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

The Fallen World Trilogy by Laura Thalassa

It’s been awhile since I’ve been sucked so wholly into a story, and The Fallen World Trilogy by Laura Thalassa was an addicting read.

21422225In the future, the world is at war.

For the last decade, King Lazuli of the Eastern Empire has systematically taken over the world. No one knows much about him other than a series of impossible facts: he cannot die, he has not aged since the conflict began, and he wants to rule the world.

All Serenity Freeman has known is bloodshed. War has taken away her mother, her home, her safety. As the future emissary of the Western United Nations, the last autonomous region of the globe, she is responsible for forging alliances where she can.

Surrender is on the horizon. The king can taste it; Serenity feels it deep within her bones. There is no other option. Now the two must come face to face. For Serenity, that means confronting the man who’s taken everything from her. For the king, it means meeting the one woman he can’t conquer. But when they meet, something happens. Cruelty finds redemption.

Only in war, everything comes with a price. Especially love.

Recommended by @Twinbookmarks, I decided to give it a try based on their gushing, and they were absolutely right. This book is a fast-paced, action-packed, hurts-so-good romance story. Half-way into the first book, I immediately purchased the rest of the series. Don’t let the covers fool you. This is a great read by an indie author.

Let’s start with Serenity and Montes’ relationship. Never have I read a more excruciatingly delicious, slow-burn, enemies-to-lovers trope. Their relationship was so toxic yet engulfing that I can only describe it as dying a slow death of arsenic poisoning, where it’s included in your favorite nightly tea. It’s both indulgent and destructive. The love and hate pull between them was dynamic, magnetic and most of all entrancing. I Could. Not. Stop. Reading.

This story isn’t all romance. In fact, there’s less sexy times with even less details than I usually expect from a romance novel. HOWEVER, the action in this story was relentless. Serenity is one badass chick. In every book, she’s taking down bad guys like it’s just another day in the life. Her targeted deadliness is balanced by her innate yearning for justice and peace. She’ll do anything to save her people. ANYTHING. That includes a bullet hole through the eyes with absolutely no remorse.

The author created a world with very high stakes. The post-apocalyptic world was both realistic and devastating. Every day is life or death. Every day one must sacrifice to help those in need. I’ve steered clear of post-apocalyptic novels as of late because I was tired of the same old, same old, but this world really stands apart – mainly that we get to see it from the dictator’s point of view. The cruelty of the King and the determination of Serenity drive this story forward like a high-speed car chase.

My favorite book of the three had to be the second book Queen of Traitors. The first book The Queen of All that Dies was a great introduction, but the depravity of both the King and Serenity is unleashed in book two. And the finale, The Queen of all the Lives, was a satisfying end to this whirlwind of a story.

If you like action-packed adventure in a post-apocalyptic world with badass heroines and a dark and twisted love interest, this book is for you.

STARS: 5 out of 5

The Great Pursuit by Wendy Higgins

The Great Pursuit by Wendy Higgins is a wonderful conclusion to the Great Hunt Duology.

28370779.jpgLochlanach has traded the great beast for something far more terrible, a Lashed enemy veiled in beauty, deception, and a vengeance passed down through generations: Rozaria Rocato. And she’s offering the hunter Paxton Seabolt power and acceptance he could never receive in his homeland. Pax must decide how far he’s willing to go under her tutelage, knowing she is the opponent of Princess Aerity Lochson.

In a land where traditionalists dread change, the Lochlan throne must contend with mysterious foes and traitors, while attempting to keep revolt at bay. As dire circumstances strike the royal family, matters of the castle are left in Aerity’s hands. It’s time to put aside her fears and grasp the reign, taking actions that have the potential to save or destroy her people.

One hunt has ended, but the pursuit for love and justice continue. In this sequel to The Great Hunt from New York Times bestselling author Wendy Higgins, political intrigue and romance intensify in another thrilling fantasy. Princess Aerity embraces a quest for identity and passion before making the ultimate sacrifice for her kingdom.

I am a huge fan of The Great Hunt. As my first Higgins novel, I knew I wanted to read more of her stuff, so I was ecstatic when The Great Pursuit released.

Right away, I loved being back into the heart of this special story. The Great Pursuit is a great continuation of Aerity’s story. There is duty and passion, romance and danger. Even though the violence is tame, there is plenty of danger and real-world consequences for these characters. This is definitely YA fantasy.

Paxton and Aerity are such a mature couple for their age and this genre. I was yearning for them to be together the entire time. I also enjoyed the secondary romances sprinkled throughout, specifically Aerity’s cousin, Wyneth, and her sister, Vixie. I’m always down for more than one couple to get a happy ending. Other than Paxton, my next favorite character has to be the guard Harrison. He was the most intriguing of all the men. He is extremely loyal yet restrained. The lengths he would go for the sake of the kingdom was so endearing. I’m happy he got what he deserved. And I can’t help but mention Furball. I don’t want to give anything away, but the animal lover in me loved this aspect of the story.

