Book Review

Book Review: We Hunt the Flame (Sands of Arawiya #1) by Hafsah Faizal

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Young adult fantasy + romance
Length: 472 pages
Author: Hafsah Faizal
Publisher: Straus and Giourx
Release Date: May 14th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways.

Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.

War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

Set in a richly detailed world inspired by ancient Arabia, We Hunt the Flame is a gripping debut of discovery, conquering fear, and taking identity into your own hands.

A GOOD START.

I’ve decided I’m into this. Enough to check out the next in this series.

It’s hard to judge a fantasy series off of the first book because I know fantasies can take a long time to build. I think that was the case here. There was world-building, magic systems, personalities of characters to begin to figure out. This was all present here and makes me hopeful that in the next one we’ll get get to the real deepness of the book now that the groundwork is laid out.

I love the setting and it felt good to be back in a YA fantasy world. It’s my favorite genre for a reason! I love Zafira and Nasir. Hot dang the tension between them was aaaaamazing. Hardcore shipping them and better get a HEA with them or I’ll just be obliterated. They had good banter, moments of strength and weaknesses, and you could really feel them.

Things started off strong with pacing, but oh wow, dragged in the middle. It unfortunately showcased one of my lower favorite tropes, traveling. Most of the book focused on Zafira going on a journey to restore magic. Plenty of things happened along the way, yet at times felt like it things were moving rather slowly. Luckily in the last quarter they sped up again and the action took off, leaving me wondering what’s going to happen next.

These side characters were fantastic too! I didn’t find the forgettable or annoying. I wanted to know more about them and was also blown away when plot twists came in involving them. They weren’t wasteful additions and clearly are bringing a lot to the story.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: kisses, some intense kissing
  • Violence: swords, arrows, ifrit/magical creature attacks, physical, magic

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Book Review

Book Review: The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult fantasy romance
Length: 336 pages
Author: Tricia Levenseller
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Release Date: February 25th, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:

1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.

But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?

ANOTHER FAVORITE.

Mmmmm. One of those finish in a day books here. I am smitten by Levenseller’s writing and I will continue to read every book she publishes because DANG. I loved this character driven writing with broken and flawed humans.

This is a romance. While her previous books were more one plot line with a sub-plot romance, The Shadows Between Us is alllll romance. AND I AM ALLLLL HERE FOR IT.

Our unlikable heroine Alessandra really got down with her bad side. While at first I wasn’t so sure about her, I loved her character by the end. She somehow stuck to her ideals, but became more open and trusting at the same time. It was a great combination. Alessandra learned how to have a friendship, a relationship, and how to take down some bad guys trying to ruin all the fun.

Kallias. Oooooo yes. I love him too. He is the sultry YA hero that we all love. A bit distant, strong, amiable, and honestly just trying to do right by his kingdom. I got so excited every time Kallias and Alessandra had some page time together because the sparks were flying. I really felt the chemistry between them and thought the development was good for the length of the book. There were plenty of quiet moments, swoon moments, ooo la la moments that all mashed together to give me a quick darker romance that I adored.

Yes, it’s only 336 pages and that is it’s only downfall. While to me, it didn’t phase me much (I still gave it 5 stars), I can see the dilemma. A lot of the sub-plot lines weren’t as long as I thought they would be. Things kept getting wrapped up in neat bows without some angsty drag out. If the book would have been longer and given more depth to all of these characters and stories I think it would have only made it better.

I did love the side characters. I loved Alessandra’s friends. They would make me smile and I appreciated the way they approached difficult subjects and accepted and loved each other for their differences. Girl power goes a long way for me in a book, so this was a nice touch.

What I can’t believe is how I didn’t figure out the final twist. I gathered most of the intel as the story went on. Yet, all of a sudden Alessandra’s storming the palace to save the King and I’m like oh it’s them, OH WAIT, IT’S THEM! Beautiful blindside. Great conclusion. Smitten with fluffy endings. Love it all.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy romance
  • Language: very little light
  • Romance: kisses; multiple discussions of sleeping partners and nights together; one little detailed fade to black scene
  • Violence: pit fights, physical, swords, thieving, poison, guns

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Book Review

Book Review: The Winner's Kiss (The Winner's Trilogy #3) by Marie Rutkoski

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Fantasy Romance
Length: 484 pages
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: March 29th, 2016
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Some kisses come at a price.

