Book Review: We Are Blood & Thunder By Kesia Lupo

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Rating: ★★★
RRP: $16.99 AUD
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A huge thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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.img_1374

I was honestly expecting this to be a series of at least three books. I don’t think I have ever really come across a stand alone fantasy novel that was able to immerse me completely in 400 pages. Unfortunately this is no exception. Although the story wasn’t terrible, it just didn’t feel all that original. The world building was almost non existent and the magic system felt clunky and strange. There were a lot of things touched on that I would have loved to have seen explored further.

We Are Blood And Thunder is a story told from the perspective of two young mages, Constance and Lena. Constance is returning home to the isolated and quarantined, Dukes Forest, to finally conquer the dreaded magical storm cloud that lingers over the town taking the lives of many of its citizens. Lena however, is running from it after being convicted as a mage and sentenced to death.

This book took me a fairly long time to read. I found it hard to connect to both Lena and Constance and didn’t find either of them particularly likeable or memorable. There were a few occasions where different spells where introduced to the story and I though “Ok! This could be fun!” but I feel like the author could have delved far deeper into the magic system and the backstories of the Nine Gods that represent each mages power. (I would have loved a whole book on the Nine Gods actually, they sounded badass.)

The plot wasn’t too bad, it just felt so slow. I’m not sure if this has anything to do with the fact that, chapter by chapter, we switch points of view back and forth from Constance to Lena, so we are essentially getting told two different stories that get 200 pages each to squish all the details into. I got about half way through this book and I still wasn’t sure of where it was going, I very nearly didn’t finish it, but I persevered!

Overall, this wasn’t a bad book, it just wasn’t the most original fantasy novel I’ve ever read. It had a lot of promise, but unfortunately, it didn’t hit the mark for me and fell rather flat. Because of this, I am giving We Are Blood And Thunder 3 stars.

Thank you again to Bloomsbury Publishing for sending me a review copy of this book!

Book Review: The Order Of The Rose By Alysha King

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Rating: ★★★.5
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Goodreads Synopsis:

“You possess a power as great as that of the false Empress. You do not understand it yet but you will come to learn its true nature. It is the only match to true evil. You doubt it, but you must embrace it or you will fail.”

When Carey Lee discovers that not only is she a witch but also part of a rebel order, she figures it can’t be any worse than the life from which she just escaped. Little is she prepared though for what lies ahead – an all-powerful empire and a murderous Empress, a seemingly impossible quest to rescue her family, and a power so dark that Carey begins to doubt her very existence.

The Order of the Rose is the first in a series of three novels to be known as the Rose Chronicles. 

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This was an interesting read for me. I am definitely no longer the intended audience, and being a fairly well read adult woman, at times it felt a little too young for my tastes. However, I think younger readers would find this action packed adventure/fantasy rather enjoyable.

The Order Of The Rose tells the story of Carey. A young teenage girl suffering from amnesia after a traumatic childhood event. Who, upon escaping from a horrible orphanage, joins forces with Ji and Kat, two of her oldest friends (she just doesn’t remember them!) Together they are the last remaining members of the magical rebel Order Carey’s grandmother founded to fight the evil, Empress Malevolence.

I found this a little hard to get into to begin with, but again, I believe this is because it is intended for younger readers. The pacing felt a bit rushed and was driven mainly by the three protagonists having seemingly random encounters with evil. This was frustrating as it felt like there was constant action and very little quiet moments in between for us to really get to know the characters. Having said that, this was justified further into the novel once more of the plot was divulged, but it meant that the first half of the book felt slow and wasn’t as enjoyable for me.

The second half of this book however, was where it started to really shine. Carey had some really nice character growth and became a far stronger, more likeable character and the action seemed to become more intentional when it came to driving the plot forward. I really enjoyed learning about the world and setting, however it was a little confusing at first as I wasn’t sure where or when the story was set until about half way into the book.

The characters all had some great growth! I adored Kat! She was extremely fierce, capable and just an all round badass. Carey could be a little unsure and frustrating at times, but I think this was justified considering she was thrown into the middle of an epic battle between good and evil, having absolutely no idea what she was or who she was up against. The trio’s dynamic was also really fun and not unlike the Harry Potter series in some ways, which I really enjoyed.

