Review: Castles in their Bones by Laura Sebastian

Castles in their Bones (Castles in their Bones, #1)Castles in their Bones by Laura Sebastian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Castles in their Bones is the start of a YA Fantasy trilogy from beloved author Laura Sebastian.

This story follows three princesses, Sophronia, Daphne, and Beatriz, who have been raised by their mother, the Empress Margaraux, with one goal in mind: to one day reign over the entire continent of Vesteria.

The triplets are now 16-years old and ready to marry. They’ve had husbands selected for them pretty much since birth, whoever would be most advantageous as far as alliances go. You know how it is to be royalty.

What’s love got to do with it?

Margaraux has trained her girls in the arts of deception, seduction and violence. For their part, the girls have soaked it in. They know what they are supposed to do.

In spite of this, it’s going to be difficult. They’ve never been away from one another. Surviving on their own is something completely foreign to them.

As their adult lives begin, the girls face new challenges and new tests on their loyalties. They discover things as well, about the greater world around them, things they’ve maybe never taken into consideration before.

As you follow the ladies into these positions, you can actually feel their mother’s chess pieces moving on the board. The tension builds until you’re aren’t sure who you can trust. It was cleverly plotted. Well done by Sebastian!

I was really impressed with this. I went in expecting a fairly standard YA Fantasy, but this was anything but. I loved how intricate the scheming and plotting was.

Absolutely diabolical!

I really enjoyed all three of the girls. I loved getting to know them and watching each of their journeys as they moved to their future husband’s courts.

They ended up in vastly different circumstances and watching them navigate through the challenges they faced was so interesting. You could really see how the core of their personalities shaped the decisions they were making.

I found Daphne to be the character I personally connected with the most. I appreciated how she was able to keep her emotions at arms length from her tasks. She knew what she was there to do and she was really quite cunning about her interactions.

While this one started a little slowly, it definitely went out with a bang. I cannot believe how long I am going to have to wait for the continuation of this story.

How you play me like that, Laura Sebastian!?

The very final portion of this left me absolutely shook. It explained a lot and I am seriously at the edge of my seat with anticipation to get my hands on the next installment.

Thank you to the publisher, Delacorte Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. Bring on the sequel!

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Misrule (Malice #2) by Heather Walter

Misrule (Malice Duology, #2)Misrule by Heather Walter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Misrule is the sequel to Heather Walter’s 2021-release, Malice; a darkly creative retelling of Sleeping Beauty.

I have been highly anticipating this second book as I really enjoyed Malice. I found it completely immersive, with wonderful world-building and a fantastic magic system.

As this is the second book in a duology, I may mention some details here that some might consider spoilers. I will try not to reveal too much, but if you’re concerned, look away now.

You have been warned…

This story is set 100-years after the culminating events of the first book.

Alyce has reached her potential and become ruler over the kingdom that once ridiculed her. The Dark Grace known to the Briar Kingdom is dead and now Alyce lives as Nimara, ruler of the Dark Court.

The Dark Court has become a welcome home to creatures who were vilified and hunted by the prior kingdom. Vila, goblins, imps and demons live together within the castle walls in chaotic harmony.

For her part, Aurora remains in an enchanted sleep, locked away in a tower room. Her existence more the stuff of legend than actually memory.

Could a random human boy named Derek, washed ashore and pledged to serve Nimara, be the key to breaking the enchantment holding Aurora in her endless sleep?

There’s so much more to this story than that, including a centuries long battle against the Fae, but I am going to leave it there. If you want to know more, which I think you do, you have to pick up this duology.

Heather Walter’s writing is so readable and digestible. At times Fantasy stories can require a lot of concentration; filled with hard to pronounce names and places, as well as complex histories and magic systems to try to figure out.

While this is a detailed and multi-layered story, it is written in such a way that makes it accessible and addicting. It stands out to me in that regard.

Overall, this was a fantastic conclusion to a highly-underrated YA Fantasy duology. I look forward to seeing what Walter releases next. Personally, I am hoping she stays in the lane of retellings. She nailed this.

