Review: Bright Ruin (Vic James)

51H+Nan8LZLBlurb:

A shattered country
A world-changing magic

Magically gifted aristocrats rule Britain, and the people must serve them. But rebellion now strikes at the heart of the old order. Abi has escaped public execution, thanks to an unexpected ally. Her brother Luke is on the run with Silyen Jardine, the most mysterious aristocrat of all. And as political and magical conflicts escalate, each must decide how far they’ll go for their beliefs.

Dragons clash in the skies, as two powerful women duel for the soul of Britain. A symbol of government will blaze as it dies, and doors between worlds will open – and close forever. But the battle within human hearts will be the fiercest of all.

Review:

Do you have a series that you consider perfect? Like whoah-how-is-this-even-possible-perfect?

That’s the Dark Gifts trilogy for me.

Let me start off this review with a brief anecdote. When my pre-ordered copy of Bright Ruin arrived on Monday, I literally dropped what I was doing (sorry, Shadow World edits), snatched up the book, and said “Screw work.”

I read it from start to finish that day.

Then needed a full day and a half to recover.

Yes, it was that good.

It’s a sad fact that, more often than not, I’m let down by the series finales. Usually it’s either the storyline itself or the very ending that just isn’t quite on par with the previous books or (which I know is utterly personal) doesn’t meet my own (probably too high) expectations. That wasn’t the case here.

Vic James downright excels with Bright Ruin.

By the time I was done with it (or it was done with me), the book left me a massive fangirling mess.

I honestly can’t review BR without commenting on the trilogy as a whole, because that’s precisely what it is. An impeccable story broken into three utterly fulfilling parts. James never drops the ball, never wavers. Her characters are distinct and true to themselves even as they grow or change paths/views, the writing flawless, and the world opening up (as well as bringing to light more details) with every passing page.

The way James weaves politics and social issues into a modern fantasy world that resonates ours, yet is undoubtedly its own entity, is a feat all on its own. Coming from someone who isn’t big on politics in real life or fiction, I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed this aspect right from the very start. It’s rich, well-developed, and inexplicably tied to the individual storylines. Organic, without once becoming overwhelming or dry. I devoured the politics with the same enthusiasm as I cared for the characters’ fates.

Perhaps to sum everything up before my love goes out of hand:

Bright Ruin is the pinnacle where everything, every little crumb we had been given throughout the story, converges. A spectacular, fulfilling ending that crowns the brilliance that is James’s world.

From the first page to the very last, the Dark Gifts trilogy is an exceptional work of fiction that I hope will inspire, entertain, and touch readers for decades (better yet, centuries) to come.

Review: The Devil’s Thief (Lisa Maxwell)

510vWhbS5aL.jpgBlurb:

Hunt the Stones.
Beware the Thief.
Avenge the Past.

Esta’s parents were murdered. Her life was stolen. And everything she knew about magic was a lie. She thought the Book of Mysteries held the key to freeing the Mageus from the Order’s grasp, but the danger within its pages was greater than she ever imagined.

Now the Book’s furious power lives inside Harte. If he can’t control it, it will rip apart the world to get its revenge, and it will use Esta to do it.

To bind the power, Esta and Harte must track down four elemental stones scattered across the continent. But the world outside the city is like nothing they expected. There are Mageus beyond the Brink not willing to live in the shadows—and the Order isn’t alone in its mission to crush them.

In St. Louis, the extravagant World’s Fair hides the first stone, but an old enemy is out for revenge and a new enemy is emerging. And back in New York, Viola and Jianyu must defeat a traitor in a city on the verge of chaos.

As past and future collide, time is running out to rewrite history—even for a time-traveling thief.

Review:

There are some books you just can’t stop thinking about, no matter how much time goes by. The Last Magician was one of those for me.

Right when I thought I’d moved on, my mind would offer up a snippet, an emotion, a taste of the amazing atmospheres Maxwell created… It was a struggle to keep myself from reading the book over and over again. So, naturally, it made me wonder how could anything possibly be better than The Last Magician? How could anything ensnare me as much as This. Damn. Book?

Apparently, I only needed to wait long enough to get my hands on The Devil’s Thief.

