eARC Review – We Are Blood and Thunder

Title: We Are Blood and Thunder (We Are Blood and Thunder #1)

Author: Kesia Lupo

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Publication date: March 3rd, 2020 (US version)

448 pages

3.75/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

In a sealed-off city, it begins with a hunt. A young woman, Lena, running for her life, convicted of being a mage and sentenced to death. Her only way to survive is to trust those she has been brought up to fear – those with magic.

On the other side of the locked gates is a masked lady, Constance, determined to find a way back in. She knows only too well how the people of Duke’s Forest loathe magic. Years ago she escaped before her powers were discovered. But now she won’t hide who she is any longer.

A powerful and terrifying storm cloud unites them. It descends over the dukedom and devastates much in its wake. But this is more than a thunderstorm. This is a spell, and the truth behind why it has been cast is more sinister than anyone can imagine … Only Lena and Constance hold the key to destroying the spell. Though neither of them realise it, they need each other. They are the blood and they have the thunder within.

Review

**Thank you to Netgalley, Bloomsbury YA, and Kesia Lupo for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

Note, the cover art included in this post if the UK cover art, which I prefer! For the US cover, please visit Goodreads! The UK edition published April 4th, 2019.

We Are Blood and Thunder is a tale of hidden magic and betrayal. Lena is a cryptling, she is Marked and was forfeited to the crypt in Duke’s Forest at birth to work for the rest of her life. Constance is a mage, which is not accepted within Duke’s Forest, even though she is the heir to the duchy. Lena and Constance’s paths cross as Lena is escaping the duchy after being convicted and sentences to death for being a mage. Constance is returning to the duchy to regain her rightful place as heir. Their paths will cross again, but in a much different context…

The magic system in WABAT is very different than what I’ve read before, and I felt like it could have been explained better. I am still somewhat confused as to how it works. I would have liked some more world-building. The characters were well described and given a clear background, which I always appreciate in fantasy novels as that can be skipped at times. There is a touch of romance, but not enough to take the attention away from the story line.

Overall, I was going to rate this lower until I got to the end and was completely shocked by the twist. I had a hard time getting into the book and being invested, but the twist ending caught me completely by surprise and I give the author a lot of credit for that! I automatically like a book twice as much if the author manages to surprise me with a twist.

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – The Women's War

Title: The Women’s War (Women’s War #1)

Author: Jenna Glass

Publisher: Del Rey Books

Publication date: March 5th, 2019

560 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

In a high fantasy feminist epic, a revolutionary spell gives women the ability to control their own fertility—with consequences that rock their patriarchal society to its core.

When a nobleman’s first duty is to produce a male heir, women are treated like possessions and bargaining chips. But as the aftereffects of a world-altering spell ripple out physically and culturally, women at last have a bargaining chip of their own. And two women in particular find themselves at the crossroads of change.

Alys is the widowed mother of two teenage children, and the disinherited daughter of a king. Her existence has been carefully proscribed, but now she discovers a fierce talent not only for politics but also for magic—once deemed solely the domain of men. Meanwhile, in a neighboring kingdom, young Ellin finds herself unexpectedly on the throne after the sudden death of her grandfather the king and everyone else who stood ahead of her in the line of succession. Conventional wisdom holds that she will marry quickly, then quietly surrender the throne to her new husband…. Only, Ellin has other ideas.

The tensions building in the two kingdoms grow abruptly worse when a caravan of exiled women and their escort of disgraced soldiers stumbles upon a new source of magic in what was once uninhabitable desert. This new and revolutionary magic—which only women can wield—threatens to tear down what is left of the patriarchy. And the men who currently hold power will do anything to fight back.

Review

Welcome to a world where women are treated as objects and no one cares about them. Basically an exaggerated form of our current world, with magic thrown in and I’m here for it. I had some initial difficulty getting into this book, and it is a chunker, but once it started to pick up I really enjoyed it and all the characters.

The Women’s World has several POV’s, across kingdoms and genders in this world. Women do not have rights and are treated as objects to be traded or owned. They are not allowed to do anything without permission, and if they are deemed unmarriageable they are shipped off to any Abbey to be forced into sexual slavery for the kingdom. Women cannot do magic, even though they are perfectly capable, and woman’s magic is looked down upon across many kingdoms. Frankly, it’s a bad time to be a woman and men are able to do whatever they want. Until the Abbess in Aalwell decides enough is enough and crafts a spell to give women control over one thing that will strike fear in the hearts of men… their fertility. Women no longer can be forced to bear children, the spell makes it so they have to want the child in order to get pregnant. There are other, not planned for effects, which creates issues across the kingdoms for men.

