The Harp of Kings (The Warrior Bards, #1) by Juliet Marillier – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Ace Books

Publication Date: September 03, 2019

Genre: High Fantasy

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

Amazon

A young woman is both a bard–and a warrior–in this thrilling historical fantasy from the author of the Sevenwaters novels.

Eighteen-year-old Liobhan is a powerful singer and an expert whistle player. Her brother has a voice to melt the hardest heart, and a rare talent on the harp. But Liobhan’s burning ambition is to join the elite warrior band on Swan Island. She and her brother train there to compete for places, and find themselves joining a mission while still candidates. Their unusual blend of skills makes them ideal for this particular job, which requires going undercover as traveling minstrels. For Swan Island trains both warriors and spies.

Their mission: to find and retrieve a precious harp, an ancient symbol of kingship, which has gone mysteriously missing. If the instrument is not played at the upcoming coronation, the candidate will not be accepted and the people could revolt. Faced with plotting courtiers and tight-lipped druids, an insightful storyteller, and a boorish Crown Prince, Liobhan soon realizes an Otherworld power may be meddling in the affairs of the kingdom. When ambition clashes with conscience, Liobhan must make a bold decision and is faced with a heartbreaking choice. . . “

*Thank you so much to Ace for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!*

This was my first Juliette Marillier book and I quite enjoyed it! It was a very traditional fantasy. Meaning it was more focused on the characters, I think, than the plot. Which I am completely fine with! It had elves, magic, druids, bards, and warriors! It reminded me a tad bit of an RPG!

Characters. Almost all of the character names were pronounced differently than how they were spelled. I was very thankful for the pronunciation guide at the beginning of the book! Liobhan (sounds like Leevahn), is totally BA. I really liked her personality. She was very headstrong and always did what she thought was right, and not necessarily what she wanted. She also had a feminine side to her that I appreciated. Why can’t women be BA AND very feminine?! She played her spy role fairly well I think! Dau. Oh sweet Dau. I think he is a cinnamon roll (and I NEVER use that term!) He has a very hard exterior but once you get to know him, your heart breaks for him. Brocc is a total sweetie. He has a bit of a secret past as well that he tries to run away from but it ends up finding him. He has musical magic abilities which I found really cool!

Plot. All three main character POV go on a quest to find a missing harp. Obviously A LOT of things happen during their quest. And there is a bigger plot happening that we have yet to really find out about! Plus a few mini plots that are happening. There is a lot to read about! We just get a teaser of what looks to be some pretty cool dark magic at hand. I hope we find out more in book 2!

Writing. I am officially a big fan of Marillier’s now! She really has a way of drawing you into the story so much so that it was hard sometimes to come back into the real world.

Final Thoughts. Really enjoyed it! Can’t wait to read another one of her books and the second book to this series! Harp of Kings reads like a nostalgic bedtime story. That ending was a tear-jerker! And I have questions! And I want to see if my ship sails…

Have you read a Juliet Marillier book? If so, what is your favorite?

*Book Sleeve from Love You More Studio! My rep code is Storied10 to save in their shop!*

*Amazon link is my affiliate link! No extra cost to you. I get paid by Amazon if someone shops through my link!*

The Mad Ship by Robin Hobb – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Publication Date: March 1999

Genre: Fantasy

Adventure Rating: 4.5 Stars

Amazon

“The Farseer trilogy continues the dramatic tale of piracy, serpents, love and magic. The Vestrit family’s liveship, Vivacia, has been taken by the pirate king, Kennit. Held captive on board, Wintrow Vestrit finds himself competing with Kennit for Vivacia’s love as the ship slowly acquires her own bloodlust. Leagues away, Althea Vestrit has found a new home aboard the liveship Ophelia, but she lives only to reclaim the Vivacia and with her friend, Brashen, she plans a dangerous rescue. Meanwhile in Bingtown, the fading fortunes of the Vestrit family lead Malta deeper into the magical secrets of the Rain Wild Traders. And just outside Bingtown, Amber dreams of relaunching Paragon, the mad liveship … “

I think more often than not second books fall into that “sophomore slump”. Not this one! It could be because this is technically the 5th book that Hobbs wrote. This second installment of The Liveship Traders was, in my opinion, better than the first! It introduces so many new elements and plot points that I loved!