First of all, let me say that it was a dream to spend time with all my faves again, as well as meet the newbies (love the newbies!). The cast was one of those aspects that played a crucial role in making me fall heads over heels with TLM, and let me tell you, the ball just keeps on rolling. The blend of queer, POC, as well as white cishet characters builds a believable reality that is only further augmented by the layered complexity of every individual we meet. They all have their own struggles, some tied to the story, some to their own emotions, but also to society and its perception of what is acceptable and what is not. Their voices are clear and distinct, so even though I have my personal sweethearts, I thoroughly enjoyed every single perspective The Devil’s Thief offered.

I won’t go into the story itself because it would be super hard to avoid spoilers, but I can say that the book didn’t disappoint. The prose is stunning, and Maxwell ingeniously weaves the numerous storylines into a seamless, spellbinding whole that spans across time.

The Devil’s Thief is definitely among my top 2018 releases, and the series itself is one of my favorites in general. I highly recommend it to all who enjoy losing themselves not only in an epic story, but an entire intricately designed world.

The next instalment can’t come out soon enough!

Review: Grace & Fury (Tracy Banghart)

51zOc9zWoiLBlurb: 

In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi Tessaro face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other in prison.

Serina has been groomed her whole life to become a Grace–someone to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining, subjugated example of the perfect woman. But when her headstrong and rebellious younger sister, Nomi, catches the heir’s eye, it’s Serina who takes the fall for the dangerous secret that Nomi has been hiding.

Now trapped in a life she never wanted, Nomi has only one way to save Serina: surrender to her role as a Grace until she can use her position to release her sister. This is easier said than done. A traitor walks the halls of the palace, and deception lurks in every corner. But Serina is running out of time, imprisoned on an island where she must fight to the death to survive and one wrong move could cost her everything.

Review:

Wow, this was one of those rare books that made me want to lift it towards the sky and just roar. Thank you, Tracy Banghart, for giving the world more girl love.

But that description really doesn’t do the book justice.

“It isn’t a choice if you don’t have the freedom to say no.”

I think it was this sentence that first unravelled me. This sentence that set the mood for the entire novel. In a world were there are no true choices, just the appearance of them, how much will it take for the dam to break and unleash all that glorious strength?

It’s hard to go into detail since I would hate to spoil even the smallest aspect of the story, so let me just say that if you’re looking for an inspirational, beautiful read that’s filled with injustices and horrors, but even more so, brimming with such light it actually brought tears to my eyes on several occasions, then do yourself a massive favor and pick up a copy of Grace & Fury.

One of the plot twists towards the end was, perhaps, a bit predictable, but in hindsight, it’s actually only a very small part of the grander structure that’s Banghart’s novel and in no way leeches away any of the enjoyment. That lies in the layered characters, the vines of hope existing even in hopeless situations, and, in my opinion, in the breaking of shackles society had tried to entrap its people in. I really look forward to the sequel.

June reads

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Time for another monthly overview!

An asterisk marks a re-read, and the ebooks couldn’t make the photoshoot, but here’s the complete list of all the amazing books that kept me company in June:
💎 An Enchantment of Ravens (Rogerson)
💎 A Curse of Sparks (Shade)
💎 Caraval (Garber)*
💎 Legendary (Garber)
💎 Something Hidden (Owens)
💎 A Court of Wings and Ruin (Maas)*
💎 Fire & Blood (Vers)
💎 Soul’s Blade (Chase)
💎 Venom in the Veins (Estep)
💎 Something Taken (Owens)
💎 Something Bound (Owens)
💎 Beyond a Darkened Shore (Leake)
💎 Ace of Shades (Foody)
💎 Truthwitch (Dennard)
The towel and mason jar are @owlcrate exclusives 💙

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Review: Ace of Shades (Amanda Foody)

51kDRtypyxLBlurb:

Welcome to the City of Sin, where casino families reign, gangs infest the streets…and secrets hide in every shadow

Enne Salta was raised as a proper young lady, and no lady would willingly visit New Reynes, the so-called City of Sin. But when her mother goes missing, Enne must leave her finishing school—and her reputation—behind to follow her mother’s trail to the city where no one survives uncorrupted.

Frightened and alone, Enne has only one lead: the name Levi Glaisyer. Unfortunately, Levi is notthe gentleman she expected—he’s a street lord and con man. Levi is also only one payment away from cleaning up a rapidly unraveling investment scam, so he doesn’t have time to investigate a woman leading a dangerous double life. Enne’s offer of compensation, however, could be the solution to all his problems.

