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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Review: Final Advent (No Angels, #3) by Eli Hinze @Eli_Hinze

Death overshadows everyone at some point, but for Liz Patrona that time comes far too soon. Word comes that Wily, her ruthless enemy, survived being thrown into the Black River and crossed into Geminus to usurp the kingdom’s throne. Now his sights rest firmly on her world. Knowing Liz is the only threat in his path, he curses her to die in one year’s time—unless she can kill him before the clock runs out. In the months she has left, she must travel into Geminus, forge precarious alliances with those who’ve survived Wily’s reign, and battle for her very survival. Yet what lies in Geminus may be more than she bargained for. In these foreign lands looms a sinister secret about her own past. Something that has been guiding her from her first breaths to her final steps.

In the long-awaited conclusion to the No Angels trilogy, Liz is pushed one last time to discover the bounds of how far she’s willing to go to protect those she loves—even if it means losing herself along the way.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of 5 stars

Endings are always hard to read. This is the last in a trilogy I’ve been following since No Angels was just a newborn baby book. I have watched this author with rapt attention and I am so glad to say she has only gotten better.

We meet a whole new plethora of races, new characters, and a new (or is he?) villain, too. There are some wonderfully imaginative creatures and structures brought into play here and that was one of my favorite parts. Not to spoil anything but—STONE ENTS.

The plot:

This baby comes out to 362 pages, but I read through it in three sittings. It moves quickly, but remains fully fleshed out and multidimensional. There was a sense of impending doom with this story, just because of THE END in sight and the premise of Liz having limited time to live. That was something new to me for this series, but to be expected at the close.

The characters:

Liz started in book one with all the mushy ferocity of the Pillsbury dough boy. She’s now a glorious wielder of distilled badassdom, but retains that kindness and softness so many “strong female characters” lose. I was delighted with the balance.

One of my favorite things about this series is the relationship between Liz and Riven. I mean, a lot of these warrior romances in YA books can get borderline (or outright) abusive, but none of that here! There is a beautiful equality in their relationship and I could blather about it on and on. Even with the impending doom of the story, their romance had me all giggly.

At just around a quarter in, we are introduced to Leon who is now one of my favorite characters in the whole trilogy. Mixing tragedy, badassery, and a lovely romance subplot, Leon has all the traits I can’t resist. I realized that the author has been planning to bring in him and Vita since the beginning and that made is SO MUCH MORE AWESOME!

Mark is still here and I am SO GLAD the author actually gave him a life. He deserves one. Usually, the “best friend” character ends up miserable, lonely, and/or overshadowed by the awesomeness of his/her counterpart. Not so with Mark. He has a bright human future ahead, is autonomous, and a self-motivated character—I was so happy.

There were sad parts, happy parts, and an overall feeling of bittersweet. It was a wonderful conclusion to a wonderful series and I cannot wait to see what the author does next.

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Read my reviews of No Angels and Collapsed Cathedrals

Review: Cage of Deceit (Reign of Secrets, #1) by Jennifer Anne Davis @AuthorJennifer

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Jennifer Anne Davis’s best-selling True Reign series captivated readers from the very first page. Now, get ready to become entangled in the follow-up series, Reign of Secrets. In this new series, follow Allyssa, the daughter of the beloved Emperor Darmik and Empress Rema— and find out what happens after happily ever after.

Seventeen-year-old Allyssa appears to be the ideal princess of Emperion—she’s beautiful, elegant, and refined. She spends her days locked in a suffocating cage, otherwise known as royal court. But at night, Allyssa uses her secret persona—that of a vigilante—to hunt down criminals and help her people firsthand.

Unfortunately, her nightly escapades will have to wait because the citizens of Emperion may need saving from something much bigger than common criminals. War is encroaching on their country and in order to protect her people, Allyssa may have to sacrifice her heart. Forced to entertain an alliance through marriage with a handsome prince from a neighboring kingdom, she finds herself feeling even more stifled than before. To make matters worse, the prince has stuck his nosy squire, Jarvik, to watch her every move.

Jarvik is infuriating, bossy and unfortunately, the only person she can turn to when she unveils a heinous plot. Together, the unlikely pair will have to work together to stop an enemy that everyone thought was long gone, one with the power to destroy her family and the people of Emperion. Now the cage Allyssa so longed to break free from might just be the one thing she has to fight to keep intact. In order to save her kingdom, she will have to sacrifice her freedom, her heart, and maybe even her life.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of  5 stars

I was a huge fan of the previous companion series to this, True Reign, and that made me twice as nervous to pick this up. I was more than a little scared this wouldn’t live up to the huge precedent set by the first series and so I put it off for months. The last book in the previous trilogy didn’t quite live up to the sheer awesome of the first two, which made it even worse.

