Genre: Fantasy

Throwback Thursday Review: Key of Light by Nora Roberts

Posted July 9, 2020 by Rowena in Reviews | 2 Comments

Throwback Thursday Review: Key of Light by Nora RobertsReviewer: Rowena
Key of Light (Key Trilogy, #1) by Nora Roberts
Series: Key Trilogy #1
Publisher: Penguin, Jove
Publication Date: October 28th 2003
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Fantasy
Pages: 334
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four-half-stars
Series Rating: five-stars

The pleasure of your company is desired for cocktails and conversation. 8 pm, 4th September. Warrior's Peak.

When Malory Price is issued with the above invitation she is naturally suspicious, especially as Warrior's Peak is a local mansion straight out of a Hollywood movie. But with her overdraft at crisis limit and on the verge of losing her job at a local art gallery, she has little to lose by attending the event.

Only Malory is about to get more than she bargained for. At Warrior's Peak she finds that she and two other women are the only guests of their mysterious hosts. They are told an amazing story of magic, gods and goddesses; and of three demi-goddesses who have been cast into an eternal sleep, their mortal souls placed under lock and key. And in every generation, three women are born who alone have the power to free them - if they are prepared to accept the challenge.

Three women. Three keys to find. If one fails, they all lose. If they succeed - money, power and a new destiny awaits. It will take more than intellect, more than determination. They will have to open their hearts, their minds, and believe that everything is possible.

*** Every Thursday, we’ll be posting throwback reviews of our favorite and not-so-favorite books. Enjoy! ***

This review was originally posted on May 8, 2007.

Over the weekend, I forgot my Rock Star book at work and was too lazy to go all the way back to the office (once I got home and noticed my book wasn’t in my bag anymore) to get it so over the weekend I started and finished two books and this was the second book that I finished.

Book One of the Key Trilogy was a good opening for this series. It sparked my interest with the adventure that is presented to these three totally different and totally normal women. It showed a great deal of promise in the overall story and also with the secondary romances that followed.

I loved that all three of the women who were chosen were all so normal, not prissy perfect like regular heroines, they weren’t virginal, they weren’t mega rich and all that, they were your everyday average American women. They lived paycheck to paycheck, they were sometimes overdrawn in the bank, they were….normal.

Another thing I loved about this book is the same thing I loved in The Circle Trilogy, there’s a bigger story being told besides the romance story in these books and in this story, the start of all the other romances in the rest of the series. I love how Nora Roberts can make all of these thing fit perfectly in with everything else that is going on. She never loses me with all of the information pouring through the pages and I always lose myself in her books and in her characters’ lives and just in the story period.

I loved Flynn. I loved Malory and I loved their story. I loved how Malory took things into her own hands and went after the things she wanted, she was open and honest, even when she wasn’t ready, I loved how she threw everything at Flynn and told him to just deal with it.

And he did. I love that Flynn dealt with everything that Malory threw at him and just handled it. I loved that he didn’t shy away from her, even when he was so unsure of them as a couple, of himself as her partner and just handled everything thrown at him, (you know because on top of this new romance with Malory, he had this key thing to deal with as well). He was a strong man and he was a good man, one that loved his sister and loved his life, even though he didn’t think he did. He also loved the woman of his dreams with all that he had and what romantic at heart wouldn’t appreciate that?

Malory was a great heroine. She was smart, beautiful and funny. She was very organized and she had a lot going for her, even after she was canned at her dream job, she reacted like any normal woman would, she cried, she was a jerk to everyone around her and then she let her friends take care of her until she was ready to get back on her feet again and when she did get back on her feet, she was unstoppable.

She was all things I admire in a heroine and I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

I enjoyed the cast of characters that we met in this story, from Dana’s sparkling personality and Zoe’s creative spirit to Jordan’s funny self and his deep blue eyes and Brad’s richy rich handsome and rugged blonde self who had the ability to handle anything given him whether it was a board meeting in a stunning suit or wearing jeans and a shirt and climbing on top of walls to watch the house that he was so obsessed with as a child with his friends. The entire cast was a delight to read and oh dang, how could I forget to mention Rowena and Pitte? Dude, I love that Rowena was so beautiful and in love and just graceful and all things other women envied….hehe, you go girl! =)

Dana’s turn is next (I cheated and looked) and I am very much looking forward to getting to know Jordan Hawke a lot more….this is a great story to read when you’re in the mood for mystery and a little bit of romance thrown in. Good times, I promise, good times.