Their search for clues leads them through glamorous casinos, illicit cabarets and into the clutches of a ruthless Mafia donna. As Enne unearths an impossible secret about her past, Levi’s enemies catch up to them, ensnaring him in a vicious execution game where the players always lose. To save him, Enne will need to surrender herself to the city…

And she’ll need to play.

Review:

Can I hear a massive Hell Yeah for a POC bisexual character who also happens to be one of the two protagonists? HELL YEAH.

(shouts from the rooftops)

Right, now that I got that out of the way, I can tackle this a bit more calmly. Emphasis on a bit.

Ace of Shades is definitely my kind of book. I enjoy a variety of genres, characters, setups, etc., but give me a layered bi character, an incredibly vivid setting, a not-exactly-straightforward magic system, and a fast paced plot, and I’m hooked. Amanda Foody delivers it all.

I also have to point out I thoroughly enjoyed that the characters actually felt their age. Is Levi a crime lord at the age of 17? Yes. But he isn’t invincible. He makes mistakes. He has weaknesses. And while, as a street kid, he had to grow up fast, he’s still a teenager. Needles to say, I wanted to smack him over his pretty bisexual head a number of times, but therein lies part of the charm.

Enne, the second POV character, fits the same “believable” category. Her world shatters when she arrives in New Reynes, and throughout the book, she reflects how the old and the new clash, who she becomes because of it. It might look like a staggering turn at first glance, but her growth is there, sometimes outright, sometimes visible between the lines. I have to say, while I might not have been her fan at first, she quickly won me over. By the end of the novel, I found that I really wasn’t ready to part ways with her just yet. The sequel can’t come into my hands fast enough 😉

Last but not least, the world building/magic system. Aces of Shades slowly plies apart the layers, offering glimpses that later connect into a comprehensive whole. The two-talent aspect of their powers is an intriguing concept, as is the political (and historical) premise that is irrevocably tied to the aforementioned abilities.

All in all, this is a novel that has definitely found its place among my favorite 2018 reads, and I highly recommend it to everyone looking for queer representation packed in slightly gritty, but even more so spellbinding, fantasy.

 

May reads

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It’s time for another overview of the books I’ve read the previous month. As always, the e-books couldn’t make it to the photo shoot. Unfortunately, I also forgot to include Heart of Iron. That baby was left behind on the shelves, although for the life of me, I can’t figure out what made me miss it when I was putting together my pile 😶

Anyway, here are the titles (an asterisk marks a reread):
💎 A Court of Mist and Fury (Maas)*
💎 Heart of Iron (Poston)
💎 Blood is Forever (Vers)
💎 Endless Knight (Cole)
💎 In the Dark (Taylor)
💎 Something Chosen (Owens)
💎 A Court of Frost and Starlight (Maas)
💎 The House of Gray and Graves (Stunich)
💎 Night Awakens (Walker)
💎 Dead of Winter (Cole)
💎 Chameleon Assassin (Kingsolver)
💎 Magic Waking (Chase)
💎 Arcana Rising (Cole)
💎 The Dark Calling (Cole)
💎 Bloody Thanks (Vers)
💎 Night Rises (Walker)
💎 Sky in the Deep (Young)

This completely awesome travel mug I featured in the photo was included in a previous @fairyloot box.

New release: Shadow Moon

lottebannercourt copy

I honestly can’t begin to express how excited I am to share this story with you. Not only does it encompass my love for tennis, but Lotte is a character that has been with me for a while. Perhaps not in the exact form as she appears in the novel, but her essence has always been the same. I wrote about her inception in my latest newsletter, so I won’t get into it here, but if you want to, you can check out the story via this link.

Anyway, I’m so glad that I was able to send another bisexual werewolf protagonists out into the world, and I sincerely hope that you will enjoy reading Shadow Moon as much as I loved working on the story.

The second title, Darkening Moon, is already up for preorder and will be released in August. In the meantime, here are the buy links and blurb for the first in the Lotte Freundenberger series:

Werewolf. Coach. Lover. Spy. 

After the War, Lotte gave up the turmoil of pack life to pursue a far more placid career in tennis. Or so she believed. 

When a player is found dead at the compound with only days left until the Munich Games, the Interspecies Crimes and Relations Agency rolls in. Senior Agent Isa Vogt suspects foul play and enlists Lotte’s help to discover who stands behind the lethal performance-enhancing drug.  

