Tarnished Empire (Dark Shores .5) by Danielle L. Jensen – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: CLA

Publication Date: January 26, 2021

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Adventure Rating: 4. 5 Stars

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*Amazon and Bookshop links are my affiliate links*

DEFIANCE IS TREASON. TREASON IS DEATH.

A siege is laid against the last resistance to the Senate’s rule. As the battle rages, a commander, a soldier, and a rebel will decide how far they are willing to go for victory.

THE COMMANDER

Marcus is forced to choose between destroying the rebel forces and liberating his legion. He must face the true cost of being a leader. And an oppressor.

THE SOLDIER

Agrippa sets his sights on glory to fill the deepening void within him. He discovers that the price of fame might not just be paid in blood, it might be paid by his heart.

THE REBEL

Silvara joins the rebel forces to fight against the legions who would see her family dead. While she dreams of being a warrior, she finds her sharpest weapon is seduction. But to defeat the Empire, she’ll have to betray the young man who now has her heart.

Inspired by the harsh world of ancient Rome, readers are obsessed with this martial tale of fiery romance, friendship, and enmity. Told from three points of view, TARNISHED EMPIRE is filled with twists you’ll never see coming but will keep you turning the pages all night.

TARNISHED EMPIRE is set in the world of Danielle L. Jensen’s DARK SHORES. But readers new to the world can begin here.

Short review since this was a shorter book!

This was so good y’all! I love Agrippa! And I’m a huge fan of Danielle L. Jensen already! This was my first introduction into the Dark Shores world and I can’t wait to dive into book one. I’m not sure that I would suggest starting here because I heard that we don’t see Agrippa again for the next 3 books at least! WHAT?! I’m so invested in his story now! I need more!! And of Silvara! I loved her. She was fierce and loyal but thought for herself.

I love the Roman fantasy mash up in this world. Jensen does a really good job of writing in these subtle fantasy aspects. She writes them in such a way that feels natural to the world. She doesn’t overly explain the world but does a good job of letting the reader figure things out without being confused. I also really liked the action. Again, Jensen doesn’t over do the battle scenes but she still makes them bloody enough to be interesting!

I am super excited to see more of Marcus. He seems very interesting!

So, I couldn’t quite give it 5 stars because while I loved it, I don’t know that I’m obsessed. We shall see with the rest of the series though!

Dearest Josephine by Caroline George – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Publication Date: February 02, 2021

Genre: Historical, Contemporary, Romance

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

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*Amazon and Bookshop are my affiliate links*

Caroline George sweeps readers up into two different time periods with an unexpected love story that prompts us to reimagine what it means to be present with the people we love.

2020: Chocolate and Earl Grey tea can’t fix Josie De Clare’s horrible year. She mourned the death of her father and suffered a teen-life crisis, which delayed her university plans. But when her father’s will reveals a family-owned property in Northern England, Josie leaves London to find clarity at the secluded manor house. While exploring the estate, she discovers two-hundred-year-old love letters written by an elusive novelist, all addressed to someone named Josephine. And then she discovers a novel in which it seems like she’s the heroine…

1820: Novelist Elias Roch loves a woman he can never be with. Born the bastard son to a nobleman and cast out from society, Elias seeks refuge in his mind with the quirky heroine who draws him into a fantasy world of scandal, betrayal, and unconditional love. Convinced she’s his soulmate, Elias writes letters to her, all of which divulge the tragedy and trials of his personal life.

As fiction blurs into reality, Josie and Elias must decide: How does one live if love can’t wait? Separated by two hundred years, they fight against time to find each other in a story of her, him, and the novel written by the man who loves her.

*Thank you to the author for sending me a copy!*

This was such a sweet story!! It was a bit like a breath of fresh air! Or a walk in the spring. Told in a series of emails, texts, letters, and a found manuscript, makes this story a very unique read. It was a bit slower than what I’m used to, definitely a historical fiction feel. Which I like, don’t get me wrong, I just had to read a fast paced book at the same time as reading this one! But that’s just me!

I loved Josephine’s character! She was quirky and I liked reading about her adventure in Caldwaller Manor and fixing it up. I loved reading about her journey in discovering the town around her as well as discovering Elias, who wrote to her 200 years ago! They were basically letters about his life and how he loves her. *insert tear filled eyes here*. I loved him. Very Mr. Darcy worthy! Well done Caroline! She also did amazingly well switching from modern day language to 1800s tone and writing. I want to visit the English countryside now more than ever!

So, I will say, the ending surprised me. And I liked it. It was a story within a story within a story. I really want this to be a movie! It would be so incredibly cute!! If you are looking for a slower, beautiful, sweet romance, definitely check this one out!