Grade: 4.5 out of 5

four-half-stars


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Guest Audiobook Review: The Traitor Queen by Danielle L. Jensen

Posted June 29, 2020 by Tracy in Reviews | 1 Comment

Guest Audiobook Review: The Traitor Queen by Danielle L. JensenReviewer: Tracy
The Traitor Queen by Danielle L. Jensen
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang, James Patrick Cronin
Series: The Bridge Kingdom #2
Also in this series: The Bridge Kingdom
Publisher: Audible Original
Publication Date: February 27, 2020
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible Escape
Point-of-View: Third
Genres: Fantasy
Length: 10 hours and 13 minutes
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five-stars
Series Rating: five-stars

Lara has only one thought when her husband is taken prisoner: I will do whatever it takes to set you free.

A queen now in exile as a traitor, Lara has watched Ithicana be conquered by her own father, helpless to do anything to stop the destruction. But when she learns her husband, Aren, has been captured in battle, Lara knows there is only one reason her father is keeping him alive: as bait for his traitorous daughter.

And it is bait she fully intends to take.

Risking her life to the Tempest Seas, Lara returns to Ithicana with a plan not only to free its king, but for liberating the Bridge Kingdom from her father's clutches using his own weapons: the sisters whose lives she spared.

But as Lara and her companions formulate a plan to free Aren from her father's palace, they soon discover that while it is easy to get in, it will be quite another thing to get Aren, and themselves, back out. Not only is the palace inescapable, there are more players in the game than Lara ever realized, enemies and allies switching sides in the fight for crowns, kingdoms, and bridges. But her greatest adversary of all might be the very man she's trying to free - the husband she betrayed.

With everything she loves in jeopardy, Lara must decide who - and what - she is fighting for: her kingdom, her husband, or for herself.

The Traitor Queen is the second book in The Bridge Kingdom series.

Where do you go and what do you do when you’ve unintentionally destroyed a kingdom and your husband has captured? The people you’ve come to love with your whole heart have now turned against you and you want nothing more than to help them make things right again.

Lara is in this situation and is running into stone walls when it comes to getting help from the Ithicanians who now hate her.  Where does she turn?  To her sisters who were all trained to be just as good as she at fighting for what they believe in.

I truly can’t tell you anything about this book without giving SO much away. The story has an incredible amount of action and goes non-stop from one event to the other.  I was listening to this story and never once wanted to hit pause while listening.  I can’t remember the last time that happened, if ever.

Lara and Aren’s story continues in The Traitor Queen but it’s not an easy one. The Ithicanian fight with the Maridrinians, as well as the possible resolution between Lara and Aren, had me on the edge of my seat for the entire book.  Throughout it all I couldn’t see how things would resolve but the author did a great job of it.  I would have liked just a bit more at the end of the book with the Ithicanians and Lara, but hopefully the author will put out a 2.5 novella for us (hint, hint Ms. Jensen).

The author has built a world that I kind of want to live in.  Seriously.  Sounds silly, but when you read the book, you’ll understand.  Though the main focus is on Lara and Aren, she didn’t limit us in just knowing them.  I felt she described the world so well, and made all of the characters so real to me, that I just want to go there. Lol

If you want to read a story with action, adventure, revenge, fury, resentment, romance and love then this is definitely the book you’ll want to read.

Rating: 5 out of 5

The Bridge Kingdom

five-stars


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Sunday Spotlight: Dragon Unleashed by Grace Draven

Posted June 28, 2020 by Casee in Features | 3 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

I was first introduced to Grace Draven when Holly, Rowena, and I did a joint review for Phoenix Unbound. I honestly wasn’t sure if I would like it, but the blurb was so interesting that I had to read it. It was as good as I thought it would be. Dragon Unleashed is the second book in Draven’s Fallen Empire series. I can’t wait to dive in.

