Thursday, 17 October 2019

Angel Mage by Garth Nix

Book Title: Angel Mage
Author: Garth Nix
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Hardback from Gollancz

Amazon UK, Goodreads 

Plot Summary: More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara.
A seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, summoning angels and forcing them to do her bidding.
Liliath knew that most of the inhabitants of Ystara died from the Ash Blood plague or were transformed into beastlings, and she herself led the survivors who fled into neighboring Sarance. Now she learns that angels shun the Ystaran’s descendants. If they are touched by angelic magic, their blood will turn to ash. They are known as Refusers, and can only live the most lowly lives.
But Liliath cares nothing for the descendants of her people, save how they can serve her. It is four young Sarancians who hold her interest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer cadet; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic. They are the key to her quest.
The four feel a strange kinship from the moment they meet, but do not know why, or suspect their importance. All become pawns in Liliath’s grand scheme to fulfill her destiny and be united with the love of her life. No matter the cost to everyone else. . .

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Gollancz. Thank you!

What did I think?

Look how pretty this book is! 

Garth Nix is a beloved fantasy author, and I was incredibly excited to find out that his newest work would not only be a standalone, but also a mash-up between two of my favourite things: musketeers and angels.

The magic system is innovative and clever. People summon angels with the help of icons, but at a cost: a chunk of their lifespan. The more powerful the angel, the bigger the chunk.

The characters all have great depth and the relationship between the four is believable and genuine. The world-building is vivid and displays Nix's vast imagination. Nix is also an incredible writer, and reading Angel Mage reminded me of being a teenager and reading The Three Musketeers.

Despite all these positive aspects, I struggled to connect both with the plot and the characters, and at least in the beginning, had to force myself to pick the book up and keep reading. Once I reached the mid-point, it really began to flow, and I read the second part in a day.

Overall, I'm left with many positive feelings and found the book empowering and captivating. On top of that, Nix not only incorporates LGBTQ+ characters seamlessly into his narrative, he also avoids adding sexism, and his society is racially diverse.

And women get to be powerful in this book!

I recommend this to fantasy readers who enjoy angels, Dumas fans, fans of Garth Nix and everyone who is intrigued by the premise.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

Book Title: This Savage Song
Author: Victoria Schwab
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Ebook from the library

Amazon UK, Goodreads 
Plot Summary: There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.
Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.
What did I think?

This is one of those books where I felt apprehensive going in and thought that I might not like it. But I was wrong. Oh so wrong.

My only other Schwab novel was A Darker Shade of Magic, which I did not like as much as I thought I would. Basically, it was the other way around. Amazing premise, but I wasn't a fan of the execution.

With This Savage Song, however, I felt lukewarm reading the blurb and absolutely loved the execution.

Schwab is an excellent writer and an even better world-builder. Her characters are fleshed out, real and vulnerable, flawed people, and her setting is intriguing. The pacing is spot on, and the pages fly by, sucking the reader right into the story.

I especially enjoyed her main character, Kate, who is deeply flawed, hot-headed, stubborn, yet kicks ass in the most believable way. Her chemistry with August is incredible, and it did not lead to romance. We need more books with complex relationships and friendships.

This Savage Song convinced me to put Vicious on my list, and I highly recommend it to all Schwab fans, of course, and all urban fantasy fans.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

A Different Time by Michael K. Hill

Book Title: A Different Time
Author: Michael K. Hill
Genre: Magical Realism
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Kindle Edition

Amazon UK, Goodreads

Plot Summary: Keith Nolan falls in love with a remarkable young woman from the past, talking to him on a home video she recorded in 1989. To keep their conversation going, he must find more of her tapes—while forces work against them both, and time is running out.
I received this as part of the Ultimate Blog Tour organised by @TheWriteReads, but this review is honest, and in no way influenced by the other awesome participants. Check out the other participants on Twitter @WriteReadsTours.

What did I think?

3.5 Stars.

This is a short and quick read, and an equally sweet read.

The plot follows the two main characters, Keith and Lindsey. One lives in 2019, the other, Lindsey, thirty years ago in 1989. They communicate through VHS tapes that Lindsey recorded as a young woman and Keith purchased from a local flea market.

I liked A Different Time a lot.

It failed to make me emotional, however, probably because it's too short and there aren't enough pages to fully develop the characters or the time they live in.

Sadly, that shortness also made the romance feel rushed, and instead of a slowly developing love story, the book offers insta-love something I really don't like.

The prose is smooth and makes this a pleasing read. It's a sweet story, and definitely worth a read, but I wish it were longer.