Frankly, I’m sad it’s over. I’ll miss this beautiful world and all of the compelling characters.

Thank you to the publisher, Ballantine, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I had been highly anticipating this release and it didn’t disappoint for a moment!

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Review: Together We Burn by Isabel Ibañez

Together We BurnTogether We Burn by Isabel Ibañez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Eighteen-year-old Zarela Zalvidar is the daughter of famous parents. Her mother was the most cherished flamenco dancer in Hispalia prior to her death and her father is the most celebrated Dragonador.

For a time, the family seemed to have it all. Their own arena, their own dragons and flocks of adoring spectators arriving for all of their shows.

After the tragic death of her mother, however, things begin to spiral for the Zalvidars, made worse after another tragedy strikes during their 500th-anniversary show.

Zarela’s father is seriously injured during the incident, as well as many others, and since it involved some of the Zalvidar’s dragons, the family is being blamed.

Now they face punishment from the Dragon Guild and could potentially lose their ancestral home, as well as their livelihood.

Zarela must keep the arena running on her own. She has to keep money coming in. In order to do so, she decides she needs to take her father’s place in the ring. She needs to become a Dragonador.

To prepare herself for the ring though, she’ll need training, and more dragons. Therefore, she ends up reaching out to dragon hunter, Arturo Díaz de Montserrat, to basically beg him for his help.

While at first Arturo turns Zarela away, she is determined and not taking no for an answer. Ultimately, after an amazing show of will, he’s impressed by her stubbornness. It’s clear she’s not leaving without a yes.

Arturo agrees to help and along with two dragons, they return to Zarela’s home to train and prepare for the show.

During all of this, Zarela also has suspicions that the tragedies involving her family and their shows haven’t been accidents. She thinks someone is purposefully trying to bring them down and she means to get to the bottom of it.

Sweeping through this intricate and wonderfully-developed world, Together We Burn had me completely entranced from start-to-finish!

I absolutely adored this. It’s not a very complicated story, but what’s here is beautifully done.

It’s a story of family, tradition, legacy and a new generations forging their own path while simultaneously paying tribute to those who came before.


I found the world to be extremely creative. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like it. The whole concept of the dragon fights, that practice, the similarities to traditional bullfighting, was very interesting to read about.

I liked that Ibañez gave her two main characters opposing views on the practice, as that let her give voice to both sides of the controversial issue. Personally, I thought that was handled very well.

At first I was a little concerned about that aspect of the story. I mean, even though dragons are fictional, I love them and don’t want to see them harmed.

I also enjoyed the characters so much and the mystery that ran throughout. Zarela was a great character to follow and the dynamic between her and Arturo gave the story just the right amount of humor and romance.

Finally, I really loved how this wrapped-up. I am more of a series girl, overall, as I feel some standalones leave me wanting more, but I was so pleased with the way this concluded. I walk away a happy girl!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review.

I can’t wait to read more from Isabel Ibañez!!

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Review: Sofi and the Bone Song by Adrienne Tooley

Sofi and the Bone SongSofi and the Bone Song by Adrienne Tooley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the kingdom of Aell, magic exists and is accessible to all. There are strict laws surrounding the use of magic when it comes to music, however, leaving music as the last untouched art.

In fact, the rules are so strict surrounding music that only five individuals are given the roles of Musik; someone who is allowed to compose their own songs and perform them throughout the land.

Each of the five Musiks is paired with a particular instrument. It’s all quite regimented, but regardless, the Musiks are celebrated throughout the kingdom.

Sofi’s father is a Musik, who plays a very special bone lute. Sofi has been groomed her whole life to follow in his footsteps. He’s been rigid in her training and Sofi has never erred from her path; she wants to be a Musik more than anything.

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as wanting. In order to be named a Musik, there is an audition process. Sofi remains confident she will be named Musik. No one works harder, or wants it more than she does.

Things are thrown for a loop, however, when on the day of the audition, a stranger arrives unannounced to perform; a beautiful girl named, Lara. It seems she’s ill-prepared, as she’s never played the lute before and doesn’t even have one with her. Sofi’s confused. Is this some sort of joke?