Sunday Spotlight: Dragon Unleashed by Grace DravenDragon Unleashed by Grace Draven
Series: Fallen Empire #2
Also in this series: Phoenix Unbound (Fallen Empire, #1)
Publisher: Ace
Publication Date: June 9, 2020
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 384
Add It: Goodreads
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Series Rating: four-stars

A dragon shapeshifter and a healer with power over the earth fight a corrupt empire in this thrilling and deeply emotional romantic fantasy from the USA Today bestselling author of Radiance.
Magic is outlawed in the Krael Empire and punishable by death. Born with the gift of earth magic, the free trader Halani keeps her dangerous secret closely guarded. When her uncle buys a mysterious artifact, a piece of bone belonging to a long-dead draga, Halani knows it's far more than what it seems.
Dragas haven't been seen for more than a century, and most believe them extinct. They're wrong. Dragas still walk among the denizens of the Empire, disguised as humans. Malachus is a draga living on borrowed time. The magic that has protected him will soon turn on him--unless he finds a key part of his heritage. He has tracked it to a group of free traders, among them a grave-robbing earth witch who fascinates him as much as she frustrates him with her many secrets.
Unbeknownst to both, the Empire's twisted empress searches for a draga of her own, to capture and kill as a trophy. As Malachus the hunter becomes the hunted, Halani must risk herself and all she loves to save him from the Empire's machinations and his own lethal birthright.

Excerpt

Chapter One

If there was one thing Malachus had learned about humans during his long life span, it was that they were first and foremost thieves. They stole anything and everything, nailed down or not, from jewels and livestock to women and children. And if battlefields and graves were any true indicators, the dead were no more safe from their larceny than the living.

The Sovatin monks who’d fostered him as a child never truly prepared him for the scope of humanity’s predation upon itself. Though human as well, the monks lived isolated from the depredations of the so-called civilized. Malachus never forgot the grief on their faces-the horror-at discovering their sacred necropolis destroyed beyond repair by treasure seekers. It was his first real taste of humanity as a whole, and he found it revolting. It was also the impetus for him to become a sought-after bounty hunter with a reputation feared throughout Winosia’s prefectures.

His martial training combined with his true nature gave him an edge, one that made grave robbers and slavers question whether pursuing their professions was worth the risk of becoming the quarry in his hunt.

This hunt was different, more personal, and his prey far wilier than he’d anticipated, slipping through his fingers countless times over numerous leagues and a treacherous sea. Either they possessed extraordinary luck or they knew what he was and how to outmaneuver him. Now, far away in an unfamiliar country, Malachus’s luck had run dry.

The pair possessed a treasure he would move mountains to regain, and they had fled across the Raglun Sea to these lands. The ship Malachus had sailed on to follow them had almost caught up to theirs, the mother-bond calling to his soul with a war drum’s beat. But fickle gods had churned the waters into a raging cauldron and flung his ship far off course. An experienced captain and crew had saved the ship and those on board, sailing the beaten vessel into harbor with broken masts and ripped sails. Malachus’s quarry had long since vanished into the interior, moving westward.

He’d managed to track them from the coast to this forest, guided by the internal beacon connecting him to the artifact he hunted. His mother-bond, which was all that remained of his mother, his birthright, and his ability to reclaim his true heritage.

Malachus stood at the tree line and gazed upon the fields before him that stretched to the base of the distant black-striped mountains. A wide road snaked toward a miasma of dust in the distance, a steady stream of wagon and foot traffic traveling its length. According to those he’d spoken with when he first came ashore, a great market, promising all manner of goods available for sale, had sprung up where once a Kraelian garrison had stood. He suspected his prey was there. He stabbed the damp earth in front of him with the point of his sword, wishing it was the belly of one, or both, of the thieves. He needed that mother-bond. Nothing more than a bit of bone at first glance, its value lay far beyond anything the pair might get from a buyer. After four hundred years of imprisonment in a human body, kept quiet by magic, his true form had grown restless, a dangerous prisoner, and a fatal one if he didn’t set it loose in time. Even now, the force of his inevitable transformation surged through his bones and muscles, making the veins in his arms and neck bulge at times, and his head throb. It was certain that he’d have to slough off his human guise and embrace the draga one. Ignoring that imperative guaranteed death. He needed the mother-bond to safely initiate that change.

