwarted the Fallen House, but victory came at a terrible cost — one that still haunts all of them. Desperate to make amends, Séverin pursues a dangerous lead to find a long lost artifact rumored to grant its possessor the power of God.
Their hunt lures them far from Paris, and into the icy heart of Russia where crystalline ice animals stalk forgotten mansions, broken goddesses carry deadly secrets, and a string of unsolved murders makes the crew question whether an ancient myth is a myth after all.
As hidden secrets come to the light and the ghosts of the past catch up to them, the crew will discover new dimensions of themselves. But what they find out may lead them down paths they never imagined.
A tale of love and betrayal as the crew risks their lives for one last job.”
*I received an e-arc from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
*This is spoiler free if you have not read the second book!! There might be some small spoilers from the first book!*
Our adventure begins by dropping you into our gang’s lives a few months after book one. And it’s so sad! They are all apart doing their own thing while Severin is drowning in his sorrows. Severin quickly calls them all together to finally find The Divine Lyrics. Then things really pick up.
They are not thieves like the gang from Six of Crows, but they are treasure hunters. So freaking cool. They each have a job to do within the crew. And of course, Severin trying to “protect” them, treats them all horribly. Especially Laila. *Cue tears* But through that, I love how close Laila gets with Enrique and Zofia! Those three are the sweetest ever. I love them.
Zofia was probably my favorite character this time! She is very logical to the extreme but she is learning social cues and maybe learning some of her own heart. I for sure ship her with a certain someone. And this book put wind in my ship’s sails!!!
I liked Hypnos but he was sort of the annoying/ little brother character? I don’t know how to explain it.
CAN WE TALK ABOUT THE WRITING?! I give 5 freaking stars to the writing alone. It’s pure magic. Chokshi makes the reader feel all five senses while reading. And it’s different for each character. One character will see snow as sugar while the other feels it as tiny ice droplets that makes their skin freeze. She also writes AMAZING food scenes. Made me hungry.
The plot read like an adventure, treasure hunting movie! They travel to Russia and discover new places to find the mysterious book. And they all go through plenty of trials and pain!
This book had it all! Love- platonic and romantic, descriptions to die for, characters you love, ice creatures come alive, myths and legends, twists, and a cliff hanger ending that will leave you begging for more! I can’t wait for the next book!
Check out my review for the first book HERE! It was written a couple years ago so my style has changed a bit. 😛
Surrounded by poverty and paranoia her entire life, Wil has been left behind in her small Appalachian town by her mother and her best friend. Not only is she tending her stepfather’s illegal marijuana farm alone, but she’s left to watch the world fall further into chaos in the face of a climate crisis brought on by another year of unending winter. So opens Alison Stine’s moving and lyrical cli-fi novel, ROAD OUT OF WINTER (MIRA Trade; September 1, 2020; $17.99).
With her now priceless grow lights stashed in her truck and a pouch of precious seeds, Wil upends her life to pursue her mother in California, collecting an eclectic crew of fellow refugees along the way. She’s determined to start over and use her skills to grow badly needed food in impossible farming conditions, but the icy roads and desperate strangers are treacherous to Wil and her gang. Her green thumb becomes the target of a violent cult and their volatile leader, and Wil must use all her cunning and resources to protect her newfound family and the hope they have found within each other.
I used to have dreams that Lobo would be arrested. The sheriff and his deputies would roll up the drive, bouncing on the gravel, but coming fast, too fast to be stopped, too fast for Lobo to get away through the fields. Or maybe Lobo would be asleep, and they would surprise him, his eyes red, slit like taillights. My mama and I would weep with joy as they led him off. The deputies would wrap us in blankets, swept in their blue lights. We were innocent, weren’t we? Just at the wrong place at the wrong time, all the time, involved with the wrong man—and we didn’t know, my mama didn’t know, the extent.
But that wasn’t true, not even close.
I sold the weed at a gas station called Crossroads to a boy who delivered meals for shut-ins. Brown paper bags filled the back of his station wagon, the tops rolled over like his mama made him lunch. I supposed he could keep the bags straight. That was the arrangement Lobo had made years ago, that was the arrangement I kept. I left things uncomplicated. I didn’t know where the drugs went after the boy with the station wagon, where the boy sold them or for how much. I took the money he gave me and buried most of it in the yard.
After his station wagon bumped back onto the rural route, I went inside the store. There was a counter in the back, a row of cracked plastic tables and chairs that smelled like ketchup: a full menu, breakfast through dinner. They sold a lot of egg sandwiches at Crossroads to frackers, men on their way out to work sites. It was a good place to meet; Lisbeth would come this far. I ordered three cheeseburgers and fries, and sat down.
She was on time. She wore gray sweatpants under her long denim skirt, and not just because of the cold. “You reek, Wil,” she said, sliding onto the chair across from me.
“Lobo says that’s the smell of money,” I said.
“My mama says money smells like dirty hands.”
The food arrived, delivered by a waitress I didn’t know. Crinkling red and white paper in baskets. I slid two of the burgers over to Lisbeth. The Church forbade pants on women, and short hair, and alcohol. But meat was okay. Lisbeth hunched over a burger, eating with both hands, her braid slipping over her shoulder.
“Heard from them at all?” she asked.
“You think he would let her write you? Call?”
“She doesn’t have her own phone,” I said.
Lisbeth licked ketchup off her thumb. The fries were already getting cold. How about somethin’ home made? read the chalkboard below the menu. I watched the waitress write the dinner specials in handwriting small and careful as my mama’s.
“Hot chocolate?” I read to Lisbeth. “It’s June.”
“It’s freezing,” she said.
And it was, still. Steam webbed the windows. There was no sign of spring in the lung-colored fields, bordered by trees as spindly as men in a bread line. We were past forsythia time, past when the squirrels should have been rooting around in the trees for sap.
“What time is it now?” Lisbeth asked.
I showed her my phone, and she swallowed the last of her burger.
“I’ve got to go.”
“Choir rehearsal.” She took a gulp of Coke. Caffeine was frowned upon by The Church, though not, I thought, exclusively forbidden. “I gave all the seniors solos, and they’re terrified. They need help. Don’t forget. Noon tomorrow.”
The Church was strange—strange enough to whisper about. But The Church had a great choir; she had learned so much. They had helped her get her job at the high school, directing the chorus, not easy for a woman without a degree. Also, her folks loved The Church. She couldn’t leave, she said.
“What’s at noon?” I asked.
She paused long enough to tilt her head at me. “Wylodine, really? Graduation, remember? The kids are singing?”
