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
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.
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.
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!
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!
I’ve been hiding from the Guild since I was born. If they knew about my magic, they would kill me in a heartbeat. I should be avoiding them, but instead, I enter the Guild as a regular human recruit. Why? Papa went missing after a mission, and I need answers. I realize I might have bitten off more than I can chew when my new instructor is the guy I kissed a few months before. It doesn’t seem like Cade recognizes me without my disguise, but if he does and blows the whistle, I’m as good as dead and so is Papa.
*I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review! Thank you!*
This book was actually really fun! It has assassin’s with powers (magic powers), like control of water, invisibility, shape shifting, etc. And Vampires. Swoon! It was a really quick enjoyable read!
Our MC, Lenna, is fierce and sassy. She is confident in her abilities and in herself. She can take on a Vampire (in more ways than one, wink), looking at you Maximus! Which, by the way, I want more of him! Lenna is basically the best of the best of assassin’s. Her infiltrating The Guild was bold, but she is trying to find her only family, Papa. The shenanigan’s she gets up to with her friends, are actually a bit funny sometimes.
I really enjoyed the side characters! Ekron is probably my favorite friend! He is a big ol’ goofy teddy bear. And I definitely need to read Sofia’s Novella! She is intense! I am not sure about Cade yet. I kind of ship Lenna with someone else, but we shall see!
So, why the four stars? The writing was good but I kept forgetting this was supposed to be an adult novel and not a YA. And at first I was even thinking young YA, until a sex scene showed up. So that threw me off a bit.
I still really liked it and will be continuing with the series! The plot was definitely interesting and I can’t wait to see what Lenna will do next!
“After months in captivity, Apaay managed to escape Yuki’s labyrinth with her life. But her freedom did not come without a steep cost. When the Face Stealer, the North’s most notorious demon, calls in her blood oath, Apaay must heed his demand. Debts, after all, must be repaid.
As Apaay attempts to navigate her uprooted life, something dark slithers among the snow-dusted conifers of the North. A long-dead war is unfinished, and there are those who would see it revived. In a place where misplaced loyalty could mean her death, Apaay must look inward to repair her broken soul—for if she cannot place trust in those around her, she might find enemies are closer than they appear.
In this stunning follow-up to Below, Alexandria Warwick brings the second book in her dark and seductive North series to thrilling new heights.”
*I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review*
First of all, thank you so much to Alexandria Warwick for sending me the sequel in her North series! This is honestly one of my favorite indie series I’ve ever read! I think it’s so SO cool that it is based on Inuit mythology!
Her world building is really solid. She has The North, which is full of man and beasts… and a few demons! The first book I was like, oh okay cool, fun, the second book I was like, OMG there’s a whole iceberg of plot under here! I actually enjoyed the sequel better than the first! Well done!
The character. Okay, I saw in her acknowledgments that her editor is the number one Face Stealer fan. Then I want to be vice president of his fanclub! I LOVE him! Think of a cross between The Darkling and Cardan. Yeah, I went there. He is a sarcastic, sassy, secretive man. Apaay, the MC, is actually a bit like Jude now that I think about it. Attitude wise. Now, here’s the thing, I liked Apaay better in the first book. The second book was her depression (which was handled very well!)/ I don’t know how to handle stuff, attitude. It was done really well, I just don’t handle that stuff well because I am very sensitive towards that stuff. I don’t want to say “triggered” exactly but it’s hard for me sometimes. Anyways, Ila. Our secondary MC, reveals some mysteries! I really like her! I relate to her personality a bit more!
I really enjoyed learning about the other clans! I *think* the owl clan is my favorite! They live high in the trees and each can transform into a different giant bird of prey! SO COOL! The way Warwick describes the different powers that each clan member OR other creature has is awesome! There is this shadow power, shifter power, water/ ice power, and some mad fighting skills.
Not giving away any spoilers but I shippping shippity ship the Face Stealer and Apaay so freaking hard. But I did in the first book too, so.
This is seriously the perfect cold weather read! I’ve honestly never read anything like it! It sort of reads like Island of the Blue Dolphins but if it was modernized and for adults if that makes sense!