Characters. I hated Malta in the first book and the first half of this book. However, and I have no idea how this happened, but a switch went off and she became my favorite plot line to read about! She really developed into a strong young woman instead of a whiny brat. Speaking of whiny brats, Althea. Ugh. She was still so annoying. She literally would never accept help from anyone because she wants to be “independent”. That’s not maturity. And she is hurting those around her by acting like that. Brashen straitens up a little bit. I was unhappy with the direction he was going but happy where he ended up! Amber is still so mysterious and I now have a pretty good idea of who she is. Reyn, I think, is my favorite! I ship him and Malta so hard! Kefria is slightly annoying. She won’t change even though everything else is changing. Kennit is my other favorite character to read about! He’s so intriguing! He is doing good things but with the wrong motives. Wintrow, next to Reyn, is probably the most honorable character. He always tries to do the right things no matter the cost. Ronica is who I want to be when I “grow up”! Serilla makes me nervous. She went through something horrible but then used that as an excuse to be horrible. And poor Vivacia and Paragon!!

Plot. I am going to try to not say spoilers so I won’t spend much time here. Let me just say this, DRAGONS. Oh. Yes. There is still a lot of high seas adventures, crazy talking ships, a bit of romance, mystery, backstabbing, and plot twists. Kennit is still bent on taking over the pirate isles and we still don’t quite know why. Althea, Amber, and Brashen are outfitting the insane ship Paragon (that’s definitely going to go well…) to sail after Kennit, who has the Vestrit family ship and Wintrow. Ronica, Malta, Reyn, and Kefria are battling the people who are trying to take over Bingtown and some threats within. And meanwhile we are still following the tangle that is the sea serpents and what they are up to. There is a lot going on in this book and I love it.

Final Thoughts. This might become one of my favorite series. It is the exact adventure I love. I am already deep into book 3 and can’t wait to finish! I want to read everything Hobb has written!

Have you read anything by Robin Hobb? What is your favorite? OR what is your favorite high seas adventure?

The Gossamer Mage by Julie E. Czerneda – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: DAW

Publication Date: August 6, 2019

Genre: Fantasy

Amazon

From an Aurora Award-winning author comes a new fantasy epic in which one mage must stand against a Deathless Goddess who controls all magic.

Only in Tananen do people worship a single deity: the Deathless Goddess. Only in this small, forbidden realm are there those haunted by words of no language known to woman or man. The words are Her Gift, and they summon magic.

Mage scribes learn to write Her words as intentions: spells to make beasts or plants, designed to any purpose. If an intention is flawed, what the mage creates is a gossamer: a magical creature as wild and free as it is costly for the mage.

For Her Gift comes at a steep price. Each successful intention ages a mage until they dare no more. But her magic demands to be used; the Deathless Goddess will take her fee, and mages will die.

To end this terrible toll, the greatest mage in Tananen vows to find and destroy Her. He has yet to learn She is all that protects Tananen from what waits outside. And all that keeps magic alive.”

I am so excited to be on the blog tour for The Gossamer Mage! Thank you so much to the publisher, DAW, for sending me an ARC and a finished copy in exchange for a review.

Characters. My favorite point of view was probably Maleonarial. He was the mage that raged against the injustice that the goddess takes part of a mages life in exchange for magic. They die early deaths. Maleonarial goes on a quest to kill her and take back the stolen futures of his kind. He was a kind soul but also knew what needed to be done. He mourned but didn’t hesitate to do what was right. I admired that. Kaitealyon is a Daughter of the goddess. They speak with her authority in different holds. I liked her. She was a mother and protected her son at all costs. She had this sense of almost super-hero like honor when it came to Tananen (the land they live in). There were also side character POV that were fun to read about.

