Book Review

Book Review: Kingdom of Ash and Briars (The Nissera Chronicles #1) by Hannah West

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: YA Fantasy Retelling
Length: 352 pages
Author: Hannah West
Publisher: Holiday House
Release Date: September 15th, 2016
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Bristal, an orphaned kitchen maid, lands in a gritty fairy tale gone wrong when she discovers she is an elicromancer with a knack for shape-shifting. An ancient breed of immortal magic beings, elicromancers have been winnowed down to merely two – now three – after centuries of bloody conflict in the realm. Their gifts are fraught with responsibility, and sixteen-year-old Bristal is torn between two paths. Should she vow to seek the good of the world, to protect and serve mortals? Or should she follow the strength of her power, even if it leads to unknown terrors? She draws on her ability to disguise herself as a man to infiltrate a prince’s band of soldiers, and masquerades as a fairy godmother to shield a cursed princess, but time is running out. As an army of dark creatures grows closer, Bristal faces a supernatural war. To save the kingdoms, Bristal must find the courage to show her true form.

Building on homages to Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Jane Austen’s Emma and the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, Hannah West makes a spectacular debut. 

TOO MANY FAIRYTALES.

Oh I gave this a try. And oh, I feel disappointed.

I think this book and I got off on the wrong foot. I was thrown into a scene knowing absolutely nothing, and nobody was telling me anything. We went from there to full on info-dumping for chapters about Bristal’s new magical powers, her duty to the world, and all of these countries kings/queens/offspring. I was very confused.

Once I caught a better grasp, things did take a turn for the better. The story settled in and I could see all of the fairy tales being woven in. I thought maybe too many were shoved into the story to help carry it along, but it was fun seeing the take on each of them.

I wish the romance had more build-up and that the story was more about Bristal. Yes, she was our main character narration, but her entire focus was on other people. I wanted more for her and wished she wasn’t so sidelined in her own tale.

There’s a lot of action and things really do start happening in the second half. Even if I was at the skimming point of reading this book, I know it might be a hit for others (which is why I was a little more lenient on my rating).

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy + retellings
  • Language: very little, light
  • Romance: kisses
  • Violence: animal attacks, magic, physical altercations, swords/arrows; not overly bloody/gory

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Book Review

ARC Book Review: Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult fantasy romance
Length: 400 pages
Author: Allison Saft
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release Date: March 2nd, 2021
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

A gorgeously gothic, deeply romantic YA debut fantasy about two enemies trapped inside a crumbling mansion, with no escape from the monsters within.

Honor your oath, destroy your country.

Wren Southerland is the most talented healer in the Queen’s Guard, but her reckless actions have repeatedly put her on thin ice with her superiors. So when a letter arrives from a reclusive lord, asking Wren to come to his estate to cure his servant from a mysterious disease, she seizes the chance to prove herself.

When she arrives at Colwick Hall, Wren realizes that nothing is what it seems. Particularly when she discovers her patient is actually Hal Cavendish, the sworn enemy of her kingdom.

As the snowy mountains make it impossible to leave the estate, Wren and Hal grow closer as they uncover a sinister plot that could destroy everything they hold dear. But choosing love could doom both their kingdoms.

Allison Saft’s Down Comes the Night is a snow-drenched, gothic, romantic fantasy that keeps you racing through the pages long into the night.

Thank you to Wednesday Books and Netgalley for the eARC. All opinions are my own!

GREAT ATMOSPHERE.

I’m grateful I got an ARC for this one, because reading it in September with all of the fall, spooky, and Gothic vibes was the perfect combination. The atmosphere of Down Comes the Night was written beautifully.

I loved Wren as a main character. She was emotional, brave, intelligent, and devoted. I really loved her compassion for others and the fact she was emotional. It’s okay to feel things and to show those feelings and I loved knowing and seeing that in a character.

Her relationship with both Una and Hal worked amazingly in this standalone. It was somehow a love triangle, but not. Just a movement and progression of Wren’s relationships as the story grew. I thought the way it worked out with Una fit well, and appreciated that it wasn’t some blown out of proportion break-up, but an acknowledgement of where they both were in their lives. And moving with Hal felt right for the now, and he was just SO PRECIOUS. I love a brooding guy with a soft heart.

There’s a LOT of medical terminology used. More so than I’ve seen in any book I’ve read in a good long while. I do have a background in this kind of medical jargon so I didn’t mind it and kind of enjoyed this different addition to a young adult fantasy book. Wren works as a healer and whenever she explains something she’s trying to do, it’s in a more medical based format.

Our villain is a little roll your eyes worthy, but they have a flair all their own that was very creepy and fit into this entire setting well. I wish the story wasn’t confined to essentially one location, but there was enough overall to influence the narrative. Adored the ending and there’s plenty of highlight worthy quotes in here about choosing peace. Definitely a must read!

