Beautiful Books: Introduce Your Novel

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Thanks to Cait @ Paper Fury for this month’s edition of Beautiful Books! I’d like to let you guys in on my Nano Wrimo project and hope you’ll join in with yours! You can find the questions and link up over on Cait’s blog.

1. What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?

I was reading a book last year with the “knight who falls for the queen” plot.  I started wondering how that would play out if it were gender bent and I’ve always wanted to write about dragons, so…viola!

2. Describe what your novel is about!

A young knight and her sister’s intended husband who find themselves in a forbidden romance. Meanwhile, an exiled dragon shifter must destroy them both if he is to spare his unborn child.

3. What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!

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Behold!

4. Introduce us to each of your characters!

The three perspectives in the book are:

Melora—shieldmaiden and captain of a battalion of knights.

Blythe—young dragon shifter who has recently come of age.

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Zoran—traitorous dragon shifter who betrayed his people to save his daughter.

5. How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)

Eh. Mostly I just grab myself some tea, hunker down with my laptop, and tell myself no food until I meet my quotas. I have to be rough with myself!

6. What are you most looking forward to about this novel?

Blythe and Melora’s relationship! It is a romance after all, and I really like writing the female lead as the jaded one and the male lead as the innocent ray of sunshine. <3 Zoran and his storyline have also been incredibly interesting for me.

dragon-1234534_960_720_edited-17. List 3 things about your novel’s setting.

1. Mountain forests

2. Violent religious factions

3. DRAGONS AND WARRIOR PRIESTESSES

8. What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?

Blythe and Melora have had the terrible bad judgment to fall in love and want to be together. A marriage contract, looming war, draconic magic, and religious faction stand in their way—some want them apart, some want them dead. Zoran is trying to protect his unborn daughter, but the limits of his powers and the superstitions of his lover’s people prove harsh antagonists.

9. How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

Blythe and Melora are central to the story and it’s really about them learning about love. Blythe is discovering it for the first time and Melora is learning to accept it again after her husband’s suicide. They both learn about pain and loss, too, and become better for it. Zoran has to learn about hard choices and what it means to sacrifice, but most of all, what things are worth the sacrifice.

10. What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?

The nature of love and the complexity of it. Not just the experience, but how other people’s loves can interact and conflict with ours. Melora and Blythe love one another and that is threatened (unbeknownst to them) in part because of Zoran’s love for his child.

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All in all, I want my readers to be reflective and sympathetic. Besides giving them what I hope is a good story, I would like to have them question the motives of people around them. Sometimes your enemies aren’t out to hurt you, they’re just protecting  someone else.

Did you enjoy this edition of Beautiful Books? What do you think of my WIP’s themes? You can join in over on Cait’s blog and check out all the other awesome featured stories!

Review: The White (The Dragon Pearl, #1) by T.L. Shreffler @catseyeauthor

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Ever since The White appeared in our valley of Windridge, my people have lived in fear. But today that fear ends. Finally, the King has sent his most elite dragon hunters to kill The White, the last of the imperial dragons.

Since the death of her father, Sienna Foxburn hasn’t felt safe. The White, a fire-breathing imperial dragon, terrorizes the Valley of Windridge with no end in sight. But Sienna isn’t satisfied hiding behind the walls of her keep. She is tired of fearing the dragon, but she can’t fight it alone.

Then a mysterious sorceress and two elite dragon hunters arrive, claiming to be sent by the King. Thus begins the great hunt for The White. Sienna embarks on a dragon-hunting adventure through the exotic Valley of Windridge, all while uncovering secrets and conspiracies that could endanger the entire Kingdom….

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of 5 stars
In case the five or so glowy reviews before this had escaped your notice, I am a huge fan of Shreffler’s work. Her other series, The Cat’s Eye Chronicles, has a coveted seat upon my Shelf of Awesome and when I heard she was working on a book with DRAGONS I went a little spastic. This story manages a huge amount of world building, character building, and emotion in a very short space, something that impressed me greatly even with having read her other pieces. It is a fantastic story, even if it did end in a cliffhanger, and I am very much looking forward to watching the series unfold.