Plot. The plot was my favorite part of the whole book. The fact that there is magic but it comes at a very high price. A twenty-seven year old that has used magic since he was fifteen would look like he was eighty. I really liked the magic system. I loved that writing words with your intention could produce something beautiful (or in Cil’s case, something horrible). They not only have to write the right words but have the right feelings behind them. And the plot twist at the end about the goddess was A+! And the eaters were a pretty scary threat. They ate magic and could take over people’s bodies! That Maleonarial and Kaitealyon had to team up against this threat was epic!

Writing. I had a really hard time being drawn into this book because of the writing. It was written very differently than what I used to. While I can appreciate the uniqueness, it wasn’t exactly my flavor. It seemed choppy and really hard to read. I often had to re-read sentences and paragraphs to understand what was going on.

Final Thoughts. This stand alone was hard to read but I loved the plot so much! Everything about this book was extremely unique!

“For over twenty years, Canadian author/ former biologist Julie E. Czerneda has shared her curiosity about living things through her science fiction, published by DAW Books, NY. Julie’s written fantasy too, the first installments of her Night’s Edge series (DAW) A Turn of Light and A Play of Shadow, winning consecutive Aurora Awards (Canada’s Hugo) for Best English Novel. Having completed her Clan Chronicles series with To Guard Against the Dark, Julie’s latest SF novel is Search Image, Book #1 of her new SF series, The Web Shifter’s Library, bringing back her beloved character Esen the Dear Little Blob. Julie’s edited/co-edited numerous award-winning anthologies of SF/F, including SFWA’s 2017 Nebula Award Showcase, but nothing prepared her for the sheer joy of opening her Clan Chronicles to fans of the series to produce Tales from Plexis, out December 2018. This year, Julie is delighted to a guest of honour at ConStellation, April 26-28th. What’s coming next? Her new fantasy standalone, The Gossamer Mage, out August 2019, and so much more ” Her Website

Ship of Magic (Liveship Traders, #1) by Robin Hobb – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Voyager

Publication Date: March, 1999

Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy

Adventure Rating: 4.5 Stars

| Amazon

” Wizardwood, a sentient wood.
The most precious commodity in the world.
Like many other legendary wares, it comes only from the Rain River Wilds.

But how can one trade with the Rain Wilders, when only a liveship fashioned from wizardwood can negotiate the perilous waters of the Rain River? Rare and valuable a liveship will quicken only when three members, from successive generations, have died on board. The liveship Vivacia is about to undergo her quickening as Althea Vestrit’s father is carried on deck in his death-throes. Althea waits for the ship that she loves more than anything else in the world to awaken. Only to discover that the Vivacia has been signed away in her father’s will to her brutal brother-in-law, Kyle Haven…

Others plot to win or steal a liveship. The Paragon, known by many as the Pariah, went mad, turned turtle, and drowned his crew. Now he lies blind, lonely, and broken on a deserted beach. But greedy men have designs to restore him, to sail the waters of the Rain Wild River once more. “

So. Freaking. Good. The only reason it’s not five stars is because it took me a hot minute to really get into the book. BUT once I did… OH YES. I’m officially obsessed.

Characters. There are A LOT of characters so bear with me a moment. Althea (who I kind of consider the main character so far) is head strong and knows what she wants. And she wants her ship! She’s so cool! But she’s not perfect. She irritated me with her stubborn, “I can do it all by myself” attitude. It’s actually mature to accept help. BUT I loved her loyalty. Brashen, oh sweet Brashen. I loved him at first but he made some bad decisions that I am anxious to see how they turn out. Wintrow I just feel so bad for. Same as Vivacia. And Paragon. Kennit is super interesting and slightly off his rocker. Amber and Ronica are my favorites so far because of the wisdom they often speak. And I pretty much hate Kyle and Malta. Kefria is likable but to be honest, dumb. I *think I covered all of the characters. Unless you count the POV of the sea serpents. I am not sure how I feel about them yet.

Plot. Magic, pirates, talking ships, high seas adventure, drama, romance, sea serpents, dragons. Do I need to say more?! This book literally has it all! I was really confused the first 100 pages, not going to lie. I had no idea where this story was headed. But man, did it take me places! And there are plots within plots! I can’t even talk about it much because it’s all spoiler-y!