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy + romance
  • Language: none
  • Romance: kisses / make-outs; a very little detailed fade to black scene
  • Violence: bloody/gory; murder, physical altercations, poisonings, magic attacks

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Book Review

ARC Book Review: The Stolen Kingdom by Jillian Boehme

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: YA Fantasy Romance
Length: 320 pages
Author: Jillian Boehme
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: March 2nd, 2021
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

For a hundred years, the once-prosperous kingdom of Perin Faye has suffered under the rule of the greedy and power-hungry Thungrave kings. Maralyth Graylaern, a vintner’s daughter, has no idea her hidden magical power is proof of a secret bloodline and claim to the throne. Alac Thungrave, the king’s second son, has always been uncomfortable with his position as the spare heir—and the dark, stolen magic that comes with ruling.

When Maralyth becomes embroiled in a plot to murder the royal family and seize the throne, a cat-and-mouse chase ensues in an adventure of dark magic, court intrigue, and forbidden love.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for an eARC in exchange for a review.
All opinions are my own!

NEEDED MORE.

This book caused me to learn something about my bookish self.

I am picky when it comes to standalone fantasies.

Why? Because I think it’s hard to give everything a fantasy book needs laid out to make it feel whole by the time it ends. A fantasy needs strong world-building, an explanation of magic systems and more. I thought this was missing a lot of that plus a lack of character depth (with main and side characters).

The Stolen Kingdom started off pretty strong. The premise wasn’t wholly unique, but it seemed to have a flair I could get behind. I liked Maralyth as a main character. She was strong-willed and may have had to go with things she didn’t approve of, yet made the right decisions when it came down to it. I saw her in her role by the end.

Alac was a love interest I enjoyed. He wanted to change his kingdom for the better and was open to listening and working with his perceived enemies to do so. I wish there would have been more to Alac and Maralyth’s romance sub-plot. It was charming watching them together and I wanted to see the banter and tender pages.

It was an enjoyable story for a standalone. Even when I think it was missing deeper aspects, it delivered likable characters and a nifty, yet simple, magic system to follow. It would be an enjoyable read for younger YA audiences too.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: little to none
  • Romance: kisses
  • Violence: physical, poison, loss of loved ones, murder

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Book Review

Book Review: Bone Crier’s Moon (Bone Grace #1) by Kathryn Purdie

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: YA Fantasy
Length: 480 pages
Author: Kathryn Purdie
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: March 3rd, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Bone ​Criers have a sacred duty. They alone can keep the dead from preying on the living. But their power to ferry the spirits of the dead into goddess Elara’s Night Heavens or Tyrus’s Underworld comes from sacrifice. The gods demand a promise of dedication. And that promise comes at the cost of the Bone Criers’ one true love.

Ailesse has been prepared since birth to become the matriarch of the Bone Criers, a mysterious famille of women who use strengths drawn from animal bones to ferry dead souls. But first she must complete her rite of passage and kill the boy she’s also destined to love.

Bastien’s father was slain by a Bone Crier and he’s been seeking revenge ever since. Yet when he finally captures one, his vengeance will have to wait. Ailesse’s ritual has begun and now their fates are entwined—in life and in death.

Sabine has never had the stomach for the Bone Criers’ work. But when her best friend Ailesse is taken captive, Sabine will do whatever it takes to save her, even if it means defying their traditions—and their matriarch—to break the bond between Ailesse and Bastien. Before they all die.

STARTED STRONG.

Fighting a tiger shark? Yeah, that’s a strong start.

I liked where things were going and how it was set-up. I was imagining a lot wider plot that would connect back into the characters..but alas, that was not the case. Everything took place in a small city, and it felt that way. There was this reiteration about a flute that went on for 450 pages. That’s mostly what I gathered from this.

Multiple POVs are my jam, and I liked having them here. I did find myself confused at times with who was speaking if I had to stop in the middle of a chapter. Their own voices didn’t resonate enough from the page to really help me grasp the character.

What was the thing with the owl?! I’m still confused, and have too many questions. This mythical owl kept showing up to further the plot by being the answer the characters needed. It was a cop-out. I’m guessing the owl plays a bigger role in book two? Maybe? I don’t know.

This is a quick read, and definitely fits in the young adult fantasy category. Besides struggling with the POVs, I did like the writing style because of it’s pace and not drawn out sentiments.

Ooooo, I haven’t even mentioned my true downfall with this one, the insta-love. Oh goodness, the instant love. We literally changed paragraphs and Bastien went from wanting to stab, to wanting to kiss Ailesse. Does not work for me.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: kiss
  • Violence: swords/knives, physical altercations, explosions

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