Book Review – The Crow Rider

Title: The Crow Rider (The Storm Crow #2)

Author: Kalyn Josephson

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Publication date: July 9th, 2020

368 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

The thrilling conclusion to the epic Storm Crow duology that follows a fallen princess as she tries to bring back the magical elemental crows taken from her people.

Thia, her allies, and her crow, Res, are planning a rebellion to defeat Queen Razel and Illucia once and for all. Thia must convince the neighboring kingdoms to come to her aid, and Res’ show of strength is the only thing that can help her.

But so many obstacles stand in her way. Res excels at his training, until he loses control of his magic, harming Thia in the process. She is also pursued by Prince Ericen, heir to the Illucian throne and the one person she can’t trust but can’t seem to stay away from.

As the rebel group prepares for war, Res’ magic grows more unstable. Thia has to decide if she can rely on herself and their bond enough to lead the rebellion and become the crow rider she was meant to be. 

Review

Sequel to The Storm Crow (review linked if you missed it), The Crow Rider continues Thia’s journey to save Rhodaire from the invading Illucians. In this book we learn a lot more about the magic system and history of Rhodaire and the surrounding kingdoms, which was exactly what I was hoping for out of this book.

Without going into spoilers, I will say this book went about the way I expected it to. Of course there were curveballs, but it was mostly predictable within a typical YA fantasy novel. I was still really interesting in the world-building, though it’s weird it was mostly done in the conclusion novel not the beginning. I imagine Kalyn could return to this world pretty easily in the future and write more stories, and I would likely read them. As much as it is fairly predictable YA, I still love it – hence I read YA fantasies all the time! If this isn’t your jam, this might not be the duology for you.

I respect the way the romance went, again without saying anymore than that. I do feel like there were some strings that were not tied up by the end with supporting characters – but that’s where I again feel the author could use that to return to this world in the future.

Overall, I’m glad I continued on to read this one after feeling somewhat meh on the first book. If you do check this one out, I hope you enjoy it!

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Phoenix Flame

Title: Phoenix Flame (Havenfall #1)

Author: Sara Holland

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Publication date: March 2nd, 2021

320 pages

4.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

After saving the inn at Havenfall from the wicked Silver Prince, Maddie thought all her problems were over. The Silver Prince has been banished, her uncle the beloved Innkeeper is slowly recovering from a mysterious coma, and there are still a few weeks of summer left to spend with her handsome more-than-just-a-friend Brekken.

But danger still looms and Maddie soon realises there’s more work to be done to protect Havenfall, the safe haven between worlds that her family has run for centuries. Maddie must embark on a dangerous mission: to venture into the icy Realm of Fiordenkill and put an end to the black market trading of souls that threatens the balance of the Realms.

As Maddie tries to accomplish these seemingly impossible tasks, she stumbles upon family secrets that could change everything. What if saving everyone means destroying the only home she’s ever known?

Review

Phoenix Flame is the amazing conclusion to the Havenfall, a story about a young girl working to save the Inn that serves as the neutral territory between many different worlds. Maddie is back in this book after saving the Inn, but there is a new challenge in her path. Maddie must figure out who, and what, is most important to her to save, because she might not be able to save it all.

I LOVED this sequel. I enjoyed this book even more than Havenfall, I feel like there was a lot more action and intrigue happening, and was far better paced. I liked the additional characters added to bring some dimension and further the story in ways I didn’t expect. I felt more engaged and interested in this book, and I really didn’t even put it down, even though I should have to get sleep!

I feel like the ending was left open to allow a return to the world in the future, which I generally enjoy. The story is wrapped up however, except for one character’s story line – which is why I say it’s possible there could be a return to this world. Or, it’s just left up to the reader to interpret what happened – which is also possible. Also, at the end you get a chapter from a different POV, which was very interesting!

You should definitely check out this duology if you enjoyed Sara’s Everless duo or A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer.

Thank you to Bloomsbury YA and Netgalley for an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – The Storm Crow

Title: The Storm Crow (The Storm Crow #1)

Author: Kalyn Josephson

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Publication date: July 9th, 2019

352 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Eragon meets And I Darken in this thrilling new fantasy debut that follows a fallen princess as she ignites a rebellion to bring back the magical elemental crows that were taken from her people.

In the tropical kingdom of Rhodaire, magical, elemental Crows are part of every aspect of life…until the Illucian empire invades, destroying everything.

That terrible night has thrown Princess Anthia into a deep depression. Her sister Caliza is busy running the kingdom after their mother’s death, but all Thia can do is think of all she has lost.

