Rhapsodic by Laura Thalassa

Do you need a Rhysand fix? Yes? Yes, of course you do.

Then let me introduce you to The Bargainer from Laura Thalassa’s Rhapsodic. The first book in the bargainer series.

25820414.jpgCallypso Lillis is a siren with a very big problem, one that stretches up her arm and far into her past. For the last seven years she’s been collecting a bracelet of black beads up her wrist, magical IOUs for favors she’s received. Only death or repayment will fulfill the obligations. Only then will the beads disappear.

Everyone knows that if you need a favor, you go to the Bargainer to make it happen. He’s a man who can get you anything you want… at a price. And everyone knows that sooner or later he always collects.

But for one of his clients, he’s never asked for repayment. Not until now. When Callie finds the fae king of the night in her room, a grin on his lips and a twinkle in his eye, she knows things are about to change. At first it’s just a chaste kiss—a single bead’s worth—and a promise for more.

For the Bargainer, it’s more than just a matter of rekindling an old romance. Something is happening in the Otherworld. Fae warriors are going missing one by one. Only the women are returned, each in a glass casket, a child clutched to their breast. And then there are the whispers among the slaves, whispers of an evil that’s been awoken.

If the Bargainer has any hope to save his people, he’ll need the help of the siren he spurned long ago. Only, his foe has a taste for exotic creatures, and Callie just happens to be one.

Rhapsodic is a unique take on the fae and other supernatural creatures, including a certain King of the Night, his sexy, dark mysterious ways, and a healthy wingspan. *wiggles eyebrows* It’s by no means a replacement for SJM’s Rhysand but the bargainer has a certain magnetic quality that stands on its own, giving me the fix I needed for more broody, winged heroes.

This story was like A Court of Mist and Fury meets Daughter of Smoke & Bone. It was romantic and enthralling. I felt myself falling under the bargainer’s spell just as Callie did. The story built and built and built until my heart was pushed off a cliff only to realize that I had wings to fly me safely back to the ground.

Callie was a strong heroine with kickass Siren powers. I loved that we get to see both sides of Callie – the past and present – where she’s broken, abused and searching for herself, and then later when she’s built a life her herself and can stand on her own two feet. The alternating past and present POV made for delicious tension and shocking reveals. It also had a nice combined Young Adult v. New Adult feel.

I couldn’t stop thinking about this book while I was reading. Outside of the romance, Callie and the bargainer attempt to unravel a dangerous mystery in the fae realm, and I was pleasantly surprised and adequately disgusted by the big bad in this story and his terrible, horrifying antics. *shudders*

I read and loved Thalassa’s Fallen World Trilogy. Her writing is effortless, her heroine’s relatable – both strong and broken – and most importantly, her male leads are dark and hella swoon worthy.

This book would have been a perfect five stars, but the ending felt a little rushed and pre-packaged. I will, however, be reading the next book The Strange Hymn.

STARS: 4.5 out of 5

Advertisements

Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas

Brilliant. Beautiful. Unexpected.

Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas is the fifth novel in the Throne of Glass series and a parallel novel to Empire of Storms, meaning it’s happening simultaneously in the timeline, which also means that we don’t get the usual snarky badass of Aelin and her gang because it follows Chaol Westfall and Nesryn Faliq. I seriously missed Aelin’s storyline but I fell in love with this novel.

31450852.jpgIn the next installment of the New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series, follow Chaol on his sweeping journey to a distant empire.

Chaol Westfall has always defined himself by his unwavering loyalty, his strength, and his position as the Captain of the Guard. But all of that has changed since the glass castle shattered, since his men were slaughtered, since the King of Adarlan spared him from a killing blow, but left his body broken.

His only shot at recovery lies with the legendary healers of the Torre Cesme in Antica—the stronghold of the southern continent’s mighty empire. And with war looming over Dorian and Aelin back home, their survival might lie with Chaol and Nesryn convincing its rulers to ally with them.

But what they discover in Antica will change them both—and be more vital to saving Erilea than they could have imagined.

I typically strongly dislike any kind of companion novel or prequel novella. In fact, despite being a serious SJM fangirl, it wasn’t until recently that I purchased Assassin’s Blade to read The Assassin and the Healer novella in prep for this novel, which I’d recommend for anyone about to read Tower of Dawn. If you’re like me and typically don’t like books outside of the main narrative, I’d strongly suggest you read Tower of Dawn because a lot is revealed about the overall plot that’s important to the finale. However, I’m sure SJM will slide in all those truths as a refresher in the next book.

