Review: Heart of Thorns (Heart of Thorns #1) by Bree Barton

Heart of Thorns (Heart of Thorns, #1)Heart of Thorns by Bree Barton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Mia Rose lives in the River Kingdom, where her Father is the Captain of a guard that hunts Gwyrach, evil women who possess magic.

The Kingdom is hoping to banish all magic from within its borders and Mia Rose, a lover of science, wants nothing more than to assist with that pursuit. A Gwyrach killed her Mother after all; she wants revenge.

Unfortunately, that’s not really a common profession for women in her kingdom. In fact, there is only one woman currently serving in the guard.

Additionally, Mia’s Father has different plans for her. Needing an alliance with the royal family, he pledges his daughter’s hand to the Prince.

Although the last thing Mia wants is to marry Prince Quin, she is willing to make the sacrifice in order to save her younger sister. She knows her Dad is going to get the alliance he wants one way or another; either with her hand or Angelyne’s.

Going forward with the wedding, Mia has secretly plotted an escape, for her and her sister.

As the ceremony gets underway, a shocking turn of events ultimately exposes the fact that Mia possesses the very powers she has vowed to destroy.

How is that possible? The powers of the Gwyrach are passed on from mothers to daughters. What does this mean about Mia’s own Mother?

Mia is forced to team up with Quin in her search for answers and as with many Princes and unwillingly brides before them, sparks begin to fly.

Heart of Thorns is a nice, solid story. I’ve had it on my shelves for a while and I’m glad I finally got around to picking it up.

In my opinion, it falls on the younger-side of YA; more of Tween category, or for Readers just delving into YA Fantasy, but that’s absolutely fine. Those Readers deserve good stories too!

The narrative contains a lot of the usual YA Fantasy tropes, but it also had a strong feminist undertone that was well done and that I appreciated.

I enjoyed the characters, Quin, most of all, and never felt bored or lost. It read quickly and although, at times, predictable, there was one giant reveal at the end that left my jaw on the floor!

This had an exciting conclusion and I am looking forward to continuing on with the series.

Marking this one in the books as another successful BACKLIST BUMP!!!

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Review: The Sky Weaver (Iskari #3) by Kristen Ciccarelli

The Sky Weaver (Iskari, #3)The Sky Weaver by Kristen Ciccarelli
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Sky Weaver is the third, and sadly, the final installment of companion novels within Kristen Ciccarelli’s Iskari series.

I started this series on a whim earlier this year and immediately fell in love with it. It’s so underrated.

In this edition we get to follow a character who has intrigued me from the very first book. Safire, a soldier and cousin to the new King, Dax, and his sister, the Last Namsara, Asha.

We also follow a new character, a pirate, Eris, known as the Death Dancer, who has the power to travel between worlds, thus making her next to impossible to catch.

When important items begin to be stolen from the kingdom, Safire, commander of the King’s forces, determines the Death Dancer may be plaguing them.

She’s correct and in fact, Eris has taken a special interest in the beautiful commander.

The two play cat and mouse for a bit, which only piques their interests more.

As their fates are pushed further together, both seeking Asha, albeit for different reasons, the two women build a tentative alliance, learning more about one another and about their greater world in general.

I loved this story so much. My favorite of the series. It was action-packed, full of reveals, high stakes and swoon-worthy pining.

An Enemies-to-Lovers trope set in a dragon Fantasy world, with beautifully told lore for the world sprinkled throughout. What is not to love?

Additionally, I enjoyed how the three storylines all really came together in this one. Ciccarelli wrapped it up nicely, although I will say, if she ever chooses to write more in this world, I will be the first one to line up to buy it.

One of my favorite aspects of this series, was the lush and lyrical legends Ciccarelli created as a base for this world. Those sections are included in all three books and are connected to Gods, Goddesses, Myths and Lore of the world of Iskari.

It connected so well with the main storyline and characters; absolutely seamless.

If you have had this series on your radar for a while, you should definitely check it out. I am so happy that I did and now consider it to be one of my favorite YA Fantasy series!!

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Review: The Caged Queen (Iskari #2) by Kristen Ciccarelli

The Caged Queen (Iskari, #2)The Caged Queen by Kristen Ciccarelli
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s official. I am complete trash for the Iskari series.

The Caged Queen is the second installment of Kristen Ciccarelli’s highly underrated YA Fantasy series, Iskari.

If you are unaware, the three books within this trilogy are actually companion novels. Even though they follow a linear story, with the same cast of characters, each installment features the perspectives of different main characters.

Picking up shortly after the conclusion of The Last Namsara, this volume focuses mainly on Roa, her sister Essie, and the new King of Firgaard, Dax.