When two blades clash, the third will fall, and the fate of all will be jeopardized. To save Lozaria, the failures of the past must be atoned for by a new generation of heroes. The time has come for mortals to cast off sight and, in doing so, truly come to see . . .
Victory is never absolute.
Seven centuries ago, the forces of order won the Illyriite War on the plains of Har’muth. Darmatus and Rabban Aurelian slew their elder brother, Sarcon, the despotic architect of the conflict, then sacrificed themselves to banish the cataclysmic vortex opened with his dying breath. The first advent of the Oblivion Well was thwarted. Even without their vanished gods, the seven races of Lozaria proved themselves capable of safeguarding their world.
Or so the story goes.
The year is now 697 A.B.H (After the Battle of Har’muth). Though war itself remains much the same, the weapons with which it is waged have evolved. Airships bearing powerful cannons ply the skies, reducing the influence of mages and their spells. Long range communication has brought far flung regions of Lozaria closer than ever before. At the center of this technological revolution are the three Terran states of Darmatia, Rabban, and Sarconia, who have fought a near ceaseless campaign of 700 years in an attempt to best each other. The roots of their enmity lie buried beneath the wasteland of Har’muth, a place all three nations consider best forgotten.
However, an ancient power sealed within Har’muth has not forgotten them, and the descendants of those who fought on that field must now take a stand to rectify the mistakes of the past.
*Thank you to the author for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!*
I hope I don’t ramble or mind dump on y’all but I have a lot to say so buckle up!
First off, one of the reasons I took this review request was because Russell uses the same cover artist as Sanderson! How cool! Second off, I am pretty picky about indie author books I accept and this one just honestly sounded really promising. It had been a while since I had read an Epic Fantasy so I was excited to dig into this one. And it did not disappoint! In fact, I was shocked that not only is he an unknown author/ indie author, but he writes like an author who has been around. I was super surprised by how good this book actually is. Writing, content, world building, characters, everything was SO GOOD! I am not saying he is the next Sanderson YET, BUT y’all, trust me when I tell you that Russell is one to watch out for. He has the extreme potential to be one of the greats! And I am SUPER nit picky when I read indie books!
Yadda, yadda get to the book.
The book. The book reads like a nostalgic epic fantasy. I am reading Dune currently and this book actually reads like a mixture of Dune and some Sanderson. It actually has a mixture of the core being Fantasy, but with elements of Sci-fi (there are huge airships and fantastic tech), and a bit of steampunk, in my opinion! It’s a classic good vs. evil plot. And a question of what is more powerful, tech or magic? Or does it depend on the person? *winks*
And the baddie is one messed up dude! Sarcon. *Shivers* He’s good because not only is he extremely powerful but he is also fear manipulative. He is one you love to hate! He even has a “good reason” for what he is doing. And those make the best bad guys. No real life bad guy thinks they are the bad guy.
How about the good guys? This is a multiple third person POV. You get a lot from multiple angles BUT it doesn’t lose you! I was able to keep up well! Vallen. Oh Vallen. He was weird for me. I liked him, then didn’t, then he grew on me again. Man has an A-T-T-I-T-U-D-E. A lot of the time I was like, Vallen, get over yourself (even though you are one of the most powerful ever…). My favorite character was Sylette! Girl has some secrets, mystery, and is SMART! She knows some serious battle technition information. She has this cool magic where she can make knives and knows how to use them! There are quite a few other well rounded characters that make up the core good-guy group but for the sake of space I won’t talk about every single one.
Lastly, the magic. Ooooo it was a delicious magic system. There are consequences to using too much. And it’s a bit like Star Wars in the sense that each person has different quantities of “magic particles”. Each person or race has unique magic, there are shield users, knife users, premonition types, glyph users, and so. much. more. Very cool.
I can’t say enough good things about this book. Please consider reading it. I do not know the author what-so-ever, nor am I paid to do so. I just legit love this book and think it’s highly underrated. Clearly, because this is one of my longest reviews ever! What a great adventure to go on!
I saw a few people ask about content… There is: no sex scenes, swearing is in the respective peoples/ races language, there are tons of battle scenes and blood and gore.