Recommended to romance fans who are looking for a quick, sweet read and who don't mind a fantastic element.

Monday, 12 August 2019

The Wicked King by Holly Black

Book Title: The Wicked King
Author: Holly Black
Genre: Fantasy, YA, Fae
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library

Goodreads, Amazon UK 
Plot: Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.
To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.
As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.
As usual there will be NO spoilers as this is a sequel and the plot description is of the first book, The Cruel Prince.

What did I think?

This is the kind of book that gets me out of a reading slump. Quick, fast-paced, filled with action and deliciously good.

Hyped books are often a bit hit and miss, at least for me, but this series is a firm hit.

Just like the first book, I devoured The Wicked King in a day. I just couldn't stop myself.

The beginning of The Cruel Prince was visceral, brutal and surprising. It starts with the murder of Jude's parents. Right there on page one. And I immediately knew I was in for a wild ride.

Followers of my blog know that I'm not the biggest romance fan, but damn if Holly Black doesn't have me straight-up asking for more.

This book ripped my heart out and stepped on it. My jaw kept dropping, and I may have possibly yelled at the pages while reading the ending.

Jude is an amazing character with incredible depth, and well, nobody really is all that great in these books. One review on Goodreads called them Slytherin books, and I agree. The whole cast belongs in Slytherin, but they're compelling, well written, three dimensional, and I want to adopt and protect both Jude and Cardan (but I wouldn't, because that would make it weird.)

The world building is interesting, detailed, and I enjoy the fae a lot. But it's the plot that makes this book and the many twists and turns. And they all managed to surprise me!

I recommend this series to all YA fans who enjoy fantasy YA, especially those who enjoy fae. I don't think there's much not to like with this one, if you're the target audience.

I can't wait to read The Queen of Nothing.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Sanctuary by V. V. James

Book Title: Sanctuary
Author: V. V. James
Genre: Mystery, Fantasy, Paranormal mystery
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Netgalley, own a hardback

Goodreads, Amazon UK 
Plot: To Detective Maggie Knight, the death of Sanctuary's star quarterback seems to be a tragic accident. Only, everyone knows his ex-girlfriend is the daughter of a witch - and she was there when he died.
Then the rumours start
Bereaved mother Abigail will stop at nothing until she has justice for her dead son. Her best friend Sarah will do everything in her power to protect her accused daughter. And both women share a secret that could shatter their lives. It falls to Maggie to prevent her investigation - and Sanctuary itself - from spiralling out of control.
I got a review copy from NetGalley; this is my honest review. HOWEVER, I have pre-ordered the special edition hardback, that's how excited I am for the release of this book.

What did I think?

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Vic James, author of the Dark Gifts trilogy, [Here's my spoiler-free review of Bright Ruin.] and I was super excited to hear that she would release a new book this August.

Big Little Lies meets witches is probably the most accurate tagline.

My reading experience went like this: I swallowed Sanctuary whole. Just like that. I couldn't put it down. It's gripping from the very first page. Just like with Big Little Lies, I had to know what happens next, and I did not stop until the very end.

And the author got me as well. I thought I'd figured it all out. The secret, the culprit, the motive and for one hot minute I felt incredibly smug, but of course, I was wrong.

Sanctuary is filled with twists and turns, but it's the characters that make it. The cast is diverse, and everyone is complex, filled with a drive to do what they think is right. And this is what James is so very good at: showing us people whose actions we disagree with, people we loathe, people we think are utterly wrong, and making us see why they do it.

They're not bad people. They truly believe they and their families are in grave danger, and that they're the only ones doing something about it.

A small, peaceful community can unravel in a matter of days...and James takes it all the way to the terrifying end.

As usual, nothing is black and nothing is white. Most of these people are grey, and I believe we're all grey, and the author is a master at portraying that emotional baggage we carry with us. Those mistakes we've all made, and how they sometimes haunt us.

But we're still good people, right?

The element of magic and witches is cleverly folded into the world building, and it feels entirely plausible that if witches were real, this is how they'd operate. You're feeling tired? You can either visit your GP or you can go to your local witch. Both will be able to help you.

I can't discuss the themes in Sanctuary too much without spoiling the plot, but they're incredibly interesting: Innocent until proven guilty is a cornerstone of our society, but what happens when a mob thinks the justice system is failing them? What if a small community decides the police aren't handling things as they should?

From mass hysteria to mob mentality and vigilante justice, this book has it all.

It's human not to trust what we can't understand, but accusing someone of murder just because of who they are is wrong...and, of course, the president is tweeting.