A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Publication Date: February 16, 2021

Genre: Adult Fantasy

Adventure Rating: 3.5 Stars

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*Amazon and Bookshop are affiliate links*

Nesta Archeron has always been prickly-proud, swift to anger, and slow to forgive. And ever since being forced into the Cauldron and becoming High Fae against her will, she’s struggled to find a place for herself within the strange, deadly world she inhabits. Worse, she can’t seem to move past the horrors of the war with Hybern and all she lost in it.

The one person who ignites her temper more than any other is Cassian, the battle-scarred warrior whose position in Rhysand and Feyre’s Night Court keeps him constantly in Nesta’s orbit. But her temper isn’t the only thing Cassian ignites. The fire between them is undeniable, and only burns hotter as they are forced into close quarters with each other.

Meanwhile, the treacherous human queens who returned to the Continent during the last war have forged a dangerous new alliance, threatening the fragile peace that has settled over the realms. And the key to halting them might very well rely on Cassian and Nesta facing their haunting pasts.

Against the sweeping backdrop of a world seared by war and plagued with uncertainty, Nesta and Cassian battle monsters from within and without as they search for acceptance-and healing-in each other’s arms.

This is going to be a tough one. I LOVE Maas. I started reading her books when A Court of Thorns and Roses came out. This was probably my least favorite Maas book.

First of all, SMUT. Be forewarned. I don’t like smut. I don’t mind sex scenes if they have to do with the story or if they are short romantic scenes (more like Outlander). This book could have been 100 pages shorter without the unnecessary smut. I HATED how Nesta used sex. It was toxic. SHE was toxic and no one seems to mind that. She freaking emotionally abused Feyre for most of her life and yet people hate Tamlin?! Tamlin needs some work, don’t get me wrong, but Nesta… hated her. She was freaking toxic to EVERYONE! And people are like, “Oh poor Nesta and her trauma, she’s freaking BA and she’s so strong, blah blah blah…” No. I’m sorry, I have been through trauma, study trauma, want to be a trauma therapist. And no. That does NOT excuse the toxic way she treated people around her.

Now, I am ALL for redemption stories. I want a Tamlin redemption arc. AND I’m all for Nesta redemption.

So. Now on to things I liked! Maas bringing attention to trauma and how to start dealing with it. And, like in the book, surprise: sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll doesn’t fix your problems. Maas definitely did a lot of research in dealing with trauma and the techniques she used are techniques that anyone can use! Kudos to her for doing that well! She included techniques like breathing/ meditating, exercise, facing your trauma, talking about your trauma, and finding a group of women (or men if you are a man) who have also been through trauma. The only thing I would add (now this is a fantasy series so I don’t think they have these here…) is trauma therapy! I also loved how Maas included TIME in dealing with it. It takes sometimes years to deal with trauma. Don’t give up.

Wow. Told y’all I was passionate about this subject. Alas, I will move on from saying trauma a million times…

Let’s talk plot! Maas has got to be a master world builder! She added a few things and brought back a few plot points that were amazing! I am VERY interested and invested in this world! The things she has brought back… *shivers* in anticipation! I keep wanting to say the plot points I loved but I don’t want to give away spoilers! ARGH! She’s definitely building up to something way cool!

The next book is about Azriel, Elaine, Lucien mess. THAT is the book I am most excited for! Azriel is by far my favorite and he deserves all the happiness!!! But Lucien does too. And Elaine. This is going to be a mess I can’t wait for!

I will say, that I am happy with the ending of A Court of Silver Flames!

The Iron Raven (The Iron Fey: Evenfall #1) by Julie Kagawa – Spoiler Free Review and Excerpt

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Publication Date: February 09, 2021

Genre: YA Fantasy, Faeries, Retellings

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

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You may have heard of me…

Robin Goodfellow. Puck. Prankster, joker, raven, fool… King Oberon’s right-hand jester from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The legends are many, but the truth will now be known as never before, as Puck finally tells his own story and faces a threat to the lands of Faery and the human world unlike any before.

With the Iron Queen Meghan Chase and her prince consort, Puck’s longtime rival Ash, and allies old and new by his side, Puck begins a fantastical and dangerous adventure not to be missed or forgotten.

*I received an e-arc via the publisher from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

This is not my first Julie Kagawa book, but it is my first time into The Iron Fey realm! I have wanted to read those books for years but somehow have not gotten to them yet. I have heard a TON of wonderful tings about Puck. He seems to be everyone’s favorite trickster. Here’s the thing, at the beginning, something happens to Puck and he’s, well, mean. BUT there were a lot of things I loved. I think I need to read the Iron Fey series to love him more!

This book is FULL of adventure. My favorite kind. They go through so many fights and crazy things while traveling across the fey realms. I LOVED this.

Nyx. Love her! She is so BA! She has some really cool powers and she’s a fighting machine! I love her chemistry with Puck. I really liked him. I liked his skills, his wit, and his humor. I just didn’t like his attitude most of the book.