I was a little frustrated with this book until the middle, because the treatment of women is just so bad. It was hard to read at times, but I know this was done on purpose. I was more frustrated because the women weren’t doing anything about it. I was looking for a female power epic fantasy and it wasn’t looking like I was going to get it. However, it started to pick up in the middle with some outright rebellion and experimenting with ways the women could not assert their new powers, which I was all for. There are some redeemable men, which was heartening to see – most of the main men characters are quite terrible though.

There is plenty of action and intrigue as the setting is fairly medieval – kings, queens, and arranged marriages for the sake of the kingdom. The characters find themselves struggling to hold onto the world as they know it and have to make some quick maneuvers to stay ahead of the tide.

I like the main female characters that we get in separate POV’s, they each are trying to get through this oppressive society the best way they can. There’s only one male POV, and his is honestly the worst because he is a terrible person. Quite truly. I’m sure his POV is thrown in there to greater shed the light on the issues with the perception of women.

The ending killed me, even though I had an inkling it was coming. The brutal killing of a character is never fun to read, but even worse when you don’t realize it’s happening and it’s just tossed in for dramatic effect.

I received the sequel, Queen of the Unwanted, through Netgalley which is why I decided to pick up this title. I hadn’t heard of it before Netgalley, but I’m glad I read it as it was right up my alley with epic fantasy. The magic system was well described and thought out, while still being unique and interesting.

Check back in a few weeks for my review of Queen of the Unwanted!

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Ink in the Blood

Title: Ink in the Blood (Ink in the Blood #1)

Author: Kim Smejkal

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Publication date: February 11th, 2020

448 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

A lush, dark YA fantasy debut that weaves together tattoo magic, faith, and eccentric theater in a world where lies are currency and ink is a weapon, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Kendare Blake.

Celia Sand and her best friend, Anya Burtoni, are inklings for the esteemed religion of Profeta. Using magic, they tattoo followers with beautiful images that represent the Divine’s will and guide the actions of the recipients. It’s considered a noble calling, but ten years into their servitude Celia and Anya know the truth: Profeta is built on lies, the tattooed orders strip away freedom, and the revered temple is actually a brutal, torturous prison.

Their opportunity to escape arrives with the Rabble Mob, a traveling theater troupe. Using their inkling abilities for performance instead of propaganda, Celia and Anya are content for the first time . . . until they realize who followed them. The Divine they never believed in is very real, very angry, and determined to use Celia, Anya, and the Rabble Mob’s now-infamous stage to spread her deceitful influence even further.

To protect their new family from the wrath of a malicious deity and the zealots who work in her name, Celia and Anya must unmask the biggest lie of all—Profeta itself.

Review

**Thank you to HMH Books for Young Readers, Netgalley, and Kim Smejkal for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

Ink in the Blood is a dark fantasy with cult/religious involvement, magic, and sacrificing for the greater good. Our MC Celia looks to escape Profeta, the church, in which she was conscripted against her will to be an Inkling. Inklings have the ability to tattoo other people with the church’s instructions on how to change their lives. Celia comes to see the corruption within the church, and with the help of a fellow Inkling, Anya, she escapes with a traveling comedy group.

It took me about 60% percent of this book to really get into it, which was part of why the rating on this is lower. Once I got into it I finished it in one sitting, but it took me awhile to get to that point because it didn’t capture my attention. I want books that will hook me immediately, and this one was not the case. There was a lot of backstory given in the beginning with world-building, but it wasn’t the kind of world-building that drew me in.

The magic in this book fascinated me – I knew I wanted to review it when I saw the tattooing was the magic. I didn’t realize the level of religion involved, which also brought it down a bit for me. Something about this book didn’t sit right with me and I’m having a hard time narrowing down what it was. I almost wish the church had less of a hold on people in the book, because it really portrayed the general population as sheep, incapable of thinking for themselves or making their own decisions.

