Review: Burning Shadows (Order of the Krigers, #2) by Jennifer Anne Davis @AuthorJennifer

The Order of the Krigers has risen.

Determined to destroy the Order, the vicious king, Morlet, scours the land searching for the twelve chosen ones. He burns entire villages hoping to crush the Krigers.

He has other plans for Kaia.

In order to end the curse, Kaia must conceive a child before the Krigers can kill Morlet. However, Kaia doesn’t know if the father is supposed to be her fiancé, Vidar, or his brother, the evil king. Determined to find the answer, she sets off to the other side of the mountains with Anders. Stifling her growing feelings for the assassin, Kaia unearths secrets that force her to reevaluate her cause. Can she sacrifice so much of herself to save the kingdom of Nelebek? Can she kill Morlet when she is starting to understand and even sympathize with him? And is there really any choice at all, especially when it comes to matters of the heart?

With newfound power, Kaia’s heart and mind are entwined with the realization that choices come with a price, passion can rival hatred, and an evil looms on the horizon, more sinister than she ever imagined.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

4 out of 5 stars

The first book in this series was a bit of a disappointment for me after the author’s stellar True Reign and Reign of Secrets series, but we’re back, baby! The Rema/Allyssa books are still my favorite. Nonetheless, the author’s god-given genius is much more pronounced here. The first book in this series was published with Month 9 and this one is self-published (go indies!), another explanation for why this story felt more authentic, I think.

The plot:

We’re back to the less predictable  storyline style of the beloved True Reign series I keep mentioning. It was more difficult for me to predict what would happen and I liked that. I do wish there had been more focus on a clearer build/climax, but that damnable love triangle is (mostly) gone, thank God.

The characters:

I liked Kaia more in this one. A LOT more. She has autonomy and has started talking back to Vidar (YES). She also balances between the whole acceptance of her fate and maintaining ownership of her life. I was impressed with how that was handled and like I said, MUCH better than the previous book. In the last one, she lets that jerk Vidar pressure her into an engagement and it made me SO ANGRY. I WAS SALTY FOR MONTHS AND I’M STILL MAD AND…*deep breath* Everything’s better now. It’s okay. I’m okay.

Vidar and Morlet—the two immortal princes—are still both pieces of work in their own way. Morlet is the mass murderer driven by evil magic and Vidar is the control-freak, “Kaia must marry me because reasons” heir to the throne. Guess which one I like more? Yes—Morlet.

There was a great deal more explanation for Morlet’s actions. His mood swings and irrational behavior are suddenly quite understandable and I might even be liking him more than Anders *gasp*. Keyword there is “might” and it depends on what happens in book three.

On a minor note, I did like that Allyssa got another girl as a friend in this one. Bonus points for not making the warrior girl have all guy friends, definitely.

In summation, I was impressed with how much better the author did on her own versus with a publisher. I think most the little things that knocked this down from 5 stars—odd twists and circling in the story, one or two rocky transitions—were the results of leading the story back over to a plot truer to the original vision. Even with this issues, this is a definite recommended read from me.

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Rise (Order of the Krigers, #1) by Jennifer Anne Davis

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00011]The people of Nelebek live in fear of persecution from the evil Morlet, who reigns with a dark and destructive magic. The kingdom’s only hope lies with the Order of the Krigers—twelve warriors with mysterious powers linked to magical weapons.

For over a century, Morlet has been annihilating the Order, picking them off one by one. Eleven Krigers have been hunted down, tortured, and imprisoned in his dungeon. Now, only one remains.

Sixteen-year-old Kaia survives by keeping her head down and minding her own business. But when she finds herself in the middle of a public execution where the mysterious Morlet is in attendance, an odd compulsion she can’t resist comes over her.

Kaia looks into Morlet’s eyes.

Soon, an ancient power awakens and Kaia can no more blend into the scenery. Will she heed the call of the Krigers or will Morlet’s dark magic destroy the last of the Order?

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

3.5 out of 5 stars

Honest review, right? Okay. This is going to hurt me a lot more than you, but okay.

I love this author, truly, and her debut novel was knock-your-socks-off awesomesauce, but I just felt like this piece didn’t have that level of nuance. I’ve come to expect a great deal more because I know she’s capable of incredible pieces and with another round of revision I think this could have been a fantastic book, but I’ve got to evaluate it as-is. (It’s like 4-H horse judging all over again.)