I highly recommend this book for any adventurer and anyone who likes cool magic and fight scenes!

Excerpted from THE IRON RAVEN by Julie Kagawa. © 2021 by Julie Kagawa, used with permission by Inkyard Press.

The human world

A long, long time ago

It was almost time

I peeked out of the bushes and grinned.  The stage was nearly set.  In the tiny, sun-dappled clearing beyond the trees, the crystal-clear pool glimmered, attracting all manner of life to its sparkling waters.  A herd of spotted deer bent graceful necks to the surface under the watchful eye of a great stag, standing tall at the edge of the pond.  A few rabbits hopped through the bracken scattered through the clearing, and a family of squirrels scolded each other in the branches of a large gnarled oak.  Birds sang, wildlife meandered, and the wind gently rustled the leaves overhead.  It was a blissful, picturesque woodland scene, a perfectly peaceful day in the human realm.

Boring, boring, boring.

I smiled, reached into my shirt, and pulled the pan flute into the light.  It was my own design; I’d spent several days gathering hollow reeds, cutting them, binding them together and making sure the tone was perfect.  Now, I was going to see what it could do.  

Drawing glamour from the forest around me, I raised the flute to my lips and blew out a single note.

The clear, high sound cut through the stillness of the woods, arcing over the grove, and all the animals clustered around the pond jerked up, eyes wide and nostrils flaring.  The rabbits sat up, ears twitching back and forth.  The deer raised their heads, dark eyes huge as they gazed around, ready to flee.  The squirrels’ tails flicked back and forth as they clung to the branches, their chittering voices silenced.    

In the sudden stillness, I took a deep breath, gathering my magic, and began playing.

The melody rose into the air, cheerful and face paced.  It swirled around the pond, into the ears of every living creature.  For a moment, none of them moved,

Then, one of the rabbits began tapping its foot.  The others followed, thumping their hind legs in tune to the rhythm, and the deer began tossing their heads to the music.  In the branches, the squirrels bobbed, tails flicking back and forth, keeping time, and the birds added their voices to the song.  I bit down a smile and played louder, faster, drawing in more glamour and releasing it into the notes trilling through the forest.  

With a bugle, the ancient stag reared up, tossing his huge antlers, and gave a graceful bound to the center of the clearing.  His sharp hooves pawed the grass, raking gouges in the earth, as he began stepping and leaping with the music.  As one, his herd joined him, bouncing and cavorting to his side, and the rabbits began flinging themselves in wild arcs around the stomping deer.  My glee soared; this was working better than I had hoped. It was all I could do to keep playing and not let the song drop because of the enormous grin wanting to stretch my face.  

Rising from the bushes, I walked toward the grove, the pan flute moving rapidly under my lips, the song rising and the magic soaring in response.  My feet itched, and I started to move them, stepping and dancing to the center of the clearing.  Filling my lungs, I played as loudly as I could, my body moving almost on its own, leaping and twirling and spinning through the air.  And all around me, the forest creatures danced as well, hooves and horns and furry bodies barely missing me as they bounced and cavorted in a frantic circle, hurling themselves around the grove with wild abandon. I lost myself in the music, in the excitement and ecstasy, as I danced with the forest.

I didn’t know how long the melody went on; half the time my eyes were closed and I was moving on pure instinct.  But at last, as the song reached a crescendo, I sensed it was time to bring it to a close.  With one final, soaring note, the melody died away, the wild emotions faded, and the whirlwind of magic swirling through the grove fluttered out, returning to the earth.   

Panting, I lowered my arms.  Around me, my fellow dancers also came to shuddering stops, breathing hard.  The great stag stood a few feet away, antlered head bowed, legs and flanks trembling.  As I watched, he quivered and collapsed, white foam bubbling from his mouth and nostrils as his head struck the ground.  One by one, the rest of the herd crumpled as well, some gasping wide-eyed for breath, some lying motionless in the dirt.  Scattered around them, furry lumps of rabbits lay in the churned mud.  I looked at the trees and saw the squirrels and birds lying at the bases of the trunks, having fallen from their perches once the music ceased.  

I blinked.  Well, that was unexpected.  How long had I been playing anyway?  I looked at the sky through the branches and saw clouds streaked with orange, the sun hovering low on the horizon.  I’d come to this grove and played the very first note early this morning.  It seemed our wild revel had lasted the entire day.

Huh.  I scratched the back of my head.  Well, that’s disappointing.  I guess I can’t push these mortal beasts too aggressively, or they just collapse.  Hmm.  Tapping the fingers of one hand against my arm, I gazed at the pan flute in the other.  I wonder if humans would do any better? 

“Boy.” 

