Book Review – Path of Vengeance

Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing Path of Vengeance by Cavan Scott, which is the final book in phase two of Star Wars: The High Republic. I’m a huge fan of this series and have been wanting to get to this book since it first came out back in May. If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out my thoughts on the first book, Path of Deceit, as well.

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ARC Review – A Circle of Stars

Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing A Circle of Stars by Craig Montgomery, which will be published on June 16, 2023 in paperback and digital. I randomly bumped into this book while doomscrolling my FYP on TikTok and was instantly captivated by the cover. So, I had to sign up for the ARC team! 🙂 The author is currently running a pre-order campaign with some really cool swag items. All you have to do is pre-order the paperback and submit your info on this form.

Sometimes you have to leave home to find it… 

All Casper Bell has ever wanted is to belong. But now, abandoned by his friends and family after being outed, he has nothing left to lose when the people of Novilem abduct him. Except Earth.

Teleported to a world where stars grant humans magic, Casper discovers he has the rare ability to draw power from all twelve astrological signs — a gift that makes him a political pawn for the Estellar Council. But Novilem’s inhabitants seem as hard and cold as the stone their city is carved from, and Casper’s new role leaves him more isolated than ever. Until he meets the grandson of the council’s most powerful woman. Helix is kind, playful, and heartbreakingly handsome, yet it’s how Helix makes him feel that gives Casper hope.

As rebellion brinks in the city, even the Council starts to fracture, reaching for extreme measures that could cost Casper not only his newfound abilities, but the first place he has ever wanted to call home. Together with Helix, he must uncover the secrets of
his full potential —  because the survival of Novilem hinges on Casper’s powers, whether he’s using them or not.

Set inside a hidden lunar city, where astrology is magic and your birth sign defines your social status, A Circle of Stars is a queer young adult fantasy filled with political intrigue and romance.

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

I was invested in these characters and this story from the very first chapter. It started with the emotional gut punch of every queer kid’s worst nightmare, being outed and thrown out on the street with nowhere to go. I immediately wanted to give Casper a hug. The story went in a fascinating direction after the heart-wrenching start, literally out of this world, and incorporated a captivating blend of fantasy, science fiction, and coming-of-age elements that kept my eyes glued to the pages until the very end.

The world-building in this book was so elaborate, and I appreciated getting to experience it all first-hand through Casper’s point of view. The magic system was based on astrology, and people gained different powers from the stars based on when they were born. The history of this society and its many secrets kept my interest piqued, and I enjoyed how the author slowly exposed different aspects of the magic and history as the story unfolded. I also adored that Novilem was a queer-normative world because it provided a great opportunity to see Casper’s reaction to that kind of acceptance. That being said, the world-building wasn’t always very efficient or understandable. There was a lot to take in, and things weren’t always explained well. It was all still very fascinating, but I would have enjoyed the book even more if some aspects of the world were clearer much earlier, especially in regard to the magic.

The pacing and plot were my biggest issues with this book. The pace was quite uneven, with things often happening in jarring starts and stops with lulls in between. For example, Casper was abducted to the other world almost immediately after being thrown out of his house. It made the inciting incident of the book feel forced and created a lot of unanswered questions. How did they know he was the Telos? Why didn’t they abduct him as a baby instead and indoctrinate him into the role rather than having to train him so quickly? After his abrupt abduction, the book slows down significantly during his training before ratcheting up again later. However, the author did do a fantastic job of utilizing the alternating POVs to smooth out some of the pacing. When one POV slowed down, one of the others picked up a bit, and it definitely helped keep the story feel like it was moving forward while also adding to the world-building by giving the reader insights from people raised in this alien society.