“I don’t want to go back there.”
“You promised. Take a shower if you been working so my folks don’t lose their
“If they haven’t figured it out by now, they’re never going to know,” I said, but Lisbeth
was already shrugging on her coat. Then she was gone, through the jangling door, long braid and layers flapping. In the parking lot, a truck refused to start, balking in the cold.
I ordered hot chocolate. I was careful to take small bills from my wallet when I went up to the counter. Most of the roll of cash from the paper bag boy was stuffed in a Pepsi can back on the floor of the truck. Lobo, who owned the truck, had never been neat, and drink cans, leaves, and empty Copenhagen tins littered the cab. Though the mud on the floor mats had hardened and caked like makeup, though Lobo and Mama had been gone a year now, I hadn’t bothered cleaning out the truck. Not yet.
The top of the Pepsi can was ripped partially off, and it was dry inside: plenty of room for a wad of cash. I had pushed down the top to hide the money, avoiding the razor-sharp edge. Lobo had taught me well.
I took the hot chocolate to go.
In the morning, I rose early and alone, got the stove going, pulled on my boots to hike up the hill to the big house. I swept the basement room. I checked the supplies. I checked the cistern for clogs. The creek rode up the sides of the driveway. Ice floated in the water, brown as tea.
No green leaves had appeared on the trees. No buds. My breath hung in the air, a web I walked through. My boots didn’t sink in the mud back to my own house in the lower field; my footprints were still frozen from a year ago. Last year’s walking had made ridges as stiff as craters on the moon. At the door to my tiny house, I knocked the frost from my boots, and yanked them off, but kept my warm coveralls on. I lit the small stove, listening to the whoosh of the flame. The water for coffee ticked in the pot.
I checked the time on the clock above the sink, a freebie from Radiator Palace.
I feel like she would have grown up listening to country, and to the music her mama liked, as I did, like Linda Ronstadt, Crystal Gale. I think she would really like Kacey Musgraves, and would have snuck a copy her albums to her friend who was raised very strict. But I think Wil’s favorite song would be Burning House by Cam. It was on the radio when I was writing. I used to sing it to my son. The lyrics speak a lot to Wil’s situation: “stay here with you/til this dream is gone.” It would have been on the radio when she was driving home from seeing the person who could never love her the way she wanted, driving through the place that could never love her back.
2. Which character in ROAD OUT OF WINTER do you most relate to?
Wil. We were a few months into the pandemic when I realized I actually am Wil. Writing her made me realize I’m stronger than I know. I can get my family cross-country safely. I can make it work. All of her plant knowledge is my own, which I gained from living in rural Appalachia for so long, and from my friends and neighbors. I cry more than she does, though.
3. What was your favorite scene to write? No spoilers!
Everything involving the skaters, though it scared me too. My son is a skater and my partner is (and I used to be, before getting hurt!). Friends of ours have a homemade skate ramp out in the country. Several of my friends basically have their own compounds which, I’m not gonna lie, is a dream. Anytime I can convey the wildness, strangeness, and the abandon of rural Appalachian Ohio is a good writing day. It can be scary but it can also be really fun, living in the middle of nowhere. You can do what you want, to both good and bad results.
4. Who was your favorite character to write and why?
Jamey. In my real life, in part because of my disability, I’m quiet, especially in new situations. I hold back. Jamey says the things I wish I could. She’s also, as my smart friend and early reader Ellee pointed out, a survivor: she can be sarcastic and harsh sometimes because of what she had to endure. Her defense mechanism is pretending not to care. But she does care, deeply.
5. Why was it important to you to have a queer character in your story?
I didn’t consciously set out to make Wil queer and I don’t know that she would call herself that exactly, if she has that language or community yet. She loves who she loves, but her experience of romantic love in a small town has been things just not working out. Nobody really seeing her. That was also my experience for a long time. I’ve only felt comfortable calling myself bisexual in the past few years, despite having had long-term relationships with both men and women. That was how I grew up, in a small conservative town. Wil wants love, and the woman she loves wants something else, a bigger life, that Wil always hoped she could make somehow right here where she grew up. My experience is that sometimes you have to make that life elsewhere. Sometimes rural spaces are not the friendliest, home is not the easiest. But I am very proud and glad to have a bi woman in a rural space in my book. I guess I wrote the book I needed when I was young and couldn’t find. It’s still hard to find bi characters, especially in adult literary and commercial fiction. It’s even harder to find them celebrated. We seemed to be skipped over quite a lot. Often I feel invisible, like my life and experiences and struggles don’t matter. Being bi is just who she is, it’s not a plot device. Just a fact, as it is in life.
6. Are you a pantser or a plotter?
I like to surprise myself so I am mostly just plunging into writing. The best stories come from dreams, in my opinion. Then once you have the dream, you need to wait a little while until characters and the main events take shape. I usually know the three main acts before I start to write a book, but that’s it. I start to know the end by about the middle. With ROAD OUT OF WINTER, I knew nothing, because the book originally did not go where I wanted it to and so I stopped writing. I thought they were going to go clear across the country and so I stopped. When I came back to the manuscript a few months later, I realized, no, they were never supposed to get out of Appalachia. And I finished the book.
7. Where is your favorite place to write?
I can work anywhere, and have had to, being a single mother for most of my child’s life. But a lot of ROAD OUT OF WINTER, and my next book, were written and revised at The Westend Ciderhouse, a cidery and bar in my town. I would go in the afternoon—they opened early on Fridays—and had my favorite table. Nobody bothered me. Several of the bartenders were my friends but they knew I was working. It was very quiet, and kinda dark and cool, and I would just write—and drink one cider, until it was time for my son to come home from school. I write better in bars than in coffeeshops. I guess I’m just that type.
8. What’s the worst writing advice you ever received?
That you need the approval of a teacher or professor or workshop or a degree to write. Writing is being a collector and interpreter of experiences. You don’t have to study writing formally or major in it, and looking back, I kinda wish I had explored more of my other interests in music and theatre and art. All that would have helped my writing too. Don’t let go of the other stuff that makes you happy. Everything you do helps fill your well as a writer—other art, sports, travel, friendships. Books are your best teachers. The best thing you can do to be a better writer is to read, to experience, to write, and to live.
9. What is the best book you’ve read this year?
The best book I read this year so far was Meg Elison’s The Book of the Unnamed Midwife. I read and loved all the books in the trilogy. They were some of the first books I could get through in the early days of the pandemic, when my mind and heart were all over the place. They helped center me, in part because they made me feel seen. The trilogy focuses on women, queer folks, bi folks, and how we might survive in a world that doesn’t really see or even want us—and that matters to me.