To Sofi’s horror, Lara’s performance is absolutely incredible. She has the judges, and all else in attendance, in the palm of her hand.

Before she knows it, Sofi’s life has come crashing down around her. Lara has been named a rising Musik, she will inherit Sofi’s father’s position. Then in a most surprising turn of events, Sofi’s father dies quite suddenly.

Sofi cannot believe what is happening. Magic has to be at play. This cannot all be a coincidence. She agrees to travel with Lara, who knows absolutely nothing about being a Musik, to help her get her bearings.

The tuth is, Sofi suspects Lara of using illegal magic to win the position and feels like traveling with her will be the best way to get the evidence she needs. She wants to be able to prove Lara is a fraud. With Lara out of the way, Sofi would finally be able to take her proper place as a Musik.

Sofi and Lara’s journey bring lots of discoveries, most of them involving Sofi and her life, not so much about Lara’s potential use of magic. It’s eye-opening for Sofi in many ways, to say the least, with startling consequences.

Sofi and the Bone Song is a beautiful YA-Fantasy standalone novel that is like a love letter to music itself.

It’s understated and quiet, yet it drew me in from the very start. It’s quite character-driven, but all of the characters were well developed and likable.

I love stories involving music, or musicians. This one is so in depth to that art form. I was eating it up. I’m not sure how impactful this will be for individuals who haven’t been involved with playing music at some point in their lives, but for those who have, I think they’ll definitely be able to connect with this story.

The romance aspect didn’t grab me quite as much as I had hoped. I was mostly interested in the romance of the music and of watching Sofi strive to reach her potential, but I can see how others may fall for the innocence of this young love.

I really enjoyed the sections that explored Sofi’s childhood and the training she experienced at the hands of her father. Having that included helped me to understand more about Sofi as a character, as well as building out the relationship she had with her father.

I also enjoyed the fact that Sofi and Lara were traveling for much of the story; it’s like an old-timey road trip. Their journey was never dull and each stop brought Sofi closer to answers regarding Lara’s sudden rise to success.

Overall, I think this is a soft, subtle, beautiful story that was wrapped up so nicely. Some standalones, you get to the end and wonder, is this really it? I feel like you can walk away satisfied that you have reached the end of this tale. Well done by Tooley.

Thank you to the publisher, Margaret K. McElderry Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. Sofi delivered everything I was hoping for!

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Review: A Far Wilder Magic by Allison Saft

A Far Wilder MagicA Far Wilder Magic by Allison Saft
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

When Weston Winters shows up on her doorstop, Margaret Welty is home alone and has been for quite some time.

Margaret’s mother, a famous alchemist, is traveling for work and Margaret, essentially abandoned, has no idea when she will return.

Wes is an aspiring alchemist seeking apprenticeship with Margaret’s mom, hence his sudden and previously unannounced arrival. Although Margaret is annoyed by his mere presence, he is able to break down some of her walls and she agrees to let him stay until her mother returns.

Margaret may have ulterior motives. The Halfmoon Hunt approaches and she is desperate to participate. The winner of the hunt, the one who is able to slay the legendary Hala, the last living mythical creature, will win fame and a large sum of money.

The catch is only teams of two are allowed to sign up. Margaret is the best shot in town, but she needs an alchemist for a partner. Perhaps Wes can serve a purpose after all.

As you can imagine, with two young people living and working together under the same roof, sparks begin to fly. It’s not immediate and certainly not discussed, but as Margaret and Wes learn more about each other, they discover they may be more alike than they initially thought.

I was swept away with this story. Saft is a master at creating lush and fully-consuming atmospheres. I loved the world she created here; it felt very greater-Boston area, maybe mid-to-late 1920s, but with magic.

Additionally, I was impressed with the different layers woven into this story. For example, there was quite a bit of commentary on discrimination against ethnic minorities and immigrants. It never felt forced, which I appreciated. It felt like a completely natural aspect of this story.

Both Margaret and Wes had experienced outward discrimination and hostilities towards them based upon who they were and where they came from. Eventually, they were able to talk about and bond over these shared experiences.

