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Audio ARC Review: Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove by Rati Mehrotra

Publication Date: October 18, 2022

Synopsis:

To learn what she can become, she must first discover who she is.

Katyani’s role in the kingdom of Chandela has always been clear: becoming an advisor and protector of the crown prince, Ayan, when he ascends to the throne. Bound to the Queen of Chandela through a forbidden soul bond that saved her when she was a child, Katyani has grown up in the royal family and become the best guardswoman the Garuda has ever seen. But when a series of assassination attempts threatens the royals, Katyani is shipped off to the gurukul of the famous Acharya Mahavir as an escort to Ayan and his cousin, Bhairav, to protect them as they hone the skills needed to be the next leaders of the kingdom. Nothing could annoy Katyani more than being stuck in a monastic school in the middle of a forest, except her run-ins with Daksh, the Acharya’s son, who can’t stop going on about the rules and whose gaze makes her feel like he can see into her soul.

But when Katyani and the princes are hurriedly summoned back to Chandela before their training is complete, tragedy strikes and Katyani is torn from the only life she has ever known. Alone and betrayed in a land infested by monsters, Katyani must find answers from her past to save all she loves and forge her own destiny. Bonds can be broken, but debts must be repaid.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I loved this book so much! It’s so nice to get a good standalone adventure that wraps up in a satisfactory way but doesn’t suffer from feeling too abrupt. I thought it was the perfect length and the pacing was excellent throughout. I connected very quickly with the characters and was consistently surprised by the plot twists.

One of my favorite things is reading fantasy books set in places other than “Medieval Europe” and learning about the customs, mythical creatures, food, clothing, etc and there is plenty of all of that in this book where the setting is an alternate medieval India.

The writing was beautiful and kept me fully engaged while I read and listened. There were many passages I took note of for their beauty.

I loved learning about all of the different monsters. I had limited knowledge of most of them and so I appreciated the descriptions of their physical forms and actions. It never felt info-dump-y though and was always relevant to the plot.

I especially loved how there were many descriptions of monsters and their monstrous ways and it managed to be bloody and occasionally horrific without being horror. I was never really scared by the monsters – only intrigued. Especially since there is an emphasis on the monsters’ humanity even though they are not human. They’re very different, but in many ways they aren’t. In fact I would say that the most monstrous characters were humans.

I loved the slow-burn romance – there was just enough of it to make me root for them while not overpowering the rest of the story – the magic, the monsters, the politics, and Katyani’s journey to knowing and finding herself were the main focus.

Katyani goes through many trials throughout the story as she learns who she is, who she was, and who she can become. Her journey of self-discovery is compelling and pulls the reader breathlessly along for the ride.

The audiobook narrator did an excellent job bringing the story and characters to life. She obviously knew how to pronounce all of the unfamiliar terms that I would have stumbled over, and that made it a richer experience.

Even though this is a standalone and does wrap up satisfactorily, it leaves room for future books exploring Katyani and Daksh’s adventures. I hope the author does write such sequels, and will read them as soon as I can get my hands on them.

*Thanks to NetGalley, Wednesday Books, and Macmillan Audio for providing an e-arc and audio arc for review.

ARC & Audiobook Review: A Far Wilder Magic by Allison Saft

Publication Date: March 8, 2022

Synopsis:

When Margaret Welty spots the legendary hala, the last living mythical creature, she knows the Halfmoon Hunt will soon follow. Whoever is able to kill the hala will earn fame and riches, and unlock an ancient magical secret. If Margaret wins the hunt, it may finally bring her mother home. While Margaret is the best sharpshooter in town, only teams of two can register, and she needs an alchemist.

Weston Winters isn’t an alchemist–yet. Fired from every apprenticeship he’s landed, his last chance hinges on Master Welty taking him in. But when Wes arrives at Welty Manor, he finds only Margaret and her bloodhound Trouble. Margaret begrudgingly allows him to stay, but on one condition: he must join the hunt with her.