10. What are you working on next?
My second novel TRASHLANDS is coming out from MIRA in the fall of 2021. It’s about a single mom at a strip club at the end of the world. She has to choose between being an artist, being a parent, or being in love, which isn’t much of a choice at all but the kind that women throughout time have been forced to make. And I’m starting to write my next novel, about a reporter who is hard of hearing (like me!) and is called back home to investigate something really bad.
ALISON STINE lives in the rural Appalachian foothills. A recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), she was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. She has written for The Atlantic, The Nation, The Guardian, and many others. She is a contributing editor with the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.
*Bookshop is a new affiliate I am trying out because the proceeds go to your local bookstores!*
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.
*Thank you to Wednesday Books for sending me an e-arc via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, and for having me on the blog tour!*
Y’all, it has been a hot minute since a YA book has gripped me. This one was actually really hard to put down! It has danger, slow-burn romance, love triangle (it’s actually done well! Trust me!), mysteries, and plenty of magic! Plus a it is a retelling of Phantom of the Opera mixed with a magic competition!!
I really enjoyed the characters. Everything including the characters is so mysterious! Kallia, our main MC, is feisty and speaks her mind. And listen, I don’t like ANY MCs that are jerks when they are written like that. Male or Female. But Kallia somehow isn’t! I really enjoyed her fierce personality. I think because she was still generous and wants to help people, like her assistant Aaros!
Let’s talk loooooove. Jack. This is the Phantom and the Opera part. Jack is the phantom. He is very dark and mysterious. And he is fiercely protective over Kallia. But he definitely smothers her. But Demarco has his own dangerous secrets too. He is just a bit of the gentler sort. A few times he got angry and I was just like, yeeeess Demarco, let it out.
I LOVED the world. Fantastic world building. Glorian is really the only place we see, so I would love to get more of the outside world! And the magic! It was so amazing to read about the unique and creative magic that Kallia could do! I could almost experience the 5 senses just from Angeles’s writing! She really wrote a magical book!
THAT ENDING. WHERE IS BOOK 2?! MUST HAVE IT!
Never come to Hellfire House without wearing a mask.
It was one of the rare rules in a joint without any. The only rule the master of the club did not mind following. He blended in with the sea of suits and white masks that arrived every other night, switching appearances from crowd to crowd. A bartender one moment, a dealer at the card tables the next.
Only his face remained the same, half-masked and haunting. Like a prince who relished the bloody crown on his head, and the ghosts that came with it. A face almost hardened by beauty, though glints of youth ran deep beneath soft black eyes. It always shocked new guests, to see him. The master of the House was rumored to be a dragon of a man. A monster. A magician who had no mercy for fools.
Only those who dared slur the word boy in his face understood how true those rumors were.
To the rest, he played the devil on all shoulders, leading patrons to his bar and game tables, guiding them toward his enchanted smoke lounge to drown in curated memories. The warmth of first love, the heady rush of triumph, the immense joy of dreams come true. The master kept a selection of sensations, and one hit of the pipes delivered magic the people came crawling to his house to taste.
They had no idea the show that was in store for them.
The master of the House sipped his short glass of scarlet whiskey in peace, tapping along the wide black strip over his brass knuckles. He’d long since manipulated his attire, sitting casually at a card table and savoring the mayhem. Raucous cheers erupted from the next table as dice rolled out across the surface. Smiling Hellfire girls in black blazers and masks of lace denied patrons begging for a dance. Loudest of all, the dealer’s crisp shuffling of the black cards with teeth-white numbers before she doled out hands to players at the table.
“No, no more,” one moaned. “I can’t.”
“Sure you can, chap.” A young man in a white thorn-edged mask cheerfully pressed him back in his seat. “We can’t leave. Haven’t even finished your drink, yet.”
His drunken friend’s mouth puckered under another gulp. “Think it’s true, the drink? Magician’s Blood, the menu said.”
“Think you have power, now?” Thorn Mask laughed, leaning back to appraise the club. “Here, you take your magic where you can get it. You wear a mask. You flip a card, smoke a memory. Or you look up . . . at her.”
The master’s fingers tightened around his glass, just as the lights dimmed. Dancers cleared the floor under the hush of music, shifting from smooth, steady beats to a racing rhythm loud as thunderous applause.
Right on cue.
The band’s worth of instruments he’d charmed for the night started up a wild entry tune of drums, the thick trill of trumpets. Chatter ceased and backs straightened as a beam of light speared toward the ceiling. A panel slid open over the dance floor.
And the chandelier descended.
Strings of crystals dangled along tiered rims of rose gold, cutting sharply into a jewel-set swing where a masked showgirl sat. A throne of glittering jewels, casting luminous lace across the walls and the ground and the audience taking her in. Her brown skin glowed against her corset, red as her gem-studded mask. Arms stretched out, she crossed and extended her legs in smooth lines all the way down, until her heels touched the lacquered black dancefloor. With the hint of a smile, she rose from her throne and stalked forward, thrusting a hand up with a snap.
Darkness engulfed the room.
Hoots and hollers rang at the drop of the beat, before a glimmer of her form reappeared in the shadows. The room pulsed at her command, matching the spike of heartbeats the master sensed throughout the club.
The smirk on his lips matched the girl’s as she arched her back to the raw stretch of the melody. She thrived under the attention, like a wildflower under the sun. A star finding the night.
“I’ll be damned.” The drunk at the card table breathed in awe, as the girl’s palms began brightening with a molten glow. “Nothing like an academy girl.”
“Worth the trip, right?” His friend clapped a hand on his shoulder.
“I didn’t know they could be magicians like . . . this.”
The master smothered a dark scoff under a sip of whiskey. The girl showed off good tricks—improvised and bettered from his basic crowd-pleasers. Treating the ceiling like a sky and showering comets from it, casting an elaborate shadow show of dancing shades over the floor, shifting every candlelight in the room to different colors to the beat of the music.
But always the performer, she preferred to be front and center. Teasing her power just enough to make the audience want more of her magic, more of her.
He wet his lips as flames shot from her hands, arcing over her head and around her body. The fire’s melody bent to her every movement, and she gave everything to it. If she wasn’t careful, she’d overexert herself like she did most nights, never knowing when to stop. How to pull back.
Careful never was her strongest suit.
Sparks fell before her, sizzling on the ground. Unafraid, she sauntered down her stage of flames with slow swaying hips and a firelit smile.