Writing. Really well done. This is my first Hobb book but even before I picked it up I knew she is a well known, likable author. Her writing style is exactly what I like: mysterious, but I can picture the scene well, and it’s easy to follow!

Final Thoughts. As of writing this, I have already started book 2. I couldn’t wait. I am definitely binging this series! I am seriously obsessed. I will recommend to anyone and everyone who loves fantasy! Also, for being written 20 years ago, it’s very modern!

*Sleeve is from Love You More Studio! Code: StoriedAdventures10 to save!

*Amazon link is my affiliate link! I get a percentage if you buy through me at no additional cost to you!*

*No content warning as this is an adult fantasy series.

Have you read Robin Hobb?! If so, what is your favorite?

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim – Spoiler Free ARC Review

Publisher: Knopf

Publication Date: July 09, 2019

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

| Amazon | Pre-Order Swag

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

Steeped in Chinese culture, sizzling with forbidden romance, and shimmering with magic, this young adult fantasy is pitch-perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas or Renée Ahdieh.

*Thank you so much to Net Galley and Knopf the the e-arc in exchange for an honest review!*

Project Runway meets Mulan is a perfect tag for this book! Y’all, I was extremely invested in this world. Lim paints a picture of fashion so alluring I wanted to see them in real life more than anything. I loved the competition in the first half and the adventure in the last! Both were very different and very interesting!

Characters. Maia was very likable and relatable. Her character progression was done very well. She was shy at first but then owned her skills. She was just a nice person to read about, without being boring. Edan was intriguing and mysterious. He was a good mix of cocky and sweet. The person I wanted to know more about was Lady Sarnai! She was straight up FIRE! I hope to get more of her in the next book! And the Emperor can go away. He’s so annoying.

World. There’s not really a magic system. It’s extremely rare in people and in enchanted items. It was interesting to learn about how the Enchanters were made though. I really enjoyed the China-like world. Lim did a fantastic job of giving detailed descriptions.

Plot. Very unique. I have not read something like this. Have I said I loved the descriptions of the fashion yet?! Lim writes like a dream! The first half of the book is very different than the last half. The first half was more Project Runway and the last half was Mulan. The journey Maia goes on to collect the magic she needs for her dresses is amazing! It’s the type of adventure I love! Magic, romance, danger, and an ending that leaves you wanting more.

Final Thoughts. The ONLY things I didn’t like were very minor. There was a time where Maia stabbed a creature with her scissors and ran but then they were with her later. Then another time where she left her cane at the Summer Palace but then randomly had it at the Fall Palace. Small details like that happened a few times. I loved this book. I didn’t really get the Sarah J. Maas vibe but I do agree that it’s like Renee Ahdieh! I highly recommend! I cannot wait for the next book! Also, officially obsessed with Lim’s writing!

Is this on your radar for this year?

Duel At Araluen (Ranger’s Apprentice: The Royal Ranger, #3) Spoiler Free Review

I am so excited to be a part of the blogger reread campaign by Penguin Random House!Thank you for the free books in exchange for a review!

This week is book three of The Royal Ranger series by John Flanagan!

Publisher: Puffin Books

Publication Date: May 28, 2019 (US release)

Genre: YA, MG, Fantasy, Adventure

| Amazon

International bestselling author John Flanagan returns to world of Ranger’s Apprentice in this new installment of the Royal Ranger series starring Maddie, Will Treaty’s fearless young apprentice. 

King Duncan and Princess Cassandra are trapped in the south tower of Castle Araluen and under near-constant attack from the Red Fox Clan. Sir Horace and Ranger Commandant Gilan are holed up in an old hill fort, surrounded by the enemy. And Ranger’s apprentice Maddie is the only one who can save them all.

With the help of Hal, Thorn, and the rest of the Heron brotherband, Maddie will have to break her father and his men out of the hill fort, but will they reach Castle Araluen in time?

International bestselling author of the Ranger’s Apprentice and Brotherband series, John Flanagan returns in the captivating next installment of the Royal Ranger series: The Royal Ranger: Duel at Araluen. Perfect for fans of J.R.R. Tolkien, Brian Jacques’s Redwall, and George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones!”