Although they make an unlikely team, Wes is in awe of the girl who has endured alone on the outskirts of a town that doesn’t want her, in this creaking house of ghosts and sorrow. And even though Wes disrupts every aspect of her life, Margaret is drawn to him. He, too, knows what it’s like to be an outsider. As the hunt looms closer and tensions rise, Margaret and Wes uncover dark magic that could be the key to winning the hunt – if they survive that long.

In A Far Wilder Magic, Allison Saft has written an achingly tender love story set against a deadly hunt in an atmospheric, rich fantasy world that will sweep you away.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I can see why one of the comp titles for this book is the Scorpio Races. This has a similar sense of place and magic, and a slowburn love story (though it’s a bit more physical). It slowly pulled me in until I was thoroughly hooked.

The writing is gorgeous and I highlighted several quotes. I also was able to listen to an advance copy of the audiobook and the performance was really excellent. The narrator was able to give each character a unique and recognizable (and believable) voice, and really brought the text to life.

Margaret, the main character, is cold and prickly and closed-off, trapped alone in her silent manor and barely alive. Wes burns with ambition, is impulsive, and has a large, loud family. It seems like they would never get along — and at first they don’t — but their gradual coming together is believable and romantic.

This book addresses religious prejudice well, making Margaret and Wes outsiders because of their family’s religion. They are bullied and tormented but they bear it and overcome it with empathy and grace.

The pace is glacial at first, and while it never gets anything like fast, it does gradually increase. I recommend giving it longer than normal to hook you because once it draws you in it really is a magical read.

*Thanks to NetGalley, Wednesday Books, and Macmillan Audio for providing an e-arc and audio arc of this book.

Favorite Quotes:

“A little tragedy is good for the constitution.”

Beneath his fear, there’s a glimmer of relieved acceptance. Mauling, he thinks, is a preferable death to shame.

She scours every surface until it gleams, until her mind begins to disconnect from reality, until her pain feels distant.

She has built herself a mother out of those precious memories and kept herself alive on them. But she can’t subsist on crumbs anymore.

She could lose herself in this. The heat of his body against hers; the heady, ridiculous scent of his aftershave and the wild bright salt of the sea; the way he holds her as though she’s something precious.

Right now, she strikes him as entirely otherworldly. A siren — or one of the aos si liable to drag him to a watery grave. Fey magic as ancient and wild as the hala, wearing a girl’s skin.

She is so beautiful.

She feels as though she’s been threaded through with an electrical wire, jittery and wild with dread.

I love him. It doesn’t surprise her to finally admit it to herself. It feels nothing like a revelation, nothing like falling — only like the punchline of some cruel, predictable joke. She has only given the universe more ammunition to wound her.

There is something dark within him that enjoys this heady rush of power. It’s intoxicating to at last hold all the cards — to cradle a life in his hands. The divinity of God lives within each of them, but only an alchemist can harness that spark. Jaime’s is just a pale insignificant glimmer against his.

She’s lived her whole life braced for another blow, but no amount of preparation or precaution has stopped them from landing.

This is the beast half of the hunters here today would’ve killed them for. The last demiurge: the last of the Katharists’ false gods, the last of the Sumic god’s children, the last of the Yu’adir god’s gifts.

The wind quivers, as tremulous as a long-held breath. And there is less magic in the world.

ARC Review: Edgewood by Kristen Ciccarelli

Publication Date: March 1, 2022

Synopsis:

No matter how far she runs, the forest of Edgewood always comes for Emeline Lark. The scent of damp earth curls into her nose when she sings and moss creeps across the stage. It’s as if the woods of her childhood, shrouded in folklore and tall tales, are trying to reclaim her. But Emeline has no patience for silly superstitions.

When her grandfather disappears, leaving only a mysterious orb in his wake, the stories Emeline has always scoffed at suddenly seem less foolish. She enters the forest she has spent years trying to escape, only to have Hawthorne Fell, a handsome and brooding tithe collector, try to dissuade her from searching.

Refusing to be deterred, Emeline finds herself drawn to the court of the fabled Wood King himself. She makes a deal—her voice for her grandfather’s freedom. Little does she know, she’s stumbled into the middle of a curse much bigger than herself, one that threatens the existence of this eerie world she’s trapped in, along with the devastating boy who feels so familiar.