The plot:
Everything happens pretty quickly here, which was a nice change for me after a steady diet of epics lately. The plot progresses with only enough world building and description that is necessary (huge plus). My only question issue with this story was Sienna’s empathy toward the dragons. It’s explained, but I wanted to see just a little more expansion of the thought and feeling processes she went through before getting to that point. However, that was my one and only—I wouldn’t even call it a complaint. More like a side note.

It is mentioned somewhere that this has romantic elements, but I would say the focus here was definitely more on the dragons. (And if you have a problem with that, go away.) The general feelings of the populace toward dragons were displayed and justified well in the beginning, but I still found myself sympathizing with the dragons more than the people (which was probably Shreffler’s scheme).

The characters:
This doesn’t happen especially often, but the heroine was my favorite character. In the beginning, Sienna is going through that whole awkward “on the threshold of adulthood but has no focus” stage that I think most of us go through. That won her huge doses of empathy and she was relatable and human to me, unlike a lot of fantasy heroines that have been cropping up.

Darius, the dragon hunter, has that whole aura of mystery and awesome about him and I have lots of questions about his character. What did he do that got him made a dragon hunter? Who was he before? Like I said, lots of questions for sequels!

Mistress Ash is probably the other main character and also the villain. Everything about her creeped me out from the moment she turned up and it became clear pretty quickly that I was right about here. She was an excellent villain to this story, written to make you hate her and as far as I was concerned, she could join the chopping block queue with Cerastes and Volcrian (references to The Cat’s Eye Chronicles).

The other characters, mainly those from Sienna’s home castle, reacted in understandable ways, but…no, I’m not going to be rooting for them any time soon. On the other hand, I thought they were remarkably developed for such a short span of page time and even Sienna’s mother was portrayed as having sympathetic qualities.

All in all, this was a well-written YA fantasy I would shove in the faces of anyone who likes dragon literature. I enjoyed it greatly, it has been a delight to read, and I am anxiously anticipating the next installment in the series!

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Friday Freebie #18 Mark of the Mage (Scribes of Medeisia #1)

If you know of any Kindle eBooks that are free today or on upcoming Fridays, I’d love to hear about them!

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Books never die, but they can be forbidden.

Medeisia is a country in turmoil ruled by a blood thirsty king who has outlawed the use of magic and anything pertaining to knowledge. Magery and scribery are forbidden. All who practice are marked with a tattoo branded onto their wrists, their futures precarious.

Sixteen year-old Drastona Consta-Mayria lives secluded, spending her spare time in the Archives of her father’s manor surrounded by scribes. She wants nothing more than to become one of them, but when the scribes are royally disbanded, she is thrust into a harsh world where the marked must survive or die

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

Read my review of Mark of the Mage

Download Mark of the Mage for free! (perma-free)

Review: Mark of the Mage (Scribes of Medeisia, #1) by R.K. Ryals @RKRyals

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Books never die, but they can be forbidden.

Medeisia is a country in turmoil ruled by a blood thirsty king who has outlawed the use of magic and anything pertaining to knowledge. Magery and scribery are forbidden. All who practice are marked with a tattoo branded onto their wrists, their futures precarious.

Sixteen year-old Drastona Consta-Mayria lives secluded, spending her spare time in the Archives of her father’s manor surrounded by scribes. She wants nothing more than to become one of them, but when the scribes are royally disbanded, she is thrust into a harsh world where the marked must survive or die.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of 5 stars

I have so many feelings right now. This book put me through an emotional meat grinder and must be what Ron Weasley meant when he said “you’re going to suffer, but you’re going to be happy about it.” I wasn’t really sure if I would like the story when I started, but I became very attached to the characters very quickly and there were dragons. How am I supposed to resist dragons?

The plot:

This book was a quick, easy read and I appreciate that. Not all of us have eight hour blocks to devote to the literary pursuits (though I have been known to take eight hour blocks) and this story packs a lot of twists, suspense, danger, magic, and hints of romance into a relatively small space. The world building wasn’t dumped on all at once, but built up gradually, and there was enough emotional angst to give me a tight feeling in my chest through most of it.