“Magicians like this are best kept a secret,” Thorn Mask went on. “And besides, the work is far too scandalous for a lady. Only clubs will take them.”
“What a shame. Imagine going up against the likes of her at the competition.”
The master paused, drawing his gaze back to his glass.
“Not this again. That flyer was nothing but a joke.” Thorn Mask slapped the table with a groaning laugh. “A prank.”
The drunk sloppily patted around his coat, pulling from his breast pocket a dirty, scrunched ball of paper. “It’s real. They’re all over the academies, in Deque and New Crown and—”
“A prank,” repeated Thorn Mask, unfolding the flyer anyway. “It has to be. No one’s been to that city in ages, it would never open itself to such games.”
“That makes it all the more interesting, don’t you think?” As another roar of cheers erupted around them, the friend sipped his drink smugly. “Imagine if she entered, the city might implode.”
“Right. As if that would ever happen.” Thorn Mask leered. “Competition would eat a creature like her alive.”
“Because she’s . . . ?”
With an impish lift of his brow, the man in the thorny mask flicked the flyer off the table and returned to his forgotten spread of cards. “Let’s get on with the game, shall we?”
Before he could gesture at the dealer, the master suddenly appeared at their table, snatching the young man’s wrist in a biting grip. The man yelped as the force knocked over his drink, and sent a stream of hidden cards spilling out from his sleeves.
“What’s this?” The master bent toward the ground and picked up a couple, entirely too calm. “Cheating in my house?”
The man froze, recognition dawning at the brass knuckles alone. “Where did you—I-I mean,” he sputtered, patting frantically at his sleeve. “That’s impossible. Those aren’t mine, I swear.”
“Then where did they come from?”
Sweat dripped from his temple, his face paler than the white of his mask. “I emptied my pockets at the door. Honest.”
Honest. That was the best he could do? The master almost laughed.
“You want to know the price cheaters pay in my joint?” His question offered no mercy. Only deliverance, served on ice. “Memories.”
“No, please!” The man’s lip trembled. “I didn’t, I-I’ll do whatever you want!”
“This is what I want.” The master rose from the table with the jerk of his wrist. The cheat flew to the ground in a gasp as he gripped at the invisible chain-like weight around his neck. Sharp, staccato breaths followed the master as he dragged his prisoner toward the smoke dens.
The man screamed, but no one heard him. No one saw, no one cared. All eyes fell on the star of the show as she searched for a dance partner to join her. The drunken friend, noticing nothing amiss, raised his half-full glass of Magician’s Blood to his lips before waving his hand high like the others. The man thrashed harder, only to feel his cries smothered and deeper in his throat. His form, invisible at the sweep of the master’s hand.
With a disdainful glance, the master chuckled. “You’re only making this more difficult for yourself. One memory won’t kill you.”
At once, he paused. The lights blinked around them, the air grown still. Dim and hazy, as though locked in a dream.
He thought nothing of it until he caught the movements of the patrons—their arms raised and waving slowly, increment by increment. Their cheers dulled and stretched into low, gravelly roars, as if the sound were wading through heavier air. Against time itself.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
The sound of her voice slithered around him, stopping the master in his tracks. The man quieted. Sweat soaked his pale face, his chest heaving. The showgirl stood in their path, every stare in the room still locked on the spotlit floor where she’d been. As though she’d never left.
Her red corset glinted as she cocked her hip and pointed at the man on the floor. “I choose him.”
She could never let things be easy.
“Kallia,” he growled, warning.
She smiled. “Jack.”
“Pick another. He’s a cheater.”
Her lips pursed into a dubious line. “Then let me teach him a lesson. He’ll no doubt prefer it more.” She swung a leg over the man’s prone form so she stood directly above him. Invitation dripped from the crook of her fingers. “The music calls, darling. Let’s have ourselves a grand time.”
The man’s terror turned swiftly into awe, and he looked at her as if ready to kiss the ground she walked on. As soon as he took her beckoning hand, the room resumed its lively rhythm—a song snapped back in full swing. The cheers and hollers returned to their normal speed, exploding in delight as patrons found their lovely entertainer in their midst, her chosen dance partner in tow.
She bypassed the master, pressing a casual hand on his chest to move him. It lingered, he noticed. Unafraid, unlike most. Their gazes locked for a moment, their masked faces inches apart.
No one ever dared to get this close. To him, to her.
Only each other.
At the next round of cheers and whistles, she pushed him away, smug as a cat. Tugging the man close behind her, she sent fires onto the ground that illuminated her path and warded others from trying to follow them to the stage. Never once looking back at the master, even as he watched on after her.
His fist tightened, full of the cards from his earlier trick. They disappeared into mist, having served their purpose. Along with the flyer he managed to grab.
He didn’t even bother giving it a read. It died in the fire caged by his palm. Tendrils of smoke rose between his brass knuckles, and when he opened his fingers, nothing but ash fell to the ground.
JANELLA ANGELES is a Filipino-American author who got her start in writing through consuming glorious amounts of fanfiction at a young age—which eventually led to penning a few of her own, and later on, creating original stories from her imagination. A lifelong lover of books, she’s lucky enough to be working in the business of publishing them on top of writing them. She currently resides in Massachusetts, where she’s most likely to be found listening to musicals on repeat and daydreaming too much for her own good. Where Dreams Descend is her first book.
*I received a paperback copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*
Y’all, I LOVED this book! Like, why aren’t more people talking about it? I feel like it should be popular! Honestly, this would make an epic movie! It does give me major Outlander vibes in terms of pacing, star crossed lovers, and the bit of magic that is in them. It just feel similar!
Juliet throughout her lives is interesting. She definitely changes but at the same time keeps her core personality traits I think. My favorite was Nora. She was the most relatable.
Luke. Oh poor Luke. He is the administrator demon of Juliet’s curse. He is not supposed to love her, and yet he does every time. It’s heart breaking to watch them over and over make mistakes that lead to their destruction basically.
And Auguste. He, I did not really like. He seemed like a coward in each of his lives.
The whole premise was super interesting! It is all about the repercussions of a curse gone wrong, and the people who paid for it. I really liked going through the book as Helen, as she gets her memories back from her past lives, and finds out just how strong she really is. I also really liked the administrator demon thing. That was a cool little twist.
I won’t spoil the ending, but IT’S REALLY GOOD.
I cannot wait until Sayers next novel comes out in 2021, The Ladies of the Secret Circus!
Colt Clemmons is an agent in a specialized division within the Bureau of Investigation—one that hunts down not just mobsters, but also monsters.