The deep, lyrical voice came from behind me, and a ripple of magic shivered through the air. I felt a stab of annoyance that someone had been watching my revel; that was why I’d chosen to do this in the human world, after all—so I could worry less about curious eavesdroppers.   I turned and saw a procession of horses at the edge of the clearing, watching me from the trees.  The mounts were fey creatures, lighter and much more graceful than their mortal counterparts, their hooves barely touching the ground.  The riders atop them were sidhe knights, clad in armor of leaves, vines and branches woven together.  Part of the Summer Court, I realized.  I’d seen them before, as well as the knights of the Winter Court.  I’d even played with a few of them in the wyldwood, though they never realized the cause of all their small, annoying mishaps was a forest boy too insignificant to notice. 

But the rider at the front of the procession had definitely noticed me, and he was impossible to miss, too.  His mount was bright gold, brighter than any mortal steed, but the noble atop it outshone even his mount.  He was dressed in armor of green and gold, with a cloak made of blooming vines that left flowers where he passed.  Long silver hair flowed from under the huge antlered crown that rested on his brow, and the piercing green eyes beneath it were fixed solely on me. 

Why was he here?  Had he heard my music and been drawn to the sound? That was unfortunate. I tried to avoid catching the eye of the Summer Court, particularly this faery.  I hadn’t been doing anything wrong; the fey cared little to what happened in the mortal world. The deaths of a few forest creatures meant nothing to them. But attracting the attention of one of the most powerful faeries in the Nevernever was a dangerous game. Depending on his mood, he might demand that I “gift” him the thing I’d worked so hard on, play the pipes for him and his knights by for as long as he was amused, or entertain them all by becoming the next hunt. The fey lords were notoriously unpredictable, and I treated them as I would a sleeping dragon: it was okay to tiptoe around and steal their gold, as long as they didn’t see you.

But now, the dragon had spotted me.

The sidhe gentry nudged his mount, and the horse stepped into the clearing, striding across the grass until beast and rider loomed before me.  I stood my ground and gazed up defiantly at the noble, who was watching me with appraising eyes.

“So young,” he mused.  “And such an impressive use of glamour.  What is your name, boy?”

“Robin.”

“And where are your parents, Robin?”

I shrugged.  “I live by myself.  In the wyldwood.”  I couldn’t remember my parents, if I’d even had them.  My earliest memory was the tangle of the wyldwood, foraging for food and shelter, learning the skills I needed to survive.  But, even though I was alone, I’d never felt like I didn’t belong.  The forest, the wyldwood, was my home.  That was how it always had been. 

“Hm.”  The tall noble didn’t press the question.  He observed me in silence for another moment, his face giving nothing away.  “Do you know who I am, boy?” he asked instead. 

This time, I nodded.  “You’re King Oberon.” It was obvious; everyone knew who the Summer King was, though I’d never seen him in person.  It didn’t matter.  I had never seen Queen Mab, ruler of the Winter Court, either, but I was certain I would know her if I did.

“Yes,” the Seelie King agreed.  “I am indeed.  And I could use someone of your talents in Seelie territory.” He raised a hand, indicating me with long, elegant fingers.  “You have power; raw, unfettered Summer magic rivaling some of my strongest allies in the court. Such a gift should not go to waste in the wyldwood.  You should not be living in the forest like a beast, singing to birds and squirrels.  You should be part of the greatest court in the Nevernever. What say you, Robin?”  The king regarded me with eyes like pale green frost.  “Would you like to become part of the Seelie Court?”

Part of the Seelie Court?  

Curiosity battled defiance.  I was intrigued, of course.  Living by myself in the wyldwood meant I could come and go as I pleased, but it was getting a bit lonely.  I wanted to talk to people, others of my kind, not just forest creatures and the occasional scatterbrained piskie.  And of the two courts, Summer territory sounded much more pleasant than the frozen, hostile land of Winter.

       Still, it was never a good idea to take the first offer.  Even I, with my limited knowledge of bargains and deals, knew that much.

“I like it in the forest.”  I crossed my arms and smiled at the king.  “Why should I go live at the Summer Court?”

The Seelie King smiled, as if he’d expected that answer.  “Because, Robin, I am king.”  He spoke the phrase like it was the most important fact in the world.  “And as king of the Seelie, I can give you whatever your heart desires. I can grant you power, wealth, the love of as many hearts as you wish.” He paused, as I wrinkled my nose. “But I can see you are not interested in these things. Perhaps, then, this would be of note.  I have many enemies, Robin.  Both within the court and without. From time to time, these enemies need to realize that they cannot underestimate the sovereignty of Summer.  If you join me…well, let us say you will have plenty of opportunities to practice your magic on things other than common forest beasts.”