War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it with untrustworthy new allies and the empire as his enemy. Though he has convinced himself that he no longer loves Kestrel, Arin hasn’t forgotten her, or how she became exactly the kind of person he has always despised. She cared more for the empire than she did for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she did for him.

At least, that’s what he thinks.

In the frozen north, Kestrel is a prisoner in a brutal work camp. As she searches desperately for a way to escape, she wishes Arin could know what she sacrificed for him. She wishes she could make the empire pay for what they’ve done to her.

But no one gets what they want just by wishing.

As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover that the world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and they are caught in between. With so much to lose, can anybody really win?

STILL AMAZING.

This book doesn’t get old.

Nope. After my second read through I will read this series again, I just know it. I love it so.

This is one of those books where I find myself shouting at characters: KISS ALREADY. When it has been held off for 2+ books at this point and you know the love is there and all you need is that last sealing kiss. I get so giddy whenever this happens. AT LAST KESTREL AND ARIN. AT LAST.

The action is full speed ahead in this one y’all. The entire book is basically at the front of a battle and it will keep you busy. My heart would freak out every time I was concerned if someone was actually about to die. Luckily, what needs to happen does and the necessary actions are taken. I love the way the war scenes are written because Rutkoski expertly moves between Arin and Kestrel’s POV as they both show us the sides of battle. I feel like I get the entire scene and their emotions in a perfect combination.

The Winner’s Kiss also has one of the best ways for a villain to go down in any books I’ve read. Kestrel’s mastermind self takes down the Emperor is such a satisfying way. It really brings the entire series together because of the way it has woven throughout all three books. There’s a connection, a point, an actual ending to what’s happening.

Kestrel and Arin are one of my favorite OTP’s and this series needs way more recognition and love (even if it’s older). Definitely one of my favorite YA Fantasy series ever.

Overall audience notes:

  • YA Fantasy Romance
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: kisses, very little detail fade to black scene
  • Violence: war, poison, swords, guns; a bit violent with a lot of battle scenes (full scale warfare)
  • Trigger warnings: drug withdrawal causing memory loss

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Book Review

Book Review: The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Curse #2) by Marie Rutkoski

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Fantasy Romance
Length: 402 pages
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: March 3rd, 2015
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Following your heart can be a crime.

A royal wedding means one celebration after another: balls, fireworks, and revelry until dawn. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement: that she agreed to marry the crown prince in exchange for Arin’s freedom. But can Kestrel trust Arin? Can she even trust herself?

Kestrel is becoming very good at deception. she’s working as a spy in the court. If caught, she’ll be exposed as a traitor to her country. Yet she can’t help searching for a way to change her ruthless world…and she is close to uncovering a shocking secret.

This dazzling follow-up to The Winner’s Curse reveals the high price of dangerous lies and untrustworthy alliances. The truth will come out, and when it does, Kestrel and Arin will learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

THAT ENDING.

This is my second time reading this series. The first time I read them, I read all three in two days. You want to know why? Because by the time I finished this book I couldn’t handle not waiting another moment to read the last installment. That’s how much I love this series.

One of my favorite romances is in this fantasy. Arin and Kestrel and THE TENSION. I can’t handle the tension. I flip pages at speed waiting and hoping and hurting for them to have a moment alone where Kestrel can explain everything to Arin. This is one of the few times that lack of communication actually benefits the book (for me). Kestrel is doing everything to protect Arin and trying to play both sides of her loyalties to do so.

Kestrel is a fantastic heroine. I want to be her friend. She’s brave, bold, and utterly intelligent. I am again amazed at her ability to politcally maneuver one way, and saving those she loves the other way. Kestrel is constantly using her knowledge to help be the best spy she can be. I love her so much.

Arin is my sweet soul that I just want to hug and explain everything too. He’s so wrapped up in helping his country and making sure Kestrel is okay that it’s swoon-worthy. I love seeing his character grow up too. Arin and Kestrel both have to start being adults way sooner than planned. They make some mistakes and grow over the course of this book especially.

Those last few scenes hurt me to my core. AH. I am so wrapped up in the story at this point that there’s no way to put it down. The betrayal, the misunderstanding, the anger, the love. IT’S ALL THERE. This is the reason I keep coming back to this series.

Overall audience notes:

  • YA Fantasy Romance
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some kisses
  • Violence: poison, knives, swords, animal attacks, physical

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