For reasons that are kept top secret, Colt is the only person who can resist a siren’s voice. But he’s never had a chance to test this ability. The last siren left in the world mysteriously disappeared years ago.
Then one night, with a single word, she reveals herself. It seems too good to be true.
And it is. Because nothing about this siren—her past, her powers, or her purpose—is what it seems…
*I received an e-arc from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
First let me say, I really liked this book. It was sweet. Which is weird because it’s this cool concept that monster parts fuse with humans and give them abilities. So, if you are looking for a dark siren tale, this is not it. If you are looking for something more like Pirates of the Caribbean FEEL (they are not alike, there is no high seas adventure) just the FEEL, then I think you would like this. It’s the difference between Jaws and Jurassic Park. Ya feel me?
Anyways, Eris is really likable. She is kind and nice but that doesn’t mean she is weak. Kindness is not weakness. She uses her powers to stop bad people. Colt does too, he just had misplaced loyalties. Their relationship is cute. It is instalove which I don’t usually like BUT I think this was done really well.
I REALLY liked the plot. I won’t spoil anything but I liked how the human/ monster hybrids came about. I think it definitely could have been meatier and the author could have delved more into that concept BUT with a shorter book and the intended audience, it was done well. Plus the fight scenes were pretty cool. Eris and Colt’s powers work well together.
I feel like the intended audience is more like 13-15 year old girls. I also think this would be considered a clean read in terms of sex and swearing, if you are looking for that. That is just my opinion. It was a fun, fast read. Now I want to read her other books!
*Thank you to the publisher for sending me an e-arc in exchange for an honest review!*
Hocking painted such a vivid, lush world full of wonder and magic. I got major Gail Carson Levine vibes, and my inner teenage self was squealing with joy. It felt nostalgic. It felt sweet. I loved it!
I want to find out so badly about Ulla’s past! It’s so mysterious! I have a few guesses but we will see if I am right! Y’all, I also LOVED that she was written as plus sized! But I also loved that it wasn’t a big deal. It was normal. She is so cool! She is wicked smart and has a ton of courage.
I also loved the side characters! Hanna, Pan, Dagny, and Eliana! Eliana is as mysterious as Ulla. I want to know more about her as well. Pan is the sweetest ever and I for sure ship him and Ulla! Dagny is the surly roomate with a secret heart of gold. And Hanna is the bubbly young teen who wants to be a part of everything.
There are so many mysterious things that are happening in this world that I MUST know!! Like the mysterious stranger Ulla keeps running into!
The only thing I wanted a bit more of was adventure. The book took place all in one city the whole time and basically there was a bunch of information to be found while the characters talked and researched. But it looks like book two will have that adventure I am looking for and I can’t wait!
Ten Years Ago
“Tell me about it again,” I entreated—begged, really, in a small voice, small especially for a girl like me.
Mr. Tulin, on the nights he had a little too much hot tea and brandy, would tell me stories of other, less fortunate babies. One had been left out for the wolves, another drowned in the icy river. Still another was killed by an angakkuq, this time to be mashed into a paste for one of her potions.
On the other nights, he’d try to convince me there wasn’t any time for a story. But I’d beg and plead, and his eyes would glimmer—already milky with cataracts, lighting up when he spoke about monsters. I would pull the covers up to my chin, and his normally crackled baritone would go even lower, rumbling with the threat of the monsters he impersonated.
I was never sure how much he’d made up or what had been passed down to him, as he’d weave through all sorts of patchwork folklore—the monsters and heroes pieced together from the neighboring Inuit, our Norse ancestry, and especially from the troll tribe that Mr. and Mrs. Tulin belonged to—the Kanin.
But I had a favorite story, one that I asked for over and over again.
This one I loved because it was about me, and because it was true.
“Which one?” Mr. Tulin asked, feigning ignorance as he lingered at my bedroom door.
It was dark in my room, except for the cast-iron woodstove in the corner. My room had been a pantry before I was here, before Mr. Tulin had converted it into a tiny bedroom. Outside, the wind howled, and if I hadn’t been buried underneath the blankets and furs, I would’ve felt the icy drafts that went along with all that howling.
“The day you met me,” I replied with unbridled glee.
“Well, you turned out to be a big one, didn’t ya?” That’s what Mr. Tulin liked to say, particularly when I was scooping another helping of potatoes on my plate at the supper table, and
then I would sheepishly put half a portion back, under the sharp gaze of Mrs. Tulin.
But he wasn’t wrong. I was tall, thick, and pale. By the age of nine I was nearly five feet tall, towering over the kids in the little schoolhouse.
Once, I’d overheard Mrs. Tulin complaining aloud to a neighbor, saying, “I don’t know why they chose our doorstep to leave ’er on. By the size of her, her da’ must be an ogre, and her ma’ must be a nanuq. She’ll eat us out of house and home before she’s eighteen.”
After that, I tried to make myself smaller, invisible, and I made sure that I mended all my clothing and cleaned up after myself. Mrs. Tulin didn’t complain too much about me after that, but every once in a while I would hear her muttering about how they really ought to set up a proper orphanage in Iskyla, so the townsfolk weren’t stuck taking in all the abandoned strays.
I didn’t complain either, and not only because there was nobody to listen. There were a few kids at my school who served as a reminder of how much worse it could be for me. They were sketches of children, really—thin lines, stark shadows, sad eyes, just the silhouettes of orphans.
“You sure you wanna hear that one again, ayuh?” Mr. Tulin said in response to my pleas.
“If that’s the one the lil’ miss wants, then that be the one I tell.” He walked back over to the bed, limping slightly, the way he did every time the temperatures dipped this low.
Once he’d settled on the edge of the bed, his bones cracked and creaked almost as loudly as the bed itself.
“It was a night much like this—” he began.
“But darker and colder, right?” I interjected.
His bushy silver eyebrows pinched together. “Are you telling it this time?”
“No, no, you tell it.”
“Ayuh.” He nodded once. “So I will, then.”
It was a night much like this. The sun hadn’t been seen for days, hiding behind dark clouds that left even the daylight murky blue. When the wind came up, blowing fresh snow so
heavy and thick, you couldn’t hardly see an inch in front of your nose. All over, the town was battened down and quiet, waiting out the dark storm. Now, the folks in Iskyla had survived
many a winter storm, persisting through even the harshest of winters. This wasn’t the worst of the storms we’d faced, but there was something different about this one. Along with the cold and the dark, it brought with it a strange feeling in the air.