One thing I loved about this book was the romantic interest for Celia. The Plague Doctor reminded me of Jacks from the Caraval series and I loved it. He is a soft, broken boy who comes across as villainous and detached until she is able to break him down. Swoon. Celia was a good enough MC – she isn’t perfectly moral and she isn’t completely evil, she’s somewhere in the middle like the rest of us.

I do plan on reading the sequel when it is released, because the ending really surprised me. There were some lovely twists and turns in the last 25% of the book that I wasn’t able to see coming, so it helped the overall experience of this book for me. I’m hoping now that the world is set up, the sequel will be more action packed and attention grabbing.

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

eARC Review – Heart of Flames

Title: Heart of Flames (Crown of Feathers #2)

Author: Nicki Pau Preto

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication date: February 11th, 2020

640 pages

3.75/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Veronyka, Tristan, and Sev must stop the advancing empire from destroying the Phoenix Riders in this fiery sequel to Crown of Feathers, which #1 New York Times bestselling author Kendare Blake calls “absolutely unforgettable!”

You are a daughter of queens. 

The world is balanced on the edge of a knife, and war is almost certain between the empire and the Phoenix Riders.

Like Nefyra before you, your life will be a trial by fire. 

Veronyka finally got her wish to join the Riders, but while she’s supposed to be in training, all she really wants to do is fly out to defend the villages of Pyra from the advancing empire. Tristan has been promoted to Master Rider, but he has very different ideas about the best way to protect their people than his father, the commander. Sev has been sent to spy on the empire, but maintaining his cover may force him to fight on the wrong side of the war. And Veronyka’s sister, Val, is determined to regain the empire she lost—even if it means inciting the war herself.

Such is your inheritance. A name. A legacy. An empire in ruin. 

As tensions reach a boiling point, the characters all find themselves drawn together into a fight that will shape the course of the empire—and determine the future of the Phoenix Riders. Each must decide how far they’re willing to go—and what they’re willing to lose in the process.

I pray you are able to pass through the flames.

Review

**Thank you to Netgalley, Simon Pulse, and Nicki Pau Preto for an ebook copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**

Heart of Flames continues the story of Veronyka and her older sister Val. Veronyka is continuing to fight against Val and fight with the Phoenix Riders in the Eyrie. Her close relationship with Tristan is starting to bloom and Veronyka wants nothing more than to prove herself as a Phoenix Rider. When more of Val’s plans are revealed, and some details of Veronyka’s background are discovered, Veronyka must decide which side she fights for.

I loved Crown of Feathers. I believe Heart of Flames suffers from middle book syndrome, where so much of it is spent to set up the plot in the third book. Parts were long an tedious, ripe with historical information, names, and events that are just too much to remember and keep in. The plot limped along with some moments of action and intrigue, only to flip to a different POV and have the excitement fizzle.

There are so many POV’s that it is hard to keep track at times, and some events are told more than once through a different perspective. It’s a little much, and is confusing when being read in an ebook format. I wanted to be able to go back easily and reference past parts.

Honestly, I am still buying this book. I love the characters SO MUCH. I ship Veronyka and Tristan, Sev and Kade until the end of time. As much as I think this book paled in comparison to Crown of Feathers in terms of plot, we get to see SO MUCH character development from everyone involved. This was the part I loved most about Heart of Flames, and I’m eager to see what happens in the third installment.

Happy reading, folks! 🙂

Book Review – Lord of Shadows

“Sometimes the most ruthless heart speaks the most truth”

Title: Lord of Shadows (The Dark Artifices #2)

Author: Cassandra Clare

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry

Publication date: May 23rd, 2017

701 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

A Shadowhunter’s life is bound by duty. Constrained by honor. The word of a Shadowhunter is a solemn pledge, and no vow is more sacred than the vow that binds parabatai, warrior partners—sworn to fight together, die together, but never to fall in love.

Emma Carstairs has learned that the love she shares with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, isn’t just forbidden—it could destroy them both. She knows she should run from Julian. But how can she when the Blackthorns are threatened by enemies on all sides?

Their only hope is the Black Volume of the Dead, a spell book of terrible power. Everyone wants it. Only the Blackthorns can find it. Spurred on by a dark bargain with the Seelie Queen, Emma; her best friend, Cristina; and Mark and Julian Blackthorn journey into the Courts of Faerie, where glittering revels hide bloody danger and no promise can be trusted. Meanwhile, rising tension between Shadowhunters and Downworlders has produced the Cohort, an extremist group of Shadowhunters dedicated to registering Downworlders and “unsuitable” Nephilim. They’ll do anything in their power to expose Julian’s secrets and take the Los Angeles Institute for their own.

