Genre: Fantasy

Review: A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla Vane

Posted September 14, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla VaneReviewer: Holly
A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla Vane
Narrator: Nicole Poole
Series: A Gathering of Dragons #1
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: February 4, 2020
Format: eARC, Audiobook
Source: NetGalley, Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 555
Length: 15 hours and 16 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Reading Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

A generation past, the western realms were embroiled in endless war. Then the Destroyer came. From the blood and ashes he left behind, a tenuous alliance rose between the barbarian riders of Parsathe and the walled kingdoms of the south. That alliance is all that stands against the return of an ancient evil - until the barbarian king and queen are slain in an act of bloody betrayal.

Though forbidden by the alliance council to kill the corrupt king responsible for his parents’ murders, Maddek vows to avenge them, even if it costs him the Parsathean crown. But when he learns it was the king’s daughter who lured his parents to their deaths, the barbarian warrior is determined to make her pay.

Yet the woman Maddek captures is not what he expected. Though the last in a line of legendary warrior-queens, Yvenne is small and weak, and the sharpest weapons she wields are her mind and her tongue. Even more surprising is the marriage she proposes to unite them in their goals and to claim their thrones—because her desire for vengeance against her father burns even hotter than his own…

I’ve been waiting for Milla Vane (aka Meljean Brook) to return to writing for years. When this book popped up on NetGalley, I actually squee’d out loud. Then I started it and…wasn’t in the mood. It had nothing to do with the book, I just wasn’t feeling a dark epic fantasy at that time. Fast forward to this month; I saw the audiobook and decided to purchase it. I’m really glad I did. I ended up loving the narrator.

Maddek is determined to avenge the death of his parents at the hands of a neighboring kingdom. When the traditional path is closed to him because of the alliance, he decides to take his revenge in another way…by killing the heir to their thrown. The problem? Yvenne is nothing like he expected. She’s small, weak and nothing like the warrior queen he expected. She’s also just as determined to bring her father down as Maddek is. Though he trusts her not at all, he agrees to take her as his wife if it means being able to kill her father and brothers.

The overall theme of this novel is very dark, and so are the actions of both characters. Maddek was bent on revenge and could see nothing else. Yvenne was determined to kill her father and claim her kingdom. She was also determined to make Maddek into a king, whether he wanted it or not. Yvenne was fierce, for all her physical frailty. I loved how she stood up for herself, and wielded her tongue like a weapon. I liked their dynamic, though his vow that he would rip her tongue out if she spoke of his mother was frustrating. I understood Maddek’s need for vengeance, but I didn’t love the way he treated Yvenne. I wish he’d have wised up a little sooner. In the end, I forgave him because Yvenne did.

I did think it moved a bit slow in parts and the world-building took some time, but I enjoyed the book as a whole.

3.75 out of 5

A Gathering of Dragons

four-stars


Tagged: , , , , , ,

Review: Mist’s Edge by T.A. White

Posted September 11, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Mist’s Edge by T.A. WhiteReviewer: Holly
Mist's Edge by T.A. White
Series: The Broken Lands #2
Also in this series: Pathfinder's Way
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: November 28, 2017
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 330
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Reading Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

The pathfinder, Shea, has chosen to make a place for herself among her former captors, leaving behind her people and the life she once knew. However, not all welcome this outsider in their midst. Shea will find that surviving alone in the wilderness is child’s play next to navigating the politics that come with her new position. Especially when it becomes evident that there are those out for her blood.

As a new danger looms on the horizon, Shea and her warlord will need all the allies they can find. Because something is stirring in the barren lands from which all beasts are born. Something old and not seen since the last cataclysm.

Can Shea protect her people from this new threat or will it be the dangers from within her own inner circle that destroy her?

Mist’s Edge, the second book in T.A. White‘s The Broken Lands series, picks up where Patherfinder’s Way left off. Shea and Fallon have committed to one another and she’s agreed to become his Telroi, but now she’s feeling displaced and unsure of herself or her place in the clan. It doesn’t help that Fallon is overbearing and expects all his orders to be followed without question. Especially since more often than not those orders include her sitting around doing nothing. But when the Mist comes into the lowlands for the first time in centuries, and unimaginable Beasts start targeting the clan, Shea knows they need answers. Convincing Fallon is another thing entirely…

I really struggled with the first half of this book. Shea and Fallon have a hard time communicating with each other, which resulted in a lot of them having arguments then ignoring each other for days on end. I understand their relationship is very new, and that means they’re still figuring each other out. I even like that things weren’t all sunshine and rainbows since they committed to one another so late in the previous book. But I still struggled with how immature the two of them acted. Shea’s need to pull away and shut down, along with Fallon’s go-to Neanderthal “you will do what I say” responses, mean nothing really felt resolved between them. They would argue about something, she would freeze him out after he tried to dictate to her, then they would just let it go. I really wish they had talked more, and worked out their problems like adults.