The characters:

Drastona, or Stone, is the narrator of the story, a prophesied savior alleged destined to liberate her country from the tyranny of a cruel despot. She was a good balance of a character. While she wasn’t the damsel in distress who needs constant rescuing, she also wasn’t the kick@$$ heroine who can get easily overrated. She could be frustrating at times, but I adored her and it’s just a matter of time before I go and download the next book in this series.

Kye was an interesting character in that he was haunted by things he’d done, but the circumstances under which he’d done them were a bit unusual. (It makes sense in context.) He’s one of those characters I just want to take away from the author until she’s nice to him…poor baby.

The two dragons we meet are a father and son pair—the dragon rex, Feras, and his son, Lochlen. While they were fierce and powerful as befitting dragons, they were also endowed with a sense of humor to offset it. I thought Ms. Ryals’ portrayal of their species was excellent and it only served to once again make me wish I lived somewhere that they existed.

There is a while cast I haven’t mentioned and you’ll have to read it yourself to meet them, but overall, the characters in this book were concise and succinct. There wasn’t an overburdening of detail, but there was still enough for us to get to know them.

This was a wonderful YA true fantasy and the world (at least mine) needs more of these.

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Review: Seraphina (Seraphina, #1) by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina (Seraphina, #1)

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina’s tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they’ve turned the final page.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of 5 stars

Ah, a true fantasy! This was a fun, exciting read full of intrigue, secrets, and mystery. It is a bit unusual for a fantasy novel in that it doesn’t have anything that could really be called magic in it in spite of the dragons and supernatural events that occur in association with them. Rachel Hartman crafted an original and interesting world with a very different take on dragons that I found fascinating. There were many vivid and gorgeous descriptions that made me pause and read them over again, they were so poetic. I would like to get into an in-depth theological debate with her as to the impractical religious beliefs of the Goreddi, but I still thought she deserved credit for coming up with a new theology for her world. (Though I don’t buy the whole thing about dragons not having souls. I mean, how do they know? Has anyone ever died, searched the afterlife for dragons and returned to report their findings? Hmm?)

The plot:

Quick, suspenseful with a few laughs for seasoning, this was definitely a tale worth reading. I got into it easily and lost plenty of sleep over the pages. It does not end in a cliffhanger, but I do look forward to the upcoming books and yearn with an unrelenting passion for everyone to have their respective HEAs.

The characters:

It’s easy to guess as to Seraphina’s heritage just by reading the blurb, but it was enjoyable to watch her try to cope with the strange legacies left her by her late dragon mother. Seraphina has lived her whole life trying to go unnoticed, but her inquisitive nature and exceptional talents take her invariably into positions of spectacle. She was a character who was easy to sympathize with and watching her learn to accept herself and what she was over the course of the story was touching.

Lucian Kiggs has to be one of my favorite characters of late. Inquisitive like Seraphina, they find themselves drawn together by circumstance. He appreciates her perception and intelligence and she appreciates his sense of propriety. I thought it was interesting how they both held anger against their mothers for running off with their fathers because each had problems in their lives because of it. Granted, Lucian doesn’t have scales wrapped around his waist and arm, but he does have the unwelcome title of “bastard” and the gossip and prejudice that comes with it. I enjoyed watching how they both came to understand in the end what kind of love makes people throw everything away and yet, they still decide to be honorable and go about things “Kiggs and Seraphina style.”

I loved Seraphina’s uncle, Orma. It was hilarious how he kept asking Seraphina about human interaction (things like greetings and farewells) and it was simply adorable to watch him play the protective uncle whenever she was in danger. He was clever, intelligent, and clearly experiencing far more love, happiness, and human emotions than he was supposed to. I do hope we get to see more of him because he’ll be sorely missed otherwise!

I would never have guessed where the villain was hiding and kudos to Ms. Hartman for surprising me!

All in all, an enjoyable fantasy tale of self-acceptance and intrigue and I certainly recommend to fans of the genre interested in a new take on dragons!

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