My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand

My Plain Jane by Cynthia HandMy Plain Jane by Cynthia HandBrodi AshtonJodi Meadows
Published by HarperCollins on June 26th 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Historical
Pages: 464
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I really wanted to love this. So badly. My Lady Jane was so so much fun when I read it last year, but I just felt like both the humour and the story were pretty bland in this book. I felt like the previous book was a hilarious historical comedy; this one was a meh Jane Eyre retelling.

One StarOne Star

The Queen of Sorrow by Sarah Beth Durst

The Queen of Sorrow by Sarah Beth DurstThe Queen of Sorrow by Sarah Beth Durst
Published by HarperCollins on May 15th 2018
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 432
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I suppose I’ll need Jastra’s plan after all. Pity.
It would have been nice to avoid murdering anyone.

 

I have really enjoyed this series. I came to the end of The Queen of Sorrow and, aptly, felt a lot of sorrow at having to leave these characters behind. At least the author’s note promises a standalone set in the same world – in Belene this time – so I will get to return to, and explore more of, Renthia.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Furyborn by Claire Legrand

Furyborn by Claire LegrandFuryborn by Claire Legrand
on March 1st 2018
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 512
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The one question that kept spinning around in my mind as I read Furyborn is “why should I care?” I didn’t like the characters, the story almost put me to sleep, the stakes were never high enough to get my blood pumping, and the sex scenes made me laugh (not in a good way). I dislike giving one star but there was literally nothing I enjoyed about this book.

One Star

Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popovic

Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana PopovicWicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popovic
Published by HarperCollins on August 15th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 416
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All the women in Iris and Malina’s family have the unique magical ability or “gleam” to manipulate beauty. Iris sees flowers as fractals and turns her kaleidoscope visions into glasswork, while Malina interprets moods as music. But their mother has strict rules to keep their gifts a secret, even in their secluded sea-side town. Iris and Malina are not allowed to share their magic with anyone, and above all, they are forbidden from falling in love. 
But when their mother is mysteriously attacked, the sisters will have to unearth the truth behind the quiet lives their mother has built for them. They will discover a wicked curse that haunts their family line—but will they find that the very magic that bonds them together is destined to tear them apart forever?

In some ways, I feel like I’m being generous. I’m upping my rating to two stars, and yet this book was so painfully slow and boring.

One StarOne Star

Wonder Woman by Leigh Bardugo

Wonder Woman by Leigh BardugoWonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo
Published by Random House Children's Books on August 29th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 384
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She will become one of the world's greatest heroes: WONDER WOMAN. But first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning. . . .   Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world.   Alia just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn't know she is being hunted. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.   Together, Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. If they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.

“Sister in battle,” murmured Diana, “I am shield and blade to you.”
“And friend.”
“And always your friend.”

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Hunted by Meagan SpoonerHunted by Meagan Spooner
Published by HarperCollins on March 14th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 384
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Beauty knows the Beast's forest in her bones—and in her blood. After all, her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering its secrets. So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters out of their comfortable home among the aristocracy and back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance. The Beast.
Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange creature back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of magical creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin, or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

“She wept because she did not know what she wanted, and because she wanted everything.”

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

Skullsworn (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne) by Brian Staveley

Skullsworn (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne) by Brian StaveleySkullsworn by Brian Staveley
Series: Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne
Published by Tor Books on April 25, 2017
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 304
Format: ARC, print ARC
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Brian Staveley’s new standalone returns to the critically acclaimed Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne universe, following a priestess attempting to join the ranks of the God of Death.
Pyrre Lakatur doesn’t like the word skullsworn. It fails to capture the faith and grace, the peace and beauty of her devotion to the God of Death. She is not, to her mind, an assassin, not a murderer--she is a priestess. At least, she will be a priestess if she manages to pass her final trial.
The problem isn’t the killing. Pyrre has been killing and training to kill, studying with some of the most deadly men and women in the world, since she was eight. The problem, strangely, is love. To pass her Trial, Pyrre has ten days to kill the ten people enumerated in an ancient song, including "the one you love / who will not come again."
Pyrre is not sure she’s ever been in love. If she were a member of a different religious order, a less devoted, disciplined order, she might cheat. The Priests of Ananshael, however, don’t look kindly on cheaters. If Pyrre fails to find someone to love, or fails to kill that someone, they will give her to the god.
Pyrre’s not afraid to die, but she hates to quit, hates to fail, and so, with a month before her trial begins, she returns to the city of her birth, the place where she long ago offered an abusive father to the god and abandoned a battered brother—in the hope of finding love...and ending it on the edge of her sword.
"A complex and richly detailed world filled with elite soldier-assassins, mystic warrior monks, serpentine politics, and ancient secrets." —Library Journal, starred review, on The Emperor's Blades

