Mini Review – A Dance of Lies

Hello, everyone! Today I’m bringing you my review of A Dance of Lies by Rebecca Crunden. I was excited to go back into this world and am even more excited to share my thoughts about this book. Although, I’m a little sad that there is only one more book left in the series!

A year into the Outlands and life has only become more dangerous and complex for Kitty and her friends. Not only are the Outcasts hunting them, but Charles and Ciara are adamant about returning to the Kingdom to help, forcing everyone to take a side. To make matters worse, the leader of the Outcasts, Quen, has an unrelenting fascination with Thom and Nate that soon reaches horrific heights.

As tensions mount and the group begins to splinter, Riddle comes to Kitty with an unexpected request. A secret. One that makes them inseparable.

Kitty soon finds herself spending more and more time away from Nate and Thom, learning to fight and increasingly drawn into the ways of the Radiants. But Kitty and Riddle’s new bond doesn’t come without complications, and a decision made by the two of them threatens more than Kitty’s relationship with Nate …

Well. Rebecca Crunden did it again against all the odds this time. At the end of book three, I assumed there would be love triangle mess in this book, and I was worried I wouldn’t like it because that is one of my least favorite tropes. I was right…there were so many triangles in this book I lost count, and it also had the dreaded miscommunication/lack of communication trope, as indicated by the title. There were lots of lies and omissions between the characters, which caused tons of drama. However, I was wrong about not liking it! The author did an exceptional job of writing the character dynamics, which was important since this was a much more stationary, character-driven book than the first three. I loved getting to see how much Kitty has grown into a fierce, independent woman, and I found her internal struggles over what that means for her and her relationship with Nate to be interesting and compelling. I also really liked the way the author handled the philosophical argument over whether one should always stay in the fight for a better future, especially if it means harm to you or those you love, or just live life and stay out of the struggle, if possible. I appreciated the care with which this author handled the mental health issues of the characters. Too often, fantasy and dystopian stories avoid the negative mental health effects of all the protagonist’s trauma, but not this story. It provided a vivid picture of living with the realities of PTSD and anxiety. I’m convinced now more than ever that Nate and Thom’s relationship is horribly unhealthy and developed the way it did as a coping mechanism to crippling anxiety, which isn’t surprising given the environment in which they grew up. The world-building was once again as exquitisite as ever. I loved getting a larger glimpse of the world and society of the Radiants. Despite being largely character-driven, the book also featured some great action scenes that had me on the edge of my seat. The ending was a bit shocking, although I’m not quite sure how things progressed to that point. It felt somewhat contrived, but I’m hopeful it will all come together in the last book since I’ve loved pretty much everything I’ve read by this author so far. Therefore, I rate the book 5 out of 5 stars.

Book Review – The Eye of the World

Hello, everyone! Today I’m bringing you my review of The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. I’ve wanted to read this book (and the rest of the series) for years, but it has always been a little intimidating. I’ve already struggled through one epic fantasy series, The Sword of Truth, and wasn’t really ready to commit to another. Funny enough, the same thing that made me pick up The Sword of Truth finally made me decide to take the plunge with this one too, someone turned it into a TV show. I hate watching a movie/TV adaptation without reading the book first, and I couldn’t bring myself to watch it without reading it so soon after breaking that rule for Dune, which I promise I’ll get around to reading before the next movie comes out… Anyway, the point is I finally read The Eye of the World, and I have some thoughts. Here they are!

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

Moiraine Damodred arrives in Emond’s Field on a quest to find the one prophesized to stand against The Dark One, a malicious entity sowing the seeds of chaos and destruction. When a vicious band of half-men, half beasts invade the village seeking their master’s enemy, Moiraine persuades Rand al’Thor and his friends to leave their home and enter a larger unimaginable world filled with dangers waiting in the shadows and in the light.

I’ve had my eye on this series for years, but I never committed to reading it because of its length and the mixed reviews I’ve seen of it. Before diving into the weeds a bit, I’ll just give my vague impression of the book. In short, I agree with both the positive and negative reviews I’ve seen of it. There were things I really loved, and things that got on my nerves a lot. I’ve also seen a number of reviews that claimed the book was a rip off of Tolkien, which I can sort of see. It has many of the same themes as Lord of the Rings and similar plot details, as well. However, this book felt more accessible than much of Tolkien’s work, and it felt familiar but also new in comparison to those older tales. The biggest thing I took away from this book, though, was awe at the grandiosity of the scale. It was nothing short of epic, and it was only the first part of a 14? book story.

