Kingdom of Exiles – Maxym Martineau

Exiled beast charmer Leena Edenfrell is in deep trouble. Empty pockets forced her to sell her beloved magical beasts on the black market—an offense punishable by death—and now there’s a price on her head. With the realm’s most talented murderer-for-hire nipping at her heels, Leena makes him an offer he can’t refuse: powerful mythical creatures in exchange for her life.

If only it were that simple. Unbeknownst to Leena, the undying ones are bound by magic to complete their contracts, and Noc cannot risk his brotherhood of assassins…not even to save the woman he can no longer live without.

Amazon | Goodreads

Oh man, this is a real tough one to rate. I thoroughly enjoyed about 90% of the book however I just was not on board with the romance, and it’s marketed as a fantasy romance. If the romance was removed from this book (or even with another of the males) it would have been an easy 4.5 to 5.

Maxym M. Martineau created an absolutely beautiful world, full of magnificent and wonderful beasts. This could have been a book about Leena travelling the world taming beasts and capturing hearts and I would have been happily along for the ride.

Leena is a strong, empathetic individual who has an innate connection to the world and creatures around her. Noc is … there? I got to around 75% of the book and I still didn’t feel any type of way about him, which isn’t a positive when he is meant to be the LI of the story. I get that he’s being portrayed as a broody assassin, however I don’t feel like I ever really got to know who he was or what his end goals were. I also feel like while the romance strengthened Noc, it was came across as a weakness for Leena.

Oz and Calem were absolutely beautiful and I wanted to see more of them. Oz reminded me of one of my all time favourite characters and I thoroughly enjoyed that comparison.

There were a few tropes that I cringed at, others enjoy them but they’re not for me. I’d love to never hear or read the word mate again.

I would recommend this book purely to meet Effie, the Laharocks and every other beautiful beast.

*thank you to SOURCEBOOKS Casablanca and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Advertisements

The Eyes of Tamburah – Maria V. Snyder

Treasure hunting has never been more dangerous… Tomb Raider meets Poison Study!

New York Times bestselling author Maria Snyder begins an action-packed new fantasy series.

‘He thinks you are the thief…’

Shyla is a researcher who resides in the underground desert city of Zirdai, which is ruled by the wealthy Water Prince and brutal Heliacal Priestess. Even though Shyla is sun-kissed – an outcast, considered cursed by the Sun Goddess – she is still renowned for uncovering innumerable archaic facts, lost artefacts, ancient maps, and obscure historical documents. Her quiet life is about to change when Banqui, an archaeologist, enlists her services to find The Eyes of Tamburah: legendary gemstones that bestows great magic to its wielder. These ancient objects can tip the balance of power and give whoever possesses them complete control of the city.

But chaos erupts when The Eyes are stolen soon after they’re found – and Shyla is blamed for the theft. Forced to flee, with the Prince’s soldiers and the Priestess’ deacons on her trail, Shyla must recover the jewels and clear her name. A quest that will unearth secrets even more valuable than The Eyes of Tamburah themselves…

TW: Torture, Death, Injuries
Bechdel Test: Passes

The Eyes of Tamburah is Maria V. Snyder’s first book in her new series, Archives of the Invisible Sword. As a long standing fan of Maria’s, I was over the moon when I got the notification that I was approved to review the eARC of this book. The chance to join Maria in a new world, was something that I just couldn’t pass up.

We are introduced to Shyla, our protagonist, who is ‘sun-kissed’/’sun-cursed’ (depending on who you ask). She has been raised by the monks who have given her the tools for survival in a world where she will always be judged for what she looks like. Her tenacity and observational skills serves her well in her day-to-day life of researching and uncovering lost artifacts, treasures and maps – until the day she is blamed for the theft of a legendary, magical item and in order for her (and her friend/employer Banqui) to escape this alive, she is charged with the task to uncover who has actually taken them and recover them for the Water Prince.

Along the way, Shyla is introduced to many characters who will either assist or hinder her along this quest and as a reader it is a joy to discover alongside Shyla who is actually who. I have some theories about where we might be headed in book two and I can’t wait to find out if my thoughts are in the correct direction, or if I will be blindsided – either way, I am signing up wholeheartedly to this ride.

*thank you to Harlequin Australia, HQ (Fiction, Non Fiction, YA) & MIRA and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Beast of Rosemead – Lucy Tempest

A BOOKISH BEAUTY. A BEASTLY PRINCE. A DEADLY CURSE.

Bonnie Fairborn’s wish to escape her small-town life for one of adventure is granted in the worst way when she’s flung along with her family into the unknown. The nightmare deepens when she wakes up to find her best friend Ada gone and her father offered as a sacrifice to the terrifying Beast of Rosemead.

After trading her life for his, her bid for escape ends in a lethal brush with fairies. When the beast almost dies to save her, she discovers he is the missing Crown Prince of Arbore, and the victim of a vindictive fairy’s curse. With time to undo it running out, he and his monstrous staff believe she’s the only one who can save them all.