I was moved by both of their stories and how they learned to stand strong in the face of those aggressions; how they both sought to make changes for the better for all.

That is just a minor part though, for me, the highlight of this book is the Halfmoon Hunt. I loved learning about it, the lore, history, dangers and watching Margaret and Wes prep for the big day. Of course it doesn’t go entirely smoothly.

Drama abounds as the event nears and I had no idea where it was going or what was going to happen. I was completely head over heels for this team by that point though, I was ready to cut down the competition myself!

While Margaret and Wes have their ups and downs over the course of the story, one thing that never waned was their growing feelings for one another.

This is a YA Fantasy Romance after all and I thought the romance was splendid; so natural and satisfying to watch evolve. From the early neurotic days of pining and questioning, all the way through to the end, I was invested.

There were no eye-roll moments for me, no wishing for it to be over, it was organic and fun.

I really enjoyed Saft’s 2020-release, Down Comes the Night. It was an impressive Romantic Fantasy debut. In A Far Wilder Magic, I feel like Saft’s writing has really blossomed. This is a complex story and it was executed so well.

Thank you to the publisher, Wednesday Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I cannot wait to for Allison Saft’s next book. I look forward to following her career for a long time to come!!

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Review: Edgewood by Kristen Ciccarelli

EdgewoodEdgewood by Kristen Ciccarelli
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Music is life for Emeline Lark. Chasing her dream of becoming a singer-songwriter, she left her small town of Edgewood behind, moving to the city.

No matter how far she goes however, she’s constantly reminded of home. As she performs, with the music coursing through her, she can smell the damp woods of Edgewood; moss and other flora have even been known to sprout from the stage at her feet.

Emeline does her best to ignore it. She feels like in order to succeed, she has break ties with the past.

When she receives news from a friend, however, that her beloved Grandfather has disappeared, she hightails it back to join the search. He is the only family she has left; she can’t lose him too.

With just days left before Emeline is set to go on her first tour, as the opener for one of her favorite bands, she needs to find Pa quickly, so she can return to the city and the life she’s built for herself there.

Edgewood is undeniably a quirky little town, full of superstitions. It doesn’t take long for Emeline to discover that there may actually be something to all the local lore and thus, a more magical than mundane reason for her Pa’s disappearance.

Unexpectedly, she finds herself following her only lead, a mysterious orb left on her Grandfather’s pillow, said to be evidence of a tithe paid to the Wood King.

Into the woods she goes and a fairy tale is born!

I really enjoyed my time with this audiobook. I knew going in that Ciccarelli’s writing is fantastic and that she knows how to sweep her Readers away into another world. I loved her entire Iskari series and feel it’s highly underrated in the YA Fantasy space.

In this story, I enjoyed how modern it felt. I actually didn’t know too much about it going in and assumed it was set entirely in a Fantasy world.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Emeline is a girl very much of our world, who travels to a magical realm to perform a quest; to find her beloved Grandfather who has been stolen away.

This is one of my favorite set-ups for magical stories. It gives me nostalgic Labyrinth vibes and I’m so here for it. Also, it felt sort of Beauty and the Beast reminiscent as well towards the beginning, which is another one of my favorites.

Edgewood gave me many good feels throughout. There was a lot packed into this story; numerous reveals and great growth of character for Emeline.

On a more serious note, I really enjoyed how Ciccarelli explored the relationship between Emeline and her Grandfather. When he started losing his memory, he became unable to live on his own and Emeline had to make the decision to have him placed in a home.

This is such a tough real life issue; one that hits particularly close to home for me. Emeline struggles with guilt surrounding her decision and I appreciated that Ciccarelli included that. Instead of making it glossy and pretty, you could really get a sense of the complexity of Emeline’s feelings. This hasn’t been as easy for her as it may first appear.

In spite of that heavier points in the narrative, this also managed to be magical and fun. There were many great mythical beings, a deal with the Wood King, a long-standing curse and the truth of Emeline’s past coming to light.

