The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden – Review

Cover- The Winter of the Witch

Published: January 8, 2019

Publisher: Del Rey Books

Series: The Winternight Trilogy #3

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 384 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:

Following their adventures in The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, Vasya and Morozko return in this stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, battling enemies mortal and magical to save both Russias, the seen and the unseen.

Reviewers called Katherine Arden’s novels The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower “lyrical,” “emotionally stirring,” and “utterly bewitching.” The Winternight Trilogy introduced an unforgettable heroine, Vasilisa Petrovna, a girl determined to forge her own path in a world that would rather lock her away. Her gifts and her courage have drawn the attention of Morozko, the winter-king, but it is too soon to know if this connection will prove a blessing or a curse.

Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.


I tend to find that series finales disappoint me to some degree – I mean, I hype these books up in my head and spend time thinking up possible endings. The Winter of the Witch was actually a VERY satisfying conclusion to Vasilisa Petrovna’s story and had a nice balance between melancholy and triumph.

At the end of The Girl in the Tower Moscow was set ablaze and it was partially Vasya’s doing. The events catch up with her and results in that possessed priest at the head of a mob hungry for blood and vengeance. Have I ever mentioned how much I can’t stand that character? He’s just awful! Vasya escapes into the land of Midnight and she slowly morphs INTO HER FINAL FORM. Nah, not quite that dramatic, but she eventually becomes who she’s always meant to be – a bridge between human and chyerti. I loved Vasya and her fierce bravery and the powerful beings like Morozko, Medved, and Polunochnitsa that swirl through her life. There’s an interesting give and take relationship between them that makes things feel balanced rather than the power being skewed to one side or the other.

This installment had some serious moments of sadness that were written so well – absolute jabs to heart. The setting was, as always, magical and memorable. I particularly like when Vasya travelled through Midnight – the idea that this realm was each and every midnight that every existed or would exist was like, the pinnacle of fairytale coolness. Oh, and if you fell asleep in a midnight that wasn’t yours, you wouldn’t be able to return home again. Plus there were mushroom-men, river spirits, and even the undead upyry (Russian vampires).

I loved The Winter of the Witch, though honestly I’m not sure which of the three books ended up being my favorite. I would say this one, but I think that’s just because it’s the one I read last. All three books in the trilogy were so well written and feel like the perfect books to be read aloud on a cold, firelight filled winter night. Katherine Arden has really written something special that could be our next modern classic.

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Waiting on Wednesday: Age of Legend by Michael J. Sullivan

“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- age of legend

Michael J. Sullivan is, as always, timely in the release of his books and Age of Legend is scheduled to release in July 2019. Interestingly enough, I only see release information for Grim Oak Press, and not the usual publisher, Del Rey Books. Perhaps I’m just a little ahead of things? Anyhow, it’ll be interesting to see how things play out after the dramatic events of the previous book. I love the cover – it reminds me of Middle Earth so much!

Soulbinder by Sebastien de Castell – Review

cover- soulbinder

Published: December 4, 2018

Publisher: Orbit

Series: Spellslinger #4

Genre: Young Adult, 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:

A failed mage learns that just because he’s not the chosen one it doesn’t mean he can’t be a hero in the fourth book of an exciting adventure fantasy series from Sebastien de Castell.

 
For an outlaw spellslinger, the only way to survive is to hide.
Kellen’s curse is growing stronger, promising a future of madness and murder. And now that the bounty hunter sworn to kill ever last shadow black have caught his trail, he knows his days are numbered
Desperate, Kellen braves a barren desert to find a mysterious order of monks rumored to posses a cure. But there are secrets darker and more dangerous than Kellen expected, and the price of his salvation may be more than he’s willing to pay.

Yet another installment in the Spellslinger series has proved to be a major success! Somehow, despite reading these books so closely together I haven’t gotten tired of them yet, so that’s definitely a win. They have provided a welcome break between denser or darker books, though with this installment the light mood has mostly fled. Soulbinder was actually pretty dark and I’m not just saying that because, you know, the shadowblack.

Kellen and Reichis have set off on their own and once again we begin the novel with them in mortal peril, but this time they have no companions to save their skin. Kellen is rescued by strange mages and whisked off to the Ebony Abbey where those afflicted by the shadowblack take refuge and hone their skills in safety. Reichis however… well, the little eye-muncher isn’t so lucky. Kellen is now truly alone and it’s difficult to tell if his compatriots in suffering are friend or foe.

I definitely like how these stories are progressing and each book has played out in a fairly unexpected manner. Now that I’ve reach book four, some things are becoming less surprising. For instance, it seems of little surprise that the book starts off with Kellen and Reichis in peril and as it progresses it was unsurprising that Kellen miraculously gets out of so many scrapes alive. What did surprise me were the who’s, how’s, and why’s. I guess it really is the journey rather than the destination in this case and I’m definitely still just as excited about reading Queenslayer as I was about reading Soulbinder. Kellen has had an interesting journey that must be played out until the very end.

