Genre: Fantasy

Joint Review: Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven

Posted November 14, 2018 by Rowena in Reviews | 4 Comments

Joint Review: Phoenix Unbound by Grace DravenReviewer: Casee, Holly, & Rowena
Phoenix Unbound (Fallen Empire, #1) by Grace Draven
Narrator: Katharine McEwan
Series: Fallen Empire #1
Publisher: Ace
Publication Date: September 25, 2018
Format: Audiobook, eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Third
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 400
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Goodreads
four-stars

A woman with power over fire and illusion and an enslaved son of a chieftain battle a corrupt empire in this powerful and deeply emotional romantic fantasy from the USA Today bestselling author of Radiance.

Every year, each village is required to send a young woman to the Empire's capital--her fate to be burned alive for the entertainment of the masses. For the last five years, one small village's tithe has been the same woman. Gilene's sacrifice protects all the other young women of her village, and her secret to staying alive lies with the magic only she possesses.

But this year is different.

Azarion, the Empire's most famous gladiator, has somehow seen through her illusion--and is set on blackmailing Gilene into using her abilities to help him escape his life of slavery. And unknown to Gilene, he also wants to reclaim the birthright of his clan.

To protect her family and village, she will risk everything to return to the Empire--and burn once more.

Phoenix Unbound is the first book in Grace Draven’s Fallen Empire series and it follows a young woman named Gilene who was born with fire magic. Each year, the Empire demands a sacrifice from each village in the form of a young woman who will be burned to death for the entertainment of the masses and each year, Gilene has been the sacrifice for her small town. With her fire magic and illusion, Gilene has been able to trick the Empire into believing that her town sends a new sacrifice each year and each year, her small town makes her pay the price.

When Gilene comes across the Empire’s winningest gladiator, her life is forever changed because Azarion knows Gilene’s secret. He can see through her illusion and knows she’s been coming every year. He needs her help in escaping his enslavement because he needs to go back home and re-claim his title and his family. He also needs to make sure that those who sold him into slavery pay for their crimes.

Rowena: Alright, so what did you guys think? Did you guys enjoy this book as much as you did Shadow and Ice? =P

Holly: I listened to the audiobook, and the first few chapters were pretty slow for me. I don’t know if it was because I was listening instead of reading, or just the book itself, but I struggled. By the halfway point (perhaps a bit sooner, I didn’t really pay attention to where I was at in the book) it picked up. Regardless, I ended up really loving it. Shadow and Ice, not so much.

Casee: Okay, I finally read this book and I really ended up enjoying it. I don’t think I liked it as much as you two did, but I did really like it. It started out really, really slow for me. I listened to it on audio. I liked the narrator, which always helps. It really wasn’t until they got back to Azarion’s homeland that the book started getting interesting.

Ha. This book was loads better than Shadow and Ice. The two don’t even compare.

Rowena: I read the eBook and was fine. I didn’t think it was slow at all, but that could have been because I was so bored through Shadow & Ice that the mystery behind what Gilene did for her village, every single year had me sitting up and taking notice right from the jump.

Holly: I really loved Gilene in this book. She was such a strong woman. I really identified with her determination to save her family, even if they didn’t necessarily deserve her sacrifice.

Rowena: Like Holly, I loved Gilene so much in this book but I also really loved Azarion. They were both going through so much that it was hard not to sympathize with them. I completely understood why Azarion did what he did to Gilene at the same time that I understood why Gilene had to get back to her village, and why she felt she had to continue to do what she does year in and year out even though her village probably didn’t deserve her sacrifice.

Holly: I understood why Azarion did what he did, too, though I didn’t fault Gilene for being angry at him over it. I also got why she needed to go back to her village. They definitely didn’t deserve her, but she couldn’t turn her back on them and I respected that.

Casee: I did find Gilene and her history interesting. I also found her a little insufferable. She was constantly fighting Azarion. I understood that, but at the same time I was like give it a rest, girl. Bide your time.

Holly: I didn’t find Gilene insufferable, though I did find myself thinking she needed to relax a little. She spent her whole life being told she had to do this one thing, so I understood where her head was at.