Now that sounded interesting. I glanced back at the pond, at the motionless bodies surrounding it.  Poor dumb animals. I hadn’t meant to harm them, but it seemed normal creatures were very fragile.  I would love to try some of my ideas on sturdier creatures, maybe even a few fey, and Oberon was dangling that big, bright carrot in front of me.  He seemed to know exactly what I wanted.  The only question was, did I care?  

“So, Robin of the Wyldwood,” King Oberon went on, peering down at me from his horse.  “What is your decision?  Will you join my court?  I will name you court jester, and you can play your tricks and practice your magic without boundaries.  All I ask is that you do me a small service from time to time.  Do we have a deal?”

Something nagged at me, a feeling that this agreement wasn’t quite what I thought it was. I’d made deals before, but they were with piskies and sprites and a couple local dryads. Never with someone as important as the ruler of the Seelie Court. Was I missing something? This did seem a little too good to be true. 

I hesitated a moment more, then shrugged.  Then again, why not join the Summer Court?  What was the worst that could happen? I was aching for something new, and if I was under the protection of King Oberon himself, think of all the pranks and tricks I could play without fear of retribution.  

This was going to be fun.

“All right,” I agreed, grinning up at Oberon, who raised a thin silver brow in return.  “You have a deal, king.  I’ll join the Summer Court, as long as I get to practice my magic and play as many tricks as I want.”  

“Excellent.”  Oberon nodded and raised both hands.  “Then I name you Robin Goodfellow, jester of the Summer Court,” he announced in sudden, booming tones, and the branches of the trees shook, as if acknowledging his declaration.  Lowering his arms, the Summer lord gazed down at me with a sudden, almost proud smile.  “Welcome to the Seelie Court, Robin Goodfellow.  Wear your name proudly.  Perhaps someday the world will come to know it, as well.”

JULIE KAGAWA is the New York Times, USA TODAY and internationally bestselling author of The Iron Fey, Blood of Eden, The Talon Saga and the Shadow of the Fox series. Born in Sacramento, she has been a bookseller and an animal trainer and enjoys reading, painting, playing in her garden and training in martial arts. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and a plethora of pets. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

All the Tides of Fate (All the Stars and Teeth, #2) by Adalyn Grace – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Imprint

Publication Date: February 02, 2021

Genre: YA Fantasy

Adventure Rating: 3 Stars

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Through blood and sacrifice, Amora Montara has conquered a rebellion and taken her rightful place as queen of Visidia. Now, with the islands in turmoil and the people questioning her authority, Amora cannot allow anyone to see her weaknesses.

No one can know about the curse in her bloodline. No one can know that she’s lost her magic. No one can know the truth about the boy who holds the missing half of her soul.

To save herself and Visidia, Amora embarks on a desperate quest for a mythical artifact that could fix everything―but it comes at a terrible cost. As she tries to balance her loyalty to her people, her crew, and the desires of her heart, Amora will soon discover that the power to rule might destroy her.

*I received an e-ARC via NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a tricky one. Y’all know I love adventure, that’s what I’ve based my whole blog and Instagram on. But this sequel fell flat. It had adventure but it didn’t grip me. It was honestly a bit boring. Which sucks because I really enjoyed the first book!

Amora and Bastian had a lot of tension which I loved. And I thought it was cute/ funny when they would make each other jealous. But I have no idea why he didn’t give up on her. Amora was a five letter word that starts with a capitol B. Sorry not sorry. I didn’t like her in this book. I did like everyone else though.

I just want to talk about Vataea. LOVE her. She was what made the book honestly. I would love a spin off series of her! She was sass but not the bratty kind like Amora. I want more of her story!

Ferrick. Loved him too. I would like to see him in the spin off if there ever is one. You hear me? I WOULD LIKE TO SEE HIM THERE. If you read the book, you know.

Bastian. Swoon. Definitely all the swoon. He deserved better. Wow I am really hard on Amora.

To be fair, she was dealing horribly with grief, stress, and loss. She just didn’t handle it well. BUT I appreciate her character growth, even if it happened REALLY quick at the end.

Well, I’ve talked about characters. How about the plot…? It was not as big a plot as the first book. The crew traveled the kingdom in search of an artifact. I liked learning more about the different islands and such, they were super interesting. But the actual plot was a bit lacking. And then it wrapped up super fast at the end.

Listen, I liked this book okay. I really liked the writing, the descriptions, the magic, Bastian. It sounds like an amazing world. One I’d want to visit for sure!

Adalyn Grace is a New York Times bestselling author of All the Stars and Teeth, which was named “2020’s biggest YA fantasy” by Entertainment Weekly.

Prior to becoming an author, Adalyn spent four years working in live theatre, acted as the managing editor of a nonprofit newspaper, and studied storytelling as an intern on Nickelodeon Animation’s popular series The Legend of Korra.

