31 July, 2018

[Review] Furyborn by Claire LeGrand

Series: Empirium #1
Release Date:22 May, 2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Young Adult/Epic Fantasy/Political Fantasy/Romance/Time Travel/Magic
ISBN: 9781492656623
Edition: Hardback
Rating: ★★★★★
Review Written: 14 July, 2018
Summary:Follows two fiercely independent young women, centuries apart, who hold the power to save their world...or doom it.

When assassins ambush her best friend, the crown prince, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing her ability to perform all seven kinds of elemental magic. The only people who should possess this extraordinary power are a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light and salvation and a queen of blood and destruction. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven trials to test her magic. If she fails, she will be executed...unless the trials kill her first.

A thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a mere fairy tale to bounty hunter Eliana Ferracora. When the Undying Empire conquered her kingdom, she embraced violence to keep her family alive. Now, she believes herself untouchable--until her mother vanishes without a trace, along with countless other women in their city. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain on a dangerous mission and discovers that the evil at the heart of the empire is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world--and of each other.

See more by Claire LeGrand at her Website.

24 July, 2018

[Review] Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

Series: Ash Princess #1
Release Date: 24 April, 2018
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult/Epic Fantasy/Princesses/Political Fantasy/Prisoners/Romance
ISBN: 9781524767068
Edition: Audiobook, Hardback
Rating: ★★★★★
Review Written: 14 July, 2018
Summary:Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. On that day, the Kaiser took Theodosia's family, her land, and her name. Theo was crowned Ash Princess--a title of shame to bear in her new life as a prisoner.

For ten years Theo has been a captive in her own palace. She's endured the relentless abuse and ridicule of the Kaiser and his court. She is powerless, surviving in her new world only by burying the girl she was deep inside.

Then, one night, the Kaiser forces her to do the unthinkable. With blood on her hands and all hope of reclaiming her throne lost, she realizes that surviving is no longer enough. But she does have a weapon: her mind is sharper than any sword. And power isn't always won on the battlefield.

For ten years, the Ash Princess has seen her land pillaged and her people enslaved. That all ends here.

See more by Laura Sebastian at her Website.

Ash Princess intrigued me when I first read the description. It felt like a new spin on the normal teenage romances and epic fantasies that have flooded the YA market in recent years. Theodosia was six when her mother was killed and she’s been held prisoner by the Kaiser, the ruler of the Kalovaxians, ever since. Trapped in a life where she’s punished for every slight against the Kaiser by rebel Astreans, Theodosia lives by a simple rule: keep her head down and stay in line, and the Kaiser will keep her alive. Though in her earlier years Theo daydreamed of leaving her life behind and escaping with any of the remaining Guardians (elemental guards and advisors to her ill-fated mother and previous queens, and seemingly priests of her people), at sixteen she’s come to acknowledge the simple truth. No one is coming to save her.

Her last hope of rescue is dashed by the capture of Ampelio, the last of the free Guardians that Theodosia knows to be still living. Forced to translate between him and the Kaiser, Theo is placed into a difficult position as she realizes a horrible truth, Ampelio is her father and she’s going to be the one to kill him. At this one simple act of brutality forced upon her, something inside of Theodosia breaks, and she cannot simply be Lady Thora, a Princess of Ashes like the Kaiser has trained her to be. With the appearance of Blaise, her childhood friend whom Theo hasn’t seen since before the siege of her country; Theo steps into a role she’s never anticipated taking, becoming the Queen of Astrea.

Sebastian’s worldbuilding is excellent, and the hardback copy includes maps of the countries so you can get a feel for where things are. Given that Astrea is an island nation, the amount of nautical information provided in the book was fantastic. Ash Princess expands slowly, giving readers an overview and history lesson; granted vaguely flawed through Theo’s point of view and can be unreliable. Throughout the book, Theo works with Blaise and two other rebels who have replaced her “shadow” Guards to begin plotting a way to free Astrea and work on freeing the people in the mines. Though she longs to hang onto her friend Crescentia, she grows to realize that Cress has seen her more as a pet or a living doll than an actual living person. The realization, that comes after Crescentia admits that marrying the Kaiser is the best thing for Thora/Theodosia, finally pushes Theo into going forwards with the plan to poison Crescentia and her father the Theyn.