Having said that, I don’t dislike them as a couple. I think they work very well together. I just wish they would have mature conversations about things and try to find workable compromises instead of argue, ignore, brush aside, repeat.

The second half of the book is better. Fallon is still overprotective, but Shea was in her element leading them and that made for a more enjoyable reading experience. I really love this world and the secondary characters. The clan, the landscape and the interpersonal relationships are very well done. Everything comes to life so I feel like I’m there with them as I read.

I wouldn’t call this a placeholder novel, exactly, but a lot of it did feel unnecessary and repetitive. The second half was better than the first, but I didn’t love this one as much as the first.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

The Broken Lands

three-half-stars


Tagged: , , , , , ,

Review: Pathfinder’s Way by T.A. White

Posted September 9, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Pathfinder’s Way by T.A. WhiteReviewer: Holly
Pathfinder's Way by T.A. White
Series: The Broken Lands #1
Also in this series: Mist's Edge
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: October 12, 2019
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 396
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 New to Me Challenge, Holly's 2020 Reading Challenge, New to Me Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

The Trateri are about to learn a vital lesson of the Broken Lands. Deep in the remote expanse where anything can happen, it pays to be on a pathfinder’s good side.

Nobody ventures beyond their village. Nobody sane that is. Monstrous creatures and deadly mysteries wait out here. Lucky for the people she serves, Shea’s not exactly sane. As a pathfinder, it’s her job to face what others fear and find the safest route through the wilderness. It’s not an easy job, but she’s the best at what she does.

When the people she serves betray her into servitude to the Trateri, a barbarian horde sweeping through the Lowlands intent on conquest, Shea relies on her wits and skill to escape, disguising herself as a boy to hide from the Warlord, a man as dangerous as he is compelling.

After being mistaken as a Trateri scout during her escape, Shea finds herself forced to choose between the life she led and the possibilities of a new one. Her decision might mean the difference between life or death. For danger looms on the horizon and a partnership with the Warlord may be the only thing preventing the destruction of everything she holds dear.

I asked for Fantasy/UF/PNR recs on Twitter a few months ago and Angela James suggested this author. I tried starting this back in June, but I wasn’t in the mood so I set it aside until this weekend. I had to push myself through the first few pages (my reading mood, not the book), but I ended up easily falling into the story.

The world-building is superb. Shea’s strength and ingenuity as she led a rescue party for some of the villagers really pulled me in. I loved how she brushed off criticisms and just did what needed to be done. I also liked the way her friendship developed with her traveling companions.

This is a sweeping tale that stretches across quite a bit of time and distance. I liked seeing the various landscapes and watching Shea overcome obstacles.

I was frustrated with the turn things took at about the 80% mark. Up until then, I really loved Shea. She was resourceful, independent and more than capable, if a little closed off to others. After that, she was kind of swept to the side because of her relationship with Fallon. I didn’t love how she seemed to fade as they grew closer. I’m hoping for a better resolution to that part of the story in later books.

Rating: 4 out of 5

The Broken Lands

four-stars


Tagged: , , , , , ,

Review: Warrior Witch by Danielle L. Jensen

Posted August 7, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Warrior Witch by Danielle L. JensenReviewer: Holly
Warrior Witch by Danielle L. Jensen
Series: The Malediction Trilogy #3
Also in this series: Stolen Songbird , Hidden Huntress
Publisher: Angry Robot
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 384
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

The thrilling conclusion to the breakout Malediction Trilogy by Goodreads Choice finalist Danielle L. Jensen.

Cécile and Tristan have accomplished the impossible, but their greatest challenge remains: defeating the evil they have unleashed upon the world.

As they scramble for a way to protect the people of the Isle and liberate the trolls from their tyrant king, Cécile and Tristan must battle those who’d see them dead. To win, they will risk everything. And everyone.

But it might not be enough. Both Cécile and Tristan have debts, and they will be forced to pay them at a cost far greater than they had ever imagined.

Warrior Witch is the final book in the Malediction Trilogy by Danielle L. Jensen, which follows Cécile as she goes from prisoner of the Trolls to their savior, to possibly the one responsible for the fall of all mankind. The trilogy should be read in order.

Cécile was kidnapped on her 17th birthday and taken to Trollus, a cursed city under Forsaken Mountain, where she was bonded to the Prince of the Trolls, Tristan. A prophecy foretold that she would be the one to break the curse holding them in the city, and it was correct. Now that she’s set the Trolls free, she has another problem – they’re determined to go to war with the humans, so they once again rule all the lands. Cécile and Tristan will need a fool-proof plan to defeat his uncle and save mankind.

This book is called Warrior Witch, so I had certain expectations about how Cécile would grow and change in this novel. Sadly, none of them came to pass.