Rowena: That was the same for me. It’s hard not to sympathize with her considering the big sacrifice she had to go through every single year and then how else was she to respond to Azarion kidnapping her? I would have been fighting his ass at every turn too.

My favorite parts of the story were when Azarion and Gilene were back in his home…and when she fooled those guys that tried to attack her and the people of Azarion’s village. The way that she made the fire all big was great and I loved seeing her come into her own powers, especially in the end when she’s back in the empire. What were some of your favorite parts of the book?

Holly: I loved Azarion’s culture. It reminded me of the Dothraki from Game of Thrones. I really liked the time they spent with Azarion’s clan. His mom and sister were great, and I liked how Gilene proved herself. The scene you mentioned, definitely, plus her actions at the end. I loved how brave she was, and how willing she was to sacrifice it all for others.

Rowena: Yeah, same.

Casee: My favorite part of the book was when Azarion thought Gilene was lost to Agna forever. I think that scene truly showed the depths of his feelings for her. And when they found each other again? Sigh. That was just about perfection.

Rowena: How about Azarion’s cousin? I’m not going to lie, it brought me much joy when Azarion killed that little bitch with his Legolas horse shenanigans. That was great.

Holly: I loved it when Azarion finally took care of his cousin.

Rowena: Overall, I thought the story was interesting and I’m interested in keeping the party going. I’m thinking that homegirl from the caravan people is going to get a book and the other girl from the Empire, the one that was supposed to be burned up with Gilene the day that she went nuts on the empire. Which, by the way, was fantastic.

Holly: I think the caravan healer will have a book, and the other girl you mentioned. I hope we have more info about what’s next soon.

Casee: I did think it was interesting when Holly asked me if I thought Azarion was going to be Gilene’s hero. I never he thought he might not be. I did wonder how it was all going to work out though.

Rowena: This is was my first book by Grace Draven and it was a good one so I’m definitely keen on reading more from her. I give this one a 4 out of 5. What about you guys?

Holly: The story was definitely interesting. The beginning was slow, but the second half more than made up for it. I loved Gilene’s strength of will, and her determination to do the right thing no matter what. I loved Azarion, and how protective he was of her and how determined to do the right thing with his clan. I’m really looking forward to the next book. 4 out of 5

Casee: I’m giving this a 4 out of 5.

Casee: 4 out of 5
Holly: 4 out of 5
Rowena: 4 out of 5

The Fallen Empire

four-stars


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Audiobook Review: Feral Magic by Robin D. Owens

Posted October 17, 2018 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Audiobook Review: Feral Magic by Robin D. OwensReviewer: Holly
Feral Magic by Robin D. Owens
Narrator: Natasha Soudek
Publisher: TKA Distribution
Publication Date: December 18, 2012
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Genres: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 96
Length: 3 hours and 47 minutes
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Goodreads
three-stars

A blue moon rises, bringing with it magic and danger to a sleeping Denver.

Brandy Svensson mourns her lost soldier fiancee and struggles to move on. Her own near-death experience has brought her an odd "gift" – she has a telepathic connection with cats. She's coping with life’s changes until the night she finds a lost jaguar cub, just the start of the greatest changes of all...

Dak, a warrior Pantherman, is alarmed when his baby nephew, the Chief of the klatch, vanishes. Dak must find the infant before his enemies do...or be branded a murderer and risk igniting warfare among the clans.

When the cub turns into a human baby, shock and confusion flood Brandy. And when a full-grown jaguar arrives to claim him, then transforms into a man, fascination sweeps through her. Dak's protective instincts are triggered by this lovely woman, and the certainty that he's followed by a killer.

Drawn together in their fight to protect the baby, Brandy and Dak confront the enemy and the final choice threatens. Will the feral magic they've discovered together save or doom them?

I was looking for a short listen for my morning commute when I came across this one. I love Owens’ HeartMates series and figured I’d give this one a listen.

Brandi wakes up one morning after a near death experience and can telepathically speak to cats. Some months later when one of her ferals tells her another cat needs her help, she isn’t as shocked as she should be to find a panther shifter cub. When his uncle shows up to get him, Brandi learns they’re from an alternate universe and enemies are after them. Together she and Dak must work together to get his nephew home in one piece.