But how can she fall in love with the gruff and mysterious Leander, let alone to a deadline? And would that be enough to break the curse? Especially now she’s discovering that nothing, including her own life, is what it seems?

Amazon | Goodreads

Beast of Rosemead is the second instalment of retellings from Lucy Tempest’s Fairytales of Folkshore. You can check out my review of the first instalment, a gender bent retelling of Aladdin, here. I was immediately ensnared by Ada and her trials in Cahraman, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Bonnie’s journey.

As this is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Bonnie is a beautiful characterisation and reiteration of Belle. Bonnie has lived an incredibly sheltered life, where she has been coddled by not only her father, but by her best friend Ada. There is nothing more that she yearns for than adventure and freedom – she manages to get the adventure, though I’m not too sure about the freedom. Bonnie has grown up being lost in whatever book she could get her hands on and has a rather naïve view of the world and its inhabitants which gets turned completely on its head when she wakes up in Arbore and trapped in a house with a brute.

“In all my readings and daydreaming, the hero was always able to eloquently debate with the heroine, to empathize with or at least understand her situation or dilemma and help elevate her from them”

The Beast, Leander, follows quite similarly along the path that I love of the original Beast – in that unsure but determined path to better himself once he is shown empathy along with a challenge. The friendship/relationship which develops between Bonnie and Leander felt genuine and well-paced. It was delightful to see the respect blossoming alongside the possibility of feelings, whether romantic or otherwise.

Beast of Rosemead is filled with fantastical characters, who you will connect to just as much as the main characters (if not more or on par, in one such instance) and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing all of the different fairytales interwoven through the stories, in such a delicate manner so as to not overload you but instead to enthral you.

I can definitely see overarching parallels to other Beauty and the Beast retellings and I can’t wait to see what Lucy does next with it in book 2 of the Rosemead duology.

“I’d read enough about heroes. It was time I became one myself.”

*thank you to the author, Lucy Tempest, for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Wicked Saints – Emily A. Duncan

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy

Amazon | Goodreads

TW: Self Harm, Abuse from Parent, Death (it is set during war though)

Bechdel Test: Passes

“The healing goddess was a mute one, working in feelings and visions. Of the pantheon, she was the gentlest, though soldiers had a tendency to send all their prayers to Veceslav instead of her; something about how a god of war was more likely to shield and heal them during battle than a goddess. A ridiculous superstition. Most would live through battles longer if they burned a candle to Zbyhneuska.”

Wicked Saints is a beautifully built debut novel. The amount of world-building that has gone into this exceeds my expectations of a debut. I loved the codex at the start of each chapter which introduced you to a different god or goddess (though I do love codex entries in the RPG games that I play too, so that may have a correlation to my level of enjoyment).

I was switching between the audiobook and the actual book and I would have to say that the level of immersion I got from the audiobook was second to none. It was voiced by two narrators (as is the book). There were parts where one POV was far superior to the other and I was just tapping my fingers impatiently waiting to get back to one of them, however I ended up growing to really enjoy both of them.

I did guess a big twist fairly early on, however I was still pleasantly invested when the reveal came around.

Dragon Age is one of my favourite video games of all time and I really got a DA vibe from this book, so my Solasmancer heart was happily enjoying the slow burn romance.

They Call Me the Cat Lady – Amy Miller

You’ve seen me on the street. You’ve walked past my house, and pointed, and wondered. The cat lady. All on my own, with only my five cats to keep me company. Did no-one ever tell you that you can’t judge a book by its cover?

Everyone in town knows Nancy Jones. She loves her cats. She loves her tumbledown house by the sea. She loves her job in the local school where she tries to help the children who need help the most. Nancy tries hard not to think about her past loves and where those led her…

Nancy never shares her secrets – because some doors are better kept locked. But one day she accepts a cat-sitting request from a local woman, and at the woman’s house, Nancy sees a photograph, in a bright-red frame. A photograph that opens the door to her painful past…

Soon Nancy doesn’t know what frightens her the most: letting her story out, or letting the rest of the world in. It’s impossible to find companionship without the risk of losing it. But can Nancy take that risk again?

Amazon | Goodreads

TW: Attempted Suicide (graphic), Drug Use, Child Death, Bullying, Mental Health Facilities (not particularly well written)
Bechdel Test: Yes

As soon as I saw the title of this book, I knew I had to read it. I love cats and I’m not ashamed to say that I’m somewhat of a cat lady.

“After calling goodbye and blowing kisses to each of her five cats, she left for work.”

Nancy started of very endearing and relatable to me A woman who is battling some demons from the past which has her isolate herself from the outside world, but surrounding herself with her cats.

The general tone of the book at the start was nicely paced and started to get you into Nancy’s headspace, but I felt that it lost its way about a third of the way through. The flashbacks into the past were integral to the story, however I don’t feel like they were utilised to their full capacity.