At his patient mare’s inquiring whicker, he turned. She whuffled a second time when he stroked her neck.

“They’re close, Batraza,” he told the horse. “Likely trying to pawn what they pilfered.”

Finding the thieves and the mother-bond would be easier in a contained market than trying to track them across leagues of unknown, and likely hostile, terrain. If he listened hard enough, he could hear hints of faraway voices. They were about a full day’s ride from the dust cloud, and that was if he and Batraza didn’t have to shelter from the summer storms that periodically doused the area.

For now the sky curved blue above him, and he eyed the clouds scudding by, noting those that gathered into thunderheads to linger in the distance. Malachus sighed, cleaning his blade before resheathing it. The ragged tips of Batraza’s tail slapped against his arm as she swatted away the pesky gnats that swarmed in clouds around their heads and tried to fly up their noses. Unlike other horses, she didn’t lay her ears back in warning or try to bolt when Malachus drew near her. That, as much as her preternaturally long life span, made her as strange as her rider.

Malachus offered her the treat of a withered apple he had fished from the depths of one of the bags attached to the saddle, and swung nimbly onto her back. The two turned away from the road toward an open space where the tree line curved in a horseshoe shape around gently swaying grassland.

Time and solitude allowed Malachus to plan his next move as he tracked the mother-bond to the shores of the far-flung Krael Empire. Sometimes he felt more hound than human or draga, his nose either to the ground or to the wind as he searched for his legacy. The blue sky overhead rapidly gave way to blackening thunderheads fissured with lightning. A few bolts broke free to strike the ground, and Batraza pranced beneath him, nervous at the storm’s approach. Malachus guided her deeper into the trees before dismounting. She leaned against him as he cast a spell the monks had taught him to calm her so she wouldn’t bolt when he left her to return to the open curve of grassland on foot.

Rain blew in with a howl and then a roar, slanting sideways as the storm gusts drove it across the landscape like an overseer wielding a whip. Malachus tilted his face to the sky and let the deluge pummel him, washing away his frustration along with the layer of travel dirt he’d acquired since his last bath.

A shimmer of light illuminated the shield of his closed eyelids, followed by a boom of thunder. Within the sheltering trees, Batraza whinnied her fear. Malachus murmured, “It’s all right, girl. Just a little light and noise, nothing more. You’re the safest you can be where you are.”

As quickly as the storm blew in, it passed. Thunder rumbled in the distance, chasing walls of rain that galloped across the forest before bashing into the mountain range. Black clouds splintered by lightning trailed behind, and Malachus crossed his fingers in the hope that his height and singularity on the flat ground might lure one of those crackling tongues of light toward him. Lightning always loved the draga, even those disguised as humans.

A bright bolt forked out of one of the clouds to strike him. He convulsed with the shock wave of power that hammered through his muscles and boiled the blood in his veins. For a moment, his heart seized before restarting with a double-time beat. Every hair on his body stood up, and the smell of charred cloth filled his nostrils. Still, he kept his feet as the lightning anchored him to the earth and exploded images across his mind’s eye.

A market teeming with people against the backdrop of a ruined fortress, his mother-bond haloed in shimmering light and resting on a square of purple cloth. A woman’s pretty face and somber gray eyes. An older man with similar features and the same gray eyes. And most important, the two thieves he’d tracked this far. All those depictions flashed before him in the time it took for the lightning to pin him to the ground, burn bright, then burn out.

Released from the lightning’s lethal hold, Malachus staggered before falling to one knee. He breathed deep, fire in his lungs and agony in his bones. Smoke wreathed him and the burnt grass around him. A wispy tendril meandered from a thumbnail-size burn hole on the top of his right boot. The wetness of rain-soaked ground seeped through his sole. The lightning that exited his body had left a matching burn hole there.