Local to San Diego, Adalyn spends her non-writing days by watching too much anime, and by playing video games with her bossy cat and two dorky dogs.

You can follow her on:
Twitter: @AdalynGrace_
Instagram: @authoradalyngrace

House of Bastiion (The Haidren Legacy, #1) by K. L. Kolarich – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Rogue Kite Publishing

Publication Date: January 19, 2021

Genre: New Adult Fantasy (A lot of people say YA but the ages of the characters are 18-24 and they deal with “older” character issues)

Adventure Rating: 4.5 Stars

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BEHIND THE MASK OF DUTY AND POWER, NO ONE IS WHO THEY SEEM…

Centuries after the Forgotten Wars ravaged the world and turned it to ash, the Houses of Pilar, Darakai, Boreal, and Bastiion forged an accord with the royal line of Thoarne, founding a Quadren of advisory to the throne of Orynthia. Every generation, a single Haidren from each of the four Houses is appointed to this coveted chair.

Upon her Ascension to adulthood, Luscia Tiergan takes her seat at court as al’Haidren to the House of Boreal and is quickly drawn into a maze of political traps and dark secrets. As she adjusts to her new life, Luscia uncovers a pattern of forgotten children, slain in the streets of Bastiion.

Raised on superstitious rumors about Boreal’s penchant for sorcery, Zaethan Kasim, al’Haidren to the House of Darakai, inevitably clashes with Lusica when she arrives in Bastiion. But when his position is threatened by an old rival, Zaethan is forced to set aside his hatred and form an uneasy alliance with the Boreali al’Haidren to secure his claim.

Following a disturbing stream of innocent bloodshed across Orynthia, Luscia and Zaethan discover their ideals are far more aligned than they might have imagined. But in a land of war and deceit, the path to peace should never be trusted. 

*I received an ARC via Book of Matches Media and the Author in exchange for an honest review and to be on the ARC tour*

Y’all, January has been my best reading month in over a year. Not only did I read 5 books but I also LOVED all of them. Including this one! This was filled with world building, magic, political drama, and fantasy mystery. I have never read nor did I know I needed to read fantasy mystery. How freaking cool! This book also set up for a potential enemies to lovers romance, emphasis on the ENEMIES. My gosh, Zaethan HATES Luscia. Even at the end. Mostly. But like a sap, I still ship them.

Digging in. It was a bit hard to get into the swing of things. The world building, including political info, is all at the beginning. It was confusing at first because there is A LOT. BUT once I started getting into the meat of the story, I picked it up. That started maybe around chapter 10 or so. Maybe earlier. To try and sum it up (at least, I think this is right), there are 4 kingdoms with a 5th kingdom being a mix. The 5th kingdom, the actual king, is the ruler of them all but each of the 4 kingdoms have, mmmm, let’s call them governors. Each of the 4 kingdoms has a different way of life and therefore a different name for their each respective ruler. THEN each kingdom sends a Haidren to the king and to the prince, so when he becomes king the new Haidren “rules” with him. They are sort of the council to the king. THEN there are other far away kingdoms that are their own thing. Wow. That’s a lot. Hope this helps someone. At least one person.

As far as magic goes. It’s not an all out magic. Magic is really looked down upon as evil. Only the Haidren from Boreal (Luscia and her aunt) have magic. It’s known that they do, and they are looked at as lesser. Luscia’s magic is still one of the few mysteries/ questions I have! It’s very interesting!

Luscia and Zaethan are the two MCs. They team up to find a creepy murderer who is murdering children and draining them of their blood. *ew shiver* It gets so intense! Especially as they hate eachother and navigate many other political dramas going on at the palace. Then the book ends and while you get answers to some things, YOU HAVE MORE MYSTERIES. I NEED book two. I actually stayed up late reading this book (which is huge for me since I’m 7 months pregnant. ;))

Another thing I loved was how incredibly diverse the characters were! Luscia (and her country of Boreal) are suuuper white. With either blond/ white hair or red hair. They live in the freezing north. Zaethan (from Darakai) are black. Zaethan has gorgeous green eyes too. The Pilar people are asian. And the Bastiian people are spanish maybe? I haven’t figured that one out quite yet. Anyways. Very cool!

*Side note. Siiiiggghhh. Still waiting on the day an author writes in Polynesian or Native American descent in characters*

So, I loved it. There were a few moments of precious understanding between Zaethan and Luscia that I’m sailing my ship with.

Crown of Bones (Crown of Bones #1) by A. K. Wilder – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Publication Date: January 05, 2021

Genre: YA Fantasy, Magic

Adventure Rating: 4.5 Stars

Goodreads | Bookshop

Raise. Your. Phantom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Thank you so much!