Purchase from Amazon USAmazon UKBook Depository

Currently Reading: 1/14/19

cover- they mostly come out at night

They Mostly Come Out At Night by Benedict Patrick

I decided to do a little backlog burning this week and check this out. I’ve owned it for more than a year and just haven’t gotten around to reading it, but NOW IS THE TIME. Also, the cover for this and the other books in the Yarnsworld universe are some of my favorites and like, half the reason I checked them out in the first place.

 

 

cover- arm of the sphinx

Arm of the Sphinx by Josiah Bancroft

It’s really about time I got around to reading Arm of the Sphinx as well, especially since The Hod King will be out next week! I’m checking out the audiobook version and so far I’m really enjoying the narrator and story.

Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri – Review

Cover- Empire of Sand

Published: November 13, 2018

Publisher: Orbit

Series: The Books of Ambha #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 496 (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 nobleman’s daughter with magic in her blood. An empire built on the dreams of enslaved gods. Empire of Sand is Tasha Suri’s captivating, Mughal India-inspired debut fantasy.

The Amrithi are outcasts; nomads descended of desert spirits, they are coveted and persecuted throughout the Empire for the power in their blood. Mehr is the illegitimate daughter of an imperial governor and an exiled Amrithi mother she can barely remember, but whose face and magic she has inherited.

When Mehr’s power comes to the attention of the Emperor’s most feared mystics, she must use every ounce of will, subtlety, and power she possesses to resist their cruel agenda.

Should she fail, the gods themselves may awaken seeking vengeance…


I was expecting to enjoy this book, but not quite as much as I did! Inspired by Mughal-ruled India (16th –mid 19th century), Empire of Sand is the story of Mehr, illegitimate daughter of one of the provincial governors. Mehr’s Amrithi heritage makes her disliked by those of more noble blood and she makes no efforts to hide her practice of Amrithi traditions within the household. Her Amrithi heritage also means Mehr is descended from the powerful daiva who once ruled the deserts and she has magic in her blood.

Mehr’s magic is brought to the attention of the Emperor’s mystics, who quickly swoop down upon her home and basically force her into a marriage. This is unheard of, as the biggest freedom women of the Ambhan Empire have is to choose their husband. In order to keep her family safe she agrees and is married to one of the mystics who turns out to not be entirely bad. Mehr is taken to the desert fortress and enters the service of the Maha, foremost among the Empire’s mystics. Here she’s forced to partake in a ritual only she and her new husband can perform and its result is good for the people of the empire, but not so good for the sleeping gods.

I thought the premise of the story was interesting and I like Mehr and many of the other characters. The Maha was made to be disturbingly cruel and quite the cult leader. It’s good to have a villain you and properly hate – I don’t always want their perspective because sometimes I just don’t want to sympathize with them. Overall, this was an excellent story and there will be a sequel, though it seems like it will focus on Mehr’s younger sister many years later.

Waiting on Wednesday: Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky

“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- cage of souls

I’ve become a big fan of Tchaikovsky’s books in what I feel to have been a short amount of time. His books are consistently unique and so difficult to put down and Cage of Souls sounds no different. The synopsis brings to mind the early treks into the deep jungles of the world from the Amazon to the mysterious regions of central Africa and India. I kind of hope it has an Indiana Jones feel because that would be the coolest thing ever. The release of this book is scheduled for April 4, 2019 in the UK and so far I’ve been unable to find a US release date.

Of Blood and Bone by Nora Roberts – Review

Cover- Of Blood and Bone

Published: December 4, 2018

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Series: Chronicles of the One #2

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 453 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

 

Synopsis:

They look like an everyday family living an ordinary life. But beyond the edges of this peaceful farm, unimaginable forces of light and dark have been unleashed.

Fallon Swift, approaching her thirteenth birthday, barely knows the world that existed before—the city where her parents lived, now in ruins and reclaimed by nature since the Doom sickened and killed billions. Traveling anywhere is a danger, as vicious gangs of Raiders and fanatics called Purity Warriors search for their next victim. Those like Fallon, in possession of gifts, are hunted—and the time is coming when her true nature, her identity as The One, can no longer be hidden.

In a mysterious shelter in the forest, her training is about to begin under the guidance of Mallick, whose skills have been honed over centuries. She will learn the old ways of healing; study and spar; encounter faeries and elves and shifters; and find powers within herself she never imagined. And when the time is right, she will take up the sword, and fight. For until she grows into the woman she was born to be, the world outside will never be whole again.


It’s been thirteen years since the events of Year One and now Fallon Swift is about to begin her training so she may take up arms against the Dark. Of Blood and Bone is like the classic coming of age, young hero trains with a wise old man tale and I LOVED IT. It’s like epic fantasy set in a modern post-apocalyptic society and the adults remember days with smartphones and Netflix but the kids growing up are learning how to wield a sword. It’s so legit. I can’t believe how much this book blew me away. Sure, it had some moments where I thought it was a bit corny but they were mostly forgettable.