While separating friend from foe seems like an impossible task, Lotte has no choice but to return to her ruthless werewolf ways—or see another athlete die. 

Will she win the hardest match of her life? Join Lotte’s team by picking up your copy of SHADOW MOON to find out.

Amazon / iBooks / Nook / Kobo

Bisexual Protagonists Party: Part Five

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Today marks the last post in the BPP series and the release of SHADOW MOON! Yay!

If you haven’t yet ordered your copy of this bi werewolf ex-tennis player turned coach’s story (now that’s a mouthful), you can head over to Amazon, iBooks, Nook, Kobo, or any other preferred e-books store and still get it at a special discounted new release price 🙂

That being said, I have one last post to showcase bisexual protagonists in indie fantasy lit left. This one is slightly different, since these aren’t personal recommendations like before, but a list of titles with bi MCs that I haven’t gotten around to reading yet (although I definitely plan to).

So if you’re looking for more books to check out, I kindly invite you to sift through the list.

The books are in no particular order, and the link will take you to their respective Amazon page:

All right, that’s a wrap! If you missed any of the previous posts, they’re all available in the BPP tag.

I really enjoyed putting together this mini series, and I hope my schedule will allow me to do something similar again in the future 🙂

Bisexual Protagonists Party: Part Four

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Time for some more great bisexual MCs! There’s only one more post coming up next week (timed to coincide with Shadow Moon’s release, YAY!), and since it will be a little different from these recommendations, I wanted to round up the showcase of indie bi books by featuring three quite different novels, if all belonging under the urban fantasy umbrella.

I enjoyed all three so, so much, and you know what the best part is? All are just the first in series!

Magic Waking by Eva Chase

51N2RVsM0cL.jpgBlurb:

Die, reincarnate, repeat. It’s been a long fifteen hundred years…

Reborn wizard Emma Hale has three goals in life, or rather lives: Track down the present incarnation of the legendary King Arthur, fend off the shadow creatures that hound him for as long as she can, and break the spell that binds their souls in this morbid cycle.

If only she had a better idea how she’d cast that spell in the first place. And if only Arthur’s current host wasn’t so cocky yet distractingly good-looking. Because Emma is falling even harder for the man she can’t have.

When a fae mercenary with power to rival Emma’s puts her king in his sights, Emma burns through all her tricks just to stay one step ahead. Now her only chance is to find some way to destroy the mercenary before he and his army of dark forces destroy Arthur.

No human Emma’s ever known has managed to kill a fae. But if she can’t, and quickly, this death might be their last.

Personal commentary: A King Arthur retelling like no other, I was spellbound by the bond between two souls that overcomes time, death, and, the most brilliant thing of all, genders. This comes so close to my own view on love and relationships that it made me an instant fan. But even without it, the story itself is a fast-paced delight I’m sure everyone who appreciates a good retelling with adore.

The House of Gray and Graves C.M. Stunich

41TS2ZJn89LBlurb: 

“Welcome to the house of Gray and Graves where we never lie still and death is only the beginning …”

I am Georgette Marie French, daughter of Annette Rosemary Cummings and Anthony Starling French. I’m twenty-six years old, never married, always dating. I have no children; I don’t want any, and oh yeah, I’m undead though I’m not charming like a vampire or mysterious like a ghost, I’m just a zombie. And possibly the Queen of an entire court of human souls and madmen.

George has never been lucky in life, so when she drowns in a swimming pool and is raised as the first and only zombie to ever have its soul intact, she isn’t surprised to find out that a group of religious fanatics who have the ability to sense the undead are after her. The only thing keeping her sane are the glamours that allow her to pass as human. When the donor of the fae blood needed to sustain them is killed, George must cross the Veil into Faerie where the chances of making it back alive – or even undead – are slim.

Welcome to a place of lost souls; welcome to Faerie.

Personal commentary: Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book from a zombie’s perspective! Unique, flawed, and entertaining, George is a protagonist I wouldn’t mind hanging out with. That, coupled with the author’s own twist on the Fae, this was one of those books I kept falling in love with with every new page.

Chameleon Assassin by BR Kingsolver

51pra1HdnEL.jpgBlurb: 

Libby is a mutant, one of the top burglars and assassins in the world. For a price, she caters to executives’ secret desires. Eliminate your corporate rival? Deliver a priceless art masterpiece or necklace? Hack into another corporation’s network? Libby’s your girl.