This book actually took me by surprise. YA books have been a bit of a let down for me recently so I went into this book thinking, “Sigh, I wish I was reading an adult fantasy.” Boy was I glad to be proven wrong! I freaking LOVED this book! The only reason it’s not 5 stars is because I don’t know yet if I will re-read it. BUT I do and have already recommended this book to numerous people. It is seriously SO unique!

I don’t even know where to start. The loveable characters, the world building, the magic, the plot?! I want to gush about it all!

I guess we will go in that order! Ha! Characters. Ash. I LOVE her! It’s been awhile since I’ve loved a heroine this much. She actually made me laugh out loud. Y’all, I am an emotional person IRL, but when I read, I’m just not. I get excited, but I don’t really laugh or cry or anything. This one made me laugh and have readers anxiety. Ash is hilarious. She’s just a regular girl. She’s neither, “oooh I’m so clumsy but so cute but don’t know it” or “I’m a freaking boss and a mary sue”. Ya know? She just goes about her day. She’s determined to do a good job, on well, her job. And she just wants to be a good person. I can’t say enough good things about her. And the others! Marcus! He was a treat as well. Not as good as Kaylin, but I’m getting to him. Marcus… I felt bad for him most of the time honestly. He tried so hard to do all the right things and just couldn’t quite get there. He’s the cinnamon roll of the book. Okay, KAYLIN! Swoon! I don’t even mind the insta-attraction. Because it wasn’t insta-love. He is the dark and mysterious and playful and powerful man of the book. I leeeerve him. Book boyfriend material right there. Samson, Piper, and Belair get honorable mentions as great side characters to help build up the MCs.

Told you I was going to gush. I have a lot to say!

World building! Wilder does a fantastic job weaving her own take on magic and a fantasy land together in this great mix! She introduces the reader to history, current political events, and some future prophecies as well. She honestly could write so much in this world! More more more!!!

Magic. It’s so bleeping cool y’all!!! The magic users are the elite of society. They can call up “Phantoms” and those Phantoms represent their magic. There are a few different types, like warrior, healing, callers, alters, and a few more! And each phantom can look differently depending on the user. Some people have wicked sweet animals, some have stuff like trees, and some have shapeless magical mist blob thingys. It’s all very unique! And I liked the rules. It doesn’t take anything out of the user to “call up” their phantom, but it does take it out on them when they use their phantom.

The plot then I swear I’m done. Ash accompanies Marcus on his journey to go the “magic” school on an Island that is neutral to politics. (Boy, wish I could live there.) Along the way they get into every single trouble you can think of. Good thing they have a healer with them. (She needs a pay raise. She is overworked.) Their troubles don’t end there. It is just one bad luck thing after another. It makes it way more exciting.

Loved the ending and I can’t wait for book 2!!!

Dune (Dune #1) by Frank Herbert – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Ace Books

Publication Date: 1965

Genre: Sci-fi, Classic, Space Opera

Adventure Rating: 5 Stars

Goodreads | Bookshop

Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, heir to a noble family tasked with ruling an inhospitable world where the only thing of value is the “spice” melange, a drug capable of extending life and enhancing consciousness. Coveted across the known universe, melange is a prize worth killing for…

When House Atreides is betrayed, the destruction of Paul’s family will set the boy on a journey toward a destiny greater than he could ever have imagined. And as he evolves into the mysterious man known as Muad’Dib, he will bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.

I am so glad I decided to read Dune. Especially since the new Dune movie is coming out! Like pretty much everyone else, I LOVED it! I am really into sci-fi and fantasy so I can definitely see where this book has influenced so much of what I have read and seen. Different planets, sci-fi weapons, sci-fi monsters, sci-fi tech, and more!

Let’s dig in. I really want to start with Paul. Oh poor Paul. He just wanted a quiet life. *sigh* Of course that would never happen. It’s still humanity after all. He tried so hard to do the right thing to save as many people as possible and avoid a zealot war. He somehow was noble without being boring. For some reason, books now a days have noble characters and they’re super boing. Paul wasn’t. He was like Luke Skywalker. Or maybe Luke was like him, really. Noble without being boring. I think because now in books, noble means, “oh I don’t kill bad guys” Bleh. Paul wasn’t afraid to kill evil. I liked that about him. He was put in a position where it was necessary and he did it. (Side note: Take that stupid Batman. If you would kill the Joker, no one else would friggen die!!!).

Anyways. I also really liked the politics. Which is funny because again, I’m tired of politics in today’s books. It’s too much like America’s. I read books to escape that crap. I don’t read books to read the author’s opinions on AMERICAN politics. Get your head out of your butt. Man I’m spicy today. Anyways again, the intricacies of the politics on THIER world, Dune, was so good! It wasn’t boring, it was really interesting. And Paul navigating it with his mother, Jessica, was so cool!

And the world. Oh my. Talk about world building! It nearly felt real! The many aspects that Herbert fit into book one alone was crazy! He truly built himself and his readers another universe.