The world-building in this book was nothing short of phenomenal. The society was complex, and the use of multiple locales and such a wide cast gave a teasing glimpse of so many aspects of this world I hope are explored further in other books. The feeling of rich, deep history helped make this world feel real and left me wanting to learn so much more about how these characters fit into the intricate tapestry of civilizations, magic, and destiny unveiled here. The author was also incredibly skilled at creating the ambience and mood of the settings. My favorite thing about the book was the intense feeling of haunting and dread I felt while reading about the village at the beginning of the story, mostly because of the way the descriptions set the stage so well. Despite enjoying the world in which the story was set, it was not always laid out in the best possible manner. There were parts I found confusing and others that seemed forced or rushed to explain away things. However, for the most part, I came away from this story feeling like it made good sense and set up a lot of interesting things for the future.

The plot was a fairly basic fantasy plot with many very familiar tropes. The Dark One has been trapped for a long time but was now breaking free. There was one who can stop him, but no one knew their identity. The story followed a group of people from a small village thrust into the action when they learned one of them could be the key to stopping the rising evil. The action largely take place in three phases: the attack on the village that forces the heroes from home, the chase/journey, and the confrontation with the Dark One. I loved the first part of the story about the happenings at the village. The ambience, pacing, and writing were all fantastic, and I thought it set the story and characters up very well. The journey had some interesting bits, but it is one of my least favorite fantasy tropes for a reason. It became incredibly repetitive, and, while there were some truly great moments and world-building in this part of the story, I found myself getting bored with it. Then the ending felt like it came out of nowhere. It resolved some of the mysteries from earlier in the story, but I don’t think there was enough foreshadowing/explanation about the eye of the world. It felt like the story completely changed direction right before the end just so it could have an interesting climax, and I was annoyed by it.

I enjoyed so many of the characters and am really looking forward to seeing where their stories go in future books. I loved Moiraine for her strength, cunning, and mystery, and I’m looking forward to hopefully getting some of the mystery resolved in future stories. In general, I found the concept of the Aes Sedai fascinating, and I can’t wait to learn more about them. Rand embodied so many of my favorite tropes that I couldn’t not like his character (chosen one, unknown identity, unlikely/unwilling hero, etc.). My favorite of the boys had to be Perrin, though, because I adored the wolves so much. Mat was great, too, and I enjoyed his character arc. It was interesting to slowly watch him change and be overcome by fear and mistrust due to the effects of the dagger. I just wish he had actually played some role in overcoming its effects rather than relying solely on Moiraine to fix him. The other characters rounded out the cast perfectly and created interesting dynamics that helped keep me engaged with the story in its duller moments, but I don’t have the time or space to get into why I liked them all because there were so many.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. I can definitely see why it has been so popular even if it is somewhat bloated and repetitive at times. It’s massive scope, likeable/relatable characters, and use of popular tropes made it an interesting and enjoyable read despite the boring bits. Overall, I recommend all fantasy readers give it a shot and rate it 4 out of 5 stars.

Mini Review – The Prison Healer

Hello, everyone! I’m excited to bring you my mini review of The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni. I waited several months for this book to finally become available at my library and was very happy to finally get to read it.

Seventeen-year-old Kiva Meridan has spent the last ten years fighting for survival in the notorious death prison, Zalindov, working as the prison healer.

When the Rebel Queen is captured, Kiva is charged with keeping the terminally ill woman alive long enough for her to undergo the Trial by Ordeal: a series of elemental challenges against the torments of air, fire, water, and earth, assigned to only the most dangerous of criminals.

Then a coded message from Kiva’s family arrives, containing a single order: “Don’t let her die. We are coming.” Aware that the Trials will kill the sickly queen, Kiva risks her own life to volunteer in her place. If she succeeds, both she and the queen will be granted their freedom.

But no one has ever survived.

With an incurable plague sweeping Zalindov, a mysterious new inmate fighting for Kiva’s heart, and a prison rebellion brewing, Kiva can’t escape the terrible feeling that her trials have only just begun.

From bestselling author Lynette Noni comes a dark, thrilling YA fantasy perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, and Sabaa Tahir.

“But things happen in life that you don’t expect, that you can’t plan for and you’re helpless to stop. Their story didn’t end as it should have. But I know for a fact that they’d live it all over again, even the ending, as long as it meant they could keep their beginning.”

But, Papa, the endings are the best part.

Sometimes, sweetheart. But other times, the beginnings are.