The narrator was so.freaking.slow. I ended up listening to it at 3x speed and even then I felt like it drug on a bit. That aside, the story itself was good. It was just a short story that ended too soon, but I liked the world and the way the story developed. It ended on a cliffhanger of sorts. I’d continue reading if this turns into a series.

3.0 out of 5

three-stars


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Review: Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop

Posted October 12, 2018 by Holly in Reviews | 5 Comments

Review: Etched in Bone by Anne BishopReviewer: Holly
Etched in Bone (The Others, #5) by Anne Bishop
Narrator: Alexandra Harris
Series: The Others #5
Also in this series: Written in Red (The Others, #1), Murder of Crows (The Others, #2), Vision in Silver (The Others, #3), Marked in Flesh (The Others, #4)
Publisher: Roc
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Format: Audiobook, eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 496
Length: 16 hours and 21 minutes
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Goodreads
four-half-stars

New York Times bestselling author Anne Bishop returns to her world of the Others, as humans struggle to survive in the shadow of shape-shifters and vampires far more powerful than they are. . . .

After the Elders cleansed and reclaimed many human towns, Lakeside Courtyard has emerged relatively unscathed, though Simon Wolfgard, its wolf-shifter leader, and blood prophet Meg Corbyn must work with the human pack to maintain the fragile peace. But all their efforts are threatened when Lieutenant Montgomery's shady brother arrives, looking for a free ride and easy pickings.

With the humans on guard against one of their own, tensions rise, drawing the attention of the Elders, who are curious about the effect such an insignificant predator can have on a pack. But Meg knows the dangers, for she has seen in the cards how it will all end: with her standing beside a grave. . . .

Etched in Bone is the final installment of the Lakeside Courtyard Others series (though more novels set in the same world are in the works – begging with Lake Silence, March 2018). I do not believe it can be read as a standalone. The series really should be read in order.

Now that the human uprising against the Others has been put down – with entire civilizations wiped out – Meg and Simon Wolfgard need to keep the peace with the humans of Lakeside more than ever. The Elders, the oldest and most dangerous of The Others, are watching them to decide how much human should be kept in Thaisia. When Lt. Montgomery’s shady brother, Cyrus, arrives in Lakeside looking for a handout, the Elders decide this is an opportunity to learn the difference between Good humans and Bad humans.

In the beginning Simon may have wanted to study the humans, but now the Human Pack inside the Courtyard and Meg have changed things. He’s invested in their survival and understands he has to protect them the same as his Wolf Pack. His relationship with Meg is complicated by the fact that she’s human and he very much isn’t. Can they even become mates in truth? Does Meg want that? Between dealing with Cyrus Montgomery, settling the expanded human pack in the Courtyard and trying to help Meg figure out the best way to help the other liberated cassandra sangue live outside the Compounds, Simon has his hands full. With the Elders in Lakeside, Simon knows the smallest thing can upset the balance and damn them all.

Seeing the world break, then be rebuilt has been heart-breaking, horrifying and yet still there’s beauty in the horror. This is a world filled with multi-layered characters who constantly grow and expand. The most compelling thing about this series has been the depth of the character growth. As the world breaks we see what truly lies in the heart of humanity. Bishop has shown us the best and worst of us all.

4.25 out of 5

The Others

four-half-stars


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Review: Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop

Posted October 10, 2018 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Marked in Flesh by Anne BishopReviewer: Holly
Marked in Flesh (The Others, #4) by Anne Bishop
Narrator: Alexandra Harris
Series: The Others #4
Also in this series: Written in Red (The Others, #1), Murder of Crows (The Others, #2), Vision in Silver (The Others, #3), Etched in Bone (The Others, #5)
Publisher: Roc
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Format: Audiobook, eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 489
Length: 15 hours and 21 minutes
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Goodreads
four-stars

In the fourth novel in Anne Bishop's New York Times bestselling series, the Others will need to decide how much humanity they're willing to tolerate--both within themselves and their community...