Roa and Dax, now married, are working on merging the interests of their two kingdom. As the two are still learning to trust one another, things don’t always go smoothly.

Although Roa did appear in the first book, we really didn’t learn too much about her; she remained the mysterious beauty that Dax hoped to marry, in order to (view spoiler).

The Caged Queen gives her full story. Most interestingly to me, is that her sister, Essie, who died in a tragic childhood accident, has remained with Roa in the form a bird of prey.

The two sisters share a very special bond and are able to communicate with one another in spite of Essie unconventional form.

Roa would love nothing more than to get her sister back to her old self and when she learns of a way to make that happen, she vows to try.

The only catch, she’ll need to kill the King, her new husband, Dax, in order to do so. Who will she choose? Her sister, or the man she could learn to love.

I am obsessed with this story. Ciccarelli has fully drawn me into this world. There are so many fabulous elements, I could swoon for days.

I’d like to keep this review somewhat succinct, however, so I will list just a few of my favorites.

The World. I really enjoyed how a good portion of this volume was set in the Scrublands and other outlying areas, as opposed to strictly in Firgaard.

Our main characters are traveling for a bit and I loved the desert atmosphere, with the stark, inhospitable terrain. It made the characters work that much harder for every gain.

The Legends and Back Stories. Interspersed amongst the core narrative are sections that tell of the lore and legends of this world, as well as some character’s early life/back stories.

This is the same across all three volumes and is one of my very favorite aspects. I find it to be such a lush and creative way of building out the world.

The Characters. I enjoy all of the characters. Their thoughts, motivations, inner and outer turmoil, angst, love, longing, grief, agony; it’s devastatingly addictive.

I was intrigued by Roa in the first book. I wanted to know more about her and I got exactly what I wanted with this volume. I loved the focus on grief, forgiveness and sisterhood, in this one as well.

If that doesn’t motivate you to give this series a shot, I’m not sure what will.

If you have had this one on your radar for a long time, like I did, take my advice and pick it up now. It’s a perfect escape for your reading pleasure!! That is all.

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Review: The Last Namsara (Iskari #1) by Kristen Ciccarelli

The Last Namsara (Iskari, #1)The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Asha has been raised on the lore of her kingdom of Firgaard. In it’s heart, it’s a lore of duality.

The stories of the Namsara, the bringer of love and light, and their opposite, the Iskari, the harbinger of death and destruction.

To her people, Asha is the Iskari.

A fierce warrior and slayer of dragons, Asha is treated more as a weapon, than a daughter by her father, the King.

Asha is lonely and feels helpless to control her fate.

She’s engaged to be married to a ruthless commandant in her father’s forces. She feels no love for this man and would do anything to escape that commitment.

When her father offers her a chance of gaining her freedom, she takes it. All she has to do is kill the First Dragon, Kozu. A dragon to whom she is inextricably linked.

Enter her fiancĂ©’s handsome slave, who shows Asha a kindness like she has never known, and you have the perfect mix for disaster.

Going into this novel, I had no idea what to expect. I have owned this book for years and hadn’t really heard any buzz about it.

I was so pleasantly surprised by the fluidity and engaging nature of this narrative.

I was hooked from the very first chapters, falling in love with Asha and her dark, tumultuous life.

In addition to my connection with Asha, I found the side characters and lore of the entire world to be extremely interesting. I loved how Ciccarelli included entire sections dedicated to telling the old stories that Asha had learned in her childhood.

The Last Namsara has romance, action, political intrigue, family drama and more than a few jaw-dropping reveals. In other words, it has everything necessary to keep you fully engaged throughout.

I haven’t read a lot of Dragon Fantasy, but to me, this was incredibly well told. The world felt complete. I could picture it all.

Overall, I was just so impressed with this and tickled pink that I happen to already own the entire trilogy.

I am hoping to start the next novel, The Caged Queen, soon. I cannot wait to return to this world and find out more about this intriguing cast of characters!!

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Review: Gilded Serpent (Dark Shores #3) by Danielle L. Jensen

Gilded Serpent (Dark Shores, #3)Gilded Serpent by Danielle L. Jensen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gilded Serpent is the third installment in Danielle L. Jensen’s Dark Shores series.

Coming in at just under 600-pages, Jensen definitely packed in a lot of information, action and startling revelations.

With this series, if you aren’t aware, you can read the first two books in any order. Meaning you can read either Dark Shores, or Dark Skies first, followed by the other.

I personally read them in publication order and would recommend that to others.

I felt like Dark Shores established the setting and functionality of the world perfectly. After reading that one, I had a strong hold on the type of series this was going to turn out to be.

It’s one that channels all the brutality of Ancient Rome, mixed with a fair amount of magic and heavy doses of political intrigue. Also, let’s not forget the sweet romance.