“And a stranger,” I interjected again, unable to help myself.
Mr. Tulin didn’t chastise me this time. He just winked and said, “Ayuh, and a stranger.”
The old missus, Hilde, and I were hunkered down in front of the fireplace, listening to the wind rattling the house, when a knock came at the door.
Hilde—who scoffed whenever Tapeesa the angakkuq spoke of the spirits and monsters—shrieked at me when I got up to answer the door. “Whaddya think you’re doing, Oskar?”
“We’re still an inn, aren’t we?” I paused before I reached the door to look back at my wife, who sat in her old rocker, clutching her knitting to her chest.
Well, of course we were. Her father had opened the inn years ago, back when the mines first opened and we had a brief bout of tourism from humans who got lost on their way to the mines.
But that had long dried up by the time Hilde inherited it. We only had a dozen or so customers every year, mostly Inuit or visiting trolls, but whenever I suggested we close up and move south, Hilde would pitch a fit, reminding me that her family settled Iskyla, and she was settled here until she died.
“Course we’re an inn, but we’re closed,” Hilde said. “The storm’s too bad to open.”
Again the knocking came at the door, pounding harder this time.
“We got all our rooms empty, Hilde!” I argued. “Anyone out in this storm needs a place to stay, and we won’t have to do much for ’em.”
“But you don’t know who—or what—is at the door,”
Hilde stammered, lowering her voice as if it would carry over the howling wind and out the door to whoever waited on our stoop. “No human or troll has any sense being out in a storm like this.”
“Well, someone has, and I aim to find out who it is.”
I headed toward the door, Hilde still spouting her hushed protests, but my mind had been made up. I wasn’t about to let anyone freeze to death outside our house, not when we had ample firewood and room to keep them warm.
When I opened the door, there she stood. The tallest woman I ever saw. She was buried under layers of fabric and fur, looking so much like a giant grizzly bear that Hilde let out a scream.
Then the woman pushed back her hood, letting us see her face. Ice and snow had frozen to her eyebrows and eyelashes, and her short wild hair nearly matched the grizzly fur. She wasn’t much to look at, with a broad face and a jagged scar across her ruddy cheeks, but she made up for it with her size.
She had to duck to come inside, ever mindful of the large bag she carried on her back.
“Don’t bother coming in,” Hilde called at the woman from where she sat angrily rocking. “We’re closed.”
“Please,” the giant woman begged, and then she quickly slipped off her gloves and fumbled in her pockets. “Please, I have money. I’ll give you all I have. I only need a place to stay for the night.”
When she went for her money, she’d pushed back her cloaks enough that I could see the dagger holstered on her hip. The fire glinted off the amber stone in the hilt, the dark
bronze handle carved into a trio of vultures.
It was the symbol of the Omte, and that was a weapon for a warrior. Here was this giant troll woman, with supernatural strength and a soldier’s training. She could’ve killed me and Hilde right there, taken everything we had, but instead she pleaded and offered us all she had.
“Since we’re closed, I won’t be taking any of your money.” I waved it away. “You need sanctuary from the storm, and I’m happy to give it to you.”
“Thank you.” The woman smiled, with tears in her eyes, and they sparkled in the light like the amber gemstone on her dagger.
Hilde huffed, but she didn’t say anything more. The woman herself didn’t say much either, not as I showed her up to her room and where the extra blankets were.
“Is there anything more you’ll be needing?” I asked before I left her alone.
“Quiet rest,” she replied with a weak smile.
“Well, you can always holler at me if you need anything. I’m Oskar.”
She hesitated a second before saying, “Call me Orra.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Orra, and I hope you enjoy your stay with us.”
She smiled again, then she shut the door. That was the last I ever saw of her.
All through the night, she made not a peep, which upset Hilde even more, since it gave her nothing to complain about. I slept soundly, but Hilde tossed and turned, certain that Orra would hurt us.
By the time morning came, the wind had stopped and the sun had broken through the clouds for the first time in days. I went up to check on Orra and see if she needed anything, and
I discovered her gone.
She rode in on the back of the dark storm, and she left before the sun.
Her room had been left empty—except for a little tiny baby, wrapped in a blanket, sleeping in the middle of the bed. The babe couldn’t be more than a few weeks old, but already had a thick head of wild blond hair. When I picked her up, the baby mewled, but didn’t open her eyes.
Not until I said, “Ullaakuut,”—a good-morning greeting.
Then her big amber eyes opened. She smiled up at me, and it was like the sun after the storm.
“That’s how we met.” I beamed, and he smiled back down at me. Mrs. Tulin wasn’t sure if they would keep me, so she wouldn’t let him name me yet, but then they called me Ullaakuut
until it stuck.
“It was quite the introduction,” he agreed with a chuckle. “Oskar!” Mrs. Tulin shouted from the other room. “The fire’s gone cold!”
“I’ll be right down!” he yelled over his shoulder before turning back to me. “Well, you’ve had your story now, and Hilde needs me. You best be getting to sleep now. Good night, Ulla.”
“Good night.” I settled back into the bed, and it wasn’t until he was at the door that I mustered the courage to ask him the question that burned on the tip of my tongue. “How come my mom left me here?”
“I can’t say that I understand it,” he said with a heavy sigh. “But she’d have to have got a mighty good reason to be traveling in that kinda storm, especially with a newborn. She was an Omte warrior, and I don’t know what kind of monsters she had to face down on her way to our doorstep. But she musta known that here you’d be safe.”
“Do you think she’ll come back?” I asked.
His lips pressed into a thin line. “I can’t say, lil’ miss. But it’s not the kind of thing I would hang my hat on. And it’s nothing that you should concern yourself with. You have a home here as long as you need it, and now it’s time for bed.”
Emma sprinted into my room first, clutching her older brother’s slingshot in her pudgy hands, and down the hall Liam was already yelling for me.
“Ulla! Emma keeps taking my stuff!” Liam rushed into my room in a huff, little Niko toddling behind him.
My bedroom was a maze of cardboard boxes—all of my worldly possessions carefully packed and labeled for my move in six weeks—and Emma darted between them to escape Liam’s grasp.
“He said he was going to shoot fairies in the garden!” Emma insisted vehemently.
Liam rolled his eyes and brushed his thick tangles of curls off his forehead. “Don’t be such a dumb baby. You know there’s no such things as fairies.”
“Don’t call your sister dumb,” I admonished him, which only caused him to huff even louder. For only being seven years old, Liam already had quite the flair for the dramatic. “You know, you’re going to have to learn how to get along with your sister on your own. I’m not going to be around to get in the middle of your squabbles.”