When Downworlders turn against the Clave, a new threat rises in the form of the Lord of Shadows—the Unseelie King, who sends his greatest warriors to slaughter those with Blackthorn blood and seize the Black Volume. As dangers close in, Julian devises a risky scheme that depends on the cooperation of an unpredictable enemy. But success may come with a price he and Emma cannot even imagine, one that will bring with it a reckoning of blood that could have repercussions for everyone and everything they hold dear.

Review

The bad things can’t matter more than the good things

CASSANDRA CLARE, LORD OF SHADOWS

Your girl is back and almost done her Cassie Clare binge of January!! Lord of Shadows was a decent middle book, where it continued the action without being too boring. I have no idea what to expect from Queen of Air and Darkness, and I totally expect to be shocked like I have been with the other finales. This is also making me so excited for Chain of Gold in March!!

Lord of Shadows picks up with our intrepid Shadowhunters in London where they have escaped to. I’m not going to be super spoilery, so I’m not going to do my normal recap. Julian and Emma are fighting to keep their parabatai relationship alive and they are really going through a hard time together. I feel badly for them, but I also feel like this subplot is just… meh. Like, I was excited for the “parabatais who fall in love” twist but so far I’m just disappointed with it. I still don’t really feel a connection with them as characters or a pair. I miss Tessa and Will.

The plot is okay. More intrigue is being introduced, and the ending was WOWZA. I can’t even explain my feelings towards the ending, especially not without spoiling something. I just finished the book today and I totally plan on picking up Queen of Air and Darkness after I finish writing this review. The one thing I will say about our Queen Cassie, she sure knows her way around cliffhangers and ending books on an edge.

I have a feeling this trilogy will not be my favorite, and that’s okay. I’m looking forward to seeing what QoAaD will bring, and I wouldn’t regret reading all of them. I love how this world can be gone back to so many time without it being stale – although I do wonder how extensive the Shadowhunter history lessons are (because they never seem to know about the events of the past, i.e. no one knows of Will Herondale, who is one of the heroes in the Infernal Devices??) and also how the family trees works. I’m convinced there’s some sort of inbreeding happening because most of the main characters all marry each other and then the next set of books have main characters with the same last names.

Just random questions I have as reading. Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – City of Heavenly Fire

“Temper us in fire, and we grow stronger. When we suffer, we survive.”

Title: City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments #6)

Author: Cassandra Clare

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Publication date: May 27th, 2014

726 pages

4.25/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

In this dazzling and long-awaited conclusion to the acclaimed Mortal Instruments series, Clary and her friends fight the greatest evil they have ever faced: Clary’s own brother.

Sebastian Morgenstern is on the move, systematically turning Shadowhunter against Shadowhunter. Bearing the Infernal Cup, he transforms Shadowhunters into creatures out of nightmare, tearing apart families and lovers as the ranks of his Endarkened army swell.

The embattled Shadowhunters withdraw to Idris – but not even the famed demon towers of Alicante can keep Sebastian at bay. And with the Nephilim trapped in Idris, who will guard the world against demons?

When one of the greatest betrayals the Nephilim have ever known is revealed, Clary, Jace, Isabelle, Simon, and Alec must flee – even if their journey takes them deep into the demon realms, where no Shadowhunter has set foot before, and from which no human being has ever returned…

Love will be sacrificed and lives lost in the terrible battle for the fate of the word in the thrilling final installment of the classic urban fantasy series The Mortal Instruments!

Review

We are all the pieces of what we remember. We hold in ourselves the hopes and fears of those who love us. As long as there is love and memory, there is no true loss.

CASSANDRA CLARE, CITY OF HEAVENLY FIRE

It has finally come to and end! The Mortal Instruments was certainly a ride for me as a reader, and I’ve spent a year finishing the series (I read the first three in early 2019 but didn’t get the last three until Christmas). There is a sense of accomplishment that comes from finishing a long series, especially one that it seems everyone else has read!

