Shadow Frost (Shadow Frost, #1) by Coco Ma – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Blackstone Publishing

Publication Date: October 01, 2019

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

Amazon

IN THE KINGDOM OF AXARIA, a darkness rises.

Some call it a monster, laying waste to the villagers and their homes.
Some say it is an invulnerable demon summoned from the deepest abysses of the Immortal Realm.
Many soldiers from the royal guard are sent out to hunt it down.

Not one has ever returned.


When Asterin Faelenhart, Princess of Axaria and heir to the throne, discovers that she may hold the key to defeating the mysterious demon terrorizing her kingdom, she vows not to rest until the beast is slain. With the help of her friends and the powers she wields — though has yet to fully understand — Asterin sets out to complete a single task. The task that countless, trained soldiers have failed.

To kill it.

But as they hunt for the demon, they unearth a plot to assassinate the Princess herself instead. Asterin and her companions begin to wonder how much of their lives have been lies, especially when they realize that the center of the web of deceit might very well be themselves. With no one else to turn to, they are forced to decide just how much they are willing to sacrifice to protect the only world they have ever known.

That is, of course… if the demon doesn’t get to them first.

From young author Coco Ma comes a dazzling new tale of adventure, power, and betrayal, weaving together a stunning world of magic with a killer cast in an explosive, unforgettable debut.

*Thank you to the publisher for sending me an e-arc through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

I have been a little back and forth on YA Fantasy lately but THIS one, THIS one is what I love about YA Fantasy!

Characters: Told by multiple POV, I think Asterin’s is actually my favorite. Asterin is the princess with a rare powerful ability. She is sassy, sweet, skillful, and a bit naive but in a cute way. I liked the mix of Quinlan’s personality of shy but also knows what he wants. He has a tortured past that is sure to have everyone feeling for him. He is one of the things that Asterin is naive about for a long time! They have really good chemistry and I can’t wait to see more! I also really enjoyed the other characters. They all held their own stories really well. They were also unique enough in the personalities that I didn’t get bored.

Plot/ World. I’ll make my list of plot points again, because, how can you not love this plot?! Princess with a rare ability, powerful friends, a love interest with a tortured past, a shadow demon that is massacring people, an epic quest, and some surprises along the way. I loved the added plot point of her and her mom’s relationship. It was complicated. It is rare for an author to write about a parent/ child relationship that is in a grey area of both love and a bit of abuse. I find it very interesting! I loved the elemental magic system that Ma writes. It still has a price, but it’s very powerful. I like that she has 10 elements that different people can control with a select few being able to control all of them. She does a really good job of writing her own unique world for us to adventure in!

Writing. This is Coco Ma’s first book and she’s in her young 20’s?! She has a GREAT career ahead of her. Absolutely wonderful writing. It was descriptive without being overly so. I never got lost, nor did I ever get bored!

Final Thoughts. I need the second book like, yesterday. I am super invested in this story. I would definitely recommend this to pretty much everyone I know who like YA Fantasy. I see this being a favorite for sure!

I don’t usually do this BUT if you liked Roar, Air Awakens, or Furyborn, I really think you would love this book!

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Redhook

Publication Date: September 10, 2019

Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Adventure Rating: 5 Stars

Amazon

In the early 1900s, a young woman searches for her place in the world after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own. “

*Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC and finished copy in exchange for an honest review!*

I am SO excited to be writing this review. Not only is this cover STUNNING, but the book was an absolute JOY to read. This is hands down one of my favorite reads of this year and might be one of my top 10 favorite reads of all time. This has all of the makings of a classic! I am not sure I would quite put this as YA. Even though the heroine is 17, it is not written like a YA.

Characters. January. Oh, sweet January. I absolutely adore her. She starts out as questioning but timid. She soon learns to fight back and fight for her family. She is kind while at the same time standing up for what is right. I think that is really hard for writers to do. Harrow hit it out of the park! January’s sense of adventure is enviable! Plus, literally all of the secondary characters are amazing to read about. I want a book for each one of them!

Plot/ World. I like making a list of plot points so here we go: Adventure, plot twists, a big dog that travels with January, ten thousand other worlds, star-crossed lovers, a really well written villain (the kind you feel for but also start to hate). This is one of the most adventurous books I’ve ever read so you can see why I had to rate it 5 stars. There are literal doors that lead to other worlds. One was a jungle where the residents are were-leopards. One is filled with islands that if you have magic, you can write words that have magic. One is filled with harsh, cold, black ice. One where there are ancient eagle-like people. There are many others visited. Again, I want a book for each world!! With January searching for her family across worlds, it’s no wonder you fall in love with the story!

Writing. I cannot believe this is Harrow’s debut novel. Have I said this should be a classic? I have? Well I can’t stress that point enough. She is the type of author writing was made for. Her writing is pure magic.