It then started to fall into a “helping others will make me feel better about myself” type of book, which while I get that – from personal experience you shouldn’t distract yourself with other peoples problems, no matter the parallels you can gleam and apply to your own situations. I would have liked for Nancy to have worked on her issues a bit more and not have it based around other people.

Unfortunately it was just an okay book for me. Some people may love it, but I just wasn’t feeling it.

*thank you to Bookouture and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Path Keeper – N.J. Simmonds

What if every coincidence was a tiny miracle? What if our life was already mapped out before birth? What if someone had the power to change the path we were destined to follow?

Ella hates her new life in London, she misses Spain and she’s struggling to get over her past until she meets Zac. He has always loved her but he isn’t meant to be part of Ella’s story. Not this time. Not ever. Little does she know that his secret is the one thing that will tear them apart and will force her to live in a world that no longer makes sense, a world more dangerous than she could ever imagine.

The first in a thrilling new YA fantasy series, The Path Keeper is a tale of passion and secrets, of first loves and second chances, and the invisible threads that bind us. Can love ever be stronger than fate?

Amazon | Goodreads

Firstly, thank you to the publisher, author and NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest opinion.

TW: incest, rape, religion, attempted suicide

Bechdel: No

The Path Keeper is a book that I was holding out relatively mediocre hopes for, but unfortunately they haven’t been met. The book starts out with a nice trigger warning:

“The Path Keeper is a work of fiction but features potentially upsetting themes including sexual abuse, death and mental health issues. It also includes scenes of a sexual nature.”

Which is appreciated, however I don’t think I was prepared for the messaging behind the sexual abuse, and that is one thing that I can’t look beyond. 

To be honest, I don’t even really want to discuss the plot or the characters, the only thing I need to know about the book can be summed up in this paragraph (I’m not going to put a spoiler warning on it either because people need to know what they’re walking into):

‘What the fuck! I thought he was going to rape me, Zac. Why did you wait?’ ‘Ella, if it wasn’t for the fact I’m madly in love with you, I would have stood aside and let him continue. It isn’t part of what I’m here to do.’ Clearly her face said it all because he hesitated before continuing. ‘Let me start from the beginning. Before anyone is born they’ve already picked their life path; their parents, the challenges they will face, and the lessons they’ll learn. That’s the whole point; life’s not meant to be easy.’ ‘You’re telling me people choose to be sexually abused, or to die horrible deaths? You’re telling me people that are injured in wars ask for it? What is wrong with you?’ She stood up and poked his chest with her finger. ‘I thought you were meant to be pure love and light? That sounds like a cop out!’

People do not choose to be sexually abused

*thank you to BHC Press and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

A Pack of Blood and Lies – Olivia Wildenstein

The primal rule of winning: don’t fall in love with the contender. 

Three months shy of her eighteenth birthday, Ness is forced to return to Colorado. Even though it’s been six years, and the wolves of her all-male pack don’t recognize her, she recognizes them. People who shun others because of their gender are hard to forget.

Especially Liam Kolane—son of Heath, the crudest and cruelest Alpha to have ruled the Boulder Pack. Liam is as handsome as he is infuriating, as kind as he is punishing, and he makes Ness’s traitorous heart race, which isn’t good. After all, he’s a Kolane. Like father like son, right?

When Heath dies, Liam vies to become the new Alpha and no one dares challenge him. 

Except Ness. 

Thus begins a treacherous game. 

The rules: winner takes all…including loser’s life.

Amazon | Goodreads

TW: Rape (mentioned), Suicide (attempt), Abusive Relationship disguised as Protectiveness, Misogyny, Bad Language

Bechdel Test: Passes

2019 is the year that I’m saying no to toxic and unhealthy romances (in fiction and real life).

Ness is a werewolf who was chased out of her home, Boulder, and her pack, The Boulder Wolves, at age 11. Though they’re not technically her pack, as The Boulder Wolves have been nothing but males. To go against the pack or ask something from the pack, as a woman, often results in either abuse, rape, death, or all three. There is little to no respect shown to any women in this book from any of the men, and I have little time for that.

“Women don’t lead packs of men; it’s emasculating.”

I get that werewolves are often portrayed as masculine pack creatures, but can we please move on from the assumption that to be masculine you have to be a misogynist? Not all the wolves are bad though, I quite like August and would have preferred to see a lot more of him.

Liam Kolane can literally be replaced by any other fictional protective bastard that always seems to get their way because they’re good looking. I don’t really know of too many positive attributes that I could give to him and I don’t particularly care to. The line was drawn for me when he knelt down, while naked (because the wolves had to be naked most of the time when human??), and sniffed Ness’ nether regions to see if she had slept with someone she went on a ‘date’ with. Sorry, no amount of taking a bullet for someone could help me move past that.

I’m also not a prude, I don’t mind bad language. However, I don’t particularly feel that c**t should be used in a book that is marketed towards 14+ year olds. That’s just not something that I would do and I personally don’t like that word – so it may just be a bug bear of mine, but shrug

While August does intrigue me, it’s gonna be a no from me dogwolf.

*thank you to Twilight Press and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.