But when Caliza is forced to agree to a marriage between Thia and the crown prince of Illucia, Thia is finally spurred into action. And after stumbling upon a hidden Crow egg in the rubble of a rookery, she and her sister devise a dangerous plan to hatch the egg in secret and get back what was taken from them.

Review

The Storm Crow is a YA Fantasy with magical crows, each different type of crow has control over a different element. Very similar to Eragon, where there are Crow Riders that make up Rhodaire’s army. But one day, the realm of Illucia invades and set fire to all of the crows. Without their support, Rhodaire has no way to fight off Illucia’s continued attacks so Queen Caliza must set a betrothal between Prince Ericen and Princess Anthia. But, Thia is in a deep depression due to losing the crows and her mother during the attack. When Thia finds a Crow egg hidden she decides to try and save her kingdom, even if it means going up against Ericen.

I truly loved the magic and plot of this book. I also really respected the mental health representation with Thia being in a depression after her mother is killed. So many stories focus on the main character being thrust into the ruling position after parents are killed, and just get on with their lives. I loved that Thia wasn’t next in line for the throne and that she reacted realistically to a traumatic event. It was refreshing to read. I also loved Ericen character and their dynamic – he was a multi-faceted character and I definitely preferred him at times to the other male side character. In fact, all the supporting cast was interesting and had great arcs.

One thing. The ship I wanted to sail, did not sail. Now, I imagine this could happen in the next book, but it feels weird to start a romance with one character in this book and then quickly break if off to move onto the next one? So maybe the ship I want won’t sail. And that makes me sad. But I will be reading the next book to find out, and I really hope they go into more of the crow magic. Since the crows perished very early in this book, there wasn’t a lot of world-building or explanation of the magic system, it was mostly plotting and scheming against Illucia. Which was great, but I want to know more about the world too.

I hope you do pick this up if you loved Eragon. Trigger warnings for : depression, death of parents, abuse, PTSD responses, murder.

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – The Bird and the Sword

Title: The Bird and the Sword (The Bird and the Sword Chronicles #1)

Author: Amy Harmon

Publisher: CreateSpace

Publication date: May 6th, 2016

328 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Swallow, Daughter, pull them in, those words that sit upon your lips. Lock them deep inside your soul, hide them ‘til they’ve time to grow. Close your mouth upon the power, curse not, cure not, ‘til the hour. You won’t speak and you won’t tell, you won’t call on heav’n or hell. You will learn and you will thrive. Silence, Daughter. Stay alive.

The day my mother was killed, she told my father I wouldn’t speak again, and she told him if I died, he would die too. Then she predicted the king would trade his soul and lose his son to the sky.

My father has a claim to the throne, and he is waiting in the shadows for all of my mother’s words to come to pass. He wants desperately to be king, and I just want to be free.

But freedom will require escape, and I’m a prisoner of my mother’s curse and my father’s greed. I can’t speak or make a sound, and I can’t wield a sword or beguile a king. In a land purged of enchantment, love might be the only magic left, and who could ever love . . . a bird?

Review

I picked up The Bird and the Sword as part of my intention to do 12 Reads from 12 Friends this year – and it was January’s pick! I was so intrigued by this book, and am so glad I started off this challenge with this book. I truly enjoyed the fairy tale like writing style, the super interesting characters, and unique magic system.

Lark hasn’t spoken since her mother died, when she cursed her to save her life. When Lark is claimed by the King in order to punish her father, Lark begins to learn more after she spent her life under her father’s tyrannical rule. She becomes closer to the King as he teaches her to read and gives her back the gift of words. When she does this, she relearns her magic, which is forbidden and illegal. But, the King has a similar secret – and they must work together to save each other.

Everything about this story drew me in. I also really loved the supporting character, who I believe is the star of the next book in the Chronicles. He was very complexly written and you could really see where he was coming from with everything that was going on with the King and Lark. The villain was amazing as well, it was also a total shock.

I highly recommend picking this one up, and I will definitely be continuing the series!

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Diamond City

Title: Diamond City (The City of Diamond and Steel #1)

Author: Francesca Flores

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Publication date: January 28th, 2020

400 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Good things don’t happen to girls who come from nothing…unless they risk everything.

Fierce and ambitious, Aina Solís as sharp as her blade and as mysterious as the blood magic she protects. After the murder of her parents, Aina takes a job as an assassin to survive and finds a new family in those like her: the unwanted and forgotten.

Her boss is brutal and cold, with a questionable sense of morality, but he provides a place for people with nowhere else to go. And makes sure they stay there.

DIAMOND CITY: built by magic, ruled by tyrants, and in desperate need of saving. It is a world full of dark forces and hidden agendas, old rivalries and lethal new enemies.

