Dark Forge by Miles Cameron – Review

Cover- Dark Forge

Published: September 17, 2019

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: Masters & Mages #2

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 432 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

Only fools think war is simple.
Or glorious.

Some are warriors, some captains; others tend to the fallen or feed the living.

But on the magic-drenched battlefield, information is the lifeblood of victory, and Aranthur is about to discover that carrying messages, scouting the enemy, keeping his nerve, and passing on orders is more dangerous, and more essential, then an inexperienced soldier could imagine . . . especially when everything starts to go wrong.

Battle has been joined – on the field, in the magical sphere, and in the ever-shifting political arena . . .


Dark Forge was a mighty fine sequel. I could honestly leave it at that, but I should really explain to you how fine of a sequel it was and why you should read it too. First of all though, I’d suggest starting with Cold Iron and then maybe just waiting until December when the last book is released and just binge read everything at once.

I loved this book but I’ll be real honest, I wish I had the patience to wait for the final book to come out. Then I could have re-read the first book and followed up with the next two in short order because I forgot about 50% of the plot and it took me awhile to catch back up on the subtleties. Aside from this (and honestly, it’s just me) this was a great middle book with plenty of action, heartfelt character moments, and intensely bad juju. I could hardly ask for more. 

Aranthur is really coming into his own as a mage and soldier and he always finds himself in fortuitous locations. This kid has superb timing in so many things. Events are further heating up plot-wise, what with the baddies performing rituals to release evil into the world and all and they’ve essentially salted and burned much of the land. 

This was a pretty stellar sequel, lacking any signs of middle-book syndrome and I found it to be quite enjoyable. This series is definitely not as dense as the Traitor Son Cycle books, though they are written with the same evident care. 

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Currently Reading: 10/14/19

Cover- Shield of the People

Shield of the People by Marshall Ryan Maresca

It’s that time again!!! A new Maradaine book will be released soon and I’ve decided it’s high time to read that ARC I’ve had for a couple months. Dayne and Jerinne are probably about to get themselves kicked from the Tarian Order but it’s cool, they’ll probably stop some horrible assassination attempt or dastardly plot in the process. These two warmed up to me much more when they were helping out Rainey and Welling on a case. Can’t wait to dig in!

Turning Darkness Into Light by Marie Brennan – Review

Cover- Turning Darkness to Light

Published: August 20, 2019

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 416 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

As the renowned granddaughter of Isabella Camherst (Lady Trent, of the riveting and daring Draconic adventure memoirs) Audrey Camherst has always known she, too, would want to make her scholarly mark upon a chosen field of study.

When Lord Gleinheigh recruits Audrey to decipher a series of ancient tablets holding the secrets of the ancient Draconean civilization, she has no idea that her research will plunge her into an intricate conspiracy, one meant to incite rebellion and invoke war. Alongside dearest childhood friend and fellow archeologist Kudshayn, must find proof of the conspiracy before it’s too late.

TURNING DARKNESS INTO LIGHT is a delightful fantasy of manners, the heir to the award-winning Natural History of Dragons series, a perfect stepping stone into an alternate Victorian-esque fantasy landscape.


As someone who rather enjoyed The Memoirs of Lady Trent series (what I’ve read anyway) I was quite excited to see that wouldn’t be the last of the books set in this lovely world of dragons. The main character of this series is Lady Trent’s granddaughter, Audrey Camherst who is a brilliant young lady who’s already made an impact on the scholarly world. She is offered the chance to translate a set of tablets supposedly discovered in the Akhian desert and it’s quite possible this will be the opportunity of her life. Things are somewhat more complicated than that (obviously, otherwise it’d be a dull story) and Audrey proves to be just as brash as her grandmother at times.

