Tag: Fantasy

Review: The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen

Posted July 13, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. JensenReviewer: Holly
The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang, James Patrick Cronin
Series: The Bridge Kingdom #1
Also in this series: The Bridge Kingdom, The Traitor Queen
Publisher: Self-Published, Audible Original
Publication Date: August 13, 2019
Format: Audiobook, eBook
Source: Audible Escape, Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 356
Length: 11 hours and 52 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge
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?

This popped up as a recommended read in Audible Escape. The blurb was intriguing so I decided to give it a try. I really enjoyed both narrators. From the very first I was pulled into this novel. I ended up purchasing the ebook so I could read when I wasn’t able to listen.

Lara and her half-sisters were raised in a desert compound for one purpose – to take down The Bridge Kingdom from the inside. As part of a 15 year treaty, one of them must marry the King of Ithicana (the Bridge Kingdom). Lara isn’t the chosen one, but she betrays her sisters to take her place as Queen in order to save their lives. Her goal is simple; Learn as much about the country and the Bridge as possible, so her father and his forces can take it over. Ithicana and her new husband are nothing like she thought they’d be, and it isn’t long before she begins questioning everything.

This was such a stellar story. I was sucked in from the very first page. Lara was such a multi-faceted character. Her whole life she’s been told Ithicana and her King are the reason so many in her country are starving. Although she doesn’t have a lot of love for her father, she does want better for her people. I completely understood why she made the choices she did. From beginning to end, I felt her struggle and determination to do what was right. My heart broke for her at the end, even as I wanted to rage at her. There never came a point when I didn’t understand her plight or her reasons for doing the things she did.

Aren wasn’t as complex of a character. He wanted what was best for his country, and he hoped for a true alliance with Lara’s father, though of course he was wary of ever getting it. Of the two, he was more open and sweet. He just wanted to be able to allow his country men and women to leave, or pursue other dreams, rather than become soldiers. I liked him, but I didn’t feel the same connection to him that I did Lara.

This book ended in a cliffhanger and I immediately dove into the second book.

The politics and intrigue, the personal relationships and Lara’s struggle to do what she was trained to do when her heart was telling her otherwise was very well done. I highly recommend this series.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

The Bridge Kingdom

four-half-stars


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Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Posted July 10, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. MaasReviewer: Holly
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Narrator: Jennifer Ikeda
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #1
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Format: eBook, Audiobook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult
Pages: 419
Length: 16 hours and 7 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 New to Me Challenge, New to Me Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Feyre's survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price ...

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre's presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas is the first book in the Court of Thorns and Roses series. I’ve had this book in my TBR pile for years. Recently I requested a good Paranormal/Fantasy series on Twitter, and this was one of the top recs, so I dug it out. I had the Kindle version with the audio add-on, so I read and listened. The narrator was good. I really enjoyed the writing and the world-building, but I found the story moved slow at times and I had a hard time focusing on it. The second half picked up, however, and I was fully invested in Feyre and her journey.

For hundreds of years the Faeries and Humans have been bound by a treaty that keeps the Faeries from killing humans and/or keeping them as slaves. Feyre and her family live near the wall that separates the two lands, in abject poverty. While she’s out hunting, she kills a wolf that turns out to be faerie and forfeits her life in return. Rather than killing her, Tamlin, the faerie who comes for her, tells her she must come and live with him over the wall in Prythian. Once she arrives in the Spring Court, she’s surprised to learn she won’t be a prisoner, but rather a permanent guest. Her whole life she’s grown up hating the faeries for how they treat humans. As she spends time with Tamlin and the other faeries at the Spring Court, she comes to realize there’s more to the story than she ever knew..and not all faeries are bad.

At the beginning of the novel, Feyre was a hard character to like. Her vain, shallow mother has died, and her father has lost their fortune and retreated into himself, leaving Feyre to care for him and her two self-absorbed sisters. She’s had to teach herself to hunt, how to barter for what they need and how to survive in a world so unlike the one she was meant to inhabit. This has made her hard and a little jaded, not to mention focused solely on herself and her own needs (or those of her family). It’s not that I blamed her, as I understand what poverty can do to a person, but it didn’t make her very likable in the beginning. As she settles into life in Prythian and relaxes her guard, I came to enjoy her more. The novel spans several months, which gives us an opportunity to watch her grow and blossom away from the oppressing burdens of her human life. This is the Feyre she was meant to be, but with a core of steel she may have never grown otherwise.

I never really warmed up to Tamlin. He was different than I expected from the way he burst into Feyre’s home and forced her home with him; a bit old fashioned, but very sweet. He encouraged her to find herself and rediscover her love for painting, explore the area and make herself at home. Tamlin had his own agenda. Though he was kind to Feyre, it was obvious he was waiting on something from her. There were also several instances where he came off as very weak, not a warrior, for all his “I kill the bad things” vibes. I didn’t dislike him, necessarily, but I didn’t really like him, either.

Around the 70% mark, Feyre is forced to go Under the Mountain (another Court in Prythian, ruled by an evil faerie) to save Tamlin. This is where the novel really picked up. I loved watching Feyre use her wits and strength to survive and overcome. Still, it was hard to read, because while Feyre survived, parts of her were broken in the process. The latter part of the book was focused pretty much solely on Feyre. She was doing what she was doing for Tamlin, but he wasn’t really involved.

Having said that, I loved how Feyre changed and grew over the course of the book, and I was invested in her romance with Tamlin and her life in Prythian. The world-building and court politics and intrigues were very well done. I loved learning about the different Courts, being introduced to all the Faeries and coming to understand the truth behind Tamlin’s actions. Though this wasn’t a perfect read, I was invested in Feyre and her journey enough to continue reading, even through the slow parts. While it doesn’t necessarily end in a cliffhanger, I did immediately pick up the second book because I needed to see where Feyre’s story headed next.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

A Court of Thorns and Roses

three-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, 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
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
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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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, The Bridge Kingdom
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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