The plot:

There was an intriguing premise here, but a few things that seemed a little contrived. At the very beginning, it seemed odd that Kaia just so happens to be the one sent to meet Anders who just so happens to pick the (very public) square as a meeting place as Morlet just so happens to be at an execution. All of that could have been smoothed out with just a few tweaks, but…oh, well. It was mostly little things like that building up that demoted this book from 5 stars.

Actually, most of the dings against this story came from the plot. In certain places, some characters seemed to behave out of character and coincidences occurred. There were times it almost seemed the story was bending over backwards in order to make sense.

The characters:

It’s hard to get a bead on Kaia’s character, but she’s having trouble understanding herself. She’s basically lived in a box her whole life, she doesn’t really know who or what she is. I did like that she’s gutsy and smart despite being a bit sheltered. I most loved the balance of her character and the conflict of who to trust—and how it made sense that she doubted the “good” guys. In many cases, the heroine/hero will mistrust the people who are trying to help them and you know they’re messing up, but in her case, I wasn’t quite sure. The thing I most hated about her was that she didn’t knee Vidar in his particulars, but I have my hopes up for the next book.

The subplot with aforementioned Vidar rankled me a lot little. It wasn’t just that I ship her with Anders (and shut up, I know everyone who read this book is on my side), but the way the Vidar subplot was handled made me uncomfortable. There were some kind of rape-y comments in there with the “that is what I will do” and “must” and he was really a jerk with regard to the whole thing. Then he SPOILER brings her father in on it in an effort to force her into marrying him (rat bastard) and Kaia’s father agrees because apparently the girl needs someone to take care of her even though he’s raised her to be strong and independent and every woman requires man to survive and that made me SO MAD ALL AROUND. SPOILER OVER.

*Envision a deep breath here*

Anyway, I didn’t count off for that, just for the perceived inconsistency with regard to her father’s character.

And yes, I loved Anders because he’s spooky and mysterious and an assassin and I’m into those right now. Still, I think my favorite character was Morlet.

Morlet seems pretty cut-and-paste fantasy villain from the blurb up there, but we don’t really have any idea what the hell is going on with him by the end. I feel like there’s almost two personas meshed together in that head of his, fighting over what’s going to happen. He was complicated and unpredictable, but never came across as irrational. He is a puzzle and I admit I’m incredibly intrigued.

One thing I truly appreciated was the little quirks that gave the story originality. There was the French-based world building (as opposed to the traditional medieval English fantasy world), the variety of weaponry, and the terminology were wonderfully fresh. It was little hints like this that reminded me of the author’s creative capability and made it all the most frustrating that this piece wasn’t as well composed as some of her other works.

In short, it could have been much better, but I still plan to read the sequels and this has not in any way dissuaded me from my obsession with the author’s work.

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{Interview} Jennifer Anne Davis, author of THE KEY @AuthorJennifer

Today I have the awesome, amazing author of the True Reign series as well as The Power to See and The Voice. The Key, the first in her young adult light fantasy series, is currently free on all channels, so grab it while you can!
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You are the author of the light Young Adult fantasy True Reign series as well as paranormal suspense and contemporary. Do you think there is a consistent theme or element in all your stories? What has led you to write such diverse genres?

There most definitely is a consistent element in all my stories, regardless of genre. I always write about a strong female character that is up against seemingly impossible odds. However, she is able to overcome adversity by believing in herself, never giving up, and learning to trust her family and/or friends. However, I will say that after writing such varying genres, I’ve discovered that my strength is in fantasy, and I plan to stick with these types of books in the future.

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What has been the biggest highlight of your career as an author?

Having my first book, The Voice, win some awards! I’m honored that it received an award from The Romance Writers of America a few years back, it’s a finalist in the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards (YA category), and the winner of the San Diego Book Awards: Best YA Novel. When I first started querying this book, I didn’t have much success. Many agents told me that no one would read a book about a broken girl who learns to overcome her past to be a role model for others. I finally found a publisher who believed in the story and I’m thrilled by the reception the book has received. It’s immensely gratifying.

Has there ever been a time when a reader drew a conclusion from one of your books that was completely different from what you intended? What was it?