As for the plot, this was a case where I really liked all the different components but not necessarily how they came together. I enjoy mystery, political intrigue, and a good coming-of-age story, and this book had all of that and more. I think the problem boiled down to having too many competing elements. By the end, it just all felt a bit muddled and convoluted. I had some trouble following all the interconnections between the different groups and their histories, and I think the book would have been stronger if it had been pared down some. I enjoyed the intrigue while reading and was constantly curious to see how it all came together, but in the end, it didn’t totally deliver. The book attempted to have a wide-ranging social revolution arc while also having a ‘big bad.’ While I enjoyed reading about the revolution, the character meant to be the big threat seemed really superficial and tacked on to the larger story, which made the ending less impactful for me.

I think I’ve said this already, but I adored the characters in this book. Both Casper and Helix grew up under the weight of extreme expectations that squashed their individuality. They also both experienced their worlds completely crumble, which left them with being themselves and following their own motivations and morals for the first time. I also really liked how the author had Helix navigate and come to terms with understanding how his immense privilege impacted his upbringing and his relationships with everyone around him. Speaking of relationships, Casper and Helix are definitely couple goals. lol. They were so cute together, and I’m so glad the author didn’t use miscommunication to make their romance more dramatic. Instead, their budding romance illustrated how to use good communication to resolve conflict and build a deeper connection with a partner. I just really enjoyed their individual journeys of self-discovery and self-acceptance, as well as their healthy and adorable partnership.

I feel like this review is probably coming across much more negative than I intended. So, I’m going to spend a minute just gushing about some of the other things I loved. The author did a wonderful job of bringing the alien world to life and writing a harrowing account of what it was like to live on its surface. The ecosystem was fascinating, horrifying, and totally riveting. The parts of the book where Casper and Helix had to battle against the elements on the foreign world were probably my favorite because we got to see the two boys bond amidst such a vividly imagined backdrop. I also really loved the third POV character and her intense love for her daughter. She provided the perspective of the commoner, as well, and I don’t think the social revolution plot would have been nearly as good without her take on the pitfalls of the Novilem political system.

Overall, I definitely recommend this book if you enjoy a good mix of science fiction, fantasy, and MM teen romance. It tackled some big themes and had impressive world-building and characters it was easy to route for. I think it bit off a little more than it could chew plot-wise, but there are definitely plenty of questions left to be answered by the sequel, which I will definitely be picking up. Therefore, I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.

ARC Review – Lords of Uncreation

Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing a book that I’ve been waiting to read for so long, the epic conclusion of The Final Architecture series. Lords of Uncreation by Adrian Tchaikovsky completes this fantastic series in a satisfying way, although with a few bumps in the road. If you’d like to see what I thought about the first two books, check out my reviews of Shards of Earth and Eyes of the Void.

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Book Review – Cataclysm

Hello, everyone! I feel like it has been forever since I’ve talked about Star Wars or The High Republic, but that ends today. 🙂 I finally finished reading Cataclysm by Lydia Kang, which is the follow-up adult novel to last year’s Convergence by Zoraida Cordova. Based on everything set up in this phase of The High Republic so far and the title of this novel, I expected to be blown away by a heart-pounding climax filled with action, clandestine schemes, and shocking demises. Did this book deliver? Read on to find out!

After the thrilling events of The High Republic: Convergence, the Jedi race to confront the Path of the Open Hand and end the Forever War.
 
After five years of conflict, the planets Eiram and E’ronoh are on the cusp of real peace. But when news breaks of a disaster at the treaty signing on Jedha, violence reignites on the beleaguered worlds. Together, the royal heirs of both planets—Phan-tu Zenn and Xiri A’lbaran—working alongside the Jedi, have uncovered evidence that the conflict is being orchestrated by outside forces, and all signs point to the mysterious Path of the Open Hand, whom the Jedi also suspect of causing the disaster on Jedha.
 
With time—and answers—in short supply, the Jedi must divide their focus between helping quell the renewed violence on Eiram and E’ronoh and investigating the Path. Among them is Gella Nattai, who turns to the one person she believes can unravel the mystery but the last person she wants to trust: Axel Greylark. The chancellor’s son, imprisoned for his crimes, has always sought to unburden himself of the weight of his family name. Will he reconcile with the Jedi and aid in their quest for justice and peace, or embrace the Path’s promise of true freedom?
 
