Waiting on Wednesday: The First Binding by R.R. Virdi

“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 releases you’re excited about!

I’m not gonna lie, the synopsis for The First Binding gives me serious The Name of the Wind vibes and that’s precisely why I added it to my TBR. It’s also one heck of a tome, coming in at 864 pages, so I’m expecting more than enough worldbuilding and adventure! This is expected to release August 16, 2022.

The Bargainer Series by Laura Thalassa – Review

Overall Series Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopses:

Rhapsodic by Laura Thalassa

A Strange Hymn by Laura Thalassa

Dark Harmony by Laura Thalassa


I don’t often review whole series in one fell swoop, but I binge read this and honestly I’m not sure I could tell you exactly what happened in each book! I’ve been craving pure, fun escapism fantasy lately and that seems to mostly be taking the form of fantasy romances. Some have been really awful, some have been just plain absurd (couldn’t even bring myself to review one series!), and some like this one have actually been pretty good.

This is the story of Callypso Lillis (what a name) and a dark Fae king called the Bargainer. He deals in favors and for each favor you ask he gives you a tattoo (or in Callie’s case, a bead on a bracelet). As with all bargains, he can collect on the debt at any time, for any reason, and basically ask anything which is quite a daunting piece of knowledge. Callie first called The Bargainer in to dispose of her father’s body and clean up the crime scene because she murdered the bastard after years of sexual abuse. Eventually the Bargainer, aka Desmond Flynn, calls in his owed favors and asks Callie to help him solve a series of disappearances in the Fae realm. Over the course of the investigation they fall madly in love with one another, but all cannot remain sunshine and roses because a big baddie called the Thief of Souls is still kidnapping Fae and returning the women impregnated and in a coma. The plot over the course of the three books focuses on tracking down the Thief of Souls, keeping Callie out of his clutches because he desperately wants her, and lots of spicy scenes with Callie and Des. And some backstory from the time Callie and Des first met to how they were initially separated.

The whole story was  such fun that I binge read all three books in about a week. And it only took that long because I was trying to shuffle in a review book in between all that. Is it going to win any literary prizes? Nah, probably not but I was surprised to find that the characterization and the plot were a lot more solid than I expected. These characters have history, motivations aside from animal lust, and even some solid friendships for good measure. My biggest problem with this book is that Callie and Des began seeing each other when she was only 15, BUT it did remain platonic on Des’s part. NONETHELESS, the author really could have set this up with Callie being a college student with almost no change to the plot whatsoever and it would have been infinitely less perturbing. Like, WHY must authors do stuff like this? The book is most definitely not young adult and is not specifically geared toward teens, so the age change would have made sense in that respect as well.

Overall, despite some apparent flaws this was a good, wickedly fun series with plenty of spicy moments. If you don’t like fantasy romance this will clearly not work for you, so stay far away. On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re craving another book that will fill the Feyre + Rhysand shaped hole in your soul, you should most definitely check this out. I loved it and might even read it again at some point. It’s also on Kindle Unlimited, so you can check it out for free if you subscribe to that service.

Currently Reading: 12/27/21

The Justice of Kings by Richard Swan
I really just can’t wait any longer to read this and I’m trying to embrace mood reading since I tend to zoom through books when I do that. So, even though it means I’ll be picking this up nearly two months before its release date I think it will help my productivity overall! I can’t resist a good fantasy/mystery hybrid and the early reviews are so good!

I’m also doing a verrrrry slow re-read of The Eye of the World after having watched The Wheel of Time show. I remember it being much more interesting the first time I read it like 7 years ago.

The Starless Crown by James Rollins – Review

Published: January 4, 2022

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: Moon Fall #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 560 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

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

Synopsis:
An alliance embarks on a dangerous journey to uncover the secrets of the distant past and save their world in this captivating, deeply visionary adventure from #1 New York Times bestselling thriller-master James Rollins.

A gifted student foretells an apocalypse. Her reward is a sentence of death.

Fleeing into the unknown she is drawn into a team of outcasts:

A broken soldier, who once again takes up the weapons he’s forbidden to wield and carves a trail back home.

A drunken prince, who steps out from his beloved brother’s shadow and claims a purpose of his own.