*Bookshop is a new affiliate I am trying out because the proceeds go to your local bookstores!*
In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.
As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.
The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost
The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told
The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide
Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed.
*Thank you to Wednesday Books for sending me an e-arc via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, and for having me on the blog tour!*
Y’all, it has been a hot minute since a YA book has gripped me. This one was actually really hard to put down! It has danger, slow-burn romance, love triangle (it’s actually done well! Trust me!), mysteries, and plenty of magic! Plus a it is a retelling of Phantom of the Opera mixed with a magic competition!!
I really enjoyed the characters. Everything including the characters is so mysterious! Kallia, our main MC, is feisty and speaks her mind. And listen, I don’t like ANY MCs that are jerks when they are written like that. Male or Female. But Kallia somehow isn’t! I really enjoyed her fierce personality. I think because she was still generous and wants to help people, like her assistant Aaros!
Let’s talk loooooove. Jack. This is the Phantom and the Opera part. Jack is the phantom. He is very dark and mysterious. And he is fiercely protective over Kallia. But he definitely smothers her. But Demarco has his own dangerous secrets too. He is just a bit of the gentler sort. A few times he got angry and I was just like, yeeeess Demarco, let it out.
I LOVED the world. Fantastic world building. Glorian is really the only place we see, so I would love to get more of the outside world! And the magic! It was so amazing to read about the unique and creative magic that Kallia could do! I could almost experience the 5 senses just from Angeles’s writing! She really wrote a magical book!
THAT ENDING. WHERE IS BOOK 2?! MUST HAVE IT!
Never come to Hellfire House without wearing a mask.
It was one of the rare rules in a joint without any. The only rule the master of the club did not mind following. He blended in with the sea of suits and white masks that arrived every other night, switching appearances from crowd to crowd. A bartender one moment, a dealer at the card tables the next.
Only his face remained the same, half-masked and haunting. Like a prince who relished the bloody crown on his head, and the ghosts that came with it. A face almost hardened by beauty, though glints of youth ran deep beneath soft black eyes. It always shocked new guests, to see him. The master of the House was rumored to be a dragon of a man. A monster. A magician who had no mercy for fools.
Only those who dared slur the word boy in his face understood how true those rumors were.
To the rest, he played the devil on all shoulders, leading patrons to his bar and game tables, guiding them toward his enchanted smoke lounge to drown in curated memories. The warmth of first love, the heady rush of triumph, the immense joy of dreams come true. The master kept a selection of sensations, and one hit of the pipes delivered magic the people came crawling to his house to taste.
They had no idea the show that was in store for them.
The master of the House sipped his short glass of scarlet whiskey in peace, tapping along the wide black strip over his brass knuckles. He’d long since manipulated his attire, sitting casually at a card table and savoring the mayhem. Raucous cheers erupted from the next table as dice rolled out across the surface. Smiling Hellfire girls in black blazers and masks of lace denied patrons begging for a dance. Loudest of all, the dealer’s crisp shuffling of the black cards with teeth-white numbers before she doled out hands to players at the table.
“No, no more,” one moaned. “I can’t.”
“Sure you can, chap.” A young man in a white thorn-edged mask cheerfully pressed him back in his seat. “We can’t leave. Haven’t even finished your drink, yet.”
His drunken friend’s mouth puckered under another gulp. “Think it’s true, the drink? Magician’s Blood, the menu said.”
“Think you have power, now?” Thorn Mask laughed, leaning back to appraise the club. “Here, you take your magic where you can get it. You wear a mask. You flip a card, smoke a memory. Or you look up . . . at her.”
The master’s fingers tightened around his glass, just as the lights dimmed. Dancers cleared the floor under the hush of music, shifting from smooth, steady beats to a racing rhythm loud as thunderous applause.
Right on cue.
The band’s worth of instruments he’d charmed for the night started up a wild entry tune of drums, the thick trill of trumpets. Chatter ceased and backs straightened as a beam of light speared toward the ceiling. A panel slid open over the dance floor.
And the chandelier descended.