Yes. For The Power to See, I’ve had some readers upset that it’s an actual book with a plot and not about sex. Since the main character is in her early twenties, the book falls into the illustrious New Adult category. Many people automatically assume the books is a romance novel, and that’s far from the case. The Power to See is a crime drama. While there is a romantic element in the novel, it is not the driving force of the book.

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Complete this sentence: Before I start writing a new novel, I must…

Think about the story and characters for a solid month before I can even think of writing. I have to get to know my characters, understand who they are, what their personality traits are, what they look like, etc. I think about them in different situation and settings until I get a good feel for the book and the plot starts to unfold in my mind.

Oddest thing to have inspired you:

That’s a tough one. I’m not sure. I know watching my kids at MMA makes me want to write a lot of kick-butt fight scenes.

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Will Scarlett or Robin Hood?

Will Scarlett

What’s a question you’ve always wanted to be asked in an interview? What’s your answer?

Honestly, I don’t know. I am a very private, quiet, boring person. Interviews typically frighten me because they take me out of my comfort zone.

Bonus question: Can you tell us anything about what to expect in the True Reign spinoff series?

I’ve just started to write the synopsis for that one! I don’t want to give too much away, but the story will be told from Allyssa’s point of view (first person). Allyssa is Rema and Darmik’s daughter. She will be the strongest female character I’ve ever written and I can’t wait for you to meet her! She is going to be loads of fun to write.

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Also, Nathenek will play a major role in the book as well. He acquires a unique apprentice who causes all sorts of mischief in the book. The evil villain will be someone you don’t expect! The spinoff will be filled with action, adventure, and some sweet romance.

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Jennifer graduated from the University of San Diego with a degree in English and a teaching credential. Afterwards, she finally married her high school sweetheart. She is currently a full-time writer and mother of three highly energetic children. Her days are spent living in imaginary worlds and fueling her own kids’ creativity.
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Review: War (True Reign, #3) by Jennifer Anne Davis

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When Rema chose to be crowned queen and join the rebel forces, she knew she’d face the fight of her life. What she didn’t expect was to be kidnapped by an Emperion assassin and taken to the mainland to be executed in front of the emperor. How can she save Greenwood Island if she can’t even save herself?

Darmik knows he doesn’t have much time to rescue Rema. He’s denounced his position as Commander and Prince in order to join the rebels. But now he must rely on his family name in order to go before the Emperor—his uncle—and beg for Rema’s life.

If Rema and Darmik have any hope of being together and saving their kingdom, they must survive the greatest threat of all—Emperion.

This is the heart-pounding conclusion to The True Reign Series.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

3 out of 5 stars

“Disappointed” is too strong a word, so we’ll just say it wasn’t what I hoped. I enjoyed The Key, adored Яed, so I was hoping to be blown away by War, but I felt like the series kind of devolved. I am glad I read it for no other reason than I am happy to know how things turned out for my favorite characters. However, I think this may have missed a round of editing.

The plot:

I definitely think this book should have been about 100 pages longer. Things just felt too rushed, too quick, and it seemed like there were scenes missing. For one, defeating the three main villains felt far too easy. I’m not saying there should have been a grand scale battle that dragged on for chapters, but it was sort of like—smash, BOOM—ta-da! bad guys are dead.

I would have also liked to see a bit (a lot) more of the distrust and struggles in getting Darmik’s men, the rebels, and the Emperion soldiers to work together. It was only addressed in a few scenes and briefly and there was so much potential for conflict that was never utilized.

I admit I didn’t see the twist about Hamen’s illegitimate heir coming and that was handled well, but there were a lot of other twists that I didn’t think were properly foreshadowed/handled (i.e. Phallek’s dagger).

There were several deaths I know I was supposed to be sad about, but I really wasn’t because I never liked those characters in the first place. Yeah, I felt bad when my favorite characters were upset and maybe I should have been more empathetic, but I’m still mad at :SPOILER: Kar and Maya for trying to marry off Rema after Mako gave them express orders not to (really, if I were Mako, I would be irked to no end—what right did they have to do that?) and Savenek for being just a generally snotty little whelp. Sorry. :SPOILER OVER:

The ending felt anticlimatic. I felt like there was still a lot unresolved about Emperion and Greenwood and how that was all going to work out. To me, this whole book felt like the bones of a story without the fat and meat to make it come to life.