Final Thoughts. READ THIS BOOK RIGHT NOW! It is one of the most unique stories I have ever read. I want MORE. I will now forever buy Harrow’s books.

Tell me what one of your favorite books of this year is!

*Can’t help it again! Book Sleeve is from Love You More Studio! Code: Storied10 to save 10%!

*Amazon link is my affiliate link

Soul of the Sword (Shadow of the Fox, #2) by Julie Kagawa – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Publication Date: June 25, 2019

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Adventure Rating: 3.5 Stars

Amazon

One thousand years ago, a wish was made to the Harbinger of Change and a sword of rage and lightning was forged. Kamigoroshi. The Godslayer. It had one task: to seal away the powerful demon Hakaimono.

Now he has broken free.


Kitsune shapeshifter Yumeko has one task: to take her piece of the ancient and powerful scroll to the Steel Feather temple in order to prevent the summoning of the Harbinger of Change, the great Kami Dragon who will grant one wish to whomever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. But she has a new enemy now. The demon Hakaimono, who for centuries was trapped in a cursed sword, has escaped and possessed the boy she thought would protect her, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan.

Hakaimono has done the unthinkable and joined forces with the Master of Demons in order to break the curse of the sword and set himself free. To overthrow the empire and cover the land in darkness, they need one thing: the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. As the paths of Yumeko and the possessed Tatsumi cross once again, the entire empire will be thrown into chaos. “

This is going to be a bit short because I don’t want to say any spoilers.

I was actually a bit disappointed in this one. It fell a little flat. It definitely hit the second book slump for me. I LOVED the first book, Shadow of the Fox. Pretty sure I gave that one 5 stars. This one really didn’t pick up until maybe the last 100 pages or so.

Characters. I really liked that you got four POV. That one of the POV was Hakaimono himself! He was very interesting to read about. I enjoyed the changes in him as well as his snark. He was my favorite to read about! Tatsumi was tortured before being trapped and now it’s on a whole other level. Yumeko is always fun to read about. She’s quite funny in a goofy way and I love it. She also has a lot of character growth, which I enjoyed. There is also a mysterious fourth POV in the form of a ghost who watches a VERY ineresting side character.

Plot. This is the area I’m having problems. The first book was all adventure and mysterious. This one had adventure but it wasn’t quite fun. I actually got mad at Yumeko in the end for a second. I had to really think about why she made the decisions she did. I’m trying not to give too much away here. It just wasn’t as fun as the first book.

Final Thoughts. I still love this series. The writing is super well done. The world building is incredible. And I can’t wait for the last book in the series! I’m hoping that one will blow me away!

Have you read any of Kagawa’s books? Which is your favorite?

* Book Sleeve is from my favorite sleeve shop, Love You More Studio! Use my code, Storied10 to save! I can’t stop using them in my review posts. I love it.

*Normal disclaimer that content warning isn’t necessarily my personal thoughts. It’s for parents. *

CONTENT WARNING: Kissing, violence, M/M, death, torture, ghosts, demons, blood

OTHER CONTENT: Standing up for what you believe in, sacrificing for your friends/ family, healthy friendships, not giving up

*Amazon link is my affiliate link!*

Ship of Destiny (Liveship Traders, #3) by Robin Hobb – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Publication Date: March, 2000

Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Dragons

Adventure Rating: 5 Stars

Amazon

“The triumphant conclusion to the magnificent Liveship Traders series.

The dragon, Tintaglia, released from her wizardwood coffin, flies high over the Rain Wild River. Below her, Reyn and Selden have been left to drown, while Malta and the Satrap attempt to navigate the acid flow of the river in a decomposing boat.

Althea and Brashen are sailing the liveship Paragon into pirate waters in a last-ditch attempt to rescue the Vestrit family liveship, Vivacia, who was stolen by the pirate king, Kennit; but there is mutiny brewing amongst their ragtag crew, and in the mind of the mad ship itself.

And all the while the waters around the Vivacia are seething with giant serpents, following the liveship as she sails to her destiny . . . “

I’ll be quick about this one since it’s the third book in the series and I can’t talk about much without giving away a spoiler!

Characters. Malta is my favorite character now. Whoops. Not sure how that happened considering I hated her. Reyn is sooo sweet still and I will forever ship him and Malta. Amber, Paragon, Vivacia, all have super interesting stories that I loved reading about. Wintrow has his heart torn so many times. I feel so bad for him! He grows almost as much as Malta though! I still want to be Ronica when I grow up. Brashen had some major growing to do but he did it well. Now for the “messy” characters. Kennit. Oh boy, he has the most interesting story of all. Etta also has her heart torn a few times. Kefria sort of redeemed herself at the end. Now Althea. Ugh. She was such a BRAT the whole freaking time. She was selfish and cruel sometimes, all while acting she deserved this or that. She ended up being my least favorite. Wow. I think I covered most characters.