To claim a future for herself in a world that doesn’t want her to survive, Aina will have to win a game of murder and conspiracy—and risk losing everything.

Full of action, romance and dark magic, book one of Francesca Flores’ breathtaking fantasy duology will leave readers eager for more!

Review

Diamond City is the first book in the City of Diamond and Steel duology, and the sequel actually just released last month! You can read my review for Shadow City here. Our MC Aina is an assassin, trained by her boss to be a Blade after her parents are murdered. Aina is tasked with killing a wealthy merchant, but when things go wrong she finds herself on the run from her boss, the police, and other gangs. She teams up with the brother of her mark after he goes missing shortly after the botched assassination attempt. Aina finds herself in under her head with conspiracy, magic, and corruption.

The easy comparison for this duo is Throne of Glass and Graceling. Female assassins, no nonsense, badass, and competent murderers. There’s the beginning of a found family type story, with a lot of action. But the magic system in this book is very different, and not explained very well. It isn’t the main focus of the story, so there isn’t much background provided. I appreciate the mental growth Aina goes through during this story, as well as the unique arc of putting her in an alliance with the brother of the man she tried to kill. I found that very interesting as it played out.

There is almost no romance in this story. There is some subtle hinting to where a romance could go, but it’s the first YA Fantasy I’ve read in a long time that had no romance to speak of. It was a refreshing change of pace, and kept the story more focused on the plotting and action. I’m interested to see where the romances could possibly go in the sequel, if there is any!

If you’re looking for a Sarah J Maas esque story, this duo would be a great fit. There is morally grey characters and a lot of violence, so beware if gore isn’t your thing! Also, these covers are insanely gorgeous, yet simple, yet exactly portray the stories. Wednesday Design kills it again!

Happy reading, folks!

BLOG TOUR – Amelia Unabridged

Title: Amelia Unabridged

Author: Ashley Schumacher

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Publication date: February 16th, 2021

304 pages

5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Eighteen-year-old Amelia Griffin is obsessed with the famous Orman Chronicles, written by the young and reclusive prodigy N. E. Endsley. They’re the books that brought her and her best friend Jenna together after Amelia’s father left and her family imploded. So when Amelia and Jenna get the opportunity to attend a book festival with Endsley in attendance, Amelia is ecstatic. It’s the perfect way to start off their last summer before college.

In a heartbeat, everything goes horribly wrong. When Jenna gets a chance to meet the author and Amelia doesn’t, the two have a blowout fight like they’ve never experienced. And before Amelia has a chance to mend things, Jenna is killed in a freak car accident. Grief-stricken, and without her best friend to guide her, Amelia questions everything she had planned for the future.

When a mysterious, rare edition of the Orman Chronicles arrives, Amelia is convinced that it somehow came from Jenna. Tracking the book to an obscure but enchanting bookstore in Michigan, Amelia is shocked to find herself face-to-face with the enigmatic and handsome N. E. Endsley himself, the reason for Amelia’s and Jenna’s fight and perhaps the clue to what Jenna wanted to tell her all along.

Ashley Schumacher’s devastating and beautiful debut, Amelia Unabridged, is about finding hope and strength within yourself, and maybe, just maybe, falling in love while you do it.

Review

Amelia Unabridged hits the ground running and doesn’t let up until the very last words. This book was a full on, emotional journey that I needed several days to recover from – and I mean that in the BEST POSSIBLE WAY. This novel is raw, magical, and explores so many themes.

Amelia and her best friend Jenna are waiting to meet N.E. Endsley, the author of their favorite series, at a convention. He ends up pulling out of the panel he would be a part of, but not before meeting Jenna – but not Amelia. A few weeks later, Jenna is killed in a car accident, and Amelia is adrift without her. She gets sent a rare copy of their favorite book, and does what she can to track down who sent it to her. Along the way, Amelia just might find everything she’s been looking for.

This book made me so emotional. I spent A LOT of it crying uncontrollably. Ashley Schumacher’s writing style is emotional, magical, and devastating. I was floundering from chapter three on. But outside of the emotional aspect, there was also so much character development, and so many amazing characters! The side characters were amazing, but Amelia and Nolan are masterpieces. Also, I want to live in the bookstore that a lot of the book take place in. That is all.

Don’t even get me started on the epilogue. Read this book and take the harrowing, emotional journey.

Thank you to Wednesday Books and Netgalley for an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, and for including me in this blog tour!

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Blood Sworn

Title: Blood Sworn (Ashlords #2)

Author: Scott Reintgen

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers

Publication date: February 16th, 2021

400 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Three cultures clash in all out war–against each other and against the gods–in the second book of this fantasy duology that’s sure to capture fans of The Hunger Games and An Ember in the Ashes.