Let me tell you why Tower of Dawn was an unexpected delight. It had all the makings of an epic SJM novel with high stakes, masterful storytelling, and love-conquers-all romance. Toward the beginning of this series, I was seriously #TeamChaol (until, ya know, Rowan showed up), so I was fine with an entire book devoted to him, where he battles his inner demons and finds love. However, imagine my surprise when, yet again, another male swoops in and steals my heart *cough* Sartaq *cough*. I’ll admit that I was never a fan of Nesryn, but throw in a little Sartaq and I’m ALL about that storyline. There’s a specific scene when they are fighting beasts in the mountains and all looks dire and words are spoken and I couldn’t contain my emotions. I was running around the house like a crazy person screeching “It’s so beautiful!” as I tried to calm my thundering heart. I’m officially obsessed with the Ruks, the eagle-like birds, and their riders. The excitement of Nesryn and Sartaq’s adventure into the mountains was probably my favorite part of this novel, which was very unexpected.

Chaol’s storyline was more subtle, focusing on character development as he heals both inside and out from his injury and accepts his new reality. He and Yrene search for answers in the Torre’s library as opposed to the heart-stopping, death-defying adventure of Nesryn and Sartaq. Chaol’s enemies-to-lovers relationship with Yrene was a slow burn, but it worked. I loved how they bonded over each other’s mutual pain. The plot twist of the significance of Yrene’s healing ability was a great surprise. I’m interested in seeing what happens next. Overall, both love stories were so well crafted. Gah! So good!

Like all the cities SJM creates, Antica was an awe-inspiring setting with the Torre and the palace and the city itself. It made me want to go there but it also explained so much about the royal family and how that made them who they are. The setting was a great place for this story to unfold and I hope to revisit it.

My favorite thing about the ending was the sneak peek chapter from Fireheart’s POV. It didn’t give us much but it was enough to leave me salivating for the final installment in this epic series.

STARS: 5 out of 5

Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff

If you flip to the back of Godsgrave, under the author bio, the very last line says:

He [the author, our dear Jay Kristoff] does not believe in happy endings.

In that moment, I wanted to go back in time and never pick up Nevernight, the first installment of the Nevernight Chronicle, which has led me through a dark and twisty tale of blood and murder and vengeance.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all about that bloodlust and death, but my heart is so invested in Mia Covere and her shadowfriends, and all the new gladiatii that we meet in the second novel that I NEED a happy ending. I want it so. bad.

23264671A ruthless young assassin continues her journey for revenge in this new epic fantasy from New York Times bestselling author Jay Kristoff.

Assassin Mia Corvere has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church ministry think she’s far from earned it. Plying her bloody trade in a backwater of the Republic, she’s no closer to ending Consul Scaeva and Cardinal Duomo, or avenging her familia. And after a deadly confrontation with an old enemy, Mia begins to suspect the motives of the Red Church itself.

When it’s announced that Scaeva and Duomo will be making a rare public appearance at the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia defies the Church and sells herself to a gladiatorial collegium for a chance to finally end them. Upon the sands of the arena, Mia finds new allies, bitter rivals, and more questions about her strange affinity for the shadows. But as conspiracies unfold within the collegium walls, and the body count rises, Mia will be forced to choose between loyalty and revenge, and uncover a secret that could change the very face of her world.

Set in the world of Nevernight, which Publishers Weekly called “absorbing in its complexity and bold in its bloodiness,” Godsgrave will continue to thrill and satisfy fantasy fans everywhere.

Godsgrave was bloody brilliant! Better than the first. There was more bloodshed, more pain, more twisty, turny politics and deeply embedded plot lines of betrayal and lies. The genius plotting in this book is poured out to us like a blood offering on the sands of the Godsgrave Coliseum.

My heart about jumped out of my chest a bajillion times while reading this dark masterpiece. The humor was bordering discomfort and disgust, and I was squirming in my seat as I endured Mia’s dangerous tale of revenge. The added challenge of not only murdering the untouchable men that took away Mia’s familia but fighting TO THE DEATH through gladiator-style battles to reach her ultimate goal was a mesmerizing sight to behold.

“The choice between looking plain and pretty isn’t really a choice at all. But any fool knows looking dangerous is preferable to both.”

There were twists I didn’t see coming and twists I wanted so bad I could have cried that didn’t come to fruition. However, by the end, all seemed somewhat surprisingly well considering the circumstances. I fell in love with these characters much to my own demise. I knew not to get too close, but I did. And it hurt. It still hurts! In one particular scene where Mia has to choose between her ultimate goal and a familia-like bond with her fellow gladiatii, I thought I was going to have a heart attack and went to bed that night sick to my stomach. This book was painful. There were times I had to set it aside as I clutched the remaining shreds of my tender heart.

“No matter how dark life became, shutting out the hurt was as easy as opening a cover.”