Climate change met nuclear war, and humanity lost. The corporations stepped in, stripping governments of power. Civilization didn’t end, but it became less civilized. There are few rules as corporations jockey for position and control of assets and markets.

In the year 2200, the world has barely recovered the level of technology that existed before the ice melted and the subsequent wars. Corporate elites live in their walled estates and skyscraper apartments while the majority of humanity supplies their luxuries. On the bottom level, the mutants, the poor, and the criminals scramble every day just to survive.

Personal commentary: A tall(!!!) female protagonists who’s as intelligent as she’s (deliciously) straightforward and a well-crafted dystopian world equals an instant add to my list. If you’re looking for a kickass assassin who, despite being a mutant, feels incredibly down-to-earth, then you definitely won’t regret picking up a copy.

Bisexual Protagonists Party: Part Three

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For this round, I wanted to share with you three absolutely amazing urban fantasy novels with female bisexual leads. Ranging from fledgling vamps to kick-ass (former) magical assassins, I’m positive you’ll find something you love.

Ready?

Something Chosen by Alex Owens

51jjxQdZ3fLBlurb:

Death isn’t always the end… sometimes it’s only the beginning.

Claire’s trapped in a dead-end marriage, strapped for cash and getting desperate. Her chance at freedom comes in the form of a music con in Florida. Her mission? Win over a few big clients and collect a fat bonus check. It should have been easy, but Claire didn’t count on a bewitched violin, its sultry Italian owner, Bette, or her dark and dangerous companions.

Unfortunately, life isn’t all song lyrics and seduction. Tied to darkness by blood and power, Claire must harness her abilities if she has any hope of surviving this business trip from hell.

Personal commentary: Hilarious, steamy, and intense, it was impossible to put this book down until the very last page. The MC’s mental comments as she had to face more revelations than she could have ever even imagined were absolutely priceless, but beneath the humor, what I truly fell in love with was the way Claire’s character developed over time.

 

Night Awakens by Leslie Claire Walker

51QybKEG8oLBlurb:

My name is Night Sanchez, the only magical assassin to escape the Order of the Blood Moon and live.

I’m on the run with a target whose life I chose to save. We’re being pursued by the Angel of Death.

If he takes one of us, the Apocalypse is on and the world as we know it ends. Humanity ends.

Once upon a time, that wouldn’t have been a problem for me, but I’ve found people I care about. Faith, who I saved and adopted as my daughter. Red, the man who gave me a place to call home. Before, I had nothing to lose. Now, I walk a knife’s edge.

So, bring on the Angel of Death. Bring on the Order and its assassins. I’ll go to war to protect the people I love. If I fail, the world will burn. But the world is still made of magic, and magic and love might save us all.

Magical assassins. Fallen angels. A supernatural, take-no-prisoners thrill ride. When Death comes calling, magic lights the fires of hope.

Personal commentary: Action from start to finish, a POC bisexual protagonists/ex-magical assassin with an adopted daughter, and a lively support cast… Need I say more? Hooked from the very first page, Night Awakens was one of those books I read in a single breath (and couldn’t one-click the sequel fast enough).

 

In the Dark by Melody Taylor

51QqRn+wb5LBlurb:

Ian is a young woman with an unusual name, a talent for painting – and a thirst for blood.

Becoming a vampire is the most fun Ian’s ever had, partying all night and sleeping all day, safe in the knowledge of her new immortality. She’s totally unprepared for the nastier side of being a vampire – unprepared, and suddenly alone.

Sebastian has been the first lieutenant of a dangerous gang of vampire thugs for centuries. A growing desire for a quieter life has led him to recently retreat from his sworn brethren in search of peace and privacy. Leaving behind his bloodied past, however, won’t be as easy as simply walking away.

Ian finds Sebastian terrifyingly cold. Sebastian considers Ian naive and all too human. These two unlikely allies will have to find a way to reconcile their differences and cooperate, however, because they do have one thing in common:

Someone wants them both dead.

Personal commentary: What happens when you turn a low-key, mainstream vamp’s life upside down and sprinkle it with generous amounts of danger? A bloody fabulous read! In the Dark is an urban fantasy of epic proportions with a deliciously grim atmosphere and multi-layered characters.