Any other man would be a smoking husk by now, but Malachus was not a normal man any more than Batraza was a normal horse. His magic made the mare unique just as Malachus’s mother’s heritage made him peculiar. Batraza was a horse that wore the guise of magic. Malachus was magic who wore the guise of a human.

He’d need to repair his boot, but the damage had been worth it. The lightning had revealed a great deal. The valuable piece of his mother’s skeleton still moved westward, pausing briefly as if teasing him with its nearness.

While most of the images the lightning had shown him were obvious location markers and hints, the one of the woman with the solemn features puzzled him. She might well be a buyer interested in possessing the mother-bond-and woe betide her if she was-or she might be traveling with the thieves he tracked, unknowing that they carried a lodestone that put a relentless hunter on their trail. The man she resembled was a mystery as well, though Malachus had no doubt that he, too, was somehow tied to the mother-bond. The lightning wouldn’t have shown them otherwise.

He stood, soaked to the skin, and shook off the last remnants of the sky’s blistering kiss before returning to Batraza. She snorted and rolled her eyes when Malachus drew closer, stamping a hoof as if to admonish him for leaving her alone among the trees.

“Peace, Bat,” he said in his most soothing tone and gathered the reins before swinging into the wet saddle. The storm’s power had fizzled. To the west, the clearing sky took on a golden hue, overpainting the blue as the sun regained dominion over the clouds.

Malachus guided the mare out of the forest. If they traveled without stopping and avoided the road’s heavier traffic, they’d reach the market by the following nightfall. A new moon meant a blacker-than-usual night. He could enter the market without much notice, just one of many travelers journeying toward the temporary city. Though he wasn’t human, he wore the form of one no different from all of those who trekked toward the ruins.

They reached the market after the vendors closed shop and the encampment surrounding it settled down for the night. That suited him fine. He found it far easier to navigate new surroundings without throngs of people milling about to trade, socialize, or steal.

The sickle moon hung midway in the night sky as he circled the camp perimeter, ringed by hundreds of tents and wagons as well as livestock pens guarded by a few people and a fair number of dogs. The air was redolent with the scent of humans and animals, mud and wet felt-unpleasant except for the drifting scents of cooking spices and herbal teas simmering over fires. Those teased his nostrils, and his empty stomach rumbled in response. Malachus nodded briefly to the watch who silently observed him as he rode past pens and clusters of tents, inciting the dogs into frantic barking or frightened yelps if his gaze lingered too long on them. The mother-bond’s draw hummed along his senses like silver thread stitched into fabric. He guided Batraza along the market’s edge and farther out still, where the grass grew undisturbed and untrampled and the light of torches no longer chased away the thick darkness. He brought the mare to a halt and breathed deep, allowing his senses to open wide, feel even more the hard draw of draga magic as he sharpened his focus on the thing that had driven him to cross deep seas and foreign lands to find it.

He’d camp for the night and renew his search in the morning. Reconnoitering in darkness had its benefits, but this was a large tent city populated with enough watchmen that someone would interpret his investigating as nefarious and try either to shoot him or to knife him. Confrontations never went unnoticed, and he didn’t want to give any warning to his prey of his presence here. For all they knew, his ship had gone down in an angry sea and he along with it. He didn’t want to disabuse them of the notion in case they’d made such a fortuitous assumption.

The spot where he chose to camp was no more than a patch of wet ground away from the meandering patterns of flattened grass that marked a well-traveled trek made by campers who wished to relieve themselves away from their living spaces.

The night sky stayed clear, and he counted the stars salting its expanse from his supine view on Batraza’s saddle blanket. The mare grazed nearby, her lead rope staked within easy reach. Malachus listened to the sounds around him-the call of a night bird, the distant ululation of wolves, the rustle of some rodent hiding from predators looking to catch their dinner. Above those, the murmur and flow of voices, their words indistinct. Friendly conversations and hot arguments, the intense sensuality of moans during lovemaking, a woman’s sweet lullaby to a fretful baby.