The Rules of Enchantment by Wendy Tardieu – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: TCK Publishing

Publication Date: August 2, 2020

Genre: Adult Fantasy

Adventure Rating: 3.5 Stars

TCK Publishing | Goodreads | Amazon | Author Website

When a Sorcerer and a Scribe Team Up to Fulfill an Ancient Prophecy, The Fate of The World Lies in Their Hands

In the mythical kingdom of Salyndria, an exiled sorcerer named Leith plots to overthrow the restrictions placed on the use of magic by the Academy. Suspecting the worst, the Academy sends a beautiful young scribe, Kyler, to be his apprentice and act as an unwitting spy.

Leith tries to drive her away by proving his reputation as a vicious and unforgiving master, but he soon discovers his new pupil is far more useful than she appears. As her charms and magical abilities become all too tempting for him to resist, the two join forces to fulfill a hidden prophecy that will grant them incredible power.

Together, the sorcerer and the scribe will change Salyndria’s history forever.

Their story is equally sinister and sensual, a romantic dark fantasy adventure full of suspense and surprises.

Fans of Defended by Darkness by Terry Bolryder, A Torn Paige by L. Rose, Innocence by Dean Koontz, and The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith will love this fantasy romance.

*Thank you so much to TCK Publishing for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!*

This is a bit hard for me, because overall I really liked it. And usually that means it’s a 4 star. However, it read more like a novella, because it was so short. It was short and fun. And I personally was nervous about the erotica part because I don’t like erotica. However, it wasn’t erotica? There were a few sex scenes but more along the lines of Sarah J. Maas style. There also wasn’t a lot of actual adventure. I guess what I’m saying it that the line on the cover, “An Erotic Fantasy Adventure Novel” is definitely misleading. Here’s the thing, I LIKED the book. Just saying that one line is misleading.

Okay, digging in. Kyler. First of all, love her name. Secondly, loved her! She was feisty, curious, and had a thirst for wanting to learn more about magic and more about herself. Now, Leif. He was every bit the dark, mysterious, brooding, male lead that every girl wants to read about. He would push Kyler to learn and do more to better herself. I quite liked them together. I felt like the baddie was a classic baddie and enjoyed that. Actually, just realized this could be a Disney movie if not for the sex! I mean that in a good way! It really would make a great movie.

The magic was pretty cool. I don’t know that it was unique necessarily, but it was classic. The more you used the harder it is on your body. And there are also different strengths.

The last thing I want to mention is the setting. The tower/ Leif’s house/ manor, was in the middle of a cursed forest. That was cool. His manor kind of reminded me of a vampire house or something. But it was the perfect backdrop for dark magic and Kyler learning what she can do!

Goblin King (Permafrost, #2) by Kara Barbieri – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Publication Date: November 17, 2020

Genre: YA Fantasy

Adventure Rating: 3 Stars

Goodreads | Bookshop | Amazon

In this stunning sequel to White Stag, Janneke must find how far she’s willing to go to save her world from destruction–even if it means sacrificing everything she’s fought for.

The Hunt is over but the War has just begun.

Against all odds, Janneke has survived the Hunt for the Stag–but all good things come with a cost. Lydian might be dead, but he took the Stag with him. Janneke now holds the mantle, while Soren, now her equal in every way, has become the new Erlking. Janneke’s powers as the new Stag has brought along haunting visions of a world thrown into chaos and the ghost of Lydian taunts her with the riddles he spoke of when he was alive.

When Janneke discovers the truth of Lydian and his madness, she’s forced to see her tormentor in a different light for the first time. The world they know is dying and Lydian may have been the only person with the key to saving it.

*Thank you so much to Wednesday books for providing me an e-arc via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review!*

First let me start off by saying, I LOVED book 1, White Stag. I think it’s highly underrated. BUT that makes it all the more sad for me when I didn’t love book 2. I just liked it.

Good news first. I loved the adventure. I mean, they battle Norse mythological creatures. How freaking cool! It’s non-stop adventure and action to stop the end of the world. Loved that part. Barbieri also wrote about trauma really well. Janneke has a lot of trauma. I mean, being a human in a Goblin world for 100 years is bound to mess you up somehow. Especially with a slimy, disgusting goblin Lydian. Janneke was eventually able to help Soren with his trauma as well.

Here’s the kicker. There was no chemistry. No chemistry between me and the characters and no chemistry between the characters. Book 1 had all the heat and tension between Janneke and Soren that book 2 is lacking. At one point, they get separated and I didn’t really care. Plus, Seppo was my favorite character from White Stag and not even he could save the chemistry. It was just way too put-downable, even with all the action.

I am definitely still interested in continuing with the series. I am hoping this is just suffering from sophomore novel syndrome!