An imprisoned thief, who escapes the crushing dark and discovers a gleaming artifact – one that will ignite a power struggle across the globe.

On the run, hunted by enemies old and new, they must learn to trust each other in order to survive in a world evolved in strange, beautiful, and deadly ways, and uncover ancient secrets that hold the key to their salvation.

But with each passing moment, doom draws closer.

WHO WILL CLAIM THE STARLESS CROWN?


If you’re looking for a cool new epic fantasy series to check out then might I recommend The Starless Crown? I expected this to be pretty awesome going in based on my experience with James Rollins’ other books (despite the very different genre) and was not disappointed. This was action-packed, had several of my favorite tropes, and the moon is also going to destroy the world in 3-5 years. More on that in a moment.

The story starts off with a woman fleeing for her life through dangerous swamps, stopping to birth her child, which is then swept away by a mysterious creature. Cut to the current day, where a mostly blind girl named Nyx is being chased by a group of extremely salty students who she inadvertently embarrassed in class. She is fleeing upwards, to the top level of the Cloistery she attends when a giant Myr bat swoops down, killing one of the boys chasing her and biting her in the process. Myr bats are described as these giant, unholy terrors of the swamp with deadly venom in their bites. Nyx however doesn’t die from the venom exposure, but is instead granted sight (and terrifying fever visions) and finds that perhaps she is connected to the bats somehow. Oh, and also she is certain that the moon is going to fall from the sky and destroy them all.

Then we find Rhaif, a thief who was sentenced to work in the mines, taking advantage of a disruption to escape his prison. Until he stumbles across a cavern where he finds a strange bronze statue of a woman. He could swear that the statue blinked at him… and though he is focused on escape, he detours to help the woman who appeared to be a statue escape the clutches of those who would use her as a weapon.

And lastly there is Kanthe, secondborn prince of Toranth. The black sheep of the family, the Prince in the Cupboard, the spare. His father sends him off to the swamps with a team of soldiers to clear out the Myr bats, which have become too much of a threat since they attacked that boy at the Cloistery. He feels unwanted by his family, but perhaps this trip to the swamps will help him prove his usefulness and his ability to face danger.

The three characters have their own supporting casts and let me just say, it was quite a delight to watch them slowly converge and join together as the book moved along. Their individual plot lines are each quite fascinating and when they do meet up things really pick up the pace! Nyx’s chapters were probably my favorite since she has an animal companion and a mysterious past but Rhaif and Kanthe were excellent as well. Between the two of them, they supply enough rogue-ishness for the whole book. 

The world building is also really quite something. The world is called Urth, and at some point in its history it stopped rotating on its axis and there’s a thin comfortably habitable area with scorching desert and frigid wastes on either side. The story strongly hints that long ago there was more advanced technology and I speculate that perhaps this is a post-apocalyptic version of our own Earth. I love that sort of thing and love getting those little hints at a fascinating history or seeing how history is distorted as the centuries pass. Strong Mark Lawrence vibes in that respect. The advancement of technology is pretty cool as well, with some of the greater advances coming from a dark religious order that is honestly pretty terrifying. 

Overall, I was super impressed with the quality and depth of the story. Though there are several younger protagonists, this is most definitely an adult fantasy, what with some of the darker content and all. There are some seriously dark and brutal moments, many of which focus on human experimentation by the creepy-ass monks. There are some areas where I felt like the pace slowed a little (not always a bad thing) and I wanted to rush on to the next exciting sequence or the next POV. I can also confidently recommend both the print and audio versions since I checked out both formats (about 50/50). Great start to what I hope will be an incredible new fantasy series!

Waiting on Wednesday: Ordinary Monsters by J.M. Miro

“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 releases you’re excited about!

Set in 1882 London, Ordinary Monsters is the story of magical children who are being hunted by a man made of smoke. That’s really all I needed to know, but then it goes on to say how the prose is lush and it has excellent worldbuilding. While I will be the judge of that once I’ve read it, I am pretty compelled to pick this up ASAP! This will be released June 7, 2022.

The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie – Review

Published: September 14, 2021

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: The Age of Madness #3

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 528 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:
Chaos. Fury. Destruction.

The Great Change is upon us . . .