The Races are over. War has begun.

Ashlord and Longhand armies battle for control of the Empire as Dividian rebels do their best to survive the crossfire. This is no longer a game. It’s life or death.

Adrian, Pippa, and Imelda each came out of the Races with questions about their role in the ongoing feud. The deeper they dig, the clearer it is that the hatred between their peoples has an origin point: the gods.

Their secrets are long-buried, but one disgruntled deity is ready to unveil the truth. Every whisper leads back to the underworld. What are the gods hiding there? As the sands of the Empire shift, these heroes will do everything they can to aim their people at the true enemy. But is it already too late?

Review

Blood Sworn is the series finale in the Ashlords world, a world divided by race, wealth, and the gods. We have three main characters – Pippa, Adrian, and Imelda. An Ashlord, a Longhand, and a Dividian, each trying to fight for a better world. Set almost directly after the end of Ashlords, Blood Sworn continues the action and brings about new twists and even better, new magic.

The world building and imagery is phenomenal in this series. I appreciate that the Races are similar the Games without being too exact, and taking it a step further in the revolution plot line. The gods and magic system are unique and compelling. The plot went in ways I didn’t expect and didn’t see coming, and I kept getting thrown for more and more loops up until the very end. The characters are all so different but well defined, and you completely understand each of their motivations.

There was something missing from this book for me, and I can’t quite explain what that is. I almost feel like the pacing was too quick, and needed more quiet moments to set up the action. There is a hint of a romance too, very subtly, and it was AMAZING, but I always love more romance.

I highly suggest this series, specifically this sequel, to YA Fantasy fans out there.

Thank you to Crown Books for Young Readers and Netgalley for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Ashlords

Title: Ashlords (Ashlords #1)

Author: Scott Reintgen

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers

Publication date: January 21st, 2020

368 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Red Rising meets The Scorpio Races in this epic fantasy following three phoenix horse riders–skilled at alchemy–who must compete at The Races–the modern spectacle that has replaced warfare within their empire.

Every year since the Ashlords were gifted phoenix horses by their gods, they’ve raced them. First into battle, then on great hunts, and finally for the pure sport of seeing who rode the fastest. Centuries of blood and fire carved their competition into a more modern spectacle: The Races.

Over the course of a multi-day event, elite riders from clashing cultures vie to be crowned champion. But the modern version of the sport requires more than good riding. Competitors must be skilled at creating and controlling phoenix horses made of ash and alchemy, which are summoned back to life each sunrise with uniquely crafted powers to cover impossible distances and challenges before bursting into flames at sunset. But good alchemy only matters if a rider knows how to defend their phoenix horse at night. Murder is outlawed, but breaking bones and poisoning ashes? That’s all legal and encouraged.

In this year’s Races, eleven riders will compete, but three of them have more to lose than the rest–a champion’s daughter, a scholarship entrant, and a revolutionary’s son. Who will attain their own dream of glory? Or will they all flame out in defeat?

Review

Ashlords is the start of a new duology that is pitched as The Hunger Games meet An Ember in the Ashes. Now, I haven’t read Ember yet but I am a huge THG fan so I picked this one from BOTM awhile ago. I picked it up as I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the sequel early from Netgalley (come back tomorrow for that review!). I am SO HAPPY I found this book, continue reading for why.

First off, it is similar to THG in that it has an evil government, the Races (compared to the Games) for teenagers, and rebellion. However, the Races are not to the death, which I almost love more. The contestants race on phoenix horses through a course and the winner wins fame and pride for their community. There are three races of people in this book, the Ashlords (the overlords), Longhands, and Dividians (slaves). The story is told in 3 POV’s (love) and one of the POV’s is… different. That’s all I’ll say!

Pippa, Adrian, and Imelda represent the three races and are all participating in the Races. There are wicked gods that the Ashlords pray to, amazing magic and alchemy with the phoenix horses, and a hint of rebellion for the Dividians against the Ashlords. It’s an action packed story that doesn’t let up from start to finish.

Even with the action, I felt there was something missing from this story. I can’t really put my finger on what it is (sorry, I’ve put off writing this review too hoping I could articulate it better). It was one of those books that I raced (ha!) through and when I closed it for the final time felt like the experience was incomplete.