No spoilers, so this will probably be a very short review. City of Heavenly Fire was a LONG-ASS book, Jiminy Crickets. I like thicc books don’t get me wrong, but this was an investment. I actually put it off a few days because it was so intimidating, and I am not dauntless (I would probably be Erudite TBH for those who get that reference). I’m truly not sure what I will do when I am faced with Queen of Air and Darkness.

The conclusion to this series needed to be epic to make it worth six books. And it came SO CLOSE to being epic. My one major problem? There’s no way the ending is physically possible. Like seriously, my girl Cassie seriously created a whole rulebook for this alt universe and then threw it out the damn window. Of course, a level of suspension of belief is necessary for fantasy books but COME ON.

Also, Shadowhunters kind of suck. Like unpopular opinion, but a lot of them in the Clave are terrible people. I get the racism towards the end was needed to set up The Dark Artifices but holy freaking cow jump off your high horses and realize that just because your part angel doesn’t make you GOD and better than errybody else. Also, this ridiculous “we only care about your thoughts/feelings/opinions if you’re 18+ is bullshirt and needs to be trashed. Rant over.

So. What did I like you ask? I love Clary and Jace. I will ship them forever. I uber love Simon and Isabelle. Magnus and Alec will have my heart for the rest of time. What I loved about the whole series was the relationships that built and strengthened. I was a Jace and Clary book for the rest of their lives – when they get married, have babies, and inevitably die. I want it ALL. I’m invested in these characters, and that is a mark of a great series.

I do wish I had read the first trilogy before these because I feel like I forgot some details that would have been lovely to know during these three books. Also, this turned into a long-winded review, which is the opposite of what I promised in the beginning. My bad! Sorry friends!

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – City of Lost Souls

Missing, one stunningly attractive teenage boy. Answers to ‘Jace’ or ‘Hot Stuff’

Title: City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments #5)

Author: Cassandra Clare

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Publication date: May 8th, 2012

536 pages

3.75/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

What price is too high to pay, even for love? Plunge into fifth installment in the internationally bestselling Mortal Instruments series and “prepare to be hooked” (Entertainment Weekly)—now with a gorgeous new cover, a map, a new foreword, and exclusive bonus content! City of Lost Souls is a Shadowhunters novel.

When Jace and Clary meet again, Clary is horrified to discover that the demon Lilith’s magic has bound her beloved Jace together with her evil brother Sebastian, and that Jace has become a servant of evil. The Clave is out to destroy Sebastian, but there is no way to harm one boy without destroying the other. As Alec, Magnus, Simon, and Isabelle wheedle and bargain with Seelies, demons, and the merciless Iron Sisters to try to save Jace, Clary plays a dangerous game of her own. The price of losing is not just her own life, but Jace’s soul. She’s willing to do anything for Jace, but can she still trust him? Or is he truly lost?

Love. Blood. Betrayal. Revenge. Darkness threatens to claim the Shadowhunters in the harrowing fifth book of the Mortal Instruments series.

Review

I hope you told him you were bitten by a gay spider.

Cassandra clare, city of lost souls

I’m back, and moving through my Cassandra Clare binge! Next up was City of Lost Souls, which continues to follow Jace and Clary while they try and save everyone from Sebastian. Unfortunately, I felt this book had classic middle book syndrome so I had to rate it a littler lower than City of Fallen Angels.

I feel like this book had a lot more potential. Jace’s plot in this had the possibility of being really interesting and deep – but it fell flat as he spent most of it just trying to get into Clary’s sensible pants (I mean, I know he’s a teenage boy but you spent 4 books giving him dimension, keep it going). Clary also fell deeper into the crazy girlfriend trope, and at one point makes a gigantic decision for Jace that she had no right making. This part was VERY annoying, because of how intensely wrong it was. But I digress.

This book was obviously just setting up the plot of the 6th book, City of Heavenly Fire. A big war is coming between the Shadowhunters and Sebastian and everyone will be affected. My fave characters in this book were Isabelle and Simon. I feel like Izzy’s character arc is really rounding out as we learn more of her background and what makes her who she is. Simon is going through a huge transition time and he still manages to keep up his dry humor, which is lovely and heartening. They took the award of primary ship from Jace and Clary in this book.

THAT ENDING THO. Okay, so I need to know what happens with the vampires. That ending was the only truly shocking plot point in the book, along with the break up from one couple. The ending redeemed the book a bit for me.

Happy reading, folks!