First, let me start with what I liked about this book. The world-building, politics and intrigues throughout the entire series were well done. It was easy to fall into this world and become attached to the characters (with some exceptions). I absolutely felt like I was there with them. The interpersonal relationships and friendships that develop are also wonderful. Plus, Jensen excels at writing multilayered characters and situations. Nothing is as it seems at first glance. I loved the constant twists and turns of the plot and character motivations. I loved Sabine, Paul and Fred (Cécile’s human friends and family), as well as Marc, Zoe and Elise, the Twins and Tips (those we met in Trollus). They were the best part of this novel. Even most of the villains were multifaceted, never doing things for the expected reasons, or having secondary motivations that almost made them sympathetic characters despite their actions.

While all of that was wonderful and definitely worth reading the book (and entire series) for, I really came to dislike Cécile. It’s hard not to go back to the first book, Stolen Songbird, when thinking about her. Cécile’s journey started so far from where it ended in terms of loss and life, and her overall character growth. I love it when a character grows in strength and changes for the better over the course of a series, especially a heroine. Sadly, I don’t think Cécile changed for the better over the course of this series, nor do I think she grew stronger.

At the start of the trilogy, Cécile was a 17-year-old sheltered girl who grew up on a farm. She’d been book/tutor educated, but had little life experience. Obviously she gained life experience over the course of the series, but I don’t think she truly learned anything. She continued to make the same decisions for the same reasons over and over again. In fact, I think she went from making mistakes out of ignorance to making them out of a sense of malice toward others. Where she did things that put others in danger out of ignorance in previous books, she did them simply to be cruel in this one (ex: being petty and getting human guards killed just because she was feeling mean). She was so cavalier about dabbling in black magic, and such a martyr about it, that I actively came to dislike her as the series wore on.

I also really struggled with the ending.

View Spoiler »

Though this book is called Warrior Witch, I don’t believe Cécile was a warrior, but rather a survivor who was willing to do whatever she must, whether morally right or not. While that may have worked when she was a prisoner, it made her very unlikable once she broke the curse and was dealing with the consequences of her actions.

As for the romance, I never fully bought into the connection between Cécile and Tristan. I think Tristan cared a bit more for Cécile than she did for him, but even then, I never came to believe they wanted to be together. It felt like the only reason they stayed with one another was because of the bond. They weren’t kind to each other, didn’t hold one another’s confidences and in fact spent the majority of the books apart.

Despite my issues with Cécile and the romance, I still enjoyed this series and I would recommend it. As a fantasy series, it works very well. As a fantasy romance, not so much. Still, the world and secondary characters were well worth the read.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

The Malediction Trilogy

three-half-stars


Tagged: , , , , , ,

Review: Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. Jensen

Posted August 4, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. JensenReviewer: Holly
Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. Jensen
Series: The Malediction Trilogy #2
Also in this series: Stolen Songbird , Warrior Witch
Publisher: Angry Robot
Publication Date: June 2, 2015
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 464
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Beneath the mountain, the king’s reign of tyranny is absolute; the one troll with the capacity to challenge him is imprisoned for treason. Cécile has escaped the darkness of Trollus, but she learns all too quickly that she is not beyond the reach of the king’s power. Or his manipulation.

Recovered from her injuries, she now lives with her mother in Trianon and graces the opera stage every night. But by day she searches for the witch who has eluded the trolls for five hundred years. Whether she succeeds or fails, the costs to those she cares about will be high.

To find Anushka, she must delve into magic that is both dark and deadly. But the witch is a clever creature. And Cécile might not just be the hunter. She might also be the hunted…

Hidden Huntress (The Malediction Trilogy #2) by Danielle L. Jensen picks up shortly after Stolen Songbird ends. I believe this trilogy needs to be read in order. Cécile has escape Trollus and is now living in Trianon, performing at her mother’s opera house while she searches for the witch responsible for cursing Trollus. In the meantime, Tristan is still in Trollus plotting to overthrow his father and free the half-blood trolls.

I enjoyed Stolen Songbird and I immediately jumped into Hidden Huntress because I was anxious to see where the story would go. I found the pace quite a bit slower in this novel and Cécile got on my nerves more. In the first book I felt like she made a lot of bad decisions out of desperation. Here, her bad decisions felt more deliberate. She wanted what she wanted, damn the consequences.

I enjoyed the world and really love the politics and intrigues of the trolls. I also thought Tristan grew quite a bit in this novel. I figured out early who the villain was, and I admit I was impatient for the characters to work it out.

In this book and the previous I really struggled with the romance. I never really felt a connection between Tristan and Cécile outside the metaphysical bond that was forced on them. Their declarations of love didn’t really work for me, and nothing I read here solidified their connection for me. Tristan’s mistrust and Cécile’s insecurities frustrated me.

I liked it enough to start the third book immediately, but it’s not a book I think I’ll ever re-read.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

The Malediction Trilogy

three-half-stars


Tagged: , , , , , , ,