Overall I liked this book! I think I would have liked it more if I had read it when I was younger. I may even go as far as to say it could be classed as more of a Middle Grade read. But taking that into account, it was enjoyable and was a fantastic starting off point for the rest of the series.

Book Review: An Enchantment Of Ravens By Margaret Rogerson

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Rating: ★★.5
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Goodreads Synopsis:

Isobel is an artistic prodigy with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious, Rook spirits her away to his kingdom to stand trial for her crime. But something is seriously wrong in his world, and they are attacked from every side. With Isobel and Rook depending on each other for survival, their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

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I really wanted to love this book! The cover art is perfection and it’s easily one of the most beautiful books on my shelves. But unfortunately the story felt unoriginal and had very little direction.

An Enchantment of Ravens tells the story of Isobel, a young prodigy portrait artist who is commissioned by the Faerie Prince of the Autumn Court, Rook, to paint his portrait. Having painted real human sorrow in his eyes the Prince is humiliated and ridiculed by his fellow Fair Ones for showing weakness. To save face, the Prince comes to whisk Isobel away to stand trial in the Autumn Court, but they get more than they bargained for as their feelings for each other start to grow, something that could end up getting them both killed.

This was alright. I am a huge fan of faerie stories and magic so it was definitely the right genre for me, but unfortunately the whole thing felt rushed and a little messy. I feel like this book told us how much time had passed, rather than showing us. Which made the whole plot really disjointed. I have never liked “instalove”, and due to the fact the plot felt rushed, so did the romance. I think because this is a 300 page stand alone book, the author pushed through all the plot points fairly quickly, which made nearly all the action scenes fall flat. It was as if a threat would come and go within a few pages, so even though we are told the characters are going through this terrible ordeal, it didn’t feel all that bad considering they got through it and move on from it so swiftly.

I think the book could have been great if it was given the right amount of time to really delve into the story and expand upon the world and the culture of the faeries! There were some really fantastic elements within the world that I would have loved to learn more about, but again, due to the book being such a short stand alone, these felt fairly glossed over. Nearly the whole plot is Isobel and Rook travelling too, which isn’t terrible when it’s done right, but it just felt as though we went from one part of the spooky forest to a slightly different part of the spooky forest over and over and over.

The romance felt extremely unbelievable. From the moment the characters meet, they have some sort of strange connection. Then Isobel is essentially stolen from her home by Rook and they fall in love in what feels like a matter of days. There was also very little to no other relationships built upon besides the central romance. I felt absolutely no connection to any of the other characters within the story which is a real shame considering sassy side characters are my usual jam.

Overall I feel like this could have been an amazing book if it was given more time to flesh out the story and it’s characters. It had incredible potential, but unfortunately it was underwhelming for me. I have read a lot of books about Fae that I absolutely adored, so I think if you don’t have anything else to compare this to, you may love it! But sadly, it didn’t quite hit the mark for me.

Book Review: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before By Jenny Han

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Rating: ★★★★
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Goodreads Synopsis:

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once?

Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

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This was a really sweet contemporary! I have been finding it a little hard to review due to the fact I watched the Netflix movie adaption about  thousand time before reading it. But to be fair, it’s a pretty accurate representation of the book. I’d even go as far as to say the movie made some of the characters more likeable. This may have more to do with the fact that the book had far more time to give me insight into the characters and their personalities, something that would be harder to fit into an hour and a half worth of film.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before tells the story of starry eyed Lara Jean. Lara Jean has been in love exactly five times in her life and she has written exactly five love letters, which she keeps in an old hat box her mother gave her. She can be as whimsical and bold as she likes, because she’s never going to send them out… Until one day, they do mysteriously get sent and her life comes tumbling down. Lara-Jean once wrote a letter  to her best friend, Josh, who happens to also be her older sisters, now ex, boyfriend! To save face, she decides to start a mutually beneficial fake relationship with non other than Peter Kavinsky, the most handsome boy at school.