So of course the story begins at the Swift family farm with Lana, Simon, Fallon, and her three brothers. She struggles with the fact that in a few short weeks she’ll be leaving her family for a two years and I think the time spent here really helps the reader to get to know Fallon. It introduces both her and the world thirteen years post apocalypse. Fallon goes off with Mallick to train and most of the book is spent with Fallon training with magic, weapons, and other skills like tactics, healing, and even farming. I surprisingly never got bored with this because there was always kind of a new quest for Fallon to complete. This portion also introduced some new characters like Fallon’s elf friend.

In parallel to Fallon’s chapters, there are chapters from the POV of those from New Hope, the town that Lana fled from so many years prior after Max was murdered in an attack. You may recall Katie’s twins from the first book… well, Duncan and Tonia are a feisty pair of teenagers who wield weapons and magic with equal talent. New Hope thrives and it was so lovely to see children grown up and see how the characters from Year One had changed.

Of Blood and Bone was excellent and though it lacked the sense of urgent horror that the first book had, the new vibe was exactly right. This was the start of new chapter and as such, the story had much the same feel as if it were the first book in a series. Somewhat introductory if you will, and I’ve often said that first books are my favorite. If you enjoyed the first book I don’t know how you could resist picking this up! I would definitely recommend the audiobook version as well because I think the narration adds so much more emotion and life to the story.

Someone Like Me by M.R. Carey – Review

Woman wearing a red hoodie by a river

Published: November 6, 2018

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: Stand alone

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Pages: 512 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:

SHE LOOKS LIKE ME. SHE SOUNDS LIKE ME. NOW SHE’S TRYING TO TAKE MY PLACE.

Liz Kendall wouldn’t hurt a fly. She’s a gentle woman devoted to bringing up her kids in the right way, no matter how hard times get.

But there’s another side to Liz—one which is dark and malicious. A version of her who will do anything to get her way, no matter how extreme or violent.

And when this other side of her takes control, the consequences are devastating.

The only way Liz can save herself and her family is if she can find out where this new alter-ego has come from, and how she can stop it.


If you’re looking for a psychological thriller with a twisty bit of speculative fiction thrown in, you might just want to pick up Someone Like Me. M.R. Carey’s latest novel is on a different plane of existence from The Girl With All the Gifts, but it is no less thrilling and at times terrifying. This guy knows how to hit those obscure points of terror that absolutely freak me out – from the parasitic fungi zombie apocalypse to the evil spirit twin possession going on here.

CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS

Someone Like Me follows two main perspectives – that of Liz Kendall, a mother of two who has divorced from her abusive husband and Fran Watts, a teenage girl with psychological trauma from a kidnapping that occurred a decade or more prior. Both characters are extremely likable and I quickly began to sympathize with them. Liz is attacked by her ex-husband Mark and during the altercation it feels as if her body was being controlled by someone else – someone one much angrier and vengeful than she could ever be. About the same time, Fran has some disturbing issues of her own and they end up at the same doctor’s office to see the same psychologist. Thus we have the first moment Fran and Zach (Liz’s son) are actually aware of one another. The two become friends and their friendship ends up being rather important to the plot and thank goodness it remains mostly platonic! No sense in throwing in a pointless love story when it would be a distraction from all the other madness.

Fran’s portion of the story is primarily her dealing with the demons of her past. She was kidnapped as a young girl by a man who thought she was evil because she had something wrong with her shadow. Fran has coped with this for years and her imaginary friend, Lady Jinx (a cartoon fox knight) has helped and provided her solace. Liz’s part is a bit more dramatic, as she struggles with a few more dissociative episodes and finally realizes the situation is a bit more complicated than that. She’s essentially struggling with her evil twin Beth. Beth was killed by Mark in her world and somehow moved on and invaded Liz’s mind when Mark tried to choke her out and kill her. I hated Beth. SO MUCH. She was absolutely horrid and so selfish and as I read more and more I just kept thinking of all the mess she would leave behind for Liz to clean up (because I just knew Liz had to win in the end).

Someone Like Me was a great story that would make an excellent mini-series (HEY NETFLIX!) and makes for an equally entertaining audiobook. The added emotion of the narrator really takes this to the next level and prevents me from peeking ahead. I did find myself wishing the story would get on with it already from time to time, and I’ll be honest I’m not sure that it was really a pacing issue so much as it was an I’m impatient issue. I would totally recommend this and can’t wait to see what M.R. Carey has in store for readers next.

Waiting on Wednesday: Beneath the Twisted Trees by Bradley P. Beaulieu

“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- Beneath the Twisted Trees

And the first Waiting on Wednesday of 2019 goes to Beneath the Twisted Trees by Bradley P. Beaulieu! This is a series I’ve enjoyed immensely and judging from the synopsis the newest installment will be action packed once again. Ceda has been a powerful, influential character but it seems as if she’ll take on more of a leadership role in Beneath the Twisted Trees. I was initially not that crazy about the cover for this one, but the longer I look at it the more I like it… Get yourselves ready or caught up or whatever it is you do because this will be out July 16, 2019!