These were the things that reminded him there was more to humanity than its larceny, its petty cruelties. His understanding, and the empathy that came with it, was a fragile thing, even after decades of living among humans outside the monastery. He looked like them, but they possessed dark depths he’d never fully comprehend, nor did he want to. The sounds he listened to now, of mundane lives lived in peaceful hours, softened his attitude a small bit. It wouldn’t last. It never did.

His thoughts settled once more on the gray-eyed woman the lightning had shown him earlier. Attractive, but he had known sublime. Dignified, but he had met majestic. There was nothing about her appearance that strayed from the conventional into the remarkable, yet her image remained emblazoned in his mind. He saw it overlaid across a spectacle of starlight and behind his lids when he closed them. It was more than a suspected connection to his mother-bond. He wanted to know her name, hear her voice, learn what lay behind those eyes the color of dove’s wings. His fascination with her made no sense, but Malachus didn’t question it. His spirit understood his instinct better than his mind did, and he couldn’t shunt its message aside. The lightning had shown her to him for a reason.

Fallen Empire

Giveaway Alert

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Sunday Spotlight: June 2020
Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About Grace Draven

Grace Draven is a Louisiana native living in Texas with her husband, kids and a big, doofus dog. She has loved storytelling since forever and is a fan of the fictional bad boy. She is the winner of the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice for Best Fantasy Romance of 2014 and 2016, and a USA Today Bestselling author.


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Joint Review: Protect the Prince by Jennifer Estep

Posted June 4, 2020 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Joint Review: Protect the Prince by Jennifer EstepReviewer: Ames, Holly and Rowena
Protect the Prince by Jennifer Estep
Series: Crown of Shards #2
Also in this series: Kill the Queen
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: July 2, 2019
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 451
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge, Rowena's 2020 Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Harper Voyager Trade Paperback OriginalMagic, murder, adventure, and romance combine in this second novel in the exciting Crown of Shards saga from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Estep.

Everleigh Blair might be the new gladiator queen of Bellona, but her problems are far from over.

First, Evie has to deal with a court full of arrogant, demanding nobles, all of whom want to get their greedy hands on her crown. As if that wasn’t bad enough, an assassin tries to kill Evie in her own throne room.

Despite the dangers, Evie goes ahead with a scheduled trip to the neighboring kingdom of Andvari in order to secure a desperately needed alliance. But complicating matters is the stubborn Andvarian king, who wants to punish Evie for the deaths of his countrymen during the Seven Spire massacre.

But dark forces are at work inside the Andvarian palace, and Evie soon realizes that no one is safe. Worse, Evie’s immunity to magic starts acting in strange, unexpected ways, which makes her wonder whether she is truly strong enough to be a Winter Queen.

But Evie’s magic, life, and crown aren’t the only things in danger—so is her heart, thanks to Lucas Sullivan, the Andvarian king’s bastard son and Evie’s . . . well, Evie isn’t quite sure what Sullivan is to her.

Only one thing is certain—protecting a prince might be even harder than killing a queen…

When we left Everleigh (Evie) at the end of Kill the Queen, she had just killed her cousin and taken her place as the Winter Queen of Bellona. She’s still learning her powers and finding her footing, but she knows she has to try to salvage relations with neighboring kingdom Andvari if she’s going to defeat the king of Morta, who orchestrated the murder of her family. Lucas Sullivan, aka Sully, her would-be love interest, is the much beloved bastard son of the Andvari king, and he’s able to secure an invitation for her to visit his father, though he cannot guarantee her safety.

Assassination attempts, political maneuverings and the strange growing connection between Evie and Sully means this is one trip none of them will ever forget.

Holly: We read Kill the Queen together, and I’m glad we’re reading the rest of the series together, too. I really came to admire Evie and the Black Swan troupe in the first book, and I enjoyed them even more here. Evie’s strength really came through and I loved how she put all the nobles in their place.

Rowena: Yes, Evie is really becoming that bad bitch Queen. I mean, the way that she just kept right on slapping her nobles down when they tried to come for her at the beginning was freaking fantastic. I loved that she wasn’t having anyone shenanigans but what really cemented my love for her was the way that she conducted herself while in Andvari. They showed her no kind of love but that didn’t stop her from doing what’s right and protecting those she loved…even when she had to hurt Sully to save everyone.