I know my talk of pain doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, but this book was the best kind of pain. Godsgrave is a story that grabs you by the genitalia, both a violation and intimate, and drags you into the darkness. I both loved and hated every minute of it, and if the spectrum of emotions this story elicits isn’t enough to get you to read it, then I don’t know why you read in the first place.

I’m now going to settle in to the raging book hangover I know is coming and wait with bated breath for the dreaded yet anticipated ending to Mia’s tale.

STARS: 5 out of 5

Roar by Cora Carmack

Wow! Just Wow. Roar by Cora Cormack was everything I wanted from a YA fantasy and more!

29939048.jpgIn a land ruled and shaped by violent magical storms, power lies with those who control them.

Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora’s been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.

To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.

Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage.

She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough.

Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master.

I’ve read Cora’s New Adult work and loved it, but I feel like she’s hit it out of the park with Roar. As always, her characters are so well-developed and push the story forward, but the real star of this novel was the magic system…or should I say storm system. The idea of storm hunters and “taking” the heart of the storm as a form of magic hit every one of my little girl fantasies. (Full disclosure: I wanted to be a tornado chaser since I was in 1st grade and wrote my first report on tornadoes.) The storm chasing scenes were exciting and the tension between Roar and Locke only raised the stakes further as Roar attempts to learn how to “capture” magic from the storm.

I loved the relationship between Roar and Locke. It was so well-built and I rooted for them. What made the tension between them so delicious was the forbidden nature of their relationship and the secrets between them. Roar’s motivations were so pure and believable and Locke was such a good guy. Gah! I love those two! #Rocke4eva!

On the flip side, the drama going on back home in Pavan held my attention as the political plot of Aurora’s betrothed comes to light and her friend/servant holds the truth to Roar’s whereabouts. There was so much more to this novel than meets the eye. I even particularly liked the way the author switched point of view while in third person.

I can’t wait until book two because Cora has built a mesmerizing storm of a novel and I can’t wait for all hell to rain down after that ending. If you like YA fantasy, Roar is the book for you. It was exciting, romantic and completely enthralling.

STARS: 5 out of 5

Tower of Dawn by SJM Book Tour Event

Last Tuesday, I hoofed it up to Nashville on a weeknight to see my favorite author – Sarah J. Maas – for the release of Tower of Dawn, the sixth Throne of Glass novel and parallel narrative to Empire of Storms. As much as I was ready for another book from SJM, I was really there to get the deets on the ACOTAR spin-off, and luckily my question was one of the few answered at the event where hundreds of fangirls sat in a private school auditorium hanging on SJM’s every word.

SarahJM

After a standing ovation once SJM was introduced, I scribbled notes furiously so I could document all the goods as a special gift to you, dear readers. Here’s what I know:

Tower of Dawn

  • Tower of Dawn is one of SJM’s “top 3” books she’s ever written and it was an emotional journey (similar to writing Heir of Fire).
  • Yrene is one of her favorite characters to write and she’s been planning her reintroduction since the story The Assassin and the Healer for years.
  • She did a lot of research on those with a disability to make Chaol’s journey a realistic one.

ACOTAR Spin-Off

I practically squealed when I heard my non-question read (It literally said: I NEED details on the ACOTAR spin-off, pretty please.) and her answer did not disappoint.

  • In May, a novella told from Feyre and Rhysand’s perspective (**Fangirling**) will come out to bridge the gap from the original ACOTAR trilogy and the spin-off.
  • Here’s the synopsis:

Months after the explosive events in A Court of Wings and Ruin, Feyre, Rhys and their companions are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it a hard-earned reprieve. Yet even the festive atmosphere can’t keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated – scars that will have a far-reaching impact on the future of their Court.

  • The spin-off books will be about different pairings, and some of those characters may be ones we’ve already met (*cross-my-heart-hope-to-die for Azriel’s happy ever after*).
  • The first full-length spin-off book will come out in 2019.

Other revealing details.

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer was an influence for writing strong, female characters that fall in and out of love, and reinforced that it’s “okay to grow out of a relationship.”
  • Someone asked a question about what a chapter narrated by the wyvern Abraxos would be like, and she basically described it as a chill chapter where nothing bad happens and Abraxos smells flowers and follows a bee around. LOL Sweet little Abraxos.
  • She described herself as an “indoor cat” and I feel her on a spiritual level.
  • Her best writing advice: When people tell you you can’t do it, use that anger to prove them wrong. Don’t listen to them. Getting published is a hard journey but it’s possible.
sjm event

My friend Brittney and I at the Tower of Dawn book event.