However, overall it was a story that is definitely worth it and I look forward to reading more of Scott Reintgen’s work now that I know I like his style. I know he has another series published, at least.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – As Far As You’ll Take Me

Title: As Far As You’ll Take Me

Author: Phil Stamper

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Publication date: February 9th, 2021

320 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

The author of The Gravity of Us crafts another heartfelt coming-of-age story about finding the people who become your home–perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli

Marty arrives in London with nothing but his oboe and some savings from his summer job, but he’s excited to start his new life–where he’s no longer the closeted, shy kid who slips under the radar and is free to explore his sexuality without his parents’ disapproval.

From the outside, Marty’s life looks like a perfect fantasy: in the span of a few weeks, he’s made new friends, he’s getting closer with his first ever boyfriend, and he’s even traveling around Europe. But Marty knows he can’t keep up the facade. He hasn’t spoken to his parents since he arrived, he’s tearing through his meager savings, his homesickness and anxiety are getting worse and worse, and he hasn’t even come close to landing the job of his dreams. Will Marty be able to find a place that feels like home?

Review

tw: eating disorders, homophobia

Phil Stamper’s sophomore novel, As Far As You Take Me, follows a gay teen from the heart of Kentucky on an overseas adventure to England to find his home, and his people. Marty’s story is a coming of age, and coming of self, story that I imagine can be related to by many who find themselves being the “outsider” in a religious, conservative area of the US.

It took me some time to be able to write this review as I have two major feelings about this book, and frankly they contradict each other. On one hand, I appreciate Marty’s journey and the character development from page one to the very end. Marty has anxiety, he has a hard time making friends and having confidence, and he is really coming from a place of not understanding himself. By the end of the book he learns more about his anxiety, makes a friend group where he truly feels he belongs, and has an understanding of who he is and his place in this world.

On the other hand, as someone who struggles with an eating disorder, reading about Marty’s struggles with body image and eating, in the context of a romantic relationship, was incredibly difficult. My concern is not the topic, I never wish for these topics not to be discussed as they are real and valid for everyone. My main concern is how it was addressed, and then not addressed. By the end, the eating problems that Marty had throughout the book were just ignored after an initial “intervention” with friends. There was no wrap up to the disordered eating, no lesson Marty learned which normally would occur. I struggled with this part of the story line, as by the end it was unclear how it actually moved the plot along, if there was no lesson involved.

Outside of this concern, which I’m hoping is cleaned up in edits or goes through a sensitivity reader, I did truly enjoy this book and still love Phil’s writing. I knew I needed to read his next after loving The Gravity of Us.

Thank you to Bloomsbury YA and Netgalley for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Curse of the Divine

Title: Curse of the Divine (Ink in the Blood #2)

Author: Kim Smejkal

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Publication date: February 9th, 2021

448 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Return to the world of inklings, tattoo magic, and evil deities as Celia uncovers the secrets of the ink in order to stop Diavala once and for all. This eagerly anticipated sequel to Ink in the Blood is perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Wicked Saints.

Celia Sand faced Diavala and won, using ink magic to destroy the corrupt religion of Profeta that tormented her for a decade. But winning came with a cost. Now Celia is plagued with guilt over her role in the death of her best friend. When she discovers that Diavala is still very much alive and threatening Griffin, the now-infamous plague doctor, Celia is desperate not to lose another person she loves to the deity’s wrath.

The key to destroying Diavala may lie with Halycon Ronnea, the only other person to have faced Diavala and survived. But Halcyon is dangerous and has secrets of his own, ones that involve the ink that Celia has come to hate. Forced to choose between the ink and Diavala, Celia will do whatever it takes to save Griffin—even if it means making a deal with the devil himself.

Review

Sequel to Ink in the Blood, Curse of the Divine directly follows the events of the first book and the aftermath. The Plague Doctor and Celia are looking for a way to fully defeat Diavala once and for all. Their ideas taken them to find Halcyon, the only other person rumored to survive Diavala’s Touch. But Halcyon’s home is a bit strange, and the more they learn about him and the ink magic, the less they know.

The concepts in this duology are very unique and delve into magic and religion pretty deeply. The magic of tattoos is super interesting and the duo has a dark element to it that isn’t always found in YA fantasy. Celia is very much experiencing some issues from the ending of book one, which was interesting to read and see how she reacted to it.

However, I found this book to be incredible confusing. The magic system is expanded much further than it was in the first book, but I didn’t feel like it was explained very well and clearly. I had a hard time following the plot, and there was added POV’s with the plague doctor and Diavala that broke up the flow of the book. There is also little romance, similar to the first book – which isn’t a negative thing, just wanted to note it.

Again, the concept behind this series is fascinating, and there is definitely an audience for this series but I’m not sure it’s me! I enjoyed the first book more than the second, those by the last 20% I was much more invested and understanding more. I just wish the whole book read like the last parts.

Thank you to HMH Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!