As all roads lead to Dalna, Gella and her allies prepare to take on a foe unlike any they’ve ever faced. And it will take all of their trust in the Force, and in one another, to survive.

I have really enjoyed this phase of the High Republic storytelling, and this book was no exception. I think it may actually be my new favorite book from this era of Star Wars. It had so many great characters and a ton of pulse-pounding action. The vibes of the story actually reminded me quite a bit of The Rising Storm, another of my favorites. So, if you liked that phase one novel, you’ll likely enjoy this one too.

The stories of this phase have been building up to a large confrontation with the Path of the Open Hand, and I’ve been looking forward to learning more about their long-term goals and how they plan to achieve them. There was definitely a confrontation. lol. The back half of the book was a huge battle. The author did a fantastic job of describing the conflict and making it immersive despite having so many POVs to juggle. I also really loved the intrigue and buildup to the battle, maybe even more than the battle itself. That’s one of the things I’ve loved about the Path as a villain. They are secretive and feel like they are constantly in the background pulling the strings when you least expect it. The open warfare was new for them, and while I enjoyed the carnage, I think I preferred the group as a shadowy puppeteer than the arbiters of brute force seen in this book.

There were so many great characters, both returning and new, in this book. Phan-tu and Xiri were back, and I enjoyed seeing their marriage hit its stride despite the speed bumps caused by the unraveling of the peace negotiations. I wish there had been a bit more of them in the book, especially toward the end. The conclusion of the Eiram and E’ronoh conflict got swept aside off page because of everything going on with the battle at Dalna. I understand the decision was probably made for pacing reasons, but it still felt a bit cheap considering this entire phase pretty much revolved around the conflict between the two planets.

Gella and Axel were back, as well. I enjoyed their relationship in Convergence. Gella wanted so badly to trust Axel again despite everything he did. She believed he could be redeemed even though good judgment probably would have deemed otherwise. Axel was still his usual self, a privileged twat you hate to love. lol. He was also conflicted, though. I think deep down he always wanted to do the right thing, but that desire was constantly at war with his selfish nature and his resentment over the death of his father and his mother always prioritizing the galaxy over him. Speaking of his mother, Kyong was one of the breakout stars of this book. She had to come to terms with her failings as a mother and leader and make some really hard choices with huge ramifications.

There were so many other POVs in this book. I’d be here all day if I wrote about each of them. There were plenty of Jedi viewpoints, and I loved getting to see a certain little green someone in action. The youngling of the crew was actually super endearing, as well, and they made a cute duo. A new Path member was introduced. I thought he was a bit one-dimensional and too single-minded in his ambitions, especially when compared to the overarching sinister nature of the Path. I was disappointed that the Mother wasn’t in this story more, and I think using her as the main villain POV would have made more sense. I don’t feel like I learned much about the Path or its long term plan that I didn’t already know. It still feels like there is a lot of story to tell with only one YA book left to go.

Overall, the plot was interesting and exciting with so many gut-wrenching moments. I even shed a tear a few times. The High Republic authors have definitely not shied away from killing off important characters. So, make sure to have the tissues handy if you’re a crier. The story had some head-scratching decisions too, though. For example, why send a message to the prison in the first place if the chancellors didn’t agree to a change in accommodations? Also, what ended up happening with the levelers? They all seemed to magically disappear underground for no particular reason. Maybe there will be some answers to that in the last book. Despite my few qualms with it, I had a great time reading this story, and I’m sure other fans of the High Republic era will too. Therefore, I rate the book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

ALC Review – Rubicon

Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing Rubicon by J. S. Dewes. I was so excited to get advanced access to this audiobook after seeing other reviewers rave about this story. It has been quite some time since I’ve read military sci fi, and I’ve been wanting to read more science fiction, in general. So, this was the perfect time for this book. Without further ado, here’s my review! 🙂

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BBNYA Finalist Blog Tour Review – Haven

Hello, everyone! Today I’m participating in the blog tour for the BBNYA finalist, Haven by Ceril N Domace. This was one of my BBNYA reads last year, and I had a lot of fun participating as a panelist.