Oh, and also, a sweet romance. That’s probably what some of y’all are here for. It was swoon-worthy, a little heartbreaking, yet also uplifting. It was really good, although not my personal favorite aspect of the overall story.

At this point, I will pick up anything Ciccarelli writes. Her imagery is stunning and she never fails to guide me out of reality for a while.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Macmillan Audio, for providing me with an audio ARC to read and review. I’m already excited to see what Ciccarelli comes up with next!!

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Review: The Excalibur Curse (Camelot Rising #3) by Kiersten White

The Excalibur Curse (Camelot Rising, #3)The Excalibur Curse by Kiersten White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

The Excalibur Curse is the third and final book in Kiersten White’s Camelot Rising series.

In this slow-burn, character-driven YA Fantasy series, White puts her own unique spin on the legend of Camelot, incorporating classic characters many of us know and love.

The second book in the series, The Camelot Betrayal, ended on an incredible cliffhanger, with the fate of our heroine, Guinevere, hanging in the wind.

I literally gasped at the final plot twist in that book and knew that I had to continue with this story as soon as possible.

As this installment begins, Guinevere finds herself separated from her closest companions. In order to free herself from her sticky situation, and continue on her mission, she is forced to make some new allies. One in particular, I really enjoyed being added to the cast.

I’m looking at you, Fina.

If you have read the earlier books, you know Guinevere has a lot of unanswered questions about her past. Okay, unanswered questions is putting it mildly. She has no freaking clue where she came from or who she really is.

This causes her continued angst. She cannot continue to live feeling like she stole the real Guinevere’s life. She feels a fraud. She needs to find out her truth.

This story follows Guinevere over the ups and downs of her final quest for answers. What she finds…yeah, she’s not ready for it. It shakes her to her core and causes her to feel like she is unworthy of the life she leads.

Her friends and companions, those who love her, work hard to convince her that she is incredible just as she is. She has changed their lives. It doesn’t matter one lick where she came from. She is real and she matters.

While, admittedly, this started out slow for me, the pace definitely increased exponentially in the second half.

Also, I did finally get the answers I was hoping for and even though they weren’t what I expected, I walk away satisfied.

There were so many great relationships built throughout this series. I think that aspect is my greatest take-away from this whole story.

Each relationship was unique and it had its own special qualities. I would say my favorite to watch evolve over the course of the three books was Guinevere and Lancelot. Wow, the two of them and their bond, it absolutely fills my heart to even think about. That’s unconditional love.

Overall, I had a really good time with this series. It’s a bit romantic and dreamy, but it’s also full of twists, intrigue and fantastic characters.

As mentioned above, I’m really happy with this conclusion and can walk away comfortable that my favorites will live happily ever after…

Thank you to the publisher, Delacorte Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I definitely look forward to reading more from Kiersten White soon!!

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Review: The Camelot Betrayal (Camelot Rising #2) by Kiersten White

The Camelot Betrayal (Camelot Rising, #2)The Camelot Betrayal by Kiersten White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

The Camelot Betrayal is the second book in Kiersten White’s Camelot Rising trilogy. Granted it had been a minute since I read the first book, The Guinevere Deception, so I was concerned about being completely lost when I picked this up.

Alas, I had nothing to fear. White is a seasoned author; she wouldn’t let me down like that.

In this installment, Guinevere is still struggling to find her place in Camelot. She feels completely unmoored by the fact that she cannot remember who she actually is and where she truly came from.

Even though her relationships with Arthur and her new friends continue to grow stronger, there’s still so much she needs to know. She has blanks she wants to fill in.

While she tries to remain focused on all that’s going on around her, such as Arthur working to expand his kingdom, and Brangien pining for her lost love, Isolde, it’s really difficult with these lost pieces of herself constantly looming over her.

When a young lady arrives in the kingdom, claiming to be Guinevere’s true sister, her mere presence threatens everything Guinevere has been working towards in Camelot. Or does it?

I will be honest, I wasn’t too sure about this one in the beginning. It started a little slow for me and the stakes didn’t appear to be particularly high.

I did enjoy the character growth Guinevere was displaying and I also really enjoyed the subplot following Isolde and Brangien; give me a rescue mission any day.