With the help of Hawthorne—an enemy turned reluctant ally who she grows closer to each day—Emeline sets out to not only save her grandfather’s life, but to right past wrongs, and in the process, discover her true voice.

Haunting and romantic, Kristen Ciccarelli’s Edgewood is an exciting novel from a bold, unforgettable voice in fantasy.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Sometimes there are books that reach inside you, tear out your heart, then return it to you forever altered. This, for me, is one of those books.

I wasn’t sure about it at first. It seemed very YA love triangle which I personally can’t stand but it very quickly turned out to be not that.

I loved Edgewood. I loved the people who lived there. I loved the woods and I loved the shiftlings and I loved Emeline and Hawthorne. I loved how unpredictable the story is, how it kept shifting and changing and breaking its boundaries. I loved the music and the magic. I was utterly transported while reading and I can feel the forest and the magic waiting at the edges of my vision. The writing was beautiful and magical and perfect.

I would recommend it to people who loved Wintersong and The Light Between Worlds and An Enchantment of Ravens. Books about magic and boundaries and finding where you belong.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Wednesday Books for providing an e-arc for review.

Favorite Quotes:

Believing in monsters and cruel, fey kings made things easier. It gave them something to blame when senseless disaster struck.

She didn’t stop to think about how taking directions from trees was not something rational people did.

He was like the forest, she thought. Quiet and steadfast in the way he held himself, with secrets hidden beneath.

“But there is power at the edges: that sliver between night and day, the place where winter touches spring, the boundary where forest meets field. Wild magic grows up from the cracks in all things.”

“Moving on doesn’t have to mean forgetting, Song Mage.”

ARC & Audio Review: Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohoe

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Publication Date: February 15, 2022

Synopsis:

The only life Mae has ever known is on the island, living on the charity of the wealthy Prosper family who control the magic on the island and the spirits who inhabit it. Mae longs for magic of her own and to have a place among the Prosper family, where her best friend, Coco, will see her as an equal, and her crush, Miles, will finally see her. Now that she’s eighteen, Mae knows her time with the Prospers may soon come to an end.

But tonight is First Night, when the Prospers and their high-society friends return to the island to celebrate the night Lord Prosper first harnessed the island’s magic and started producing aether – a magical fuel source that has revolutionized the world. With everyone returning to the island, Mae finally has the chance to go after what she’s always wanted.

When the spirits start inexplicably dying, Mae starts to realize that things aren’t what they seem. And Ivo, the reclusive, mysterious heir to the Prosper magic, may hold all the answers – including a secret about Mae’s past that she doesn’t remember. As Mae and her friends begin to unravel the mysteries of the island, and the Prospers’ magic, Mae starts to question the truth of what her world was built on.

Forbidden magic, a family secret, and a night to reveal it all…

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was a really interesting reading experience. I was ready to give up on it really fast because it seemed to be setting up a very very typical YA love triangle with a villain-who’s-actually-good and a bad-boy-who’s-really-bad. I kept reading though, because I felt for Mae, who has spent her whole life on an island sort of on the outside of this very rich family. And it’s very well-written, which helped.

And then… everything flipped. And flipped again. I spent most of the book trying to figure out who is actually the good guy. My thoughts were like “Is he the good guy? Is he the good guy? Is there a good guy? You know what, these are all terrible people, why does Mae want anything to do with them? Oh ho, now Mae is a terrible people, what? Is… is there anyone on this island with even the tiniest redeeming quality?”

I couldn’t look away from the scheming and the backstabbing and the betrayals and the lies. It was like the Great Gatsby in that way. They’re all rich and terrible but you can’t look away.

And even after that, after all the darkness and lies, a whole new level of darkness and lies is reached. It was impressive, actually, that my opinion of these people could sink any lower. There is a tiny hint of redemption for some of them at the end, which is good because otherwise I would have come away with a very bitter taste in my mouth and might not have liked this book very much at all. As it is, yeah. You know, I really did enjoy it.