The characters:

I still love Darmik and Rema to bits. It’ take more than one book to change that. Though I wanted Darmik to be more human/flawed. He has moments where he gets angry over petty things, mainly Savenek’s attention to Rema, but I wish there had been more dimension to his faults in this one.

Where I took the largest issue character-wise with Nathanek/Captain. I have decided I like him, but he just seemed way too forthcoming and open for his profession. In the first 20% of the book, he basically tells Rema—an enemy prisoner—his entire backstory or a good chunk of it. And it wasn’t even really pertinent to the plot. I like my assassins terse and scary and I think it would have been possible to humanize him without the soul-baring.

Don’t let the scathing fool you, I still enjoyed parts of this book. There were a few places were I squeed and grinned and even laughed. It could be that I just hate endings. I might have read this when I was in the wrong mood. Nonetheless, I still recommend the first two books in this series without hesitation. If you like them, well, then you’ll have to read this one.

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Review: Яed (True Reign, #2) by Jennifer Anne Davis @AuthorJennifer

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Sentenced to be executed.
Betrayed. Alone.
Hung on the gallows.
Rema thought her life was over, but she was wrong.

Saved by a rebel force she’d only ever heard rumors about, Rema finds herself in a forbidden place. She is finally safe—free from the king and Prince Lennek. But not everything is as it seems at the rebel fortress. Secrets are whispered, and loyalties are tested. Once Rema uncovers the truth of her heritage, will she flee? Or will she ascend to the throne, taking on the responsibility of an entire kingdom?

Now that Darmik knows Rema’s true identity, he’s on a quest to save her. But when an Emperion assassin arrives on Greenwood Island, Darmik knows he doesn’t have very long to find her. In a deadly game with high stakes, will Darmik remain loyal to his family? Or will he break away and join the rebels?

Kingdoms rise and fall.
Heroes are born and made.
But one thing remains the same—love conquers all

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of 5 stars
Shortly after starting this book, I decided the series is going on my very exclusive Shelf of Awesome. The first book had me biting my nails, pacing, making plans to subject certain characters *coughcoughLennekAndBarjoncoughcough* to unspeakable torments, and generally fangirling. The sequel did not disappoint and I will be at the head of the line for War this month.

The plot:
This series is very, very fast paced with less description and more action in the writing style. The plot is very “slender” with all unnecessary body fat (unimportant bits) trimmed off. In other words, if something happens, you’d best pay attention because it happened for a reason. There are a lot of places where things felt condensed and while that made for concise reading, I did wish for more description in certain places. But it wasn’t a big issue and it’s still clear what everyone looks like, how buildings are laid out, etc. This was a fast read despite its length and I think we can all appreciate a book that can be devoured in one sitting.

The characters:
I have liked Rema since book one and that certainly didn’t change here. Of course, I find her passion for equines particularly endearing and I love that the writer made her an independent, strong female without having her be kick@$$ or snarky. She has to sort through a lot of issues in this book and a lot of heavy revelations and I thought she took it rather well. Though, personally, I would have been a bit more miffed at Mako for lying to me. Make that a lot more miffed. Rema is far more reasonable than me.

As for Darmik—I adore him, okay? I’m a sucker for bad@$$ good boys. He too has to sort out buckets and buckets of choices, morality, and feelings in this book. Poor baby. It takes him a little while to figure out what he plans to do, but once he does he commits to his decisions like a true military man. His relationships with his father and brother are displayed further in all their dysfunctional complexity, but I liked seeing more of the friendship between him and Neco. There was a little of it in the first book, but a much more of it here. And of course, Neco and Ellie were adorable. Not as adorable as Rema and Darmik, but still adorable.

In the description of the rebel army, there was one thing I took issue with. It says that what the female fighters lacked in the men’s strength, they made up for with superior speed. That’s well and good, except for the fact that all the research I’ve done says swiftness is by far more important. What I mean is, their male fighters need to get up to speed. (Pun intended. Micro-rant over.)

The other character I’ll mention (because this is getting a bit long) is Savenek. At first, I was terrified that the author was going to put in a love triangle. I was all prepared to scream in outrage and stomp my feet, but Ms. Davis was merciful. I did not and do not like Savenek—misogynistic, arrogant, whiny, troublemaking little brat that he is—but he’s a good fighter and ultimately means well, so I’ll refrain from completely hating him for the moment.