Much of the plot is centered around Audrey and her Draconian friend Kudshayn’s translation of the tablets, which appear to be an as of yet unheard creation story. The political climate is hot – there is a debate over the sovereignty of the Draconians, plus a good deal of racism towards what some perceive as a race that deals in human sacrifice. The tablets could easily provide leverage for either side of the debate depending on what they say. It’s really quite interesting in theory, though the intense parts of the book are scattered about and there aren’t many.

While the subject matter was interesting and not quite as adventurous as that of the Lady Trent series, I did like the characters quite a bit. Audrey is an intelligent, independent young lady who’s decided to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps and make her own path. As I mentioned, she’s already quite the scholar at her young age and has already encountered some bad eggs in the scholarly world that continue to haunt her. Audrey is honestly at her best when she’s doing something a bit mad, like confronting angry mobs and running into burning buildings. Kudshayn is a more steady presence and is primarily a talking point in society because he’s a Draconean. He has wings for goodness sake! He’s sort of a representative of the Sanctuary of Wings and takes his job quite seriously. We get to see his doubts and struggles as he writes missives home much as we get to see Audrey’s inner thoughts in her diary excerpts.

Turning Darkness Into Light was a good book, however it didn’t have the same adventurous charm as The Memoirs of Lady Trent. This is far more scholarly in nature, with a good portion of the book being the translations of the tablets and there were so many little footnotes! They were at times helpful, though I began to ignore them because they were more distracting. I’ll more than likely read any other forthcoming books, though at this point it appears to be a standalone at this time.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Seventh Sun by Lani Forbes

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme originally hosted on Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. This is a great way to share upcoming released you’re excited about!


Cover- The Seventh Sun

Wow. First of all, check out how AMAZING this cover is – I would almost buy this book just based on that alone. The Seventh Sun is based on the history of the Mayan and Aztec peoples and honestly, while there are definitely some parts of the synopsis that sound standard, the setting is unique enough that this will stand out from the crowd. So few fantasy books (that I’m aware of) are based off of ancient South/Central/North American cultures and I’m looking forward to reading The Seventh Sun because of that fact. This will be released February 18, 2020 so get those TBR piles ready!

Quill by A.C. Cobble – Review

Cover- Quill

Published: June 1, 2019

Publisher: Cobble Publishing, LLC

Series: The Cartographer #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 539 (Kindle Edition)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

Synopsis

The fate of empire is to crumble from within.

A heinous murder in a small village reveals a terrible truth. Sorcery, once thought dead in Enhover, is not. Evidence of an occult ritual and human sacrifice proves that dark power has been called upon again. Twisting threads of clues lead across the known world to the end of a vast empire, and then, the trail returns home.

Duke Oliver Wellesley, son of the king, cartographer, and adventurer, has better things to do than investigate a murder in a sleepy fishing hamlet. For Crown and Company, though, he goes where he’s told. As the investigation leads to deeper and darker places, he’ll be forced to confront the horrific spectres rising from the shadows of his past. When faced with the truth, will he sacrifice what is necessary to survive?

Samantha serves a Church that claims to no longer need her skills. She’s apprenticed to a priest-assassin that no one knows. Driven by a mad prophecy, her mentor has prepared her for a battle with ultimate darkness, except, sorcery is dead. When all is at stake, can she call upon an arcane craft the rest of the world has forgotten?

AC Cobble, the author of the fan-favorite Benjamin Ashwood series, crafts worlds of stunning-depth and breath-taking adventure. In Quill: The Cartographer Book 1, a pair of unlikely investigators walk a deadly path into the past, uncovering secrets best left alone.

The fate of empire is to crumble from within. Do not ask when, ask who.


This is one of the first books that I’ve picked up in FOREVER where I knew nothing about it at all aside from the synopsis. I had seen no other blog reviews, no hype, no snazzy shots on Instagram – basically I was living on the edge or in the moment or whatever. It was a great choice because once I started this book I spent every free moment listening to this audiobook and I ended up playing way too much Stardew Valley and got quite a bit of cleaning done that weekend. Also, did I mention that the one and only Simon Vance narrates this? Well, he does and as always does a marvelous job bringing the characters to life.