Some say that to change the world you must first burn it down. Now that belief will be tested in the crucible of revolution: the Breakers and Burners have seized the levers of power, the smoke of riots has replaced the smog of industry, and all must submit to the wisdom of crowds.

With nothing left to lose, Citizen Brock is determined to become a new hero for the new age, while Citizeness Savine must turn her talents from profit to survival before she can claw her way to redemption. Orso will find that when the world is turned upside down, no one is lower than a monarch. And in the bloody North, Rikke and her fragile Protectorate are running out of allies . . . while Black Calder gathers his forces and plots his vengeance.

The banks have fallen, the sun of the Union has been torn down, and in the darkness behind the scenes, the threads of the Weaver’s ruthless plan are slowly being drawn together . . .


I have been looking forward to the finale of the Age of Madness trilogy, so when it came out I was expecting to pick it up and get sucked into the tale right away. WRONG. I was apparently in the wrong mood for dark books at that time and ended up putting it down for a bit in favor of something else. Fast forward two months – I decided to pick up the audiobook version (I love Steven Pacey’s narration) and got hooked! Sometimes, for me anyway, it really is the combination of the right book in the right format at the right time.

This picks up with Orso’s victory march back into Adua with Savine and Leo dan Brock in prison carts. Leo is terribly wounded, Savine is extremely pregnant, and the crowds aren’t quite as happy to see their victorious king as Orso might have hoped. The revolution has made it to Adua and the utter chaos of the Great Change is not far behind. 

This book is an interesting study in character development. Savine in particular has changed much since the first book and the birth of her children leads to a dramatic shift, though she still has that pragmatic coldness that has served her well for so long. With Leo it’s quite a different sort of change and one that makes you understand how Sand dan Glokta went from the nation’s golden boy to the twisted head of the Inquisition. Extreme loss and trauma changes everyone in different ways. Orso actually changes for the better, but it’s perhaps too little too late with the Burner’s arriving in the city. And how could I almost forget Rikke? She has made herself a leader, but she’s also betrayed those she called friend and seems to be making mistakes at every turn. This book is so, so dark but it’s utterly transfixing – an illustration of how horrific humans can truly be to one another and the lengths they will go to in order to survive. Such chaos, such madness.

Overall, this was a really solid finale to the series but it wasn’t my favorite of the trilogy. The plot majorly stagnated for a bit and people were just getting hanged left and right and everyone was scared. Perhaps this was intentional to instill the horror of the situation upon the reader, but damn, I wanted it to get on with the story already! That being said, it was good though I hesitate to say it was an enjoyable read given how dark things were. Excellent plotting and intrigue though and I was kept on the proverbial edge of my seat the whole time!

Currently Reading: 12/20/21

A Swift and Savage Tide by Chloe Neill
I’m looking forward to diving in to the new installment in the Captain Kit Brightling series. It’s the perfect blend of naval excitement, romantic longing, and intrigue. The Bright and Breaking Sea was a surprise favorite last year and this one seems like it will be a delight as well. 

I’ve also been rather pre-occupied with The Wheel of Time tv series and will be starting S2 of The Witcher. Plus, I’ve started a new play through of Valheim since they’ve added quite a bit of new content since I first picked it up.

Year of the Reaper by Makiia Lucier – Review

Published: November 9, 2021

Publisher: Clarion Books

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 336 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:
The past never forgets…

Before an ambush by enemy soldiers, Lord Cassia was an engineer’s apprentice on a mission entrusted by the king. But when plague sweeps over the land, leaving countless dead and devastating the kingdom, even Cas’ title cannot save him from a rotting prison cell and a merciless sickness.

Three years later, Cas wants only to return to his home in the mountains and forget past horrors. But home is not what he remembers. His castle has become a refuge for the royal court. And they have brought their enemies with them.

When an assassin targets those closest to the queen, Cas is drawn into a search for a killer… one that leads him to form an unexpected bond with a brilliant young historian named Lena. Cas and Lena soon realize that who is behind the attacks is far less important than why. They must look to the past, following the trail of a terrible secret—one that could threaten the kingdom’s newfound peace and plunge it back into war.


Are you ever just totally blindsided by a 5 star book out of nowhere? I had heard virtually no press about Year of the Reaper, so imagine my delight when it turns out to be one of the best YA fantasy books I’ve ever read. AND it has the benefit of being a standalone, so you don’t have to worry about waiting on future installments that may or may not get worse as the series goes along.