Ames: I loved Evie’s evolution in this book! And yes, she did become a bad bitch Queen. The way she handled all those snobby nobles was awesome and I reading her thought processes and her realization of how she needs to handle everyone really puts us in her shoes. Also, the growth of her character. In book 1 she was like 7th in line for the throne or something like that so she grew up knowing how the game was played but was never expected to wear the crown. That disbelief and self-doubt she felt when she takes on the crown was so believable and made her growth that much more satisfying.

Rowena: This was such a great book and I read the entire thing in a little over a day. Evie’s adventures kept me invested from beginning to end and that ending? Goodness, that ending was just perfect for me. I cannot wait to read Crush the King with you guys.

Holly: I love how Evie is growing into herself and figuring things out.

My one disappointment with this book is the development of the romance. I am not a fan of the way things were glossed over in the garden and I don’t like that they never had a full conversation about Evie’s actions. I was pretty underwhelmed by the ending. It kind of came out of nowhere for me.

Ames: I agree with Holly, the romance was the weakest part of the story. However, the overall story was really strong so although I would have liked more when Sully and Evie came together, a discussion about her actions foremost, the rest of the story was so awesome it was ok.

Wena, I knew when Everleigh told Sully that story that it was going to be acted out by the end. That was so predictable! LOL I really could have done without that.

Rowena: I liked the way he showed his love for her. It was just the right amount of cheesy to satisfy and I dug that.

Ames: Oh the other thing I found predictable was the villain in Andvari. I liked the misleading clues pointing in one direction but I knew who it was.

Rowena: Yeah, I saw who the villain was pretty early on.

Holly: The villain wasn’t a surprise to me, either, but I did like the author’s effort to misdirect us.

Ames: I loved that we saw some friendly faces in Andvari. Alvis! And the introduction of the gargoyles. I liked Grimley.

strong>Rowena: Grimley, Gemma, and Alvis were great! I loved seeing Everleigh’s reunion with Gemma and Alvis. With as much grief as she was getting at every turn, it was nice to finally see some friendly faces.

Holly: I was so happy when Evie reconnected with Gemma and Alvis. Do you think we’ll see more from Gemma in the future? I hope so. She’s pretty awesome.

Ames: I really hope Gemma gets a story eventually. She was an interesting character. Also, I really like the world-building that Estep has created with this series so I would happily revisit it for other characters.

Rowena: My favorite part of the book was really seeing Everleigh coming into her powers and realize what it meant to be a Winter Queen. Her battle with Maevyn was awesome.

Holly: I agree the best part of the book was seeing Evie come into her powers and realize what it means to truly be Queen.

I can’t wait for you two to read the next book so we can discuss.

Rowena: I’m really looking forward to the next book so it shouldn’t be long before I jump right in.

This was a strong addition to the series and I’m stoked that we’re reading it together. I’m curious to see how Everleigh and her friends take down the King of Morta but I’m so here for it all. Even though the romance was lacking, I still really enjoyed this book so it gets a 4.25 out of 5 stars from me. What about you guys?

Holly: I really love the world-building and how well Evie is handling everything. The romance was pretty weak and I thought it was a bit predicable, but it was still really good. I give it 4 out of 5.

Ames: I’m giving this one a 4 out of 5 as well. Very well done, solid political intrigue, admirable character growth but was a bit of a miss on the romance.

Final Grades

Ames: 4 out of 5
Holly: 4 out of 5
Rowena: 4.25 out of 5

Crown of Shards

four-stars


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Guest Review: The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen

Posted May 26, 2020 by Tracy in Reviews | 2 Comments

Guest Review: The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. JensenReviewer: Tracy
The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang, James Patrick Cronin
Series: The Bridge Kingdom #1
Also in this series: The Traitor Queen
Publisher: Context Literary Agency, Audible Original
Publication Date: August 13, 2019
Format: Audiobook, eBook
Source: Audible Escape
Point-of-View: Third
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 354
Length: 11 hours and 52 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-half-stars
Series Rating: five-stars

What if you fell in love with the one person you'd sworn to destroy?