In Dark Shores, the action centers around Teriana and Marcus. In Dark Skies, we follow Lydia and Killian.

Gilded Serpent follows all four of these characters as their storylines begin to merge more and more.

Through the first two books, I became quite attached to all four of these main characters. Because of that, my excitement level for this release was heightened even more.

As I have mentioned in my previous reviews for this series, including the prequel, Tarnished Empire, I love this series and think it is incredibly underrated. All YA Fantasy lovers need to check this one out!

I did rate this book slightly lower than the first two books, mainly because it wasn’t as easy for me to follow, or stay as fully engaged with this one.

I think the length started to get to me, as well as the sheer volume of information that Jensen packed into this one. Also, I did have some issues at the beginning remembering what had happened at the conclusion of the first two books.

While I recognize that as a ‘me’ problem, I also feel an author including slight, subtle recaps is always helpful. I didn’t feel a lot of that here.

Regardless of that fact, however, I still really enjoyed my time reading this novel. The world continues to be built out. It’s dangerous, complex and full of compelling people, creatures and history.

I am really looking forward to the next book in this series. I am planning to do myself a favor and binge read the first three again prior to picking it up.

Thank you to the publisher, Tor Teen, for making my dreams come true and providing me with a copy to read and review.

I truly appreciate it and will be singing this series praises for a long time to come!!!

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Review: Tarnish Empire (Dark Shores #0.5) by Danielle L. Jensen

Tarnished Empire (Dark Shores, #0.5)Tarnished Empire by Danielle L. Jensen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Tarnished Empire is a prequel installment to Danielle L. Jensen’s Dark Shores series.

Released in January of 2021, this story was just what I needed to tide me over until Gilded Serpent released. I was hella satisfied upon completion.

In this story, we learn more about Marcus and the notorious 37th Legion, which he leads as Commander. If you have read Dark Shores, you will be well acquainted with Marcus.

You may recall him as a smart, powerful and fair leader. In this story, he’s not quite as accomplished, or respected, as he will be someday.

He and his men are assigned to squash the last resistance to the Senate’s rule. It’s a sticky situation with a lot of innocent people falling into harms way.

Agrippa, a soldier in the 37th, and a friend of Marcus, plays a central role in this narrative. He is a charming and engaging character who brought some light humor to the mix.

I loved Agrippa and was happy to hear that we are going to be getting more of him in Gilded Serpent!

His romantic interest, Silvara, is a washer woman, who also is secretly part of the resistance. When Agrippa and Silvara begin a relationship, it’s anyone’s guess what secrets will be shared between them.

Overall, I found this to be a good story. It kept me engaged and I really enjoyed the action scenes, as well as the behind the scenes political maneuverings.

I loved learning more of Marcus’ backstory, as well as more about the Dark Shores world in general. This is the type of world where every detail is interesting.

Jensen’s world-building is top notch. This series is currently underrated in my opinion. If you are sleeping on it, wait no longer.

Start this series!! It’s so good!

Personally, if we were to discuss reading order, I would recommend reading them in publication order. Even though this is a prequel, I would read Dark Shores and Dark Skies prior to this one.

I am picking up Gilded Serpent this week ((FINALLY)) and am so pumped to be back in this world with some of my favorite characters!!!

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Review: Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Legendborn (Legendborn, #1)Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hot dang!!! That’s how you write a Fantasy!

Believe the hype. Legendborn is next level. I am so impressed with Tracy Deonn and cannot wait for the second book.

Go into this knowing as little as possible, just let the story wash over you. It’s complex and layered. The characters are wonderful and the magic system is incredibly creative.

It’s everything I look for in a modern urban fantasy!!!

The mystery of it kept me completely engaged. I couldn’t put Legendborn down once I started.

With the heavy fangirling out of the way, let’s get to the most serious question…

WHEN DOES THE SECOND BOOK RELEASE!?

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Review: Malice by Heather Walter

MaliceMalice by Heather Walter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once upon a time, an evil fairy cursed a line of Princesses to die. The only way to break the curse, true love’s kiss.

You may be thinking you’ve heard this story before, right?

I’d say, not quite like this. in Malice, Heather Walter has put her own darkly creative spin on the beloved tale, Sleeping Beauty.

Alyce is a Dark Grace, living in a house of Beauty Graces since she was just a young girl.

While the wealthy of Briar set appointments with the other Graces to enhance their beauty, they go to Alyce for more sinister potions and tinctures.

Alyce has never fit in with the other girls and is frequently harassed by them; particularly by the beautiful and talented, Rose.

As deplorable as their treatment of her is, Alyce grows used to it. She even comes to accept it, in a way.