Also. That ending! That is a gutsy place to end a book, especially one that seems to be a standalone. And it’s also absolutely the right choice, because I’ve thought about it way more than I would have if the scene had gone on another few seconds and I think I like it more than I would have otherwise.

I have not read the Tempest, which I know this is a re-imagining of, but I don’t think that really impacted my enjoyment of this story. It definitely has Great Gatsby vibes, but again, I don’t think you need to be familiar with that story to read it. Just don’t write it off early on, because it does a great job of twisting that love triangle trope.

The audiobook performance was excellent. The narrator did a great job giving all the characters believable voices and acting out the story. I read a portion of the story and listened to a portion of it and I definitely enjoyed the listening experience more because it was so well done. It was like a movie playing out in my mind, seamless and totally immersive. I would definitely recommend getting the audio for the best reading experience.

*Thanks to NetGalley, Wednesday Books, and MacMillan Audio for providing an e-arc and audio arc for review.

Favorite Quotes:

We arrived at lunch with the bones of a plan. Actually, the bones of three different plans, which, combined, were not quite enough for a full skeleton.

I wished I could make him feel something other than rage. I wanted to make him smile.

ARC Review: Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves by Meg Long

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Publishing Date: January 11, 2022

Synopsis:

After angering a local gangster, seventeen-year-old Sena Korhosen must flee with her prize fighting wolf, Iska, in tow. A team of scientists offer to pay her way off her frozen planet on one condition: she gets them to the finish line of the planet’s infamous sled race. Though Sena always swore she’d never race after it claimed both her mothers’ lives, it’s now her only option.

But the tundra is a treacherous place, and as the race unfolds and their lives are threatened at every turn, Sena starts to question her own abilities. She must discover whether she’s strong enough to survive the wild – whether she and Iska together are strong enough to get them all out alive.

A captivating debut about survival, found family, and the bond between a girl and a wolf that delivers a fresh twist on classic survival stories and frontier myths.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I actually almost dnfed this one because I was having trouble connecting with the main character for the first 15% or so, and I’m SO glad I decided to give it another chance, because I ended up LOVING it.

Sena is hard and closed-off and a difficult character to know at first. She has had to be, living the life she has since her mothers died. She’s alone and determined that that’s the only way to survive on a brutal world like Tundar.

As the story progresses, however, Sena has to slowly grow to like, depend on, and trust others. it’s slow going, and she makes a lot of mistakes trying to do things on her own, but her new friends don’t give up on her and she learns not to give up on them — or herself.

Iska, the wolf she rescues, is a large part of that growth. The bond between them was heartwarming and Sena and her new friends would never have survived without her.

The pace was relentless, and I found myself glued to the story, flipping pages much quicker than I otherwise might have. It was definitely an action-packed, heart-pounding book. In fact, I think it would make an excellent movie and I hope it gets picked up for film. It hits all the right notes of action, friendship, bravery, resilience, danger, and hope.

Tundar is a brutal world, where everyone must fight to scrape a life from the snow and ice. There are so many spine-tingling monsters — and even the trees can kill you. There was a lot of blood and all of the monsters were put to good use. Nothing came easily as Sena and her friends raced across the ice.

I though the end was fitting, and now I want to read more books of Sena and Iska and Remy’s future adventures.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Wednesday Books for providing an e-arc for review.

Favorite Quotes

“There’s always a storm coming, Sena. The question is whether you can survive it or not.”

“Stories never end, Sena. They just become something new.”

“No one and nowhere is safe, Sena. That’s the truth of the universe.”

“It doesn’t get any easier,” Mom would say every time I came home with a black eye or hidden bruises from fighting with the other kids. I hear her words clear as if she’s standing next to me. “Nothing gets easier, Sena. You get stronger.”

My eyes follow her finger up to the sky, to the stars. Hundreds of stars. A dozen other worlds. Probably a thousand new ways to die.

ARC Review: Goblin King by Kara Barbieri

Rating: 1 out of 5.