The Prison Healer, pg. 196

This was a pretty run of the mill YA fantasy. It had a lot of common tropes and a bit of slow burn romance thrown in for good measure. It was quite dark, though, and should probably have almost every trigger warning possible. The characters go through some awful stuff, which wasn’t surprising given the book is set in a prison where people are sent to die, but there were a few times that it really felt more gratuitous than necessary for the story. I enjoyed the writing style of the author and liked getting to see the thoughts of the main character. However, the pacing of the book wasn’t the best, especially in the middle where it was dreadfully slow at times. The characters had a lot of great moments, though, and I grew really attached to all of them over the course of the story. Kiva’s story here was an interesting narrative about the power of hope and the importance of leaning on others when necessary. I liked how strong she was, but I was a little disappointed that her strengths were never really enough to save her. In every trial, she had to be rescued by someone else, which got a bit repetitive and annoying (even if it made sense given what she was going through). I also loved Tipp and believe he must be protected at all costs. He was like a ray of sunshine in all the dark things that happened in this book. The setting was very interesting. I was worried at first that the entire book happening in the prison would be too insular, but I actually quite liked how focused it made the story. The world-building of the prison’s environment and system was interesting and felt truly terrifying at times; however, information about the wider world was seriously lacking and/or completely nonsensical (e.g., why would rival countries share a prison that has no oversight – other than to force the plot of the book, of course). This wouldn’t have been as much of a problem if the politics from outside the prison hadn’t been such an important part of the plot. The story had several big ‘twists,’ all of which I saw coming from a mile away. I still liked them, though, but the biggest one of all made me second guess the entire story because it made it seem like the narrator had been lying the entire time about everything. So, the story was far from perfect with pacing and plot problems, but I enjoyed the writing, characters, and world-building within the prison. I’m hoping the information about the world at large will make more sense once some of the characters are out in it, and with the way this book ended, I’m definitely interested to see where the story goes in the sequel. Therefore, I rate this book 3 out of 5 stars and will pick up the sequel once it is available at the library.

ARC Mini Review – Forging a Nightmare

Hello, everyone! Today’s post is an extra mini review of Forging a Nightmare by Patricia A. Jackson. The cover and description pulled me in as I was browsing NetGalley, and I just couldn’t resist. I love a good story about angels and nephilim, and the horse on the cover looked absolutely demented. So, I couldn’t pass it up…maybe this is a good indicator of why my NetGalley feedback ration has been dropping. lol.

Unknown to Humanity, the descendants of Fallen Angels live among us. After millennia of living in anonymity, a serial killer has discovered their secret and has marked them for death. FBI Agent Michael Childs is brought in to investigate a series of grisly murders in New York City. The only link between the victims is they were all born with twelve fingers and twelve toes, known in occult circles as the Nephilim, a forsaken people.

A break in the case leads to Marine Corps sniper Anaba Raines who is listed as killed in action in Syria. Michael finds the hardened soldier alive and well, but no longer Human. After getting too close to the truth, Michael refuses to be an unwitting pawn in a 3000-year old vendetta. With the killers closing in, he is forced to confront his own unique heritage or die. Only Anaba can save her life, but at a terrible cost – her freedom.

***Thank you to NetGalley and Angry Robot for providing a copy of the book! My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

This book is a good example of why I don’t like DNFing books. The first 30-40% of this book was an awkwardly paced, disjointed mess. The characters felt a bit like caricatures, and the story, while interesting, was presented in a way that was confusing and hard to follow. As the book progressed, however, the pacing, writing, and story improved significantly, and I read the last half of the book mostly in one sitting because I was so captivated by it. The characters acquired much more depth as the story progressed, and I really did end up loving Anaba. I never knew I needed to read about a killer demon horse until picking up this book. The author’s love for horses really shone from how she wrote about Anaba and all the horse-related detail included throughout the narrative. I also particularly enjoyed the blending of different mythologies and the world the author created, even if the world-building was a bit clunky and obtuse at times. The action in this book was brutal and fast-paced (sometimes too fast-paced), and it kept me wanting to turn the page to find out the resolution of the conflict. As a whole, I enjoyed the book but only after making it through the first third through sheer will alone. I recommend the book to anyone who likes stories about horses, mythology, and lots of fast-paced action, as long as they are a patient reader. Therefore, I rate the book 3 out of 5 stars.

Book Review – Jade War

Hello, everyone! I hope the weekend is going well for you all. Today I’m reviewing Jade War by Fonda Lee. I was very excited to read this book after loving the first one in this series. This has easily become one of my favorite fantasy series of all time, and it is so hard to wrap up all my thoughts and feelings concisely into one review. But I’m going to give it my best shot…

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ARC Review – The Bone Shard Emperor

Andrea Stewart returns with The Bone Shard Emperor, the second installment of this unmissable, action-packed, magic-laced fantasy epic.

The Emperor is Dead. Long live the Emperor.  
 