“You don’t have to tell me that,” Liam replied sourly. He stared down at the wood floor, letting his hair fall into his eyes. “She’s the one that always starts it.”
“I did not!” Emma shouted back. “I only wanted to protect the fairies!”
“Emma, will you give Liam back his slingshot if he promises not to kill anything with it?” I asked her. She seemed to consider this for a moment, wrinkling up her little freckled nose, but finally she nodded yes.
“I was never really going to kill anything anyway,” he said.
“Promise!” Emma insisted.
“Fine. I promise I won’t kill anything with my slingshot.”
He held his hand out to her, and she reluctantly handed it back to him. With that, he dashed out of the room, and Emma raced after him.
Niko, meanwhile, had no interest in the argument, and instead made his way over to me. I pulled him into my arms, relishing the way his soft curls felt tickling my chin as I held him, and breathing in his little-boy scent—the summer sun on his skin and sugared milk from his breakfast.
“How are you doing this morning, my sweet boy?” I asked him softly. He didn’t answer, but Niko rarely did. Instead, he curled up more into me and began sucking his thumb.
I know I shouldn’t pick favorites, but Niko would be the one I missed the most. Sandwiched between Emma and the twins, he was quiet and easily overlooked. Whenever I was having a bad day or feeling lonely, I could always count on him for cuddles and hugs that somehow managed to erase all the bad—at least for a few moments.
But now I could only smile at him and swallow down the lump in my throat.
This—all the scraped knees and runny noses, the giggles and tantrums, all the love and chaos and constant noise of a house full of children—had been my life for the past five years. Which was quite the contrast to the frozen isolation of the first fourteen and a half years of my life.
Five years ago, a Kanin tracker named Bryn Aven had been on an investigation that brought her to Iskyla in central Canada, and when I met her, I knew it was my chance out of that town. Maybe it was because of the way she came in, on the back of a storm, or because she was a half-breed. She was also blond like me, and that wasn’t something I saw often in a town populated by trolls and a handful of the native humans of the area, the Inuit.
Most trolls, especially from the three more populous tribes—the Kanin, Trylle, and Vittra—were
of a darker complexion. Their skin ran the gamut of medium brown shades, and their hair was dark brown and black, with eyes that matched. The Kanin and the Trylle looked like attractive
humans, and the Vittra often did as well.
The Omte had a slightly lighter complexion than that, and they were also more prone to gigantism and physical deformities, most notably in their large population of ogres. With
wild blond hair and blue eyes, the Skojare were the fairest, and they had a tendency to be born with gills, attuned to their aquatic lifestyle.
Each of the tribes even had different skill sets and extraordinary abilities. All of the kingdoms had some mild psychokinetic talents, with the Trylle being the most powerful. The Vittra and the Omte were known for their physical strength and ability to heal, while the Kanin had the skin-color- changing ability to blend in with their surroundings, much like intense chameleons.
Iskyla was officially a Kanin town, and the Inuit coloring wasn’t much different from that of the Kanin. Most everyone around me had a shock of dark hair and symmetrical features. My noticeable differences had always made me an easy target growing up, and seeing the blond-haired tracker Bryn, I recognized a kindred spirit.
Or maybe it was because I could tell she was running from something, and I had been itching to run since as soon as I could walk. The Tulins had been good to me—or as good as an elderly couple who had never wanted kids could be when a baby is dropped on them. But Mrs. Tulin had always made it clear that I would be on my own as soon as I was ready, and when I was fourteen I was sure I was ready.
Fortunately, Bryn had been smart enough—and kind enough—not to leave me to fend for myself. She brought me to Förening, the Trylle capital in Minnesota, and found me a job and a place to stay with friends of hers.
When I had started as a live-in nanny working for Finn and Mia Holmes, they’d only had two children with another on the way, but already their cottage was rather cramped. Shortly after I moved in, Emma came along—followed by a promotion for Finn to the head of the Trylle royal guard—and Mia insisted a house upgrade was long overdue.
This grand little house, nestled in the bluffs along the Mississippi River—cozy but clean and bright—had enough room for us all—Finn, Mia, Hanna, Liam, Emma, Niko, Lissa, Luna, and me. As of a few months ago, we’d even managed to fit in Finn’s mother, Annali, who had decided to move in with them after her husband passed away last fall.
This home had been my home for years, and really, this family had been my family too. They welcomed me with open arms. I grew to love them, and they loved me. Here, I felt like I belonged and mattered in a way that I had never been able to in Iskyla.
I was happy with them. But now I was leaving all of this behind.
1. There’s been so much excitement and anticipation for more books in the world of the Trylle and Kanin. What made you decide to revisit those worlds now in The Omte Origins trilogy?
I knew as soon as I wrote Ulla as a small character in Crystal Kingdom (the final book of the Kanin Chronicles) that I was going to write a trilogy about her, but it was just a matter of when. After the Kanin Chronicles, I wanted to take a little break from that world and visit others – which I did with Freeks and the Valkyrie duology. By then, I was so ready to dive back into the world and answer some lingering questions I had left for the Trylle and Kanin.
2. Why make this the final trilogy?
With the Omte Origins, I feel like I’ve been able to say everything I want to about the worlds. Through the three trilogies, I spent time with all five tribes. Wendy’s mother is Trylle and her father is Vittra, and her story has her visiting both kingdoms. Bryn’s mother is Skojare and her father is Kanin, and her trilogy shows life in the Kanin and Skojare cities, as well as travelling to others beyond that. I won’t say who exactly Ulla’s parents are (that would be spoiling the story) but her journey takes her through the troll kingdoms, with interesting detours through the Omte, Trylle, and Kanin tribes.
3. What are the most challenging aspects of writing a new trilogy that can be read independently, but is set in a world–the Trylle and Kanin–that you’ve written about before?
The hardest challenge is getting new readers caught up with the world and the lingo without feeling repetitive and boring to longtime fans of the series. I try use this an opportunity to show characters and situations from different angles. The Wendy the audience meets at the beginning of Switched is vastly different Wendy than the that Ulla knows in the Omte Origins. So for new readers, they get introduced Wendy as she currently is, and for repeat readers, they can see who Wendy has become and who she appears to be through the eyes of an average citizen with Ulla.