The story starts off with a young prince returning home after having escaped an enemy prison camp. Plague has ravaged the lands, and countless homes are abandoned or filled with only corpses and even the animals have become more dangerous. He arrives home only to find that he’s just in time to witness the blessing of the King and Queen’s new baby and to save the very same child from assassination. His dramatic entrance proves to be a fine return home, though the assassin remains at large and the mystery only deepens as he begins to investigate with Lena, the King’s half sister and historian. 

The mystery aspect of this story is fantastic and took me somewhat by surprise, as I didn’t know what to expect from the story. The characters are excellent and well fleshed out given that this is a standalone and easy to root for.  Also, can we just talk about the plot twists??? OMG, I was STUNNED and at that moment I knew this was going to be one of my best books of 2021. And the it totally stuck the landing too!! I am shook. 

Hands down, this is one of my favorite books of the year and one of the best Young Adult fantasies I’ve ever read. It could have easily been marketed as an adult fantasy and have found equivalent success among that audience as well. I’m a little surprised I haven’t seen much hype about this, but it deserves to be shouted about from the rooftops. Guess I’ll just have to step up and do it myself! 10/10, this is worth checking out especially if you love some mystery in with your fantasy books. This is kind of a low fantasy, with minimal fantastical elements but it didn’t lack because of that. It was actually a lovely change of pace for me.

Waiting on Wednesday: Book of Night by Holly Black

“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 releases you’re excited about!

I’m sure Book of Night will be featuring on so many people’s Waiting on Wednesday/Can’t Wait Wednesday posts this week since the cover was finally revealed! It is lovely and simplistic in style and fits the theme of shadow magic promised by the synopsis. I can’t wait to check out Holly Black’s adult fantasy debut when it’s released May 3, 2022!

Sunreach by Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson – Review

Published: September 28, 2021

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Series: Skyward #2.1

Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult

Pages: 208 (Kindle Edition)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

Synopsis:
From #1 bestselling author Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson comes the first of three Skyward series novellas, each told from the perspective of a different member of the team back on Detritus. Read FM’s story between Starsight and Cytonic.

When a planet-destroying Delver suddenly appears in the sky of Detritus and vanishes just as suddenly, FM knows that the last free human society got lucky. Her Skyward Flight companion, Spensa, figured out how to draw this Delver away, but it won’t be so easy next time.

The forces of the Galactic Superiority will be back—and if the Defiant Defense Force can’t figure out a way to escape the planet, humanity’s destruction is only a matter of time. Spensa’s mission to infiltrate the Superiority unveiled the secret to their hyperdrives—a cytonic slug species called the Taynix. Now FM’s flightleader, Jorgen, has found a large group of Taynix hiding in the caverns far below Detritus’s surface.

FM and Jorgen must work together with the engineer Rig to awaken the mysterious alien Alanik and unlock the powers of the Taynix, or humanity will be trapped. With Spensa’s friend Minister Cuna of the Superiority stranded at the outpost of Sunreach, they need to figure out how to rescue her—or the Superiority government will be in the sole clutches of those who want to wipe out Detritus once and for all.


Sunreach was a short, fun return to Skyward flight and all the characters I’ve missed. I’ll keep this review short since this was quite a short little book. 

This whole book is basically about FM, Jorgen, and Rig trying to figure out how the Taynix slugs work as hyperdrives. It turns out there are a few different color morphs and not all of them do the same thing… as Jorgen learns the hard way. In between the amusing slug shenanigans, there’s also the very real threat of the Superiority forces attacking Detritus, and without Spensa another Delver attack would be the end of the planet. That rather sobering possibility, plus the possibility of reaching out to a sympathetic member of the Superiority makes the trio’s work even more crucial.

Of course I loved getting more time with the ol’ gang with or without Spensa present. Sunreach was a nice way to flesh out the events of Cytonic without adding 200+ pages to the main book and gave us a nice look into the lives of Skyward flight members. I need to pick up Redawn soon and then Evershore once it’s released at the end of the month so I can be fully prepared to sit around and wait for book 4. 

Also, may I just note that I always find it funny when a synopsis for a book is longer than my review for the same book!!