I recommend Sanctuary to everyone who is looking for an interesting mystery filled with twists and turns and witches.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Looking for Something new to Read?

Happy Sunday to everyone, and I wish you all a successful August.

I've got two links to share with you this Sunday. One is a science fiction and fantasy Kindle Unlimited campaign. It's a StoryOrigin link - a platform that allows authors to pull together and share their books. (Seriously, if you're an indie writer and you're trying your hands at marketing, check it out!)

All books are currently enrolled in KU and will be for the remainder of August.

Click here to see the list of books that are part of this campaign.

The other link is a bunch of authors looking for ARC readers. Have a browse, and if you think you might enjoy any of the following books, approach the author for a review copy. Click here, if you'd like to find a new book to review from indie authors.

And finally, because dogs make everything better, have a Lola with her pig:

How is everyone doing? Let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Amarah by L.L. McNeil

Title: Amarah
Author: L.L. McNeil
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: ARC, but I did buy it as well!

Amazon UK, Goodreads

Plot Summary: ‘This treasure’ll make us richer than any Goldstone. All the sky pirates in Estoria, Val Sharis, heck, in all of Linaria would be on their way here if they knew where here was.’
With rampaging dragons and marauding Arillians dominating Linaria’s skies, Amarah’s quest for vengeance against the one who took everything from her seems almost impossible.
When a treasure hunt with a former ally leads to the discovery of a lost Varkain artefact, she’s plunged into the middle of an ancient war between Sevastos dragons, Varkain blood magic, and those who crave these powers for themselves.
Amarah wanted revenge. What she uncovers will change the face of Linaria forever.

I received an ARC of Amarah from the author in exchange for an honest review, but I also bought it!
Find the author's website here.

Find the first book, Moroda, here on Goodreads and here's my review of it.

What did I think?

I bought all three books in the series, and my other half bought both available audiobooks, and she doesn't even read fantasy. My other half using a credit to buy fantasy instead of hard SF is possibly the biggest compliment L.L. McNeil could get.

4.5 Stars. Mostly because I am just one stingy and tight-fisted person when it comes to giving five stars, but that's a different story and tells you more about my penchant for perfectionism than anything else.

This book is superb.

As usual, my review will contain no spoilers.

The World of Linaria is an epic fantasy series with dragons, and who doesn't love dragons? (Uhm, so, you'll laugh, but I'm not the biggest dragon lover, however, I do love McNeil's dragons. They're cool.)

The series has several kick-ass female protagonists, of which Amarah is the one who kicks ass the most.

McNeil writes with a pleasing, straight-forward prose, making the fantasy genre accessible even to people who are not used to sprawling epics with a cast list that is longer than a Dickens novel. In fact, it speaks of McNeil's skill that her world building is creative, intricate, clearly the result of a vast imagination, yet so straightforward that it's perfect for someone who usually shies away from the sheer complexitiy of some of the books out there.

One of L.L. McNeil's many skills is to drip information into descriptions and conversation, and never dump it all on the reader at once.

While the first book, Moroda, is about a young woman who sets out to save her world, Linaria, from a war, Palom and now Amarah dive deeper into the world, lore and characters.

The characters are the series' main strength. They all feel authentic with interesting pasts and promising futures.

While Palom felt a bit slower than Moroda, Amarah is where it all kicks off, and while Isa slowly morphed into my favourite character throughout the second book, it's Morgen whose point of view

I particularly enjoyed in this third book.

Moroda starts off with the typical quest of a young woman who needs to save the world; Palom deals with the fallout of war, diving into the heartbreaking themes of depression and PTSD; Amarah, on the other hand, deals with who we are and how we can be the best version of ourselves.

Amarah's childhood has marked her and turned her into a character who is opportunistic, yet kind with an inherent sense of fairness. She's running from her past, but at the same time her past defines who she is.

For now.

All of them - absolutely all of them - Palom, Morgen, Isa, Amarah, Kohl - they all fight to be better, to improve and to bring peace to this world. They're not always sure how to do it. They doubt themselves. They fight their inner demons. They fail. But they're all trying their best.

And that hopeful note, that we can all be better, is what makes this book such an uplifting read.

I would recommend The World of Linaria to anyone who is looking for a new twist in epic fantasy with a character driven plot and dragons - especially to anyone who loves sky-pirates and airships.

Like I said before: McNeil's World of Linaria is a great introduction to fantasy for new fans, but also a treat for old fans of the genre.

And now, I've got but one question: when can I read the fourth book?