In summation, I love this series and I am torn about reading the final book. On one hand, I must know what happens. On the other, I don’t want it to end. I certainly recommend it!

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Review: The Key (True Reign, #1) by Jennifer Anne Davis @AuthorJennifer

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Within these pages lie kingdoms with castles and princes who fall in love with fair maidens, but make no mistake−this is no fairytale.

His father’s kingdom is on the brink of upheaval and at the center of it all is an ordinary girl who could be the key to its undoing. When faced with the ultimate choice, will he choose the girl he’s falling in love with or the kingdom he has sworn to protect?

An ordinary girl with an extraordinary past. All she wants is to be free. What she doesn’t realize is that freedom comes with a price she can’t afford to pay. She’s forced to accept the proposal of a prince she despises, even though her heart belongs to someone else . . . his brother.

Seventeen-year-old Rema lives in a brutal kingdom where travel between regions is forbidden, people are starving, and looking at someone the wrong way can mean death. Nineteen-year-old Darmik is the king’s son and Commander of the King’s Army. He spends his days roving the island, doing his father’s bidding and trying to maintain control over the people.

When a chance encounter throws Rema and Darmik together, they share an instantaneous connection, but any sort of relationship between them is strictly forbidden. Darmik’s brother, the Crown Prince, notices Darmik’s interest in Rema and, in a calculated, political move, blackmails her. Faced with an impossible choice, Rema is forced to sacrifice her heart in order to save her family.

As Rema is taken to the palace with the Crown Prince, Darmik confronts the growing rumor that a legitimate blood heir to the throne exists and is trying to overthrow Darmik’s family. In Darmik’s quest to hunt down and kill the threat, he discovers that nothing is as it seems. Locked in the king’s castle, Rema finds herself a key player in a massive power struggle. When Darmik shows up, she’s not sure if she can trust him. The line between friends, enemies, and loyalty becomes blurred. As truths are unlocked, Rema understands that she just might be the key to finding the rightful heir and restoring peace to the kingdom… if she can manage to stay alive long enough.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of 5 stars

It was love at first sight, the moment I saw that cover. (I am a sucker for swords and mysterious arches and all that, okay? Okay.) I’ve wanted to read this since it came out and when the chance came to grab it for free…well, how was I supposed to resist? It was simple. I couldn’t.

The plot:

This book is surprisingly short or at least it felt that way. Goodreads seems to be under the impression that it’s 342 printed pages, but I read it in a rather short amount of time. Maybe that was thanks to the succinct storytelling, not sure. There were parts of this that I actually thought should have been longer and/or had more description, just because I thought things went a little too fast. Yet the plot itself didn’t seem to suffer for it, so I suppose I can’t count off for that.

Readers should be forewarned that this book ends in a bloody cliffhanger that will make you scream at the book and demand where the next one is. If the second hadn’t already been released, I would be very deeply unamused.

The characters:

There are two perspectives in this book with the chapters alternating between Rema and Darmik.

Rema was a sweet girl with a strong sense of morality, a hidden strength, and a great love of horses. (The latter earned her instant likeability from yours truly.) She stood up to the royals and showed a lot of courage, but there were still parts where she fell to pieces—realistically so. Yet the scenes where she was breaking down were done well enough to never make her seem weak, just to make you hate the rotten guts of Darmik’s father and brother (and just a little bit of Darmik at some parts, too).

Darmik was the character I both wanted to hug and slap. At the core, he means well, he just goes about doing what’s best for the country the whole wrong way. Someone needs to get him to open his eyes to the truth, but he’s still one of those irresistible characters you can’t help root for even when he’s in the wrong. And regardless, I still love the poor slob to bits.

I don’t think was an overabundance of detailed development of the side characters besides the two protagonists and the two villains. They were fleshed out according to their importance, they just sort of paled to me in comparison to the leads. I am very fond of Neco and I heard he and Ellie are a couple in Red and think they could be so cute! Anyway…

As for the main villains—King Barjon and Prince Lennek—I may or may not have made plans to drop them off at a Mord Sith temple for the horrible fate they deserve. They really didn’t have any redeeming qualities, aside from perhaps Lennek’s photogenic nature, and were essentially a pair of spoiled, whiny little girls with autarchic power.

To sum up, I shall simply say this—I’m counting down to payday so I can download Red!

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