I enjoyed White Stag, though it definitely had its faults, and was looking forward to continuing the story. The problem now is that I wish the story had ended there. Goblin King is…. boring. Seriously boring. There’s no emotional connection to characters. The stakes may be high but they certainly don’t feel so. The story DRAGS on and on with nothing but Feyre – I mean Janneke – stewing over her emotional trauma and letting it dictate her relationships.

I found similarities to A Court of Thorns and Roses series in White Stag, but here they were overwhelming and unending. Janneke morphed into Feyre, Soren became Rhys, Lydian became Tamlin, Seppo became Cassian… It’s frankly ridiculous. I may as well just reread ACOTAR – at least it was more polished. Here I’m practically having to read between the words that are written just to understand it.

If you loved ACOTAR, it might be worth picking this up. Otherwise, I can’t recommend it.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Wednesday Books for providing an e-arc to review

ARC Review & Blog Tour: A Golden Fury by Samantha Cohoe

Rating: 5 out of 5.

TW self-harm, mental illness / madness

I really  enjoyed this book and was hooked throughout. Thea is a very strong and  determined character, and she has to overcome a lot of disappointment  and people trying to take Alchemy from her, after being raised to think  that Alchemy is all she has.

My favorite part of the story was  the madness – yes, I know, it’s actually a very large part of the story,  so I guess it’s good that I liked it. It was very well done, and as  someone who is bipolar and has experienced my own form of madness, it  felt very very real and believable. I really identified with Thea as she  slowly succumbs to the madness, desperately fighting it off to finish  what she feels she has to do.

The ending with the Stone was a  nice twist and was solidly backed up by previous events, so I never felt  thrown out of the story.

The characters were all intriguing, and  even though most of them didn’t get a lot of page time compared to  Thea, I really enjoyed all of them. I especially liked Thea’s mother and  the Comte and kind of wish we’d seen more of them. I also found myself  really liking Valentin as the story progressed.

All in all a very  satisfying standalone. Even though it’s not technically bipolar rep, I  feel like it really captures the spirit of bipolar rep so I’m mentally  adding it to that shelf in my brain.

Get it here!

Thanks to NetGalley and Wednesday books for providing an e-arc for review.

Here’s some info on the book with an excerpt:

Set in eighteenth century England, Samantha Cohoe’s debut novel, A GOLDEN FURY (Wednesday Books; October 13, 2020), follows a young alchemist as she tries to save the people she loves from the curse of the Philosopher’s Stone. The streets of London and Oxford come to life as this historical fantasy unravels. Weaving together an alluring story of magic and danger, Samantha’s debut has her heroine making messy decisions as she toes the line between good and evil while it becomes blurred.

Thea Hope longs to be an alchemist out of the shadow of her famous mother. The two of them are close to creating the legendary Philosopher’s Stone—whose properties include immortality and can turn any metal into gold—but just when the promise of the Stone’s riches is in their grasp, Thea’s mother destroys the Stone in a sudden fit of violent madness.

While combing through her mother’s notes, Thea learns that there’s a curse on the Stone that causes anyone who tries to make it to lose their sanity. With the threat of the French Revolution looming, Thea is sent to Oxford for her safety, to live with the father who doesn’t know she exists.

But in Oxford, there are alchemists after the Stone who don’t believe Thea’s warning about the curse—instead, they’ll stop at nothing to steal Thea’s knowledge of how to create the Stone. But Thea can only run for so long, and soon she will have to choose: create the Stone and sacrifice her sanity, or let the people she loves die.

A GOLDEN FURY and the curse of the Philosopher’s Stone will haunt you long after the final page.

About the Author

Samantha Cohoe writes historically-inspired young adult fantasy. She was raised in San Luis Obispo, California, where she enjoyed an idyllic childhood of beach trips, omnivorous reading, and writing stories brimming with adverbs. She currently lives in Denver with her family and divides her time among teaching Latin, mothering, writing, reading, and deleting adverbs. A Golden Fury is her debut novel.

And here’s an Excerpt:

Thanks to NetGalley and Wednesday books for providing an e-arc for review.