Overall, SJM is hilarious and I want to be her new bestie. She told some crazy stories from high school and how the haters fueled her drive to write. I also realized that I’ve been saying Manon wrong this. Whole. Time. It’s Ma-NAWN. I’ve been saying it like MAN-EN. *facepalm* I guess I’ll never pronounce any of this right.

I wasn’t one of the lucky few that got to “meet” SJM to get the book personalized and take a picture, but I was just glad to get my signed copy and hear her speak. Also, shout out to Parnassus Books in Nashville that puts on these awesome author events!

 

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

When I first heard that Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh was a Mulan retelling set in feudal Japan, I immediately put it on my TBR list. This story started off strong but left me wanting by the end.

23308087.jpgThe only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

I am a huge fan of the girl-dressed-as-a-boy trope. There’s something about a girl proving herself an equal amongst men without the baggage that comes with gender expectations. Mariko, as a boy, was my favorite part of the novel. She was a great heroine. She was brave, clever and had a mind for science, which led to the creation of deadly inventions. She wasn’t the typical badass fighter heroine. She knew physical strength was her weakness so she put her mind to work.

There was a significant amount of female empowerment in this novel, which I liked but it came on a little too strong at times.

“I’ve never been angry to have been born a woman. There have been times I’ve been angry at how the world treats us, but I see being a woman as a challenge I must fight. Like being born under a stormy sky. Some people are lucky enough to be born on a bright summer’s day. Maybe we were born under clouds. No wind. No rain. Just a mountain of clouds we must climb each morning so that we may see the sun.”

“She remembered Chiyo telling her that finding one’s match was like finding one’s other half. Mariko had never understood the notion.
She was not a half. She was wholly her own.”

I was feeling this novel until Mariko was revealed as a female. Each time someone new discovered her secret, I felt the reader was robbed of the character’s real reaction. They were too accepting, too quickly. I was also blind-sided with the main love interest. I was watching a certain someone and then BAM! She’s suddenly kissing another guy. It was the strangest kind of whiplash, where I had to take a moment to change my allegiances before continuing to read.

I wish this book was a standalone because I wanted the relief of a resolution sooner. The ending packed in too many unanswered questions and unresolved plot threads. Since it’s the first in a series, they’ll be more to come to resolve these things, but I would have been more satisfied with a neater ending.

Overall, I really liked this book. I was hanging on every word until the end. I’ll be reading the second book to see what happens next.

STARS: 4 out of 5

A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet is an intoxicating fantasy adventure. I haven’t felt so enchanted by magic since Harry Potter.

27015399.jpgCatalia “Cat” Fisa is a powerful clairvoyant known as the Kingmaker. This smart-mouthed soothsayer has no interest in her powers and would much rather fly under the radar, far from the clutches of her homicidal mother. But when an ambitious warlord captures her, she may not have a choice…

Griffin is intent on bringing peace to his newly conquered realm in the magic-deprived south. When he discovers Cat is the Kingmaker, he abducts her. But Cat will do everything in her power to avoid her dangerous destiny and battle her captor at every turn. Although up for the battle, Griffin would prefer for Cat to help his people willingly, and he’s ready to do whatever it takes to coax her…even if that means falling in love with her.

A Promise of Fire wildly surpassed my expectations. Long after I turned the last page, I couldn’t get over how amazing it was. It left me in a fog, my mouth hung open in shock as I repeated “wow” over and over again. It was that good people. Here’s why.

Cat was an amazing heroine. She checked all the boxes of a badass fighter with her wicked knife skills, witty comebacks and impressive magic abilities. However, she was so amazing because she had this vulnerability to her. She was afraid. Her story was so heartbreaking and the juxtaposition between her arrogant confidence and fearful vulnerability was a delicate balance that made Cat such a relatable character.

Beta Sinta is one of the best male heroes I’ve come across in a while. He, too, was a badass fighter who’s deadly with a sword and always has a trick up his sleeve. However, who he is inside was so endearing and swoon worthy. He was sweet, honorable, loyal. I wanted more and more of him. He was the kind of alpha male that’s realistic because he fought for those he loved not for himself.

I fell in love with the world Bouchet built. The kingdoms, the caste systems, the battle for power, the magical ties to the gods. It was all so perfectly lovely and entertaining. I particularly liked all the run-in’s Cat had with a certain Sea God. The magic was mesmerizing. With every turn of the page, there was something new, glorious and dangerous to discover, devour and kill. Both Cat and Beta Sinta fight with no remorse once their loved ones are threatened.

I fell in love with this story. I drank it in with impatient gulps, like a man dying of thirst in the desert. It was so good. The romance had me swooning. The action had my blood pumping and the secrets (most of which have yet to be revealed) kept me flipping the pages.

If you like Fantasy and Romance, this is the book for you. Excuse me while I go devour book two.

STARS: 5 out of 5