I read this book like a demon – I couldn’t put it down. I thought I would miss the hunt aspect that was so prevalent in the first book, but the impending war and contention between the lashed and unlashed left me breathlessly turning the pages. Plus, my desperate hope for Aerity and Paxton to be together had me clinging to the storyline. If you like YA Fantasy, this is one of the best examples of it that I’ve read in a while. It left me swooning with a goofy grin in the end. I highly recommend it.

STARS: 5 out of 5

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

I just finished A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas, the final installment of Feyre’s story. I want to sing and dance and laugh and cry. But mostly, I am content. I want for nothing.

23766634Looming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit-and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords-and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.

I abhor spoilers so I will try my best to review this magnificent story without telling you anything. I know this review will not do it justice because it is SJM’s very words and spellbinding storytelling that make this series my favorite series of all time. Just know that it is a fitting end, a story that is satisfying without being bittersweet even knowing it will be the last.

The manipulation and deception in the first part of ACOWAR was so well done. My favorite scene at the wall is when Feyre reveals her badass fighting skills to Lucien. So. Epic. In fact, all the battle scenes had my blood thundering in my veins, that primal bloodlust simmering to the surface. With the very lives of everyone Feyre loves — that we, the reader, love — on the line, I almost couldn’t bear it, putting the book down just to catch my breath. It was an absolute honor to witness Cassian and Azriel fight. From the moment Cassian bellowed “SHIELDS!” as he led his army into certain death, it made my heart race. I’m getting goosebumps again just thinking about it.

And the BONE CARVER! Guys, that twist was spectacular. It’s like a gift from SJM to her readers. And I, for one, am grateful.

The scenes between Rhysand and Feyre I will always hold close to my heart, from their eventual reunion to standing together at the last. Rhysand’s heart-breaking words to his mate echo still, ringing in the deepest depths of my heart.

“Remember you are a wolf. And you cannot be caged.”

I don’t know if I can say anything else. I cried, oh I cried, and I hoped, a painful kind of hope that fills you up too much, until desperation is pouring through your very skin. There is pain and terror and devastation, but there is also redemption, reconciliation, and for some characters, faint flickers of a fated future, one that may just come to pass.

My one request is I want MORE. There are so many unresolved relationships and new ones I didn’t even know about til now that I SHIP SO HARD! I hope to God that SJM will write more on these individuals.

ACOWAR is everything I wanted it to be and more. I’m in awe of SJM’s masterful writing and epic twists. However, it was the quieter twists in this book that stole my heart. How SJM finds quiet moments to capitalize on, where it isn’t the battle scenes and fights to the death that steal the spotlight, but the battles within ourselves, that are the hardest to fight but must be won before a blade can even be drawn.

I am sad that Feyre’s story is over, but I am content. It was well told, my heart bursting with a comfortable kind of satisfaction. However, knowing there will be a spin-off in 2018 makes the end easier to swallow.

READ this book. It may very well change your life. It did mine.

STARS: 5 out of 5

 

The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

*deep breath*

Guys, I have too many feels about this series.

22698569.jpgIn less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has grown from an awkward teenager into a powerful monarch and a visionary leader.

And as she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, she has transformed her realm. But in her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies – chief among them the evil and feared Red Queen, who ordered the armies of Mortmesne to march against the Tear and crush them.

To protect her people from such a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable – naming the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place, she surrendered herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign from her prison in Mortmesne.

So, the endgame has begun and the fate of Queen Kelsea – and the Tearling itself – will be revealed…

With The Fate of the Tearling, Erika Johansen draws her unforgettable story full of magic and adventure to a thrilling close.

When Queen of Tearling first came on the scene, I avoided it after reading reviews that pointed out it didn’t really have a romance, and I like stories with a romance somewhere in the narrative. Time passed, and when I heard that they’re making a movie, starring Emma Watson (who’s my homegirl), my interest piqued and I took the time to read it.

I LOVED Queen of Tearling. It was engaging and exciting, and had just enough Game of Thrones feel to raise my bloodlust. It was a heart-stopping and literal death-defying adventure for our young heroine.

Then book two happened. The Invasion of the Tearling was great, but it felt like the story suffered from split personality disorder. I loved reading about Kelsea and her world, with the historic feel as she fights for her Kingdom. I enjoyed Lily’s story as a woman living in a dystopian future. I did not like them together. Of course, the back and forth had a point and played a huge part in the story but I was in the mood for sword-fights and political maneuvering of kings and queens NOT survival in an oppressive society.

For book three, I had high hopes. The Fate of the Tearling was going to have all the answers, and it did. I was a little disappointed with who her father was, but I enjoyed the progression of some of the secondary characters like Father Tyler and Andalie’s daughter. However, there was ANOTHER type of split personality disorder, where Kelsea sees, yet again, into the past and it takes up half the novel. I was split between wanting to know what would befall the fate of Kelsea and her guards, and not caring AT ALL what happened in the past. Granted, the past and the future collided in the present with an epic ending, but I hated it so much that maybe there’s a sick part of me that actually loved it.