Strings of crystals dangled along tiered rims of rose gold, cutting sharply into a jewel-set swing where a masked showgirl sat. A throne of glittering jewels, casting luminous lace across the walls and the ground and the audience taking her in. Her brown skin glowed against her corset, red as her gem-studded mask. Arms stretched out, she crossed and extended her legs in smooth lines all the way down, until her heels touched the lacquered black dancefloor. With the hint of a smile, she rose from her throne and stalked forward, thrusting a hand up with a snap.
Darkness engulfed the room.
Hoots and hollers rang at the drop of the beat, before a glimmer of her form reappeared in the shadows. The room pulsed at her command, matching the spike of heartbeats the master sensed throughout the club.
The smirk on his lips matched the girl’s as she arched her back to the raw stretch of the melody. She thrived under the attention, like a wildflower under the sun. A star finding the night.
“I’ll be damned.” The drunk at the card table breathed in awe, as the girl’s palms began brightening with a molten glow. “Nothing like an academy girl.”
“Worth the trip, right?” His friend clapped a hand on his shoulder.
“I didn’t know they could be magicians like . . . this.”
The master smothered a dark scoff under a sip of whiskey. The girl showed off good tricks—improvised and bettered from his basic crowd-pleasers. Treating the ceiling like a sky and showering comets from it, casting an elaborate shadow show of dancing shades over the floor, shifting every candlelight in the room to different colors to the beat of the music.
But always the performer, she preferred to be front and center. Teasing her power just enough to make the audience want more of her magic, more of her.
He wet his lips as flames shot from her hands, arcing over her head and around her body. The fire’s melody bent to her every movement, and she gave everything to it. If she wasn’t careful, she’d overexert herself like she did most nights, never knowing when to stop. How to pull back.
Careful never was her strongest suit.
Sparks fell before her, sizzling on the ground. Unafraid, she sauntered down her stage of flames with slow swaying hips and a firelit smile.
“Magicians like this are best kept a secret,” Thorn Mask went on. “And besides, the work is far too scandalous for a lady. Only clubs will take them.”
“What a shame. Imagine going up against the likes of her at the competition.”
The master paused, drawing his gaze back to his glass.
“Not this again. That flyer was nothing but a joke.” Thorn Mask slapped the table with a groaning laugh. “A prank.”
The drunk sloppily patted around his coat, pulling from his breast pocket a dirty, scrunched ball of paper. “It’s real. They’re all over the academies, in Deque and New Crown and—”
“A prank,” repeated Thorn Mask, unfolding the flyer anyway. “It has to be. No one’s been to that city in ages, it would never open itself to such games.”
“That makes it all the more interesting, don’t you think?” As another roar of cheers erupted around them, the friend sipped his drink smugly. “Imagine if she entered, the city might implode.”
“Right. As if that would ever happen.” Thorn Mask leered. “Competition would eat a creature like her alive.”
“Because she’s . . . ?”
With an impish lift of his brow, the man in the thorny mask flicked the flyer off the table and returned to his forgotten spread of cards. “Let’s get on with the game, shall we?”
Before he could gesture at the dealer, the master suddenly appeared at their table, snatching the young man’s wrist in a biting grip. The man yelped as the force knocked over his drink, and sent a stream of hidden cards spilling out from his sleeves.
“What’s this?” The master bent toward the ground and picked up a couple, entirely too calm. “Cheating in my house?”
The man froze, recognition dawning at the brass knuckles alone. “Where did you—I-I mean,” he sputtered, patting frantically at his sleeve. “That’s impossible. Those aren’t mine, I swear.”
“Then where did they come from?”
Sweat dripped from his temple, his face paler than the white of his mask. “I emptied my pockets at the door. Honest.”
Honest. That was the best he could do? The master almost laughed.
“You want to know the price cheaters pay in my joint?” His question offered no mercy. Only deliverance, served on ice. “Memories.”
“No, please!” The man’s lip trembled. “I didn’t, I-I’ll do whatever you want!”
“This is what I want.” The master rose from the table with the jerk of his wrist. The cheat flew to the ground in a gasp as he gripped at the invisible chain-like weight around his neck. Sharp, staccato breaths followed the master as he dragged his prisoner toward the smoke dens.