With twists and turns, Ash Princess leaves readers with a growing sense of dread and curiosity to see what will happen next. Will Theo escape with Blaise and meet the famous pirate Dragonsbane? Will her plot to murder Crescentia and the Theyn actually succeed? Will she be able to remove Elpis from the palace too after the murder? Readers will find the answers they seek within the pages of Ash Princess though perhaps not the ones they’re hoping for. As with every book that holds a love triangle, I’ll admit I rolled my eyes a bit at Theo’s growing feelings for Søren, especially when she spends a fair amount of the book trying to seduce him for the purpose of getting close enough to kill him. It was inevitable that she start feeling things for the Prinz of Kalovaxia. It was almost as predictable as Blaise being a long lost childhood sweetheart. Thankfully, beyond a few scenes in the book where Theodosia goes on a date or two with Søren and a kiss with Blaise, romance is not at the forefront of the book.

Despite the light airiness of the romance and initial chapters with Crescentia in them, this book is not for the faint of heart. It mentions and depicts several graphic scenes, including Ampelio’s death at the beginning of the book and Thor’s whipping later on. It mentions rape on several occasions, including the rape of Theo’s maid Hoa which resulted in a half-blooded bastard of the king. If you have triggers with violence, rape, or other dark themes; I recommend reading with caution.

Sebastian’s world is a captivating one, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next as Theo steps in to her role as Queen and tries to figure out exactly how to save what’s left of her nation.

17 July, 2018

[Review] Willa of the Wood by Robert Beatty

Series: Willa of the Wood #1
Release Date: 10 July, 2018
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Genre: Juvenile Fiction/Middle Grade (4-6)/Fantasy/Historical Fiction/Appalachia/Action & Adventure/Mysteries
ISBN: 9781368005845
Edition: Advanced Reader Copy Ebook, Hardback
Rating: ★★★★★
Review Written: 14 July, 2018
Summary:Escape into the story of a brave and unusual girl brimming with the ancient powers of the forest. From Robert Beatty, the author of the #1 New York Times best-selling Serafina books, comes a thrilling new series filled with the history, mystery, and magic of the Great Smoky Mountains. Kirkus Reviews described WILLA OF THE WOOD as "A moving, atmospheric journey of hope."

Move without a sound. Steal without a trace.

Willa, a young night-spirit, is her clan's best thief. She creeps into the cabins of the day-folk under cover of darkness and takes what they won't miss. It's dangerous work--the day-folk kill whatever they don't understand--but Willa will do anything to win the approval of the padaran, the charismatic leader of the Faeran people.

When Willa's curiosity leaves her hurt and stranded in the day-folk world, she calls upon the old powers of her beloved grandmother, and the unbreakable bonds of her forest allies, to escape. Only then does she begin to discover the shocking truth: that not all of her day-folk enemies are the same, and that the foundations of her own Faeran society are crumbling. What do you do when you realize that the society you were born and raised in is rife with evil? Do you raise your voice? Do you stand up against it?

As forces of unfathomable destruction encroach on her forest home, Willa must decide who she truly is, facing deadly force with warmest compassion, sinister corruption with trusted alliance, and finding a home for her longing heart.

See more by Robert Beatty at his Website.

10 July, 2018

[Review] The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Series: The Hazel Wood #1
Release Date: 30 January, 2018
Publisher: McMillian Audio
Genre: Young Adult Fiction/Contemporary Fantasy/Psychological Thriller
ISBN: 9781427293534
Edition: Audiobook
Rating: ★★★★☆
Review Written: 16 June, 2018
Summary: Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

See more by Melissa Albert at her Website.

03 July, 2018

[Review] The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe, translated by Lilit Thwaites

Series: Stand-Alone
Release Date: 10 October, 2017 (English version), 18 August, 2012 (Original Spanish)
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction/Historical Fiction/Holocaust
ISBN: 9781627796187
Edition: Audiobook and Hardcover
Rating: ★★★★★
Review Written: 16 June, 2018
Summary: Based on the experience of real-life Auschwitz prisoner Dita Kraus, this is the incredible story of a girl who risked her life to keep the magic of books alive during the Holocaust.

Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Taken, along with her mother and father, from the Terezín ghetto in Prague, Dita is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp. When Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch asks Dita to take charge of the eight precious volumes the prisoners have managed to sneak past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the librarian of Auschwitz.

Out of one of the darkest chapters of human history comes this extraordinary story of courage and hope.

See more by Antonio Iturbe at his Website (spanish).

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