The ending left me bereft, adrift, and unsatisfied. I know the author was making a point and I understand it, but when it comes to entertainment value, I was left wanting. It made my heart hurt for the heroine. The ending was no ending at all but like being dropped open-ended into the abyss with no closure. And to top it all off, there really was zero romance in this series. There are pops of love interests but nothing ever comes to fruition in a satisfying way. Kelsea is as lonely in the beginning as she is in the end and it’s heartbreaking.

To be perfectly honest, there is a part of me that wishes I had never read this series because it makes me feel so bad. Granted, any book that can make me feel THIS MUCH certainly has an impact that most novels don’t have. I may grow to love it after much retrospection, but for now my opinion is solidly set in the disgruntled and dissatisfied reader territory. Read this series at your own risk.

 

The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

When I finished the Queen of Tearling by Erika Johansen, I couldn’t believe how long I waited to read it. It was so awesome and epic; it blew my mind. So I quickly picked up the sequel, The Invasion of the Tearling, expecting to devour a book equal in greatness. It was still awesome, but there was one particular element of the story that left a bad taste in my mouth.

22698568.jpgKelsea Glynn is the Queen of the Tearling. Despite her youth, she has quickly asserted herself as a fair, just and powerful ruler.

However, power is a double-edged sword, and small actions can have grave consequences. In trying to do what is right – stopping a vile trade in humankind – Kelsea has crossed the Red Queen, a ruthless monarch whose rule is bound with dark magic and the spilling of blood. The Red Queen’s armies are poised to invade the Tearling, and it seems nothing can stop them.

Yet there was a time before the Crossing, and there Kelsea finds a strange and possibly dangerous ally, someone who might hold the key to the fate of the Tearling, and indeed to Kelsea’s own soul. But time is running out…

Erika Johansen’s fierce and unforgettable young heroine returns in this dazzling new novel of magic and adventure, set in the beguiling world of the Tearling.

Unexpectedly, The Invasion of the Tearling is two books in one. Very early in the story, the main character Kelsea starts to have visions of the past (or what readers would consider a dystopian future). It was interesting to see how the world as we know it translated into the historical-feel of Kelsea’s time, but I hated switching back and forth. It was two completely different genres mashed into one story. I knew the past scenes had an impact and importance on Kelsea’s present, but I didn’t care to go back. It distracted me from Kelsea’s story, and to be perfectly honest, I was in the mood for a historical fantasy not a dystopian apocalypse and it made me frustrated as I read.

Another frustration I had was Kelsea’s character growth, or lack there of. To put it simply, Kelsea turned into a bit of a bitch with no remnant of the girl she used to be, the one I fell in love with, the one that saved her people from slavery because it was the right thing to do. Granted, the author may have done this on purpose to show later growth in Kelsea’s character, but I found it disheartening rather than endearing.

Now, this book wasn’t all bad. In fact, I can see where most readers would love the back and forth technique used in this novel. It was unique and different. I still love Kelsea and her guards. I want her to succeed and she kind of turned into a badass by the end of the book. At this point, I’m dying to know who her father is.

Overall with the series, the first book was awesome, the second book was so-so, but I’ll definitely be reading the third book to determine how I feel about this series.

STARS: 3.5 out of 5

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

In what now seems like many, many moons ago, I met Sara Raasch at DragonCon in Atlanta. (Well technically I didn’t meet her exactly, just watched her speak during a panel but we made eye contact at least once.) She seemed so cool, like I wanted to be her friend so I immediately bought her book…aaaaand it sat on my shelf for a few years. But NO MORE! I have read it and it’s as epically awesome as I thought it would be!

17399160.jpgA heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

Snow like Ashes is my favorite kind of YA fantasy. The young heroine grapples with identity as she works her butt off to make a difference in the world. She’s deadly with a Chakram (awesome boomerang-like circle sword) but still struggles with hand-to-hand combat. There is a good ol’ fashioned love triangle that has substantial evidence to cause torn feelings while still moving slow through the relationships. It’s like Raasch preheated the oven perfectly before baking this love triangle to perfection. By the end of the novel, it’s been put in the oven and the batter is still rising! My face is pressed perilously close to the scorching window on the oven door as I salivate in anticipation. (Okay, maybe went a little overboard there. Lol.)

This story follows a very classic YA fantasy plotline but I didn’t mind it. It didn’t feel regurgitated or overdone. Within the first few pages, I took one step into Raasch’s world and I was gone, lost, drinking the Winterian kool-aid. The stakes felt real and the desperation of the Winterians permeated throughout the novel, making the final battle at the end that much sweeter. Even though this is the first book in a trilogy, I liked that there was still a building climax that left the reader satisfied even while wanting more.

Now, about that love triangle. Mather is the King, long-time friend and crush and Theron is the newcomer prince. I loved that each character was introduced in such a way that I felt like I knew them even as Meira is getting to know them. It makes my heart giddy just thinking about it.

I really, really like this one and I can’t wait to finish this trilogy.

STARS: 5 out of 5