“Music is inextricable from its own unmaking. Each note is predicated on the death of those before. Try to hold them all, and you have madness, cacophony, noise.”

I’ve made no bones about how much I love Brian Staveley’s writing, and when I saw he was bringing one of my favorite characters back for her own story I was overjoyed! The bad news is that this took a bit for me to feel pulled in, but full disclaimer – I have been in the most epic of epic reading slumps. Literally the worst slump since I learned how to read. I’m pretty sure that’s what my disconnect was all about but the start was a little heavy, a little purple-y, but that could just be me right now.
This story is about Pyrre, who became one of my ultimate faves in his Unhewn Throne series, and it was super awesome getting inside her head and learning some of her past. This story is set before the Unhewn series and is about Pyrre becoming a Priestess for her god (the god of death). She decides to go back to her homeland to carry out her Trial with Ela and Kossal as her Witnesses. Ela is enchanting and I would happily devour a stand alone or more of just her (please, Brian!!), and Kossal was the perfect compliment to both women. Pyrre, of course, knows that she must give to the god someone for whom she loves but she can’t quite decide what love is and how to get to that point. Ela and Kossal can only do so much to help her understand what love is, and there were some serious philosophical conversations within Pyrre’s own head on this matter. Her story is a tense waiting game to see if she’ll succeed or meet her god.

“The goddess makes us in endlessly different ways. Our Struggles are no more the same than our face.”

Pyrre is fascinating to crawl inside of: her childhood was shocking, her training relentless, her mind a warren of endless entertainment. I loved going between deep philosophical debates on love and worship to seeing her biting humor and adventurous spirit. Seeing her find the one person she might be able to love and going through that journey with her was tough. The synopsis tells us what she has to do so as I’m falling for Ruc I’m all upset that his death is coming and I would go back and forth between glaring at Staveley and feeling sad for Ruc and mad at Pyrre. Even in my horrific slump Brian Staveley knew just how to draw me in.

“All that they have is the old stories, stories of snakes in throats and violets in eyes – those stories are their only weapon, and stories are only weapons if you repeat them.”
“As long as they remained unspoken, they could be denied, disowned, but saying a thing gives it strength.”

This book is a true stand alone but I can’t recommend the Unhewn series enough, Pyrre is a supporting character there so you really can read this without them, but it’s the same world which always makes the reading that much more interesting I think. This book has all that I love in stories: action, adventure, love, sex, humor, myths, legends, and fun. It is an easy read being pretty short for a fantasy which is a great way to break into the genre if you’re not already a fan – or don’t like reading super long books. Brian Staveley is a must-read author.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey CoulthurstOf Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
Published by HarperCollins on November 22nd 2016
Genres: Fantasy, LGBT, Young Adult
Pages: 400
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An atmospheric and romantic debut fantasy perfect for fans of Ash and The Winner’s Curse.
Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile kingdoms. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a land where magic is forbidden.
Now Denna has to learn the ways of her new kingdom while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine, sister of her betrothed.
When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two work together, they discover there is more to one another than they thought—and soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.
But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.

Let’s start with the positive: there’s an LGBT romance. And also there’s… er, nope, sorry, that’s all I got for you.

One Star

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Heartless by Marissa MeyerHeartless by Marissa Meyer
Published by Pan Macmillan on November 17th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 324
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Long before she was the Queen of Hearts, Catherine Pinkerton was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.
Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.
Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

“These things do not happen in dreams, dear girl,” he said, vanishing up to his neck. “They happen only in nightmares.”
His head spiralled and he was gone.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star