Lara has only one thought for her husband on their wedding day: I will bring your kingdom to its knees. A princess trained from childhood to be a lethal spy, Lara knows that the Bridge Kingdom represents both legendary evil - and legendary promise. The only route through a storm-ravaged world, the Bridge Kingdom controls all trade and travel between lands, allowing its ruler to enrich himself and deprive his enemies, including Lara's homeland. So when she is sent as a bride under the guise of fulfilling a treaty of peace, Lara is prepared to do whatever it takes to fracture the defenses of the impenetrable Bridge Kingdom.

But as she infiltrates her new home - a lush paradise surrounded by tempest seas - and comes to know her new husband, Aren, Lara begins to question where the true evil resides. Around her, she sees a kingdom fighting for survival, and in Aren, a man fiercely protective of his people. As her mission drives her to deeper understanding of the fight to possess the bridge, Lara finds the simmering attraction between her and Aren impossible to ignore. Her goal nearly within reach, Lara will have to decide her own fate: Will she be the destroyer of a king or the savior of her people?

Lara and her sisters are princesses who are deadly.  Their father is the King of Maridrina and has isolated his many daughters since they were five years old.  He has had tutors and trainers at their desert compound teaching them to be assassins, seductresses, poison experts; you name it, they were taught. They’ve been tortured and they have murdered. Why? Because Maridrina has a treaty with the Bridge Kingdom of Ithicana. The two kingdoms have had peace for 15 years but at the end of that term (which is now) one of the princesses would travel to Ithicana to become the queen.  King Silas of Maridrina plans on sending one of his daughters to spy on the king of Ithicana and his kingdom and send back information so that Maridrina could take the bridge and destroy Ithicana.  Not only have Lara and her sisters become fighters, they’ve also been told their entire lives that Ithicana is a horrible place, the king is an ass who cares nothing for others, and that Ithicana has such a stranglehold on trade that the Maridrinians are starving.

The daughter that is chosen to be queen of Ithicana is Marylyn. Lara, however, believes that Marylyn is too kind and will be crushed by the cruel Ithicanian king.  Lara takes matters into her own hands to ensure that she will be the one sent to Ithicana. This does happen and she is soon married to the Ithicanian King, Aren.

King Aren has no idea who/what his bride truly is. He believes Lara to be a scared mouse-like woman, even though he finds her beautiful. He secludes her in his house and moves on with his life. Despite Aren’s decision to stay away from his wife, he finds himself drawn to her. He truly wants the marriage to work and believes that with the treaty fulfilled that Ithicana and Maridrina can become allies.

With Aren occupied this gives Lara time to investigate and find secrets – she is constantly spying.  She inadvertently learns secrets of the Bridge and how to infiltrate it.  She learns other secrets about Ithicana as well and plans on sharing it all with her father.  What she didn’t count on was learning that Aren was not a monster, the Ithicanians weren’t cruel, and the reason that the Maridrinians were starving was all her father’s fault.  Lara’s world is turned upside down but Aren is there to catch her when she falls.  They fall hard for each other but despite Lara’s best efforts to keep the information about Ithicana away from her father, he gets the message loud and clear.

I won’t tell anything else because it’s so good to have the story unfold and learn each bit little by little.  I truly never expected to enjoy this book so much.  I started listening to it in audiobook but it was going too slowly for my liking and I ended up reading the second half of it.  When I finished book one I immediately wanted to start book two (even though it was already 11 at night), but it’s not available in ebook until September 2020. Ugh!! (I listened to the second book in audio the next day. :))

This story has so much going for it!  There’s a huge cast of characters that you will fall in love with, and some you will hate.  I loved watching Aren and Lara fall in love – they were so perfect for each other! On top of that there is adventure, deception, forgiveness and war.  It’s so good, I can’t possibly describe it to you.

If you love a good fantasy with great characters then this is a book for you.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5  

The Bridge Kingdom

four-half-stars


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