Quill is the first book in the Cartographer series and I would classify it a mystery set in a fantasy world. I was watching Carnival Row during the same time period and it reminded me somewhat of that (which I thought was a pretty good show, btw). Duke Oliver Wellesley is essentially the spare son of the king without his own duchy to preside over so he became a cartographer for what amounts to this world’s version of the East India Company. This has led him on a number of dangerous expeditions that have also made him one of the wealthiest bachelors in the kingdom. He’s also a bit of a cad, but you’ll figure that out soon enough if you read the book. Oliver isn’t you’re typically snooty duke and is actually a really fantastic character – absolutely loved him. Then there’s Samantha, trainee of a priest-assassin of the Church whose job is to root out magic users and kill them before they can gain a foothold in the kingdom. She’s a bit of a drunk, and she’s also quite dangerous and immediately warmed to me when she didn’t fall madly in love with Oliver (who she just calls Duke like it’s his name) upon meeting him. You go girl – you’re strong and independent and don’t need… oh wait, you do need money for this investigation and a way to travel… Anyway, the pair make fantastic co-workers, treat each other like equals, and have fantastic banter. 

Now, THE PLOT! Like I said, fantasy-mystery hybrid. A murder occurs in a backwoods fishing town and said murder is clearly occult in nature, despite the fact that it’s said to be  impossible to do magic within the kingdom of Enhover. Oliver is sent to investigate by his brother and Sam is sent as a representative of the church to accompany him. The investigation leads the pair on quite the journey, encountering pirates, more occult magic stuff, more murders, and a heck of a finale. It was a continuous adventure and like I said, I really loathed to put this book down because I just had to find out what happened next. Lucky for me, the next book will be out in December 2019  in ebook format. If I can hold out, I’d like to listen to it in audio format as well. Who could say no to more of Simon Vance’s lovely voice?

Overall, I was quite surprised that Quill ended up being such an amazing read! I’ve stumbled across some real gems in the self-published world and need to take that risk a little more often that I currently do. Did I mention that there are airships powered by magical floating rocks? Who could say no to that, much less the magical murder mystery plot?

The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier – Review

Cover- The Harp of Kings

Published: September 3, 2019

Publisher: Ace Books

Series: Warrior Bards #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 464 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

A young woman is both a bard–and a warrior–in this thrilling historical fantasy from the author of the Sevenwaters novels.

Eighteen-year-old Liobhan is a powerful singer and an expert whistle player. Her brother has a voice to melt the hardest heart, and a rare talent on the harp. But Liobhan’s burning ambition is to join the elite warrior band on Swan Island. She and her brother train there to compete for places, and find themselves joining a mission while still candidates. Their unusual blend of skills makes them ideal for this particular job, which requires going undercover as traveling minstrels. For Swan Island trains both warriors and spies.

Their mission: to find and retrieve a precious harp, an ancient symbol of kingship, which has gone mysteriously missing. If the instrument is not played at the upcoming coronation, the candidate will not be accepted and the people could revolt. Faced with plotting courtiers and tight-lipped druids, an insightful storyteller, and a boorish Crown Prince, Liobhan soon realizes an Otherworld power may be meddling in the affairs of the kingdom. When ambition clashes with conscience, Liobhan must make a bold decision and is faced with a heartbreaking choice. . .


Guys! My first Marillier book ever! Obviously you can tell by the rating that I really enjoyed it and I’ll be honest, I’m trying to decide when I can carve out time to read the Blackthorn and Grim books because it’s the same world!! I’m just so happy that I ended up enjoying this as much as I hoped I would. So many people have said great things about her writing and I hoped that I too would find another author to love.