The man screamed, but no one heard him. No one saw, no one cared. All eyes fell on the star of the show as she searched for a dance partner to join her. The drunken friend, noticing nothing amiss, raised his half-full glass of Magician’s Blood to his lips before waving his hand high like the others. The man thrashed harder, only to feel his cries smothered and deeper in his throat. His form, invisible at the sweep of the master’s hand.
With a disdainful glance, the master chuckled. “You’re only making this more difficult for yourself. One memory won’t kill you.”
At once, he paused. The lights blinked around them, the air grown still. Dim and hazy, as though locked in a dream.
He thought nothing of it until he caught the movements of the patrons—their arms raised and waving slowly, increment by increment. Their cheers dulled and stretched into low, gravelly roars, as if the sound were wading through heavier air. Against time itself.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
The sound of her voice slithered around him, stopping the master in his tracks. The man quieted. Sweat soaked his pale face, his chest heaving. The showgirl stood in their path, every stare in the room still locked on the spotlit floor where she’d been. As though she’d never left.
Her red corset glinted as she cocked her hip and pointed at the man on the floor. “I choose him.”
She could never let things be easy.
“Kallia,” he growled, warning.
She smiled. “Jack.”
“Pick another. He’s a cheater.”
Her lips pursed into a dubious line. “Then let me teach him a lesson. He’ll no doubt prefer it more.” She swung a leg over the man’s prone form so she stood directly above him. Invitation dripped from the crook of her fingers. “The music calls, darling. Let’s have ourselves a grand time.”
The man’s terror turned swiftly into awe, and he looked at her as if ready to kiss the ground she walked on. As soon as he took her beckoning hand, the room resumed its lively rhythm—a song snapped back in full swing. The cheers and hollers returned to their normal speed, exploding in delight as patrons found their lovely entertainer in their midst, her chosen dance partner in tow.
She bypassed the master, pressing a casual hand on his chest to move him. It lingered, he noticed. Unafraid, unlike most. Their gazes locked for a moment, their masked faces inches apart.
No one ever dared to get this close. To him, to her.
Only each other.
At the next round of cheers and whistles, she pushed him away, smug as a cat. Tugging the man close behind her, she sent fires onto the ground that illuminated her path and warded others from trying to follow them to the stage. Never once looking back at the master, even as he watched on after her.
His fist tightened, full of the cards from his earlier trick. They disappeared into mist, having served their purpose. Along with the flyer he managed to grab.
He didn’t even bother giving it a read. It died in the fire caged by his palm. Tendrils of smoke rose between his brass knuckles, and when he opened his fingers, nothing but ash fell to the ground.
JANELLA ANGELES is a Filipino-American author who got her start in writing through consuming glorious amounts of fanfiction at a young age—which eventually led to penning a few of her own, and later on, creating original stories from her imagination. A lifelong lover of books, she’s lucky enough to be working in the business of publishing them on top of writing them. She currently resides in Massachusetts, where she’s most likely to be found listening to musicals on repeat and daydreaming too much for her own good. Where Dreams Descend is her first book.
*I received a paperback copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*
Y’all, I LOVED this book! Like, why aren’t more people talking about it? I feel like it should be popular! Honestly, this would make an epic movie! It does give me major Outlander vibes in terms of pacing, star crossed lovers, and the bit of magic that is in them. It just feel similar!
Juliet throughout her lives is interesting. She definitely changes but at the same time keeps her core personality traits I think. My favorite was Nora. She was the most relatable.
Luke. Oh poor Luke. He is the administrator demon of Juliet’s curse. He is not supposed to love her, and yet he does every time. It’s heart breaking to watch them over and over make mistakes that lead to their destruction basically.
And Auguste. He, I did not really like. He seemed like a coward in each of his lives.
The whole premise was super interesting! It is all about the repercussions of a curse gone wrong, and the people who paid for it. I really liked going through the book as Helen, as she gets her memories back from her past lives, and finds out just how strong she really is. I also really liked the administrator demon thing. That was a cool little twist.
I won’t spoil the ending, but IT’S REALLY GOOD.
I cannot wait until Sayers next novel comes out in 2021, The Ladies of the Secret Circus!