That’s why when she crosses paths with the last Princess, Aurora, and Aurora shows her kindness, Alyce isn’t quite sure how to react. Why would the Princess want to be friends with her? It doesn’t make any sense.

In the midst of all of this, Alyce actually stumbles upon, and befriends someone else. Kal, a man magically imprisoned in a tower, who promises to teach her how to harness her powers.

Through her meetings with him, Alyce begins to learn more about her history, potential and the world outside of Briar.

The world Walter created within this story was absolutely immersive. I loved the magic system. Learning about the Graces and their powers, but also the interactions with Fae and the history of Briar.

It’s richly detailed, but in a way that stays engaging. Alyce was a fantastically created character. I felt her every emotion; also extra points for including her kestrel, Callow. Three cheers for animal companions.

I also thought the relationship between Alyce and Aurora was well done. It felt natural. The stakes were really high and it definitely pushed the drama of the story.

I did feel like the end dragged on a bit, but overall, I was so impressed with this. I would definitely recommend Malice for Readers who enjoy the darker side of fairy tales.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Del Rey, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I appreciate the opportunity and look forward to reading more from Heather Walter!

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Review: Go the Distance (A Twisted Tale) by Jen Calonita

Go the Distance (A Twisted Tale: Hercules)Go the Distance by Jen Calonita
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5-stars rounded up**

Picking up directly after the events of the Disney animated movie, Go the Distance follows Megara as she fights for her right to be with Hercules.

After Herc regains his godship, the couple are ready to celebrate. As Hercules is called by his parents to return to Mount Olympus, however, they run into a problem. Zeus quickly points out that Meg cannot go, as she is a mere mortal.

Meg can’t believe it. After everything they have been through, is this how it is going to end?

Hercules is shocked as well and advocates to stay with Meg. He’d rather be with her than have a life of immortality alone.

His parents aren’t going to stand for that though; no way. Hera, seeing how happy Meg makes her son, offers Meg a deal; a way for her to earn her way into a spot on Mount Olympus.

All she has to do is complete a mysterious quest in 10-days. Unfortunately, the quest involves saving her ex-boyfriend’s, new wife’s soul from the Underworld.

Obviously, Meg has some mixed feelings on this, but she agrees nonetheless. We’re talking about eternity with the man she loves here.

Joining her for support is Philoctetes, better known as Phil. The coach to the Gods. If anyone can help Meg work through her quest, it is him. And let’s not forget Pegasus!! He’s along as well, to give Meg a helping hoof.

Meg needs to put her hurt emotions aside, as well as face her nemesis, Hades, again. She escaped his clutches once, could she be so lucky as to do it again?

I really had a fun time reading this story. I love Megara. She’s one of my favorite characters within the Disney universe. She’s smart, she’s snarky and she’s not constantly looking for someone to save her.

I enjoyed the backstory Calonita created for her. The loss of her mother, their relationship, her previous relationship with her ex-boyfriend and even Hades manipulation of her.

I thought the quest was fun. Having Phil and Pegasus along definitely made it more humorous. I loved watching both of them come to accept Meg for who she is.

Overall, I think this is a fun addition to this series. If you are a Megara fan, as I am, you should definitely give this one a shot!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I always look forward to the new releases in the Twisted Tales series!!!

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Review: Namesake (Fable #2) by Adrienne Young

Namesake (Fable, #2)Namesake by Adrienne Young
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Namesake is the conclusion to Adrienne Young’s, Fable duology; a Seafaring Fantasy story with action, adventure and heart.

After the cliffhanger ending of Fable, our protagonist finds herself once again, separated from the one’s she loves, as she is used as a pawn in a rival trader’s scheme for power.

Just as she was beginning to find the place she felt she belonged, more challenges are thrown in her face.

On her new ship, she runs into an old acquaintance. A close friend of her parents, who she thought was lost forever.

In her struggle to return to the Marigold, and the handsome Captain she left behind, Fable ends up learning a lot more about her Mother, particularly her earlier life; some of it surprising, to say the least.

This story takes the plotting and scheming to a whole new level, as the different trading organizations in this world vie for power and position.

I really enjoyed watching Fable’s evolution as a character over the course of these two books. Although she has always been a fighter, she was fairly helpless in the beginning in a lot of ways.

She was used so often as a pawn in other people’s games, but as she grew and discovered her own power, she became a force to be reckoned with. She became like the center of a whirlpool, sucking everyone in around her.

Overall, I am so satisfied with how this turned out. It was really a lot of fun. I enjoyed the complexity that Young brought to this one, which I felt was lacking a bit in the first novel.

In my opinion, Fable deserves the world! She discovered so much about herself, that she didn’t understand before. I feel like with that understanding, she was able to become who she was truly meant to be. My baby bird has left the nest.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I really enjoyed it!

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