Since the Others allied themselves with the cassandra sangue, the fragile yet powerful human blood prophets who were being exploited by their own kind, the dynamic between humans and Others has changed. Some, such as Simon Wolfgard, wolf shifter and leader of the Lakeside Courtyard, and blood prophet Meg Corbyn see the closer companionship as beneficial.

But not everyone is convinced. A group of radical humans is seeking to usurp land through a series of violent attacks on the Others. What they don't realize is that there are older and more dangerous forces than shifters and vampires protecting the land--and those forces are willing to do whatever is necessary to safeguard what is theirs...

This series is addicting. For centuries humans and The Others have lived together in an uneasy peace. Now the Humans First and Last movement has shattered that peace with acts of terrible violence against the Others. What they didn’t realize is the shapeshifters they see aren’t the scariest Others out there. Ancient, primordial beings know as The Elders have awoken and now have the scent of their prey…the human race. The only thing keeping the humans from total extinction is Meg Corbyn, a cassandra sangue (blood prophet) who has befriended and intrigued all the Others. The Elders have to decide how much human they’re willing to keep..and Meg and Simon Wolfgard, leader of the Lakeside Courtyard, have to figure out how to save the human race – or if they’re even worth saving.

Meg’s first few weeks outside the compound where she was kept and abused were so eventful she barely had time to think about her circumstances or settle in to some new kind of normal. Now, however, she’s overwhelmed by all the changes in her life. And the more overwhelmed she gets, the more she craves the euphoria she feels after she makes a cut. Trying to beat her addiction and help the other cassandra sangue is bad enough, but now she and Simon must figure out what her prophesies mean, and how to keep the Elders from killing them all.

Another excellent read, Marked in Flesh delves further into the issues of racism, bigotry and the consequences of those when faced with beings bigger and badder than ourselves. The intense character development and story arc make this series a must read.

4.25 out of 5

The Others

four-stars


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Review: Visions in Silver by Anne Bishop

Posted October 9, 2018 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Visions in Silver by Anne BishopReviewer: Holly
Vision in Silver (The Others, #3) by Anne Bishop
Narrator: Alexandra Harris
Series: The Others #3
Also in this series: Written in Red (The Others, #1), Murder of Crows (The Others, #2), Marked in Flesh (The Others, #4), Etched in Bone (The Others, #5)
Publisher: Roc
Publication Date: February 2, 2016
Format: Audiobook, eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 493
Length: 16 hours and 4 minutes
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
Goodreads
four-stars

The Others freed the cassandra sangue to protect the blood prophets from exploitation, not realizing their actions would have dire consequences. Now the fragile seers are in greater danger than ever before; both from their own weaknesses and from those who seek to control their divinations for wicked purposes. In desperate need of answers, Simon Wolfgard, a shape-shifter leader among the Others, has no choice but to enlist blood prophet Meg Corbyn’s help, regardless of the risks she faces by aiding him.

Meg is still deep in the throes of her addiction to the euphoria she feels when she cuts and speaks prophecy. She knows each slice of her blade tempts death. But Others and humans alike need answers, and her visions may be Simon’s only hope of ending the conflict.

For the shadows of war are deepening across the Atlantik, and the prejudice of a fanatic faction is threatening to bring the battle right to Meg and Simon’s doorstep…

The war between the humans and the Others is heating up. Simon and other terra indigene from the Lakeside Courtyard helped liberate the Blood Prophets like Meg Corbyn from the compounds they were held in where they faced terrible abuse. With the Humans First and Last movement trying to stir up trouble for The Others, Simon needs Meg’s help to figure out a way to keep all the Blood Prophets safe and out of the control of those who would hurt them.

Things are getting more intense in Lakeside and throughout the continent of Thaisia as the humans try to wrest land from the Others. Meg and Simon have their hands full dealing with outside conflicts, as well as learning how to understand each other. This series works extremely well in part because the stories are so well layered. I love Meg and her journey to fight the addiction to cut, to live a life in her control. Simon’s reactions to her are at times amusing, heartwarming and frustrating. Much like his feelings toward her. As she builds a family in Lakeside, the drama and violence outside the Courtyard adds an urgency that kept me glued to the pages.

Bishop is setting a high bar with this series..and she keeps leaping over it.

4.25 out of 5

The Others

four-stars


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