The book starts out with Liobhan and her brother Brocc who are training to join the Swan Island warriors. It’s competitive, there aren’t many female warriors, and both must prove themselves to enter the ranks. Before they’re even out of training, Liobhan, Brocc, and Dau (another trainee) are sent undercover to find the missing Harp of Kings before the midsummer coronation ceremony. Liobhan and Brocc are sent because they’ve both trained as bards and can thus pull off the ruse with minimal difficulty. My theory is that Dau was sent to teach him some humility and help him confront his past because his cover is that of a lowly stable boy who also happens to be mute. I initially didn’t like Dau that much, but he quickly grew on me and ended up being a sympathetic character. Liobhan and Brocc were instantly lovable and all three of their character arcs were well executed – they became more mature, began to work as a team, and overall had solid development.

The world building was lovely, though I would hazard a guess that if you’ve read the Blackthorn and Grim books it may actually be made even better (once I read those I’ll report back). There were druids, evil crow beings, Fae, and a wide assortment of troubled humans. While the book gave me inherently good feelings, the characters both major and minor had their share of issues. There are people who take advantage of the power bestowed upon them, neglected children, people who can’t control their varying emotions etc. It sounds a bit silly writing it out like that, but the characters just felt more realistic than they often do and maybe it’s because of the petty dramas. It’s not entirely this righteous grandstanding where the hero bemoans a great moral crisis or something where the fate of the entire world is at stake. It’s a bit smaller scale than that (though not by too much). 

This was such an enjoyable read that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. It was a welcome relief from dark fantasy or the “chosen one” fantasy books and it also has the benefit of having a celtic feel to it!

Waiting on Wednesday: Highfire by Eoin Colfer

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme originally hosted on Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. This is a great way to share upcoming released you’re excited about!


Cover- Highfire

Okay, this is kiiiiind of a big deal. I loved the Artemis Fowl books as a youngling and I think Highfire is the first book Eoin Colfer’s released in a number of years and it’s about the last dragon who dwells in the Louisiana bayou. It’s got the weirdest synopsis and I’m kind of stoked to check it out and see if it’s as good as I hope it might be! This will be released January 28, 2020.

Murder Theory by Andrew Mayne – Review

Cover- Murder Theory

Published: February 5, 2019

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Series: The Naturalist #3

Genre: Mystery

Pages: 318 (Paperback)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

Synopsis:

The desire to kill is becoming contagious in this riveting novel of conceivable mad science by the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Naturalist.

Computational biologist and serial-killer hunter Dr. Theo Cray receives an off-the-record request from the FBI to investigate an inexplicable double homicide. It happened at the excavation site where a murderer had buried his victims’ remains. In custody is a forensic technician in shock, with no history of aggression. He doesn’t remember a thing. His colleagues don’t even recognize the man they thought they knew. But an MRI reveals something peculiar. And abnormal.

What on earth made him commit murder?

After discovering that a mysterious man has been stalking crime scenes and stealing forensic data, Cray has a radical and terrifying theory. Now he must race against time to find a darker version of himself: a scientist with an obsession in pathological behavior who uses his genius not to catch serial killers—but to create them.


The latest Theo Cray case is somewhat unlike the others. Theo is called up when a forensic tech working the Toy Man site goes missing and two others are found murdered. What seems like it should be obvious (a double murder) turns out to be far more complicated than anyone could have imagined and leads Theo on a search across the country. Could someone possible create a pathogen that could turn someone into a murderer? 

This book had such a wild premise and is veering further into the pseudo scientific realm than previous books have. It’s fiction, so that’s totally fine and it does bring up some interesting ideas, but I liked it a little more when it wasn’t as sci-fi. I mean, for a second I thought we were going to veer into the territory of fungal zombification and stay there. I will say, that this change did keep things fresh and for the most part, unpredictable so the series has managed to avoid becoming repetitive. 

I still can’t get enough of this series and Theo’s abrasive personality, willingness to flout the law to solve crimes, and the escalation. It just gets so crazy and stressful by the end of the book and this particular conclusion left the read with heavy implications of what may come next. Obviously I can’t wait to get my hands on the next installment later this month just to see what happens and if there will be a fifth book.