The further the story went on, the more invested I became. In the end, White really brought it around. There were many interesting reveals and now I am itching to get my hands on the final book.

There’s a showdown coming to Camelot and I want to be front and center for it!

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Review: The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh

The Girl Who Fell Beneath the SeaThe Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Deadly storms have ravaged Mina’s homeland for generations. The people believe the Sea God has cursed them. Therefore, every year, a young girl is thrown into the sea in an effort to appease him.

It is believed that these girls will serve as his wife until the next girl is sacrificed. Eventually one of the girls will be chosen as his true bride and the curse will end.

Mina’s older brother, Joon’s beloved, Shim Cheong, is the most beautiful girl in the village. Unfortunately, because of her beauty, Shim Cheong is set to be sacrificed. Joon will be heartbroken. Mina cannot let that happen.

So, on the fated night, Mina takes Shim Cheong’s place by throwing herself into the sea.

Guided by a majestic and slightly frightening dragon through the water, Mina enters the spirit world, where things are not quite as she expected.

The Sea God isn’t maniacally twirling his mustache, plotting evil deeds to unleash upon her village. He’s actually trapped in an enchanted sleep.

If she has any hope of ending the curse, Mina needs him awake. How else is he to choose her as his true bride?

Along with some new friends, including a mysterious boy named Shin, Mina sets out on a mission to try to discover the secret to waking him up. Time is not on her side, however, as humans can only survive in the Spirit realm for a short period of time. The pressure is on.

I had a great experience with this audiobook. The narrator did an incredible job bringing such a dreamy narrative to life. I was transported.

You might even say I was spirited away…

I have since discovered that this is actually a retelling of the classic Korean folktale, The Tale of Shim Cheong. I would love to get my hands on that now.

This was absolutely enchanting and I would be very interested to see how closely it connects to the original source material.

The entire story is so beautiful, so epic, so lyrical and so freaking amazing. I just can’t even express all the feels. I am clearly over the moon for this one.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Dreamscape Media, for providing me a copy of the audiobook to read and review. You better believe I will be snatching this up on release day!!!

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Review: The Ivory Key (The Ivory Key #1) by Akshaya Raman

The Ivory Key (The Ivory Key Duology, #1)The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Ruler. The Rebel. The Prisoner. The Unhappy Brother?

The Ivory Key is a lush and exciting debut YA Fantasy novel that took my breath away. I absolutely loved this story and highly urge every YA Fantasy Reader to give it a shot.

The story is set in the kingdom of Ashoka where magic is a key resource. It’s used for many things, but one of its most important functions is protecting the kingdom from outside forces. It literally courses through the walls at their borders; shielding them.

As magic begins to run low, Vira, the young maharani of Ashoka, is barely holding it together trying to keep the kingdom from war. It seems their neighbors can sense weakness and are just biding their time before they make their move.

Vira needs to find a new source of magic. Their known mines are dry, although she isn’t telling anyone that officially.

She believes the answer may be to find the Ivory Key, a mysterious object of legend, that is said to hold the secret to a new source of magic.

Vira can’t do it alone, however, so she pairs up with her three estranged siblings, Ronak, Kaleb and Riya, for the search.

That’s right. We have a quest. There’s a map, hidden artifacts, dangerous enemies and cut-throat sibling rivalries. It has everything.

It was hard not to think a bit of Indiana Jones while reading this. That’s how fun it is. I loved the relationships among the characters. I felt like even though the story had a ton of action, I really got to know the characters as well. It had a nice balance.

From the very start I was hooked into this story. I loved how Raman introduced the Reader to all of the characters and built the world. The kingdom and its magic system are well laid out, but the narrative never felt info-dumpy.

The stakes for this story are high, with each character having their own interests and motivations. I never once lost interest in where this was going or what was going to happen.

I cannot wait for the continuation of this story. I am sort of sad that I’ll have to wait so long, but the good news is, I’ll have time to read this one again before the second book releases.

Oh yeah, it’s that good. Don’t let this one pass you by, y’all. Get your copy today!!!

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