Plot. Dragons, serpents, talking magic ships with secret histories, mysterious people, romances, pirates, high seas adventure, sea battles, tragic twists!

World. I never want to leave Robin Hobb’s world and everyone should join me here. She has it all!

Final Thoughts. Probably my favorite of all the books! I seriously tell everyone to read this series. I’m obsessed and I want to binge all of Hobb’s books now!

What is a series you are convinced everyone should read?

*Amazon link is my affiliate link!*

*Currently Reading sign is from Bookish Signs and More! Use my code: Lauren10 to save!*

Tiger Queen by Annie Sullivan – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Blink

Publication Date: September 10, 2019

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

Amazon

From Annie Sullivan, author of A Touch of Gold, comes Tiger Queen, a sweeping YA fantasy adventure that tells the story of a fierce desert princess battling to save her kingdom. Fans of Rebel of the Sands and Meagan Spooner will devour this retelling of Frank Stockton’s famous short story, “The Lady, or the Tiger?”

In the mythical desert kingdom of Achra, an ancient law forces sixteen-year-old Princess Kateri to fight in the arena to prove her right to rule. For Kateri, winning also means fulfilling a promise to her late mother that she would protect her people, who are struggling through windstorms and drought. The situation is worsened by the gang of Desert Boys that frequently raids the city wells, forcing the king to ration what little water is left. The punishment for stealing water is a choice between two doors: behind one lies freedom, and behind the other is a tiger.

But when Kateri’s final opponent is announced, she knows she cannot win. In desperation, she turns to the desert and the one person she never thought she’d side with. What Kateri discovers twists her world—and her heart—upside down. Her future is now behind two doors—only she’s not sure which holds the key to keeping her kingdom and which releases the tiger. “

*Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review!*

This was an incredible lush retelling of “The Lady, or the Tiger?” ! It had everything a retelling should, drama, action, and romance! I quite enjoyed my time reading this.

Characters. I actually really liked Kateri, even starting out. She was absolutely ruthless while still yearning for her father’s approval. She had revenge on her mind and she lived like it. Her character growth was not only believable, but it was done REALLY well. Especially for only a 334 page book! And Cion! He was fantastic. I loved his character and how he helped Kateri see truth in a sometimes gentle, sometimes tough love manner. A good mix of both helps! And Rodric is a good classic baddie!

Plot. The plot line was seriously so much fun. With water running extremely low and people having to ration it to half a bucket a day? And the royalty getting to use as much as they want? That’s bound to cause some problems. It was interesting to see how the author solved that problem. I really liked her solution to not only the water but also how people survived and escaped.

World. Minus the water problem and royalty, Achra sounds like somewhere I’d want to visit! It sounds like a blot of color in the desert, an oasis that weary travelers seek. It sounds amazing after a long journey, right? Sullivan did a really good job of making up creatures that would live there too; one’s that are poisonous, ones you can eat, ones that are poisonous and you can eat, and ones that don’t belong.

Final Thoughts. I wish there was more! Also, I am officially a big fan of Sullivan’s work now. I will definitely be buying A Touch of Gold now! I love that she takes lesser known myths and writes re-tellings. I have never read re-tellings like these before!

Thoughts on re-tellings? What is your favorite?

* *Normal disclaimer that content warning isn’t necessarily my personal thoughts. It’s for parents. *

CONTENT WARNING: Kissing, violence, animal cruelty, child abuse, death

OTHER CONTENT: Strong character growth, overcoming your weaknesses, stand up for your values and morals, strong male and female characters, caring for others

*Amazon link is my affiliate link!*

An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Saga Press

Publication Date: September 26, 2017

Genre: Fantasy, Magic, Adult, Urban Fantasy

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

Amazon

” There is a dark secret that is hiding at the heart of New York City and diminishing the city’s magicians’ power in this fantasy thriller by acclaimed author Kat Howard.

In New York City, magic controls everything. But the power of magic is fading. No one knows what is happening, except for Sydney—a new, rare magician with incredible power that has been unmatched in decades, and she may be the only person who is able to stop the darkness that is weakening the magic. But Sydney doesn’t want to help the system, she wants to destroy it.

Sydney comes from the House of Shadows, which controls the magic with the help of sacrifices from magicians. “

This was a book that was picked for my bookclub on Instagram and I had never heard of it or seen it anywhere. I was VERY surprised when I found I could not put it down! Let me just say, this is highly underrated!

Character. Sydney is a character that I found myself going, “Oh man, I want to be like her.” She can take pain, and I mean A LOT of pain, she is kind, extremely clever, and very powerful. Ian was a good match to her I think. He was all of those things as well. Gray was a super creepy baddie. And Laurant was my favorite! He’s just so sweet and is an honorable character.