I really did enjoy reading this. It was a quick, easy read and was fairly light hearted and fun. In terms of the characters, I found some of them could be a little frustating at times, but this didn’t take away from the over all story for me. As with a lot of YA contemporary, I found myself thinking “this would be a lot easier if you just spoke to each other” but I think this has more to do with the fact I’m not necessarily a “young” adult, just a regular adult (I’m a cool Mum, not a regular Mum. Points if you have any idea what I’m talking about!) But still, I enjoyed getting to know the characters more and delving deeper into their personalities and emotions.

The plot and pacing was awesome. Everything seemed to flow really nicely and it was really easy to read. There were a few scenes that I grew a little bored with, but luckily none of them really lasted very long before the story progressed. Overall, this was an enjoyable read and I’ll definitely be reading the next couple of books before the movies come out. Because of this I am giving To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before 4 stars.

Book Review: Winterhued By E. H. Alger

Rating: ★★★.5
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Goodreads Synopsis:

In a land on the edge of all that is known dwells Princess Winterhued,
erudite, beautiful, broken-hearted. The heir to her father’s kingdom and raised to be queen, she is troubled by terrifying dreams and now finds the half-demented king turning against her. Slimy sycophants whisper in his ear, persuading him that a ‘mere woman’ is incapable of ruling, and now he ogles the princess’s ladies-in-waiting and boasts of begetting a male heir.

But Winterhued’s fears become as naught when a vast and ancient being comes flying on dread wings to lay siege to Castle Lawhill. Trailing fear and slaughter, it traps Winterhued and her people within the broken walls. The princess strives to save her subjects, but it seems the only one courageous enough to help her is the lowliest servant-boy in the castle.
Yet from the east, riding across wraith-haunted Iron Crag, comes a nameless knight, exiled and condemned… and a horned creature follows him, silent as moonlight.
 

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Unicrons, dragons, a beautiful Princess and a brave Knight! This truly was a fairytale.

Wow, ok! So this is not the kind of book I would normally pick up! I am really grateful that I get to do what I do, because I get to be introduced to some really wonderful new books! Winterhued is no exception, I really did grow to enjoy this book.

Winterhued is a tale filled with incredible and allusive mythical creatures, a daring, exiled knight and the beautiful, headstrong, raven haired Princess with whom his heart belongs. Within the Kingdom of Manydown, Princess Winterhued fights to protect her people as a terrible ancient being lays siege to Castle Lawhill.

This book took me a while to get into, which I believe is mostly to do with the way it’s written! The author is very clearly an incredible writer who has an extensive knowledge of medieval practices and language! At first, the language seemed to create these strange “road blocks” in my mind and I found myself reading very slowly to try and understand what was happening. However, as I made my way through the book, my brain started to learn how to understand the language and I actually grew to appreciate the lyrical and authentic writing style.

In terms of the plot and pacing, this was the definition of “slow burn” and highly character focused. This happens to be something I really like reading, so it was enjoyable for me. I did find there were times I struggled to get through some of the more heavily descriptive content, but I believe it all served a purpose and was a great way to immerse the reader within the Kingdom of Manydown.

The story and characters are what gripped me most. E.H Alger has a brilliant knack for giving each of her characters their very own voice. It was fantastic! Their individual personalities felt so real that often times, it felt as though I was watching these characters interact in a film rather than reading it. There were several times throughout reading that I found myself laughing out loud at the witty banter! I am also a total sucker for a bit of romance, so this beautiful, slow burn, love-of-the-ages type story was right up my alley.

Overall I grew to really enjoy Winterhued. I did struggle occasionally to get through the almost leisurely pace of the story and I understand that this read may not be for everyone. But for me, the strong female characters, the creative and fun character interactions and the vivid storytelling the author produced completely outweighed this. Because of this, I am giving Winterhued 3.5 stars!

I would also like to thank the author for sending me a copy of Winterhued in exchanged for an honest review.

Book Review: The Rift By Rachael Craw

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Rating: ★★★★★
RRP: $19.99 AUD
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A huge thank you to Walker Books for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Synopsis:

For generations, the Rangers of Black Water Island have guarded the Old Herd against horrors released by the Rift. Cal West, an apprentice Ranger with a rare scar and even rarer gifts, fights daily to prove he belongs within their ranks. After nine years away, Meg Archer returns to her childhood home only to find the Island is facing a new threat that not even the Rangers are prepared for. Meg and Cal can’t ignore their attraction, but can they face their darkest fears to save the Island from disaster?