BBNYA is a yearly competition where book bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors, ending with 15 finalists and one overall winner.  If you are an author and wish to learn more about the BBNYA competition, you can visit the official website http://www.bbnya.com or Twitter @bbnya_official. BBNYA is brought to you in association with the @Foliosociety (if you love beautiful books, you NEED to check out their website!) and the book blogger support group @The_WriteReads.

Book Info & Links

Print Length: 280 Pages

Publication Date: April 30, 2021

Genre: Fantasy, Science Fantasy, Contemporary Fantasy

Age Category: Adult

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Blurb

Most people think the fae are gone. Most people are wrong.

Owen Williams wakes after a horrific car accident to find his wife is dead—and somehow turned into a gryphon—and his kids gone after a home invasion turned horribly wrong. Shattered and reeling, he vows to do whatever it takes to find them.

When a fae scout appears and promises to reunite him with his kids, he doesn’t hesitate before joining her. But she warns him that if he wants to protect his family, he must follow the fae to their city, the hidden haven of Tearmann.

With enemies on the horizon, Owen needs to set aside his fears and take up arms to defend their new home alongside the people he’s always been taught were monsters—or he’ll lose everyone he’s trying to protect.

My Review

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

My thoughts on this one are mixed. I enjoyed learning about the world the author created, and the characters really tugged at my heart. However, the pace of the story was just dreadfully slow at times, and the writing wasn’t always the best. For example, I had trouble tracking what was going on in some of the action scenes.

I liked the world-building. I found the struggles of the fae to be realistic, and I was fascinated, and a bit horrified, by the process of changing that turned humans into fae. There were so many different types of fae, and I enjoyed learning about each of them. My only problem with the world-building was the delivery. It was really slow and primarily delivered via lengthy dialogue. There was so much telling happening that it felt like I was reading the slowest lecture in history. I found the information on the history of the fae in this world fascinating, but it was a huge drag on the story.

The characters and the family dynamic were the things I loved most about this story. These children grasped hold of my heart and would not let go. The entire family went through so much trauma in this story, and I was in my feelings right along with them. I also liked seeing a story about a father and his kids because it is not something I read nearly often enough. Although, the father, Owen, did get on my nerves sometimes because his characterization was really inconsistent. The text kept saying he was so worried about his kids and would never leave their sight again, and then he’d be off to some new meeting by himself in the very next scene. He made quite a few choices that left me shaking my head.

The themes related to ‘othering’ were timely and important. The story illustrated how important it is to get to know people rather than demonizing entire groups based on preconceived notions and baseless propaganda. The transition of the fae and the persecution they faced afterward reminded me of the challenges facing trans people, who are often demeaned and attacked for transitioning into their true selves. I’m not sure if it was the intention of the author, but that’s what I took away from it.

Was this book perfect? No, but I still enjoyed it. The world-building was clever despite being a bit clunky in its execution, and I would die for the children in this book. I came to love them that much. Therefore, I rate this book 3.5 out of 5 stars.

About the Author

Ceril N Domace is an accountant, the owner of the feline embodiment of violence, and a dedicated dungeon master. On the rare occasions she manages to free herself from an ever-growing and complex web of TTRPG, Ceril enjoys taking walks and griping that all her hobbies are work in disguise.

BBNYA Finalist Blog Tour Review – Mercury’s Shadow

Hello, everyone! Today I’m participating in the blog tour for the BBNYA finalist, Mercury’s Shadow by PJ Garcin. This was one of my BBNYA reads last year, and I had a lot of fun participating as a panelist.

BBNYA is a yearly competition where book bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors, ending with 15 finalists and one overall winner.  If you are an author and wish to learn more about the BBNYA competition, you can visit the official website http://www.bbnya.com or Twitter @bbnya_official. BBNYA is brought to you in association with the @Foliosociety (if you love beautiful books, you NEED to check out their website!) and the book blogger support group @The_WriteReads.