Lin Sukai finally sits on the throne she won at so much cost, but her struggles are only just beginning. Her people don’t trust her. Her political alliances are weak. And in the north-east of the Empire, a rebel army of constructs is gathering, its leader determined to take the throne by force.  
 
Yet an even greater threat is on the horizon, for the Alanga – the powerful magicians of legend – have returned to the Empire. They claim they come in peace, and Lin will need their help in order to defeat the rebels and restore peace.  
 
But can she trust them?

***Thank you to NetGalley and Orbit Books for providing a copy of the book. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

***There are likely to be spoilers about the first book, The Bone Shard Daughter, in this review. If you haven’t read that book yet, read on at your own peril!***

I loved the first book in this series so much, and I was excited to get to read this sequel a little early thanks to getting an eARC from NetGalley. The Bone Shard Emperor was a worthy successor to The Bone Shard Daughter and continued the story into interesting new places while showcasing the same heart and superb writing that made me fall in love with the first book. There’s just something about the way Andrea Stewart writes that kept me hanging on every word. The mysteries from the first story were only deepened here as a result of the shocking reveals that set the scene for what will likely be an explosive final installment.

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ARC Mini Review – A Marvellous Light

Hello, everyone! Today I’m bringing an extra mini review for a book I’ve been waiting to read for what seems like forever. I requested A Marvellous Light months ago on NetGalley and had given up hope of being approved. I was eagerly awaiting getting my hands on it since today was the publication day. Then, last week, I got an email saying I was approved for the eARC. So, of course, I had to drop everything else and read it, and I’m glad I did. Without further ado, here are my thoughts!

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Book Review – The Bone Shard Daughter

Author: Andrea Stewart

Publication Date: September 8, 2020

Print Length: 496 pages

Read Date(s): September 28, 2021 – September 30, 2021

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Goodreads Synopsis

The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.

Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.

Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright – and save her people.

My Review

This book completely blew away all of my expectations. It has received a great deal of buzz, and I honestly went into it thinking it probably wouldn’t live up to all the hype surrounding it. However, I’m happy to report that the book deserves all of the praise it has received and much, much more. The writing was exquisite and almost instantly sucked me into its world. Then the pacing and slowly unraveling mysteries kept me hooked until the very end. This author also did a fantastic job of weaving together multiple POVs in a way that was satisfying and came together into one full, cohesive story while also giving each character distinct, interesting trajectories of growth.

The world-building was incredible, and the world itself was very unique. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like it. The floating islands of the empire were a fascinating setting with a captivating culture and rich history that I constantly wanted to learn more about. The author expertly built up the reader’s knowledge alongside the characters as the narrative moved forward, which made for a truly immersive reading experience. Sometimes that can feel jarring, but this book pulled it off and left me wanting to learn so much more about the world and its history. Luckily, there are two more books on the way!

The magic system in this book was also unlike anything else I’ve read. It was equal parts fascinating due to the logic puzzles involved and creepy because of how it worked. Using bone shards from people’s skulls to power constructs made up of different animal parts is not something I ever thought would show up in a magic system, but I loved it. The imagery of the people giving up a part of their own head to power the bureaucracy keeping them oppressed was quite striking, and the constructs, and how their instructions worked, reminded me a little of Asimov’s robots and his laws of robotics. There also seems to be other forms of magic in this world that weren’t explored as in depth yet, and I’m hoping to get more of them in future installments. All of it was just stunning to read, and I cannot wait to learn more in the next book.

The characters were all complex and intriguing to read. They also acted as compelling avatars for exploring the book’s themes of identity and revolution. Lin’s struggle to discover who she was in the face of her missing memories was interesting and allowed the reader to follow her discoveries from beginning to end while seeing her create a new sense of self with the information she learned. Phalue and Ranami had a beautiful story arc that highlighted the rich vs. poor dilemma in this kingdom vividly while also showing the impact love can have even when people are from two vastly different backgrounds. Their story also illustrated the myth of meritocracy in an easy to understand way, and I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it explained better. Jovis was probably my favorite character. I enjoyed seeing him go from a roguish smuggler who cared mostly about himself and his grief to someone classified as a hero. The psychological aspect of the transformation was fun to read. I also loved his dynamic with Mephi and consider their relationship to be the true heart of this book. The side characters are also all fabulous and round out the cast brilliantly.

So much of this story explored the moral conundrum of doing what is best for me and those I care about versus doing what is best for the greater good. All of the main characters struggled with this dilemma in some form. I appreciated that the answers were not all back and white; most of the characters and their decisions were morally complex.

Overall, I loved this book and thought it was absolutely brilliant. I don’t know what else to say. So, I’m just gonna give it 5 out of 5 stars and go read the next book.

Have you read The Bone Shard Daughter? What did you think?