World. Howard did an amazing job creating this magical society that operates unseen within our own! She made it seem like it could be real. Like if I just looked hard enough I could find it. I love when authors can make you feel that way! I loved the way her magic system worked. I don’t think there were any details that I wondered about! To use magic there MUST be a sacrifice. Whether or not that comes from your body or someone else.

Plot. Oh mama, that plot. A dark house of magic that releases the most powerful magician ever who only has her own plans to destroy them? Yes. That’s their downfall. They were too prideful in thinking that they manipulated Sydney enough to be loyal. And it backfires. Badly. Plus the whole plot is based in magical games to see who will win control over the magical world. WAY cool.

Final Thoughts. Two minor dislikes. One is the audio book narrator. She spoke very haltingly whenever the characters spoke. She. Talked. Like. There. Were. Periods. In. Between. Words. I got used to it but it was kind of annoying. The other really minor dislike is that I wish the fight scenes lasted longer. HOWEVER, modern, magical games. That right there should make you want to read this. I saw there was going to be a second book and I can’t wait!

Recommend me some underrated fantasy books!

*As always, gorgeous book sleeve is from Love You More Studio! Code: Storied10 to save!*

*Amazon link is my affiliate link!*

Crown of Coral and Pearl (Crown of Coral and Pearl, #1) by Mara Rutherford – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Publication Date: August 27, 2019

Genre: YA Fantasy

Adventure Rating: 3.5 Stars

Amazon

For generations, the princes of Ilara have married the most beautiful maidens from the ocean village of Varenia. But though every girl longs to be chosen as the next princess, the cost of becoming royalty is higher than any of them could ever imagine…

Nor once dreamed of seeing the wondrous wealth and beauty of Ilara, the kingdom that’s ruled her village for as long as anyone can remember. But when a childhood accident left her with a permanent scar, it became clear that her identical twin sister, Zadie, would likely be chosen to marry the Crown Prince—while Nor remained behind, unable to ever set foot on land.

Then Zadie is gravely injured, and Nor is sent to Ilara in her place. To Nor’s dismay, her future husband, Prince Ceren, is as forbidding and cold as his home—a castle carved into a mountain and devoid of sunlight. And as she grows closer to Ceren’s brother, the charming Prince Talin, Nor uncovers startling truths about a failing royal bloodline, a murdered queen… and a plot to destroy the home she was once so eager to leave.

In order to save her people, Nor must learn to negotiate the treacherous protocols of a court where lies reign and obsession rules. But discovering her own formidable strength may be the one move that costs her everything: the crown, Varenia and Zadie. “

I have things I liked and things I didn’t really like, however the things I liked outweighed the things I didn’t like (How’s that for a sentence). The things I didn’t like are more plot points than anything else, so I will talk about it there.

Characters. I actually found all of the characters really enjoyable to read about! Nor was headstrong and loves her sister fiercely. I don’t have sisters, but I know I would do anything for my brothers. Nor also has some awesome healing abilities that I so wish were real! She also stood up to what was wrong in her society and what was wrong in the larger kingdom. Talin was also likable. He has some hard core secrets of his own that shapes how he lives his life. Ceren. Oh boy. It’s very clear that something is wrong in his mind. He honestly doesn’t understand that most of the things he does is extremely creepy. Like baking bats in a pie. Gross. He is a pretty messed up prince/ bad guy.

Writing. Loved the writing. Pretty straight forward. I never got lost or anything.

World Building. Rutherford’s world seems really interesting! I would love to get more details on the other kingdoms! The geography makes sense and of course I love the whole little village world in the ocean.

Plot. Here are the things I loved: The water! I am part Polynesian and my love for water knows no bounds. Where Nor and Zadie live is my dream. In a small house, on stilts, in the ocean. And they swim or take their boat to their neighbors house or the market. I also loved the author’s take on healing properties of water. I don’t personally believe water itself can heal you, but I honestly feel better when I am in water. I also liked the plot line of how their village was being threatened by the kingdom that “owns” them. And Nor sets out to fix things.

Didn’t like: There were no plot twists. What you see is what you get. Also, the romance. While I like those two characters together, it was too insta-lovey for my tastes.

Final Thoughts. Again, the things I liked outweighed the things I didn’t like! My water loving soul loved this take on the ocean! It was a really FUN read. And it looks like there is a sequel so I will definitely be reading that!

* *Normal disclaimer that content warning isn’t necessarily my personal thoughts. It’s for parents. *

CONTENT WARNING: Kissing, sexual situations, violence, self harm (even if the character does it for “a good reason”), some disturbing situations (one character drinks blood and he siphons blood), death

OTHER CONTENT: Strong sibling bond, strong female POV, dealing with a harsh parent, beauty is not all that matters (and doesn’t have to matter)

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