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I need more! This book was incredible and I need more!

I honestly wasn’t expecting to love this as much as I did! I don’t really know what I was excepting, but this book took me back to the feeling of reading The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater for the first time and it was amazing! I knew it was going to be one of my new favourite books when I got about 3/4 of the way through and was frantically googling if there was a sequel in the works! Please, please, please let there be a sequel in the works!

The Rift by Rachael Craw is told from two different points of view. That of Cal West, an apprentice Ranger with rare abilities living on Blackwater Island and responsible for the safety of an ancient herd of deer, coveted for their antlers magical healing properties. And Meg Archer, the daughter of the Master Ranger swept away to the mainland by her mother to live a “normal life” after a terrible childhood accident. Upon Megs return to the island the pair must navigate their way through their growing attraction for one another all while facing their greatest fears to save the island and the Old Herd from disaster.

This book took the term “magical realism” and ran like hell with it! It felt incredibly magical and rich. The world building was so atmospheric and engaging, I could have looked up from my book and been on Black Water Island, surrounded by thrumming lay lines, hell hounds and ancient mythical deer, and I wouldn’t have been surprised. The pacing of the plot was brilliant, I was never once bored with the story and ended up burning through this book in a matter of hours.

The characters were really likeable and despite possessing rare, magical abilities, they still felt completely authentic and real. The slow burn romance was perfection and the interactions between Cal, Meg and other minor characters was really fun and enjoyable.

Overall, The Rift was incredibly whimsical and original. It felt a little murky and confusing to start with, but the more I read, the more clear everything became, and I was able to understand the dynamics of the world and how the characters fit into it. Despite this, I couldn’t bring myself to deduct any stars from this review. I really, truly, LOVED this book and I will definitely be reading any future sequels. Now, excuse me while I go to the store and purchase every other book Rachael Craw has ever written.

Book Review: A Curse So Dark And Lonely By Brigid Kemmerer

we are okayRating: ★★★★
Title: A Curse so Dark and Lonely
Author: Brigid Kremmerer
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Goodreads Synopsis:

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

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This was great! I enjoyed it. I would say it has a very similar feel to the ACOTAR series while reading, but probably aimed more at a slightly younger audience. Nevertheless, I liked it a lot and will definitely continue the series!

A Curse So Dark And Lonely follows Harper, a teenage girl, swept away from her home in Washington DC by Grey, the Commander of the Royal Guard, to Emberfall, a fairytale-esque Kingdom, currently cursed by a powerful enchantress. The only way to break the curse is for Harper to fall for Prince Rhen. But with very little time before the prince is doomed to live as a beast forever and his people are left without a ruler, Harper struggles to know her true feelings. With Emberfall slowly going to ruin, Harper must navigate her way through love, loss, war and heartache.

I actually really enjoyed this Beauty and the Beast retelling. It felt fresh and different, while not straying too far from the original source material  for the reader to know it’s a retelling of a classic fairytale. The novel was right up my alley in terms of genre, and the romance was very sweet. However, I do get the feeling that a love triangle will be a predominant part of the next instalment as there were quite a few moments that it was hinted at and slowly built upon. The love triangle troupe is something I really dislike, so I hope that the author chooses to go a different route or does it in a way I am able to enjoy.

I loved the rich world building! I felt like I was right there in Emberfall with Harper, Rhen and Grey. Speaking of which, the characters were fantastic! I loved that we were given a really strong, female main character with cerebral palsy. It’s not something I have ever seen represented in a YA book before, so it was really great seeing it represented so respectfully. Despite the hints of an impending love triangle, I actually really liked both the male leads and found them both equally as interesting and charismatic. Although, personally, I wouldn’t go past a Commander of the Royal Guard! Ha!

Overall, the story was great! There were a couple of things I didn’t overly enjoy, but it wasn’t enough to stop me from wanting to pick the book up and devour it in a matter of hours. I really liked this retelling, and with the way it ended, I look forward to reading the next instalment!