This latest installment of John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice series is non-stop action! The reader’s anxiety is real in this one! There were battles galore to make any young adventurer drool! I think this was probably my favorite yet! I loved seeing Maddie back in action as she figures out a way to help her trapped mother escape the enemy. The battle tactics that are in this book are extremely interesting. Flanagan has a way of making them fascinating to read about. There were a lot of really clever ways that the characters dealt with the enemy. And the ingenious way Flanagan made the south tower of the castle. It really seemed like he thought of everything. He knows his stuff! It was awesome reading some from Cassandra’s POV. She has not lost her edge at all and is still very much a feared opponent! The way she thinks of new ways to thwart her enemy was amazing! All while still leading the kingdom! The Skandians were fearsome as well! They were so fun to read about, especially their interactions with Maddie. I also loved reading about Horace and Gilan! I kept wondering what they were going to do next when they were absolutely stuck! I did miss Will in this one but was quite happily engaged in the stories of the others!

Seriously, such a fun series! I can’t wait to read more!

John Flanagan grew up in Sydney, Australia, hoping to be a writer. John began writing Ranger’s Apprentice for his son, Michael, ten years ago, and is still hard at work on the series and its spinoff, Brotherband Chronicles. He currently lives in the suburb of Manly, Australia, with his wife. In addition to their son, they have two grown daughters and four grandsons.

The Red Fox Clan (Ranger’s Apprentice: The Royal Ranger, #2) by John Flanagan Spoiler Free Review

I am so excited to be a part of the blogger reread campaign by Penguin Random House! Thank you for the free books in exchange for a review!

This week is book two of The Royal Ranger’s series by John Flanagan!

Publisher: Puffin Books

Publication Date: August 21, 2018

Genre: Middle Grade, Adventure, Fantasy

| Amazon

”   Picking up where The Royal Ranger: A New Beginning left off, this next installment continues the story arc featuring young apprentice, Maddie, and the student-turned-master, Will Treaty. The time has come for the next generation to assume the mantle and become protectors of the kingdom of Araluen. 

     After passing her third-year assessment as a ranger’s apprentice, Maddie is called home to Castle Araluen. Forced to keep her ranger training a secret, Maddie feels trapped by the monotony of castle life and longs to find a way out. But there are whisperings of a new threat to the kingdom. The mysterious Red Fox Clan, a group of anarchists all donning fox masks, have threatened Castle Araluen and question Princess Cassandra and Madelyn’s succession to the throne. Will they succeed in unseating Cassandra and Madelyn and take the throne for themselves? 

     Bestselling author of the Ranger’s Apprentice and Brotherband series, John Flanagan returns in the captivating follow-up to The Royal Ranger: A New Beginning. Perfect for fans of Tolkien, Redwall, and Game of Thrones! “

This was such a fun adventure! The action kept going from book one into book two. Maddie is a little bit older now and is falling into place quite nicely with the Rangers. She’s an extremely strong opponent. I love how the author supports strong women and gives them real abilities that you can actually learn. He also gives them strengths and weaknesses to balance them out. Any young girl would love to be Maddie! A princess AND a Ranger?! I choose that. She is smart, clever, and dangerous. But she also has a soft side to her that loves people (and horses). Her interactions with her mother in particular were so sweet and genuine. Her mom is not to be messed with either! And the secrets Maddie finds out are delicious!

I had a great time learning about tactics in small scale battle, when it was from Gilan’s POV. I kept tensing up whenever something would happen, afraid he might get hurt! It was awesome to see Horace in action too! I highly recommend for any girl who needs a boost of self confidence and is looking for adventure! This series makes me want to really take up archery!

John Flanagan grew up in Sydney, Australia, hoping to be a writer. John began writing Ranger’s Apprentice for his son, Michael, ten years ago, and is still hard at work on the series and its spinoff, Brotherband Chronicles. He currently lives in the suburb of Manly, Australia, with his wife. In addition to their son, they have two grown daughters and four grandsons.