Then finally, I picked this up one evening, thinking I’d just read “a few chapters” and call it a night. That endeavor ended at 12:38 a.m. with a cliffhanger, a finished book, and a revitalized fangirl. THE AWESOME IS STRONG WITH THIS ONE.

The plot:

One of my favorite things about Davis’ plots is how they slip away. You get so caught up in what’s happening that suddenly it’s been two hundred pages and you didn’t even notice. They move quickly and don’t waste time, which is an underrated quality, particularly in fantasy books.

There was also a bit of the “aw” romance I adored so much in the first trilogy and I certainly did not mind that. <3

The characters:

I wasn’t sure about Allyssa at first. I knew it was either going to be hit or miss with her—no middle ground was possible. The author managed to make her have certain similarities to her mother, but at the same time, she’s clearly her own person. I came to admire and adore her and it’s impossible not to root for her. She was definitely a hit.

Rema and Darmik made me go “come on, guys” more than once, but the whole arranged marriage thing didn’t make me hate them as much as I thought it would. After reading the first trilogy, it felt a little hypocritical of them, but the book makes you understand. I still love them just as I love Allyssa with her prince and I NEED THE NEXT BOOK.

I also want to see more of my old buddy Nathanek. The author has promised to bring him back with an apprentice who will play and important role and that’s just another reason I need book 2.

The world of Emperion is back with a vengeance and I love it!

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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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Review: City of Blaze (The Fireblade Array, #1) by H.O. Charles @HOCharles

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Fantasy Romance Epic.

The city is crumbling beneath a mountain of indulgences. Its soldiers find entertainment in the beds of the castle’s servants rather than fight, believing they are safe from the deadly embrace of wielders. Wars are fought to encourage otherwise absent mortality, and countless citizens suffer the terrible pangs of nalka – the hunger for intimacy. All the while, Cadra’s king concerns himself with choosing which of his disappointing concubines to execute next. The duty falls upon his son, Morghiad, to restore the city’s strength and the army’s purpose. As Morghiad attempts to do just that, he uncovers darker horrors and encounters a young servant who could either be his greatest ally or his greatest hindrance.

City of Blaze is a story of changing allegiances, self-control and love.

Includes glossary of terms

 Blurb and cover from Goodreads

4 out of 5 stars

It’s no secret I’ve fallen behind on my reviews, but I read this baby last autumn and it’s taken me this long to tell you lot about it. (Yes, I’m a horrible blogger. Bad me.)

I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I started the book. I grabbed it under the old cover (without the seminude man) because it was Epic Fantasy and it was free for Kindle and that combination is like a siren song to me. It sat around on my Kindle for Lord knows how long before I read it, but once I did, I got involved, I got emotional, I became invested. Next thing you know, I’m buying the second book, the third book. I’ve never read anything quite like this and it got its hooks in my brain.

The thing to be aware of when reading this is that it truly is an epic. The tale spans several years and takes us through a great deal of character development. The book takes commitment to finish, but I found it exceptionally worth it. Not to mention the world building and the rules of the world are about as original as I have seen. It was so different, so thought out, it’s pretty much impossible not to be impressed.

The plot:

I’ll admit I was kind of stumped about this for a while. My inner editor was trying to identify the exact plot and I couldn’t, so I just stuffed my inner editor into a cupboard and decided to enjoy the story.

It might seem like the plot meanders a bit, but I actually didn’t mind. There was plenty of action and I got hooked on the romance, though I’m going to take that opening and tell everyone that this is not Young Adult. There were some pretty intense lead-ups to sex scenes and I’m going to assume those parts of the scenes were also intense because I still maintain my practice of sex-scene-skipping. (Yes, I’m nearly 20 and still do that, shut up.)

The characters:

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Artemi at first. I was certain that I wasn’t going to like her because in general if a girl is playing two different men at once (which she kind of did, but kind of didn’t), I tend to get upset. However, we ended up getting along quite nicely and I really want to ask the author on where her name came from.

As for Morghiad, I think we can safely say that he has joined the ranks of my babies (a hypothetical collective of fictional characters over which I am viciously protective). He seems to have this masochistic belief that he’s horrible, which doesn’t go away—at least not in the first two books. But he’s a sweet chap overall, so we’ll cut him a break.

This review is running a bit long, but I just want to mention Silar—whom I didn’t like at first, but who grew on me. There are also several different antagonists who provide varied amounts of antagonization at different parts of the story and the book has an open ending—which is code for “cliffhanger,” so be ye warned.

Looking back, I’m not really sure what I loved most about this book. I finished reading and the characters kept bouncing around in my head until I broke down on downloaded the sequel. I truly did enjoy this and am very excited to see what lies in store for the series.

P.S. It’s free on all eBook venues I’ve checked!