4. What’s the most fascinating thing you researched while writing The Lost City?
With the Omte Origins, I really looked back at the course of troll history, and their past has dovetailed with the Vikings and other artic peoples. So I did a lot research on early Vikings and indigenous arctic people, primarily the Inuit and the Sami. My favorite parts were reading their folklore. I even got an Inuit cookbook, and I attempted to make Bannock (a traditional Inuit bread). It did not turn out well, but I blame that entirely on my cooking skills (or lack thereof) and not the recipe.
5. The “Glossary” and “Tribal Facts” sections at the end of the book are fascinating and really help create a layered, fleshed out world. Was putting those together as much fun as writing the novel?
It was so much fun. It’s been over ten years and nine books (and several short stories), so I have spent a lot time of thinking and doing world-building. I honestly have enough information for a history book about the worlds of the Trylle, but I don’t know there’s a demand for fictional textbooks. The Tribal Facts were actually one of the first things I wrote for the Omte series, because I went through and get myself reacquainted and made sure I had all my important facts straight.
6. Was your writing routine affected by the stay-at-home orders due to the pandemic?
My routine itself hasn’t been too affected, since I write from home, but I would say that the stress has a negative impact on me, the way it has for many of us that work in creative fields – or any field at all, honestly. My husband has been working from home, and my stepson had been doing long distance learning before summer break, but that hasn’t really changed too much for me. I usually work after they go to bed and stay up late into the early morning hours.
7. Were there any favorite songs or music you listened to while writing this book?
Yes, definitely! I listen to so much music when I write, and I even have curated playlists to go along with my books on Spotify. open.spotify.com/user/127756215 Some of my favorite songs to write to were “Ella” by Myrkur, “Wild World” by Cat Stevens, and “Delicate” by Taylor Swift. I also listened to a lot of Wardruna, who are this Norwegian band who make traditional Nordic music with historically accurate instruments. For the soundtrack to the Omte Origins, I wanted it be a blend of traditional Nordic music, mellow seventies folk to go with the trolls delayed pop culture tastes, and pop music that gets through with the trendier younger generations of trolls.
8. Do you think the music you listen to has an influence on the stories? Or do the stories influence the music you choose?
I think it’s both, honestly. When I’m picking songs for the playlist, I definitely choose them based on the kind of emotions I want to feel and the tone I want to set for whatever I’m writing. Sometimes I’ll put particularly romantic songs on repeat when writing a love scene or an angry fast-paced instrumental for a fight scene.
9. What books or authors are you reading or excited to read lately?
I’m super excited about Faith: Taking Flight by Julie Murphy. It comes out the same day as The Lost City, and it’s about a plus-size teenage girl who discovers that she can fly. I recently read A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Rosanne Brown, and I’m counting down the days until The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna and The Project by Courtney Summers.
10. Any hints you can share about what’s coming next after The Omte Origins Trilogy?
I’m currently working on a stand-alone fantasy inspired by Greek mythology, but I don’t know when it will be out yet. I’ve got ideas for dozens of projects after that, and I’m working hard (and having fun) getting through them all.
AMANDA HOCKING is the author of over twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book.
From the founding member of We Need Diverse Books comes a powerful novel about identity, betrayal, and the meaning of family.
By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid for the cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. But by night, Jo moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column for the genteel Southern lady, “Dear Miss Sweetie.” When her column becomes wildly popular, she uses the power of the pen to address some of society’s ills, but she’s not prepared for the backlash that follows when her column challenges fixed ideas about race and gender. While her opponents clamor to uncover the secret identity of Miss Sweetie, a mysterious letter sets Jo off on a search for her own past and the parents who abandoned her as a baby. But when her efforts put her in the crosshairs of Atlanta’s most notorious criminal, Jo must decide whether she, a girl used to living in the shadows, is ready to step into the light. With prose that is witty, insightful, and at times heartbreaking, Stacey Lee masterfully crafts an extraordinary social drama set in the New South.
The Downstairs Girl was picked for one of my book clubs and I am so happy it was! I don’t know why I am always surprised that I liked a historical fiction book. I say that every time, so maybe, just maybe I just like historical fiction and need to read more. I keep thinking they might be boring but they aren’t!
Jo Kuan was surprisingly relatable in the way she fought for her rights. She was still kind (key word right there) to those around her but she didn’t stop fighting for justice. She was smart, bold, and witty with how she went about things.
This book does not go very deep into the injustices that minorities faced in the 1890’s. It is more of a light paced read. NOT making light of things, I just mean the read was light. I think this would be a great book for teens to read to dip their toe in the waters of injustice/ historical fiction.
With that being said, I did want a little more conclusion than what we got. There were some twists and turns; some I saw coming, some I didn’t. I really wanted to see what was going to happen with Nathan and Jo, the newspaper, and Jo’s friends and family! I would like a squeal please!
This ended being a surprisingly sweet read! I really enjoyed it!
For fans of The Alice Network and The Lost Girls of Paris comes a thrilling standalone by New York Times bestselling author Karen Robards about a celebrated singer in WWII occupied France who joins the Resistance to save her estranged family from being killed in a German prison.
In Occupied France, the Resistance trembles on the brink of destruction. Its operatives, its secrets, its plans, all will be revealed. One of its leaders, wealthy aristocrat Baron Paul de Rocheford, has been killed in a raid and the surviving members of his cell, including his wife the elegant Baronness Lillian de Rocheford, have been arrested and transported to Germany for interrogation and, inevitably, execution.
Captain Max Ryan, British SOE, is given the job of penetrating the impregnable German prison where the Baroness and the remnants of the cell are being held and tortured. If they can’t be rescued he must kill them before they can give up their secrets.
Max is in Paris, currently living under a cover identity as a show business impresario whose star attraction is Genevieve Dumont. Young, beautiful Genevieve is the toast of Europe, an icon of the glittering entertainment world that the Nazis celebrate so that the arts can be seen to be thriving in the occupied territories under their rule.
What no one knows about Genevieve is that she is Lillian and Paul de Rocheford’s younger daughter. Her feelings toward her family are bitter since they were estranged twelve years ago. But when she finds out from Max just what his new assignment entails, old, long-buried feelings are rekindled and she knows that no matter what she can’t allow her mother to be killed, not by the Nazis and not by Max. She secretly establishes contact with those in the Resistance who can help her. Through them she is able to contact her sister Emmy, and the sisters put aside their estrangement to work together to rescue their mother.
It all hinges on a command performance that Genevieve is to give for a Gestapo General in the Bavarian town where her mother and the others are imprisoned. While Genevieve sings and the show goes on, a daring rescue is underway that involves terrible danger, heartbreaking choices, and the realization that some ties, like the love between a mother and her daughters and between sisters, are forever.