Book Info & Links

Publisher: Rawktron Productions

Print Length: 308 Pages

Publication Date: July 5, 2020

Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera, Action Adventure

Age Category: Young Adult/New Adult

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Blurb

One man’s lust for power threatens the future of humanity—can a young girl from the outer system stop it all?

Imogen “Chim” Esper is thrust into the center of an interplanetary conflict when her family is torn apart by the cruel and indifferent Kardashev Corporation. Forced to run, along with her robotic best friend, Chim struggles to find her place in a society that is poised for revolutionary transformation.

The Kardashev Corporation dominates all commerce and politics in the solar system. Its megalomaniac CEO, Alton Neal, is hell-bent on transforming society by capturing the full energy output of the sun through the creation of a Dyson Swarm.

Citizens of Earth and the stations throughout the system must band together to protect access to the lifeblood of the system or risk becoming permanently enslaved to the Kardashev Corporation.

Mercury’s Shadow is a thrilling adventure that blends real science, big ideas, grand adventure and high stakes to introduce a new heroine and a deep universe that will leave readers asking for more.

My Review

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

I really enjoyed this book. The prose was easy to read and engaging. There was a steady pace throughout, and I never felt bored by the story. The overall premise was interesting, and the narrative contained a good balance of systemic and personal stakes that kept me on edge for the characters.

The story was exciting with plenty of action. Although, it also had some really great personal moments, especially with Chim and her father. The plot did require a certain suspension of disbelief in regards to some of the science and the level to which the main character got wrapped up in such important events, but not enough that it completely disrupted my enjoyment of the plot. The world-building was interesting, and I found this take on the future of our solar system to be horribly relatable. I liked the themes regarding the dangers of letting one corporation have too much control, and it definitely highlighted the potential extreme consequences of that really well. I just wish maybe there had been a bit more subtlety. I also would have loved some more background on the different factions and politics of it all, especially the secret scientific consortium poised in the shadows to save the day.

The characters all had big personalities, and I liked the found family vibes the protagonist had with her friends. They made a great team, and their interactions were fun to read. I especially loved the robot! Chim’s journey was relatable and often harrowing. She was thrust into a huge conspiracy when all she wanted to do was save her father. This conflict between her personal motivations and the larger stakes at hand made her an interesting reluctant hero to follow. The villain was a bit cartoonish and over the top, though, but at least it made it easy, and fun, to root for his downfall.

Overall, I liked this book quite a bit and thought it was a good series-opener. I’d be more than happy to return to this world for more adventures. Therefore, I rate it 3.75 out of 5 stars.

About the Author

PJ Garcin has been writing stories, music and games for most of his life. He writes from the beautiful east coast of Canada where he has worked extensively in video games and technology for the past 20 years. Picking up a long running writing thread, he recently completed the first book in the Kardashev Cycle — Mercury’s Shadow.

The Kardashev Cycle follows the rise and expansion of the dominant Kardashev Corporation and its near universal control over the solar system. The first book in the series, Mercury’s Shadow, introduces the young Imogen Esper — a resourceful young girl from a mining station in the asteroid belt who finds herself caught up in an interplanetary conflict when her father is injured during a routine maintenance mission. The second book, Chimera’s Prism, continued the adventure in 2021.

PJ is a regular speaker at technology conferences on topics ranging from interactive narrative to machine learning. He has an undergrad degree in English, Rhetoric and Professional Writing as well as a Master’s degree in Communication.

He worked as Executive Producer in games on titles that sold more than 27 million units in total. He worked on large franchises such as FIFA, Madden, and Guitar Hero while helping to launch successful indie franchises like The Golf Club (now PGA Tour) and Infinite Air. He currently works as Director of Product Management for an open-source-focused SaaS company.

Twitter: twitter.com/rawktron

TikTok: tiktok.com/@rawktron

Instagram: instagram.com/pjgarcin

Facebook: facebook.com/pjgarcin