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Review: Redemption (The Captive, #5) by Erica Stevens @EricaStevensCGP

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This is the fifth book in The Captive Series. It is a stand alone novel however it is recommended that the other books in the series be read. Available now!

A year has passed since the war against Jack’s father that freed the humans from their roles as blood slaves and servants to the vampire race. Having left the palace behind in order to ensure that the outer towns are obeying the new laws, Jack struggles to come to terms with the grief and haunting memories that drove him from the palace in the first place. He’s content to lose himself in the outer lands and the obscurity that they offer him. That is, until he encounters Hannah.

Growing up in the small town of Chippman, Hannah had long ago accepted the fact that she would never leave it. When Jack walks into her life, and turns it upside down, she quickly realizes that not everything is what she’d believed it to be. Knowing that Jack will reject her if he learns the truth about her, Hannah struggles to fight her growing attraction to him. For though the town of Chippman seems normal on the outside, its residents harbor secrets that they’ve taken great pains to keep hidden. Secrets that have forced the town to live under the rule of the one man that could tear Jack and Hannah apart forever.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of 5 stars
By far the best book yet! Don’t get me wrong, I adored Braith and Aria (still do), but the plot, development, dialogue—the everything—the writing style has gone through such an evolution that it’s mind blowing.

The plot:
I had to force myself to put down my Kindle at 1:00 a.m. I nearly murdered my family because they wouldn’t let me read. I couldn’t stop thinking about this book no matter what I was doing. The plot grabbed me by the throat and dragged me through without a second’s rest. The “squee” moments and the “hell no” moments were mixed together with perfect balance to keep my eyeballs affixed to my screen. Highest marks here.

The characters:
In books 3-4, we get brief glimpses into Jack’s psyche, usually when he’s thinking about the war or trying to navigate Braith’s volcanic temper regarding Aria. In this book, we delve much, much deeper, exploring how Jack ended up with the rebels to begin with, and what goes on in that head of his. A lot of it I would never have guessed and it was all the more fun for it.

I adored Hannah! She’s tough, determined, but also has a plethora of insecurities due to her “defect” and the lifestyle she was raised into. She and Jack are beautiful together and they’re one of those couples to make the fangirls squee and scream with delight.

Some of the characters from the earlier books also make an appearance and I was a little surprised to see them again. There was one point where I was thinking “Braith and Aria—leave! This is Hannah and Jack’s story now!” But they fit in nicely and it was kind of funny to see Jack come to understand just what it is Braith went through when he lost Aria. (The “how did you not kill me” conversation was so funny!)

I have received word that there will be a sixth book—one dedicated to Aria’s brother, William. I’m a little hesitant, but then I was hesitant with this one. I have high hopes and it looks like I will be a fan of this series for some time yet!

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Review: The Good Knight (Gareth and Gwen Medieval Mysteries, #1) by Sarah Woodbury @SarahWoodbury

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Intrigue, suspicion, and rivalry among the royal princes casts a shadow on the court of Owain, king of north Wales… The year is 1143 and King Owain seeks to unite his daughter in marriage with an allied king. But when the groom is murdered on the way to his wedding, the bride’s brother tasks his two best detectives—Gareth, a knight, and Gwen, the daughter of the court bard—with bringing the killer to justice. And once blame for the murder falls on Gareth himself, Gwen must continue her search for the truth alone, finding unlikely allies in foreign lands, and ultimately uncovering a conspiracy that will shake the political foundations of Wales.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

4 out of 5 stars
This was a deviation from my usual reading material in that it is neither Young Adult nor Fantasy. Nonetheless, it was free for Kindle and had “knight” in the title. I decided to give it a shot and what I got was certainly worth the read!

The plot:
This is a mystery set in medieval Wales with enough twists to keep me guessing. There’s a dash of romance, a good dose of action, and enough historical fact to make it authentic, but not overwhelming. Despite this being a little different from my normal literary fare, it was a good read and a reminder of why I used to love mystery.

The characters:
Gwen is a bard’s daughter who is also a spy for the king’s youngest son, Hwyll. She was a strong heroine who has her head on straight and her feet firmly on the ground and is clever to boot. I did like her and the side romance between her and Gareth was sweet, but not prominent enough to distract from the main story—the murder mystery.

There is this one part where Gareth is called a “good knight,” thus giving the story its name. He is one of those loyal, steadfast characters with a past he’d rather be without. He is also in the confidences of Hwyll, who gave him a sort of second chance after a conflict drove him to be a mercenary seven years before. I thought Gareth was a likeable individual overall and I did my fair share of worrying about him as the story progressed.

I’m not going to tell you about the other characters because this is a mystery after all and we wouldn’t want to spoil anything. I’ll just say that Ms. Woodbury did a good job of showing the mindset of the era and didn’t sugar coat anyone. I thought this was an excellent story and I recommend it to fans of historical fiction or even just mystery.

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